Webster’s Revision of the KJV (1833)

Noah Webster, ed., The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, in the Common Version. With Amendments of the Language. New Haven: Durrie and Peck, 1833. Reprinted Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987.

Noah WebsterNoah Webster (1758-1843) has been called “America’s Schoolmaster” by one of his biographers, and it seems a very apt title for him. He was the author of several books that were widely used in schools in his day, including spelling-books, grammars, histories, and his famous dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828).

Here we have to do with his revision of the King James Version, a work that he began around 1831.

Webster took up this project as an educator. In his day the Bible was often used in schools, as a text for practice in reading; but the version in common use did not always suit the needs of teachers and students very well. Its grammar was not always correct, it contained many obsolete usages, and in it there were some expressions “so offensive, especially to females, as to create a reluctance in young persons to attend Bible classes and schools, in which they are required to read passages which cannot be repeated without a blush,” as he says in his Introduction. His purpose was to clear away these obstacles to the use of the Bible as a model of correct and decent English usage in American schools and homes.

Some modern critics have wondered why Webster, who was so well-qualified for this task, did not undertake a more extensive revision of the text. David Daniell observes that not only was he uniquely qualified as an authority on contemporary English usage, but he also knew Hebrew and Greek, and so his revision “is extraordinary — for what it doesn’t do.” (The Bible in English, p. 650.) His revision was indeed very light; one can read chapter after chapter of it without noticing any difference at all from the KJV. But Webster did not aim to make the language of the English Bible wholly contemporary, nor did he have the kind of scholarly interest in details of the text that would have led him to make many corrections on the basis of the Hebrew and Greek. (He was not really what we would call a biblical scholar.) He merely corrected the worst flaws of the text from the standpoint of an educator.

Unlike many of the more “progressive” men of learning in his time, Webster was a devout Christian, and entirely orthodox in his beliefs. His revision appeared at about the same time that other less orthodox Americans (Thomas Belsham, Abner Kneeland, John Palfrey, Alexander Campbell) were bringing out versions of the New Testament that were designed to promote new theologies and new movements in the churches. But Webster had no interest in theologically-motivated revisions. He wrote in his Preface, “I have not knowingly made any alteration in the passages of the present version, on which the different denominations rely for the support of their peculiar tenets.”

Today Webster’s revision continues to be useful, for those who wish to use a Bible version that reproduces largely the familiar and traditional words of the King James Bible, with only the most difficult expressions modernized and corrected. The edition was reprinted by an American publisher in 1987, and recently its text was made freely available (without its annotations) on the World Wide Web.

We give below the full text of Webster’s Preface, and his Introduction, in which the characteristics of the revision are fully described.

Michael Marlowe
July 2005



The English version of the sacred scriptures now in general use was first published in the year 1611, in the reign of James I. Although the translators made many alterations in the language of former versions, yet no small part of the language is the same as that of the versions made in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

In the present version, the language is, in general, correct and perspicuous; the genuine popular English of Saxon origin; peculiarly adapted to the subjects; and in many passages, uniting sublimity with beautiful simplicity. In my view, the general style of the version ought not to be altered.

But in the lapse of two or three centuries, changes have taken place which, in particular passages, impair the beauty; in others, obscure the sense, of the original languages. Some words have fallen into disuse; and the signification of others, in current popular use, is not the same now as it was when they were introduced into the version. The effect of these changes is, that some words are not understood by common readers, who have no access to commentaries, and who will always compose a great proportion of readers; while other words, being now used in a sense different from that which they had when the translation was made, present a wrong signification or false ideas. Whenever words are understood in a sense different from that which they had when introduced, and different from that of the original languages, they do not present to the reader the Word of God. This circumstance is very important, even in things not the most essential; and in essential points mistakes may be very injurious.

In my own view of this subject, a version of the scriptures for popular use should consist of words expressing the sense which is most common in popular usage, so that the first ideas suggested to the reader should be the true meaning of such words, according to the original languages. That many words in the present version fail to do this is certain. My principal aim is to remedy this evil.

The inaccuracies in grammar, such as which for who, his for its, shall for will, should for would, and others, are very numerous in the present version.

There are also some quaint and vulgar phrases which are not relished by those who love a pure style, and which are not in accordance with the general tenor of the language. To these may be added many words and phrases very offensive to delicacy and even to decency. In the opinion of all persons with whom I have conversed on this subject, such words and phrases ought not to be retained in the version. Language which cannot be uttered in company without a violation of decorum, or the rules of good breeding, exposes the scriptures to the scoffs of unbelievers, impairs their authority, and multiplies or confirms the enemies of our holy religion.

These considerations, with the approbation of respectable men, the friends of religion and good judges of this subject, have induced me to undertake the task of revising the language of the common version of the scriptures, and of presenting to the public an edition with such amendments, as will better express the true sense of the original languages, and remove objections to particular parts of the phraseology.

In performing this task, I have been careful to avoid unnecessary innovations, and to retain the general character of the style. The principal alterations are comprised in three classes.

  1. The substitution of words and phrases now in good use, for such as are wholly obsolete, or deemed below the dignity and solemnity of the subject.
  2. The correction of errors in grammar.
  3. The insertion of euphemisms, words and phrases which are not very offensive to delicacy, in the place of such as cannot, with propriety, be uttered before a promiscuous audience.

A few errors in the translation, which are admitted on all hands to be obvious, have been corrected; and some obscure passages, illustrated. In making these amendments, I have consulted the original languages, and also several translations and commentaries. In the body of the work, my aim has been to preserve, but in certain passages, more clearly to express the sense of the present version.

The language of the Bible has no inconsiderable influence in forming and preserving our national language. On this account, the language of the common version ought to be correct in grammatical construction, and in the use of appropriate words. This is the more important, as men who are accustomed to read the Bible with veneration are apt to contract a predilection for its phraseology, and thus to become attached to phrases which are quaint or obsolete. This may be a real misfortune; for the use of words and phrases, when they have ceased to be a part of the living language, and appear odd or singular, impairs the purity of the language, and is apt to create a disrelish for it in those who have not, by long practice, contracted a like predilection. It may require some effort to subdue this predilection; but it may be done, and for the sake of the rising generation, it is desirable. The language of the scriptures ought to be pure, chaste, simple and perspicuous, free from any words or phrases which may excite observation by their singularity; and neither debased by vulgarisms, nor tricked out with the ornaments of affected elegance.

As there are diversities of tastes among men, it is not to be expected that the alterations I have made in the language of the version will please all classes of readers. Some persons will think I have done too little; others, too much. And probably the result would be the same, were a revision to be executed by any other hand, or even by the joint labors of many hands. All I can say is, that I have executed this work in the manner which, in my judgment, appeared to be the best.

To avoid giving offense to any denomination of Christians, I have not knowingly made any alteration in the passages of the present version, on which the different denominations rely for the support of their peculiar tenets.

In this country there is no legislative power which claims to have the right to prescribe what version of the scriptures shall be used in the churches, or by the people. And as all human opinions are fallible, it is doubtless for the interest of religion that no authority should be exerted in this case, except by commendation.

At the same time, it is very important that all denominations of Christians should use the same version, that in all public discourses, treatises and controversies, the passages cited as authorities should be uniform. Alterations in the popular version should not be frequent; but the changes incident to all living languages render it not merely expedient, but necessary at times to introduce such alterations as will express the true sense of the original languages, in the current language of the age. A version thus amended may require no alteration for two or three centuries to come.

In this undertaking, I subject myself to the charge of arrogance; but I am not conscious of being actuated by any improper motive. I am aware of the sensitiveness of the religious public on this subject; and of the difficulties which attend the performance. But all men whom I have consulted, if they have thought much on the subject, seem to be agreed in the opinion, that it is high time to have a revision of the common version of the scriptures; although no person appears to know how or by whom such revision is to be executed. In my own view, such revision is not merely a matter of expedience, but of moral duty; and as I have been encouraged to undertake this work by respectable literary and religious characters, I have ventured to attempt a revision upon my own responsibility. If the work should fail to be well received, the loss will be my own, and I hope no injury will be done. I have been painfully solicitous that no error should escape me. The reasons for the principal alterations introduced, will be found in the explanatory notes.

The Bible is the chief moral cause of all that is good, and the best corrector of all that is evil in human society; the best book for regulating the temporal concerns of men, and the only book that can serve as an infallible guide to future felicity. With this estimate of its value, I have attempted to render the English version more useful, by correcting a few obvious errors, and removing some obscurities, with objectionable words and phrases; and my earnest prayer is that my labors may not be wholly unsuccessful.

N. W.

New Haven, September, 1833.


The principal alterations in the language of the common version of the Scriptures, made in this edition, stated and explained.

Who is substituted for which, when it refers to persons.

Its is substituted for his, when it refers to plants and things without life.

To is used for unto. This latter word is not found in the Saxon books, and as it is never used in our present popular language, it is evidently a modern compound. The first syllable un adds nothing to the signification or force of to; but by increasing the number of unimportant syllables, rather impairs the strength of the whole clause or sentence in which it occurs. It has been rejected by almost every writer, for more than a century.

Why is substituted for wherefore, when inquiry is made; as, “why do the wicked live?” Job 21.7.

My and thy are generally substituted for mine and thine, when used as adjectives. The latter are wholly obsolete.

Wherein, therein, whereon, thereon, and other similar compounds, are not wholly obsolete, but are considered, except in technical language, inelegant. I have not wholly rejected these words, but have reduced the number of them; substituting in which, in that or this, in it, on which, &c.

Assemble, collect, or convene, for the tautological words gather together. In some cases, gather is retained and together omitted as superfluous. Collection for gathering together. Gen. 1.10.

Know or knew, for wist, wit and wot. Ex. 16.15; Gen. 21.26, &c.

Part for deal, as a tenth part of flour. Ex. 29.40. Deal, in this sense, is wholly antiquated.

Bring for fetch, in most cases.

Suppose for trow. Luke 17.9.

Falsehood for leasing. Ps. 4.2; 5.6.

Skillful for cunning, when used of persons; and curious for the same word, when applied to things. Gen. 25.27; Ex. 26.1, &c.

Surely or certainly, for, “of a surety.” The latter word is now used exclusively for security against loss, or for the person who gives bail for another. In the phrase of a surety, the word is now improper. Gen. 15.13, &c.

Number for tell, when used in the sense of count. Gen. 15.5, &c.

Sixty for three score, and eighty for four score. Two score and five score are never used. It appears to me most eligible to retain but one mode of specifying numbers. Uniformity is preferable to diversity. Gen. 25.26; Ex. 7.7, &c.

Go or depart, for get thee, get you, get ye. Gen. 12.1; 19.14; 34.10, &c.

Evening for even and even-tide. Gen. 19.1, &c

Expire, generally for give or yield up the ghost, Gen. 49.33, &c. or yield the breath. Job 11.20; 14.10.

Custody, in some cases, for ward. Gen. 40.3, &c.

Perhaps or it may be, in some cases, for peradventure. Gen. 27.12; 31.31, &c.

Cows for kine. The latter is nearly obsolete, and the former is used in several passages of the version; it is therefore judged expedient to render the language uniform. Gen. 32.15, &c.

Employment or occupation for trade. The latter, as the word is now used, is improper. Gen. 46.32, 34.

Severe, grievous or distressing, for sore, and corresponding adverbs, or bitterly for sorely. Gen. 41.56, 57, &c. In some passages, a different word is used. See Gen. 19.9; Judges 10.9.

People or persons, for folk. Gen. 33.15; Mark 6.5, &c.

Kinsmen for kinsfolk. Job 19.14; Luke 2.44, &c.

Male-child for man-child. Gen. 17.10, &c.

Interest for usury. Usury originally signified what is now called interest, or simply a compensation for the use of money. The Jews were not permitted to take interest from their brethren for the use of money loaned; and when the Levitical law forbids the taking of usury, the prohibition intended is that of any gain or compensation for the use of money or goods. Hence, usury in the scriptures is what we call interest. The change of signification in the word usury, which now denotes unlawful interest, renders it proper to substitute interest for usury. Ex. 22.25; Lev. 25.36, &c.

Hinder for let, Rom. 1.13; Restrain. 2 Thess. 2.7.

Number for tale, when the latter has that signification. Ex. 5.8, &c.

Button for tache. Ex. 26.6, &c

Ate, in many cases, for did eat. Gen. 3.6; 27.25, &c.

Boiled for sodden. Ex. 12.9; Lev. 6.28, &c.

Strictly for straitly. Gen. 43.7; Ex. 13.19; 1 Sam. 14.28.

Staffs for staves. It seems that staves, in the translation, is used for the plural of staff; an anomaly, I believe, in our language. The consequence is, in this country, it coincides in orthography with the plural of stave, a piece of timber used in making casks, an entirely different word, in modern usage. I have given the word its regular plural form. Ex. 25.13; 40.20, &c.

Capital for chapiter, the top of a column; the latter being entirely obsolete. Ex. 36.38; 38.28, &c.

Fortified for fenced and defenced. Fence, fenced, are not now used in the sense which they generally have in the present version of the scriptures. As applied to cities and towns, the sense is now expressed by fortify, fortified. Deut. 3.5; Num. 32.17; Is. 36.1, &c.

Repent for repent him. The latter form is wholly obsolete. Deut. 32.36; Ps. 90.13, &c.

Invite for bid, when the latter has this signification. Zeph. 1.7; Matt. 22.9; Luke 14.12, &c.

Advanced for stricken, in age or years. Gen. 18.11; Josh. 13.1, &c.

Encamped for pitched, when applied to troops, companies, or armies; but pitched used of tents is retained. Ex. 17.1; Num. 12.16.

Explore, in some passages, for spy out. Num. 13.16; 21.32.

Profane for pollute, in a few instances. See Is. 56.2, 6; Jer. 34.16. To pollute the sabbath, to pollute the name of God, are expressions unknown in modern usage.

Melted for molten, when used as a participle. Ezek. 24.11; Micah 1.4.

Cover for shroud. Ezek. 31.3.

Border or limit, for coast. In present usage, coast is never used to express the border, frontier, or extremity of a kingdom, or district of inland territory. Its application is wholly or chiefly to land contiguous to the sea. Its application in the scriptures is, in most cases, to a border of inland territory. For this word I have therefore substituted, in this sense, border or limit. Deut. 19.8; Ex. 10.14, &c. Its use in most passages of scripture is as improper now, as the coast of Worcester, in Massachusetts, or the coast of Lancaster, in Pennsylvania.

Creeping animal for creeping thing. The word thing signifies an event, as in the phrase, “after these things.” In popular usage, it is applied to almost any substance, but its application to an animal is improper, and vulgar. Indeed, such application often implies contempt. Besides, this application makes no distinction between an animal and a plant. A creeping thing is more properly a creeping plant, than a reptile. Gen. 1.24, 26, &c.

Food for meat. In the common English version of the scriptures, meat never signifies flesh only, but food in general, provisions or whatever is eaten by animals for nourishment. Fruits, grass, herbs, as well as flesh are denominated meat. Gen. 1.29, 30. But the word is now used almost exclusively for flesh used or intended for food for mankind. For this word I have therefore substituted food, except in a few cases, where the plural is used, food not admitting the plural number. But I have retained meat-offering, though composed of vegetable substances. We have no word in use which can be substituted for it; and it has acquired a kind of technical application, so to speak, which renders it expedient to retain it. See Gen. 1.29, 30; Deut. 20.20; Matt. 3.4, &c.

Shun for eschew. Job 1.1, 8; 2.3; 1 Pet. 3.11. Shun seems to be a more correct word to express the idea, than avoid; for a person may avoid evil, without intending it; shun implies intention.

Plant or herb, for hay. Prov. 27.25; Is. 15.6. Hay is dried grass or herbs. The use of hay, therefore, in the passages cited is improper. What a strange expression must this appear to be to a farmer in our country. “The hay appeareth, and the tender grass showeth itself.”

Provision for victual or victuals. In the singular number, victual is now wholly obsolete; and its signification in the plural is much more limited than that in which it occurs in several passages of the scriptures, which extends to provisions in general, whether prepared for eating or not. In present usage, victuals are articles for food dressed or prepared for the table. When the word, in our version, is not thus limited, I have substituted for it provisions. Gen. 14.11; Josh. 1.11, &c.

Treated for entreated, when it signifies to use, or entertain. Gen. 12.16; Ex. 5.22.

Afflict, harass, oppress, distress, or a word of like import for vex. This word has suffered a material change or limitation, since our version of the scriptures was made. In that version, it is equivalent to afflict, harass, distress, grieve, in a general or indefinite sense; in modern usage, it is nearly synonymous with irritate, a limited sense, I believe, not intended in any passage of scripture, unless there may be three or four exceptions, in which I have retained the word. Num. 25.17; 20.15; 33.55; Judges 10.8; Lev. 18.18, &c.

Afflict for plague. Plague, as used in our version, comprehends almost any calamity that befalls man or beast. But used as a verb, it is now too low or vulgar for a scriptural word. I have therefore used in the place of it, afflict. Gen. 12.17; Ex. 32.35; Ps. 73.5, 14.

Multiply for increase. Multiply is properly applied to numbers; increase to size, dimensions, or quantity. Hence, in some passages of the present version, it is improperly used, and I have substituted for it increase. Deut. 8.13. On the other hand, I have, when the sense requires it, inserted multiply for increase. Hosea 10.1.

Killed for slew. In Daniel 3.22, we read that the flame of the fire slew the men that threw Shadrach and his companions into the furnace. This use of slew is improper, so much so, that the most illiterate man would perceive the impropriety of it. Slay is used to denote killing by striking with any weapon whatever; but we never say a man is slain by poison, by drowning, or by burning. This distinction proceeds from the original signification of slay, which was to strike. See Acts 13.28.

Diffuse. “The lips of the wise disperse knowledge.” Prov. 15.7. To disperse is to dissipate or scatter so as to destroy the thing. This cannot be the meaning of the author. He meant to say, spread or diffuse knowledge.

Careful, carefulness had formerly a more intensive sense, that at present. Carefulness is now always a virtue; formerly it had the sense of anxiety, or undue solicitude. Paul says to the Corinthians, “I would have you without carefulness.” 1 Cor. 7.32. But certainly the apostle did not mean to condemn the due caution now expressed by that word. The distinction in the uses of this word is clearly marked in Phil. 4. verses 6, 10. In verse 6th the apostle writes “Be careful for nothing;” yet in verse 10th he commends the Philippians for being careful. These apparent discrepancies are easily removed by substituting anxious or solicitous for careful, when it evidently has this signification. See Jer. 17.8; Ezek. 12.18, 19; Luke 10.41; 1 Cor. 7.32, 33, 34.

Furniture for carriage. The word carriage, in our common version, signifies that which is carried, or in our present usage, baggage; such things as travelers and armies carry for their accommodation. It never signifies a vehicle on wheels, although I am convinced that it is thus understood by men of good common education. I have substituted for it furniture, judging baggage not to be a suitable word to be introduced into the text. I have, however, inserted an explanatory note in the margin, Judges 18.21; 1 Sam. 17.22. If the word carriages, used Isa. 46.1, was intended to signify vehicles, it is a mistake; it is not the sense of the Hebrew. And if intended for loading, then the following words are improper.

Revive or vivify for quicken. The latter word in scripture signifies to revive, to give new life or animate. It is now used in the sense of accelerate. Quick is sometimes used in scripture for living, as the quick and dead. I have, for the verb, substituted revive or vivify, and for the adjective, living. Ps. 71.20; Acts 10.42, &c.

Terrify or drive away for fray; the latter being entirely obsolete, and not generally understood. Deut. 28.26; Jer. 7.33; Zech. 1.21.

Vomit for spew. Lev. 18.28; Rev. 3.16, &c.

Avenge for revenge. These words seem to have been used synonymously in former times; but in modern usage, a distinction between them is, if I mistake not, well established; revenge implying malice, and avenge expressing just vindication. If so, the use of revenge, as applied to the Supreme Being, is improper. I have therefore substituted for it avenge. Nahum 1.2.

Deride for laugh to scorn. The latter phrase is nearly obsolete. 2 Kings 19.21; Nehem. 2.19, &c.

Fornication. This word, in modern laws and usage, has acquired a technical meaning more limited than its signification in the scriptures. For which reason among others, I have generally substituted for it a word of more comprehensive signification, generally lewdness.

Uncover, make bare, open, disclose, reveal, for discover. The original and proper sense of discover is to uncover, and there are phrases in which it is still used in that sense. But its present signification most generally is, to find, see, or perceive for the first time. In most passages in our version of the scriptures, it has the sense of uncover, make bare, or expose to view. In Micah 1.6, the Lord says by the prophet, “I will discover the foundations” of Samaria. But surely the all-seeing God had nothing to find or see for the first time. The sense of the word is to uncover, to lay bare. See Prov. 25.9; Isa. 3.17; Lam. 4.22; Job 12.22; Ezek. 13.14, &c. Two or three other alterations of this word would have been made, had the propriety of them occurred to me in due season.

Ask, or inquire, for demand. The French original of this word properly signifies simply to ask; but usage has, in some measure, altered its signification in English. In our language, the word implies right, authority, or claim to an answer, or to something sought. Thus in Exodus 5.14, the inquiry made, implies an authority assumed by the task-masters of Egypt, or a right to know the reason why the Israelites had not performed their tasks. So Daniel 2.27; Job 38.3; 40.7. But in 2 Samuel 11.7, David did not demand of Uriah, but simply inquire. In Luke 3.14, the improper use of demanded is more striking. That the soldiers should demand any thing from Christ is not to be supposed. So Luke 17.20; Acts 21.33. But the most objectionable instance of the use of demand is in Job 42.4, where Job, addressing the Supreme Being, says, “I will demand of thee, and declare thou to me.” I have, in such instances, used ask or inquire, which is the true sense of the original.

Would God, would to God. These phrases occur in several passages in which they are not authorized by the original language, in which the name of the Supreme Being is not used; but the insertion of them in the version, has given countenance to the practice of introducing them into discourses and public speeches, with a levity that is incompatible with a due veneration for the name of God. In Job 14.13, the same Hebrew words are rendered O that, the common mode of expressing an ardent wish; and I have used the same words in other passages. See Ex. 16.3; Deut. 28.67.

God forbid, is a phrase which may be viewed in the same light as the foregoing. It is several times used in the version, and without any authority from the original languages, for the use of the name of God. The Greek phrase thus rendered in the New Testament, signifies only “Let it not be,” or “I wish it not to be.” I cannot think it expedient to suffer the phrase “God forbid,” to stand in the text, for the reason assigned in the foregoing paragraph. And it is to be regretted that a practice prevails of using it in common discourse. I have followed Macknight in using for these words, By no means.

God speed. 2 John 10, 11. This phrase must originally have been “God speed you;” that is, God give you welfare or success, or it is a mistake for good speed. It could not have been the first, for then the whole phrase must have been, “Bid him God speed you.” The fact undoubtedly is, the phrase was originally good speed. In Saxon, good and God are uniformly written alike; god, the adjective, we now write good, and we write goodman, Goodwin, although the English write Godwin. In the phrase used in scripture, which seems to have been formerly proverbial, the Saxon god for good has continued to be written with a single vowel, and the word being mistaken for the name of the Supreme Being, it came to be written with a capital initial, God. The Greek word is a term of salutation; the same word is used, Luke 1.28, in the address of the angel to Mary, where it is rendered Hail, and in Matt. 28.9, All hail. But God speed, as now used, is as improper as God welfare, God success, or God happiness. In a grammatical point of view, nothing can be mote absurd; it is neither grammar nor sense. And it is to be regretted, that such an outrage upon propriety continues to be used in discourse.

Prevent. This word is many times used in the version, but not in the sense in which it is now universally used. Indeed, so different are its scriptural uses, that probably very few readers of common education understand it. I have had recourse to the ablest expositors, English and German, to aid me in expressing the sense of the word in the several passages in which it is used. 2 Sam. 22.6; Job 3.12; and 30.27; Ps. 18.5, 18; 21.3; 59.10; 119.147, 148; Isa. 21.14.

Take no thought. It is probable that this phrase formerly had a more intensive signification than it has at present. In Matt. 6.25, 27, 31, 34, the phrase falls far short of the force, or real meaning of the original. I have expressed the idea by Be not anxious. So in Luke 12.22, 26.

By and by. This phrase as used in the scriptures denotes immediately, without an interval of time. In present usage, it seems rather to indicate soon, but not immediately. Matt. 13.21; Luke 17.7; and 21.9.

Presently. This word in the scriptures signifies immediately. Matt. 21.19.

Insane for mad. In our popular language, mad more generally signifies very angry, which is not always its signification in the common version. I have therefore, in some instances expressed the sense by insane or enraged, words less likely to be misapprehended by our common people than mad. John 10.20; Acts 12.15; and 26.11, 24; 1 Cor. 14.23.

Healed for made whole. When persons recover from sickness, we never say they are made whole. This phrase is proper only when some part of the body is broken. John 5.6. Whole is not the proper word to be set in opposition to sick. It should be well or in health. Matt. 9.12.

Conversation. This word, in our version, never has the sense of mutual discourse, which is its signification in present usage. It now retains the signification it had formerly, chiefly as a technical law term, as in indentures. Its sense in the Bible comprehends the whole moral conduct in social life, and I have used in the place of it manner of life, or deportment, chiefly the former, as deportment, in ordinary use, is, perhaps, not sufficiently comprehensive. When it occurs, however, it is intended to embrace all that is understood by manner of life, or course of conduct. Ps. 37.14; 2 Cor. 1.12; Gal. 1.13, &c.

Offend. I have, in some passages, substituted for this word, the words, cause to sin, or to fall into sin. In other places I have explained it in a marginal note.

Close vessel for bushel. Matt. 5.15, &c. There is now, I believe, no vessel of the measure of a bushel, in common use. The Jews used lamps, not candles, which such a measure would extinguish. I have, therefore, substituted close vessel. Vessel is used Luke 8.16.

Agitate, or stir, for trouble. The application of trouble to water or other substance, in the sense of stirring, is wholly obsolete. John 5.4, 7; Ezek. 32.2; Prov. 25.26. Yet from the scriptures we retain the phrase “troubled waters.”

Travail, with this orthography, is now used only or chiefly for the labor of child-birth. In other senses, I have substituted for it labor or toil. Eccl. 1.13; 2.23; 1 Thess. 2.8.

Hungry for an hungred. Matt. 25.35, &c.

Convicted for convinced. James 2.9. See also John 8.46; Jude 15.

Strain out a gnat. Matt. 23.24. The words in our version are “strain at a gnat.” It is unaccountable that such an obvious error should remain uncorrected for more than two centuries. The Greek signifies to strain out a gnat, as by passing liquor through a colander or a filter. It is not a doubtful point. At may have been a misprint for out, in the first copies.

Foresaw, in Acts 2.25, is a mis-translation. The sense is not saw beforehand, but before in place, or in presence. I have omitted the prefix, fore. The propriety of this is determined by the original passage. Ps. 16.8.

Constrain, for compel. Matt. 5.41. Compel may or does imply physical force; constrain implies moral as well as physical force, and this seems to be the most proper word.

Froward, Ps. 18.26, appears to me improperly applied to the Supreme Being. In its present signification, it seems to be not merely harsh, but irreverent, and incorrect. I have therefore substituted for it, thou wilt contend. See also 2 Sam. 22.27.

Earnestly for instantly. Luke 7.4.

Man for fellow. The latter word is several times inserted in our version, without any authority in the original: it implies contempt, which may have been felt, but a translator should not, I think, add to the original what is not certainly known to have been the fact. I have in the place of it inserted man. Gen. 19.9; Matt. 12.24, &c.

Body of soldiers. The troops with which Claudius rescued Paul, Acts 23.27, cannot be called an army, as the word is now understood.

Many people are the words substituted for much people. Numb. 20.20; Mark 5.21, &c.

The door shall be opened. Matt. 7.7. The word door is not in the original, but is necessarily implied in the verb.

Staff. Matt. 10.10. The original Greek word is in the singular number.

Master of the house. Luke 22.11. The phrase, good man of the house, is not warranted by the original, which signifies master of the house. At the time the Bible was translated, it was customary to call men by the title, good man, instead of Mr. It is seen on the records of the first settlers in New England; but if it was ever proper in our version, which can hardly be admitted, it is now improper.

Sat at meat. This phrase is improper on more accounts than one. The ancients did not sit at table, but lay down or reclined on the left elbow. I have retained the word sit or sat, however, but have inserted in the margin an explanatory note. At meat, is obsolete, and I have substituted at table or eating.

Foreign for strange. The latter word often signifies foreign or not native, and in a few instances I have substituted for it foreign. In doubtful cases, no change is made. Heb. 11.9; Acts 7.6. See Ezra 10.2; Acts 26.11; 1 Kings 11.1, 8.

Boat for ship. In the New Testament, the words designating the vessels which were used on the lake of Tiberias, are generally rendered ship. This is wholly improper. Those vessels were boats, either with or without sails. No ship, in the present sense of this word, could be used on a small lake. Besides, we have evidence from the facts stated in the evangelists, that the vessels were small; otherwise they would not have been “covered with the waves,” Matt. 8.24; nor “rowed” with oars, Mark 6.48. In Luke 5, it is said that both ships were filled with the fish taken in a net, so that they began to sink. Surely these were not ships. In John 6.22, 23, these ships are called boats, which is the most proper word, and that which I have used.

Go thy way, he went his way. These and similar forms of expression occur often in the version; but in the New Testament, and sometimes in the Old, the words thy way, his way, your way, are not in the original, which is simply go. The additional words were introduced probably from the Hebrew phraseology, or in conformity to popular use; but they are wholly redundant. I have not been very particular in rejecting the superfluous words; but have done it in some instances.

Luke 9.61. The words at home are redundant. The phrase in Greek is simply at my house.

Scribe’s penknife, Jer. 36.23. The translators have omitted the word scribe or secretary, which is in the Hebrew. It is supposed that in former times, no person had a penknife, but a secretary; or the word pen was supposed to include or imply the word scribe. I am surprised however that men, so careful generally to translate every Hebrew word, should have omitted this. In the present age, the omission would doubtless be a fault.

Safe and sound. Luke 15.27. This is another instance in which the translators have followed popular use, instead of the original Greek, which signifies simply well or in health.

Living beings. Rev. 4.6, 7, &c. The word beast, in the low sense the word has in present use, is considered to be very improper in various passages of the Apocalypse. The word signifies animals or living beings; and I have used the latter word as more becoming the dignity of the sacred oracles.

Passover for Easter. Acts 12.4. The original is pascha, passover.

Men, brethren. Acts 13.15, &c. The translators have erred by inserting and between these words, which tends to mislead the reader into the opinion that these are addressed as different characters; whereas the sense is men, brethren, men who are brethren.

How that. These words are frequently used very improperly, where manner is not expressed in the original. The original is simply that. This is another instance of an inconsiderate use of popular phrases. 1 Cor. 10.1; 15.3.

A still more objectionable use of popular language occurs in employing the past tense might instead of may. When Christ asked the blind man what he desired to have done for him, he replied, “Lord, that I might receive my sight.” Mark 10.51. So Luke 8.9. “What might this parable mean?” This mode of expression is still common among a certain class of people, who ask a stranger, “Pray, sir, what might I call your name?” There are many examples of this improper use of might, where the sense is more correctly expressed by the present tense, may. See John 10.10.

The old word yea is used, in some cases, where it is not warranted by the original; and when the original authorizes some word in this sense, it would be better to substitute for it even, indeed, truly, or verily. Yes is used in the New Testament, in two or three passages, and I have introduced it for yea, in several passages of both Testaments.

Deut. 20.18. The present order of words in this verse may give a sense directly opposite to that which is intended. The Israelites were directed to destroy the Hittites and other heathen nations, to prevent the Israelites from adopting their idolatries and vices; but the passage, as it now stands, is, that they, the heathen, may teach the Israelites not to do after their own abominations. Surely the heathen would not teach the Israelites to avoid their own practices. By transposing not and placing it before teach, the ambiguity is removed.

Holy Spirit. The word ghost is now used almost exclusively for an apparition, except in this phrase, Holy Ghost. I have therefore uniformly used Holy Spirit.

Demon. In the scriptures, the Greek daimon is rendered devil; but most improperly, as devil and demon were considered to be different beings. I have followed the commentators on the New Testament, in substituting demon in all cases where the Greek is daimon. I cannot think a translator justified in such a departure from the original, as to render the word by devil. The original word for devil is never plural, there being but one devil mentioned in the scriptures.

Hell. The word hell in the Old Testament, and sometimes in the New, is used, not for a place of torment, but for the grave, region of the dead, lower or invisible world; sheol in Hebrew, hades in Greek. I have in most passages retained the word in the text, but have inserted an explanatory note in the margin. In Ezekiel 31, I have rendered the word grave in two or three verses, to make the version conformable to verse 15.

Master. This word is frequently used in the New Testament for teacher; doubtless in conformity with the popular or vulgar practice of calling teachers of schools masters. I have retained the word, but have added an explanatory note in the margin.

Provoke. This word formerly had, and sometimes still has, the sense of incite, excite, or instigate. In modern usage, it is generally used in the sense of irritate. This requires the substitution of another word for it in 1 Chron. 21.1; Heb. 10.24; 2 Cor. 9.2, in which I have used incite or excite. Ps. 4.8. The word only is misplaced, and thus it gives a wrong sense. I have placed it next after thou.

Lord for Jehovah. When the word Lord is in small capitals, it stands for Jehovah of the original. I have not altered the version, except in a few passages, where the word JEHOVAH seems to be important; as in Isaiah 51.22, where “thy Lord, the LORD,” seem to be at least awkward, if not unintelligible, to an illiterate reader. See also Jer. 32.18, where there is a peculiar propriety in expressing the true name of the Supreme Being. See also Jer. 23.6, and 33.16.

Ezekiel 38.5. I have followed the Hebrew in the names Cush and Phut.

Matt. 27.66. I have transposed the words, in order to place the expression of security directly before the means, that is, the watch or guard. This is in accordance with the sense of verse 65. The word sure is not the proper word to be used, but secure.

In 1 Thess. 1.4, I have introduced the marginal construction into the text, in accordance with Macknight, and with the punctuation of Griesbach. See 2 Thess. 2.13.

On, upon, for in, into. In the present version, in is often used in the Latin sense, for on, or upon: so also into; as in the earth; into a mountain. Gen. 1.22; 19.30. This is not good English, according to present usage.

Against for by. 1 Cor. 4.4. By in this verse must signify against, or the translation is erroneous. But by has not that signification in present usage; I have therefore substituted against.

There are many passages in which the translators have inserted and improperly, between clauses which are in apposition, and ought not to be made distinct. In 1 Cor. 4.13, the words and are appear to give a sense not intended by the apostle. “We are made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things.” So stands the original; but by the insertion of and are, the apostle is made to say not only that we are in estimation made as the filth of the world, but that we actually are the offscouring of all things.

Testimony is substituted for record, the latter, in this sense, being entirely obsolete.

Testimony is often substituted for witness, as modern usage inclines to limit the application of witness to the person testifying.

Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time. Matt. 5.21, 27, 33. In our version the passage is, “was said by them.” Dr. Campbell remarks that all the older versions have to; as the Vulgate, Montanus, Erasmus, Castalio, Calvin, Luther and others; and I may add, this is the rendering in the Italian of Diodati, and in the French version published by the American Bible Society. That to is the true rendering, seems to be probable, from the fact, that when the original is clearly intended to express the sense of by, the Greek words are a preposition followed by a noun in the genitive; whereas in the passages under consideration, the noun appears to be in the dative, like other nouns after a verb, signifying to say or speak. Examples in the same Evangelist may be seen in Matt. 2.15, 17, 23; 3.3; 4.14; 8.17; 12.17; 13.35; 21.4; 27.9; 22.31. The affirmation however must be true, with either rendering; for what was said by one person, must have been said to another.

Burden. Isaiah 13.1. The verb from which the Hebrew word is formed, signifies to bear, and the noun, that which is borne or conveyed. But in Latin we find examples of words signifying to bear or carry, from which is derived the sense of speaking, of which fero is an instance: Fertur, it is said. So from porto we have report. I would suggest that, in like manner, the Hebrew word rendered burden, may be rendered report or message; which, if correct, would be better understood. I have retained burden in the text, but have suggested this amendment in the margin.

Dodanim. Gen. 10.4. I have retained this name in the text, although I am well satisfied it ought to be Rodanim. My reasons are these:

  1. The Hebrew Resh is easily mistaken for a Daleth, as the letters have a near resemblance.
  2. The most ancient versions of the Pentateuch have Rodanim, particularly the Septuagint and Syriac.
  3. It is not easy to give any probable account of Dodanim. The name is evidently different from Dedan.
  4. The sacred penman places this name among the sons of Javan, (Ionia, Dan. 11.2,) which shows that the name belongs to Greece or Europe, not to Africa; and the other names Elishah, Tarshish and Kittim belong to the south of Europe; Elishah being probably Hellas, or interior Greece; Kittim, certain isles in the Levant; and Tarshish, being Tartessus in Spain. I therefore infer that Rodanim is Rodan, [Rhodanus] the original name of the Rhone, with the termination of Hebrew plural nouns. If so, Rodanim signifies the inhabitants of the Rhone or of Gaul, now France.

The translation of the tenth chapter of Genesis, by the use of the word sons, instead of descendants, has, in many instances, led to a misunderstanding of several parts of the chapter. Many of the names of those called sons are plural, and represent nations, or tribes, not individuals.

On the east side of Jordan. Deut. 1.1, 4; 4.46. The translations of the scriptures differ in the rendering of the Hebrew word for over, beyond, on the other side. In the Septuagint and Vulgate, this word, in the passages under consideration, is rendered beyond. In the English and several other modern translations, the word is rendered on this side; the translations being thus contradictory. This difference has proceeded from the supposed place of the writer of the book of Deuteronomy; the early translators supposing the writer of the passages cited to have been on the west side of the Jordan; and the modern translators supposing the writer to have been on the east side of that river. With regard to the author of the book in general, there can be no question. But it is most obvious that the first five verses of the first chapter, and the last six verses of the fourth, were written by the compiler; those in the first chapter serving as an introduction to the narrative of Moses, which begins at the sixth verse. That Moses was on the east side of Jordan is certain; but is it not a strange supposition that Moses, addressing the Israelites, should tell them repeatedly on which side of the river he was? In the 47th and 49th verses of chapter fourth, we are informed that the place was on the side of Jordan, eastward, towards the sun-rising. As there is no question with respect to the fact, and as the different translations mean the same thing, I have removed all uncertainty on the subject, by using the words, on the east side of Jordan.

Red Sea. This appellation of the gulf of Suez, or Arabian Sea, has been so long and generally used, that it may not be expedient to change it. It was first used by the Greeks, and introduced into the Septuagint, from which our translators have adopted it. It is probable that this gulf was formerly called the Sea of Edom, from the Edomites who inhabited the country on the east of it, which the Greeks called Idumea; and as Edom, in Hebrew, signifies red, the Greeks translated the word red, and gave to this gulf the appellation of Red Sea; a name of no appropriate significancy, as applied to that gulf, for the waters of it are no more red than the water of any other sea, or of the ocean.

Suf. Deut. 1.1. In this passage, the English translators following the Septuagint, have rendered the Hebrew word Suf, Red Sea; (not Zuph, as printed in the margin of our Bibles.) This word signifies sea-weed, and this sense it retains to this day in some of the Gothic dialects. The same word is used in Exodus, with reference to the Red Sea; but always in connection with the Hebrew word for sea. In the first verse of Deuteronomy, it is used without the Hebrew word for sea; and of course the use of sea in our translation is not authorized by the original.

Now in the fifth verse, we are informed that the Israelites were then in the land of Moab, which was on the east side of the Salt or Dead Sea; two, three, or four hundred miles from the Red Sea, and in a different latitude. The Israelites then could not have been over against the Red Sea, commonly so called. This would be like saying Albany is over against Pittsburg. In the loose way in which the Bible is often read, especially those parts of it which do not immediately concern our salvation, this mistake may have passed unnoticed by most readers; though not by inquisitive commentators. But our young people now study the scriptures with maps of Syria and Egypt. Let any person inspect a good map of those countries, and first see the position of the land of Moab, and then that of the gulf of Suez, and he will perceive at once that the Israelites were not over against the Red Sea; and of course he will be embarrassed, or inclined to question the truth of the narrative.

It may be that the word Suf was intended for the Dead or Salt Sea. At any rate, by introducing this Hebrew word into the English version, we are sure to be right, and not expose the scriptures to the charge of error or apparent contradiction.

If the same word in Num. 21.14, refers to the same place, it ought not to be rendered Red Sea.

Cush for Ethiopia. Gen. 2.13. By following the Septuagint, in rendering the Hebrew Cush by Ethiopia, the translators have introduced confusion into the geography of the Bible; and laid the foundation for many mistakes and much skepticism. I well remember that when I supposed Ethiopia, here mentioned, to be the country now called by this name, my faith in the authenticity of the scriptures was shaken; for I could not conceive how the Euphrates and the Nile, whose sources are several thousand miles distant, could both proceed from Eden. Yet so ignorant of geography were the Greeks and Jews, that even Josephus expressly refers the river Gibon, which “encompassed the whole land of Ethiopia,” to the Nile. But there is no difficulty in determining this to be a great mistake.

Cush in Hebrew is in Chaldee Cuth, and the word in the passage under consideration is undoubtedly the Cuthah and Cuth, mentioned in 2 Kings 17.24, 30, the country from which Salmaneser drew inhabitants to re-people Samaria, after the captivity of the ten tribes. It is very probable that the Cossei mentioned by Pliny, Lib. vi.27, were the inhabitants of the same country. This author informs us that the Cossei inhabited the country eastward of the Susiani in Persia. He also mentions the river Eulaeus, the Ulai of Daniel, the prophet; and says that this river separates the Elymais from the Susiani.

In Isaiah 11.11, we read that the Israelites were to be recovered from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar. Cush is here named in connection with Elam and Shinar, as well as with Egypt; and Ethiopia, now so called, cannot be intended by Cush, as the Israelites were never dispersed into that country; at least, not to any extent, at that period.

In Isaiah 37.9, we find mention made of Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia, or Cush, which must have been the same country, as this king was making war upon the king of Assyria. Now if Cush here mentioned was the modern Ethiopia, then the Ethiopians of Abyssinia had made war upon Sennacherib, which cannot be supposed.

There was another Cush, which is frequently mentioned in the scriptures. This was in Arabia. Moses, when in Midian, near the Red Sea, married a woman called an Ethiopian, but really a Cushite, one of that nation in Arabia, which invaded Judea in the reign of Asa, with an immense army. These people or their country are mentioned by the prophets in connection with Egypt and Midian. Gen. 10.6; Hab. 3.7; Is. 43.3. With Philistia and Tyre. Ps. 87.4. With the Lubims and Libyans. 2 Chr. 16.8; Dan. 11.43.

Ezek. 29.10. “I will make the land of Egypt waste and desolate, from the tower of Syene to the border of Ethiopia.” This Ethiopia, Cush, cannot be the modern Ethiopia, for Syene was at the extreme border of Egypt on the south, nearly contiguous to Ethiopia, and if the word Cush had been intended for the modern Ethiopia, the district of country here described would not have included Egypt, the country to which the prophecy was applied.

In 2 Chr. 21.16, we read of Arabians that were near the Ethiopians.

We have then clear evidence that the word Cush, in the scriptures, refers to two countries, one in Persia, and the other in Arabia; neither of which was the modern Ethiopia. Whether the word, in any passage, refers to the modern Ethiopia, is a question that it is not necessary to discuss in this note.

The modern Ethiopians are descendants of Arabians. This fact I can affirm from some knowledge of their language, no small part of which is Arabic. The name Abyssinia is modern. It is stated to be formed from an Arabic word habas or chabas, to be black, and a derivative from this is said to signify a mixed multitude. See Castel’s Heptaglot Lexicon. However this may be, the modern Ethiopians are descendants from Arabians; but whether they bore the name Cush, as being the offspring of the Arabian Cushim, or on account of their color, is not a question of much importance.

To prevent any mistake from a mistranslation of the name, I have uniformly introduced, into the text of this work, the Hebrew Cush, except in one instance, Jer. 13.23, where the word refers to color only, without reference to place. The word Cush is said to signify black, and if so, Ethiops, black face, is a translation of the name. By introducing Cush into the text, we are sure to be correct. But as no country except Abyssinia is now known as Ethiopia, if the reader of the Bible understands Ethiopia as referring to that country only, he will be many times led into error. Most of the passages of scripture in which Cush is mentioned, certainly have reference to a country in Persia, or to a territory in Arabia.

Shadow. There is an established distinction in the significations of shade and shadow, which is entirely disregarded in our version of the scriptures. Perhaps the distinction was not known in England, at the time the version was made. Shadow is the obscurity made by the interception of light by an object, in the figure or shape of the object. Shade is a like obscurity without reference to figure. Shade is used when protection only from the rays of the sun is intended. The farmer, to cool and refresh himself, says, I will go into the shade of a tree--never into the shadow. Hence, when there is no reference to figure, but to protection only, the word shade should always be used. Hence the impropriety of the phrase shadow of death. Death is the absence of life, a mere negation of being. In the phrase, shadow of death, shadow is a figurative word denoting total darkness, deep gloom, and for this idea, the established usage now requires the plural, the shades of death. Shadow in the sense of a faint resemblance is correct, as it has reference to form, or figure. Col. 2.17; Is. 4.6; 25.4; Dan. 4.12; Hosea 4.13; Jonah 4.5, 6; Heb. 8.5; 10.1.

Of. In the use of this word, a great change has taken place, since the present version was made. Its original signification is from; but in present use in the scriptures, it is equivalent, in many passages, to concerning; in many others, to by; in others, to from; and in some passages, its signification is, at first view, ambiguous. Thus, to be sick of a thing, is generally understood to mean, to be disgusted with it or tired of it; but to be sick of a fever or of love, in scripture, is to be affected by it as the cause. In the latter sense, I have substituted with for of. Cant. 2.5; Matt. 8.14.

In numerous passages, of has the sense of concerning. See Acts 13.29; Jude 3.

In many passages, it signifies by. Acts 23.10; 2 Cor. 3.2.

In Matt. 2.15, it must be rendered from. “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet.” What was spoken was from the Lord by the prophet.

In many passages, its meaning may be easily mistaken. Jer. 34.4. “Thus saith the Lord of thee;” not Zedekiah’s Lord, but concerning thee. See also chap. 36.30, and John 7.17, 18; 2 Tim. 2.2, and numerous other passages.

Of sometimes denotes belonging to, or apart of. 1 Cor. 12.15.

The substitution of another word for of, in order to present the true meaning at first view, is necessary in a multitude of passages. In many phrases, however, the word continues to retain its original sense.

Tenses. At the time the present version of the scriptures was made, the form of the verb which most of our English Grammars arrange in the present tense of the subjunctive mode was in more general use than it has been for the last century; thus, if thou be, if he be, though he have. This form of the verb is most common in the version of the scriptures; but is far from being uniformly used. The translators seem to have been guided by no rule; and their discrepancies are numerous. James 1.26. “If any man among you seem to be religious and bridleth not his tongue.” See Gen. 4.7; Job 35.6; Deut. 24.3, 7; Gen. 47.6; Lev. 25.14; 6.2, 3; Prov. 22.27; 24.10, 11, 12; 1 Cor. 7.12, 13; John 9.31, and many other passages.

So familiar was the subjunctive form of the verb to the translators, and so little regard had they to any rule for using it, that in the New Testament they have usually rendered the Greek indicative by the English subjunctive; as if thou be, for if thou art. See Matt 4.6; 5.29,30, and numerous other passages.

In this subjunctive form of the verb, no distinction is made between the present and future time of an action. If thou be, may stand for if thou art or if thou shalt be. And such is the fact in a multitude of passages. More generally, the subjunctive form is really an elliptical future. Lev. 25.14. “If thou sell aught to thy neighbor;” si vendideritis, if thou shalt sell. Matt. 7.9. “If thy son ask bread;” si petierit panem. But so heedless of rules were the translators, that in the verse just cited from Leviticus, they have in the second clause given the indicative, “If thou sell aught, or buyest aught.”

This subjunctive form of the verb in the present tense had, to a great extent, fallen into disuse, in the days of Addison, who, with the best authors of that and the next generation, generally used the indicative form of the verb to express acts, conditional or hypothetical, in present time. I have followed their example, as it is conformable to the most general usage of the present age; and by using shall or will to express future time, have attempted to render obvious a real distinction in time, which is not so obvious in the subjunctive form of the verb. In the language of modern statutes, both in Great Britain and in the United States, the practice is uniformly to use shall. If a man shall trespass, if he shall be guilty of theft.

In the use of shall and should for will and would, the errors of the version are very numerous. Shall in the first person foretells, in the second and third it promises, determines, threatens or commands. The phrases, you shall go, he shall go, imply authority in the speaker to promise what the person shall do, or to command him. Hence we never use such language to superiors. No person says to his father, or to a ruler, you shall do this or that. Such language is used only to inferiors or persons subject to authority. Hence the extreme impropriety of such phrases as the following, Gen. 41.16, God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace. Neh. 4.20, “Our God shall fight for us.” When Christ said to Peter, “Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice,” he did not command him, nor promise, nor determine; he simply foretold the fact, and therefore the word will should be used.

But the translators, evidently, were guided by no rule; for they often vary the phrase, using shall in one clause of a sentence and will in another. See Deut. 7.12, 13; Luke 5.37; and 21.7; Ps. 37.4, 5, 6, compared with Ps. 41.1, 2, 3; See Ps. 16.10; and Acts 13.35, in which will is used in the former and shall in the latter. A great number of similar discrepancies occur in the version, and it is probable that in my attempts to correct them, some have been overlooked. In Ps. 17.15, will is used for shall, “I will behold.”

Equally faulty is the use of should for would in many passages; but this fault is less frequent than the use of shall for will. Heb. 8.4. “For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest;” verse 7, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.” John 13.11, “For he knew who should betray him.” Such use of should is not good English, nor does it express the true sense, as should implies duty, equivalent to ought. See Job 13.5; John 6.64, 71; Acts 23.27; 28.6.

Should is used for would, Ezra 10.5.

This improper use of the auxiliaries renders the translation inaccurate in hundreds of instances.

Plunder for spoil. The verb to spoil is susceptible of different senses. In our version, it generally signifies to plunder, pillage or lay waste; but in our popular use, it signifies to injure so as to render useless, by any means. To “spoil a tent,” would not always suggest to an unlettered reader the sense of plundering. I have therefore, in some passages, substituted seize, plunder or lay waste. Isa. 13.16; 33.1; and others.

Edom for Idumea. In two passages, our version has Idumea for Edom, the Greek for the Hebrew. I have retained the Hebrew word, as this will prevent the unlearned reader from supposing Edom and Idumea to be different countries. Isa. 34.5, 6.

Lord of the whole earth. In Micah 4.13, there is a misprint in the present version; the word Lord in the last line being in capitals, as if the original were Jehovah. This is a mistake. I have inserted Jehovah in the former part of the verse, according to the Hebrew, and Lord, in small letters, in the latter part.

Meeting. 1 Sam. 9.14. The importance of avoiding the use of words and phrases of equivocal signification must be obvious. When I was examining the proof sheets of this work, my grand daughter, fourteen years of age was reading the passage above referred to; at the words “Samuel came out against them,” she remarked that it was strange “Samuel should come out against Saul,” when they were friends. Her first impression was, that the words express enmity, as that is the most obvious signification of the phrase. I availed myself of the suggestion, and inserted the word meeting before them.

Benjaminite. Benjamin, son of the right hand. What could have induced the translators to reject a part of the last syllable, a component part of the word, and write Benjamite? I have reinstated the rejected letters, and added the usual termination.

In 2 Chron. 13.19, there a is mistake in the English, French and Italian versions, Ephraim for the Hebrew Ephron, which I have corrected. The Septuagint is correct.

In our version of the scriptures, as in most British books, a very common error is to use intransitive verbs in the passive form, as he is perished; they were escaped; he is fled; the year was expired; they were departed.

There is no error in British writers so common and so prominent as this, borrowed probably from the French, in which it is the established usage. Dr. Lowth noticed this fault sixty or seventy years ago, but the practice continues.

The passive form of the verb always implies the action of an agent. When a word is spoken or written, the implication is, that some person has spoken or written it. But when we say “The day was expired,” the question occurs, who expired it? When it is said “counsel is perished,” the question is, who perished it?

Escape and return are sometimes transitive and sometimes intransitive. Return, when transitive, admits of the passive form. “The letter was returned.” But the passive form of the verb when intransitive, is improper, as, “If she is returned to her father’s house.” Escape, though sometimes transitive, never I believe, admits the passive form.

It is remarkable that the people of this country, at least in the northern states, in which my observations have been most extensive, rarely fall into this error. Even our common people uniformly say, he has perished, he has returned, the time has expired, the man has fled.

I have corrected this error in the present edition of the Bible; with the exception in some instances of the passive form of come and gone, and occasionally of one or two others, which seems to be too generally used and well established, to be wholly rejected.

It has been justly observed by Dr. Campbell, that the words kingdom of heaven and of God, have different significations in the New Testament, which ought to be distinguished. I have not altered the text, but have, in some instances, inserted an explanatory note in the margin, corresponding with his ideas.

In the language of our version, many small words are used, which, in my opinion, are superfluous. In such a phrase as “go forth out of,” forth and out of, are synonymous, or so nearly so as to render the use of both unnecessary. I have in some cases retrenched a word in such phrases; and further retrenchments may be made with advantage. The employment of many small words in this manner, when not necessary to convey the meaning, serves to impair the force of expression.

There are some passages in which the construction is very awkward; and in a few instances, it leads to a wrong signification. In such cases, I have transposed the clauses in such a manner as to place together the parts of a sentence which are closely connected in sense. See 2 Chr. 32.23; Ps. 4.8; Jer. 5.17; 32.30; John 19.16, 20; Luke 23.8; 32.53; Matt. 16.12; 14.9; Rom. 15.31; Deut. 21.8; Isa. 15.5; John 1.45.

In the New Testament I have altered the Greek orthography of a few names, and made them conformable to the orthography of the Old Testament; as, that of Elias to Elijah; Esaias to Isaiah; Osee to Hosea, &c. This will prevent illiterate persons, who compose a large part of the readers of the scriptures, from mistaking the characters. Every obstacle to a right understanding of the scriptures, however small, should be removed, when it can be done in consistency with truth.

There are many verbal alterations which, it is believed, will appear so obviously proper, that no explanation need be offered. A few other alterations would have been made had the propriety of them occurred, before the sheets were printed.

Rom. 8.19, 20, 21. I have been perhaps over-cautious in retaining the present version of this passage. It is obvious to me that the pointing of the Greek copies is wrong. There should be no point between the last word in verse 20 and the first in verse 21, and the word that should be substituted for because. The mistake doubtless proceeded from considering the Greek oti as a conjunction; a mistake that has been the cause of hundreds of errors in the Vulgate. So in our version, Luke 1.45.


In no respect does the present version of the scriptures require amendments, more than in the use of many words and phrases which cannot now be uttered, especially in promiscuous company, without violence to decency. In early stages of society, when men are savage or half civilized, such terms are not offensive: but in the present state of refinement, the utterance of many words and passages of our version is not to be endured; and it is well known that some parents do not permit their children to read the scriptures, without prescribing to them the chapters. To retain such offensive language, in the popular version, is, in my view, injudicious, if not unjustifiable; for it gives occasion to unbelievers and to persons of levity, to cast contempt upon the sacred oracles, or call in question their inspiration; and this weapon is used with no inconsiderable effect.

Further, many words and phrases are so offensive, especially to females, as to create a reluctance in young persons to attend Bible classes and schools, in which they are required to read passages which cannot be repeated without a blush; and containing words which, on other occasions, a child could not utter without rebuke. The effect is, to divert the mind from the matter to the language of the scriptures, and thus, in a degree, frustrate the purpose of giving instruction.

Purity of mind is a christian virtue that ought to be carefully cherished; and purity of language is one of the guards which protect this virtue.

I have attempted to remove, in a good degree, this objection to the version. It was my wish to make some further alterations in this particular; but difficulties occurred which I could not well remove.

See Gen. 20.18; 29.31; 30.22; 34.30; 38.9, 24; Exod. 7.18; 16.24; Levit. 19.29; 21.7; Deut. 22.21; 23.1; 28.57; Judges 2.17; 1 Sam. 1.5; 1 Kings 14.10; 16.11; 21.21; 2 Kings 9.8; 18.27; Job 3.10, 11, 12; 40.17; Ps. 22.9, 10; 38.5; 106.39; Eccles. 11.5; Isa. 36.12; Ezek. ch. 16; and 23; John 11.39; Eph. 5.5, &c.

A note on Webster’s euphemisms —

  The verses that Webster lists from Genesis 20, 29, 30, 1 Sam 1, and Job 3 contain in the KJV the expressions “closed up the womb” and “opened the womb,” which Webster replaces with “made barren” and “made fruitful,” perhaps because the “opening of the womb” seemed like a reference to private parts. In any case, this Hebrew idiom need not be translated literally.

  In Psalm 22 Webster changes “took me out of the womb” to “brought me forth into life,” and in Ecclesiastes 11 “grow in the womb” is replaced by “conception.” It is hard to see why the KJV in these places would be considered offensive. He leaves many other references to the womb unchanged, as in Luke 11:27, which he renders “Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps which nourished thee,” and Luke 23:29, “the wombs that never bore, and the breasts which never nourished infants.” In Deuteronomy 28:57 the indelicate expression “her young one that cometh out from between her feet” becomes “her own offspring.”

  In Genesis 34, Exodus 7, Exodus 16, Psalm 38, and John 11, the crude word “stink” is replaced with the words “odious,” “putrefy,” and “offensive.”

  In Genesis 38, Leviticus 19, 21, Deuteronomy 22, Judges 2, Psalm 106, Ezekiel 16, 23, and Ephesians 5, the offensive words are “whοredom,” “whοre,” “went a whοring,” and “whοremonger,” which Webster replaces with the less offensive words “lewdness,” “lewd woman,” “harlot,” “went astray,” and “lewd person.”

  In Genesis 38:9 “spilled it on the ground” is replaced with “frustrated the purpose.” In Deuteromy 23:1 “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off” is changed to “He that is wounded or mutilated in his secrets.” In Job 40 the word “stones” becomes “male οrgans.” In the books of Kings the offensive expressions are “him that pιsseth against the wall” and “drink their own pιss,” which are replaced by “males” and “excretions.”

  It cannot be said that Webster “bowdlerized” the Bible to any great extent with these few changes. Many things that would not have escaped a more zealous bowdlerizer’s attention he left unchanged (such as the KJV’s wording in Song 8:10). Probably he was simply unwilling to tamper as much with the sacred text as would be necessary to make it fully conform to modern habits of polite discourse.