A terrific and detailed discussion of some of the problems of the King James as a modern translation can be found in Jack Lewis’s helpful ,The English Bible: from KJV to NIV.    Among some of the more interesting points he makes are the following.

Words used in the KJV that we have no clue about today (well, most of us):  almug, algum, chode gat, habergeon, hosen, kab, lugure, neesed, ring-straked, wimples, ouches, cracknels…. He lists dozens more.

Phrases: ouches of gold (Exoc. 28:11); collops of fat (Job 15:25); naughty figs (Jer 24:2); lien with (Jer. 3:2); rentest thy face (Jer. 4:30); murrain of the cattle (Exod. 9:2).  He gives lots more.

Sentences that may, at least, puzzle:

  • And Jacob sod pottage (Gen 25:29)
  • And Mt. Sinai was altogether on a smoke (Exoc. 19:18)
  • Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing (Ps. 5:6)
  • Solomon loved many strange women (2 Kings 11:1)  (!)
  • I trow not (Luke 17:9)
  • We do you to wit of the grace of God (2 Cor. 8:1)
  • Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowls (2 Cor. 6:12
  • The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd (Eccles. 12:11)

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The KJV translators loved to use a variety of different words for the same Greek or Hebrew word.  I’m not sure this is always a problem, but it is interesting to note.   The Hebrew word for “word” (DBR) is translated with 84 different English words in various passages; the word “face” (PNM) by 34; the word “pass over” by 48; the word for “good” (TB) by 41.

A bigger problem: the one I mentioned in my previous post, of words that are ones we use today but with different meanings, leading to very real chances of misunderstanding the translation:

  • Prov. 22:29 speaks of a “mean man” which means a “common man”
  • Lev. 14:10, the “meat offering” actually means a “grain offering”
  • 1 Sam 17:6 indicates that Goliath carried a “target” on his shoulder, meaning a javelin
  • Ps. 88:13 “In the morning shall my prayer prevent thee” means “…shall come before you.”
  • 1 Cor. 10;24, “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.”  Wealth then means “welfare” to us today
  • Acts 10:11 Peter sees a sheet from heaven “knit at the four corners,” meaning “let down from four corners”
  • Phil 4:6, “Be careful for nothing,” means “don’t worry about anything.”
  • Ps. 124:3 “Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us.”  Quick means “alive”

The KJV mentions all sorts of mythical animals as if they were real.  Possibly the translators thought they were?  The unicorn (Deut. 33:17) satyr (Isa 13:21); dragon (Deut 32:33), cockatrice (Iswa 11:8), and arrowsnake (Gen 49:11, in the margin).

Sometimes, as it turns out, the KJV actually gives the literal rendering of the Hebrew in a way that today people would find surprising and even offensive, in the words of the Bible, as in 1 Sam 25:22, 34, I Kings 14:10 etc. when it refers to one who “pisseth against the wall.”   The Hebrew actually says that: “urinates against the wall.”  It means a male person (as opposed to female).

Go figure.

Not the fault of the translators, there were some printed editions of the KJV that had some very interesting and amusing mistakes in them, leading these editions to be given well-deserved names:

– The Unrighteous Bible of 1653 left one of the “not”’s out of 1 Cor. 6:9,  so that it reads “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom?”

– The Sin On Bible of 1716, which in John 8:11 joyously has Jesus say “Go and sin on more”

– The Vinegar Bible of 1717 which gave as the title for the parable: “The Parable of the Vinegar” (instead of …Vineyard)

– The Lions Bible of 1804, which in 1 Kings 8:19 has God tell David that “they son that shall come forth from thy lions” (rather than “loins”)

– And my all-time favorite, The Adulterous Bible of 1631, left the “not” out of the seventh commandment, so the command now is “Thou shalt commit adultery”

Well, no Bible is perfect.  But probably some are more perfect than others….