Is The KJV Really On A Grade School Reading Level?


Flesch-Kincaid KJV Chart

Flesch-Kincaid KJV Chart (http://www.av1611.org/kjv/kjv_easy.html)

I have heard many times from KJVO advocates that the KJV is much easier to read than the other English translations and that readability tests have already proven it. The only problem with this statement is that it’s not true. At best it’s ignorance passed off as reality. At worst it’s just a flat out lie. But KJV websites all over still keep making this claim. Here are just a few.

https://www.wayoflife.org/database/isnt_the_king_james_bible_too_antiquated.html

http://www.av1611.org/kjv/kjv_easy.html

http://www.wayoflife.org/database/isnt_the_king_james_bible_too_antiquated.html

https://jesus-is-lord.com/kjvdefns.htm

http://kjv.landmarkbiblebaptist.net/AVhard.html

So where does this claim originate and why do KJVO advocates keep repeating it? It all came from a “study” someone did, using the Flesch-Kincaid test, to prove that the KJV is easy to read…. which just on it’s face is silly. If it was easier to read then this debate would not be happening. You don’t need a scientific study of word construction to know if something is hard to read. Just ask the person reading it. Either way, below I will explain why the study they conducted was deeply flawed and why it does not demonstrate that the KJV is easy to read.


About The Flesch-Kincaid Reading Scale

Flesch-Kincaid Formula

Flesch-Kincaid Formula

The Flesch-Kincaid reading scale basically calculates scores based on how many words are in a sentence and how many syllables are in a word. The more syllables in a word and the more words in a sentence then the higher it ranks on the “hard to read” scale. So, this test does NOT take into account many items that could make something hard to read.

It totally ignores the issue with vocabulary. Obviously if a person does not know the definition of a word it doesn’t matter how many syllables are in the word or how many words are in that particular sentence. This is the #1 complaint for people reading the KJV. It’s language is outdated and many words are no longer in the common vocabulary.

This formula also leaves out issues with sentence structure and word ordering. This can be overlooked a bit but it should be recognized that sentence structure over the last 400+ years has changed in certain ways.


KJV Vocabulary Issues

Let us first agree that words like wence, agone, bewray, hath, anon, or ere, have little recognition in today’s English. I would be surprised if even 5% of English speakers knew these words. I would be willing to bet that almost no 5th graders would even know the definition of just one of these words. So, what exactly is the argument for not updating the words? Why would we want to continue using words that no one knows anymore?

Ironically, this was exactly why the KJV was written in the first place. They wanted a Bible in the language of the common people so it would be accessible to all that could read. The preface to the 1611 KJV even states…

But how shall men meditate in that, which they cannot understand? How shall they understand that which is kept close in an unknown tongue?

Now, the KJV is in decently fine English for the 1611 time period. It was a big deal in 1611 since most Bibles were in Latin back then. But the principle is still the same; if the text is no longer understandable then it needs updated to the common tongue.

Additionally, what most people don’t realize is that the KJV being read today has already been updated a handful of times since the 1611 version was released. So why is it now a sin to update it again? Here is a passage from the 1611 version.

I protest by your reioycing which I haue in Christ Iesus our Lord, I die daily. (1 Corinthians 15:31 KJV 1611)

Notice how certain letters are being used in ways that we would never use them in today. Here are some basic updates from the 1611.

  • I = J
  • U = V
  • V = U
  • Sometimes Y – I

If it was acceptable to update the KJV 300 years ago then it should still be OK to do so today. After all many revisions were made before our current versions which is based on the 1769 version, not the 1611.

The original 1611 was riddled with mistakes and errors. Updates were released to correct those issues and then later updates were made to revise words and phrases that were outdated. A list of revisions and changes can be read here –> KJV revisions


KJV Sentence Structure Issues

Just as our English vocabulary has changed over time, so has the way we form sentences. Here is just one example below…. the same passage that was quoted above.

I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily (1 Corinthians 15:31 KJV)

I protest by your reioycing which I haue in Christ Iesus our Lord, I die daily. (1 Corinthians 15:31 KJV 1611)

I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:31 NIV)

These passages are really saying the same thing….. it’s just that only one of them is readable. The KJV is full of difficult sentences. Here is another.

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. (Romans 2:1 KJV)

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (Romans 2:1 NIV)

I could go on but I think you can see the point.


Summary

To be clear I do not want to prevent people from reading the KJV. I merely want to point out that claiming the KJV is easier to read than modern English versions is simply ridiculous. If it were easier to read then people would be reading it. That is the #1 requirement for nearly all Bible readers. Ask any non-KJV reader why they don’t read the KJV and that is why they don’t read it.

Even more, using a the Flesch-Kincaid formula to prove readability of an outdated vocabulary is perhaps the most ridiculous attempt ever to justify such claims.

For further reading on this matter

https://byfaithweunderstand.com/2015/02/23/the-reading-level-of-the-kjv/


 

11 Comments

  1. Dana
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  2. steved
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