Why are we so taken up with newness? It seems that since Spencer, the philosophy of the day has been progress—regardless of where it leads. When did you ever hear anyone ask, “What’s the oldest?” or words to that effect? But why not?
Is there nothing to be learned from the past?
That’s what many “moderns,” who in no time will be looked upon as “old fashioned,” seem to think. The old is not only passé; it is defunct. History in the schools—for what it’s worth these days—is rewritten in the light of social and political movements of more recent origin. In school, as a result, children are no longer even remotely aware of what really happened in the past. But there is much to be learned from the past and, in most cases, its loss is irreparable.
This penchant for the present bleeds over into a suspicion for the Scriptures which, obviously, are old writings. And, how much it hinders people today from studying the Bible is hard to discern. Surely, there is an unwanted influence of some sort, regardless of how strong. Christians need therefore, to do all that they can to counter this nefarious influence. What can we do?
For one thing, we can eliminate older non-essential aspects of Christianity which are not old enough. For example, the use of King James English. We don’t speak in such language, so why should we pray in it? Its use is unnecessary, and it surely turns people off. Similarly, use of the King James translation hinders understanding of the Scriptures for many. Why should someone have to learn another language in order to read the Scriptures? There are words and constructions that are extremely difficult for a novice to comprehend. Do you have a besom in your home? Well, that’s a KJ term. What does “let” mean to you? To allow? Well, in the KJV it means “to hinder.” Similarly, “prevent” doesn’t mean to hinder, but “to go before.” These are only samples of what you have to learn in order to understand a Bible translated into 1611 English.
Why, when it isn’t the use of Greek or Hebrew that you are insisting on, should you freeze a language as it existed at some past point as the one in which you read God’s Word? Here, it isn’t the latest that we are concerned about. The problem is that to adopt KJV English is not to go back far enough. Much progress has been made in the study of the meaning and use of biblical terms and constructions since 1611. In addition, more manuscripts are now available to us than were extant then. We know more about the ancient texts than anyone did in 1611. So, in reading the KJV, you don’t go back far enough.
Too often preachers who insist on the KJV like to preach from it because, as one wrote, “It sounds like the Bible” (that was a seminary professor!). Others preach from it because explaining the language of the text gives them something seemingly important to do when preaching (or should I say “padding”) their sermons.
So, what am I getting at? Oh, just a few rambling thoughts that have been swirling about in my brain when considering the past and the present. There is so much to be gained by a wider focus upon both that it is sad to see people mired in the one or in the other. So, whenever you ask, “What’s new?” it might be interesting to ask, “What’s old?” and see what sort of reply you get.