Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Language Difficulties in the AV

After four centuries the 1611 translation is still unmatched as the purest expression of the Word of God and as the greatest literary masterwork in the English language.  There have been a few shifts in meaning and usage over the years, but they are not many and not difficult to comprehend.  Here are a few points that some people have difficulty with.

Cattle – domestic livestock of any kind.  Sheep and goats were called small cattle.  What we call cattle today were known as large cattle.
Communicate – to share, to give
Conversation – a person’s manner of living.
Conversant among – living among
Corn – grain of any kind.
To let – to hinder or prevent.
Meat – food of any kind.
Offense, offend – translations of the noun and verb forms of Greek skandalos – a stumbling block, to cause to stumble.
Ouches – sockets in which precious stone are set.
Outlandish – foreign.
Pottage – a broth (because it was made in a pot.
Privy – secret.
Privy to – to know what is secret.
Schoolmaster – translation of Greek pedagogos – originally a slave used to protect children on their way to school, and a disciplinarian to make sure they did go to school.  In English usage the headmaster of a school supervised and disciplined the students.  It does not mean a teacher.
Seethe – boil.
To wit – to know. wot and wist are past tense forms.

Thee, thou, thy, thine – second person singular pronouns, no longer used in current English, having been replaced by the second person plural forms: You, ye, your and yours.
– These singular pronouns were used when addressing one person.  The plural forms, You, ye, your and yours were also generally used as a form of respect when addressing a person of higher rank.  The use by Jesus of the singular pronouns in the Lord’s prayer is an invitation to address God in a personal, intimate manner, as a child who has no doubt of a father’s love.
– Verses such as 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit dwelleth in you?” refer to the church.  Ye and you are plural, referring to many, temple is singular (the temple).  The meaning is the same as in Romans 12:5: “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”

The subjunctive mood – Educators say there is no such thing in English and hence refuse to teach it.  Nevertheless, we use it all the time, whether we know it or not.  When we say to a brother or sister in Christ, “May God bless you!” we are using the subjunctive mood.  When we say, “If I were in your shoes . . . “ we are using the subjunctive.
– The subjunctive mood can be best described as an expression of non-reality.  Not unreality, as in something that is impossible, but non-reality as in something that is not presently true, but could be.  In many cases it is an expression that we wish it to be true, as when say “May God bless you” to a brother or sister in the faith.  We cannot make it so, but we wish it to be so.
– Expressions of the subjunctive mood often begin with may or let, but not always.  The first three clauses of the Lord’s prayer, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven, are all subjunctive.  There is not abundant evidence of God’s will being done on earth, but yet it is our ardent desire that it should be so.
– Sometimes the subjunctive mood is virtually the same as the imperative, as when Pilate was faced with a howling mob, shouting “Let him be crucified!”  (Matthew 27:22 & 23).
– “Let no man despise thy youth” (1 Timothy 4:12) is an admonition to Timothy to conduct himself in such a way that no one would have cause to find fault with him because of his youth.


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