Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Atheists and the AV
It seems my blog posts lately have either been on Bible translations (namely the AV) or atheism.
Then I ran across this story where the two come together. Atheist writer Christopher Hitchens has made some recent comments praising the KJV Bible (on its 400th anniversary). Here’s part of the article where Hitchens shares his admiration:
"Though I am sometimes reluctant to admit it, there really is something 'timeless' in the Tyndale/King James synthesis," said Hitchens in his commentary featured in Vanity Fair. "For generations, it provided a common stock of references and allusions, rivaled only by Shakespeare in this respect.
"It resounded in the minds and memories of literate people, as well as of those who acquired it only by listening."
Modern translations pale in comparison according to Hitchens:
But the bestselling author went further to criticize other translations of the Bible and ongoing attempts to update it.
Offering one comparison, Hitchens cited a passage in the New Testament book of Philippians, which he read at his father's funeral:
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." (King James Version)
The same passage in the Contemporary English Version states: "Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.”
Hitchens called the contemporary version "pancake-flat" and more suited for "a basement meeting of A.A."
"[T]hese words could not hope to penetrate the torpid, resistant fog in the mind of a 16-year-old boy, as their original had done for me," he said in his commentary.
He also rejected the gender neutral language of substituting "brethren" with "my friends," calling it a "slightly ingratiating obeisance."
"[T]o suggest that Saint Paul, of all people, was gender-neutral is to re-write the history as well as to rinse out the prose," Hitchens noted.
Hitchens is not the only “atheist celebrity” to laud the AV on its anniversary. Last year, Richard Dawkins also heaped praise on the AV and even participated in reading a chapter for a “You Tube” Bible sponsored by the King James Bible Trust. Here’s an interview with Dawkins on the AV (praising it while dismissing “religion,” of course!):
What do we make of this? I can hear the shrill voices of some of the Modern Text Onlyists now: “See! Even the Atheists are KJV-Onlyists because they want to kill Christianity!”
Let’s be serious. One of the arguments against the KJV has been that of relevance. “We need to make the Bible more relevant for today” has been the mantra. Many seem to be embarrassed by the KJV, as if to affirm it makes one an anti-intellectual obscurantist. Could it be, however, that the KJV might serve as “the evangelism Bible of choice” among unregenerate intellectuals? See my previous post that included comments by Adam Nicolson, another non-Christian intellectual, who admires the AV. Sadly, these unsaved academic and intellectual elites recognize the KJV’s literary and cultural value more than many self-proclaimed “evangelicals” who have rushed over the cliff of modern translations. Could it be that the pagan mariners are preaching to Jonah once again?