Random italics in the Bible

Any Bible scholars out there?

When I got a Kindle, one of the long-term projects I started was to read the Bible from cover to cover. The e-book keeps my place better than that ribbon marker in a physical Bible, and I’m not looking at that daunting thickness left before I finish, both of which made me abandon previous attempts in the administrative wastelands of Deuteronomy if not Numbers.

Anyway, I downloaded and installed the World English Bible because other than the KJV, it was the only one for free. As I’m going along I find, like the KJV, there are words, word-pairs, and the occasional phrase in italics for no apparent reason. For example, in Judges (where I am now), we get the following:

Jud 9:27 They went out into the field, and gathered their vineyards, and trod the grapes, and held festival, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink, and Cursed Abimelech.

Jud 10:8 They troubled and oppressed the children of Israel that year: eighteen years oppressed they all the children of Israel beyond the Jordan…

Jud 11:13 …now therefore restore these lands again peaceably.

They don’t seem to be disagreements on a translation; those are handled by a footnote link with the alternative. For example, in Exodus almost every mention of the Red Sea has a link to “or Sea of Reeds.”

So can any dopers out there tell me the reason for picking those few words and phrases out?

Typically, the words in italics are not present in the original text, and are interpolated by the translator. I think that’s what’s happening here. I’ve consulted JPS (a fairly trustworthy translation that tries to stick to original text) and the original Hebrew, for your three examples:

Jud 9:27 The Hebrew literally says: “They went out into the fields, gathered the vintage of their vinyards and trod, and made a festival.” The direct object of “trod” is understood in the original text, but it doesn’t make for good English, so your translation has added “the grapes” after “trod” and put the words in italics.

Jud 10:8 JPS translation has “That year they battered and shattered the Israelites – for 18 years – all the Israelites beyond the Jordan.” The term “they oppressed” is added in your translations, so put in italics.

Jud 11:13 Similarly, the words “lands” doesn’t appear in the Hebrew text. JPS translation is “…Now then restore it peaceably.”

I think that italic tradition started with KJV, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

“The italicized words in the King James Bible are words that were added by the translators to help the reader. This is usually necessary when translating from one language to another because word meanings and idioms change. So, to produce a more readable translation, the King James translators (1604- 1611) added certain words to the Bible text. However, to make sure that everyone understood that these words were not in the available manuscripts they set them in italics.”
from here

Ah, thank you. It makes sense now. There would naturally be words left out as they would be understood by someone — at that time and of that culture — from the context.

The English Standard Version is also available free for the Kindle. It’s my preferred translation right now, as it is both pretty literal and smooth-flowing.


I suppose today’s convention would be square brackets.

Thank you, I’ve always wondered about this and have never gotten around to asking! I had the vague idea that it was an assist for reading the texts aloud (you know, to accent the meter or something). Makes total sense now.

Yes, I have several Bible versions on my Kindle that either are, or were temporarily, free.

There are also many versions that you can read for free on line, but which you’d have to pay for to purchase a Kindle edition of—from some of the versions available at Biblegateway.com to the LOLCats Bible.

I’ve read a few books about the actual translation of the KJV, since we’re in the 400th anniversary period.

Quite a bit has changed in the English language in 400 years, and the use of italics is one of those things. Italics were originally used to de-emphasize something.

Thus the use of italics in the KJV made sense on multiple levels.
(Bonus trivia–the KJV of today is not the original KJV. It was slightly updated and modernized in the 1700’s.)

The KJV of today is definitely not the original 1611 version. According to Opfell’s The King James Bible Translators, the version, itself a revision of the earlier Bishop’s Bible, had over 100 different distinct editions with changes between 1611 up to the 1769 version, which is the one most commonly found today.

Since the question’s been answered, I’ll point out one of my favourite facets of language: even after technology has rendered obsolete the literal meaning of an expression, it still persists! We still dial a phone and we still read e-books “cover to cover”! :wink:

Yeah I just searched for “Bible” in the Kindle store, and saw over 10 free ones, with some other companion-guide type things.

It started with the 1557 ‘Geneva’ New Testament.

Another thing you may notice in some translations is the use of half brackets (the bottom half of ." These indicate that the translators were unsure of the added words. I find this is more common in most modern translations than using italics. for every added word.

Available as 235 and 251 (Alt-0235, Alt-0251) in the Symbol font. I was just curious.

Well in the original printing of the KJV in 1611 it wasn’t a matter of italics vs. regular type - it was roman font for the additions and Gothic blackletter for the actual text.

Yet doofusses today, some of them TV preachers, emphasize the italicized words, as if they were extra-special.

I have *nothing of substance to add, but I remember this question being asked at the dawn of these message boards.
*Then why are you bumping this?

49 minutes after the previous post is a “bump” now? I guess nostalgia really isn’t what it used to be.

It’s kinda hard not to, when reading, even to yourself. I’d prefer the square-bracket convention – in my head, it would sound right.