Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Hebraisms in the King James Bible

The KJV preserves lexicographical and syntactical Hebraisms (William Rosenau, Hebraisms in the Authorized Version of the Bible).[i]  Many contemporary translations, in an attempt to make the Bible sound more familiar to readers, dilute the Hebrew feel of the Bible. Much of the peculiarity of the language of the KJV is due to its faithful mimicry of the Hebrew language. Some Hebraic expressions such as the Hebraic anticipatorial accusative (“God saw the light, that it was good” Genesis 1:4) and Hebraic double prepositions (“Abram went up out of Egypt” Genesis 13:1) are completely removed even in translations that are purported to be essentially literal, such as the NASB and the ESV.  Acclaimed Greek teacher John Dobson, author of Learn New Testament Greek, 3rd ed., invites his students to pay close attention to the Hebraic influence in the Greek New Testament. Due to his apparent preference for dynamic translations, he does not seem to prefer the KJV. However, he acknowledges that the KJV “follows Hebrew style more closely than a modern translator would normally do” (305).[ii]

From Why read the Bible in the King James Version?, with footnotes added.

[i] A Hebraism is a Hebrew idiom or expression; an expression or construction distinctive of the Hebrew language; a linguistic element borrowed from Hebrew by another language, including words, phrases, and language traits.
[ii] Dobson gives an example of translating εγενετο in Luke 1:5 as “it came to pass,” which he notes “is English of the style of the Authorized Version, which itself follows Hebrew style more closely than a modern translator would normally do.” (Oddly, considering his comment, the King James does not translate εγενετο as it came to pass in that verse.)

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