QUESTION: I've heard that
the italicized words in the King James Bible should be removed because
they were added by the translators. Should they be removed?
ANSWER: If we remove any
of the italicized words we must either remove them ALL or accept them
ALL as Scripture.
EXPLANATION: Following are the problems
with removing the italicized words from the Bible:
1. Anyone who has ever translated from one language to
another knows that words MUST be added to the finished
work to complete the sentence structure of the new language.
All translators do this when translating
the Bible. The King James translators were men of integrity so they
put the added words in italics.
Psalm 23:1 reads "The LORD is my shepherd"
in the King James Bible. The word "is" was added by the translators
to complete the sense of the sentence.
Psalm 23:1 in the New International Version reads, "The
LORD is my Shepherd."
So it is plain to see that both sets
of translators added the same word to complete the sentence. Yet the
King James translators put the word in italics to inform the reader
that they had added it.
John 1:8 reads, "He was not that Light, but was sent
to bear witness of that Light" in the King James Bible.
John 1:8 reads, "He was not that light, but was
sent to bear witness of that Light" in the New King James
Again both sets of translators have added
words to their translation so that it would make sense. In this case
it is the phrase "was sent." Yet again, it is the King James
translators who put their addition in italics for clarity.
Thus we see that the translators of our Bible should be
commended on their integrity and ethics for their addition of the italicized
words instead of castigated for a practice which all of
our modern "would be" scholars follow routinely.
2. Critics of the Bible, fundamental or otherwise, claim
that the italics can be removed, but NEVER remove them all. Usually
they are stumped by a passage such as the word "unknown" in
I Corinthians 14. Since they cannot explain the passage with
the italicized word in the passage they make the thoughtless
statement reproduced above and remove the problem word.
But this opens a tremendously large "can of worms"!
For if we say that italicized words do not belong in the text, we cannot
say that one italicized word should be removed from
the Bible, but we must say that ALL italicized words
must be removed from the Bible. Even the casual student of Scripture
knows that the Bible will make no sense at all if ALL
italicized words are removed.
To remove one italicized word and leave
another in is to claim Divine Inspiration in knowing
which words should go and which words should stay.
Regardless of how great a preacher, soul-winner, or scholar
might be none of us are going to bow our knees to them with the claim
that they are Divinely inspired to reject or accept
words in the Bible. If we are so foolish as to exalt a man's opinion
in such a way, who should we exalt? There are hundreds of Bible critics
who would vie for the office of "Official Divinely Inspired Bible
Corrector". Who would be the lucky person? How would we choose
him? And WHO would be so naive as to think that all
Christians would follow his decrees? Yet without his
decrees we have NO WAY OF KNOWING which italicized
words belong in the Bible and which ones do not.
So we see that overcoming problem passages will require
prayer and Bible reading instead of carelessly removing a troublesome
3. One of the classic defenses for leaving the italicized
words alone is found in II Samuel 21:19.
"And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines,
where Elhanan the son of Jaaroregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother
of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver's
By omitting the italicized words we have the Bible saying
that Elhanan killed Goliath. Of course everyone knows
that I Samuel 17 says that David killed Goliath. So we finally have
the Bible that all lost men love to refer to when they say, "The
Bible has contradictions in it".
Of course, our "Divinely Inspired Bible Corrector"
would probably say the italics in II Samuel 21:19 do not need to be
removed. But then who's to know which words to remove
or which ones to keep in unless God "appeared" to them and
4. Our fourth and best reason for not meddling with God's
choice of words for His Bible comes from none other than the Apostles
Peter and Paul and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
First, take a Bible (King James, of course) and read Psalm
16:8. I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at
my right hand, I shall not be moved.
You will notice that the two words "he is" are
in italics. Yet when we find the Apostle Peter quoting this verse in
the New Testament in Acts 2:25 we find it says:
"For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the
Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should
not be moved:"
So here we find the Apostle Peter quoting Psalm 16:8 italicized
words and all! You would almost believe that God wanted them
in there wouldn't you?
Now it might be pointed out that Peter was an unlearned
and ignorant man (Acts 4:13) and so, lacking the "benefits"
of a Bible college education, he blindly accepted the Bible (King James?)
as every word of God. But let us look at the same phenomena concerning
the Apostle Paul and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul, as did other New Testament writers, often quoted
from the Old Testament in his writings. In doing so, he quoted as did
the others directly from the Hebrew Text. We have several of Paul's
quotes which contain words not found in the Hebrew original.
In Romans 10:20 Paul quotes Isaiah 65:1.
Romans 10:20: "But Esaias is very bold, and saith,
I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them
that asked not after me."
Isaiah 65:1 "I am sought of them that asked not for
me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me,
behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name."
Yet we see that the words "them that" which
Paul quoted as though they were in Isaiah 65:1 exist
only in the italics of the King James Bible.
The same is true of I Corinthians 3:20, "And again,
The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain."
which is a quote of Psalm 94:11, "The LORD knoweth the thoughts
of man, that they are vanity." where we find the word
"are" supplied by the translators.
But the most unexplainable is Paul's quote of Deuteronomy
25:4 in I Corinthians 9:9. For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou
shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth
God take care for oxen?
Deut 25:4: "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he
treadeth out the corn."
Here we find Paul quoting the words "the corn"
just as if they had been in the Hebrew original even though they are
only found in the italics of our Authorized Version!
If one were to argue that Paul was quoting a supposed
Greek Septuagint translation of the original Hebrew, our dilemma only
worsens. For now, two perplexing questions present themselves to us.
First, if such a Greek translation ever existed, (which is not documented
in history) by what authority did the translators insert these words?
Secondly, if they were added by the translators, does Paul's quoting
of them confirm them as inspired?
While you ponder these important questions, we will note
that Jesus also quoted from what appears to have been
a King James Bible.
We find Him quoting a word that wasn't in the "originals".
In fact, a word that only exists in the italics found in the pages of
the King James Bible.
Read below, please, Deuteronomy 8:3.
"And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger,
and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers
know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only,
but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD
doth man live."
You will note that the word "word" is in italics,
meaning of course, that it was not in the Hebrew text. Upon examination
of Deuteronomy 8:3 in Hebrew one will find that the word "dabar"
which is Hebrew for "word" is not found anywhere in the verse.
Yet in His contest with Satan we find Jesus quoting Deuteronomy
9:3 as follows in Matthew 4:4.
"But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall
not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the
mouth of God."
While quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 Jesus quotes the entire
verse including the King James italicized word! Even
an amateur "scholar" can locate "ramati", a form
of "rama", which is Greek for "word", in any Greek
So, just as critics of the Bible like to joke and say,
"Well, the King James was good enough for the Apostle Paul so it's
good enough for me." A true Bible-believer can truly say, "Well,
the King James was good enough for the Apostles Peter and Paul and for
the Lord Jesus Christ, so it's good enough for me".
So we see we have three options on what to do with the
italicized words in the Bible.
(1) Remove All of them.
(2) Exalt one of our fundamental Bible critics to the
office of "Official Divinely Inspired Bible Corrector" and
then give his decrees all the weight and allegiance that we would give
to Jesus Christ.
(3) Leave all the words in our divinely
inspired Bible alone, and trust that just maybe Jesus
Christ is correct.
It's as though we had a choice.