John 14:18 “Comfortless” or “Orphans” - Is there an error in the King James Bible?
John 14:18 KJB - “I will not leave you COMFORTLESS: I will come to you.”
NKJV (NASB, NIV, ESV, NET, Holman) - “I will not leave you ORPHANS; I will come to you.”
Some “scholars” and other Bible correctors tell us that the King James Bible translators dropped the ball when it comes to John 14:18 and they committed an error when they translated the Greek word orphanos as “comfortless” instead of the “literal” orphans.
One such "expert" at one of the Facebook forums posted these comments: "Blatant Error in the King James Version Bible in John 14:18, the word is Orphan NOT Comfortless."
Does he know what he is talking about? Of course not.
I have never met one of these KJB critics who actually believes that any Bible in any language - including “the” Greek and “the” Hebrew - IS now or ever was the complete, inspired and 100% true words of God. Not one. Each of them has set up their own minds and personal preferences as his “final authority” - subject to change at any moment. And none of them agrees with anybody else all the time.
So, is there any merit to their arguments? Let’s take a closer look.
There is no doubt that the Greek word in question is “literally” orphanos, and from this we get the English word orphans. The word is found only two times in the Greek texts that underlie the King James Bible.
One is in John 14:18 where the KJB (and many others as we shall soon see) translate it as “COMFORTLESS”.
The other instance is in James 1:27 where we read “to visit the FATHERLESS and widows in their affliction.”
But, does this Greek word “orphanos” also have other meanings? Yes, it does.
Kittle’s massive nine volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume V, pages 487-488 informs us that the Greek word orphanos is used in other ways and has other meanings as well.
On page 488 we read: “According to John 14:18 the Lord assures His disciples in His final words that even though He is going from them He is not really leaving them. We are not to suppose that Jesus is here representing Himself as a father and His disciples as children who will be orphaned when He leaves them. orphanos is simply used in a figurative sense for “abandoned.” There is also, perhaps, a hint of the defenselessness of the orphan. “I will not leave you unprotected.”
On page 487 it tells us that “orphanos is also used in a transferred sense for “abandoned”, “left”, “deprived” and “destitute”.
Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, 1968 edition, page 1257 informs us that the Greek word orphanos can mean “orphan, fatherless, without parents” and in a general sense “bereaved”.
Thayer’s Geek-English Lexicon of the N.T. 1889 page 453 says that the Greek word orphanos was used “of those bereft of a teacher, guide or guardian, John 14:18.”
And both Kittle and Thayer mention that the word was used in classical literature to describe how the followers of Socrates felt when he died and they were left alone.
With good reason the King James Bible and many others do not translate the word as “orphans”. The Lord Jesus was not their Father. He constantly referred to “our Father which art in heaven”, and “the Father who sent me” and “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father” (John 20:17) Notice the CONTEXT. The Lord says: "I" will not leave you comfortless; "I" will come to you."
He does NOT say "The Father will not leave you. The Father will come to you." It is the Lord Jesus Himself who will comfort us with the COMFORTER, the Spirit of truth. And neither Jesus nor the Spirit are our Father.
Not only does the King James Bible say “I will not leave you COMFORTLESS: I will come to you.” in John 14:18 but so also do the following Bibles - Tyndale 1534, Coverdale 1535, The Great Bible 1540, Matthew’s Bible 1549, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, Mace’s N.T. 1729, Webster’s translation 1833, The Commonly Received Version 1851, The Boothroyd Bible 1853, The Revised New Testament 1862, Montgomery N.T. 1924, The Word of Yah 1993, The KJV 21st Century Version 1994, Revised Webster Bible 1995, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, God’s First Truth 1999, The Evidence Bible 2003, The Revised Geneva Bible 2005 - "I will not leave you COMFORTLESS", Bond Slave Version 2009, and the BRG Bible 2012.
Wycliffe 1395, Geneva bible 1587, Tomson N.T. 2002, Modern English Version 2014 - “I will not leave you FATHERLESS”
Newcome N.T. 1796 - "I will not leave you DESTITUTE"
Living Oracles 1835, Moffatt N.T. - “I will not leave you FORLORN”
RV 1885, ASV 1901, RSV 1971, Family of Yah 2001, Context Group Version 2007 - “I will not leave you DESOLATE”
Rotherham 1902 - “I will not leave you BEREFT”
Noyes Translation 1869, Young’s 1898, Weymouth 1912, Concordant Version 2006, Positive Infinity N.T. 2005, Online Interlinear 2010 (André de Mol) - “I will not leave you BEREAVED”
Goodspeed 1923 - “I will not leave you FRIENDLESS”
Amplified Bible 1987 - “ I will not leave you as orphans [COMFORTLESS, desolate, bereaved, forlorn, helpless]; I will come [back] to you.”
J.B. Phillips 1962, Good News Translation 1992, God’s Word Translation 1995, Names of God Bible 2011 - “I will not leave you ALL ALONE.”
Worldwide English New Testament 1998 - “I will not leave you WITHOUT SOMEONE TO HELP YOU.”
The Resurrection Life N.T. 2005 - “I won’t leave you HELPLESS”
The Translator's Bible 2014 - "I will not let you be ALONE, HELPLESS"
The Pioneers' New Testament 2014 - "I will not leave you all ABANDONED"
The King James Bible is correct, as always. Jesus was not the disciples’ Father. He was their Lord and Saviour, and He would not leave them comfortless, because He would soon come to them again by means of His indwelling Spirit, who Himself is called “The Comforter” -
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you ANOTHER COMFORTER, that he may abide with you for ever.” John 14:16.
“But the COMFORTER, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John 14:26
“But when the COMFORTER is come, whom I will send you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” John 15:26
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for I go not away, the COMFORTER will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” John 16:7
All of grace, believing The Book,
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