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Should children study the KJV?

As I am contemplating what textbooks we will use next year for our homeschooling (yes, I plan this far ahead so that I can take advantage of winter and early spring sales as I find them), I’ve been increasingly impressed with Memoria Press. I’ll be reviewing their history curriculum as part of my Teaching Your Child to Love History series, but right now I’m looking into their Bible program. (We currently use their Latin and their Literature curricula and love them both!)

I had originally decided not to use their Bible program, or Christian Studies, as they are titled, because they rely solely on the King James Version. I don’t have a problem with the King James Version. It’s the one I grew up with and the one I memorized out of for the first 22 years of my life. However, I now prefer the English Standard Version or the New American Standard Bible for my personal reading and memorization. I believe that it’s good for children to read the Bible in a modern translation for various reasons that I won’t get into here. (Our kids have the Seek and Find Bible, which is the full text of the ESV, for their personal reading and to take to church, and I’m very happy with it.)

However, this article by Memoria Press authors Cheryl Lowe and Martin Cothran, which explains their rationale for choosing the KJV for their curriculum, is causing me to consider if perhaps my children would benefit from learning from the King James at least in their formal academic setting.

Lowe and Cothran say,

In formal education . . . there are certain things we are looking for which the King James Bible possessed to a greater degree than other translations of the Bible.

First, its innate poetic and literary quality set it apart from other translations. Second, its historical influence on English literature far surpasses that of other versions. Finally, the unique structure and memorability of its language make it particularly suited to the needs of an academic environment.

I’d encourage you to read the whole article and let me know what you think. I’d love feedback from other parents who’ve thought through this issue, especially as regards an educational setting.

Becky Aniol

About Becky Aniol

Becky holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and music, a master's degree in Christian education, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Christian education. She taught classical upper school grammar, literature, and history and lower school composition and grammar for two years, elementary school music for one year, and Kindermusik classes for four years before the birth of her children. She now loves staying home with her four children, Caleb, Kate, Christopher, and Caroline and homeschooling them classically.

8 Responses to Should children study the KJV?

  1. Without doubt, keep the KJV. Here it is superior to all others. — My two-cents on the matter– And no; I am not a raving KJV-only lunatic!

  2. I think it would be helpful in the three areas listed in the quote above if your children are capable of grasping those things. I’m 30, and because I did not have an education that taught those things well, I’m mostly unable to appreciate things like “poetic and literary quality” and the ESV and NASB are much more practical for me. I’m trying now to go back and learn these things now (Doug Wilson is helpful here), but until I do the KJV does not do for me the things listed above because I am incapable of appreciating them.

  3. covenantfamilyfarmtn, I have Tapestry of Grace on my list as one I’d really like to review, but I need to see if they’ll send me some of their materials so I can take a look at it in person.

  4. I am not sure that the KJV is superior in the literary/poetic area. However, its familiarity is a big help. Psalm 23 and other beloved passages sound more familiar (even to secular ears at times) from the KJV. Undoubtedly, there are hundreds of phrases used throughout English literature. Many of these allusions are not recognizable from modern translations. To be fair, many of those phrases come from Tyndale (84% of the wording of the KJV is Tyndale). However, I think that is a positive. It gives us a heritage in the English Bible. This is exactly the heritage that “standard” versions seek to preserve. The term standard in ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, ESV, HCSB, etc. means the translators were attempting a modern revision of the English Bible tradition stretching from Tyndale through KJV to today. From a conservative standpoint, that is definitely something we should consider conserving.
    Third, I am not sure it is more memorable, but it was translated and punctuated for public reading in worship. This is a positive in my opinion as well. Too many translations have been translated to be very colloquial so that they are suitable for private reading, however, teaching our children to read a translation that was meant for public worship can be used to reinforce the importance of corporate worship of privatized religious experiences.
    A final note, I am not KJV only. I am outspoken against the KJV Only movement. I like the ESV because it does a pretty good job of preserving the traditional English text (compare Ps 23 in the KJV and ESV and they are very similar). However, in instructing our children the KJV should not be left out (in my opinion).

  5. Personally, I found the article quite disappointing. It focuses on how the KJV satisfies criteria that they chose (which are listed in your excerpt), though even there it exhibits notable logical and rhetorical weaknesses. But more basic questions are left unaddressed: How did the authors come to choose these criteria? Why are these the right ones? What are the requirements of a Bible for “formal education” and how do they vary from a Bible chosen for other purposes?

    Most fundamentally, the article skirts the basic issue of why are we talking about translations at all. Is it not because a critical message from our Creator and Redeemer was given in languages that we do not know adequately? If we did know those languages well, could/would/should we not skip the translations? After all, there is a reason we talk about things “lost in translation.” So an article that does not acknowledge the need of translations to convey accurately and completely the meaning of the original languages and address the degree to which the translations available meet that need is, as I analyze it, badly flawed.

    Teaching about the influence of this great English Bible—and I mean that sincerely—on our history and on our literature are good topics for history and literature. But one need not use the KJV throughout the curriculum to accomplish that purpose.

  6. Not all Bibles are based on the same texts. A Bible based on the Maj Txt (TR incl) and trans as lit as pissible is the way to go. We do not get to make changes for ease. Why is it that with any other subject, we strive to understand the books. Except when it comes to the Bible. Then, all of the sudden, instead of elevating our level of understanding to it, we seek to dumb it down to where we are. Heck, it doesn’t even matter if the text it’s based on is corrupt! As long as we “like it” and it’s sufficiently void of any language that would make us actually think hard! It’s no wonder almost everyone treats the Bible like a “prophecy game”! The Bible has become a game! I guess I’ll just never understand how any person can actually believe that they have the right to change the words, so that they won’t need a dictionary! It has changed from; “God speaks, I listen!”, to; “God speaks, but it needs to be changed for me’.

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