What are some of the English words used in the KJV that have changed in meaning since it was translated?

The King James translation of the Bible was first published in 1611, the first widely distributed Bible translation in English. The English used at that time was Early Modern English—the same as Shakespeare.

In 400-plus years, the meaning of many words used have changed, thus the need for fresh translations. For example, we no longer use "thee" and "thou" to mean "you."

Some verses with English words that have changed meaning since the KJV include:

Genesis 1:28: God tells Adam and Even to "replenish" the earth. The word replenish used to mean "to supply fully." It was not a re-filling or a filling again, as we might think of the word today; instead the re- prefix added a sense of urgency. So to "replenish" would be "to fill with urgency and enthusiasm."

Matthew 6:6: Jesus tells people to go into their "closet" to pray. The original Greek, as well as the French word from which the English derives, indicated a place well within your house, a private or a secret room. We could today say bedroom. Jesus means to get away from others and any distractions to pray. It is a private place, not necessarily a literal closet.

Acts 26:11: As Paul tells his story, he recounts the time he persecuted early believers in Jesus. The KJV says he "compelled" them to blaspheme Jesus. The Greek term used in Acts 26:11, anagkazo, is not quite as strong. It does not imply that Paul succeeded in his attempts, only that he "threatened, urged, or pushed" them to blaspheme. The Early Modern English compel, based on the Latin and French, meant "drive together." Today "compel" carries an association with an irresistible force, but that association was uncommon until the early 1900s.

Ephesians 4:22 and Psalm 37:14: Both these verses speak of "conversation" in the KJV, but the Hebrew language in Psalms and the Greek in Ephesians is more about a road—that is, the way a person travels through life rather than what is said. Conversation formerly referred to conduct or behavior in English 400 years ago.

Luke 1:36: Mary and Elizabeth have been referred to as "cousins" for centuries, but the original Greek could mean they were simply related, or only from the same area of the country. In Early Modern English, "cousin" was a broader term than it is today. In fact, it could refer to anyone outside of immediate family.

Other verses include Luke 2:46 where the old "doctors" means "teachers," Galatians 3:1 where "bewitchment" means "leading astray," Acts 21:15 where "carriages" means "luggage," Luke 23:23 where "instant" means "insistent" or "urgent," Psalm 5:6 where "leasing" means "deceit," and Mark 7:27 where "meet" means "fitting" or "proper." There are many others, of course.

Now, the KJV isn't necessarily wrong, just outdated in places. Those who use it should take care not to read into each and every word what they would mean in today's English without checking it out.


Related Truth:

What is the KJV only movement? Should we only use the KJV words Version of the Bible?

Why are there so many Bible translations?

What are the different English Bible translations?

What Bible translation should I use?

Who was the King James of the King James Version of the Bible?


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