Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Rod of God and Moses

Moses and the call of God

  • Exodus 4:2-4, 17 There is a rod in Moses’s hand
  • Exodus 4:20 Moses’s rod is also the rod of God

The rod is associated with Moses’s stretched out hand, and Moses’s stretched out hand is associated with the stretched out hand of God. (Cf. Exodus 7:19; 8:5, 17; 9:22; 10:12, 21; 14:16, 26)

God uses what we have, and what we have belongs to God.

Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh
  • Exodus 7:9-13 The rod becomes a serpent
  • Exodus 7:14-20 The rod and rivers to blood
  • Exodus 8:5-6 The rod and frogs
  • Exodus 8:16-17 The rod and lice
  • Exodus 9:22-23 The rod and hail
  • Exodus 10:12-13 The rod and locusts
  • Exodus 10:21-22 The rod and darkness
God judges Egypt and its gods. He demonstrates his sovereignty and power, using Moses, Aaron, and the rod of God and Moses.

Moses and the journey into the wilderness

  • Exodus 14:15-28  The rod, Moses, the Israelites, and the Red Sea
  • Exodus 17:5-6 The rod, Moses, and the water from the rock in Horeb
  • Exodus 17:8-13 The rod, Moses, Joshua, Aaron, Hur, and the Amalekites
  • Numbers 20:7-11 The rod, Moses, and the water from the rock, the second time

God divides the Israelites from the Egyptians. The God who brings them out will bring them through (Hebrews 7:25). God quenches the thirst of his people, both physically and spiritually (John 7:37). The rod of God and Moses demonstrates the work of unity. We are laborers together with God (1 Corinthians 3:9). We can and do misuse what God has given us. With greater light comes great responsibility (Luke 12:48).

Concluding thoughts

In Moses’s hand, God used a dry stick. The rod was not a magic wand, but a demonstration of the power of God. God also answered prayer, instead of Moses using the stick. Compare Exodus 10:18-19, for example, where God answered Moses’s earnest prayer with a miracle. Put what we have in our hand in the hand of God. Shamgar had an ox goad (Judges 3:31). Ehud had a dagger in his left hand (Judges 3:15). Gideon and his army had only trumpets and lamps (Judges 7:19). Dorcas had a needle and thread (Acts 9:39). Ezekiel prophesied to dry bones and they lived (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Zechariah 4:6

Monday, May 30, 2022

9 Things You May Not Know About Memorial Day

9 Things You May Not Know About Memorial Day, from
In May 1868, General John A. Logan, the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ group known as the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a decree that May 30 should become a nationwide day of commemoration for the more than 620,000 soldiers killed in the recently ended Civil War. On Decoration Day, as Logan dubbed it, Americans should lay flowers and decorate the graves of the war dead “whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

And since 2000, when the U.S. Congress passed legislation, all Americans are encouraged to pause for a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time.

Chiasm and TR

“I think that word counts strongly support the Textus Receptus – a conclusion noted by others too including Gioacchino Michael Cascione in his book ‘Repetition in the Bible’. I have found many, many examples where the word count in the TR supports a chiasm but e.g. Nestle-Aland doesn’t, but so far have found no examples where the reverse is the case.”
Biblical chiasm expert, Stewart Fleming

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Our dear Lord has mixt the cup

In December of 1832 and 1833, Gilbert and Phebe Ann Cunningham Beebe lost two children, first 1-year old James Moore Beebe and then 6-year old Robert George Beebe about a year later. “The following lines were written on the death of two children, the one expired without a struggle or groan, – the other languished in severe distress for eleven weeks.”

From the death of these children Beebe, a Baptist elder, wrote the following lines. I believe these lines could be a fine church hymn on the providence and sovereignty of God. For that reason, I removed stanzas four and five as too specific for congregational use. For the entire poem, look HERE.

The hymn is Long Meter. I suggest the tune Kedron. However, the tunes Hamburg and Hebron are likely more familiar to more congregations, so more useful for that reason.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

1. Call’d as we are to bear thy rod,
Thou ever faithful cov’nant God;
Thy grace impart, that we may feel
Submissive, at thy sovereign will.

2. It is thy right, thou Lord of heaven,
To take from us what thou hast given, –
Remand our offspring to the dust,
And teach our hearts in thee to trust.

3. Twice in the circuit of this year,
Thy chast’nings we’ve been call’d to bear –
Yet all is right; we bless thy name,
Nor of thy Providence complain.

4. But why fond nature dost thou pore*
Their suf'’rings, languishing are o’er.
And soon of us, it shall be said
They’re mingl’d with the slumb’ring dead.

5. Hush Lord the murm’rings of our mind,
May we through mercy be resign’d,
To all thy will, to all thy ways,
And in affliction give thee praise.

6. Since our dear Lord has mixt the cup
Be still, our souls and drink it up;
Jehovah has our good in view,
He’ll give us grace and bear us through.

* pore = to gaze intently

Saturday, May 28, 2022

What Rules the World

Blessings on the hand of woman!
Angels guard her strength and grace,
In the palace, cottage, hovel,
Oh, no matter where the place.
Would that never storms assailed it,
Rainbows ever gently curled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

Infancy’s the tender fountain,
Power may with beauty flow,
Mothers first to guide the streamlets,
From them souls unresting grow—
Grow on for good or evil,
Sunshine streamed or darkness hurled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

Woman, how divine your mission
Here upon our natal sod;
Keep, oh, keep the young heart open
Always to the breath of God!
All true trophies of the ages
Are from mother-love impearled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

Blessings on the hand of women!
Fathers, sons, and daughters cry,
And the sacred song is mingled
With the worship in the sky—
Mingled where no tempest darkens,
Rainbows evermore are curled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

William Ross Wallace (1819-1881) wrote “What Rules the World.” Sources indicate it was first submitted to and published in various magazines in 1865. The earliest I found it at was 1873. The magazines in which the poem was published are probably not on that site.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Simonides and Sinaiticus

I noticed earlier this month a member of the Baptist Board mentioned the provenance of the Codex Sinaiticus. He mentioned that there is a new argument that has been popping up – Sinaiticus is not a 4th century document but rather a more modern fake. While several jumped on this to defend the provenance of Sinaiticus, no one pointed out that this is not a new discussion.

“Constantine Simonides has turned up again, and accuses Professor Tischendorf of passing off as an original manuscript of the Codex Sinaiticus sundry excerpts transcribed, proprio manu, by him, Simonides, when employed as calligraphist to a Greek monastery at Mount Athos. The Tischendorfites fiercely deny the charge of Simonides, and a paper war is being kept up on the subject.”

The Guardian, Tuesday, December 30, 1862, p. 3

Help Now O Lord, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Blue Letter Bible Greek texts

Blue Letter Bible is a free, searchable online Bible program providing access to many different Bible translations. It includes at least three Greek texts (as well as one each Hebrew, Latin, and Spanish.
  • Blue Letter Bible Morphological Greek New Testament (mGNT) This Greek text is very similar to the Nestle-Aland 27th edition text.
  • Textus Receptus (TR) The Textus Receptus (Latin, “Received Text”) is the Greek text originally compiled by Erasmus around 1516. Though the earliest work was prepared by Desiderius Erasmus, his work was later revised by Robert Estienne (or, Stephanus) and further revised by Theodore Beza. The text produced by each is substantially the same, aside from some minor variations. The Blue Letter Bible utilizes Stephanus’ edition from 1550.
  • Septuagint Greek Old Testament (LXX) Data files from the University of Pennsylvania Center for Computer Analysis of Texts (CCAT) and their Septuagint Greek Old Testament.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Christian urban myth: John Calvin’s brother-in-law

Even the online Encyclopedia Britannica repeats this questionable information – “William Whittingham, the brother-in-law of Calvin’s wife” – but I have never seen anyone attempt to prove it to be so. Here is the way it is explained in the Dictionary of National Biography, page 153.

“In the inscription placed on Whittingham’s tomb he is said to have been described as ‘maritus Catherinæ sororis Johannis Calvini theologi’ (Hutchinson, Durham, ii. 151), and this statement has been commonly repeated. Calvin is, however, not known to have had a sister named Catherine (cf. Galiffe, Notices Généalogiques, iii. 106 sqq.), no allusion to the supposed relationship has been found in the works of either Calvin or Whittingham, and chronology makes the supposition almost impossible. Similar objections apply to the statement that Whittingham’s wife was sister of Calvin’s wife; the latter was Idolette de Bures, the widow of a Strasburg anabaptist whom Calvin married in 1540; whereas Whittingham’s wife Catherine, daughter of Louis Jaqueman ‘and heire to her mother beinge the heire of Genteron [or Gouteron] in Orleance’ (Genealogist, i. 309), was probably born not before 1535 and married to Whittingham on 15 Nov. 1556.

In obitum doctissimi viri Gulielmi Whittingham, decani olim Dunelmensis, Mariti Catherinae sororis Johannis Calvin theologi, qui obiit anno 1579.

On the death of the most learned man William Whittingham, formerly dean of Durham, the husband of Catherine the sister of theologian John Calvin, who died in 1579.

was buried in the cathedral church of Durham; soon after was a tomb-stone laid over his grave, with an epitaph of twelve long and short verses, engraven on a brass plate, fastened thereto; which, with most, if not all of the monuments, which were set up after his time, were miserably defaced by the Scots, when they invaded England, in 1640...”

“Dean Whittingham died at Durham, on the 10th of June, 1579, and was interred in the cathedral church: The inscription* given in the notes was placed upon his monument, which, soon after its erection, met with the same fate as he had treated others.”


Type “William Whittingham John Calvin brother-in-law” into the Google Search engine and in a second you will have “About 324,000 results” (not in quotes, and as of April 4, 2022). These results, pages upon pages, fill up with words such as “William Whittingham, the brother-in-law of John Calvin” and “Calvin’s brother-in-law, William Whittingham.”[i] 


William Whittingham (c. 1524-1579) fled England in response to Catholic Queen Mary’s bloody persecution. He went to Geneva, where he was primarily responsible for the Geneva translation of the New Testament. In telling the story of the Geneva Bible, it is glorious (apparently) to repeat the fact that Whittingham was John Calvin’s brother-in-law. But was he? I have also repeated this factoid. However, while researching the Geneva Bible, I discovered that this appears to be a “Christian urban myth.” It will be hard to overcome, spread out all over the internet as it is, including in what should be considered reliable sources. In a biography of Whittingham edited by Mary Anne Everett Green, we find:

“During his residence in Orleans, he married Catherine, daughter of Lewis Jaqueman, and sister to the wife of John Calvin the reformer, but the date of the marriage is uncertain. Her mother was daughter and heir of Gouteron, lord of Inguir and Turvyle, near Orleans.” [ii]

As reputable a source as the online Encyclopedia Britannica repeats this information – “William Whittingham, the brother-in-law of Calvin’s wife.” But, again, is it so? I think not. Notice the following.

Though Green cites Athenæ Oxonienses by Anthony Wood as her source, it does not appear that Wood actually says that. Here is what he writes:

“About that time [circa 1550, rlv], if I mistake not, he took to wife Katharine the daughter of Lewis Jacqueine, by his wife, the heir of Gouteron lord of Ingrue and Turvyle near to the said city of Orleans.” [iii]

Neither is there any “allusion to the supposed relationship has been found in the works of either Calvin or Whittingham,” according to the Dictionary of National Biography. However, that work does pinpoint the source of the information – a no longer extant supposed inscription on the tomb of Whittingham that read “maritus Catherinæ sororis Johannis Calvini theologi” (or “maritus sororis Johannis Calvini theologi”).[iv]

The inscription confused B. F. Westcott. He tried to find an explanation for it. He wrote:

“The inscription on Whittingham’s tomb in Durham Cathedral described him as ‘maritus sororis Johannis Calvini theologi.’  But it is clear that his wife was not Calvin’s sister, for in her will ‘Loys Jacqueeman’ is mentioned as her father. She must therefore in all probability have been his wife’s sister. Calvin married a widow, Idelette de Buren, and her maiden name is not recorded. But the inscription which was contemporary admits of no other interpretation.” [v]

The long and short of this is that the words say that Whittingham was married to Calvin’s sister – which is not correct or possible. Westcott acknowledges that is the correct meaning of the Latin. However, he infers then that Whittingham’s wife must have been the sister of Calvin’s wife (which also is not correct or possible). Westcott fails to mention other possibilities, including that the no longer extant inscription may have been passed down incorrectly, copied down wrong, engraved incorrectly, did not exist, or any other explanation.[vi]

The British Dictionary of National Biography (page 153) describes and resolves the problem in this way:

“In the inscription placed on Whittingham’s tomb he is said to have been described as ‘maritus Catherinæ sororis Johannis Calvini theologi’ (Hutchinson, Durham, ii. 151), and this statement has been commonly repeated. Calvin is, however, not known to have had a sister named Catherine (cf. Galiffe, Notices Généalogiques, iii. 106 sqq.), no allusion to the supposed relationship has been found in the works of either Calvin or Whittingham, and chronology makes the supposition almost impossible. Similar objections apply to the statement that Whittingham’s wife was sister of Calvin’s wife; the latter was Idolette de Bures, the widow of a Strasburg anabaptist whom Calvin married in 1540; whereas Whittingham’s wife Catherine, daughter of Louis Jaqueman ‘and heire to her mother beinge the heire of Genteron [or Gouteron] in Orleance’ (Genealogist, i. 309), was probably born not before 1535 and married to Whittingham on 15 Nov. 1556.” [vii]

The inscription on Whittingham’s tomb – at least the inscription that was supposed to be on Whittingham’s tomb – seems to be the source of the legendary “common knowledge” propagated across the World Wide Web concerning Whittingham and Calvin.


The earliest source for the inscription on Whittingham’s tombstone appears to be The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham, Volume 2, by William Hutchinson (Newcastle: S. Hodgson & Messrs. Robinsons, 1787, p. 151) – written over 200 years after Whittingham’s death, and nearly 150 years after the destruction of his tomb. It seems likely the description of the inscription could have simply been corrupted over the years.

  • The inscription as passed down states that Whittingham was the husband of the sister of the theologian John Calvin. That is incorrect and requires some other explanation.
  • In their extant writings, neither William Whittingham nor John Calvin mention having any relationship to one another by marriage.
  • The best genealogical data currently available does not indicate or support the fact that Whittingham and Calvin had a relationship to one another by marriage.
  • William Whittingham married Catherine Jaquemane of Orleans in France. She was neither John Calvin’s sister nor a sister of John Calvin’s wife. John Calvin married Idelette de Bures Stordeur of Flanders in Belgium. She was not a sister to either Catherine Jaquemane or William Whittingham.

It is worth correcting or trying to correct this information rather than repeating the unproven assertion.

[i] Since Whittingham is relatively unknown, and “everybody” knows John Calvin, this fulfills a felt need of explaining the “lesser” by the “greater,” as well as a common cultural component of our understanding who someone is by their relationship to someone we know.
[ii] Life of Mr. William Whittingham, Dean of Durham: From a Ms. in Antony Wood’s Collection, Bodleian Library, Oxford, Mary Anne Everett Green, Editor. Westminster: Printed by J. B. Nichols and Sons, 1870, p. 2. 
[iv] The Scots destroyed the tombstone monuments at Durham when they invaded England in 1640 (Second Bishops’ War). 
[v] A General View of the History of the English Bible, B. F. Westcott, Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1997 (original circa 1905), p. 90.
[vi] Experienced genealogists and taphophiles soon learn that what is “written in stone” (i.e., engraved on a tomb/tombstone) is not always engraved correctly, either through bad information from the person who supplied it, or a mistake on the part of the engraver. It is, therefore, possible that what was engraved on Whittingham’s monument was in error – even if it did actually say he was Calvin’s brother-in-law. 
[vii] Dictionary of National Biography, Volume LXI, Sidney Lee, Editor. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1900, p. 153.

Two Bible Camps

It seems that among English-speaking Christians we are divided into two main Bible camps: 

  • (1) those who assert that the King James Bible is in some way the inspired and preserved words of God,
  • (2) those who assert that we do not have all the inspired and preserved words of God today (or cannot know if we have). 

I am not aware that anyone outside the “King James camp” who claim that they know they have the inspired words of God preserved in any form of which they are certain.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Christian urban myths

“Christian urban myths” seems almost like an oxymoron, but is not.

An urban myth (aka urban legend) is an often repeated story or statement widely believed to be true, which, in fact, is not true. A Christian urban myth, then, is such a legend that is repeated among Christians and/or about Christians. It has gained the aura of truth without the required proof.

No matter how many times you find these factoids online, no matter who says so – they are incorrect, sort of Christian urban myths.

  • No, translator William Whittingham was not John Calvin’s brother-in-law!
  • No, the Geneva Bible was not the primary Bible of John Bunyan!

We should require proof from those who make these and many other claims. I hope to start a series of posts from time to time dealing with some of these myths (I have already discussed Bunyan.) The first in the series will be:

John Calvin’s brother-in-law

Monday, May 23, 2022

In other words, woot and zoot

  • acclimate, verb. become accustomed to a new climate or to new conditions.
  • acronymania, noun. Fervent or excessive enthusiasm for the use of acronyms or initialisms.
  • agglutinate, verb. To unite or cause to adhere, as with glue.
  • agglutinative, adjective. Tending or having power to agglutinate or unite; (Linguistics) pertaining to or noting a language, as Turkish, characterized by agglutination.
  • boll, noun. The usually roundish pod or capsule of some plants (such as cotton or flax).
  • bolled, adjective. Producing or having bolls.
  • coquette, noun. A woman who flirts lightheartedly with men to win their admiration and affection.
  • delve, verb. Reach inside a receptacle and search for something; dig; excavate.
  • demesne, noun. Legal possession of land as one's own; land, esp surrounding a house or manor, retained by the owner for his or her own use.
  • empurple, verb. To color or become purple or purplish; to darken or redden; flush.
  • higgledy-piggledy, adverb and adjective. (adv) In a jumbled, confused, or disorderly manner; helter-skelter. (adj) Confused; jumbled.
  • machinofacture, noun. The making of articles by machine; mechanization.
  • macron, noun. A horizontal line used as a diacritic over a vowel to indicate that it has a long sound, or other specified pronunciation.
  • solecism, noun. The nonstandard use of a grammatical construction; any mistake, incongruity, or absurdity.
  • statolatry, noun. Worship of the state; advocacy of a highly centralized and all-powerful national government.
  • woot, interjection. (Slang) Aan exclamation used especially in video gaming and digital communications to express joy, satisfaction, triumph, etc.
  • zoot suit, noun. A man’s suit with baggy, tight-cuffed, sometimes high-waisted trousers and an oversized jacket with exaggeratedly broad, padded shoulders and wide lapels.

The logical implications of religious views

Clear-cut definition of terms in religious matters, bold facing of the logical implications of religious views, is by many persons regarded as an impious proceeding. May it not discourage contribution to mission boards? May it not hinder the progress of consolidation, and produce a poor showing in columns of Church statistics? But with such persons we cannot possibly bring ourselves to agree. Light may seem at times to be an impertinent intruder, but it is always beneficial in the end. The type of religion which rejoices in the pious sound of traditional phrases, regardless of their meanings, or shrinks from “controversial” matters, will never stand amid the shocks of life. In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight.
J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009 (original 1923), pp. 1-2
Christianity, built on the authoritative, divinely-inspired, inerrant revelation of God in Scripture, embodying a robust supernaturalism, and focused on the exclusivity of salvation in the person and work of Christ, is a different religion to that liberalism that repudiates each of these things.
Carl Trueman, summarizing the thesis of Christianity and Liberalism, by J. Gresham Machen

Sunday, May 22, 2022

An Evening Prayer

1. Before the ending of the day,
Creator of the world, we pray
That with that wonted favour, thou
Would’st be our guard and keeper now.

2. From all thy servants chase away,
Whate’er of thought impure today,
Hath mingled with the heart’s intent,
Or with the actions hath been blent.

3. In heaven, thine endless joys bestow,
But grant thy gifts of grace below:
From chains of strife our souls release;
Bind fast the gentle bands of peace.

4. O Father, this we ask be done
Through Jesus Christ, thine only Son,
Whom with the Spirit we adore
Forever and forever more.

These words were written by Ambrose of Milan (AD circa 340 - AD 397). He is considered an early “church father.” In this capacity he opposed the teachings of Arius, resisted the efforts of Roman emperors to control the churches, as well as influencing Augustine of Hippo.

John Mason Neale (1818 - 1866) translated the words of Ambrose into English circa 1852. “Te Lucis Ante Terminum,” originally written in Latin, has appeared with various tunes, including Night Watch. The hymn is in Long Meter, so can be rendered with most any fitting long meter tune.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Quoting D. C. Parker

Quoting D. C. Parker:

“...‘we have no means of knowing what ideal form a letter took in Paul’s mind before he wrote it down’ and ‘we have no means of knowing what ideal form his Gospel took in Luke’s mind before he wrote it down’. We can underline emphatically that the authorial fallacy is a fallacy. The New Testament philologist’s task is not to recover an original authorial text, not only because we cannot at present know on philological grounds what that original text might have been, nor even because there may have been several forms to the tradition, but because philology is not able to make a pronouncement as to whether or not there was such an authorial text. The best it can do with regard to the New Testament is to use the evidence derived from our study of the extant tradition to present a model of the problems with the concept of the author...We can use philology to reconstruct an Initial Text. But we need not then believe that the Initial Text is an authorial text, or a definitive text, or the only form in which the works once circulated.” David C. Parker, Textual Scholarship and the Making of the New Testament, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 26-27, 29
This quote indicates that the current trajectory of New Testament textual scholarship is toward the liberal end of the religious spectrum, despite evangelical text critics who claim otherwise. On page 28, Parker decisively describes himself “as one of the tiny number of people employed in making a critical edition of the New Testament...”

Friday, May 20, 2022

Yaupon tea, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Unnamed conspirator, agin my Bible

Unnamed conspirator: (In reference to King James usage) “‘Wherefore’ means ‘why’.”

Baptist blogger: (In response to the conspirator) Not so fast. Check this out.

Genesis 10:9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore [for that reason] it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.

Genesis 18:13 And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore [for what reason] did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?

While these two ideas are related (for that reason and for what reason), you will confuse people by telling them “wherefore” only means “why.”

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Ye Scholars, Hearken

𝔗𝔬 𝔶ͤ ſ𝔠𝔬𝔩𝔢𝔯𝔢 𝔞𝔶𝔢𝔫𝔢𝔰 𝔪𝔶 𝔟𝔦𝔟𝔩𝔦𝔬ð𝔢𝔠𝔢:

𝔄𝔵𝔦𝔱𝔥 𝔜 𝔱𝔥𝔢𝔢, 𝔳𝔫𝔡𝔲𝔯ſ𝔱õ𝔡𝔦ſ𝔱 𝔱𝔥𝔬𝔲 𝔫𝔬𝔱 𝔙𝔙𝔶𝔠𝔩𝔦𝔣? ℑ𝔣 𝔱𝔥𝔬𝔲 𝔡𝔬𝔦ſ𝔱 𝔫𝔬𝔱, 𝔳𝔳𝔥𝔦 𝔡𝔬𝔦ſ𝔱 𝔱𝔥𝔬𝔲 ſ𝔠𝔥𝔢𝔳𝔳𝔦ſ𝔱 𝔪𝔢 𝔳𝔳𝔥𝔞𝔱 𝔱𝔬 𝔨𝔫𝔬𝔳𝔳𝔢? 𝔜 𝔳𝔳𝔬𝔱 𝔫𝔬𝔱 𝔳𝔳𝔥𝔦 𝔜 ſ𝔠𝔥𝔲𝔩𝔡𝔦ſ𝔱 𝔥𝔢𝔯𝔨𝔫𝔢 𝔲𝔫𝔱𝔬 𝔱𝔥𝔢𝔢. 𝔙𝔫𝔡𝔲𝔯ſ𝔱õ𝔡𝔦ſ𝔱 𝔱𝔥𝔬𝔲? ℑ𝔣 𝔱𝔥𝔬𝔲 𝔡𝔬𝔦ſ𝔱, 𝔤𝔢ſſ𝔦ſ𝔱 𝔱𝔥𝔬𝔲 𝔳𝔳𝔬𝔬ſ𝔱 𝔞𝔟𝔬𝔲𝔢 𝔞𝔩𝔩𝔢? 𝔙𝔙𝔥𝔞𝔱 𝔨𝔫𝔬𝔳𝔳𝔦ſ𝔱 𝔱𝔥𝔬𝔲, 𝔳𝔳𝔥𝔦𝔠𝔥𝔢 𝔳𝔳𝔢𝔢 𝔨𝔫𝔬𝔳𝔳𝔢𝔫 𝔫𝔬𝔱? 𝔙𝔙𝔥𝔞𝔱 𝔳𝔫𝔡𝔲𝔯ſ𝔱õ𝔡𝔦ſ𝔱 𝔱𝔥𝔬𝔲, 𝔳𝔳𝔥𝔦𝔠𝔥𝔢 𝔳𝔳𝔢𝔢 𝔳𝔳𝔦𝔱𝔢𝔫 𝔫𝔬𝔱?

Transcribed in Roman type.

To yͤ ſcolere ayenes my biblioðece:

Axith Y thee, vndurſtõdiſt thou not VVyclif? If thou doiſt not, vvhi doiſt thou ſchevviſt me vvhat to knovve? Y vvot not vvhi Y ſchuldiſt herkne unto thee. Vndurſtõdiſt thou? If thou doiſt, geſſiſt thou vvooſt aboue alle? VVhat knovviſt thou, vvhiche vvee knovven not? VVhat vndurſtõdiſt thou, vvhiche vvee vviten not?

The reflection above gives vent to something on which I have thought much, but perhaps posted little, directly. It alludes to questions I want to ask every scholar who undertakes to oppose the normal use of the King James Bible by those of us who choose to do so. It includes the particular reference to the Wycliffe Bible because I first asked it in context of a video posted by Marke VVarde. Mark questioned what a preacher would do if he stumbled upon a group of Christians who insisted on the exclusive use the Wycliffe Bible. It provided a ready foil, a well-dressed strawman, and some hazy humour as he read from the Wycliffe Bible with an “English accent.” However, a little-known Bible that has not been read—even looked at—by more than a few in over 500 years provides little in common with a Bible that has been in constant use from its dawning to the present. Yet there always are scholars ready and willing to advance their “ignorance” as a hand-up offered to us “more ignorant” to solve all our problems and fulfill all our needs. Wherefore (“for that reason,” not “why”) I have built a very large front porch at the entrance a small house of two questions. Here they are:
  1. If you cannot understand the King James translation of the Bible, why should I take your advice? 
  2. If you can understand the King James translation of the Bible, why do you think I cannot?

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Reading the 1611 Bible

“I have seen an original 1611 King James Version. I cannot read it. It looks like a foreign language.”

These and similar words roll off the tongues of otherwise intelligent people who do not appreciate and often even oppose the use of the King James Bible. If you claim some measure of scholarship and cannot read it, I am afraid of you. I’m no genius, but I can read the 1611 King James Bible. I use it in research, and have read it once from Genesis to Revelation. If a so-called Bible teacher is not educated enough to read a 1611 KJV, then he is not educated enough to lecture folks about texts and translations of the Bible.

However, there are sincere folks who might want to read the 1611 King James Bible, but struggle with the typography, spelling, etc. It has some variations from modern English printing that may initially be off-putting. Understanding these variations before beginning will remove some of the difficulties. Perseverance will remove many of the rest. Below I will give some visual samples from (as well as links to) pages of a 1611 Bible printed by the Kings printer, Robert Barker.

1611 Bible typeface

A typeface is a particular set of characters (alphabet, numerals, punctuation, etc.) that share a common design. In modern times, we often think in terms of “font.” Font is a specific size and style of a particular typeface. In Microsoft Word, Old English Text MT will produce a typeface similar to the typeface used in the 1611 translation.)

The 1611 Robert Barker printing of the new Bible translation uses three different types. The Bible translation itself is blackletter typeface. Blackletter is sometimes referred to as Gothic script or Old English, but it is not a typeface limited to English. It was common in the western European countries, and remained the popular typeface in Germany, Norway, and Sweden long after it had gone out of style in England and the United States.

Roman type

The dedication, preface, chapter headings, summaries, genealogies, etc. are in roman type (and some italic), providing an intriguing visual distinction between the text of the Bible and its related materials. The first letter in each chapter is a very large roman letter. Illustration 1 shows large and small roman type used in the preface, “The Translators to the Reader.” 

Illustration 1. Translators to the Reader.

Blackletter type

The text of the 1611 Bible is printed in blackletter type, and added target language words are in smaller roman type. These represent words that were added by the translators to more understandably translate from the source languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) into the target language (English). For examples, see the word “and” in Illustration 4, as well as “are” and “to bee” in Illustration 7. (When printers began to set the King James Bible in roman type instead of blackletter, italics were used to distinguish the added words, as appears in our modern printings of the KJV.) This was explained by Samuel Ward to the Synod of Dort, thusly:

“Sixthly, that words which it was anywhere necessary to insert into the text to complete the meaning were to be distinguished by another type, small roman.” Reported by translator Samuel Ward to the 1618 Synod of Dort

Illustration 2. John 19:19

Illustration 2 shows the blackletter type in the first part of John 19:19, followed by small roman type.  The superscription placed over the crucified Messiah is furnished in roman type and in all caps (Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19). See Illustration 2. Notice also in the John 19 example above, that when “U” is capitalized, even within a word, it appears in the “V” style. These (u & v) are not two distinct letters in this Early Modern English blackletter typeface of the King James Bible.

Small roman type is used in the New Testament at least twice to designate a phrase found in the Greek text from the Syriac (or Aramaic) language: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani (Matthew 27:46, but not in Mark 15:34), and Talitha cumi (Mark 5:41).

Italic type

Various places in the explanatory materials use italic type, including the introductions, as well as in the marginal references to more literal translations, and the alternate readings.

1611 Bible alphabet

The letter i

There is no “J” or “j” in the 1611 English Bible, only an “I” or “i”. The capital “I” looks much like the later capital “J”. That is a stylistic flourish, however, rather than a different letter. The “j” look also appears as an extended ornamental flourish, as on the letter “i” at the end of Roman numerals. For example, XXIIJ or xxiij is Roman numeral 23.

Illustration 3. “I” flourish in 1 Kings Chapters 13-14

Illustration 4. Genesis 24:1

Illustration 5. 1 Samuel 18:5-6

1 Samuel 18:5-6 in Illustration 5 exhibits several traits of printing style of the 1611 Bible, including the capital “I” in Israel. Notice also, (1) the capital “S” in Saul, (2) the lack of apostrophe in “Sauls servants”, (3) some symbols for marginal readings, and (4) at the beginning of verse 5 there is a pilcrow (⸿, a character marking the start of a paragraph).

The letter r

Illustration 6. Rounded “r”, Ephesians 1:6-7

The rotunda or rounded r (ꝛ) is a stylized “r”, probably used by printers to save space. In the example from Ephesians 1:6-7 (Illustration 6), both types of “r” are used, the regular “r” and the rounded “r”. In verses six and seven, “ꝛ” is found in the words “praise”, “glorie”, “through”, “forgivenesse”, and “according”. The regular “r” is found in “grace”, “wherein”, “redemption”, “riches”, and “grace”. The rounded “r” (ꝛ) follows letters with curved strokes – “p”, “o”, and “h” in this example (and a “w” in Illustration 2). Other than style, it is no different than the regular “r”. The regular “r” always begins words (i.e., when “r” is used as the first letter). A 1611 capital “R” is seen in the word LORD in Illustration 4.

The letter s

The small letter “s” comes in two forms. The long “s” ( ſ ) letter looks similar to “f” letters, and is often so confused by modern readers. The long “s” is a small letter “s”, either at the beginning of a word or used internally within a word. The capital “S” looks different (see Illustration 5), as well as the short “s” letter used when “s” is the last letter of a word (which, interestingly, is also a trait of the Greek sigma, σ and ς. See Illustration 7, “sonnes” in verses 18 and 19). A short or round “s” is always used at the end of a word ending with “s”, and possibly sometimes used when the letter “s” is adjacent to a letter “f” (though this was not true in the examples I checked, “satisfaction” in Numbers 35:31-32, “satisfied” in Isaiah 53:11, “offspring” in Acts 17:28-29).

Illustration 7. Genesis 9:16-20

The words “five” and “second” (et al.) in Genesis 7:11 (Illustration 8, below) depict how easily the “f” might be confused with a long “s” (ſ), and vice versa.

Illustration 8. Genesis 7:11-13

Several points are demonstrated in Illustration 8, this snip of Genesis 7:11-13. The pilcrow is used. There are no apostrophes (’) to show possession, as we punctuate modern words. Notice “Noahs life” in verse 11 and “Noahs wife” in verse 13. Verse 13 gives an example of the capital “S” beginning the name “Sem”, as well as the use of the long “s” and short “s” in the word “sonnes”. “Iapheth” shows how the capitalized “I” looks quite like a modern “J” (though it is not).

The letter u

The “u” and “v” are interchangeable letters, according to their placement in a word. When it is the first letter of the word, “v” style is used. When within the word, “u” style is used. “V” is used when the letter is capitalized (See Illustration 2). However, the capital “U” in blackletter appears more like what we modern readers might think of as a “U” rather than “V” (nevertheless, it is one letter).

In some roman type “w” is a double u (that is, two of them side by side, and the “u” usually appears like a “v” – thus “vv”, – vvhen, vvhere, etc.). I do not believe this type printing occurs anywhere in the 1611 King James Bible.

The letter z

In the 1611 blackletter type, the small letter “z” appears somewhat like a cursive “z”, but does not extend well below the line (z). For example, see Uzziah in 2 Kings 15:13, 30, 32, 34.

The letter þ (called thorn)

Illustration 9. John 3:16

A “y” (i.e., what appears to be one), when used with a superscript “e” (i.e., above the “y”, yͤ; see Illustration 9.) or in an abbreviation “yt” (yͭ, for “that” as in 2 Cor. 13:7), represents the Old English letter “thorn” (þ). In those cases, the “y” works as a “th” sound rather than “y”. It means “the” (not “ye”) and “that” (not “yet”). The word should not be confused with the second person plural pronoun “ye” (and it is pronounced with a “th” rather than “y” sound). This usage can be found in a number of places, such as in 1 Kings 11:1, Job 1:9, Ezekiel 32:28, John 3:16; 15:1, Romans 15:29, Colossians 1:1, and James 3:12. Illustration 10 shows the abbreviation “yt” (yͭ) for “that”.  Other cases of “yͭ” include Jeremiah 49:17; John 12:2; Hebrews 7:21.

Illustration 10. 2 Corinthians 13:7

The letter æ (called ash, Æ æ) 

This letter is used at least three times in the 1611 Bible, in the words Ænon (John 3:23) and Æneas (Acts 9:33-34).

In Modern English orthography, both the thorn (þ) and ash (æ) are obsolete. Though the æ occasionally appears in words like encyclopædia, it is not now considered a letter in the English alphabet. Technically, though not obviously, the use of þ (thorn) can still be seen in signs such as “Ye Olde Tavern” (meaning “The” Olde Tavern, though most readers may not realize it).

1611 Bible symbols


Illustration 11. The tilde abbreviation, Mark 1:5

A tilde or macron (~ -) is used in some words as a sort of abbreviation. An “m” or “n” following a vowel may be replaced by placing the tilde or macron over the vowel, as cõfessing in Mark 1:5. This is the equivalent of “confessing,” abbreviated. This usage probably was a printer’s decision, to save space; compare Matthew 3:6 where it is confessing rather than cõfessing. See also Acts 13:30, which shows the omission may also be at the end of a word – “frõ.” “yͤ” abbreviates “the” and “yͭ” abbreviates “that”. In 2 Chronicles 23:21 “wt” abbreviates “with”. 

Marginal notes

Illustration 12. Isaiah 53:5-6

These two verses in Isaiah 53 in Illustration 12 show three different symbols used to lead to marginal notes: asterisk, cross or dagger, and double bar (*, †, ||). The asterisk (*) denotes a cross reference to a related scripture or scriptures. The cross, or dagger, (†) indicates a more literal translation (prefaced by Heb., Chal., or Gr., followed by a word or words in italics).The double bar (||) points to an alternate reading (|| Or, followed by a word or words in italics).


Illustration 13. Catchword under 2 Kings 22:7

At the bottom right of pages in the 1611 Bible, you will find a “catchword.” A catchword is a word placed at the right-hand foot of the page that anticipates (records or repeats) the first word on the following page. See Illustration 13. This was common in early printed texts up into the 18th century. It probably helped both the printer and the reader to make the connection between the two pages.

While there are no apostrophes of possession, there is at least one place it is used to form a contraction. An apostrophe replaces the “e” in “long wing’d” in Ezekiel 17:3.

Hyphens come in two styles – within words, the single dash “-” (e.g. Iehouah-ijreh, Genesis 22:14; Nebuchad-rezzar, Jeremiah 21:2, 7) versus a double dash “⸗” for a hyphen dividing a normally unhyphenated word at the end of the line of type (see Illustration 6, “accep⸗ted” in Ephesians 1:6).

The conjunction “and” is often abbreviated or brevigraphed (represented) with a form of the Tironian “et” (see examples in Genesis 2:4, 7, 22, 25.)

In Genesis, “LORD” for Jehovah is in all caps (LORD), but in small caps (Lord) in other books of the Bible. Unexpected capitalization sometimes emphasizes or calls attention to a verse or something within it. All roman caps accentuate an inscription, or something written, in Daniel 5:25 (+ vs. 26-28); Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19; Acts 17:23; Revelation 17:5; Revelation 19:16. In addition, I AM THAT I AM in Exodus 3:14 appears in all caps in blackletter type. Exodus 6:3 has IEHOVAH in all roman caps.

In the 1611 Bible, there are no quotation marks (“ ”) for dialogue, quotes, etc. If you use a modern KJV printing, this is the same, not a difference. Some of these typographical or orthographical traits may be seen continuing much later and even in printings in roman type, such as the long “s” and the “i” instead of “j”.

1611 Bible words

Extended discussion of Bible words is too cumbersome to include here. (A little information about thees and yes is here and about verb endings here.) In 1611, English spelling was not standardized to the point is has now developed. Therefore, a number of variant spellings appear throughout the 1611 printing. An “e” word ending that has dropped out of use is a very common trait. Nevertheless, it should be rare that the average reader cannot discern what the word is, despite the variant spelling. The sound of the word is often the same or very similar.

A few examples

  • beleeveth = believeth
  • crosse = cross
  • doe = do
  • euery = every
  • fortie = forty
  • iniquitie = iniquity
  • layd = laid
  • moneth = month
  • onely = only
  • owne = own
  • riuer = river
  • shalbe = shall be
  • sonne = son
  • warre = war
  • windowes = windows
  • yerre or yeere = year

Final notes

You can view and examine for yourself a digital image of a 1611 printing of the Bible. Here is one online option:

In addition to online images, facsimile reprints are also available. Kings printer Robert Barker made several printings of the new translation, some of which may vary slightly from the visual examples I give. If you find something that is slightly different, do not be surprised.

I am not advocating that one must read the 1611 printing of the King James, but rather offering some advice to those who want to do so. There is also an accommodation for those wishing to read the 1611 Bible while avoiding the blackletter type. A Bible reprint is available in print of the original 1611 except that it is set in roman type rather than blackletter. (It may or may not be available online.) Also, there is a “modernized” Online Blackletter Edition which “give(s) the reader a feel for the original 1611 King James Bible” without including “all the typographic representations found in the original.”

I do not claim any expertise, just learning by trial and error (including what others said about these trials and errors). I may have gotten some minor details wrong, or I may have left off something I should have addressed. (If you notice something that needs to be addressed, let me know.) This kind of stuff intrigues me, even when only in relation to the English language and its history. I hope this essay might benefit someone, and not just about quirks in our language – but most especially regarding the Bible. May the Lord bless you.