KJV Classical Language of Emphasis
by Dr. L. Bednar
Modern scholars fail to recognize emphasis in classical English diction in the KJV, and think it's indicative of error. A particular feature of classical English is an emphasis on each individual aspect of some magnificent personality or some epochal event. Several cases of such classical-language use in the KJV are misinterpreted by modern scholars, showing us how little they grasp proper use of our great English-language heritage, and how little qualified they are to utilize the language to maximal effect.
Emphasizing the majesty of Christ: Titus 2:13, 14
KJV: Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of The great God and
our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us…
NIV: while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and
Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us…
J. R. White* and others feel the KJV here (and in 2 Pet.1:1) offers inaccurate syntax that separates Christ from the title the great God, supposedly suggesting He’s not to be called "God," and supposedly the NIV, NASV & NKJV correct this. But the KJV rightly follows the literal Greek in its majesty of language to convey a message on the majesty of Christ our God. By speaking of His deity and salvation role separately, the KJV emphasizes His majesty in its totality. An of (due to genitive-case terms) in the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of, directly associates this expression with the entire phrase, the great God and our Savior, and the blessed hope and glorious appearing of refers to Christ in the Second Advent, so the great God and our Savior can both refer only to Christ. What the KJV says so eloquently is that Christ is the great God on the one hand, and our great Savior on the other hand, which is great cause to rejoice, for it means our salvation is totally secure. This is literal Greek diction relating directly to classical English diction, and providing emphasis, as KJV translators well understood.
Modern scholars don’t grasp English and Greek literary riches that are so superior to contemporary language. The NIV (& NASV/NKJV) has the right sense of meaning, but is not translated as literally as the KJV, causing loss of emphatic language and inferior communication. The end result is that the NIV claims for Christ only the title of our great God, as if His deity applied only to us (due to wrong opinion that this is a case where the Greek definite article isn't to be translated). As the KJV so aptly says, He is the great God, the God of all creation, and He who is so great as this has consented to be our Savior. The KJV passage exalts Christ to a degree beyond what is perceived in it by modern scholars, due to their limitations in grasping classical language.*
* White, J.R. The King James Only Controversy. p201
One wonders if White thinks saints and faithful brethren (Col.1:2) separates saints and faithful brethren, as if they were two different types. Or does he think God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Col.1:3) separates God from the Father, as if the Father were not God?
Emphasizing great injustice: Acts 5:30
KJV: The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
NIV: The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead - whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.
Here there is great emphasis on the extreme injustice of crucifying the innocent divine Christ Jesus, this being imparted by Peter as he speaks to the council, the ones most responsible for the Crucifixion. Contrary to a suggestion by White, the KJV here is not saying Christ was first slain, and then hanged on a tree.* Readers having the slightest knowledge of the KJV gospel accounts of the Crucifixion can see that plainly. Rather, the KJV is again using a literary device, emphasizing that the innocent divine one was unjustly slain, which is outrageous enough, and further emphasizing His slaying as a cruel one of crucifixion upon a tree, which is doubly outrageous. The KJV properly sums-up the matter in showing that the ultimate righteousness was served in that God raised Him from the dead, in refutation of His very unjust treatment by men. Hearers of Peter's message of emphasis reacted with strong emotion to these charges of doubly outrageous treatment of the Messiah, as was intended. The NIV (also NASV & NKJV) loses the emphasis on the sense of injustice and outrage by relegating the matter to something more like an historical summary. The diction and the syntax in the NIV are needlessly elementary, losing the sense of pathos and drama in Peter's charges.
* White, p225, is puzzled by the KJV rendering, indicating classical English diction is an expertise he’s not acquainted with.
Emphasizing danger: 1 Chronicles 5:26
KJV: And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgath Pilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away…
NASV: So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul, king of Assyria, even the spirit
of Tilgath Pilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away…
Here scholars suggest the KJV implies two kings of Assyria when two names referring to one king are given.* But the RSV agrees with the KJV, and the reason is clear. The scholars who question the translation don't understand the use of a literary device for emphasis. The emphasis is on spirit, and the KJV is saying God stirred up the spirit of Pul against Israel, which involves stirring up the spirit of Tilgath Pilneser. The latter is a symbolic name for Pul who succeeded a Tilgath Pilneser, a greatly-feared powerful warrior. This interpretation is evident from the grammar, the king being referred to in the singular in the KJV (i.e. ...and he carried them away). The KJV message is one of emphasis that says, in effect, "Israel beware; the kingdom of an unholy fierce terror of reknowned present & past (persistent) reputation is unleashed on you for your sins." The NASV (& the NIV/NKJV) rendering here is correct linguistically, but, in rendering even (that is in another version) instead of and, loses emphasis on the fierce history of this enemy that began with the earlier king. The NASV rendering might be understood rightly, but is ambiguous, suggesting that the spirit of Pul is the same as that of Tilgath Pilneser, when the two kings would have fierce, but different spirits. Use of and serves to ensure an emphasis on the spirits of both kings so that the earlier one's reputation is included in the ominous message.
* White, p228
Modern scholars don’t recognize advanced diction of the KJV (and at times syntax, lexicology & grammar, as seen elsewhere on the present website), criticizing matters that actually illustrate high-level language skill superior to theirs. Their attack on greatly-superior older scholarship endangers the prospect for retaining the beauty and accuracy in the literary skill inherent to the KJV. Laymen who heed these criticisms intensify the problem. The modern church must step back from confusion created by scholars, and begin asking where current methods have taken us. This is essential if there is to be any hope of retaining the fine aspects of classical English so worthy for expression of the truth and beauty of God’s true Word.