Sunday, November 13, 2011

Legacy of the King James Bible in The Black Church @ Azuza Pacific Univ.

The Legacy of the King James Bible in The Black Church has always been some what of a mystery to me. After completing seminary, I have often wondered why the black church has held on so tenaciously to the King James Version of the Bible. I have to believe that in large part it is driven by the leaders of the Black Church, The African American Pastor.

The Pastor depending on his theological training and exposure he or she (mostly he) may or may not be aware of the questions concerning the quality and accuracy of original documents from which the KJV was derived. He may or may not be aware of the questions that surround the life and life style of King James and the historical reason for this particular version being commissioned. He may or may not be aware of history of the English bible. But you can be sure that it is primarily the pastor that keeps the King James Bible alive in our congregation.

I wondered why the Black pastor would continue to use such a controversial and outdated text with words like: concupiscence, lasciviousness, fornication, and abomination.

One negative reason came to mind. He does not know better, to do better. He may not have been formally trained in the art of textual criticism. He or she may be caught up in the fervor and fundamentalist view that the King James is the only authoritative WORD OF GOD. We do have some of these brothers and sisters in our camp. May God continue to bless them and give them further enlightenment Amen.!?

Another reason comes to mind, the King James Version as it stands today needs interpretation just for the words like the ones that I used earlier and Leviathan for example; So in a weird sense the use of the King James Bible is a form of job security for the insufficiently trained pastor. As long as we use KJV and it is popular there is some job security and a need for "Pastoral interpretation."


Later a more positive reason came to mind concerning the Legacy of the King James Version of the Bible:

In our Afrian tradition we have the Griots, these oral historians are much like modern family historians who hold our legacy and history in their words.

We as a people have a propensity, affinity and predisposition for well crafted words. It could have been from our collective historical experience of having our original native languages taking from us in the African Slave trade.

Never-the-less it is no doubt that the Legacy of the King James Bible is enhanced by our cultural heritage and dependency on the oral Tradition and the spoken word:

We love words especially Big Words. Like those used by one of my mentors, Bishop Noel Jones. When he speaks about pulchritude or (physical comeliness) and the Image of God we just swoon in utter amazement. Much like the excitement of our young, and some old, people when we hear the well put together words of our Rappers, Jay Z, Kanye West and Eminem.

There is no doubt in my mind that the King James Versions is still one of the best examples of Poetry and Prose the world has ever heard or read. It’s something about Prose like:

Our Father which art in Heaven Hollowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom Come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…… The King James Version has Preach ability… as we say that’ll preach…


In a real sense the Authorized King James Bible Is the Mother Tongue of the Black Church?

By now you may be asking, what is he talking about mother tongue? You know that for us African Americans most of us have lost the ability to speak our native African languages. Now our native tongue is English or some derivative of English called Ebonics. What Ebonics is to our secular community life, the King James is to our Religious life. It's sort of our lingua franca our common language which helps us to communicate effectively with one another.


We depend on the familiarity of the KJV in order to actively participate in our oral tradition of Call and Response by means of the King James Bible.

So I can say the call:

"Weeping may endure for a night;" the response would be "But Joy cometh in the Morning,"

Or The LORD is my Shepherd I shall not want, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me besides still waters. He restoreth my soul… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil: for thou are with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me.

Now compare that phrase to NIV 4. Even though I walk through valley…. there is no comparison in terms of preach ability.


Practical legacy :

For most of us preachers, the King James version is the raw data for our internal concordance. We think and remember in the language of KJV. Then we use the KJV as a launching point to do our exegetical word studies.


I do not know how much longer the King James will hold the affections of our hearts like it does today.

In a very practical sense, in my preaching and bible studies, I keep a large print King James Version Bible in my Pulpit. Yet because of modern scholarship, I also use the New International Readers Version, the Amplified, New American Standard or the Message Bible. My new favorite bible is the NET Bible….


The weird thing is, Just this weekend I was chided by one of my fair skinned brethren for my lack of intellectual integrity and scholarship because of my use of the KJV in my preaching and teaching ministry. I take no real offense. I know the context that I preach in still today at least 80% of my audience are carrying the KJV. And only 1-2 % carry the cell phone or I-pad bible and even that is loaded with KJV.

Of course I am going to encourage my bible students to find a study bible/ version that speaks to their heart. And I will not discourage them if they want to hold on the KJV

One major aspect of the Legacy of the KJV is that with all its flaws and shortcomings. Many souls were translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Life, Light and Peace. I for one am very thankful for the KJV. God used it and the notes of  the Scofield Reference bible. Because of the KJV /bible I got saved. The Legacy of the KJV is enhanced when one thinks of ALL the souls brought into the Kingdom of Life, Light and LOVE.

Therefore I can boldly say in the language of the KjV "But as for me and my house We will Serve the LORD" with whatever version communicates most effectively What Thus Saith the LORD !...