Bible Q & A
Why are there Italics in the King James version of the Bible?
Have you ever noticed the italics in the King James Version of the Bible and wondered what
purpose they served?
Why are the words “the son” italicized in so many verses of the genealogy in the third
chapter of Luke?
Italicized words were first used in 1560 when an edition of a Bible, known as the Geneva
Bible, appeared. This Bible had been prepared by the Reformers in Geneva and was
translated directly from the original Hebrew and Greek. In this Bible there were words which
had to be added in English to make the meaning plain, although they were not necessary
in the original Hebrew and Greek idioms. No language can be translated word for
word. The Reformers distinguished such necessarily added word by italicizing them.
This was the most popular Bible obtainable at that time.
There were three versions of the Bible in England by the beginning of the seventeenth
century, but these translations were by no means correct and, as time went on, the
meaning of some of the English words changed. The need for a better translation arose and
from this need came our most popular translation of today, the King James or Authorized Version.
King James I of England gave this task to a group of fifty-four translators. In this
group were High Churchmen, Puritans and the best scholars in the land. They translated
from the original Hebrew and Greek and they also made use of italics to distinguish the words
they added to make peculiar Hebrew and Greek idioms understandable in
English. In most cases italicized words clarify the meaning of certain phrases. But if you
will investigate you will find that the translators were not men filled with God’s Holy
Spirit. Such men, hence, are apt to make mistakes and they did.
The Lord told Moses at the burning bush that His name was I AM. This same Jesus came in the
flesh. When the mad mob came to the Garden of Gethsemane for Him, He told them, “I Am
he”; but notice the word “he” is in italics and was not spoken by Jesus. The
correct translation is, “He said unto them, I AM.” This man-inserted word “he” completely
obscures the significant fact behind this event. That multitude knew what Jesus meant and
consequently they fell backward. They were facing the God of Israel, I AM.
There is another mistake worthy of our attention in Revelation 20:10. John apparently wrote
that the Devil, at the end of the one-thousand-year reign of Christ, would be cast
into the lake of fire “where the beast and false prophet are. “Are”
is in italics and is a man-supplied word. It is not in the original Greek. But to make the
meaning clear in English the words “were cast” ought to have been added. The word “are”
falsely implies that the beast and the false prophet are still alive in the lake of fire at
the time of Satan’s punishment which is after the Millennium (Rev. 19:20). We know
that they will not remain there one thousand years because they, being mortal
flesh, will burn up.
The real meaning is that Satan is to be cast into the same lake of fire into which the
beast and false prophet were cast a thousand years previously.