Is the King James Bible “a bad translation” in Leviticus 11:19-20?
“FOWLS” or “flying insects”? Bats as birds?
At one internet forum an atheist was mocking the Bible and particularly the King James Bible for how it is translated in Leviticus 11:20.
The Bible mocker posts - Christians can you explain the "four legged fowls" in Leviticus 11:20? Really. God doesn't know that birds don't have four legs? He couldn't make sure "his" word knew a basic fact like that. Please explain.”
Many other Bible scoffers mock the Bible for calling bats "fowls" in Leviticus 11:19 where the bat is listed "among the fowls" (11:13) - "And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, AND THE BAT."
Then a professing Christian named Mike answers: “they are talking about insects, the KJV isn’t a good translation “Every swarming, winged insect that walks across the ground like a four-legged animal is disgusting to you.”
And then another Christian posts: “That is probably the KJV. Known to be not so good on translating some of the Old Testament. The scholars they had weren't as good with Hebrew.” [End of selected quotes]
Contrary to popular belief, even among most Christians today, the King James Bible is NOT in error here or anywhere else. We simply need to look at the context of Leviticus 11, the kinds of animals mentioned in the lists, and the meaning of both the Hebrew word “gohph” and the English word “fowls”.
The Hebrew word in question is # 5775 gohph. It is found about 70 times in the Hebrew text and in the King James Bible it is always translated either as “fowl” or fowls (56 times) or “birds” (9 times) or “flying” or “flieth” (3 times).
You should also note the very common phrases found in the Bible that often distinguish between “every FOWL OF THE AIR” (Genesis 1:26, 28, 30; Genesis 2:19, 20 etc.) and “the FOWLS OF THE HEAVEN” (Psalm 104:12; Ezekiel 29:5 etc.) and “FOWLS THAT MAY FLY ABOVE THE EARTH” (Genesis 1:20 First mention) versus “FOWLS THAT CREEP going upon all four” (Leviticus 11:20) and “EVERY CREEPING THING THAT FLIETH”.
Some of these animals that God calls “FOWLS” (they are ALL the exact same Hebrew word) are the birds that fly in the heaven or the air above the earth, and others are “FOWLS that creep” on the earth and have wings with which they can fly LIKE THE BAT.
God’s classification of what He calls “FOWLS” are ANIMALS THAT HAVE WINGS AND CAN FLY.
God's classification of the animals HE created in the first place, is not that of man's. God's system of classification is divided into four different kinds of flesh.
"All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of MEN, another flesh of BEASTS, another of FISHES, and another of BIRDS." 1 Corinthians 15:39
If you don't happen to like it, or you disagree, then take it up with God when you see him and find out what He thinks of your opinions. And you WILL see Him some day. Guaranteed.
The English word FOWL. What does it mean?
Webster’s English Dictionary 1828 Fowl - noun, Latin fugio, fugo. Greek. and signifying the flying animal.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says of “Fowls” - FOWL - foul (`oph; peteinon): The word is now generally restricted to the larger, especially the edible birds, but formerly IT DENOTED ALL FLYING CREATURES; in Leviticus 11:20 the King James Version we have even, "all fowls that creep, going upon all four," 11:21, "every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four."
The Etymology Dictionary tells us the origin of this word is “Old Norse fugal, German vogel, Gothic fugls, probably by dissimilation from *flug-la, literally “flyer”, from the same root as Old English fleogan, modern “to fly”.
Notice the next verse in Leviticus 11:21 that follows the mention of the “fowls that creep, going upon all four” - “Yet these may ye eat of every FLYING (same Hebrew word) creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have LEGS ABOVE THEIR FEET, TO LEAP WITHAL UPON THE EARTH.”
The “fowls” mentioned in the context here (if it flies, it is called “fowl”) have four legs with which they creep and two legs that serve the purpose of allowing them to launch themselves into flight with their wings. These would include such things as grasshoppers, locusts, and beetles capable of short flight.
In this chapter of Leviticus 11, the word # 5775 gohph occurs 5 times in the Hebrew text.
The King James Bible translates it as “the FOWLS” (v.13), “the FOWLS that creep” (20), “every FLYING creeping thing” (21), “all other FLYING creeping thing” (23) and “This is the law of the beasts, and of THE FOWL, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepth upon the earth.” (46)
The NKJV and NIV have these as “the birds” (v.13), “FLYING INSECTS that creep” (v. 20), “flying insects” (v.21), “flying insects” (23) and “THE BIRDS” (v.46)
The ESV and NASB have “the bird” (13 and 46) and as “the winged insects” (v. 20, 21, 23). Yet they are all the exact same Hebrew words.
God’s method of classification is not the same as that of the man made system of classification. The modern “scientific” method established by Carl Linnaeus in his book Systema Naturae in 1735 is not the same as the way God does it.
In God’s list in the Hebrew language, He includes among this list (found in all Bibles) the BATS among the “fowls” or “birds”. By the Linnaean method, bats are considered to be mammals and not “fowls”. Yet they fly with wings and have the general appearance of other birds.
So if you are going to claim that the King James Bible is wrong for referring to certain “insects” that are capable of flight with their wings as “fowls”, then you also have to consider the modern versions as being in error for including the bats among the “birds” in Leviticus 11:19!
By the way, there IS a modern Hebrew word for “insects”, but it is not found in the Hebrew Masoretic text and it is an entirely different word from the one God uses in Leviticus to classify the locust and grasshoppers among the “fowls”.
The modern Hebrew word for “insects” is khah-rah-keem, and it is an entirely different word than the word found in all Hebrew texts for “fowls” and “birds”, which is gohph.
So it turns out that it is the modern versions that are introducing man's thoughts and reasonings into God's words, rather than the King James Bible being "a bad translation."
"Archaic" and inerrant beats "modern" but perverted any day. See "The Old Fashioned Language of the King James Bible" for many more examples. http://brandplucked.webs.com/archaickjbship.htm
Other Bibles that also say "FOWLS that creep, going upon all four"
Not only does the King James Bible say “All FOWLS THAT CREEP, going upon all four” in Leviticus 11:20 but so do the following Bible translations: Wycliffe 1395 - “Al thing of FOULIS that goith on foure feet, schal be abhomynable to you”, Tyndale 1524, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew’s Bible 1549, the Bishops’ Bible 1568 - “Let all FOULES that creepe and go vpon all foure, be an abhomination vnto you.”, the Geneva Bible 1587 - “Also euery FOULE that creepeth & goeth vpon all foure, such shalbe an abomination vnto you.”, The Bill Bible 1671, Daniel Webster’s 1833 translation - “All FOWLS that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination to you.”, The Boothroyd Bible 1853, The Jewish Family Bible 1864, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907, the 1936 Hebrew Publishing Company Translation “All FOWLS that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.”, The Word of Yah Bible 1993, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, the Third Millennium Bible 1998 `All FOWLS THAT CREEP, going upon all fours, shall be an abomination unto you.”, God's First Truth Translation 1999, The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, The Hebrew Transliteration Scripture 2010, The Bond Slave Version 2012 and the 2011 Orthodox Jewish Bible - “All FOWLS THAT CREEP, going upon all fours, shall be sheketz unto you.”
And this online Hebrew Interlinear bible -
Adam Clarke Commentary - “All fowls that creep - Such as the bat, already mentioned, which has claws attached to its leathern wings, and which serve in place of feet to crawl by, the feet and legs not being distinct; but this may also include all the different kinds of insects, with the exceptions in the following verse.”
Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament - “To the birds there are appended flying animals of other kinds: “all swarms of FOWL THAT GO UPON FOURS “(Caps are mine) i.e., the smaller winged animals with four feet.These were not to be eaten, as they were all abominations, with the exception of those “which have two shank-feet above their feet (i.e., springing feet) to leap with” . Locusts are the animals referred to, four varieties being mentioned with their different species (“after his kind”).”
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown on Lev. 11:20 - “All FOWLS that creep, etc. — By “fowls” here are to be understood all creatures with wings and “going upon all fours,” not a restriction to animals which have exactly four feet, because many “creeping things” have more than that number.”
From the Internet - Objection raised and Answered.
The King James Bible is always right. Accept no inferior substitute.
All of grace, believing the Book,
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