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Good News Magazine
September 1952
Volume: Vol II, No. 9
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Question Box
Good News Staff  

Why Are Italics Used in the Bible?

   Have you ever noticed the italics in the King James version of the Bible and wondered what purpose they served?
   Why are the words "the son" italicized in so many verses of the genealogy in the third chapter of Luke? Perhaps you think they are unimportant.
   Italicized words were first used in 1560 when an edition of a Bible, known as the Geneva Bible, appeared. This Bible had been prepared by the Reformers in Geneva and it was translated directly from the original Hebrew and Greek. In this Bible there were words which had to be added in English to make the meaning plain, although they were not necessary in the original Hebrew and Greek idioms. No language can be translated word for word. The Reformers distinguished such necessarily added words by italicizing them. This was the most popular Bible obtainable at that time.
   There were three versions of the Bible in England by the beginning of the seventeenth century but these translations were by no means correct and, as time went on, the meaning of some of the English words changed. The need for a better translation arose and from this need came our most popular translation of today, the King James or Authorized Version. King James I of England gave this task to a group of fifty-four translators. In this group were High Churchmen, Puritans and the best scholars in the land. They translated from the original Hebrew and Greek and they also made use of italics to distinguish the words they added to make peculiar Hebrew and Greek idioms understandable in English. In most cases the words do clarify the meaning of certain phrases. But if you will investigate you will find that the translators were not men filled with God's Holy Spirit. Such men, hence, are apt to make mistakes and they did.
   You have probably read Mr. Armstrong's article, "Is Jesus God?", which explains that Jesus and not the Father is the "LORD" so often mentioned in the Old Testament. The Lord told Moses at the burning bush that His Name was I AM. This same Jesus came in the flesh. When the mad mob came to the Garden of Gethsemane for Him, He told them, "I Am he"; but notice the word "he" is in italics and was not spoken by Jesus. It should be, "He said unto them, I Am." This man-inserted word "he" completely obscures the significant fact behind this event. That multitude knew what Jesus meant and consequently they fell backward. They were facing the God of Israel, I Am.
   There is another mistake worthy of our attention in Revelation 20:10. John apparently wrote that the devil, at the end of the one thousand year reign of Christ, would be cast into the lake of fire "where the beast and false prophet are." "Are" is in italics and is a man-supplied word. It is not in the original Greek. But to make the meaning clear in English the words "were cast" ought to have been added. The word "are" falsely implies that the beast and the false prophet are still alive in the lake of fire at the time of Satan's punishment which is after the millennium. They are put in this fire just after Christ comes at the beginning of the Millennium (Rev. 19:20). We know that they will not remain there one thousand years because they, being mortal flesh will burn up.
   The real meaning is that Satan is to be cast into the same lake of fire into which the beast and false prophet were cast a thousand years previously.
   These are only a few of the mistakes that men have made through translations and we should not be duped by them. But such should in no way destroy our faith in the veracity of the Bible as originally inspired and preserved so accurately for us.

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Good News MagazineSeptember 1952Vol II, No. 9