Is the King James Translation of the Bible the Cause of Christian Error?

Meanwhile, back at the Patriarchy article an editor has been arguing that Sarah Grimke did not question the divine origin of the scriptures; she only doubted the King James translation. In my opinion this distinction doesn’t change things much, although it makes an interesting discussion. (The claim that Grimke questioned the divine origin of the scriptures was taken from Ginette Castro’s book, “American Feminism.”)

It seems to me that Grimke’s challenge to the Christian scriptures makes sense; the feminist objections to the Judeo-Christian tradition arose only after centuries of defamation of the female sex. But I suppose the point in question is the same whether we are talking about religion or politics. Is loyalty to a creed an all-or-nothing proposition? Should criticism of a tradition be forbidden, regardless of its history?

A similar question came up in an essay by American Protestant Scholar Franklin H. Littell, “The Other Crimes of Adolf Hitler.” In the Holocaust, “six million Jews were targeted and systematically murdered in the heart of Christendom by baptized Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox who were never rebuked, let alone excommunicated.” Of course, there were many other individuals and groups of people who were targeted and murdered, but Littell argues the uniqueness of the Jewish Holocaust is found in the identity of the Hebrews, the people of the Book. The Holocaust is unique to the history of the west in its betrayal of Biblical morality. The failure to face this fact has resulted in a credibility crisis for Christianity, as well as for the institutions of democracy and academia. But that little problem is studiously avoided in current discourse.

Littell also stresses the role of Enlightenment thinking, which serves to block effective analyses of this “terrifying, mysterious, and demonic chaos for which we have no adequate words.” We, in our “reasonable universe” think of it “in terms of the exigencies of modern war, or the inexorable logic of dictatorships, or the disposal of surplus populations…” But these are merely attempts to explain it in a way that people “long-out-of-touch-with-the Bible worldview, can understand.”

He concludes that the world’s most powerful nations are ”idolatrous nations, peoples who have turned aside, a civilization that sorely needs to have its feet set on the high road of righteousness and justice and peace.”

In this light, the attempt to distinguish between the King James translation as the cause of Christian error, as opposed to some hypothetical, accurate translation, misses the point. What difference does it make after all? One version is as easy to ignore as the next.


Littell, Franklin H. “The Other Crimes of Adolf Hitler”. The Holocaust and History: the known, the unknown, the disputed, and the reexamined. ed. Michael Berenbaum and Abraham J. Peck. Indiana University Press. Bloomington and Indianapolis. 1998.

Remembering the Important Things

The premise of these essays is that our turbulent times represent the birth of a new age—in other words, the turmoil actually carries the hope of something better in the future. Many of these essays have attempted to continue conversations begun by sociologists, poets and political analysts who clearly believe in America’s future, and who have responded to a need for clear thought and accurate perspective. However, in order to continue the discussion it seemed necessary to address the continuing roadblocks of arbitrary taboos and ideological rigidity. I didn’t intend this to be the final word or to be dogmatic in any sense. In my opinion, the only thing really necessary to progress in this discussion is honest intent.

My main regret at this point concerns the influence I allowed the national media to have on my comments about Libya. The fear that they are no longer trustworthy has been the biggest conversation stopper I can imagine although I still hope something good will come of our involvement in the Middle East. It is always possible that someone will do the right thing. However, without free presses everything is much more complicated.

But in any case the main ideas in America and the World (the original name of this blog) were never presented as quick fixes. They have to do with fundamental principles and require far more time and thought if anything is to come of them. You could say America and the World is a discussion about the discussion. As I pointed out previously, the great civilizations of antiquity were thousand of years in the making. We would be cheating ourselves to arrive at this auspicious time only to add a few symbols of nature religion on the National Mall and call it good—we need genuine understanding. Again, that takes time and patience. Besides, history has shown that Pagan symbols can coexist very well with inequality and oppression.

In addition to the current lack of a free press, the continuing furor over the roles and interactions between men and women represent a threat to any discussion about the future. I have tried to avoid getting bogged down by this debate—it just seems shameful to admit that women still must prove good will and positive contributions even though their worth is self-evident. I assume the political use of gender roles is at the heart of the problem because certain tactics that started at the Patriarchy article are continuing.

For my part I don’t know whether these attitudes and tactics are more widely accepted than I realized, or if they represent the attempt by one group to change the consensus. In other words, am I talking to people who want to get it right, or am I talking to people who want their own way regardless of what is right? Considering that the sources already cited have argued many of these things and have been ignored, I would have to say it is a concerted effort to promote ideology and it won’t stop any time soon. This is a huge problem when it comes to a conversation about where the nation is headed. This specific disagreement is particularly dangerous because the role given to the male and female principles in nature and custom is at the heart of culture.

Maybe the politicians won’t be able to perform miracles in the short term, although the continuing effort is a source of pride, for example, “The People’s Budget” introduced in April by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. As for the long-term solutions promised by the principles of ancient religion, we might despair if we assume they were originally developed in an idyllic era and suffered no resistance or conflict of any kind. I doubt if that is the case. Human culture is far more ancient than our history books indicate.  Ancient people may have faced many of the same obstacles that we face. Anything is possible.