Dear Chick Publishing,
I grew up with your tracts. My mom handed them out every Halloween.
I’ve often cried real tears while reading them because I see the beautiful story of my Master Jesus and His love for His people. And now that I’m grown, I’ve made your tracts a part of my own “passive evangelism” strategy (as opposed to the times I actually have conversations with people).
Which is why I feel I have to write this letter. I feel you (as an organization, maybe not as an individual) have a blind spot that’s hurting your witness and your relationship with your brothers and sisters…and our common Lord.
Is the KJV Really Your Hill to Die On?
I don’t mind if y’all prefer the King James Version of the Bible…but the anger and bitterness with which y’all 1) defend your preference and 2) attack others who make a different choice is frustrating.
Quite apart from the ways in which the KJV is a poor reflection of the original Greek, the things y’all write in your newsletters (and even in some of your tracts!) make it sound like you believe God sent an angel down in 1611 with golden tablets inscribed with these words, and to translate them would be a heresy!
Dude! Seriously?! What– Is this seriously how you want to be remembered? If even I, a Christian fundamentalist patriarchalist, thinks you sound cray-cray, what are unbelievers who run across this material going to think?
But let’s break it down. Because it’s not even rational. The KJV is the only valid Bible? Really? Are y’all for real?
God’s Literal Words…in English
Okay, so…your company (Chick Publishing) prints Spanish tracts.
People. You print tracts…in SPANISH.
Those tracts ARE NOT USING THE KING JAMES.
When Paul of Tarsus sat down and dictated to Silas, he wasn’t using English…they were speaking (gasp) GREEK. Literally Greek.
Were the things Paul, Peter, Luke, Moses, Jeremiah, etc. said/wrote all wrong until some random guys in Great Britain came along to “translate” them into the words God actually meant (meaning the KJV)?
What about the Bible translation work going on around the world?
This very moment, as I write this, Wycliffe Associates is supporting more than 1,550 translation projects, translating the Bible into languages around the world.
Not a single word of those translations is going to be KJV.
Do y’all seriously, honestly, intellectually believe that no one can be a “good Christian” unless he reads the Scriptures in 17TH-CENTURY ENGLISH?
I guess I’ll just go give the bad news to, like, literally 99.9% of Christians who have ever lived in the history of the world!
If We’re Here to Communicate…Shouldn’t We Speak Their Language?
Not all English is created equal.
Meaning, many English-speakers (even those who speak it as a first language) have trouble with the phraseology of the King James.
I’ve heard a pastor preach about how bad “diver’s weights” are…not realizing the Proverb is talking about “diverse weights” AKA “weights of various (lying) measurements.” (Prov. 20:10…note how the ESV renders it…)
There was also a girl who was turned off from Jesus because she though He wanted children to suffer (“Suffer the little children to come unto Me…”). Using a translation that actually spoke her version of English helped her see that Jesus meant, “Let the children come to Me…”
We want to show people the real Jesus. I believe we can do that without compromising the truth of God, while still speaking in language people actually understand.
Your tracts are written in modern English.
The cartoon on the back of one of your recent newsletter shows a “figure like a man” on a shiny throne, and he’s saying, “What are you doing with my words?”
Not, “What dost thou with My words?”
So is he really God if he’s using modern English sentence structure?
Oops! I was sarcastic!
It devotes a lot of text to explaining the Bible verses it quotes.
If it just used a translation that spoke modern English, it wouldn’t have to waste that space.
You apparently understand that the KJV doesn’t clearly communicate your meaning a lot of the time…so why do you insist on clinging to it? I’m honestly mystified.
“Do Not Add ANY Words…”
One of the things y’all complain about with other translations is “taking away” or “adding” words that aren’t in the original languages.
But honestly, the KJV isn’t immune, either.
Take this addition:
In John 8, we find the story of the woman caught in adultery.
The crowd asks Jesus to rule on the matter, and He ignores them to write in the dust.
Then the men, beginning with the oldest, left (vs. 9).
The KJV mentions they were “pricked in their consciences.”
The problem is, that phrase isn’t in the original Greek!
It helps with understanding the passage, but it’s an ADDITION to the literal words of Scripture! Those responsible for the KJV used their own interpretation in how they chose to render the passage.
To an extent, every translator makes choices like this.
But if you’re going to get bent out of shape over “adding or subtracting” from the word of God, you should at least apply the same metric to your own favorite translation. (Not even touching on the fact that Rev. 22:18-19 technically applies to “the book of this prophecy” AKA Revelation…)
Y’all might have picked up on some “passion” from this writing. You might even read in a tang of bitterness, anger, or frustration.
That is not my intention. I’ve tried to speak as frankly as possible to take away some of the sting of my point…and because, if you are born again in the blood of Jesus Christ, then we are brother/sisters.
And that’s what siblings do: smack each other around, yell at each other, and be willing to die to protect each other.
So don’t mistake my sincere frustration for anything more hostile than sisterly care for the state of your witness and mentality.
I’ll be blunt…I don’t feel that care from your material.
When I open your newsletter and see a cartoon man guiltily holding an ESV, it hurts.
The ESV is one of the best translations for balancing the sense of the original languages (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic) and communicating clearly with a modern English audience.
If Cartoon Man had been dropping the KJV for a TNIV or a Jehovah’s Witness Bible, I would agree with your condemnation.
But the ESV?
Attacking a solid translation isn’t fair.
You’re dying on this hill…and it ain’t pretty.
You’ve dedicated countless newsletter articles to this issue…You even have entire tracts dedicated – not to sharing the Good News of Jesus our Savior – but to the KJV!
I get you love it…but is it really so important to tell everyone that every single Bible translation is corrupted by some Satanic Catholic cult except your precious gold-plated King Jimmy?
(That sounds like the pop-up on that website I visited telling me about Jesus’ super secret cure for diabetes!)
The unbelievers are watching. Weak Christians are watching you. What do you want them to hear you say?
“Jesus washes us from our sins and teaches us to follow Him!”
“You need to be using my Bible or you’re a degenerate, reprobate heretic who’s probably not saved to begin with.”
One of these feels a whole lot more loving to me.
Your reasons are your own.
I don’t care if you really, really want to use the KJV. Whatever. You be you.
Maybe that’s what you grew up with, so it sounds familiar…maybe you like how it renders this or that passage…maybe it’s in the public domain, so can be used in new publications without any costly licenses or contracts (well, at least in the USA!).
You can defend your own preferences and make choices for your own publications without demonizing fellow sons and daughters of God!
GOD Builds His Church, Y’all!
And God preserves His word.
Just look at the Septuagint.
This Greek translation of the Old Testament was pretty inaccurate in a lot of ways…even so far as changing the ages of the patriarchs in Genesis so that they no longer add up!
And yet, when people in the New Testament quote the Scriptures (Jesus, Paul, etc.) they use the Septuagint! (In Greek, by the way.)
Are y’all really saying that the All-powerful, All-wise God of the Universe can’t get His point across unless we use specific English words (words that even some native-speakers have trouble understanding)?!
Again, if you want to use the KJV, more power to ya.
Whatever floats your boat.
But stop telling every other Christian in the English-speaking world that we have to use some hundred-years-old translation commissioned under a Catholic king.
(Oh, yeah…y’all hate – Catholics, too. But that’s a discussion for another time.)
God speaks to the Christians in Tanzania…in Bolivia…in Indonesia…in Russia…and in Kansas. And He uses His Holy Spirit and the Scriptures to do it.
Yes, He calls us to faithfulness.
Yes, He calls us to follow to the best of our ability…to holiness…to love and patience and grace.
But…He’s like the literal MAKER AND KING OF THE UNIVERSE who sees the end from the beginning and if you’re honestly saying He needs your specific translation to reach the English-speaking world – then I have one question for you:
What Did God REALLY Say?
So…I wrote this section title, and suddenly remembered the person in the Bible who’s quoted as using those words.
Hint: he had a forked tongue.
Yes, there are bad translations. Some translations are better than others. But God in the person of the Holy Spirit hammers home the lessons He wants to teach each and every one of His children, and you’re not going to mess that up by reading the “wrong” Bible.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to get as close to the original as possible. But by “original” I mean the Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic that the original authors penned their words in.
It’s good to be concerned that we’re learning from reputable sources, and that we’re following God to the best of our ability.
But we’re all going to fall flat on our faces…and Jesus has to pick us up and help us walk again.
Remember Job: Satan is a dog on God’s leash.
Don’t you give that liar more credit than he deserves. He’ll try to twist our Scriptures, pull our pastors away after riches and sex, and confuse us with constant arguments about tiny details that don’t matter.
But he can’t touch us unless our King and Master allows it…to test us, to teach us, or to teach someone else something.
So stop being so afraid! God’s got it!
The vibe I get from your material is that you’re so controlling and fixated on this particular aspect that you’ve taken your eyes off some other things that are equally (or perhaps more?) important:
“I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in the heavens above, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters below.”
“You Pharisees have abandoned the teaching of God in favor of man’s tradition. Foolish hypocrites!”
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
“The one who is weak should not judge the brother who is strong…and the one who is strong should not despise the brother who is weak.”
“Little children, love one another, for love comes from God.”
(Those are “off-the-top-of-my-head translations” of Exodus 20:1-4/Deut. 5:6-8; Mark 7:6-13; 1 Cor. 13:1-2; Rom. 14:1-4, 9-13; and 1 John 4:7-8)
I hope, hidden in my words here, you can feel the love…somewhere.
And I write this message with the firm conviction that y’all will…do precisely whatever you please.
But I had to write because I would hate for you to hum along without ever being confronted with an alternate perspective – AKA never being given the chance to choose differently.
Just as, in my own walk, I would far rather my church family bring issues to my attention so I can grow and improve…rather than let me float along in error without a clue.
Because the other thing the Holy Spirit does is He puts people in our lives to challenge us, irritate us, have painful conversations with us, and rub off our rough edges to make us more pure for our Father.
So to anyone who actually reads this…thank you!
Keep up the good work!
Fear not…God is king!
And if God starts poking you over something…well, it’s best if you listen the first time, is all I’m sayin’.
Featured image credit
Kimia Wood is a Christian – fundamentalist – patriarchalist.
She also writes novels full of lovable characters and mysterious plots. She’s currently living with her family somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.
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