I Am Italicized

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God (Exodus 3:6 KJV).

Suppose we removed the italicized word “am” here. The verse reads awkwardly now: “I… the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moreover, by omitting that tiny term, we have weakened a major Bible theme!

The most misunderstood and disparaged feature of the King James Bible is its italicized words. “Scholars” have told us non-Hebrew and non-Greek speakers and readers that the italicized words can be removed without damaging the Scriptures. This is not true! (But who bothers to verify that claim anyway because the vast majority believes the “scholars” are highly educated, infallible, and above suspicion?!) Suffice it to say that, during the translation process, words must be inserted into the receptor/target language to convey the sense of the original/source language. If English is to adequately capture the meaning of the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, the English needs additional words.

Reading Matthew 22:23-33, we see Jesus Himself quotes today’s Scripture in verse 32: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” The “am” here is not italicized! If the italicized word did not belong in Exodus, why does Matthew cite Exodus with the italicized word not italicized?

Common sense dictates that we cannot emphasize what is not there. Had we removed “am” from Exodus, we would fail to grasp the full impact of Jesus’ argument in Matthew 22:32. A major doctrine—resurrection—is no longer proven here. “Am” is present tense. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still living in spirit form—although they had physically died some centuries before God spoke to Moses about them in today’s Scripture! (Jesus thus used this Old Testament passage to disprove the Sadducees’ belief that there was no resurrection, the erroneous notion that people ceased to exist after physical death.)

Here is one of the many strong arguments to retain the italicized words in the Authorized Version. They all belong—even the “insignificant” two-letter ones!