Friday, October 16, 2015

Demystifying the King James Bible

The King James Bible, published in 1611, is routinely used to oppress women and LGBT people.

Now a researcher in England has unearthed a draft of two books of the Apocrypha that show an individual translator working with Greek, Latin, and Hebrew texts to translate 1 Esdras and The Wisdom of Solomon into English.

This man is working alone in order to contribute his work to the group effort of some 48 individuals.

This evidence contradicts the "mythos" surrounding the King James translation: "that it was a collaborative project through and through," reports Jennifer Schuessler for the New York Times.

The rest of the mythos is that the KJV is divinely inspired and no translators made any errors or wrong judgments.  Therefore, believers today should read no translation except the KJV, preferably one with the words of Jesus printed in red.

For example, where the Hebrew reads ezer (help--often used for God's help) "appropriate" for the needs of the first human (ha-adam), the KJV translators introduced a new word helpmeet that has been used to reduce the presence of woman in the newly divided pair ish and isha (male and female) to the level of an assistant to the male (Genesis 2:18).

This translation of two words into one helpmeet is still being used to oppress women today.

Likewise, the KJV use of the word sodomite to refer to various idolatrous sexual practices mentioned in the Hebrew Bible has caused much oppression against LGBT persons over the last four hundred years.  The Hebrew word should probably be translated cult prostitute. (See Deut. 23:17, 1 Kings 14:24, 15:12, 22:46 and 2 Kings 23:7.)

Letha Dawson Scnzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott quote John Boswell to analyze this problem in their book Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? (1978; rev. 1994).  

"Pointing out that this idea arises from a mistranslation of a word meaning simply 'cult prostitute,' historian John Boswell states that 'there is no reason to assume such prostitutes serviced persons of their own sex.... almost no theologians invoked these passages as condemnations of homosexual behavior until after the mistranslation of the words into English'" (p. 63).

Thus the special aura of "divine inspiration" surrounding this human translation needs to be challenged.  

Hooray for the work of researcher Jeffrey Alan Miller in discovering the very human work done alone by one man in translating parts of the Hebrew Bible (the Apocrypha) that didn't even make it into the King James Bible.

May everyone take notice that God's Word is divinely inspired but not necessarily all the subsequent translations of that Word.

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