Another King James Bible Believer

Is the word "brass" an error in the King James Bible?

Is the word “brass” an error in the King James Bible?

Genesis 4:22 - "And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in BRASS and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.”

Job 28:2 - “Iron is taken out of the earth, and BRASS is molten out of the stone.”

Revelation 1:15 - “And his feet like unto fine BRASS, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.”

King James Bible critics tell us something along these lines: "The process for making brass [melting copper with zinc] was unknown in Old Testament times, whereas bronze smelting [copper with tin] was widespread at an early age."

Many modern versions like the ESV, NIV, NASB, NKJV and Holman Standard have changed the word “BRASS” into “BRONZE”. Have they actually corrected a mistake in the King James Bible or is the King James Bible right after all?

BRASS

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Volume Two, the word “brass” is of unknown origin - it has been compared to ‘brasa’ - fire and brasa - to flame.

“Historically - the general name for all alloys of copper with tin or zinc. To distinguish alloys of copper and tin, the name “bronze” has subsequently been adopted. (Johnson 1755-73 explains the new word bronze as “brass”).

b. Hence in strict modern use, as distinguised from “bronze”: A yellow-coloured alloy of copper and zinc, usually containing about a third of its weight of zinc.  The Old English braes was, usually at least, an alloy of copper and tin = bronze:  in much later times the alloy of copper and zinc came gradually into use, and became the ordinary BRASS of England, THOUGH IN REFERENCE TO ANCIENT TIMES, AND ESPECIALLY TO THE NATIONS OF ANTIQUITY, "BRASS" STILL MEANT THE OLDER ALLOY.  When works of Greek and Roman antiquity in “brass” began to be critically examined, and their material discriminated, the Italian word for “brass” (bronzo, bronze) came into use to distinguish this “ancient brass” from the current alloy.”

In other words, the word “brass” is the correct word that was first used for any alloy of copper and tin. It turns out that the King James Bible is right, after all.  Let’s now look at what Encyclopaedia has to say about the English word “brass”.

The New Enclyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 2, 15th edition, 2002 page 480 has this to say about “BRASS” -

Brass - an alloy of copper and zinc, of historical and enduring importance because of its hardness and workability. THE EARLIEST BRASS, called calamine brass, DATES TO NEOLITHIC TIMES. (Caps are mine)  In ancient historic documents, such as the Bible, the term brass is often used to denote bronze, the alloy of copper and tin.”

Again, we see that the word BRASS is the older word in the English and it dates, according to Britannica, “to Neolithic times”. Though I by no means am an evolutionist and I do not accept their divisions of time, yet the Encyclopaedia Britannica refers to this period as when BRASS first began to be used. By the way, the "Bronze Age" comes after the "Neolithic Age".

“The Neolithic period - designating or of the later part of the Stone age during which man developed polished stone tools and weapons, raised cattle, etc.”  Webster’s New World Dictionary, College Edition, page 984.

In fact, this same English dictionary defines the word BRASS as: “alloy of tin and copper, BRONZE.” (Caps are mine).

Now, let’s take a look at the various English Bible translations over the centuries and how they have translated the corresponding Hebrew and Greek words into English.

Genesis 4:22 - "And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in BRASS and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.”

Not only does the King James Bible correctly translate the word as BRASS here but so too do the following Bible versions: Wycliffe 1395 - “alle werkis of BRAS and of yrun”, the Great Bible (Cranmer) 1540, Matthew’s Bible 1549, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Douay Rheims 1582, the Geneva Bible 1587 - “who wrought cunningly euery craft of BRASSE and of yron”, The Thomson Bible 1808, The Longman Version 1841, The Boothroyd Bible 1853, The Wellbeloved Scriptures 1862, Darby 1890, the English Revised Version 1881 - “Tubal–cain, the forger of every cutting instrument of BRASS and iron”, Webster’s Translation 1833, The Smith Bible 1876, The Revised English Bible 1877, the ASV 1901, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907, the JPS (Jewish Publication Society) 1917 - “Tubal-cain, the forger of every cutting instrument of BRASS and iron”, Lamsa’s 1933 translation of the Syriac Peshitta - “Tubal-cain, a craftsman in every work of BRASS and iron”, Young’s literal, the Bible in Basic English 1961, the World English Bible, the Hebrew Names Version, the New Life Bible 1969, The Word of Yah 1993,the Complete Jewish Bible 1998, God's First Truth 1999, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, Sacred Scriptures Family of Yah 2001, The Apostolic Polyglot Bible 2003, Bond Slave Version 2009, The Hebrew Transliteration Bible 2010, The New European Version 2010, The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011, The Interlinear Hebrew-Greek Scriptures 2012 (Mebust), The New Brenton Translation 2012, the 2012 Knox Bible - “Sella gave birth to Tubalcain, who became a smith, skilled in every kind of BRASS and iron work.”, and The Hebrew Names Version 2014.

 

Modern Versions are inconsistent and don’t even agree among themselves. For example, the NASB 1995 has the word BRASS three times, where the ESV and others translate it as BRONZE.   

NASB 1995 1 Chronicles 29:7 - “and for the service for the house of God they gave 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics  of gold, and 10,000 talents of silver, and 18,000 talents of BRASS, and 100,000 talents of iron.”

NASB 1995 2 Chronicles 2:7 - “"Now send  me a skilled man to work in gold, silver, BRASS and iron, and in purple, crimson and violet fabrics”

NASB 1995 Revelation 9:20 -”The rest of mankind,  who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of BRASS and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.”

The Amplified Bible 1987 uses the word BRASS 4 times - in Leviticus 26:19; Deut. 28:23; Isaiah 48:4 and Ezekiel 16:36.  “The heavens over your head shall be BRASS and the earth under you shall be iron.” Deuteronomy 28:23.

“Because I knew that you were obstinate, and your neck was an iron sinew and your brow was BRASS,”  Isaiah 48:4  Amplified Bible 1987.

The NKJV 1982 uses the word BRASS 4 times - In 1 Corinthians 13:1; Revelation 1:15; 2:18 and 9:20. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding BRASS or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Cor. 13:1, and yet has inconsistently translated these same words at other times as COPPER - See Matthew 10:9; Mark 7:4 and then as BRONZE! See Revelation 18:12.

The Holman Standard 2003 translates the word as BRASS only one time, and all the others as BRONZE.  In Revelation 18:12 we read: “merchandise of gold, silver, precious stones, and pearls; fine fabrics of linen, purple, silk, and scarlet; all kinds of fragrant wood products; objects of ivory; objects of expensive wood, BRASS, iron, and marble”.

Other Modern Versions that use the word BRASS are: the Good News Translation - 1 Chron. 15:7 - “From the clans of singers they chose the following men to play the BRASS cymbals” and Revelation 1:15.

The 2011 Orthodox Jewish Bible - Daniel 7:19 - “Then I desired to make sure concerning the fourth Chayyah (Beast), which was different from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and its claws BRASS”

The 2011 Names of God Version - Mark 7:4 - “For example, they must also wash their cups, jars, BRASS pots, and dinner tables.”

The RSV 1973 uses the word BRASS 8 times. Three in the Old Testament and 5 times in the Apocrhypal books - Leviticus 26:19 - “and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like BRASS”;  Deuteronomy 28:23 -”And the heavens over your head shall be BRASS and the earth under you shall be iron.” and Isaiah 48:4 - “and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead BRASS.”

The 2012 Lexham English Bible translates the word as BRASS in 1 Corinthians 13:1 - “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a ringing BRASS gong or a clashing cymbal.”

The NRSV 1989 again is inconsistent, usually translating the word as “bronze” but as BRASS in Isaiah 48:4 - “Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead BRASS.”

The Message of 2002 uses the word brass 6 times, 3 as a paraphrase for “the big shots” i.e.  - Mark 6:21 - “inviting all the BRASS and bluebloods in Galilee.” and 3 as in 1 Chronicles 15:28; 2 Chronicles 30:21 and Revelation 9:20. “On they came, all Israel on parade bringing up the Chest of the Covenant of GOD, shouting and cheering, playing every kind of BRASS and percussion and string instrument.” 1 Chron. 15:28.

The Common English Bible of 2011 (a critical text version complete with Apocryhpa) uses the word BRASS 5 times. Twice in Revelation 1:15 and 2:18 - “His feet were like fine BRASS that has been purified in a furnace”  (Rev. 1:15) and  in the Apocryphal books of Bel and the Dragon 1:7 and 1 Maccabees 6:35, 39.

The 2012 ISV (International Standard Version) also uses the word BRASS in Mark 7:4 - “They also observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, jars, BRASS pots, and dinner tables”

And finally for now, The Voice of 2012 uses the word BRASS in 2 Chronicles 2:7 - “send me a man who can work gold, silver, BRASS and iron; sew with purple, crimson, and violet fabrics; and engrave.” and in 1 Corinthians 13:1 - “anything I say is like the clanging of BRASS or a crashing cymbal.”

So what we see is the the King James Bible is NOT AT ALL in error for translating the respective Hebrew and Greek words as BRASS and the modern versions themselves are inconsistent and contradictory.

Get yourself the King James Holy Bible and don’t settle for anything less. All of grace, believing the Book,

Will Kinney

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Brother Daryl Coats has also written an article about “brass” he calls “Straining at Brass”. You can see it here -

http://www.kjvasia.com/bible_believing_ministries__daryl_coats_straining_at_brass.htm