The Italicized Words in the King James Bible

by Pastor James L. Melton

The italicized words in the King James Bible are words that were added by the translators to help the reader. This is usually necessary when translating from one language to another because word meanings and idioms change. So, to produce a more readable translation, the King James translators (1604- 1611) added certain words to the Bible text. However, to make sure that everyone understood that these words were not in the available manuscripts they set them in italics.

Imagine the confusion which would arise if the translators had not used the italicized words:

"Salvation unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah."

This is Psalm 3:8 with one italicized word omitted. As you can see, the reading implies that the Lord needs to be saved! The correct reading is:

"Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah."

Here is Psalm 7:11 with three italicized words omitted:

"God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry every day."

Is God angry with the righteous every day? No, the correct reading is as the King "God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day."

Consider Psalm 12:5 without the italics:

"For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set in safety puffeth at him."

The verse makes no sense without the italics:

"For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him."

If we subtract the italics from Psalm 18:3, we have God commanding men to call upon Him to be praised:

"I will call upon the LORD, to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies."

Yet, if we leave the italics in place, the verse makes perfect sense and gives the praise to God:

"I will call upon the LORD, who is worthyto be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies."

Note Psalm 34:16-17 without the italicized words:

"The face of the LORD against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. Cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles."

This reading allows those that do evil to be delivered from all their troubles, but the italics give a whole new meaning:

"The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles."

Just from these few examples in Psalms alone, it is clear that the italics are essential. Hundreds of such examples could be presented.

Someone might suggest that some of the italics could be omitted, which may be true, but who makes that choice, and where do we draw the line? The moment we agree to changing any italicized words, we open the door for Satan. This we cannot do, so the best option is to leave the Authorized Version as it stands.

Not only does confusion arise when the italicized words are omitted, contradictions can also arise. For example, omitting the italicized words from II Samuel 21:19 would give Elhanan credit for slaying Goliath, yet everyone knows that it was David who slew Goliath. II Samuel 21:19 says:

"And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver's beam."

If we omit the words "the brother of" then we make II Samuel 21:19 contradict I Chronicles 20:5:

"And there was war again with the Philistines; and Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear staff was like a weaver's beam." (No italics!)

Another important point is that New Testament writers QUOTE from the italicized words in the Old Testament. Note the following:

Psalm 16:8 says: "I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved."

The words "he is" are in italics. When Peter quotes this verse in Acts 2:25 he also quotes the italicized words, but Luke doesn't write them in italics:

"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."

Why did Peter quote these words and why did Luke write these words if they weren't in the original manuscripts? Should we omit the italics? Not according to Peter and Luke!

In Deuteronomy 25:4, the word of God says:

"Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn."

The words "the corn" are in italics, which the sceptics claim should be omitted. However, we find Paul quoting these words 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?"

If these words do not belong in Deuteronomy 25:4, why did Paul quote them?

It is easy to claim that the italicized words do not belong in the King James Bible, but proving it is altogether a different story. May God help us to spend more time reading and believing our King James Bible and less time speaking critically of it.

Copyright © 2001 James L. Melton

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