First in a seven-part monthly series on some unexpected riches to be found in the language of our common version.

1 You can find out for yourself

The words of the King James Version can bring you remarkably close to the original text of the Bible—if you use all your resources. If you've ever studied Latin, for example, you could start with that. Or you could remember the Latin roots you've met in English, with help perhaps from other languages, like French or Spanish. Sometimes we forget how much closer English people of King James's time were to Latin—partly through church Latin and the Vulgate (the famous old Latin translation of the Bible used all through the Middle Ages), but partly too through the Norman French of their own country's background.

Latin won't take you all the way, of course, to the meaning of a Bible word (you'd need Hebrew or Greek for that) but it can often steer you in the right direction.

It's well to remember that many words in the KJV have moved a long way since the seventeenth century. Often they've evolved from a general meaning—close to their Latin root—to something much more specific. A specific modern meaning may take you off on a sidetrack, away from what the Bible is actually saying. On the other hand, sticking with the Latin root—and you'll find you know more of these roots than you think, even if English is your only language— may bring you very close to the underlying Hebrew or Greek word.

Enjoy 1 free Sentinel article or audio program each month, including content from 1898 to today.

A place of one's own
July 7, 1980

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