Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Is the King James Version Only Crowd Causing Others to Sin?

“Frontispiece to the King James’ Bible, 1611” (Wikipedia)
Because of my economics course assignments, I rarely get a chance to cover market structure, but when I do, one of my favorite monopoly examples to use is the British Crown’s perpetual copyright over the Authorized Version of the Bible (i.e., the King James Version). Needless to say, American rebels fighting against the Crown during the American Revolution really didn’t care about going through the appropriate legal channels for printing political tracts, let alone Bibles. Today, some effort is usually made to follow the copyright restrictions of American publishers when using and copying the text, however few people know or care about the Crown’s claim.

Unless you own a copy made by an approved printer, like Oxford or Cambridge, then you’re pretty much an accomplice in stealing. No, you’re not committing a crime here in the United States. From the perspective of our Federal government, the text has been in public domain for years. However, the interests of the owners have been pushed aside by our government. You might argue that your use of the KJV is solely for honorable purposes. You might claim “fair use,” but keep in mind that American publishers are selling the text, whether for profit or not.

You could argue that God’s Word can’t be owned. How convenient! Deny people right to their product, developed through years of people’s studying, copying, translating, and so on. This argument creates a problem for any human output. Why? Because it implies that there can’t be property rights over anything produced with God’s raw materials (i.e., any and all natural resources). Yes, many political conservatives, libertarians, and anarchists have argued against protecting intellectual property. Although I agree that the patent system has been corrupt and inefficient, I rarely give credence to claims that copyrights or patents are inherently wrong. They usually just echo the weak arguments calling for the abolition of physical property. In addition, the movement is filled with hypocrites who file or declare copyrights (even on Facebook profiles) or utilize Creative Commons, in attempt to limit other people’s infringement on “their” property. The whole situation just stinks of covetous protestors trying to get their greedy hands on other people’s stuff.

The fact remains that millions of American Christians possess illegitimate copies of the King James Bible. Worse, the “King James Only” movement encourages this. Americans are encouraged to purchase these unauthorized Authorized Bibles, due to some belief that reading any other English translation, even one based on the same Hebrew and Greek manuscripts or translated with the same ecclesiastical biases, is immoral. Adherents then patronize publishers who are essentially stealing from the British Crown. Any way you look at it, disagreements over politics and religion doesn’t make something any less of a sin. There’s to be one law for believer and unbeliever. I challenge the “King James Only” crowd and their leaders to take responsibility. They should denounce the purchase of unauthorized copies. Maybe they should consider burning them, since they probably are an abomination in the sight of God. Anything less would be collaborating with the Evil One.