Last month I posted about trying to listen to Scourby reading the KJV , and how distracting it was working out what Elizabethan prose meant in expository texts (i.e., the epistles).
This morning one of our readers took me to task. He argued that just because the KJV is hard to understand is not a reason to say that it is a problematic translation. In fact, he thinks it is a virtue of the KJV. He argues — quite correctly — that there is great value to having to think about Scripture.
But I would argue his premises are flawed. There is a big difference between thinking as a part of processing unfamiliar language and thinking about what the language means. There is great spiritual value in the latter, but no spiritual value in the former.
The real question is how did Philippians sound to its intended audience. Did they have to think hard about the wording, or was it a natural way to talk?
Modern translation standards are that a translation should match the original, not just in reference, but also in tone and implication. If Paul or Luke used an ordinary word or expression, then the translation should use an ordinary word or expression. The example in the original post was ἀναστροφή in I Peter 2:12. Since ἀναστροφή is an ordinary word for referring to behavior or conducting one’s life in Koine, so the KJV’s conversation is the wrong word to use to translate it for the modern English speaker. Period. It doesn’t matter that modern English speakers can, by dint of effort, figure out what was intended.
In a backhanded way, the reader was making my point. We should be thinking about Scripture deeply, getting from the milk to the meat. But if we have to spend a lot of our mental capacity just getting to the starting line, we can mistakenly believe we’re chewing on the meat, when all we’ve done is taste the milk.
Part of LSJ’s entry for ἀναστροφή showing that it is an ordinary word for ‘behavior’:
II 3 mode of life, behaviour, Plb.4.82.1, D.L.0.64; -φὴν ποιεῖσθαι IG2.477b12, cf. SIG491.5, LXX To.4.14, Ep.Gal.1.13, Ep.Eph.4.22, al.; ἀ. πολιτική PGiss.40ii29 (iii A.D.); ἐξημερωμένης -φῆς civilized life, Phld.Sto.Herc.339.19.