Claiming that the King James Version Is Easier to Read than Modern Versions


If you’ve ever heard the Fleach รขโ‚ฌโ€œ Kincaid Grade Level test used to “prove” that English from the 1600’s is easier to understand that English from today, then you might be a fundamentalist. Claiming that the King James Version is written on a 7th grade level is a common defense of that particular version of Scripture. Of course, fundies don’t exactly explain how many 7th graders know the meaning of the word “wot” or could tell you what a “scrip” is used for. It’s doubtful that even a majority of adults know that the word “let” can actually mean “to prevent.” Think ye, amongst the congregations of these stripling youths that such words would be taken as acceptable for the nonce?

Perhaps fundamentalists believe that when a person is truly saved the Holy Spirit gives them an immediate education in 1611 vocabulary. As a test, can you, without looking it up, tell me what the word “carriage” means in the following sentence? “And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage,and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.” If the Holy Spirit did not reveal to you the correct answer, then you may very well be in need of repentance.

It seems strange that a version which started out as a way to put the Bible into the hands of common people now has the opposite effect. The resistance to a new translation done from the Majority Text with ‘literal’ translation techniques shows that the version has become more than a translation of the originals. It has, in short, become a way to separate “we” from “thee.”

15 thoughts on “Claiming that the King James Version Is Easier to Read than Modern Versions”

  1. “Perhaps fundamentalists believe that when a person is truly saved the Holy Spirit gives them an immediate education in 1611 vocabulary”

    I’m tempted to say that it is all part of the gift of speaking in tongues along with interpretation, but since fundies don’t believe that gift is still around, it would be a moot point.

  2. Spot on. Another good one is the phrase “avoid every appearance of evil,” from which I’ve heard I don’t know how many sermons admonishing one to avoid doing anything that could possibly be construed as bad by anyone happening by. Too bad it meant, to Elizabethan readers, “flee evil every time it appears.” But to correct the error now would be to destroy a major guiding principle of most fundies’ daily lives.

    1. O.M.G.

      “flee evil every time it appears” Wow. I never thought of it that way. I was always taught the whole “appearance of evil” stuff that of course everyone else here was too. I literally never thought of it as “flee evil every time it appears” until just now, when I read your comment. Totally changes things. And that’s totally the meaning you would get out of just reading the text without having had the whole “appearance of evil” doctrine rammed down your throat repeatedly. But isn’t it crazy how after you’ve heard that so many times, it’s nearly impossible to NOT interpret it that way in your head??? (at least for me- it had never even crossed my mind to think about it any other way before now.) Seriously, thank you.

      I have a hard time reading the KJV anymore, and this just solidifies that feeling. I can’t read it without all the condemning ideas and thoughts rushing back. And I just can’t handle that right now. I’ve asked DH to pick up an ESV for me (he’s at the mall a lot more than I am), and I’m hoping that a new translation will help me to see things in a new light.

  3. Some modern versions do replace simpler words in the KJV with big words that hardly anyone understands. I think that’s where this study comes from.

    Anyway, I’d rather read a KJV and increase my vocabulary than read some watered-down modern version. The modern versions just feel fruity to me.

  4. In the interest of disclosure, i still do all my personal reading from the King James and most of my study as well.

    But I don’t fool myself that the text would be easier for the non-churched person to understand than some other versions such as the NASB or ESV.

  5. Darrell: I thought so. The idea of a readability issue ties the two together nicely.

    What was strange to me were fellow students at Bob Jones who would complain that the dialogue in the annual Shakespearean plays was impossible to understand. Most of these complainers would then try to exegete from the KJV.

  6. 1611girl: The studies are actually based on things like number of words per sentence and number of syllables per word.

    There’s really no test for things like “changed word meanings”

  7. “Suffer” then meant allow, as in “suffer the little children to come unto me.”

  8. If I had a penny for every time I have heard the doctrine of illumination misused to say that the Holy Spirit gives readers of the KJV an instant complete understanding of a language they have never used and don’t fully understand . . .

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