Wednesday, June 29, 2022

All His Furniture

 Following up on the last post, note also the word furniture in KJV Exodus 39:33: "And they brought the tabernacle unto Moses, the tent, and all his furniture." This word also, unexpectedly to modern ears, translates Hebrew kelim. Today furniture refers to the large furnishings of a house – the tables, chairs, rugs, lamps, and so forth – but in 1611 it meant equipment. In Exodus it refers to the dishes, cups, jars, bowls, pans, trowels, etc. used in the sacrificial worship. (The word his, by the way, refers to the tent, not to Moses.)

Here the KJV translators appear to have followed the Bishops' Bible, which also has furniture, while the Geneva Bible has instruments and the Tyndale Bible apparel — another word with a different modern meaning! The NRSV and ESV translate "utensils."

So  we have seen the KJV use three words in three different verses to translate a single Hebrew word. This illustrates the obvious point that there is no one-to-one relationship between the words of one language and the words of another – a point that is sometimes obscured by the hankering for a "literal" translation. A second point is that these three words – artillery, carriage, furniture – have changed their meaning in the 400+ years between King James and ourselves. The KJV is a monument of English literature, but its archaic language renders it liable to misinterpretation.  

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