Is the King James Version still the best?

There are now a whole lot of English translations of the Bible, much more than there were in the times of Joseph Smith.  (Evidence of this can be seen on the Bible Gateway web site.)  Does the King James Version (KJV) still hold up against all these other, newer translations?  Is this the reason why the KJV is still used in the church, or it is that we have simply become accostomed to using it and don’t want to change to a better version?  Or, is it that we don’t look or haven’t looked at the other, newer versions to compare, therefore we don’t even know what is out there now?  I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I wonder if there were a better version, if we LDS would actually embrace it, or if we are just too set in our ways to make the change.

As an example of some of the recent versions out there, I recently came across a new, literal translation called The Scriptures (TS).  Here is a comparison of the TS and the KJV using the first part of the Sermon on the Mount:

Mattithyahu 5 (TS)
Matthew 5 (KJV)

1 But when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountain. And when He was seated His taught ones came to Him. (TS)
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: (KJV)
2 And having opened His mouth, He was teaching them, saying, (TS)
And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, (KJV)
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, because theirs is the reign of the heavens. (TS)
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (KJV)
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, because they shall be comforted. (TS)
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (KJV)
5 “Blessed are the meek, because they shall inherit the earth. (TS)
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. (KJV)
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they shall be filled. (TS)
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (KJV)
7 “Blessed are the compassionate, because they shall obtain compassion. (TS)
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (KJV)
8 “Blessed are the clean in heart, because they shall see Elohim. (TS)
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (KJV)
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, because they shall be called sons of Elohim. (TS)
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (KJV)
10 “Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness’ sake, because theirs is the reign of the heavens. (TS)
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (KJV)
11 “Blessed are you when they reproach and persecute you, and falsely say every wicked word against you, for My sake. (TS)
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. (KJV)
12 “Rejoice and be glad, because your reward in the heavens is great. For in this way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (TS)
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (KJV)
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt becomes tasteless, how shall it be seasoned? For it is no longer of any use but to be thrown out and to be trodden down by men. (TS)
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. (KJV)
14 “You are the light of the world. It is impossible for a city to be hidden on a mountain. (TS)
Ye are the alight of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. (KJV)
15 “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it shines to all those in the house. (TS)
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. (KJV)
16 “Let your light so shine before men, so that they see your good works and praise your Father who is in the heavens. (TS)
Let your alight so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (KJV)
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to complete. (TS)
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (KJV)
18 “For truly, I say to you, till the heaven and the earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall by no means pass from the Torah till all be done. (TS)
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (KJV)
19 “Whoever, then breaks one of the least of these commands, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the reign of the heavens; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the reign of the heavens. (TS)
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (KJV)
20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall by no means enter in to the reign of the heavens. (TS)
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (KJV)
21 “You heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,’ and whoever murders shall be liable to judgment. (TS)
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: (KJV)
22 “But I say to you that whoever is wroth with his brother without a cause shall be liable to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raka!’ shall be liable to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to fire of Gehenna. (TS)
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (KJV)
23 “If, then, you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother holds whatever against you, (TS)
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; (KJV)
24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go, first make peace with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (TS)
Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (KJV)
25 “Be well-minded with your opponent, promptly, while you are on the way with him, lest your opponent deliver you to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. (TS)
Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. (KJV)
26 “Truly, I say to you, you shall by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. (TS)
Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. (KJV)
27 “You heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ (TS)
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: (KJV)
28 “But I say to you that everyone looking at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (TS)
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (KJV)
29 “And if your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it away from you. For it is better for you that one of your members perish, than for your entire body to be thrown into Gehenna. (TS)
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (KJV)
30 “And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away from you. For it is better for you that one of your members perish, than for your entire body to be thrown into Gehenna. (TS)
And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (KJV)
31 “And it has been said, ‘Whoever puts away his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ (TS)
It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: (KJV)
32 “But I say to you that whoever puts away his wife, except for the matter of whoring, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a woman who has been put away commits adultery. (TS)
But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (KJV)
33 “Again, you heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to [this translation uses the four Hebrew letters that represent the name of Jehovah].’ (TS)
Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: (KJV)
34 “But I say to you, do not swear at all, neither by the heaven, because it is Elohim’s throne; (TS)
But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: (KJV)
35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Yerushalayim, for it is the city of the great Sovereign; (TS)
Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. (KJV)
36 nor swear by your head, because you are not able to make one hair white or black. (TS)
Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. (KJV)
37 “But let your word ‘Yea’ be ‘Yea,’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’ And what goes beyond these is from the wicked one. (TS)
But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. (KJV)
38 “You heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ (TS)
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: (KJV)
39 but I say to you, do not resist the wicked. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. (TS)
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. (KJV)
40 “And he who wishes to sue you and take away your inner garment, let him have your outer garment as well. (TS)
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. (KJV)
41 “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. (TS)
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. (KJV)
42 “Give to him who asks of you, and from him who wishes to borrow from you, do not turn away. (TS)
Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. (KJV)
43 “You heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ (TS)
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. (KJV)
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those cursing you, do good to those hating you, and pray for those insulting you and persecuting you, (TS)
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (KJV)
45 so that you become sons of your Father in the heavens. Because He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (TS)
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. (KJV)
46 “For if you love those loving you, what reward have you? Are the tax collectors not doing the same too? (TS)
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? (KJV)
47 “And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Are the tax collectors not doing so too? (TS)
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? (KJV)
48 “Therefore, be perfect, as your Father in the heavens is perfect. (TS)
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (KJV)

(Note: The above TS translation was taken from the free PDF download of the Book of Mattithyahu (Matthew) available from the Institute for Scripture Research web site. I carefully typed by hand all the text, but there may still be typos. To assure that the text is typo-free, download the .pdf file and compare it to your KJV scriptures.)

So, what is the general opinion, is the King James Version still the best of all the translations?  And if not, are we too stuck in our ways to change to another translation?

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  1. Another question I might pose is: Would discontinuing the use of the KJV and using some other version or versions result in the destruction of the church as this particular commenter believes?

  2. Quoting the commenter,

    If Mormons start using a Bible that is no longer archaic they will quite quickly get bored and frustrated by all of the unique Mormon scriptures and will start moving away from the unique claims found in them.

    Do you have any idea what this is referring to? I can’t make sense of it.

  3. I think what he is saying is that a switch to a Bible that uses plain, modern English would quickly make the Bible more appealing to LDS, whereas the Triple Combination, being still written in archaic English, would be less appealing, causing LDS to gravitate to the Bible over the other scriptures.

    Of a truth, many readers unfamiliar with King James English choke on its language in all the Standard Works and find it boring. I’ve seen this happen many times with investigators. Instead of reading the books in plainness, they had to learn more English (the archaic kind) in order to grasp comprehension of the text. So, I understand his use of the words “boring” and “frustrated,” as I’ve witnessed this occurring with my own two eyes.

    Once the archaisms are learned, though, it’s not that hard to grasp the meaning, but investigators and members of non-English foreign countries do not have this comprehension problem, so why subject the English-speaking crowd to it? The Triple Combination is translated into modern languages, not old versions of those languages, at least in the languages that I have some semblance of understanding and which I’ve read, which facilitates comprehension. We should be making it easier to learn the gospel, not harder, and we do so with non-English translations.

    What I think he fails to realize is that if we ever were to get away from the King James English in the Bible because the membership desired more modern English, it would be a simple matter to convert the archaisms of the Triple Combination into modern English, bringing all four Standard Works on equal footing. The only thing that we’d lose is a portion of the tremendous scriptural referencing that occurred in 1981. But, who cares? With improvements in computing and publishing, it could be redone again.

  4. I served my mission in Brazil, and their Bible is just as archaic in portuguese as ours is in english. The average Brazilian is much less educated than the average english speaking American, so imagine that! Regardless, for better or worse, virtually all of them believe in the Bible whether they have read it and understand or not.

    I don’t think there would be any use or uproar in switching the version of the Bible we used. Anybody who reads with the spirit of understanding will probably get the same out of it whether they use the KJV or whatever else.

    Regarding that other person commented about people being more apathetic towards D&C and enjoying the bible more if switched over to a more user-friendly version; well, those same people probably aren’t reading D&C despite having an archaic bible right now. Additionally, they’d probably get bored reading the new hip Bible after 3 days anyway.

    I think reading other English versions of the Bible is no different than reading it in any other language. Depending on the words used and phrasing, certain things will pop out at you and your understanding may be deepened. Anybody who cares about that are already reading different versions/languages anyhow.

  5. I want to retract my statement above about the average Brazilian being much less educated. It’s out of context and not exactly what I mean, to many factors to weigh in.

  6. Similar to Doug’s comment, I know that the Spanish Book of Mormon is written in relatively archaic Spanish.

  7. I have had multiple versions of the Bible sitting on my bookshelf for many years. Previously, I had pretty much stuck with the KJV, then within the course of a week, I read “The King Follett Discourse” by Joseph Smith , and “Christ, Jehovah, and the Witnesses” by Mark Peterson.

    Joseph Smith makes a couple references to mistakes in the KJV, and mentions that the German Bible is more correct. Mark Peterson mentions at the beginning of his letter how much he likes the American Standard Revised Version, then never uses the KJV. I had never thought that there might be a more accurate Bible then the one I used, or that I might enjoy one version over another, but I began to wonder. I went out and picked up a couple other versions. They have been sitting side by side with my KJV for some time. I frequently reference more than one while I study. This has not changed my attitude towards the triple combination. The Book of Mormon was always very easy for me to understand, even if it was in Olde English, it was easier than the Bible. Using other versions of the Bible has made it as easy as the Book of Mormon in my eyes. It has never made me less likely to pick up my triple while in the middle of a study.

    It is not the language that draws me to the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, or Pearl of Great Price, (or the Bible, for that matter) but the content. Anyone who gives up the rest of the scriptures because they get a Bible written in modern English probably never had much of a testimony of them anyway.

    Having said that, I can’t really see the church changing. I don’t know that I would say it is because we are “stuck in our ways”. Staying with the KJV would be the easy thing to do, and until some earth shattering evidence comes out that says one version is much more accurate than another, changing would probably be more trouble than it is worth. If they were to change though, it would not bother me at all, I would still keep a copy of the KJV on the shelf right where it is now.

  8. So, Doug, RWW and PallasAthena, all three of you are of the opinion that the KJV is still the best English translation out there?

  9. “So, Doug, RWW and PallasAthena, all three of you are of the opinion that the KJV is still the best English translation out there?”

    I am by no means any kind of Bible expert, nor do I have any significant experience reading any other English version of the Bible besides the KJV. I am simply of the opinion that it won’t be earth shattering or testimony destroying to the members of the church what version of the Bible is used, as long as they fundamentally understand that it was translated numerous times by imperfect men.

    Would it bother me, if tomorrow we switched to another version of the Bible? No it would not. Any time I want a better understanding of something in the Bible I cross check it in Portuguese and other English versions anyway.

  10. I’ve really only read the KJV and the Reina-Valera (Spanish) translations at any significant length, so I can’t give an educated opinion. But my guess is that the actual quality of translation is very similar between the leading English versions. I’ll stick with the KJV because I am so familiar with it, but it might be wise for young people today to start with a more modern version.

    The biggest problem is that the Book of Mormon’s English is intimately related to that of the KJV. A more modern rendition of the BoM would be wonderful, but to be very frank, there is no one on Earth whom I would trust to write such a new version.

  11. There are better English translations out there. I think the reason the LDS Church still uses the KJV is simply because of tradition. We have invested a lot in making headings, footnotes, Bible dictionary, topical guides, etc. It would take a lot of work to do that all over again for another version of the Bible, so we stick with the KJV for now. I think in the future it will change, but as with everything in the Church it happens very slowly.

  12. Jay, which English translations do you think are better than the KJV?

  13. I don’t want to get caught up in semantics but I guess it depends on your meaning of “best”. Best what? Best translation? Best at portraying the original meaning of the author? I am not in a place to say it is best, there are many people much more knowledgable than me who argue about this all the time. I think the KJV is probably good enough (especially with the JST) to stay as the official version for the LDS church. As Jay mentioned it would be a very large undertaking if they were to change. I enjoy the KJV, but use multiple versions because I do not know which is best and enjoy others as well.

  14. Anarchist,
    Listen to Van Hale’s podcast (Mormon Miscellaneous: on the different Bibles available now. He talks about the advances in the ability of scholars to translate more accurately and new discoveries that have allowed a better understanding of the original text. It’s kind of a pet subject of his.

  15. Jay, I caught your comment on the Why the long process? post, but I appreciate you posting this a second time to bring it to my attention. I’ve gone in to Mormon Miscellaneous and am working my way through those podcasts. Thanks.

  16. I’ll just say that his podcasts are not my favorite (I don’t agree with him many times and he has some regular callers that are annoying). However, he is knowledgable and has many good insights.

  17. I’m trying to listen to yesterday’s show, but from what I can tell, Van Hale’s just the kind of person LDS Anarchist would disparagingly call an intellectual. And in this case, I would agree.

  18. For simplicity nothing can beat the New Living Translation by Tyndale House Publishers. It appears to be written on a 7th grade level. For added richness due to a reexamination of the Greek, one may enjoy the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition, Ignatius Press in San Francisco. Amazon has a nice leather edition of it for little over $20. I find referring to these editions enrich my understanding prior to relying on my LDS Bible edition during the three-hour block on Sunday.

  19. I came across this website which tests many versions for their accuracy in translation. It is bias towards the one they sell (CV) but the test results are still very interesting. I did a brief search and came across another website who says the CV bible is very good and the King James Version ranks in among the not recommended versions.

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