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Correcting Bryan C. Ross's Error on "Thoroughly" and "Throughly"

How Can “Throughly” and “Thoroughly” be the same Word?

       In his book, The King James Bible in America: An Orthographical, Historical and Textual Investigation,  Pastor Bryan C. Ross attempts to make the case that thoroughly and throughly are in actuality the same word spelled two different ways.  He goes so far as to say, "alleged differences in meanings between words like “throughly” and “thoroughly” have been completely fabricated” (Page 23).  

And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter, Genesis 11:1

         If the bricks in Genesis 11:1 had been burned thoroughly, there would have been naught but ashes.

        FBI Agent: “Can we find any evidence in the house?”

        Fireman: “No, they burned it thoroughly.” 

       At issue here is whether the King James Translators had a distinctly different meaning in mind when they used the word “throughly” as opposed to the word “thoroughly”.   Just as I took some time in the last post to look at every verse that contained the word “alway” and demonstrated that the translators clearly used the word when the saw it as different from “always”, we’ll do that again.  It’s far easier with these two words. 

       When author and Pastor Bryan C. Ross looks at these two words he followed two paths.  He looked at the difference between the 1611 printing by Barker and the 1769 edition edited by Blayney and printed by the Clarendon Press (Oxford).   The two words shift positions in Genesis 11:3 which said “thorowly” (old Spelling) in the 1611 printing and “throughly” in the 1769.  Likewise there is an opposite shift in Exodus 21:19 and 2nd Kings 11:18. The 1611 said “throughly” and the 1769 said “thoroughly”.  He sees this shift as one evidence that the two words are interchangeable.   He then looked through the histories of the words in etymologies.  (Please read the first two posts dealing with the etymologies.)

            Before we look at the etymological and historical shifts that have taken place with these two words, we’ll take a moment and look at the 2 times our Cambridge Text uses the word “thoroughly” and we will examine the 12 uses of “throughly”.  The differences are striking.  Then we need to look at the evidence that Pastor Ross accumulated to declare them the same word.  Prosecutors and defense attorneys often use the exact same evidence to come to two completely different conclusions.  Perhaps we will see a similar thing happen here.  It really is a great case to show the orthographic shifts that occurred during the 150 years after the King James Bible was first printed. 


  1.    If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed, Exodus 21:19

       The context here is two men who strive together and one wallops the other with a stone or with his fist.  The penalty for that was that the offender had to pay for the loss of the man’s time the entire time that he was laid up, and he owed that man any lost income until the man was “thoroughly” healed.  Not a partial healing, the man needed to be completely healed of the wound caused in the fight. 

   2.   And all the people of the land went into the house of Baal, and brake it down; his altars and his images brake they in pieces thoroughly, and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest appointed officers over the house of the LORD, 2nd Kings 11:18.

            How completely did they brake up those images?  They did it “thoroughly”, they did not leave any image not utterly broken up. 


   1.    And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter, Genesis 11:3.   Imagine a project so big as the Tower of Babel.  At some point during or just before Nimrod, the art of making bricks that could support a multi-story building was developed.  Intrinsic to the story of the tower is the admonition among the people of how they would make bricks.  We know that to make a brick just right, it has to be fired in a kiln.  We also know that the key to that process is seeing to it that the heating process is conducted into the very center of the brick.  It must be burned “throughly”, not just on the outside, but throughout the entire brick.  In this sense to say that we must burn the brick evenly throughout says the same thing.  Our language lost a good adverb when it stopped using the word “throughly”.

2.     Oh that my grief were throughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! Job 6:2. Here Job asks that God go throughout the extent of his grief and weigh it. 

3.     Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin, Psalm 51:2.   Some bibles errantly say, Wash me thoroughly from my sin.  David is not asking for sinless perfection.  He wants God to go throughout his life and wash sin out.  

4.    Thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall throughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine: turn back thine hand as a grapegatherer into the baskets, Jeremiah 6:9.  If the enemy had thoroughly gleaned Israel there would have been 100% of the people in captivity.  Your bible does not say that.  Instead it tells us that the enemy went throughout Israel in their gleaning.  No province, city, social strata or family was not gleaned from. 

5.  (used twice)  For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour, Jeremiah 7:5.   God is asking them to go throughout their ways and amend them.  He is not asking for a thorough amending of every way.  I have lived on three continents and yet to meet a person whose every way was evil.  As for judgment, he is not asking them to judge every single thing between a man and his neighbor.  He is asking that throughout a man's judgment between him and his neighbor, the judgement be executed rightly.   

6.    Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name: he shall throughly plead their cause, that he may give rest to the land, and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon, Jeremiah 50:34.  Here we see God going throughout every aspect of Israel’s cause and promising to plead for them.  This is not an exhaustive pleading of their cause such as might be in a thorough doctoral thesis wherein every single thing that could be said for the cause of Israel is pleaded.  What does happen is that every aspect of their cause is brought up.  It is done throughly. 

7.    Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil, Ezekiel 16:9.  The Lord is describing the physical washing of a baby that has been cast off after its birth.  There is no part of that baby that he did not scrub.  Throughout the length and girth of that baby, and in every crevasse he washed away blood.

8.    Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire, Matthew 3:12.  He will go throughout the length and breadth of the floor and purge it of chaff and gather wheat. 

9.    Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable, Luke 3:17.  Ditto

10.   But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things, 2nd Corinthians 11:6.  I hope that I am never thoroughly made manifest to any people.  There is such a thing as privacy.  I still believe in separate restrooms for men and women. 

11.    That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works, 2nd Timothy 3:17.  Perhaps no other verse illustrates the folly of melding the two words throughly and thoroughly into one word.  A man who is furnished throughout every aspect of his life to serve God is desirable.  He should be furnished to good works in marriage, finances, doctrine, social behavior, and his work ethic, etc.. To say that his study of the scripture made him “thoroughly” furnished suggests that he is ready for brain surgery and international funding of missions programs.  Certainly those are good works.   If a man who has studied scripture decides to prepare for any such good work, he will be throughly furnished for it.  He will bring good character and godliness to that work. 

    Why then did the 1611 printing of the King James Bible use the word “throughly” in Exodus 21:19 and 2nd Kings 11:18?  Why did it use the word “thorowly” (old spelling) in Genesis 11:3?  This is a major plank in Pastor Ross’s argument that both words are the same.  Given that Barker died in debtor prison and that he was continually sued over the poor quality of his printing, and given that there are a minimum of 5000 typos and other errors in his work, the first printing is not a good look at what the original handwritten document said.  And given that the entire history of the King James Bible since its initial launch in 1611 has been a history of trying to make sense out of the orthographical changes over the following century and a half, and trying to undo the sloppy work of Barker and then others, a plea to Barker’s spelling and word choice needs to be handled gingerly.

      Of course Professor Norton made hay out of the change that Blayney made in 1769.  If a man who wanted to make a fortune by substituting words in a King James Bible, and who wanted to make the point that words have always been changed throughout the years were to show you two changed words, what do you think he would ascribe that change to?  In this case the answer is not so simple as error on Barker’s part.     

            The online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) gives a definition of throughly as: From beginning to end; all the way to the end (esp. of a book); all through. Obsolete.  You will note that it is now obsolete.  So is the word listeth.  I have yet to meet the person who has been harmed by learning an obsolete word in the King James Bible.  Yet when we look up thoroughly in the OED we can follow the links to the 1989 edition which shows us that “thoroughly” was spelled “throughly” in the 1600s.  The orthography of “thoroughly” and “throughly” was not settled in 1611. 

            When Ward and Bois got their first crack at printing their own work in the 1638 Cambridge, they changed the spelling of Genesis 11:3 to “throughly”.  They left Exodus 21:19 and 2nd Kings 11:18 as “throughly”.  That speaks volumes.  They saw Genesis 11:3 as an error on Barker’s account.  Since “thoroughly” was still in flux as to its spelling, they left it alone.  I am curious as to whether Paris was the first to use the new orthography in spelling “thoroughly in 1762. 

       His work is rare due to a major fire at Cambridge, and I would have to travel 6 hours to the outskirts of New York City, then take the train and subway to get to Columbus Circle and then after having made an appointment look at the American Bible Society’s two excellent Blayney Folios.    When I have examined them, I have found that much of what is ascribed to Blayney originated with Paris.  Nevertheless, it is not all that important who was first to use the updated orthography.  What is important is that from the mid-1700s the two distinctly different words, “throughly” and ‘thoroughly” have been spelled differently.   

     More and more, especially in American printings, those two words are sloppily interchanged.  If you have such a bible, go get your money back.  If it's a family heirloom, put it aside and go get a real bible.  

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