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.


WeirdHamster said...

You may be correct about the English language degrading, but I still do not know about KJV being the best translation.

For example, In Ephesians 1:5, KJV has "children" where it should be "sons" (Martyn Lloyd-Jones pointed this out via a sermon I listened to this morning).

Nathan Ham said...

WeirdHamster - this is a bit unfair. Posting an unrelated criticism without any background information or argument. For some reason, a lot of people against the KJV only position do this, and they tend to do it a lot.

But let me answer your question. In Ephesians 1:5, the new versions will say "adoption as sons". There are 2 words changed: (1) "as", which is a lot different than "of", and (2) "sons", which is more specific than children.

To summarize my response, the new versions water down the passage, making the meaning less clear and more fuzzy, opening it up for Calvinistic private interpretations.

When the KJV says "adoption of children", it is clearly saying that saved people are already children of God when they are adopted. Making it even more clear that adoption is not the same as we think of adoption - me taking a child not my own into my family. I am already a child of God when I am "born again" (John 3) and become a "new creature" (2 Cor. 5:17), but it is this act of adoption that gives me an adult standing with God, which is made clear in Galatians 4:5-7.

The word "as" in the new versions means it is a comparison and fuzzies the meaning quite a bit. And waters down the meaning that we are already children of God when adopted into the position of son. What this allows for is the Calvinistic idea that unregenerate people are adopted for salvation by God because they are elected to choose, instead of the Biblical truth that election is "in Christ". Which, of course, a calvinist wouldn't even understand.

And although these statements may not convince you of anything, let me finish with a statement. It is amazing how 2 little words in one little verse can change the entire meaning, water it down, and confuse the issue. But that is how the new versions operate MOST OF THE TIME.
And if you want more examples, I'll give them to you.

WeirdHamster said...

I apologize for posting an unrelated example. I will attempt to give you a month warning first with all the necessary fine print.

I only wrote that one cause I was kind of thinking about asking you about it when I heard it that yesterday morning and when I saw this blog post in the afternoon, I figured now would be a good as time than any because I am always interested in how a KJV person would respond to these translation issues.

But now I realize my error. I was terribly worried all last night thinking that I put you through unneeded stress. I may have to resign my post as being weird now because I do not think I could ever be weird again seeing how terribly worried I was.

Anyway, I still agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones that it should be "adoption of sons," so we will just have to disagree; though, I will not agree to disagree because I do not think you should disagree, but I realize that you will anyway.

ineptseamstress said...

I am a bit late to the party. But have you read the 21st century King James? All it does it occasionally (rarely) but a modern day word in place of the old.
It isn't a new translation - they just took the good, old KJV and found troublesome words. (bowels may have been one of them, but I don't know if they did or how they changed it)
I used it for a while and I didn't notice a difference.
I think it is a nice idea especially for new or young Christians.

Mary, Brandon, & Co. said...

I was trying to get a better understanding of the usage of the word "bowel" in the scriptures when I came upon your blog post. Thanks for the explanation! Very helpful.

Nathan Ham said...

I'm glad it was helpful to you! :)

Elizabeth said...

I agree with Mary, Brandon and Co. This was very useful. And I'm with you on the KJV ;) .


Chris Cowell said...

Interesting points.

Chris Cowell said...

Along the same line, any thoughts about the term 'vessel' - as in the wife being the 'weaker vessel'?

Chris Cowell said...

.... and also being a container (bowl) of some sort. ??