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Among vs. Amongst

January 24, 2018

       The preposition "among" is used 916 times in the King James Bible.  The preposition "amongst" is only used twice, each time in the Book of Genesis.  Most dictionaries tell us that there is zero difference between among and amongst.  Some suggest that "amongst" is a slightly more poetic way of saying "among".  Daniel Webster's 1828 dictionary ignores "amongst" altogether.   

        In reviewing the 400 years of printing the King James Bible, and in keeping track of the various errors that crept in over the years and were then expunged by editors, the use of "amongst" was a common mistake.  If any of my readers own a 400th Anniversary Edition of the King James Bible published by Zondervan, or any other replica of an original 1611, they can readily see that Genesis 23:6 uses "amongst" instead of "among".  That was a printer's error and it was corrected in latter editions.

       The original printing of the King James Bible by Barker was a terrible printing job, and his subsequent editions waxed worse and worse.  One of the original posts in this blog dated February 4th 2017 is titled, The Original Manuscript.  In that post I introduce my readers to the sad fact that the original printing of the 1611 Bible had over 5000 errors. (https://www.purecambridgetext.com/single-post/2017/02/04/The-Original-Manuscript)        The history of how those errors were eventually corrected is a long and fascinating history which I have outlined in a number of posts starting with the series called, Where the Word of a King Is, (https://www.purecambridgetext.com/single-post/2017/06/22/Where-the-Word-of-A-King-Is). 

       It has four parts and is followed by Scrivener's Abomination which carries the history further.  
       Eventually, we ended up with the text for which this blog was named.  We have the Pure Cambridge Text which is the 7th purification of the Word of God.  In our Bible today, there are only two usages of the word "amongst" that have passed the test of time and scholarship to be kept in our text. 
        As is our wont here, we will go to the Oxford English dictionary (Unabridged) to see how the word "amongst" was defined in 1611.  We are told that Amongst is, "Less Usual in the primary local sense than among, and when so used, generally implying dispersion, intermixture, or shifting position."  In other words, when someone walks among sheep, he is different than the sheep he mixes with.  To walk amongst the sheep, would imply that his nature had been dispersed and intermixed with the sheep's.  His position in relation to the sheep's had shifted.  Jesus Christ could walk among men, he could never walk amongst them.  He was different than man.  He was not so intermixed and dispersed amongst us that he could not be distinguished.  The officers answered, Never man spake like this man, John 7:46.    
         That brings us back to the two occasions the word is used.  We'll look at the second one first.  That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you, Genesis 23:9.   Here we see Abraham humble himself in front of the children of Heth.  They regarded him as a mighty prince among them, but in asking for a place for his and Sarah's flesh to return to the dust from which it came, he reminds them they they are all but dust.  In death, he will be intermixed and dispersed amongst them.  His position will have changed.  In death he will be like them.  

       The first usage of amongst is by far the most fascinating.  And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden, Genesis 3:8.  To understand how Adam and Eve became dispersed and intermixed with trees it is necessary to look at Ezekiel 31: 8,9; speaking of the devil, the Word of God says, The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chesnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty. I have made him fair by the multitude of his branches: so that all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied him.

       Adam's very nature changed.  If there was no more scripture to be found after Genesis 3:8, that could be proved just by the preposition.  Adam had shifted position.  Whatever those trees were (and we know them to be devils), Adam and Eve had become dispersed and intermixed with them.  There is much that can be learned by paying attention to prepositions.  

 

 

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