One of the articles of my faith states, in part, “we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly…”
Today I gained a deeper understanding of this when I noticed the italics in many verses of the Bible.
Italics are usually used for emphasis, but it seemed odd to have words like "to be" "of" and "to him" in italics. Why should I pay attention to those little words?
"If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?" - John 3:12
In my faith, we study The King James version of the Bible. According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, this version was the most accurate English-language version in existence.
While this may have been true in the 1830’s, scholars of many faiths now have the ability to accurately translate from almost any language into another. Often, groups of highly educated people have gone back to original editions of the Greek and Hebrew Bible, translating them into modern English.
Yet, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – which we profess to be the true church on Earth - continue to study the KJV in our canon. Why?
A Valid Argument
The language of the KJV is archaic and at times incomprehensible. I’ve heard my friends of other faiths study more current versions of the Bible, arguing that it is more understandable to the rising generation. To continue to study a Bible that is difficult and outdated seems backward for a church that purports living prophets and gospel teachings.
However, understanding the genesis of the KJV Bible, and language in general, has clarified to my soul why God would choose this version for His people.
The Impossibility of an Exact Translation
In German there is an informal, formal, and plural “you” – but in English we only have one word: you. So if a sentence were translated from German to English, it might get confusing whether a friend, an elder, or a multitude were being addressed. On the other hand, if words are added to sentence to make the meaning clear, it would no longer be a truly accurate translation.
The translators who worked to put the Bible in hands of the English faced this type of dilemma a lot. Their solution was to use a different writing for the added words, which became italics in later editions. This would preserve the original translation, while also attempting to preserve the original meaning of the verse.
Most versions of the Bible I’ve read no longer distinguish - with italics or otherwise - added words to show interpreted meaning. But the version of the Bible I study, the KJV, still does.
While these great men did their best – and great men continue to do their best – in translating the Bible from the ancient tongues into our language today, the precise meaning of some passages cannot truly be ascertained from the words alone. Therefore, the italics should be a cue for the reader to pause and pray for individual understanding that God intended each of us to obtain when reading scripture.
And we know He answers prayers.
I write about, with, for, and around kids all day. (Well, maybe I do the dishes too. Sometimes.)