“No man is an island,” says the song, and much the same can be said of any word in any language.
One of the arguments set forth against the reliability of the King James Bible deals with the issue of the vernacular of the original languages. It is suggested that, since many of the original words have meanings peculiar to the Greek or Hebrew languages, no translation could ever demonstrate the total depth of the intended meaning.
Despite the fact that I am a proponent of the KJV, I must admit that this particular charge is true. It is not possible to translate from one language to another and capture the full depth of meaning of every word in every place. To fail to acknowledge this truth would be vainly impractical.
In this light, however, would it be true to say that a translation is “errant” because it does not possess the “fullest depth” in every instance? This is where the rub comes, and it is here that I would have to disagree with the conclusions of the “original language only” brethren.
The truth of the matter is that “inerrancy” has to do with the accuracy of the words on the page and not some attributed depth of meaning. When we say that the KJV is inerrant we do not even pretend to suggest that it’s language is not subject to expansion and explanation of’ word and thought. The suggestion is ridiculous.
No word in any language (including Greek and Hebrew) can be said to “stand alone.” In the English language we employ the dictionary to discover the full range of definition in a word. This is also true concerning the ‘original” Biblical languages. In order to discover the “fullest” meaning of any word we would utilize a lexicon. The word is rare that can portray its fullest depth in and of itself. This truth can be easily demonstrated from the Word of God.
Nehemiah successfully completed the task that God had put before him. He pleaded his cause to Artaxerxes, the king, and obtained permission to rebuild Jerusalem. He marshalled the materials and the laborers to achieve this monumental task. Finally, he personally supervised the work despite tremendous political and military opposition. The result of all this was the return of “the people” within the walls of Jerusalem.
This remnant of God’s “chosen” gathered themselves together “as one man” in the street before the water gate. They called to Ezra, the scribe, to bring the book of the law before them, and he did so. Ezra caused God’s Word to be read to the people and this is the manner in which it was done:
”So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law” (Neh. 8:8,9).
Each word was read “distinctly” to demonstrate accuracy. We can see that the reading, in and of itself, was insufficient, however, for afterwards the “sense” (the depth of meaning) was also given. The priests were among the people teaching them the full meaning of the Word of God.
Even when reading strictly from the Hebrew it was necessary to carefully demonstrate the meaning. Rare is the word, though perfectly chosen, that can be said to reflect the total “depth of meaning” by itself.
The issue of “accuracy” is distinct from the issue of “depth of meaning.” A word can be completely accurate and yet at the same time have its “total depth” incompletely realized. This is why preachers (good ones) define and expand the thought and meaning of every word. This was true when the Word was available only in the “original”, and it is true today.
The KJV is God’s Word for English speaking people. It is accurate and totally reliable in every way. But there is more that is needed. It needs to be preached. It needs to be understood. It needs to be believed. Most of all, it needs to be incorporated into the lives of those who read it.