top of page

A needed change in Orthography

Updated: Feb 15, 2020

What we see above is Genesis 14:15 from an authentic original 1611 Bible. Now we will look at that same verse in the Pure Cambridge Text: And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.

You will notice that no actual words were changed. The vocabulary is exactly the same and yet it appears all different. There are three major types of changes in the above verse. The font is different. For the first 17 years of the King James Bible, readers endured the tedium of a gothic font. For many years following, an "s" looked like a modern "f" except at the end of a word.

You will notice that a few words are spelled differently. We no longer spell "he" as "hee". We no longer put an "e" on the end of "himself." We also spell Hobah differently. There are still two other types of changes between an original 1611 and a modern King James Bible . One of them is in this verse. It is punctuated differently. There are four commas in the first example. The Pure Cambridge Text places a comma after the word "servant". Also, the verse ends differently. In 1611 the verse ended with a colon. Today it ends with period.

The last example of orthographical (spelling, punctuation and capitalization) change can be see in verse 17 of the same chapter.

Notice the words "Kings dale". Kings is capitalized. Today it is not.

As was said before, in 1611 the English language was in flux. The translators crafted a perfect language and a vocabulary replete with rules for every part of speech that makes the King James Bible the keen instrument with the sharp blade that we see today. What was not settled in 1611 were the rules of orthography. It would take another 150 years of writing and printing modern English before the English speaking people would settle on the rules that we have today.

In some ways the new secular rules of grammar were unfortunate. English is a Germanic language but it borrowed rules for some of today's grammar from French. This was not a result of the Norman conquest but was instead the result of the efforts of Jonathan swift and Dr. Ben Johnson to standardize English usage. They scorned the double negative. For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it, Isaiah 14:27. Our English version has many double negatives. In a Germanic language a double negative adds power. What is the difference between saying, who shall annul? and saying who will disannul? The difference is power. In late modern English, as we speak it today, we have been robbed of a natural form of expression that the King's English still retains.

In other ways we are enriched. The rules for spelling have been standardized, we punctuate with a greater accuracy and our use of capitalizations is more coherent. The use of a Roman font instead of a gothic font is a gift to the eyes.

In my next post I will be discussing the great work of F.S. Parris in his 1762 Parris Bible that he prepared for Cambridge.

474 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page