Updated: Oct 15, 2021
For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take, Acts 1:20. There are few words in a King James Bible as controversial as the word "bishoprick". It is one of 11 words that Miles Smith changed of his own accord in between receiving the translation committee's final draft of the King James Bible, and his own polishing of that work. It has been reported that many of the Presbyterian translators saw that change as a betrayal. Certainly, there are many today who see it as such. We will look at why they believe that, and then why the word is accurate.
When Peter says that, "it is written", he is quoting Psalms 109:8, Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Why doesn't the King James Bible use the word "office" when quoting that verse, and what is the difference? To understand that, we must understand the difference between the words "translation" and "interpretation". The word "translation" is only used in our bible three times and none of those times is discussing rendering something said in one language into another language. Instead, our bible uses the word "interpretation" when a word used in the Old Testament in Hebrew, is then rendered into Greek in the New Testament. The Holy Ghost does not give the gift of "translation of tongues", it gives the gift of "interpretation of tongues".
Translations are often stiff and awkward. Somehow, translating a series of words found in a sentence in one language, rarely sound the same when the same words are strung together as translated individual words. It often looks like gibberish. As an experiment, I would challenge my reader to pull up a Google translating program and write a sentence into it. Have the program translate it into a common European language. Then copy that translation which you may have no ability to understand and paste it back into a program that will translate it back into English. There are whole Youtube channels dedicated to the hilarity of such antics. It will not be what you originally wrote.
Whenever the word of God renders a word from on language to another, it always interprets the word. The King James Bible is best understood as the Holy Ghost's interpretation of the Word of God into the English Language. A word can be honestly translated many different ways. Only an interpreter can make sense of it. Imagine a movie in which two street thugs are leaning on an old brick wall in an alley. A big black limousine pulls into the alley and one thug says to the other, "Last week, I laid a rock through that cat's windshield".
We know what that thug said. We can picture him smashing that windshield with a rock. It implies a casual disrespectful violence. When it is rendered through a couple of languages, the casualness of the violence is missing. What is needed isn't an exact translation. What is needed is a living breathing spirit that can think about and understand what what was said, and then say the same thing in another language so that the reader has the same feel. That is a gift that the King James Translators clearly had. So many new translations of the bible read like a teletype account of a football game, all facts and no spirit.
Why then is "bishoprick" the correct word? Why didn't the translators render the Greek word exactly as they had rendered the Hebrew word and left it as "office"? Was Miles Smith justified in what he did? Well, the word "office" in Psalms 109:8 implies more than just a title and responsibility. Jesus tells us that territory went with it. And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, Matthew 19:28. The land grant the God gives to Israel in Ezekiel 48 will be ruled by the twelve apostles. The New Testament always expands and explains the Old Testament. What is a mystery in one, is explained in the other.
Of course, Episcopalians were delighted at the concept of physical territory being ascribed to an office. To this day, the Episcopalians (meaning rule by bishops) cannot discern the difference between a bishop over a local church and an apostle. In this respect they are like Roman Catholics. I am a Baptist. I am a bishop over a local church. My church is named for a territory, It is the Black Creek Baptist Church, all churches in the bible were named for the territories they were in. That does not give me temporal authority over my territory as is, and has been practiced by the persecuting churches of old. The apostles will have temporal authority over a physical territory in the regeneration.
As far as I know, the King James Bible of the English Language is the only primary tongue (meaning that it was translated directly from the original languages) that has used the term "bishoprick". That is from an old Anglo-Saxon word derived from the German word "reich" , meaning a territory. Its usage here is another illustration of why we have a perfect bible.