Concerning Parenthesis and Italics

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled, Matthew 5:18.


We have a bible in which the many promises of God concerning his word are fulfilled. Not only do we have the promise that God will preserve his words; Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away, Mark 13:31, but we have a God who guards the punctuation. In accordance to his promise to purify his word in a furnace of earth, he has allowed seven purifications of the text of the King James Bible to accommodate changes in spelling and punctuation throughout the many generations. The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever, Psalm 12:6,7.

I received a message from a reader concerning the use of parentheses. The reader had them slightly mixed up with the rules for italics. I learned a long time ago that one person's hesitant question is often something that many people need to have clarified. Many is the time in church when a person has asked what they feared was a dumb question, but as I answered it, many people nodded as they got it for the first time.

The question is this: "were the words in the KJV Bible in Parentheses put there by the bible translators?". For seasoned veterans of issues dealing with our King James Bible, we know that when the translators supplied words that were not in the original text, they put them in italics. This blog serves as a learning tool for people new to the ideas therein, as well as a tool for "iron sharpening iron" which serves those who have long studied these issues. I am honored by such questions.

When translating from one language to another, it is often awkward or misleading to merely translate each word and put the translation of each word above the word translated. Not only do languages have different words one from another, they often change word order and they often use various word endings to do what prepositions do in English.

If I was to say "Him to she threw the ball, and I was accustomed to the structure of Old English, it would make perfect sense. Since "Him" means the person receiving the action, and "since "she" means the person performing the action, a person trained to listen to the inflections of the pronouns would have understood that, "she threw the ball to him".

Instead, Modern English is an analytical language. It uses word order to convey meaning. Therefore, a person hearing "Him to she threw the ball" would assume that a male threw a ball to a female and that the speaker had poor English skills. A person accustomed to understanding by inflection would have understood perfectly that a female threw a ball to a male. "Him as opposed to "he"" means the receiver of the action, whereas as "she as opposed to "her" means the doer of the action.

Sometimes a thought cannot be conveyed from one language to another without adding words. If I was to call you and say, "Come here", you would know that I was speaking to you. In English we can have assumed subjects of a sentence. Some languages may not allow that. Therefore they would add the word "you". If the King James translators added such a word, they would place the word in italics. It would look like "You come here". The meaning did not change. The added word made it more clear.

One of the stated goals of Benjamin Blayney in his seven year project to edit the King James Bible was to improve the usage of italics. To do so, he immersed himself in Greek and Hebrew so that he could more accurately italicize words that had been inserted by the translators. It is his reference to this that caused so many critics to accuse him of retranslating the King James Bible in 1769. He did no such thing.

For a fairly exhaustive review of the need for italics visit Will Kinney's excellent article here.

Parentheses are a different matter. Parentheses are used when the translators recognized a "thought within a thought". Because English is an analytical language, the order in which a thought is expressed become very important. Sometimes when a thought becomes a bit too complex, parentheses can help the reader. If I was to write "Give these books to Alice and tell her to come in here". That would be pretty straight forward.

If I wanted to add more clarity as to who Alice was, I might say, Give these books to Alice (the girl with the red hair) and tell her to come in here. I added a thought in the middle of the original thought. To make my reader understand me as clearly as possible, I took the extra thought and put it in parentheses. A rule for parentheses in the King James Bible is that any verse or passage using them will read perfectly understandably if the section inclosed in the parentheses is taken out. It will have less information, but it will read coherently.

Look at what Paul has written below. Notice that in verse 8, parentheses are used to segregate a thought. Notice further that if you removed the entire passage in parentheses, the two verses would read coherently together. They would just be lacking information. Parentheses are important in keeping the flow of understanding as God wants it understood.


Rom 3:7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?


Rom 3:8 And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.


No words are added in a parenthetical statement. They are merely set apart to make the entire passage read more clearly.



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