Updated: Feb 15, 2020
As we study the word of God, we seek to understand it, not simply to read it for the sake of ‘getting through it.‘ And, although we are neither expert, nor yet adroitly skilled with its use, we actually relish the grammar of the Early Modern English (KJV). We enjoy even the little words, such as both.
Both, with Middle English roots can be used as an adjective, a pronoun, and a conjunction. In each use, both shares these characteristics: relation, inclusion, or coordination of two things. No more than two. It could be two nouns, or two pronouns, even two verbs, but always two — no more, no less. (If the inclusion is more than two, the word all is used. If the two is shown as a negative or as untrue, then neither and nor, not both, are used.)
“And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue...”(Acts 14:1)
If the statement read ‘they went together‘ — the number of people going in together would be unknown. But we know, because both is used, that exactly two men went together (Paul and Barnabas).
“And they went down both into the water...”(Acts 8:39)
Without even reading the rest of the statement, we know that two men went into the water, together. And indeed, “...both Philip and the eunuch...”
Sometimes the one and other (the two) is not so obvious:
“For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees confess both” (Acts 23:8).
At first glance, there are three things mentioned; but the inclusive both is used, so there must be only two! Resurrection is the first; angel and spirit are the second. For confirmation, we notice neither designates the first and nor designates the second part of one group.
Both: (1) resurrection, (2) spiritual beings.
Another case is found in Acts 1:13: both is used; but many individual names are given. In this case, the both indicates that both men and the women abode together (1:14). This case is repeated in Acts 5:14 and Acts 8:12.
Now we come to the verse that, in my opinion, is frequently misused:
“...and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The four concentric circles, beginning with Jerusalem, that is so often used in Sunday School room maps, is invalid:
First, the geographic areas are not concentric (Samaria doesn’t perfectly surround Judæa.
Second, the word both is used to qualify: there are only two things, not four! For the reader to see these as four distinct geographic areas is a grammatical error.
Not surprisingly, the NIV has removed the both, leaving four areas, and consequently a mistaken “mission.” The erroneous mission would be directed in geographical terms only.
So, using both, what are the two inclusive and together groups? Is one Jerusalem, and the other three comprise the second? Or, is it Jerusalem and Judæa as one; Samaria and the uttermost the second? Or, using the preposition in, is it in Jerusalem, in Judæa, and in Samaria as one; the remaining “unto the uttermost part of the earth” as the second?
The answer, or at least a significant clue, is found in Acts 13:47 “...I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.”
Both is used in Acts 1:8 to indicate two groups of people found in these near and far reaching areas: Jews and Greeks (Gentiles). See both used this way in Acts 14:5; 19:10; 20:21 and throughout Romans. The focus is on both Jews and Gentiles. A significant change from the ‘first commission‘ — Matthew 10:6,7. In fact, a significant doctrine of the New Testament is the ‘both‘ — Gentiles and Jews, together, inclusive.
Therefore, the mission isn’t so much about excursions into exotic, unknown, and exciting places: venues to plant our church’s flag; but, rather to both people groups who may abide in any geographical area. Yes, it’s permissible to travel, but not for conquest of territory (and pins on church lobby maps), but rather to testify to both Jews and Gentiles. We may need only travel to the local University or Thruway rest stop!
These little words, often deleted or changed by modern versions, and often ignored by those who bellow out their fidelity to the King James, are excellent tools in communicating God’s intent. Let’s relish each word and the grammar that governs them.