Friday, August 17, 2007

My story about KJV onlyism

In the summer of 2000, I flew with my soon to be fiance Megan from Manfredonia in Italy, where we were serving aboard the MV LOGOS II, to Seattle, for a two week vacation.

Before I had left in August 1998 to spend two years aboard LOGOS II as a volunteer, I had been a member of the church in which I grew up for 11.5 years--since the age of 13. During that entire span I had been steeped in a tradition called King James Onlyism, which holds that the King James Version of the Bible is the only proper bible in the English language--it is "God's peserved Word". I had never really thought very deeply about this--it was just part of the belief system with which I grew up, and which I had mostly accepted.

However, during two years aboard LOGOS II, I spent rather a lot of time doing communityish things with the Bible. We had small groups, and larger groups, and we did bible studies, and talked about the bible, and preached from the bible, and heard the bible preached from, and so forth. There were about 200 of us on board, from some 40 different countries. While we used English as our community language, the large majority of crew members were speaking English as their second language. Again, without thinking about it too terribly much, I came to accept that the King James traslation, which is 400 years old, and used early modern English, was really not super useful at all for second language English speakers. This led in turn to the realization that it didn't really work super well for me either, being a fully modern english speaker as I am.

So in summer of 2000 I was in for a bit of an unexpected surprise. I went to a men's retreat with about 30 other guys from my church, and one of the elders was giving a talk one evening. I was sitting in the back with my bible software open on my laptop, and half listening to the talk, and half poking around in my bible software, and the speaker was asking various guys to read this or that scripture verse, and he caught me by surprise when he said "Benjamin, could you read such and such a passage?" It was some 5 or 6 verses from Ephesians. So I typed it into my bible software, found the passage, and started reading.

I guess I hadn't realized how much sound there was in the room until it all started to go away. Just the little noises of guys quietly chatting to each other about the talk we were hearing, I guess. Have you ever heard a jet engine wind down? It was kind of like that. By the time I finished reading these 6 verses, the room was amazingly silent. And when I finished reading them, the silence dragged on for another amazingly long 3 or 4 seconds, before the speaker said "Well, um, okay, I'm just gonna read that again.", which he proceeded to do, from the correct version!


Now it makes me smile a little. At my own ... surprise, mostly. Shoulda known. Oh well. But writing the memory also gives me strange uncomfortable shivers--the same ones I had that evening. Those aren't super pleasant.

If you're curious about KJV onlyism, wiki has a reasonable article about it.

Or I could tell you more about it directly. I found myself doing a bit of study on the whole subject later in the year 2000, when I was attempting to figure out what the right of it was.


byron smith said...

I have never understood this mindset and don't think I've ever met someone who held it.

Megs said...

hello lovely!
i love the way you create words!
our two little girls are fast asleep and look angelic!
rachel and victor have a new blog - it's either rachelvictor or victorrachel at blogspot!
love you my beloved Bens, and sorry you've been so bullied by KJV Onlyers! If ONLY they new how hurtful beliefism is!
love meg

Justin said...

Same as Byron.

Jonathan Cullum said...


if it was good enough for the apostle Paul, it's good enough for me.