This book is concerned with words used in the King James Version of the Bible which have become obsolete or archaic, or have changed in meaning or acquired new meanings, so that they no longer convey to the reader the sense which the King James translators intended them to express. Most of these words were accurate translations in 1611, but they have become ambiguous or misleading.
The language of the King James Version of the Bible was sixteenth- century English, for it was a revision of English versions that went back to Wyclif in the late fourteenth century and to Tyndale and his successors from 1525 on. And it was sixteenth-century English at its best--"the noblest monument of English prose." There is general agreement with the verdict of its revisers in 1881, who expressed admiration for "its simplicity, its dignity, its power, its happy turns of expression . . . the music of its cadences and the felicities of its rhythm."
Yet the development of Biblical studies, the discovery of ancient manuscripts, and the new knowledge of Bible lands and languages afforded by archaeology have made its revision desirable; and the changes in English usage have made it necessary. The Revised Version was published in 1881-1885, the American Standard Version in 1901, and the Revised Standard Version in 1946-1952. These revisions were authorized by the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury, Church of England, in 1870, or by the International Council of Religious Education, representing the Protestant churches of the United States and Canada, in 1937.
The present volume owes its title to The Bible Word-Book, by William Aldis Wright , the second edition of which, revised and enlarged, was published in England in 1884, succeeding a first edition prepared with the help of the Reverend J. Eastwood, published in 1866. Wright has articles on 2,316 archaic words and phrases in the Authorised Version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. He gives for each a brief definition and statement of etymological derivation, then quotes examples of its use in English literature, chiefly of the sixteenth century. For these illustrations, his book is of lasting value.
Today the situation is different. Three revisions of the King James Version have been published, and there have been notable new translations of the Bible into modern speech. The thirteen-volume Oxford English Dictionary affords a wealth of illustration for the varied senses of English usage. The etymology of the English words is indicated in all of the larger dictionaries.