Bad Translations in the King James Version

by James Akin

Last Updated: September 22, 1996

This page serves as a catalogue of translation problems in the King James Version of the Bible. It will be updated regularly. As I am document more translation problems they will be added here. (I already know of many I haven’t had a chance to type up.)

Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy Joshua
Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings 2 Kings
1 Chronicles 2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Esther Job
Psalms Proverbs Ecclesiastes Canticles Isaiah Jeremiah
Lamentations Ezekiel Daniel Hosea Joel Amos
Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah
Haggai Zechariah Malachi
Matthew Mark Luke John Acts Romans
1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians
1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus Philemon
Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter 1 John 2 John
3 John Jude Revelation

Genesis

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Exodus

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Leviticus

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Numbers

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Deuteronomy

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Joshua

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Judges

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Ruth

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1 Samuel

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2 Samuel

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1 Kings

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2 Kings

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1 Chronicles

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2 Chronicles

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Ezra

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Nehemiah

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Esther

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Job

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Psalms

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Proverbs

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Ecclesiastes

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Canticles

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Isaiah

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Jeremiah

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Lamentations

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Ezekiel

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Daniel

8:14 And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.

“Days” here is inaccurate. The Hebrew here uses the words ereb (evening) and boqer (morning). The RSV renders this better: “And he said to him, ‘For two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.'”

“Evening and morning” is a Hebew idiom for a day, but it is not a literal translation to collapse these, and it has unfortunate con sequences, as some have built elaborate eschatological theories (such as William Miller and Ellen G. White, the founding prophetess of Seventh-Day Adventism) on the existence of the word “day” here. They have supposed that they can make each day here correspond to a year and thus they infer a period of 2300 years here. In reality, the word “day” is not in the text, and unlike the word for day (yom, which can denote longer periods of time just as “day” can in English, e.g., “In my day…”), the expression “evening and morning” is much more concrete and less able to be read as a year.

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Hosea

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Joel

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Amos

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Obadiah

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Jonah

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Micah

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Nahum

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Habakkuk

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Zephaniah

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Haggai

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Zechariah

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Malachi

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Matthew

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Mark

6:20 For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.

The word here rendered “observed” is suntereo and it means “to protect”–something the KJV translators elsewhere acknowledge as the other three times it appears in the New Testament they render it “protect” (twice) or “keep” (once).

9:18 And wheresoever he [the demon] taketh him [my boy], he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.

The word here translated “pineth away” is xeraino and it means “to become dry” or “to wither” (as with a withered, stiff body part). The RSV has it much better: “and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” Pining away is something completely different (the boy did not forlornly long whenever the demon seized him).

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Luke

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John

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Acts

12:4 And when he [Herod] had apprehended him [Peter], he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

This verse discusses a time right after Herod had arrested and execute the Apostle James. This pleased the Jews, and so he decided to do it to another apostle–Peter. Jewish sensibilities, however, did not favor the execution of people during holy days, and so Herod planned to execute Peter after Passover. The word in the Greek text is pascha, and it an Aramaic loan-word for the Jewish holiday of Passover. Easter was not a distinct holiday at the time, much less did it have a distinct name (pascha simply meant “Passover”), much less would it have been a holiday the non-Christian Jews cared about. For some strange reason the KJV translators chose to render it “Easter” here, even though every other time the word pascha appears in the New Testament, they translated it “Passover.”

17:22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.

This verse contains two mistranslations:

First, “Mars’ hill” should be translated “the Aeropagus.” This was a discussion forum that was named after Mars Hill, where it originally met. In Paul’s day, however, it met elsewhere. The KJV wrongly implies that it was meeting at its original location.

Second, the word here translated “too superstitious” is deisidaimonesteros. It can mean superstitious, but it also just means religious, pious, and reverent. These are clearly the case here, as Paul is beginning his speech to the Greeks (as was the custom of the time) by saying something nice about the audience to win a favorable hearing. He thus acknowledges their religious nature and then goes on to build a case for Christianity. The KJV translators, however, could not conceive of Paul doing anything but criticizing the idolatrous Greeks, and this determined their rendering of the verse. In reality, he was being polite in order to get them to give him a hearing (read the rest of the speech; he even quotes their own poets–equivalent to the Hebrew prophets–positively when they say something good).

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Romans

15:16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

The Greek word here rendered “ministering” is hierourgeo and it means “to work as a priest.” The KJV translators, however, have suppressed this in order to avoid giving creedence to the idea that ministers of Jesus Christ have any priestly duties (something that would undermine the Protestant idea of eliminating the middle, ministerial priesthood in the Christian age). The RSV renders the verse much better: “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

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1 Corinthians

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2 Corinthians

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Galatians

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Ephesians

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Philippians

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Colossians

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1 Thessalonians

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2 Thessalonians

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1 Timothy

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2 Timothy

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Titus

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Philemon

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Hebrews

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James

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1 Peter

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2 Peter

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1 John

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2 John

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3 John

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Jude

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Revelation

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