The Anvil-1611-God's Word
Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith's door,
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
Then, looking in, I saw upon the floor
Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
"How many anvils have you had," said I,
"To wear and batter all these hammers so?"
"Just one," said he, and then, with twinkling eye,
"The anvil wears the hammers out you know."
And so, thought I, the anvil of God's Word,
For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed-the hammers gone.
The King James Bible Is Inspired
May we call the KJB inspired, or merely the best translation of the inspired originals and copies of them? Is it truly scripture as we read in II Timothy 3:16 or not? I believe the KJB did not lose inspiration in translation. Few pastors are unwise enough to stand in the pulpit and say that Bible in the hands of the congregation is a good translation but somehow not equal to the manuscripts. But there are fundamental "academic" defenders of the Textus Receptus who boldly say that very thing.
Elizabethan English of the KJB is more precise than any legal document, more beautiful than any other literature, and more easily memorized than any other translation. H. L. Mencken, the agnostic Baltimore Sun reporter who covered the Scopes trial, said of the KJB: "many learned but misguided men have sought to produce translations that should be…in the plain speech of everyday. But the Authorized Version has never yielded to any of them for it is palpably and overwhelmingly better than they are, just as it is better than the Greek New Testament, or the Vulgate, or the Septuagint. Its English is extraordinarily simple, pure, eloquent, lovely. It is a mine of lordly and incomparable poetry, at once the most stirring and the most touching ever heard of." If unbelievers can say that of the KJB, why is it politically incorrect among us to say the same thing?
The question is whether inspiration belongs only to Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. If so the mass of believers cannot hide God's inspired words in their hearts. Is this position any better than concept inspiration or inspiration of the autographs only? It is not. The KJB translators, taught in prayer as Moses was taught eloquence by God in Exodus 4:12, rendered our Bible into an elevated, Biblical form of English, cast in a mold slowly shaped by the Biblical Greek and Hebrew as they had been carried over into other languages for centuries before English came about from them and took its best form in the 16th century.
Koine Greek of the New Testament was vernacular and also Biblical because of strong Hebrew influence. It was not the language of the streets. It was a world language in its day but is now a dead language. The best Greek scholars do not think in it nor preach or pray from the heart in it. English, now spoken by more people than any other tongue, has replaced it as a world language, and the honour given to God by the KJB is the primary reason. Bible translations in use through history in the true churches outside Catholicism have all been inspired. That our English Bible has surpassed them in beauty and soul stirring pathos is in the hands of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who gave Hebrew to Adam and guided the development of earlier tongues out of the integrity of His heart and with the skilfulness of His hands and by that same power shaped English itself to receive Hebrew and Greek expressions with divine ease and grace. God is in control of this world and did not stand aside and let languages evolve naturalistically without direction.
Some Things We Know
ONE The Bible is eternal, has always existed and always will. Ezekiel 2:9-10, Psalms 119:89, 152, Isaiah 40:8, Matthew 24:35
TWO Inspiration of the Bible is by direct dictation from God. Numbers 12:8, Isaiah 51:16, Ezekiel 2:1-2 and 3:1-3, John 17:8
THREE Inspiration and writing, or scripture, are specifically connected in II Timothy 3:16 and I Peter 1:17-21.
FOUR The Bible, always vernacular, is alive; it is the lively oracles which Stephen preached as given to the Jews. It lives in the hearts of believers, hidden there by the Holy Ghost who has provided spiritual understanding and tbe means by which we can call it to memory. John 6:63 says that the words of Jesus, the living bread, are spirit and life.
FIVE God sent Jesus to spend his youth in Galilee of the nations where he was protected from Herod. God ordained that Jesus' ministry would flourish there. This follows Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-8, fulfilled in Matthew 4:12-16. All the disciples except Judas were Galileans. Believers were scattered there after Stephen's stoning; churches were established there at an early time. The Lord's ministry in that land of many languages foreshadows the very early translation of the Bible.
SIX The priesthood of the believer, taught in I Peter 2:5, 9 and Revelation 1:6, requires vernacular translation as we see in I Corinthians 14:13-16, I will pray with the understanding, I will sing with the understanding also.
SEVEN Translation has always been the means of preservation of the scriptures. The Bible has been translated, published in written form, and preached since Acts 2:4-18 (16 languages here), I Corinthians 14:5-22, Colossians 1:5-6 and 22, Romans 10:17, and Romans 16:26. Portions of Daniel are Aramaic. A number of verses in the KJB, I John 5:7, Acts 8:37, Acts 9:5-6, Acts 20:28, and Matthew 27:35 depend primarily on Old Latin manuscripts, although they are in a small minority of Greek manuscripts.
EIGHT Man did not evolve; language did not evolve. God gave Hebrew to Adam. There is a single New Testament reference which I believe confirms the belief that Hebrew was the original language and is the language of God. In Acts 26:14 Paul told Agrippa "And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? In the providence of God Hebrew expressions somehow flow naturally into English. Hebrew idioms became English idioms because the KJB translators so faithfully respected and followed Hebrew word order. "It came to pass," "a man after his own heart," "as a lamb to the slaughter," "the salt of the earth," "thorn in the flesh," and "gave up the ghost" are some of many examples that have enriched our language.
NINE England provided a place of refuge for thousands of Spanish Jews and Christians who had to flee from the Inquisition. The English remembered God's promise to Abraham, "I will bless them that bless thee," and gained a world empire as Spain lost one. The vernacular nature of the Bible, the priesthood of the believer, preservation by translation and useage, respectful and exact faithfulness of the KJB translators to Hebrew and Greek, and humble faith on our part, all point toward inspiration of the KJB itself.
James H. Sightler, M.D.
September 1, 2002
The Bible Must be Vernacular
Our Bible, the King James Version, is scripture and is also
vernacular as it should be if we are to search the scriptures as the
noble Bereans did. John 5:39 “Search the scriptures; for in them ye
think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”
Acts 17:11-12 “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in
that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched
the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many
of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of
men, not a few.” God, in control of everything in this old world,
oversaw the development of the English language and made it possible
for it to receive easily in translation the Hebrew influenced Koine
Greek of the New Testament. Man did not evolve and language has not
either. In the providence of God English is more efficient and
compact and expressive than any other language. In its day the Koine
Greek was a world language, but now that world language is English
and Koine Greek is spoken nowhere. Still there are vernacular
translations in other languages, French, German, Italian, and
Spanish which conform very closely to the King James Version.
We can therefore be concerned with the smallest elements of language as it is conveyed by the Bible, with the alphabet itself and simple phonemes. These are used in the Bible as in no other book. The very smallest of these elements, letters, vowels, consonants, and syllables, were given to us by God. The nature of the letters and syllables and their arrangement into sequences are crucial to making the meaning of words and passages intelligible to us, so that they stand alone without need of lexicon or commentary.
There is an important word which applies to these small elements of language and to their combination into understandable syllables and words. That word is prosody. The dictionary definition is "the art of versification and the study of metrical (rhythmic) structure, rhyme, and stanza forms." The word is from the Middle English, prosodie, and, before that, from an ancient Greek word, prosodi, which means song sung to music and has the connotation of accent. Remember that the entire Old Testament, given in Hebrew in metrical form, was meant to be sung, and that the notation of the singing is specified in the accents embedded in the Hebrew text. The versification of the Old Testament is also embedded in the text. God intended His words to be given to us in a poetic and musical form. Why?
Ordinary prose writing, the dull voice of man's wisdom, cannot match the richness of speech that we find in preaching or the beauty of poetry and cannot duplicate their effect on our hearts. A speaker can communicate meaning and message by stress, pitch, meter, and pauses, melodic speech if you will. Therefore, in order to achieve, in writing, the richness and full meaning of speech, prosody and meter, which are poetic, must be made intrinsic to the writing. That kind of writing, because it is memorable and naturally suited to our minds, has the power to stabilize and preserve language. The greatest richness, beauty, poetry, and power in all literature is given to us in the inspired King James Bible and only in that singular revelation.
An infant hears its mother speak while it is still in the womb. Its rearing begins before it is placed in its mother's arms. By at least one month of age the child can recognize the voice of its own mother as different from that of other women. The effortless and natural building of language by infants is made possible by a vocal scaffold. That scaffold is the universal sing-song "baby talk" or "motherese" by which mothers, the world over, with biblical natural affection, speak to their infants. Motherese is characterized by a high pitched voice, trochaic rhythm with accent on the first of two syllables, and an increase in duration of the first syllable. Mothers "speak comfortably unto" their children, in a "soft answer," and in so doing give them peace and rest. They give them "vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope." Fathers also do this in a different and more authoritative, but still important, way. Both father and mother are required for successful teaching and rearing of infants.
Prosody in the speech of the mother and father gives cues to the infant which it can recognize and retain, certainly before the age of 9 months. Prosodic cues enable the infant to organize and encode what is heard, and they serve as a basis for later acquisition of syntax, that is, the arrangement of words into phrases and sentences. Upon these prosodic "pegs" are later "hung" the syntax that the infant naturally acquires and the meanings of words and their proper placement in sequence in a phrase or sentence.
God made us, alone among all His creatures, with minds and vocal anatomy meant for language. It develops naturally and without formal teaching. At a very early time, before the age of two years, a child can combine words into meaningful phrases and sentences which are not simply copied but are used properly to express things the child has not heard before.
But even though we grow to maturity and may think ourselves free from needing the simple comforts of prosody and poetry, we still must have them, as much as children and as long as life lasts. We who think ourselves wise must become as little children and be spoken comfortably unto; we also need vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope; we need the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort to heal the brokenhearted.
In a new book, In Awe of Thy Word, Dr. Gail Riplinger ingeniously, with both text and graphics, illustrates many examples of the precise and metrical combination of syllables and words in the King James Bible into poetic orders which naturally capture and hold our attention and are sublime in character. She has shown with many previously unreported quotes exactly what Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Coverdale believed about the vernacular nature and inspiration of the Bible. There is a complete recounting of the true thought of Erasmus, his feelings about vernacular Bibles, and his attitude toward the Roman Church. The breadth of information supplied is truly remarkable, and we are greatly indebted to her for her work.
Greer, South Carolina
July 1, 2004
James H. Sightler, M.D.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Class of 1968
Diplomate, American Board of Pediatrics