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Archaic Arguments

Updated: Feb 15, 2020

After reading John Asquith’s excellent blog, A Needed Change in Orthography, a brain cell stirred and brought a humorous event to my recollection. It was something like this (slightly embellished): I was driving a friend to the bank so he could secure a loan and get his own car. We were debating:

Him: “Why not replace archaic words in the Bible, so everyone can read it?”

Genesis 15:5 was brought up:

“…Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them…”

Me: “Tell isn’t archaic. We use this and other old English stuff all the time.”

Him: “Oh yeah? Name one!”

Me: “What is your name’s first initial?”

Him: “B.”

Me: “Isn’t your name William?”

Him: “W.”

Me: “Say that again.”

Him: “W.” (He pronounced it double u, as we all do. Go ahead, pronounce this letter—W. )

Me: “Back in the archaic days (days of King James) the letter V was written and pronounced as U. Love looks like loue in the Gothic type. And, although your initial is actually a

double v, not a double u, you said ‘double u’—not so archaic after all!”

I continued, “We’re about to pull into the bank. You’ll walk up to a counter, but it’s not counting—it’s granite or plastic. And it is the teller you must talk with.” Abram was to tell the stars, not count them. Besides, how silly and confusing would it be to ‘count the stars’ (numerical) and then “he counted it to him for righteousness” (probably not numerical).

Furthermore, to tell is slightly different than to count. Tell is exact, ordered, and based upon whole numbers. The teller, after sequentially counting one dollar, two dollars, three dollars, says, ‘Here is your $42.58.’ A counter could say, ‘Hmmm, 10, 20, 30, 40 — there you go, about 40 bucks.’ When it’s my money, I want a teller!”

The point: when studying the KJV, avoid the "oh, it's archaic ...just change it" dismissal. For homework, read 2 Samuel 7:12-16 and notice how many times the word establish (ed) is used, and also how the word stablish is used. Why? What were they trying to communicate? The student can approach this discrepancy one of two ways:

  1. Notice stablish is almost the same as establish—it must be an archaic form, so change it. (Boo, boo, hiss, hiss!)

  2. Study it. Give God’s word the benefit of the doubt and study it. (Thunderous applause!) The answer is really interesting. I’ll reveal what I found about stablish in the next blog post, but dig it

out yourselves and see what you find. I have been wrong before and could be wrong this time, so be a noble Berean and check it out. (If I’m mistaken, maybe I’ll get partial credit if I show my work?)

Hint: Colossians 2:6a —established; Colossians 2:7—stablished.

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