TRANSLATIONS OF THE BIBLE
In preaching and writing on Biblical subjects I have
generally used the translation of the Bible known as the "King
James Version." This is the version that is owned by most people
in English-speaking countries. In many ways it has served a grand
purpose since it was issued in 1611 A.D. In the study of Biblical
doctrine, however, it is sometimes helpful to read and compare
some of the other translations that are available to us today.
I sincerely regret that some will be offended because we
will refer to other translations beside the King James Version.
As one lady said quite dogmatically, "God gave the Bible to King
James, all other Bibles are of the Devil!" Some would agree with
the sentiments of Harry Truman (though probably not the language)
when he said: "...I always read the King James Version, not one
of those damn new translations that they've got out lately"
(p.231, Plain Speaking, an Oral Biography of Harry S.Truman).
I have had people tell me that reading a newer translation,
instead of the King James Version, was trying to find the easy
way out and that we should be like the reformers - that they
never heard of modern-day translations. Very well. But we should
also remember that they never heard of the King James Version
either! Take John Huss, for example. He died in the year 1415
A.D. The King James Version was not printed until the year 1611.
William Tyndale died in 1536, Martin Luther in 1546, John Calvin
in 1564, John Knox in 1572. All of these noted reformers lived
and died before there was any King James Version of the Bible!
Some suppose the King James Version was the first English
translation of the Bible. But a good while before the King James
Version was issued, Wyclif put the Bible into English in around
1384 A.D. (a translation from Latin). The first English
translation from the Greek was that made by Tyndale ...
Several other versions appeared such as the Cloverdale...
the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, the Bishop's Bible - all of
these before the King James Version.
Why, then, don't we use one of these translations? There are
good reasons why we don't. The English then ... was quite
different from the English in use today. Notice the following
quotation from Wyclif's translation of Matthew 7:1,2: "Nyl yes
deme, that yes be no demede, for in what dome yes demon, yes
schulen be demede." English such as this can hardly be understood
Tyndale's translation - over a century later - was more like
our English, but still quite different as can be seen by the
following quotation from First Corinthians 13: "Though I spake
with the tongues of men and angels, and yet had no love, I were
even as sounding brasse: or as a tynklynge Cymball. And though I
could prophesy, and understoode all secrets ... yf I had all
fayth so that I coulde move mountayns ... Love suffereth longs,
and is corteous ... reioyseth not in iniquite..."
KING JAMES VERSION - 1611
Many suppose the text of the King James Version in use today
is exactly like that which was issued in 1611. This is not so.
There were several revisions which followed the original copies
issued in 1611 - a major revision appeared in 1629, and another
edition in 1638. In 1762, an edition was prepared by Thomas Paris
of Trinity College, Cambridge, which corrected printing and
spelling errors of the former editions and was called the
"Standard Edition" of the King James Version. Then in 1769,
Benjamin Blayney, a professor of Hebrew at the University of
Oxford, revised the spelling, bringing it more up-to-date. This
edition was celled the Oxford Standard edition. It is the text of
this edition of the King James Version that is now in common use.
Like it or not, even the King James Version is a revised version
of earlier editions.
Some of the words that appeared in the edition of 1611 which
were changed to be understandable are these: fornace was changed
to furnace, charot to chariot, murther to murder, damosel to
damsel, fet to fetch, creeple to cripple, moneth to month, Moyses
to Moses, etc.
For many centuries the English language did not have the
word "its." Though it came into use as early as 1600, many
writers resisted "its" as an innovation. It was only gradually
eased into the English language. In the original King James
Version, Leviticus 25:5 read this way: "That which groweth of it
own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap..." Later printings
changed the it to "its." Though "its" appears in only this one
verse, it's in there now....
Even with the changes that have been made, our present King
James Version still contains many words which are somewhat
obsolete because no longer in common use - words like wot, sith,
asswiaged, and besom! The following list provides examples of
some of these words with the way we would express them today in
"We wot [know] not what is become of him" (Acts 7:40).
"I trow [think] not" (Lk.17:9).
"... sith [since] thou hast not hated. . ." (Ezekiel 35:6).
"He ... scrabbled [scratched] on the doors of the gate" (Sam.
"The people chode [quarreled, argued] with Moses" (Num.20:3).
"... and the waters asswiaged [lessoned, went dawn]" (Gen.8:1).
"... old shoes and clouted [patched] upon their feet" (Josh.
"I will sweep it with the besom [broom] of destruction" (Isaiah
"Three days agone [ago] I fell sick" (1 Sm.30:13).
"Yet if they shall bethink [think, consider] ... and repent ..."
(1 Kings 8:47).
"He hath holpen [helped] his servant Israel" (Luke 1:54).
"The haft [handle] also went in after the blade" (Judges 3:22)
"... lest he hale [haul] thee to the judge, and ... into prison"
"I will advertise [tell] thee what this people shall do"
"They ... which dwell in the champaign [plain]" (Deut.11:30).
"The oxen ... that ear [plow] the ground..." (Is.30:24).
"Be not carried about with divers [different] ... doctrines"
"As touching [concerning] the Gentiles which believe ..."
"Behold, the noise of the bruit [report] is come..." (Jar.
"The branch [song] of the terrible ones shall be brought low"
"Thy speech bewrayeth thee [gives you away]" (Mt.26:73)
"... many were astonied [dazed, dismayed] at thee" (Is.52:14).
An acrostic is a composition formed by using letters of the
alphabet. If the reader is not familiar with the format of Psalm
119, by turning to this portion he will easily notice it is
divided into 22 sections of eight verses each. The first section
is titled "aleph", the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The
second section is "bath", the second letter, and on through the
letters of the Hebrew alphabet: aleph, beth, gimel, daleth, he,
van, zain, cheth, teth, jod, mph, lamed, mem, nun, samech, aim,
pe, tzaddi, koph, resh, schin, and tau. In Hebrew, each of the
eight verses within each section begins with the corresponding
letter; that is, the first eight verses begin with aleph, the
second eight verses with beth, etc.
The following acrostic (though less precise than Psalm 119
is made up with letters of the alphabet showing some of the words
which have a different meaning today than when they were used in
the King James Version:
A is for assaying. "The people of God ... passed through the Red
Sea ... which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned" (Heb.
11:29). The word assaying now is commonly used in connection with
examination and analysis, as of ore, to determine weight or
ingredients. Here it has the meaning of attempted. The Egyptians
attempted or tried to cross the Red Sea.
B is for becometh. "...receive her in the Lord, as becometh
saints..." (Rom.16:1). We might think today of the word
"becometh" as expressing a process - as though these people were
just in the process of turning into saints. But they were already
saints (verse 15). That which "becometh" saints would be that
which was becoming, that which was proper and good. To receive
this one in the Lord would be proper and good for saints.
C is for comprehend. "And the light shineth in darkness; and the
darkness comprehended it not" (John 1:5). Today we think of the
word comprehend as meaning something we can understand. But
the meaning here is different, as the Goodspeed translation says
concerning the light of God: the darkness "has never put it out."
D is for darling. We commonly use the word "darling" as a term
of affection. But in Psalms 35:17, "Rescue ... my darling from
the lions" simply means life: save my life.
E is for earnest. We think of a person as being earnest, sincere,
serious. It is not so common now to use this word in the sense of
a pledge or guarantee, but this was its meaning in Ephesians
1:14: "...the earnest of our inheritance." The Holy Spirit is the
guarantee of our inheritance.
F is for furniture. We think of the term normally in the sense of
household furniture. But in Genesis 31:34, it was used of a
camel's furniture. "Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them
in the camel's furniture, and sat upon them." Today we use the
G is for governor. "Ships are turned... whithersoever the
governor listeth" (James 3:4). Today we commonly think of the
word governor in a political sense. Here James referred to one
who steers a ship.
H is for hap. "And [Ruth's] hap was to light on a ... field
belonging unto Boaz" (Ruth 2:31). Today, instead of hap, we would
say that it happened or it was her fortune to come upon this
I is for imagination. "They harkened not ... but walked in the
imagination of their evil heart" (Jer.7:24). The meaning here is
not the same as we think of the word imagination today. In this
reference it means stubbornness.
J is for jangling. "Vain jangling" (1 Tim.1:61). We might today
associate this word with noise, the sound of a telephone ringing
or the like. Here it means vain discussion.
K is for knopa. "And under the brim of it round about there were
knopa" (1 Kings 7:24). A more understandable translation for us
would be to use the word gourds.
L is for leasing. "How long will ye love vanity, and seek after
leasing?" (Psalms 4:2). Today we think of this word in the sense
of leasing or renting a house. The word here means lies.
M is for mused. "Men mused in then hearts of John, whether he
were the Christ" (Lk.3:15). Today we would say they wondered.
N is for neesing. This word is used in Job 41:18. Today, instead
of neesing we would use the word sneezing.
O is for ouch. "Thou shalt make ouches of gold" (Ek.28:11,13).
The meaning here is of a setting as for a precious stone. We do
not normally use the word "ouch" this way today.
P is for purloining. "Exhort servants to be obedient ... not
purloining" (Titus 2:9,10). The meaning is that they were not to
Q is for quit. "Then shall he that smote him be quit" (Ex.
21:19). This verse explains under which circumstances a man who
committed a crime could be quit, or as we would say, acquitted.
R is for rereward. "The God of Israel will be your rereward"
(Isaiah 52:12). This might make us think of the word reward. Like
a preacher who didn't know any better said: "The good Lord
rewarded me and then he rerewarded me!", supposing this was the
meaning of rereward. The word here has the meaning of protection.
S is for suffer. "Suffer the little children to come unto me"
(Mk.10:14). Today we associate the word suffer with pain. Instead
of "suffer", we would simply use the word let - "Let the children
T is for tire. "Bind the tire of thine head upon thee, and put on
thy shoes" (Ezekiel 24:17,23). Needless to say, this does not
refer to an automobile tire. The more recent translations use the
U is for unspeakable."Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift
(2 Cor.9:15). Some today think of the word unspeakable as meaning
not permissible. The meaning here is inexpressible.
V is for virtue. "...virtue had gone out of him" (Mk.5:30). Today
we use the word virtue as meaning moral worth. The meaning here
is that power went out of Jesus - healing power was activated by
W is for wit. "We do you to wit of the grace of God" (2 Cor.
8:1). We think today of the word wit in connection with humor.
But the meaning here is to know or learn.
Y is for yesternight. "God ... spoke unto me yesternight" (Gen.
31:29). We still commonly use the expression "yesterday", but not
yesternight. Today we would simply say last night.
A beautiful description of springtime is given in the Song
of Solomon, but the mention of the "turtle" has puzzled some.
"The winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers
appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land" (Song of
Solomon 2:11,12). Today we think of a turtle as a slow-moving,
voiceless, shelled reptile. But at the time the King James
Version was issued, the word "turtle" meant a bird and is the
same word that is commonly translated "turtle dove."
In the Psalms we read "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not
want", and "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good
thing" (Ps.23:1; 34:10). The way "want" is commonly used today,
it would sound like those who seek the Lord don't want any good
thing. What do they want? Bad things? No, of course not. "Lack"
is the word we would use now. Those who follow the Lord will not
At the marriage at Cana, to which Jesus and his disciples
were invited, we are told that "they wanted wine" (John 2:3). The
meaning is, as the context shows, they ran out of wine, they
lacked wine. With the turning of water into wine by Jesus, they
were able to continue serving wine to the guests.
How much wine was produced on this occasion? There were six
pots which contained two or three firkins each. A "firkin" is
about nine gallons, making the total amount somewhere between 108
and 142 gallons of wine. If we figure 10 ounces as an average
size serving, this would be 1,382 to 1,818 glasses of wine served
after the other wine ran out. It has been said that either each
person drank a lot of wine, or there were many guests at the
wedding, or (as when Jesus multiplied the loaves) there was a
supply left over.
In Esther 3:13 we read: "And the letters were sent by posts
into all the king's provinces." Today we would probably speak of
"postmen", as the word "post" would cause most to think of a
fence post. Still, we can't fail to notice the similarity of
wording in words such as postal service or post office. On the
other hand, the word "mail" (which we would normally associate
with the post office) when used in the King James Version refers
to armor (1 Sam.17:5, 38).
When we read that the Psalmist "prevented the dawning of
the morning" (Psalms 119:147), it sounds as though he hindered or
stopped the sun from coming up! The actual meaning is simply that
he arose early.
"He who now letteth will let" (2 Thess.2:7). At the time the King
James Version was translated, the word "let" meant "to hider." As
Paul told the Romans, he had intended to come to them "but was
let hitherto" (Rom.1:13) - he was hindered in coming to them.
Today, the word "let" is used in almost an opposite sense. If we
let someone do something, this means we allow it - not hinder it!
Since language is a moving thing, since words can go through
changes of meaning over a period of time, a good translation (not
just a paraphrase) in modern English can be helpful to the
serious Bible student.
ANCIENT OMISSIONS OR ADDITIONS
Because words in one language may not have an exact
equivalent in another language, translators sometimes face a
problem in deciding how to convey the proper meaning. Not only
this, but sometimes there are variations in the ancient
manuscripts from which they seek to translate. The omission or
addition of one word can make a different meaning. The following
verses provide two interesting examples of this:
(1) "Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy;
they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men
rejoice when they divide the spoil" (Isaiah 9:3). Notice the word
"not." The setting here is one of joy, yet the use of the word
"not" throws the whole idea into conflict. Do the oldest
manuscripts we have available today have the word "not" in them?
Some do, some do not. Many scholars believe, and think with good
reason, that the word "not" was not in the original text of
Isaiah. The meaning, within contest, is that God had multiplied
the nation and increased the joy.
(2) "God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked
every day" (Psalms 7:11). This is the reading given in the King
James Version. But some ancient manuscripts include the word
"not"; that is, "God is not angry every day." The Syriac: "God is
the Judge of righteousness; he is not angry every day." The
Vulgate: "God is a Judge, righteous, strong, and patient; will he
be angry every day?" The Septuagint: "God is a righteous Judge,
strong and longsufferfng; not bringing forth his anger every
day." Similar readings are given in the Arabic and Ethiopic
manuscripts. In all fairness, it is true there are other
manuscripts, also very ancient, which read as the King James
Version. But the mass of evidence supports the reading which
includes the word "not."
Translations in modern English have sometimes clarified
certain details that a person might overlook in reading the King
James Version only. A good example of this may be seen in the
healing of the lame man in Acts 3. Have we not usually pictured
him as being healed while he sat begging at the gate of the
temple? The Bible does say this is where he was placed each day
to beg. But when he encountered Peter and John, he was being
carried along. Let me give this passage from the Phillips'
"One afternoon Peter and John were on their way to the Temple for
the three o'clock hour of prayer. A man who had been lame from
birth was being CARRIED along in the crowd, for it was the daily
practice to put him down at what was known as the Beautiful Gate
of the temple, so that he could beg from the people as they went
in... " (Acts 3:1).
All of the translations I have checked show that the lame
man was being carried along when he saw Peter and John. If we
look again at the King James Version, it can be seen there also,
though it is not as noticeable: "And a certain man lame from his
mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of
The reader will recall the account of the shipwreck which
occurred while Paul was being taken to Rome. At one point we
read: "...when they had taken up the anchors, they committed
themselves unto the sea" (Acts 27:40). This sounds as though they
jumped overboard into the sea. But they did not do this until
later, as the context unmistakably shows. In view of this, the
marginal rendering is preferable which says they "cut the anchors
and they left them in the sea" - the anchors. Newer translations
all clarify this point, such as Moffatt's version which says the
"anchors were cut away and left in the sea."
A well-known verse from the book of Psalms says: "I will
lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help"
(Psalms 121:1). Some suppose these words refer to the peace and
solitude one might experience by time spent in a beautiful
setting of hills or mountains. But this is not the point here.
Instead of the hills being the source of help for the Psalmist,
the very next verse says: "My help cometh from the Lord." A few
verses later we read: "Unto thee lift I up mine eyes" (Psalms
123:1). He was looking to the Lord for help - not to the hills.
Because of this, some prefer the reading: "I will lift up mine
eyes ABOVE the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh
from the Lord." Then there is harmony and a good sense. The New
English Bible says: "If I lift up my eyes to the hills, where
shall I find help? Help comes only from the Lord, maker of heaven
Taking the verse within its context, it is clear that the
writer was not saying in one verse he was looking to the hills
for help and then state in the very next verse that his help was
from the Lord!
In Matthew 19:24 we read: "It is easier for a camel to go
through the eye of a needle..." The Lamsa translation says: "It
is easier for a ROPE to go through the eye of a needle." In the
Greek, "camel" and "cable" (rope) are almost alike. Consequently,
some old manuscripts have cable, though the bulk of evidence is
probably in favor of the word camel as in the King James Version.
SPIRIT OR GHOST
I have known people who believe there is a difference
between the holy "Spirit" and the holy "Ghost." A woman who
believes this way told a preacher I know: "Well, you may have the
Holy Spirit, but if you get the Holy GHOST it is really good!"
Some think such a distinction is indicated in John 7:39:
"This spake he ]Jesus] of the Spirit, which they that believe on
him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given..." But
the word "Spirit" and the word "Ghost" are exactly the same word
in the Greek (pneuma). Why the King James translators were not
uniform in their translation of this word is difficult to say. In
the minds of many, the word "ghost" has come to have a spooky
meaning - as though it were the spirit of a dead person.
Consequently, the expression "Holy Spirit" is actually better and
conveys the meaning that was intended by the writers of the New
LOST AXE HEAD
The King James Version regarding the lost axe head reads as
follows: "As one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the
water; and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed.
And the man of God [Elisha] said, Where fell it? And he shewed
him the place. And he cut down a stick and cast it in thither;,
and the iron did swim (surface]. Therefore said he, Take it up to
thee. And he put out his hand, and took it" (2 Kings 6:5-7).
According to George M.Lamsa, noted translator of the Bible
from Aramaic manuscripts, the iron came to the top of the water
because Elisha stuck the stick into the hole of the axe head. The
miracle was in the fact that the prophet was guided to the exact
spot so that when he stuck the stick into the muddy water it went
right into the axe head. So, from the Aramaic text, Lamas
translates this verse as follows: "And he cut off a stick and
thrust it in there; and it stuck in the hole of the axehead."
If this is the correct meaning, it would provide a good
explanation as to why a stick was used. Had God intended the iron
to simply swim to the surface where it could be recovered, why
would any stick be required at all? I don't know. I mention this
point only as food for thought. It would be useless to make it a
SAMSON AT LEHI
We are all familiar, of course, with the exploits of Samson,
including the time he slew a thousand Philistines with the
jawbone of an ass. There is one part of this story, however, that
has commonly been overlooked.
We are told that when Samson "came unto Lehi ... he found a
new jawbone ... and slew a thousand men therewith. And Samson
said, With the jawbone ... have I slain a thousand men. And it
came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast
away the jawbone out of his hand, and called the place
Ramath-lehi (casting away of the jawbone). And he was sore
athirst, and called on the Lord ... God clave an hollow place
that was in the jam (lehi), and there came water thereout; and
when he had drunk ... he revived: wherefore he called the name
thereof En-hakkore (the well of him that called), which is in
Lehi unto this day" (Judges 15:14-19).
This wording (as given in the King James Version) would lead
us to believe that Samson drank the water out of the jaw itself.
The margin, however, reads that "God clave an hollow place that
was in Lehi" as verses 9,14,17. Actually, this area came to be
called Lehi (Jawbone) because of the incident that happened here
with the jawbone. The word translated "jaw" or "jawbone" is Lehi
all the way through this passage. Consequently, when we come to
that portion which says that "God clave an hollow place that was
in the jaw", it could just as correctly be translated "Lehi" -
the name of the place. The word is the same. What, then, are our
reasons for believing that the water came from an opening in the
ground at this area called Lehi (Jawbone), rather than from the
There are several reasons. We notice that Samson named this
place from which he drank En-hakkore, the well of him that
called. It was actually a well or spring of water that resulted
when God clave an hollow place that was in Lehi. To this the
writer of Judges adds: "... which is in Lehi unto this day."
Commenting on this phrase, Adam Clarke says: "... consequently
not IN the jaw-bone of the ass, a most unfortunate
The Goodspeed version gives a good rendering of this portion
in these words: "Then God split open the mortar that is at Lehi,
and water gushed out of it; and when he drank, his spirits rose,
and he revived. That is how its name came to be called En-hakkor
(the spring of the caller), which is at Lehi to this day."
The Barnes Commentary (p.455) makes the following statement:
"The right translation is, 'the hollow place which is in Lehi.'
The word translated 'hollow place', means a mortar (Prov.27:22),
and is here evidently. a hollow or basin among the cliffs of
Lehl, which, from its shape, was called 'the mortar' ... A
spring, on the way from Socho to Eleutheropolis, was commonly
called Samson's spring in the time of St. Jerome."
The Pulpit Commentary states very clearly that it was a
spring in the ground which provided the water.
Josephus, writing in the first century, said this: "And when
he (Samson) came to a certain place, which is now called the
Jawbone, on account of the great action there performed by
Samson, though of old it had no particular name at all ... Samson
broke his bonds asunder, and catching up the jaw-bone of an ass
... fell upon his enemies, and smiting them with his jaw-bone,
slew a thousand of them ... God was moved with his entreaties,
and raised up a plentiful fountain of sweet water at a certain
rock; whence it was that Samson called the place the Jaw-bone
(Lehi), and so it is called to this day" (Josephus, Book 5,8:8,
In view of this evidence, we do not believe that after
Samson "cast away the jawbone out of his hand" he went and picked
it up again to get a drink out of it. Instead, the correct
translation and meaning is that God slave an hollow place in
Lehi. It was from this spring or fountain that he drank and which
he named Enhakkore (meaning "the well of him that called") and of
which it was stated, "it is in Lehi unto this day."
RAVENS OR ARABIANS
Something else we should notice in our study of translation
is that the original Hebrew words were written without vowels. In
the case of Elijah, depending on how vowels are supplied, he
could have been fed by ravens - or Arabians! But before going
into this, we will notice the passage as given in the King James
"And the word of the Lord came unto him [Elijah], saying, Get
thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook
Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt
drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee
there ... And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the
morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the
brook" (I Kings 17:2-6).
The Hebrew word translated "ravens", without vowels, is rbm.
Depending on how the vowels are added, it could mean ravens,
Arabians, merchants, or the people of a town named Orbo! For
comparison we can take the word "spoon." Without vowels it is
spn. By adding vowels to these letters we could form spoon, spin,
span, spun, or spine.
Adam Clarke says that if we take rbm to mean ravens, "we
shall find any interpretation on this ground to be clogged with
difficulties." The raven, for one thing, is listed in Leviticus
11:13-15 as an unclean bird: "And these ye shall have in
abomination among the fowls ... every raven." Does it seem most
likely that God would use a bird that was considered unclean and
an abomination to bring food to his chosen prophet?
Carrion, the putrefying flesh of a carcass, is the food of
ravens. It is self-evident that this type of food was not that
which would have been brought to the prophet. Of course, a
miracle could have changed the nature of the bird so that it
would pick up some other food, perhaps from someone's table at a
distance. Then, by another miracle, the bird could give up the
food to the prophet. If this is indeed what happened, it seems a
lot was required to accomplish one simple purpose. What, then,
are the alternatives to this viewpoint?
The word translated "ravens" in the King James Version could
be translated "merchants." Some believe that certain people who
traveled and traded through that part of the land were inspired
to provide food for the prophet. We do know that "oreby," the
contracted form of the word translated "ravens" in the King James
Version, has the meaning of merchants in Ezekiel 27:9,27.
Others believe the correct translation would be "Arabians" that
people from Arab colonies in that area fed Elijah. They could
have been inhabitants of a town by the name of Orbo - another
possible translation. This is the view expressed in the Arabic
Version. An old rabbinical commentary on Genesis mentions such a
town: "There is a town in the vicinity of Beth-shan, and its name
is Orbo." Jerome, who lived in the fourth century, was familiar
with this place. He spent several years in Palestine during which
he studied the geography, customs, and language of that land. His
statement about the people of Orbo is, we feel, especially
weighty: "The Orbim, inhabitants of a town in the confines of the
Arabs, gave nourishment to Elijah."
Long-held ideas are not quickly discarded, nor do we insist
that anyone give up the idea of ravens. It has only been our
intention hereto point out why ravens may not have been the
original meaning in this passage. It is apparent that as far as
the original word used, it is capable of different meanings and
this example shows one of the problems translators face because
originally the manuscripts did not have vowels.
Another problem is that the original manuscripts were
written when there were no punctuation marks. Consequently,
commas and question marks must be inserted as the translators
think beat - based on their beliefs. Usually the correct
punctuation is indicated by the wording, but there are a few
passages in which a change of comma location can change the
meaning; the classic example being the dispute over Luke 23:43.
The actual word-for-word translation of this verse in English
(without punctuation) is as follows: "Verily I say unto you today
thou shalt be with me in paradise." MOVKYP1EOTANEAHHCENTHO
There are no commas or punctuation marks. Letters all run
together. Where the comma is placed in translating into English
could make it read: "Verily I say unto you today, thou shalt be
with me in paradise", or "Verily I say unto you, Today thou shalt
be with me in paradise". If a question mark was added, it could
read: "Verily I say unto you today, Shalt thou be with me in
Does this verse mean the thief would be with Jesus that same
day in paradise, or does it mean that on that very day Jesus was
assuring him that he would be with him in paradise - regardless
of where or when? Since the position of the comma would make this
difference, and since there were no commas in the original,
doctrines on the state of the dead cannot honestly be built on
this one verse-one way or the other.
One more example involving punctuation will be given; this
one concerning a question mark. In Isaiah 45:11 we read:
"Concerning the work of my hands command ye me." Does this mean
we are to command God what to do? People have commanded God to
heal them, have commanded God to meet their need, have commanded
God to do this or that. We realize that in prayer we "ask" God;
but somehow the idea that we are to "command" God seems out of
We believe this statement was intended as a question. Notice
Moffatt's translation: "Would you dictate to me about my work?"
Or Goodspeed: "Will you question me concerning my children or
give me orders regarding the work of my hands?" We believe a
question mark is correct (as in these translations) because this
is the indication of the context.
We are told that the Lord is God and there is none else; he
has created all things: light, darkness, good, evil (verses 6,
7). "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!.. Shall the clay
say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou?" (verse 9). "Woe
unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to
the woman, What hast thou brought forth?" (verse 10). The
greatness of God is further seen in verse 12 in that he is the
creator of earth, of heaven, and of man. The point, then, in
verse 11 is: Who is man to try to command God or dictate to him
what he must do?
The meaning is not that we should "command God" (as some
have preached), for as the context points out, he is the potter
and we are the clay. Since the clay does not command the potter
concerning the work of his hands, so Isaiah 45:11 is best
understood as a question - not as an admonition to order God what
TO BE CONTINUED