Many of you have doubtless heard of the King James-Only crowd. As the name may suggest, these folks hold that there is no legitimate Bible translation aside from the good old KJV. While the degrees to which they hold this view do indeed vary (from those who simply prefer the KJV to some who declare it a “new” revelation from God), in general you could say that they look down their noses at other translations.
If that sounds elitist to you, you’re not alone.
In wanting to better understand the KJV, however, I did end-up stumbling across a fairly well-known KJV-Only site. I found an article with a scathing condemnation of the New King James Bible. The New King James is basically an update of the KJV which, in short, attempted to improve many of the now archaic linguistic stylings of its predecessor while keeping the overall flavor of the KJV. While I won’t address every single point about the NKJV the writer made here is one portion in particular stood out:
A striking word change involves changing “corrupt” to “peddling” in 2 Corinthians 2:17. The KJV correctly says, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the Word of God….” But the NKJV, NASV, NIV and RSV, change “corrupt” to “peddling.” Is there any great difference between peddling (selling, or making a gain of) the Word of God and corrupting (adulterating) it? Of course there is, and one does not have to be a Greek scholar to decide which word is correct. When this warning was given in the 1st Century, was there any way for people to peddle (make a gain of) God’s Word? Of course not-they were suffering for it. The warning clearly refers to corrupting God’s Word, something that was common then as it is now. Only in our day has it ever been possible to peddle (make a gain of) the Bible.
While I have no interest in debating the semantics of history, I will say that the Pharisees had clearly corrupted and peddled the Word of God for their own personal gain. Likewise, the church in Corinth wrestled with some members who challenged Paul’s authority as an apostle and accused him of using the Word of God for his own purposes. It is possible to exploit God’s Word. People did it then; people do it now. Don’t let this writer fool you.
But back to the topic, clearly at issue here is the Greek word “kapeleuo” which, in the KJV, obviously is rendered as “corrupt[ing]” while other so-called inferior translations use the word “peddling.”
At issue seems to be usage. You can “corrupt” the Word of God (or, really, anything) and change it into something it was never supposed to be. Clearly “adulterating” is the writer’s interpretation of the usage of the word “corrupt” vis a vis “kapeleuo.”
However, another and more common usage of that Greek word would be “to exploit for one’s own financial (or other) purposes; to peddle; to acquire sordid gain.” In the context of the passage, you could read it as “selling out God’s Word for one’s own personal gain,” so based upon my research, this is the primary meaning of the word and is undoubtedly what Paul meant by using it.
Paul had his hands full with the Corinthian church, due in no small part to a few troublesome members who questioned his apostleship and teaching. As a matter of fact, it was so bad that Paul expressed gratitude that he hadn’t baptized very many of the church members.
Also, in the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul made a special point of saying that he never insisted that those whom he has preached to and converted should clothe, shelter and feed him while he was visiting Corinth, as were certainly his rights as a preacher.
Rather he and Barnabas worked to support themselves so that nobody could ever say they were looking for handouts, thereby demonstrating the sincerity in which they taught the Corinthian believers. However, the accusation obviously did not die down after his defense of himself, hence Paul touching on it again in 2 Corinthians.
Christians who read their Bibles all have a favorite translation but holding any of them up as perfect or infallible (particularly when the person doing so apparently knows little or nothing about history and language) to feel better than anybody else is just wrong. I would also add that most translations are made with prayerful consideration, good faith and the best of intentions by Godly men and women.
Accusing them of these kinds of offenses is dangerous for the accuser should he end up being wrong because he is essentially calling their work for God’s Kingdom an act of evil. The Pharisees did the same thing when Jesus cast demons out of people, saying He did so with Satan’s authority.
Jesus convicted them of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit on the spot. Moreover than that, this kind of bickering and name-calling doesn’t do anything to unite us a body of believers. If you don’t feel like a particular good faith translation is worth your time to read, that’s fine, but for the love of God (literally) watch what you say about the people who created it.