Friday, September 25, 2009

Bowels in the KJV

The King James Version of the Bible is arguably the best English translation of all time. But one of the common criticisms of continued use is the now-archaic words. One such word is "bowel". With the common definition of bowel now being the intestines, these verses are a little strange, if not humurous:
2 Corinthians 6:12 Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.

Philippians 1:8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.

Philemon 1:20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.
And so the standard line is that we need to update the KJV because it is archaic and uses words that we don't use anymore. Of course, the modern versions change the wording in 20,000-30,000+ places and go way above and beyond just updating the archaic language. The argument is simply an alibi for justifying an entirely new translation from corrupt texts and duping the public into buying them because they have up-to-date language. Bit of a bait-and-switch tactic if you ask me. But I digress, and will save those comments for another post.

I stand on the position that the English language has sadly degraded too much since 1611 (we are lazy speakers?) and that the good old-fashioned KJV gives a much clearer sense in many passages, if you go with the original definitions of these "archaic" words.

For example, archaic personal pronouns such as thou, thee, thy, thine are actually more accurate in speech. Believe it or not, there are many passages in the Bible where these words make the passage clearer. I'll give you one example:
John 3:7 Marvel not that I said unto thee (singular), Ye (plural) must be born again.
You wouldn't get that in a modern, "up-to-date" version. He was talking to one man, Nicodemus, but the verse applies to many - "ye". What a wonderful truth that John 3:7 applies to me, today, in 2009. In our modern language, "you" can mean either singular or plural and "you" are left to guess which is meant based on the context. "You" can't always tell. John 3:7 is only one example; there are many others.

But lets get back to the bowels! Bowel is a word that has changed meaning over time. If you look up the word etymology for bowel or the definition in the 1828 Webster's dictionary, you'll find it simply meant the interior part of a thing. Like the "bowels of the earth".

What English word does bowel sound and look like? Bowl. A bowl is a hollowed out container that you can put stuff in. So is the bowel of a person. Biblically speaking, its everything from the hips up to the shoulders, including the heart, lungs, stomach, liver, spleen, intestines, etc.

You'll find many jokes online regarding the bowels, as they are used in the KJV. And Mark Lowry has some funny comments to say. But every one of these people has a misunderstanding of what "Biblical bowels" really are. Look at the verses below and you'll see how the word bowels is used in many different ways -- heart, womb, inward parts, stomach, etc. All the organs that comprise the hollowed-out inside part of a person. And notice the words I have bolded. The KJV has a built in dictionary that defines the words in the context they are used. You won't find this in the modern versions.
Psalm 71:6 By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother's bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee.

Isaiah 16:11 Wherefore my bowels shall sound like an harp for Moab, and mine inward parts for Kirharesh.

Isaiah 48:19 Thy seed also had been as the sand, and the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me.

Jeremiah 4:19 My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.

Ezekiel 3:3 And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.
When we get excited or happy, doesn't our heart race? When we get nervous, don't we get sick to our stomach? When we get terrified, don't we breath fast? All of these feelings come from what the KJV calls the "bowels" -- the hollowed-out bowl-like inside part of a human, containing the heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, and many other organs. The English definition for bowel might have become very specific over time, now referring only to the intestines, but you'll have to agree that all of these organs ARE indeed the "seat of emotions", always have been, always will be. Regardless of where the person came from, what country they live in, and what language they speak, the truth is timeless. No Old Testament Hebrew ever thought his small and large intestines were the seat of his emotions.

Look up these verses in modern versions, and you'll see how degraded or generic the language is compared to the KJV and how the change of words makes it hard to compare Scripture with Scripture. Once again, the good old-fashioned Authorized Version of the Bible wins and is far ahead or advanced of any modern day science, historian, politician, linguist, or poet.

Its a bit sad to me that words such as "bowel" have changed so much over time that our English Bible becomes a mockery. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics strikes again.