I have heard white British pastors in England rejecting the Authorised Version (KJV) on the grounds of old English, complaining that the KJV is not suitable for modern English reader and a barrier to evangelisation. The attitude and facial expressions they displayed while making the criticism actually betrayed the true reason of their rejection, that is their personal unreasonable and illogical antipathy and even hatred towards the KJV. Why is this hostility? We shall explain the reason later in this article.
‘Old English too difficult to understand’ is not a logical reason but an excuse used by opponents of the KJV to reject the most accurate English translation of the Bible. We shall prove to the reader that this ‘old English’ excuse is both illogical and unreasonable.
Firstly, the KJV revolutionised the English language, transforming mediaeval English into the modern form. Therefore, any modern English speaker would have little problem understanding the KJV. Read for example Psalm 1:1-2 and John 3:16 from the KJV, can you honestly say you have difficulty understanding?
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
A modern English reader could quickly familiarise himself with the old English second person singular pronouns (thou, thee, thy), second person verb form (-est), and third person verb form (-th) by reading some verses of the KJV a few times.
Secondly, the popular use of the second person singular pronouns (thou, thee, thy) was already decreasing when the KJV was first published. The same old English pronouns would gradually be replaced by the modern second person pronouns (you, your) during the seventeenth century. However, the translators of the KJV made the wise decision to keep those old English pronouns because both Hebrew and Greek differentiate between the singular thou and the plural you. This very reason would make the KJV more accurate than modern English versions. Consider Luke 22:31-32:
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,[a] that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Can you see a very significant difference in understanding should you miss the following ESV footnote that is usually placed at the bottom of the page?
Thirdly, the English of the KJV was already becoming ‘old English’ by the end of the eighteenth century. That was long before universal education till the age of 16 was introduced in England in the twentieth century. If the KJV could be understood by the illiterate people and others who did not receive much education and who were living at a time before the introduction of universal education, the ‘old English too difficult to understand’ excuse made by those highly educated modern English readers is proven to be unreasonable and false.
Fourthly, there would be no end if we go down the ‘easy modern English’ route. There would still be people who do not understand the English of the ESV, NIV, NASB, and other modern English versions. Should we use the NIrV in church so that the five year-olds attending the service could understand? And even if this is done, there may still be some immigrants who find the English of NIrV too difficult to understand. Therefore, the use of modern English versions clearly is not a logical and reasonable solution to the ‘old English too difficult to understand’ excuse.
Fifthly, the KJV continues to be used by non-White Christians living in Asia and Africa. If the old English of KJV is not difficult for these Christians to understand, why are white British people living in England complaining?
Sixthly, the KJV is well known for being easy to memorise. If modern English is really easier to understand, modern English versions should also be easier to memorise. However, it is also known that it is relatively more difficult to memorise verses from modern English versions. In fact, while the number of different modern English versions and their sales have massively increase over the last few decades mainly because of marketing, Bible literacy rate among Christians and church attendance have actually decreased during the same time. This point again prove that the claim ‘old English too difficult to understand’ is false.
Therefore, it can be logically and reasonably concluded that the ‘old English too difficult to understand’ statement is an illogical and unreasonable excuse.
What is the true reason of the antipathy towards the KJV then?
The KJV is the most accurate English Bible, faithfully translated from the Hebrew Masoretic Text of the Old Testament and Greek Textus Receptus of the New Testament, the true representatives of the Word of God in the original languages. The KJV represents an authoritative text, rightfully and majestically commanding us to conform to biblical teachings. The glorious light of the Word of God shines very brightly from the KJV.
In absolute contrast, the New Testament of most modern English versions such as ESV, NIV, and NASB are translated from the ever-changing false Arian Modern Critical Text. Although the Old Testament of the same modern English versions are also from the Masoretic Text, the edition of the Masoretic Text they use is the work of Kittel, an antisemitic unbeliever. Meanwhile, the mentioned Modern Critical Text is a text constructed by unbelieving scholars using methods of higher criticism based on texts and manuscripts that were effectively lost for 1,400 years before they were discovered in the middle of the nineteenth century. For more information about the Modern Critical Text, read my article: Bethel: A treatise on the theological reasons to reject most modern Bible versions (bethel-sg.com). Modern English versions represent a flexible text, adjusted to suit the reader who is the authority. Therefore, many modern English versions such as ESV, NIV, and NASB are in reality, false Bibles that cannot be trusted.
The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Opponents of the KJV are pricked in the heart because they subconsciously know that the KJV is the Word of God. This is the true reason why opponents of the KJV such as those mentioned white British pastors are showing an extreme antipathy towards the KJV to an extent that can be summarised by this statement 'any version but KJV'.
In conclusion, the old English of the KJV is certainly not difficult for modern readers.