Bowels and Bible Mockers
Several times over the last few years I have run into people who make fun of certain words found in the King James Bible. They themselves do not believe that any Bible in any language is the complete and inerrant words of God, but they think that they are capable of criticizing the Book God has blessed and used far more than any other Bible in history.
One such Bible critic wrote me saying: "Philemon 1:20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord." (KJV) My bowels are refreshed when I sit on the toilet."
I wrote back to him: "----, you're mocking the word of God. Have you bothered to check out how many other Bible versions correctly translate this word as bowels? Have you bothered to look the word up in an English Dictionary to see what other meanings it has? Are you aware of the fact that the King James Bible and many others have translated the specific Greek word that is used there literally as "bowels", because that is EXACTLY WHAT IT MEANS in Greek, and that even the NASB, NIV have the word bowels in them in other places?"
Another Christian wrote the following: "You tell me which of the following are more clear in English: My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my BOWELS were moved for him. (Song of Solomon 5:4 KJV)
My beloved put his hand to the latch, and my HEART was thrilled within me. (Song of Solomon 5:4 ESV, Geneva, Bishops', NKJV)
My love thrust his hand through the opening, and my FEELINGS were stirred for him. (Song of Solomon 5:4 HCSB)
NIV - "My LOVER thrust his hand through the latch-opening; my HEART began to pound for him." It is funny how the English language has changed. Most people understand "my bowels were moved" differently than they did in 1611." (End of comments)
So how do we King James Bible believers address this issue? It's really not that hard. Ignorance can be dispelled by a little knowledge.
The New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language 1971 defines the plural word "bowels" as "The supposed seat of pity or tenderness; hence kindness, compassion or affection; the interior part of anything, i.e. the bowels of the earth."
The Collins English Dictionary says: Bowels -
1. innards; entrails
2. (literary) the deep or innermost part (esp in the phrase the bowels of the earth)
3. (archaic) the emotions, esp of pity or sympathy
Webster's Dictionary 1828 defined "bowels" in the following manner:
BOW'ELS, n. plural
1. The intestines of an animal; the entrails, especially of man. The heart. 2.Cor.6.12.
2. The interior part of any thing; as the bowels of the earth.
3. The seat of pity or kindness; hence, tenderness, compassion, a scriptural sense.
Any good English dictionary will tell you that the word bowels has two or three different meanings in English. One refers to the intestines; another refers to the inner parts or deepest recesses of something, like "he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir" (Genesis 15:4 - KJB, Jewish translations 1917 Jewish Publication Society, the 1936 Hebrew Publishing Company, New York, the Geneva Bible 1587, Youngs, RV 1885, ASV 1901, Jubilee Bible 2010 or the bowels of the ship or the bowels of the earth.
A third meaning of this word is the seat of the emotions and feelings.
Is this an "archaic" usage and meaning of the word "bowels"? Yes, it is generally considered to be archaic, yet it is still used with this meaning in several modern versions, as we shall soon see. It is an older meaning of the word. But so what? No one is denying that the King James Bible has some "old fashioned" or even "archaic" words in it. It also uses words like "thee, thy, thou, thine, and ye", but these are actually far more accurate and exact in meaning than is the generic modern use of the word "you".
Being "archaic" does NOT mean that it is not right and what God actually wrote in His Book. The Bible is not supposed to read like your local newspaper or a contemporary novel. It is God's eternal and inspired words and it's SUPPOSED to sound different than "the language on the street".
Do we need to "update" the language of the Bible?
Usually it is the bible agnostic crowd that keeps telling us that “The N.T. was written in Koine Greek” and this somehow proves that bible versions need to be “updated and revised” and put into modern English and other languages.
But let’s look at it a different way. Does God see the beginning from the end? What is the pattern we see Him use in history? Usually the bible agnostics and unbelievers in the infallibility of ANY Bible tell us we need to study and learn “the Hebrew and Greek” or “the original languages” in order to find out what God REALLY said. Right?
Well, this same God who sees the end from the beginning also knew that the biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek are in a form that is no longer spoken or used today. They are both in a slightly “archaic” form, yet the native speaking Jews and Greeks today can read them and understand them.
Would any Bible believing, devout Jew change a single syllable of his “archaic” Hebrew Old Testament? Or a believing Orthodox Greek change his “old fashioned” Textus Receptus New Testament? Of course not; they have too much respect and reverence for the biblical texts.
I believe it is the same thing with the English language. God knew that languages would change over time and that His pure words, as found only in the King James Bible, would sound slightly “strange, different and old fashioned”, but this is a good thing.
When people read out of the King James Bible we are immediately struck by the fact that it reads like NO OTHER BOOK on this earth. It is an OLD Book that has been around for a good long time, and it speaks God’s eternal truths to us like no other book or Bible on this earth.
The very way it is written sticks in the mind and makes you think about what it is saying the way the watered down and dumbed down modern versions do not. Most modern versions have more the taste of cardboard than of the sweet honey of God’s pure words as found in the King James Bible. And it is the ONLY one seriously believed by thousands even today to be the complete, inspired and 100% true words of the living God.
When we read in the King James Bible the word BOWELS, realize that this is exactly the word GOD inspired in those places. He used the same word when it means "the guts" or the literal inward parts, and He also used the same Hebrew and Greek word to refer to the inward feelings and affections that people experience.
What people are really trying to do when they tell you the King James Bible needs to be "updated and revised" is to get you to use one of the multiple choice, contradictory, constantly changing and TEXTUALLY very different "bible" versions that NOBODY seriously believes are the infallible and 100% true words of God.
NO other English Bible nor any other specific Hebrew and Greek text combined into one Book is believed by ANYBODY to be the infallible words of the living God today.
See much more about this and what is at stake in my article "The 'Archaic' language of the King James Bible" here -
The King James Bible as well as many other Bible versions use the word "bowels" to refer to the literal intestines. "And thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy BOWELS, until thy BOWELS fall out by reason of the sickness day by day." 2 Chronicles 21:15 (KJB, RV, ASV, NASB, ESV).
In Acts 1:18 we read concerning Judas: "and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his BOWELS gushed out." (RV, ASV, RSV, NASB, ESV)
The use of the word BOWELS that is most often attacked by the Bible correctors and unbelievers in the infallibility of ANY Bible is seen in verses like Genesis 43:30 "And Joseph made haste; for his BOWELS did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there."
The Hebrew word used here is #7356 and is variously translated as "bowels, mercy, compassion, tender mercies, and to be pitied".
The word does not mean "heart" as the RSV, NKJV have it. The NASB and NIV both simply paraphrase it. The NASB says: "for HE was deeply stirred over his brother"; while the NIV has: "Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out..."
The earlier Geneva Bible says: "His AFFECTION was inflamed toward his brother" but then has a marginal note telling us that the Hebrew is literally "bowels".
Some of the earlier English versions like the Great bible 1540, Matthew's bible 1549, Coverdale 1535 and the Bishops' bible 1568 and the Catholic Douay Rheims 1582 actually read more like the modern versions and said "his HEART was moved on his brother", but the King James Bible translators apparently made a conscious and deliberate choice to translate this word as "bowels". This is literally what the Hebrew word means.
Genesis 43:30 - "for his BOWELS DID YEARN upon his brother"
Agreeing with the King James reading of "his BOWELS did yearn upon his brother" are Webster's translation 1833, the Revised Version of 1881- "for his BOWELS did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep", Julia Smith Translation 1855, Young's 'literal' translation 1898, Darby's translation 1890 - "for his bowels burned for his brother, The Word of Yah 1993, Bond Slave Version 2009, the Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, and the 2010 Jubilee Bible - "Then Joseph made haste; for his BOWELS did yearn upon his brother".
It may surprise you, but there are many foreign language Bibles that read the same way as the King James Bible in verses like this. Here are some examples:
Genesis 43:30 "And Joseph made haste; for his BOWELS did yearn upon his brother" The Spanish Cipriano de Valera of 1602, the Spanish Reina Valera 1960-1995, and the R.V. Gómez of 2010 all read: - "Entonces José se apresuró, porque se conmovieron sus entrañas a causa de su hermano". The word "entrañas" literally means "the entrails", and is also used in the expression "las entrañas de la tierra" = "the bowels of the earth". The same thing occurs in the Portuguese Almeida Actualizada (which is the modern day Portuguese bible) - "E José apressou-se, porque se lhe comoveram AS ENTRANHAS por causa de seu irmão."
The same thing happens in the French Martin of 1744 and the French Ostervald of 1996 - Genesis 43:30 -"Et Joseph se retira promptement, car SES ENTRAILLES étaient émues à la vue de son frère", and in the Italian Diodati 1649 and the Riveduta 1927 - Genesis 43:30 - "E Giuseppe s’affrettò ad uscire, perché le SUE VISCERE s’eran commosse per il suo fratello." - you can probably recognize the related English words "viscera" and "visceral" which means or refers to the inner parts, the intestines.
1 Kings 3:26 "her BOWELS yearned upon her son"
In 1 Kings 3:26 we read of the events that occurred when king Solomon wisely determined which of the two harlots was the real mother of the child. We read of the real mother that: "her BOWELS yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it."
Again, agreeing with the King James literal reading of "her bowels yearned upon her son" are the Bishops' Bible 1568, Douay Rheims 1582, Webster's 1833 translation, the Revised Version 1885, Young's 'literal' 1898, Douay 1950, and Darby's translation 1890, The Word of Yah 1993, God's First Truth 1999, Bond Slave Version 2009, the Jubilee Bible 2010 - "Then the woman, of whom the living child was, spoke unto the king, for HER BOWELS YEARNED UPON HER SON, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child and in no wise slay it.", the Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010 - "her BOWELS yearned upon her son", the Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011, and the Interlinear Hebrew-Greek Scriptures 2012 (Mebust).
The meaning that is most often ridiculed in the King James Bible, is that of "the seat or center of the emotions and feelings".
Let's look for a moment at Daniel Wallace's NET version, and his footnote comments on Song of Solomon 5:4. "My LOVER thrust his hand through the hole, and my FEELINGS (13) were stirred for him."
Then Mr. Wallace footnotes: Heb “my inward parts,” “my intestines,” or “MY BOWELS." Alternately, “my feelings” or “my emotions.” The term (me’eh) is used of the internal organs in general (“inward parts”) (e.g., 2 Sam 20:10; 2 Chr 21:15, 18; Ps 22:14; 40:9) or the digestive organs in particular (“intestines, BOWELS, stomach”) (e.g., Num 5:22; Job 20:14; Ezek 3:3; 7:19; Jonah 2:1-2). It is frequently used as a metonymy of adjunct for the emotions which Hebrew psychology associated with these internal organs . This is reflected in many translations which use equivalent English idioms: “the core of my being” (JB) and “my heart” (NIV, NJPS) over the woodenly LITERAL "MY BOWELS". (KJV, NEB).
Notice that Mr. Wallace points out that the literal Hebrew reading is indeed "my bowels". I find it ironic that people who object to the word "bowels" in the King James Bible apparently have no problem with constantly changing the words "My Beloved" to "my LOVER" as in the NIV 1978, 1984 editions, The Message, and Wallace's own NET version. What does "my lover" communicate to today's readers?
Song of Solomon 5:4 "my BOWELS were moved for him"
Agreeing with the King James Bible's literal reading in the Song of Solomon 5:4 "my bowels were moved for him" are Webster's 1833 translation, Darby 1890, Young's literal 1898, the Douay version 1950, the 1936 Hebrew Publishing Company version, the 1970 New English Bible - "MY BOWELS stirred within me", The Word of Yah 1993, and J. P. Green's 2005 KJV 3 Literal Translation - "MY BOWELS sighed for him", Bond Slave Version 2009, the Jubilee Bible of 2010 - "My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and MY BOWELS were moved for him.", Online Interlinear 2010 (André de Mol) - "MY BOWELS clamored over him", Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, and the Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011.
The Judaica Press Tanach 2004 and the Context Group Version 2007 have: "and MY INSIDES WERE MOVED (stirred) for him"
If the use of the words "my bowels" to describe the seat of emotions is "archaic", then what is it still doing in the 1970 New English Bible, in Green's Literal 2005, A Conservative Version of 2005, Bond Slave Version 2009, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, Online Interlinear 2010, Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011, Lexham English Bible 2012 and in the Jubilee Bible of 2010 Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011?
Modern Versions that still use "bowels" to mean the innermost feelings of mercy, pity or compassion.
The 2012 Lexham English Bible uses the word "bowels" for both the "disease of the bowels" but it also uses the word "bowels" just like the King James Bible does in the following verses:
Job 20:14 - "in his BOWELS his food is turned, the venom of horned vipers is within him."
Job 30:27 - "My BOWELS are in turmoil, and they are not still; days of misery come to confront me."
Jeremiah 4:19 - "My BOWELS, my BOWELS! I writhe! The walls of my heart! My heart is restless within me, I cannot keep silent, for I hear in my inner self the sound of a horn, the alarm of war."
Jeremiah 31:20 - "Is Ephraim my dear son, or the child of my delight? For as often as I have earnestly spoken against him, I still remember him. Therefore my BOWELS are turbulent for him, surely I will have compassion on him,” declares Yahweh. "
The Third Millenium Bible of 1998 uses the word 'BOWELS' several times. Here are a few examples. Notice how they merge over from the literal to the more figurative realm of the emotions and feelings.
Job 30:27 - "My BOWELS boiled, and rested not; the days of affliction came upon me."
Psalm 109:18 - "As he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment, so let it come into his BOWELS like water and like oil into his bones."
Isaiah 49:1 - "Listen, O isles, unto Me, and hearken, ye people from afar! The LORD hath called Me from the womb; from the BOWELS of My mother hath He made mention of My name."
Lamentations 1:20 - "Behold, O LORD, for I am in distress; my BOWELS are troubled. Mine heart is turned within me, for I have grievously rebelled. Abroad the sword bereaveth; at home there is as death."
The Orthodox Jewish Bible of 2011 uses the word "bowels" nine times, usually referring to the literal bowels as in "until thy bowels come out by reason of the disease", but notice how it uses the word "bowels" here in Job 30:27 where the KJB says: "My bowels boiled and rested not: the days of affliction prevented me." the Orthodox Jewish Bible says: "My BOWELS boiled, and rested not; yemei oni met me."
and in Lamentations 1:20 The Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011 says: "Consider, O Hashem how I am in distress; MY BOWELS are troubled." Here the prophet Jeremiah is not complaining of some digestive disorder, but rather is lamenting how he feels emotionally. This is the same sense as that found in the King James Bible.
The word BOWELS in the New Testament
In the New Testament of the King James Bible the Greek word #4698 splagkna is found eleven times. Once it refers to the literal bowels or inwards of the human body in Acts 1:18, where we read concerning Judas: "and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all HIS BOWELS gushed out."
Once it is translated as "tender mercies" in Luke 1:78, and once as "inward affection" in 2 Corinthians 7:15.
Eight other times the word is translated literally as bowels when it refers to the seat of emotions and feeling. These are 2 Corinthians 6:12; Philippians 1:8; 2:1; Colossians 3:12; Philemon 7, 12, and 20; and 1 John 3:17.
Here are a couple examples of how this word is used in the King James Bible and several other translations both old and modern. "For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the BOWELS of Jesus Christ." "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any BOWELS and mercies..." Philippians 1:8 and 2:1.
Among the Bible translations that translate this word as "bowels" when it refers to the seat of emotions and feeling are the following: Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1525, Bishops' Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, Mace's N.T. 1729, Wesley's N.T. 1755, Whiston's Primitive N.T. 1770 - "For God is my witness, how I long for you all in bowels of Jesus Christ.", Worsley N.T., Darby 1890, Young's 1898- "how I long for you all in the BOWELS of Jesus Christ", The Word of Yah 1993, Interlinear Greek New Testament 1997 (Larry Pierce), Green's MKJV 1998, The Evidence Bible 2003, Bond Slave Version 2009, the Jubilee Bible of 2000-2010 editions - "For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in THE BOWELS of Jesus Christ.", A Conservative Version by Walter Porter 2005, Green's 2005 KJV3 Literal Translation, The Resurrection Life New Testament 2005 - “If there are any BOWELS OF COMPASSION in you (Philippians 2:1), the Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010 - "how greatly I long after you all in THE BOWELS OF Yehoshua (יהושע) Mashiach."
The King James Bible is not at all wrong or in error by translating these Hebrew and Greek words as "bowels". It can't even really be considered to be "archaic" if modern Bible translations like the New English Bible 1970, The Word of Yah 1993, the Interlinear Greek New Testament 1997 (Larry Pierce), The Evidence Bible 2003, Bond Slave Version 2009, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, the Jubilee Bible 2010, J.P. Green's 2005 KJV3, The Resurrection Life N.T. 2005, Walter Porter's A Conservative Version of 2005, The Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011 and the Lexham English Bible of 2012 at times continue to use the word "bowels" to describe the inner feelings and emotions.
And it is even in keeping with what Dan Wallace said: "It is frequently used as a metonymy of adjunct for the emotions which Hebrew psychology associated with these internal organs ."
All of grace, believing the Book,
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Notes from the Internet -
After reading this article, a Bible believing sister named Elizabeth writes: "Excellent! And we can all identify with that anxious, nervous, sick or elated "feeling" and where do we feel it?...I feel it right in my stomach area!!"