I am in a love/hate relationship. I love
the King James Version of the Bible. I love the cadence of language and
the ease of memorization that such cadence provides. I love its impact
on the history and culture of the English-speaking world. Scholarly works
and study helps such as concordances are most often keyed to the King James
Version. Of all the English translations I have used, I find myself always
gravitating back to the King James Version. It is my main study Bible.
But the translation aggravates me time
and again. I can get around the "thee's" and thou's" and the archaic usage
of certain words ("convict" instead of "convince" and "by and by" instead
of "immediately"). It is some egregious mistranslations that I find aggravating.
One such passage is Ephesians 4:11-12.
In the King James it reads: "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets;
and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting
of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body
The passage seems to imply that one function
of the offices of the church is "for the work of the ministry". Put differently,
the offices are to help the ministry do their jobs. That's not an heretical
translation by any means, but it does not conform to the intent of the
Greek. Here is verse 12 as translated in the New King James Version: "…
for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying
of the body of Christ." The New International Version: “… to prepare God's
people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up."
The King James, by translating as it does,
obscures the role of church leadership in equipping all of God's people
for the work of ministry (or more accurately, "works of service"). This
is more than an academic point. It gets to the heart of the role of the
church and its leadership. Ephesians 4 as translated by the King James
Version could lead one to believe that it's the job of the professional
ministry to do the work of the church. Properly translate the verse, and
it implies that the leadership's job is to train the rest of us to do works
of service. It makes us all responsible and not just the chosen few. It
implies that we all have a calling, a vocation as it were (see Ephesians
4:1 for context).
This correct understanding has turned much
of Christianity into a more participative venture. Even the more traditional
hierarchical organizations have come to understand this. The New American
Bible, the official translation of the Roman Catholic Church in
America translates verse 12 as follows:
"… to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for the building up
of the body of Christ." This is accompanied by the footnote, "The ministerial
leaders in v. 11 are to equip the whole people of God for their work of
Christianity is not a spectator sport.
We all have a role in spreading the Gospel, and we all need to be equipped
to fulfill that role. It is gratifying to see so many coming to understand
that. Hopefully, some day we can all be equipped in some manner for
works of service.
Excerpted from The
Sabbath Morning Companion, January 20, 2006, by Lenny Cacchio.
All rights reserved.