KJV - Strain at a gnat; Archaic?

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by kubel, Nov 26, 2006.

  1. kubel

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    (KJV) Matthew 23:24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

    Ok, this probably has been discussed a million times before. But I have heard a rather good argument that the well known error "strain at a gnat" in the AV could in fact be correct archaic English rather than a translation or typographical error.

    Does this hold water? Has anyone found examples of other early modern English writings that use the word "at" in place of "out"? Could I have misinterpreted archaic English as an error here?
     
  2. Logos1560

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    I don't know of any other uses of "at" for "out" in that day.

    In his 1833 revision of the KJV, Noah Webster wondered how an error remained uncorrected in the KJV for more than two centuries in Matthew 23:24 (misprint "strain at a gnat" for correct "strain out"). The Cambridge History of the Bible noted that "strain at" (Matt. 23:24) "was almost certainly a printer's error" (Vol. 3, p. 362). At this verse in his 1847 edition of the KJV with commentary, Adam Clarke wrote: "It is likely to have been at first an error of the press, AT for OUT." John Eadie agreed that "strain at" was "probably a misprint in the first edition for 'strain out'" (English Bible, p. 367). The Ryrie Study Bible has the following note at this verse: "This misprint in the King James Version has never been corrected." The Companion Bible's note at this verse referred to "at" as "a mistake" (p. 1363). Concerning this verse in the KJV, Albert Barnes wrote: "The common reading is a misprint and should be corrected. The Greek means, to strain out by a cloth or sieve" (Barnes' Notes on N. T., p. 100). A. T. Robertson commented: "By filtering through (dia), not the 'straining at' in swallowing so crudely suggested by the misprint in the A. V." (Word Pictures in N.T., I, pp. 183-184). David Norton pointed out that the rendering “strain out a gnat” was left unrevised in the 1602 copy of the Bishops’ Bible with the annotations of changes made by the KJV translators, “suggesting but not proving that the translators decided to leave it unchanged” (Textual History of the KJB, p. 44).


    "Strain out" is in Tyndale's New Testament, Coverdale's Bible, Matthew's Bible, Coverdale's Duoglott New Testament, Taverner's Bible, Great Bible, Whittingham's New Testament, the Geneva Bible, and Bishops' Bible. The KJV was a revision of the earlier English Bibles. According to the first rule given the KJV translators, what "truth of the original" demanded this claimed alteration in the earlier English Bibles? Why introduce an archaic rendering when the rendering of the pre-1611 English Bibles was already clear? According to the fourteen rule, does this alteration agree "better with the [original language] Text?" If the change was not a clear improvement demanded by the original language texts, why was the change made? The 1873 Cambridge Paragraph edition of the KJV edited by Scrivener has "strain out." Scrivener noted that T. Baskett's edition of the KJV (1754) has "strain out" (Authorized Edition, p. 201). If more copies (a majority) were made of a Bible with a misprint, does this majority text make the misprint the standard for Bibles without the misprint?
     
  3. Jerome

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    It is not a misprint.
    Strain at was commonly used in the decades preceding the translation of the KJV:

    Rudolf Gwalther
    An hundred, threescore and fiftene homelyes or sermons...(1572)
    "...Gospel, where he sayth they strayne at a Gnat..."

    John Whitgift
    A godlie sermon preched before the Queenes Maiestie... (1574)
    "...ye straine at a Gnat, & swallow..."

    Roger Fenton
    An ansvvere to VVilliam Alablaster... (1599)
    "...Let vs then leaue to straine at gnattes, and ingenuously acknowledge..."

    George Abbot, ***KJV translator on the Oxford commitee assigned the Gospels***
    An exposition vpon the prophet Ionah... (1600)
    "...to make a strayning at a gnat, and to swallow vp a whole Camel."
     
  4. Keith M

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    This is the first time I have heard of the possibility that "strain at" may have been an archaic form. It would seem more likely that someone was just clutching at straws to try to defend a reading which is obviously wrong.

    According to Strong's, the Greek diulozo is defined as "to filter through, strain through, pour through a filter, strain out." There is no mention at all of "strain at." And since the Bishops' Bible, of which the KJV is a revision, had the word "out" at this verse, I tend to accept the idea that "at" is a printing error that was never corrected. Nothing else would explain why the word "at" appears only in the KJV, while earlier translations had "out." Of course, if the translators did in fact use "at" rather than "out" as the Greek demands, then doesn't that tend to discredit the "inspired translation" that some folks claim for the KJV?
     
  5. Logos1560

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    Thank you for providing these examples. What was your source or sources for this examples? Did you check the original sources or microfilm copies of the original sources yourself or do these examples come from second-hand sources? In my opinion, four such examples do not prove that "strain at" was "commonly used." While these examples indicate the possibility that the "strain at" could have been introduced intentionally by the KJV translators, do they prove that the KJV translators introduced it considering the fact that this change is not found in the copy of the 1602 Bishops' Bible that has the handwritten annotations made by the KJV translators?
     
  6. Jerome

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    Here is a copy of the last citation, particularly relevant since its author was on the very committee that translated Matthew.
    View attachment 78
    Did you check the annotated 1602 Bishops' Bible or microfilm copies of it yourself or does the information come from a second-hand source?:)
     
    #6 Jerome, Nov 27, 2006
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  7. kubel

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    In the past, I have heard three sides on the KJV gnat issue:

    1) "It is a typographical error."
    2) "It is a translation error."
    3) "It's correct- to strain at means to look at."

    Almost every person used #3 when defending the way the KJV reads (which is so obviously false) that I went with #1 or #2. Now I'm beginning to believe this #4 has some truth to it:

    4) "It's correct- but archaic".

    Thanks for those examples Jerome.
     
  8. franklinmonroe

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    Allow me relate my first impression upon reading this verse when I was a young lad: I immediately thought it meant that they were squwinting at the tiny bug. Before I had glasses to correct my eyesight, I often "strained" (exerted) to see, or squwinted "at" small items. I thought "the straining at" had to do with vision (as kubel's #3).

    It is very clear to me now that the Greek word diulizo has to do with filtering, not viewing.
     
    #8 franklinmonroe, Nov 29, 2006
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  9. franklinmonroe

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    Some of the notes made by John Bois (member of the first Cambridge Committee for the AV1611) during the final revision were recently discovered in Corpus Christi College Library at Oxford, edited by Professor Ward Allen, and published in 1970 under the title Translating for King James.

    Mr. Allen is also the co-author with Edward C. Jacobs on The Coming of the King James Gospels: A Collation of the Translators' Work-in-Progress. Apparently, a 1610 Bishop's Bible the translators used discovered in the Bodleian Library which reads, "Yee blinde guides, which straine out a gnat, and swallow a camell" had a mark on the verse indicating the intent to alter "out" to "at."

    It seems that this was a deliberate change, and not a printer's error (kubel's #1).
     
    #9 franklinmonroe, Nov 29, 2006
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  10. franklinmonroe

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    If the implication is that "at" was commonly used for "out", then these quotations are not suitable proof of that assertion. All that has been provided is four citations around the same verse from different men; this does not prove that it was common in general speaking or literature elsewhere during this period. It only proves concensus of the word "at" in this verse among some high churchmen that probably knew each other well (see below).

    What is needed to prove that assertion is several clear and obvious references where "at" is applied for the meaning of "out" (other than citations of the verse already in dispute). Since "at" occurs in the KJV over 1500 times, perhaps it can be shown where some other "at" really carries the meaning of "out"; but secular Jacobean examples would be stronger proof. It may have been simply a common misconception that "at" was appropriate at this verse, and that "at" does not archaically mean "out" at all.

    These brief sentences certainly are not proof that "at" is a correct rendering of the verse. Three of these men had very close associations: two were on the AV translation committee, George Abbot (as noted) helped translate the Gospels, and also Roger Fenton; and two held the position of Archbishop of Canterbury about the time the AV was published... John Whitgift (from 1583 until his death in 1604) and Abbot (starting in 1611). Richard Bancroft was the Archbishop between them and during the project. They all lived in England (same location) during the late 16th century (same era). Several quotes from completely unrelated writers might be convincing, but that is not what we have here.

    It is very possible that these three churchmen shared a common source, had the preference of "at", and passed it among themselves. Many Anglicans at this time erroneously believed that they actual ate Christ's physical body each time they took communion! These three men could easily all be wrong for the same reason (maybe kubel's #3 interpretation). It is even possible that they are directly responsible for "at" coming into the KJV text.

    I cannot find information on Rudolf Gwalther (except in German; again same era); perhaps Jerome will share some biographic info on him. Thanks
     
    #10 franklinmonroe, Nov 29, 2006
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  11. kubel

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    I think if we found a few ats in place of outs in works other than translations of that verse (or references to that verse), that it would settle this debate once and for all.

    Are there any non-gnat-related ats for outs in other English writings of that period? If so, it would surely drive a nail in the coffin of the error.
     
  12. Jerome

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    John Bridges, vicar of Herne, translated Gwalther's Latin into English.

    Other instances of "strain at":

    John Calvin translated by Arthur Golding
    The sermons of M. Iohn Caluin... (1577)
    "...play the hipocrytes, who will streyne at a gnat, and swallowe..."

    Edward Topsell
    The house-holder: or, Perfect man. Preached in three sermons... (1610)
    ...will leaue these Fooles, Which straine at Gnats, and swallow Camels,...

    John King
    Lectures vpon Ionas deliuered at Yorke... (1599)
    "...wonders of nature, whe~ we straine at gnats, & cannot co~ceiue..."

    Thomas Gainsford
    The vision and discourse of Henry the seuenth... (1610)
    "...and seeke extremities, They straine at Gnats..."
     
  13. Jerome

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    E. Cobham Brewer
    Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898)

    "Strain at a gnat and swallow a camel... Our expression “strain at” is a corruption of strain-ut, “ut” being the Saxon form of out, retained in the words ut-most, utter, uttermost, etc."
     
  14. Keith M

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    Sounds like another s-t-r-e-t-c-h...
     
  15. NaasPreacher (C4K)

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    Sounds like a valid point to me.

    Speaking of straining at a gnat, that appears to be what this thread is doing, IMHO. Making a mountain out of a molehill - jousting at a windmill.

    But, it is well within the rules - so have at it fellas ;).
     
  16. Jerome

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    Geoffrey Chaucer
    Canterbury Tales
    Men may the olde at-renne, and noght at-rede.
    Men may outrun the old, but not outwit them.
     
    #16 Jerome, Nov 30, 2006
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  17. franklinmonroe

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    Again, these quotes do not help in determining that "at" meant "out" in ordinary speech because they are all citations around the disputed verse.

    It certainly appears that there was a consensus during this era that the rendering of "at" was a proper one. I tend to think that these men did not come to this conclusion independently, but that they were all influenced by a common source(s) stream.
     
  18. franklinmonroe

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    If "at" was truly commonly used for "out", couldn't we have expected more than a single occurance in all the voluminous Jacobean literature such as the KJV translation? or the Great Bible? or the Geneva? or the Bishop's Bible, or...
     
    #18 franklinmonroe, Nov 30, 2006
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  19. franklinmonroe

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    This is much more like what we're after... however, one drawback is that this is an example from poetry, and poets often take liberties with language (i.e. exploiting an uncommon term or phrase). Again, if "at" was commonly used for "out" in England since the time of the writing of The Canterbury Tales (200 years before the KJV) then it should be easy to find dozens, maybe thousands, of examples.

    The online ©Librarius Middle English Glossary (and two others I viewed) to help with the understanding of archaic terms used in the literature there was no entry for "at". Of course, this is not conclusive; perhaps a Middle English glossary can be found that does have it listed. Here is a sample section from the ©Librarius MEG--
     
    #19 franklinmonroe, Nov 30, 2006
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  20. Jerome

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    No one asserted that.
    I wrote:
    By commonly I mean frequently (in the available records).
     

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