Where the KJV has got it wrong
Punctuation can fundamentally alter the meaning of a sentence or expression. The insertion of a comma in the King James version of the Bible has grossly distorted the interpretation and practice of 'ministry' within the body of Christ.
first published 20/07/11
'Eats Shoots and Leaves' is a book on the subject of punctuation. The title derives from an imaginary incident whereby a giant panda, having eaten a meal in a restuarant, pulls out a gun and blasts a couple of rounds into the ceiling. Before leaving the diner, the bear is asked by a confused and alarmed waiter to explain his actions.
The panda responds by chucking a badly-punctuated dictionary at the puzzled man with the instruction to look up the definition of the species. On so doing, the waiter finds the relevant listing states:
'Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves'.
So the gun-toting animal's excuse was that he was just conforming to type. Of course the point humorously being made was the insertion of a comma in the second sentence radically altered the meaning. (Go on, read it again.)
And in the Bible, we find the same dynamic can apply: the insertion (or not) of a comma can fundamentally change the meaning of a passage.
Jesus assured the penitent thief who was being crucified alongside of him: "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43 NIV). And yet, according to the Bible (Matt 12:39-40; 1 Pet. 3:19), the Apostles' Creed and Calvin (et al) paradise was not Jesus' immediate destination.
So should the passage read: "I tell you the truth today, you will be with me in paradise." It is not the same thing.
But another wrongly-inserted comma (in the KJV; the NIV has it right) fundamentally distorts how the body of Christ should properly function.
In practice the error which crept into the church in the third century was reinforced by the translators in the 17th century.
It is still with us today and is as damaging to the work of the Great Commission as anything God's enemy could devise.
The Editor, 06/08/2011