Having read Mark Ward’s book Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible a couple times now I thought it good to offer a brief but pointed assessment of his main argument, that is, the False Friends Argument. In sum Ward rightfully maintains that the KJV has what he calls false friends. False friends are words that the reader thinks he knows but ultimately does not. As a result, the reader goes on his merry way thinking he understands what the Bible is saying at that point, but in reality, he does not.
Setting aside the critique that what amounts to a false friend differs from person to person and the critique that other versions of the Bible also have false friends and the critique that all of the great books of the western world [e.g., Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and Milton’s Paradise Lost among others] contain false friends, I thought I would take a more direct approach. Concerning the words deemed false friends by Ward in Authorized, I thought I would count how many times these words appear in the KJV and then see if we can draw the same conclusions that Ward does. The following is a list of these words and the number of times they appear in the KJV according to the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible:
1.) Apt – 4x
2.) Careful – 7x
3.) Equal – 18x
4.) Incontinent – 1x
5.) Enlargement – 1x
6.) Honest – 7x
7.) Heresies/Heresy – 4x
8.) Kindly – 10x
9.) Fell on his neck – 1x
10.) Issues – 2x
11.) Staggered/Stagger – 4x
12.) Heady – 1x
13.) Bowels – 37x
14.) Conversation – 20x
15.) Pitiful – 3x
16.) Swellings – 7x
17.) Necessities/Necessity – 13x
18.) Miserable – 3x
19.) Approving – 1x
20.) Watchings – 6x
21.) Meats – 7x
22.) Overcharge – 1x
23.) Unicorn – 6x
24.) Commendeth – 3x; Commend – 8x; Commended – 6x; Commending – 1x
25.) Convenient/Conveniently – 10x
26.) Remove – 44x
27.) Spoil – 106x
28.) Halt – 11x
Ward also includes “judgement” and “wait on” but both are very much still in use today and in the same sense. The former in court rooms and the latter in restaurants. I excluded these because they are terrible examples of supposed false friends.
Total Number of Sampled False Friends: 353
Total Number of Words in the KJV: 788,137
Percentage of False Friends Among Total Words in the KJV: 0.000447 or 0.045%
What is more, if we remove 3, 14, 24, 26, and 27 [equaling 206 of the instances above], the total number of false friends falls to 147 which is 0.000187 or 0.019%. But to continue our run with Ward’s argument let’s use the 0.045% number.
There is about 100,000 hairs on the average person’s head. 0.045% of those hairs is 45. Are we to shave the head and start over because 45 hairs are yet to be tamed?
This is a 2020 McLaren 600 LT. It costs $256,000+.
0.045% of $256,000 is $115.20. Ward would have us, the owners of the McLaren, sell our car because we think we understand $115.20 worth of equipment, but we really don’t. Is anyone going to sell this car simply because there is some high-performance module, he/she thinks he/she understands but, in the end, does not?
Touching the reading of Scripture, our current calculations allow for approximately 5 false friends for every 10,000 words of the KJV. That said, there are 42 books out of the 66 books of the KJV that are less than 10,000 words and, in many cases, much less. In short, you may have to read multiple books of the Bible before you come across 5of the false friends listed above and yet Ward calls us to choose a different translation.
A proponent of the False Friends Argument might retort, “Well, there are more false friends than those mentioned in Authorized.” Even if we admit them there would need to many many more, more by orders of magnitude. Furthermore, I assume that Ward chose the most obvious and impactful one’s for his book so I am not sure the quality of the examples will improve the False Friends Argument going forward. Even if such an argument were to be substantiated, the False Friends proponent would then need deal with the Relativity argument, the Other Versions argument, and the Western Literature argument mentioned above. Then there is the whole discussion revolving around western philosophy of education which Ward doesn’t even hint toward.
In summary, given the above, I believe the False Friends Argument as stated in Authorized is uncompelling in total or at best about 0.045% compelling. Indeed, there are words in the KJV that people think they understand but do not, but they are so few as construed in Authorized to stand as an argument in favor of abandoning the standard sacred text of the believing community.