Probably the biggest excuse (maybe you could call it a reason, but it's really an excuse) Christians make for switching to a modern translation of the Bible is that the KJV is too difficult to understand. English has evolved as a language, and therefore, the 17th century English found in the KJV is just too "archaic" for us. I'd hardly say English has evolved since the 17th c.; more like DE-volved (is that even a word? if not I'm making it up and it means "gotten worse"). There are MANY problems with the idea that 17th c. english and present day english are two COMPLETELY different languages.
For one thing the language of the KJV is NOT 17th century English. It is the language of the Greek and Hebrew reflected accurately and completely in English. Here are some examples of 17th century English. First of all some proverbs that originated in the 17th century.
* Actions speak louder than words (early 17th c.)
* All's fair in love and war (early 17th c.)
* Beauty is only skin deep (early 17th c.)
Those seem pretty easy to understand. Not much has really changed has it?
Here's a recipe from the 17th c. printed and preserved in it's "original" language. I'll copy it here, but you can click on the link to see it exactly as it was written.
To fry Applepies
Take Apples and pare them, and chop them very small, beat in a little Cinnamon, a little Ginger, and some Sugar, a little Rosewater, take your paste, roul it thin, and make them up as big Pasties as you please, to hold a spoonful or little lesse of your Apples; and so stir them with Butter not to hastily least they be burned.
Again, it's not too difficult to understand. The word "roul" obviously is our modern day "roll". Most likely it was pronounced exactly the same in the 17th c. even though the spelling is different. The other differences is the word "lesse". Spelling was not consistent at all in the 17th c., and in fact it was the KJV Bible that helped standardize a lot of the spellings in English. This recipe is fairly understandable. Perhaps a notable difference is the capitalization of all the nouns. This is still practiced in other European languages such as German, but it has gone out of use in English. However, NONE of these differences make this recipe difficult to understand, nor do they make it a completely different language. The change in language from the 17th c. to today is relatively minor.
I'm not trying to be irreverent by comparing the Bible to a recipe for apple pie. I simply used the illustration to show that biblical English was NOT necessarily the norm in the 17th c., so to say that the Bible is difficult to understand because it's 17th c. English is not valid. In fact it's not even true, because it's NOT 17th c. English. Here's a link to a 17th c. document presented to the government in England by Sir. Francis Bacon on the subject of duels. Consider that this was a document given to the king! It would of course be written in excellent English both grammatically and descriptively. Notice there are some similarities to biblical english, but keep in mind this was being read before the king and that would warrant using the best language available! It's probably no less confusing than many of the laws and bills that are presented before our own government today. One thing that is notable about this document is the absence of "thee", "thou", and "thine" as personal pronouns. Ah yes... those thee's and thy's.
Probably the words that people have the most trouble with in the KJV, and that they often use as their excuse that the language is too difficult are the thee's, thou's and thy's. I heard a pastor say once (in a bit of a sarcastic tone), that he would help those who were struggling with all the thee's and thy's in the Bible. It's very simple... they all men YOU. So then why are they in the Bible? Why not just use the word you? We already know that those pronouns were not typically used in everyday English in the 17th c. If they weren't in the official government document, I highly doubt people were using them in regular conversation. The only place I saw thee's and thy's with any frequency was in poetry of that time period. That makes sense because we tend to think of those pronouns and more poetic (ie. Shakespear). So why use them in the Bible? Why are they important? Why is it such a big deal to update them and bring out a new translation that exchanges all the thee's and thy's for you? Sounds like a good idea doesn't it?
Well, it's a good idea if you don't want to translate what the original languages are saying. When I was doing my reading and research on the KJV this was a big question for me. Like everyone else who reads the KJV, I struggled with the thee's and thy's too, but I found out that there's actually a REALLY good reason for why those words were chosen in the translation. In Greek and Hebrew there are different words for singular personal pronouns and plural personal pronouns (If you don't know what a singular and plural pronoun is google it and find out, or this will make no sense to you). In everyday conversational English we don't have different words for the singular and plural pronouns. "You" can be used to speak of one person, "Do you want to come to the store with me?" Jess said to Jen. Or "you" can be used to refer to many people, "You need to hand this project in on Monday," the professor said to the class. In order to faithfully represent the original languages the KJV translators chose to use thee, thy, thou, and thine when the pronoun was singular, and you and ye when the pronoun was plural.
Okay, so we get the point with the singular and plural, but does it really make that much of the difference? I mean, we can usually tell from the context if the pronoun is in reference to one person or a group of people. This is true. It's obvious in the sentence that the professor's statement was addressed to the entire class, but there are cases in the Bible were the singular and plural really do make a difference. Take John 3 for example. Verses 1 and 2 tell us that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night to talk to him. For some reason I have this picture in my mind of them sitting on a roof top in a kind of secret meeting with each other. I think it was a picture on a flashcard when I learned the story in Sunday School :). Anyways, no one else is around, just Jesus and Nicodemus talking, but in verse 7 Jesus says ...Ye must be born again. Jesus uses the plural pronoun. Why would He do that? Context clearly shows that He's only speaking to Nicodemus, not many people. The meaning here is significant, and it's one of those jewels in the Scripture. It's true that Nicodemus needed to be born again, but by using the plural pronoun Jesus is saying that it is the need of ALL men to be born again. Being born again is not exclusive to those who come to Jesus by night and speak with Him. Salvation is for ALL who will believe. I think it's so amazing how a simple thing like a pronoun can give a whole new meaning to the text. It's so deep and so rich, and it's there because God loved us and wanted us to know that Jesus would die for the whole world. Now unless the KJV translators had made the decision to faithfully and accurately translate from the original language we would not have had this jewel. In fact the KJV is the ONLY translation of the Bible in English to preserve the difference in the singular and plural pronouns that is throughout the original languages. The translators of the KJV were so committed to representing the original when they translated that they even used words that were not common to their day in order to translate accurately. Truly they are to be commended for this! Without this kind of translation it is necessary to go back to the original language to find out when the pronoun was singular and when it was plural. I don't know about you, but I just don't have time to learn Greek and Hebrew in order to do all that research! There's A LOT of pronouns in the Bible! Wouldn't it be much simpler if they were just translated properly into English?
Once I learned this fact, I began to appreciate the thee's and thou's in my Bible a lot more. It also led to a lot more understanding in many passages. Now I know simply by the words if God is speaking to a group of people or to an individual. It's really neat when you start reading Scripture this way how much more is revealed in the meaning of the passage. There are even some passages that flip back and forth between the singular and the plural. Obviously if one believes that all Scripture was given by inspiration (II Tim 3:16), then God must have had a reason for using those different words. All I can say is that it's really cool when you're reading a passage and you see how God uses these words to convey different meanings.
Okay, so back to the KJV being hard to understand. What about all those archaic words? I say... what about them? It seems that we live in a generation that's forgotten there's such a thing as a dictionary! I just looked up two of the "supposed" archaic words in the dictionary application on my computer and guess what? They were there!!! They were "redound" and "prate". Now if you know what those words mean without looking them up you're way smarter than me. Or you've looked them up before. Or you've heard a sermon preached on them, and the pastor has explained what they mean. With the amount of technology we have today there really is no such excuse as "I can't understand the archaic words." Ummm... Google people, and most of us have it on our phones. We google everything else, why not google an archaic word? It's not like you need to go buy a specific dictionary to read the Bible. Some Bibles even come with a dictionary in the study notes at the back. Mine did, and I refer to it often. Oh yeah... and just so you know. There are archaic words in the NIV too. Like what are brooches (Ex. 35:22), or denarii (Matt 18:28), or encrouch (Pro 23:10), or gadfly (Jer 46:20)? I do know what bracelet, penny, enter, and destruction mean though (those are the KJV words believe it or not). The NASB, NKJV, ESV, and NRSV, and probably most of the others ALL contain archaic words, so this excuse is about the lamest I've ever heard, not to mention bordering on lying.
Here's the thing. The Bible is not a normal book, it's a spiritual book. It's a supernatural book. No matter how much I study, and how much I read, I will probably NEVER understand everything that's in the Bible. Otherwise I would be God!!! Choosing a Bible based on the fact that it is "easier to understand" is placing a translator in the seat of God. Can we really understand God? Now, that's not to say that we'll never understand the Bible. That would just be another lame excuse for not reading it. The Bible is clear. God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Isaiah says Seek ye the LORD while he may be found (Is. 55:6). If God didn't want us to understand and know Him, He wouldn't have told us to seek Him. God never told us to try and understand the Bible on our own. In fact He told us that we cannot understand Him in our finite human minds (Is. 55:7, I Cor. 2:7-14). But God did give us the method to having a greater understanding of Him, and it's not making an easier translation. Consider these verses.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not whither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper (Psalm 1:2-3). Growth comes through meditation. Meditation can only happen if we are reading. Spiritual growth (ie. the tree illustration) means greater spiritual understanding.
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein in day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success (Josh. 1:8). This kind of sounds like the verse in Psalms. Maybe God is trying to get a point across here?
I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways (Ps. 119:15). It seems like meditation and obedience go hand in hand.
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God (I John 5:13). This very reason the Bible was written was so that we could KNOW.
The LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding (Pro. 2:6). What came out of God's mouth? The words of Scripture. II Tim 3:16 they were inspired which literally means God-breathed; out of God's mouth! This verse affirms that we get knowledge and understanding out of God's mouth; the Bible. This is so cool! :).
He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and light dwelleth with him (Dan 2:22). How did Daniel get the "secret things" revealed to him? He prayed, and he got his friends to pray.
I give these verses to show that we can know and understand the Scripture. Proverbs speaks much of knowledge and understanding and wisdom, and it comes from God. God never commanded us to understand everything. God never told us to get a Bible that we can understand. God doesn't expect us to get all that is in His Word. What He does expect is for us to read His Word. That's all He asks. He doesn't ask us to be great theologians. He doesn't ask us to explain every archaic word, every mysterious parable, every figure of speech, He just asks us to READ it and MEDITATE on it, and it's through the reading and meditating that the understanding and the knowledge come. Do you see the connection? Of course as Christians our desire is to know God. Our desire is to understand what God is saying to us. But unless we are willing to read and meditate upon His Word that desire will never be fulfilled. Buying the next new-easy-to-read-translation that hits the shelf is not God's way for us to understand Him. His way is reading, meditating, prayer, and submitting to the leading of the Holy Spirit. That's the other cool thing. As Christians we have the Holy Spirit in us, and He IS God. He can show us who God is. He can help us understand God's Word, but He'll only do that if we do our part. That's why reading, meditating, and prayer are so important.
Perhaps you are thinking, I can do that with my modern translation just as well as you can with the KJV. Yes, you probably can, but what is your purpose in using that modern translation? What is your main reason for having that Bible? Why did someone recommend that particular translation to you? Was it because of it's accuracy? Was it because of it's faithfulness to the original language? Guaranteed one of the main reasons, if not the main reason you use that translation is because someone said or you heard that it was the easiest to understand. My friend if that is your main reason for using that particular Bible, I would ask you to reconsider your translation. Remember God doesn't ask you to understand it, instead, He promises to help you understand it. I'd rather trust my understanding of the Scripture to God's mind than my own flawed human thinking. After all He wrote it, so He's probably the best one at explaining it. My main reason for using the KJV is because it is the most accurate translation in English of the original languages. It is God's true, inerrent, infallible, preserved Word. My personal conviction is that it is a perfect Bible. I believe that the greatest understanding of God and His Word comes through reading the Word that is truly and completely HIS Word! I've seen this proved in my own life, and I've accepted it by faith.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.