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Archaic and Obsolete Words
of the Authorized Version.
pp. 77 - 80
The articles in this series are concerned with words in the Authorized Version of the
Bible that have become obsolete and archaic or have changed in meaning or acquired
new meanings so that they no longer convey to the reader the sense that the A.V.
translators intended to express. Most of these words were accurate translations in 1611,
but today they have become misleading. Language is always in a state of flux. New
words come in, others change or become obsolete. Sometimes this happens only in
districts of the English speaking world. The word `gotten' is an example. It is still used
in U.S.A., but has become obsolete in Great Britain.
Words nearly always degenerate in meaning. This is an evidence of the Fall of Man.
Seldom does a word improve or take on higher meanings than it had originally. Our A.V.
of the Bible is nearly 400 years old and though it was sixteenth-century English at its
best, `the noblest monument of English prose', the English language has so changed since
then, that a revision has been necessary. Not that the A.V. can be set aside. In our
estimation this will never be done; it has become part and parcel of our life and rightly
so. But if we are to understand the God-breathed revelation of Himself and His purposes
for humanity as they are expressed in the original inspired Hebrew of the O.T. and the
Greek of the N.T., then we must have a version which expresses as accurately as possible
in modern English what God the Holy Spirit caused to be written through the human
instrumentality of the O.T. and N.T. authors. These articles are not intended to give a
history of the English versions of the Bible. For this fascinating subject we would
recommend Professor F. F. Bruce's The English Bible published by the Lutterworth
We have to face the fact that something is always lost in translating from one language
to another for the simple reason that there are often no exact equivalents. This is true in
translating contemporary languages and even more so when there is a large time gap
between them, as for instance the original texts of the Scriptures and the English A.V.
some 1600 years later. As Professor F. F. Bruce says "no Bible translator who knows his
business counts himself to have attained perfection" and the translators of the A.V.
certainly made no such claim, nor those of scores of renderings made since this time. If
we are not Hebrew and Greek scholars the best thing we can do is to obtain several of the
modern versions and read them side by side with the A.V. The Parallel Bible which
places the Authorized and the Revised Versions side by side is helpful. If we do not do
this, then we are bound to come across passages of our English version which are
unintelligible or even misleading. In Judges 9: 53 we read "and a certain woman cast a
piece of a millstone upon Abimelech's head, and all to brake his skull". What does `all
to break' mean in modern English? I Thess. 4: 15 reads ". . . . . we which are alive and
remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them that are asleep". `Prevent' in