Alway or Always?
Updated: Feb 14, 2020
Someday, we hope the famine of hearing the words of the LORD will be lifted, and someone finds the Book and reads it. After finding this old Bible, they might say something like, “Go ye, enquire of the LORD…concerning the words of the this book…”(2 Kings 22:13). Or, in our colloquial tongue, “Hey, help me understand this Book, what does it say?”
It is also our hope that the few books about the accuracy and sharpness of the Authorized English Bible, and even these simple blog posts, will be available to guide and enlighten those who seek the Lord in the future. Surely we who record and reasonably discuss the wonder of God’s word (specifically the KJV of the Bible) pray our work is not in vain.
Now, mentally, come back to our present day (into the famine not of stuff, but of hearing the words of the LORD) and join us at yet another Missions Conference. The children’s choir are singing verses of the Bible. Yes it’s great, and it’s safe (no controversy about music), and delightful….until they misquote the word. When it’s misquoted, then it’s like a sour note, an off key, an out of tune string being struck and shattering an otherwise great concert. “Rejoice in the Lord…always….” Ouch! We were expecting alway, but alway(s) was sung. The letter s added. It’s like fingernails painfully screeched across a blackboard!
And after the cute little children’s choir has enraptured everyone in the congregation, except me, with the NIV version of Philippians 4:4, the conference begins in earnest. The designated speaker ascends to the pulpit and with a real radio voice he officially opens the conference by declaring the Great Commission: “…and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Always again. They always replace alway with always. Tut tut.
In 2 Corinthians 4:10, the word Always appears; then, in the very next sentence and verse, the word alway is used. We face a decision:
a.) The translators made a mistake — just convert every case of alway to always.
b.) There must be printing errors—go buy the latest edition of anything that has the word "Bible” on it.
c.) Go see what good ol’ Dr. Dryasdust has said in his commentary—whatever he (or she) has written about it…well, it must be true.
d.) Believe there is a reason they chose both alway and always; even, in some cases, forming two distinct words from one word of the original tongues.
We, by faith, select (d) from above and get to work. Let’s get to the point:
Always = on every occasion; not sometimes, but every time.
“When Bro Bill preaches, he always goes too long.” That is, each and every time He preaches.
The emphasis is on fully, totally:”…give you peace always by all means” (2 Thes. 3:16).
It also indicates an occasion, an event, a circumstance : “…I make mention of you always in my prayers” (Romans 1:9) — Every time Paul prayed, he mentioned the Romans.
Alway= A duration of time, continuous, perpetually without interruption, throughout (time).
“Always remember me in your prayers and in your trials, but rejoice alway.”
If it helps, compare a similar case: Some time (a duration of time) and sometimes (separate occasions). Add an (s) to “some time” and the meaning changes
“He appeared that way for some time.”—Implies his appearance was constant over a period of time.
“He sometimes appeared that way.”—Implies his appearance was variable.
Let’s return to “Alway” and let the Bible define itself:
1. “And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me alway” (Exodus 25:30).
Hmmm, is this alway a mistake? Alway(s) is used just a little later in Exodus 27:20.
Remember that alway stresses duration or continuance over time:
“Behold, I build an house…and for the continual shewbread” (2 Chron. 2:4)
What kind of shewbread? Continual. Alway.
There is a clear cross reference, verifying the continual nature of the shewbread.
The lamps, which required daily dressing and relighting (Exodus 30: 7,8) are properly designated with an always (Exodus 27:20).
2. “…,but Mephibosheth thy master’s son may have food to eat bread alway at my table”
(2 Samuel 9:11).
Notice alway is used. How does this change the emphasis?
“So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king’s table.
3. “…Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back
alway” (Romans 11:10).
Did Paul, when quoting David from Psalm 69, make a mistake by using alway? I think not.
“Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake.
And, one more example of this nuance, of the emphasis applied by using alway:
“Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways” (Hebrews 3:10).
Paul added alway when retelling Psalm 95. Why?
Perhaps he was stressing the constant faithlessness of the fathers; however, I think he is setting the tone for his primary argument, in this context: “if we hold the confidence stedfast unto the end” (v. 14). Hold fast , without interruption, for the duration. Alway works!
The children’s choir, reciting Philippians 4:4 in song, should be communicating “Rejoice in the Lord alway—constantly.” The pastor can stress, when stating the Great Commission, “He is constantly with you, without interruption, through the duration.” Someday, somebody may desire to both read and understand the Bible. We hope they can enjoy these nuances and, in due season, know the Author. May God bless you as you seek His truth.