Another King James Bible Believer

Is “cousin” a wrong translation in the King James Bible?

Luke 1:36, 58 “cousin(s)” or “relatives”?

I recently received a short letter from another Christian regarding the use of the word “cousin” in the King James Bible. This brother writes:

“Hello, Mr. Kinney.  I hope this e-mail finds you well.  First, let me say that I am a KJV only guy.  So let me get to my question.  In Luke 1:36, the KJ translators used the word "cousin".  It is my understanding that the word they translated "cousin" just means "relative".  So why did the KJ translators translate it as "cousin" and not "relative"?  This seems to have led to some confusion in the geneology of Mary.”   

Thank you, and may God Bless, Steve

I enjoy getting questions like this because they always cause me to learn more about God’s precious words as found in the Authorized King James Holy Bible.

King James Bible - Luke 1:36 “And, behold, THY COUSIN Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.”

There is also another verse this man did not mention where the word “cousins” appears. It is Luke 1:58. There we read: “And her neighbours and her COUSINS heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.”

The Greek word used in these two places is sungenees, and it is found 12 times in the New Testament. It is translated in the King James Bible as “cousin, kinsfolk (Luke 2:44; 21:16), and kinsmen (Luke 14:12)”.

The apparent problem this brother is having is not that the King James Bible (and others as we shall soon see) has ‘mistranslated’ this word as “cousin”, but rather in understanding our own English language, and in the wide variety of meanings that this single Greek word contains.

Simply look up the English word “cousin” in any good, modern dictionary, like Websters, American Heritage or Cambridge International Dictionary and you will find the following definitions of the word.

Merriam Webster Dictionary = Middle English cosin, from Anglo-French cusin, cosin, from Latin consobrinus, from com- + sobrinus second cousin, from soror sister — 1 a: a child of one's uncle or aunt b: a relative descended from one's grandparent or more remote ancestor by two or more steps and in a different line c: KINSMAN, RELATIVE 2: one associated with or related to another : counterpart 3—used as a title by a sovereign in addressing a nobleman 4: a person of a race or people ethnically or culturally related

Cambridge International Dictionary - 1. a child of a person's aunt or uncle, or, more generally, A DISTANT RELATIVE.

American Heritage Dictionary - 1. A child of one's aunt or uncle. Also called first cousin. 2. A relative descended from a common ancestor, such as a grandparent, by two or more steps in a diverging line. 3. A RELATIVE BY BLOOD OR MARRIAGE; A KINSMAN OR KINSWOMAN.

So we can see clearly that the King James Bible is NOT in error when it translates this Greek word as both “cousin” and “kinsman”, because that is what the the words mean.

Elisabeth may in fact have been Mary's cousin, just as we normally think of the word, or she may have been a more distant relative. In either case, the English word "cousin" covers and includes all possibilities of this relationship. I personally have asked a native Greek speaker about the meaning of this word, and she told me that it can mean either a relative or a cousin.

Not only does the King James Bible translate Luke 1:36 as “behold, thy COUSIN Elisabeth” but so also do the following Bible translations: Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 1549 - "And beholde thy cosyn Elyzabeth hath also conceyued", the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Douai-Rheims bible 1582, the Geneva Bible 1587, the Beza New Testament 1599, Mace’s N.T. 1729, Whiston's Primitive New Testament 1745, John Wesley’s 1755 translation, Worsley N.T. 1770, Thomas Haweis N.T. 1795, The Revised Translation 1815 - "thy COUSIN Elizabeth", the Thomson N.T. 1816, the Dickinson N.T. 1833, Webster’s 1833 version, the Living Oracles 1835, the Longman Version 1841, the Hussey N.T. 1845, the Morgan N.T. 1848, the Hewett N.T. 1850, The Commonly Received Version 1851, The Revised N.T. 1862, the Twentieth Century New Testament 1904, the Clarke N.T. 1913, the 1969 New Life Version, the New Berkeley Version in Modern English 1969, the New Jerusalem Bible 1985, the KJV 21st Century version 1994, and even Eugene Peterson’s 2002 The Message! - “And did you know that your COUSIN Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is?”  

 

Other English Bibles that translate Luke 1:36 as "your COUSIN Elisabeth" are The Word of Yah 1993, The Revised Webster Bible 1995, the Worldwide English New Testament 1998 - “Your COUSIN Elizabeth is also going to have a baby son”, God's First Truth 1999, The Wycliffe Updated Version 2001, The Tomson New Testament 2002, The Evidence Bible 2003, The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, the Bond Slave Version 2009, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010 - "your COUSIN Elisheva", Conservative Bible 2010, The Work of God’s Children Illustrated Bible 2011 - “Behold, your mother's COUSIN Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age”, and The Holy Bible, Modern English Version 2014 (by Military Bible Association) - “Listen, your COUSIN Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age.”


The same people who put out the NIV, the International Bible Society, have made a new translation into the Spanish language. It is the 2003 Castilian Spanish New Testament, and it also reads “cousin = prima - “Desde hace seis meses, tu PRIMA Elisabet, la que todos tenían por estéril...” So too does the 2000 United Bible Societies Biblia en Lenguaje Sencillo version - “Tu PRIMA Isabel, aunque ya es muy vieja...” The NIV (International Bible Society) has also been translated into Italian and the 1997 La Parola e Vita reads “cousin” as well - “tua CUGINA Elisabetta”

As another example of a single word having many meanings, let’s look at the NIV’s treatment of a single Hebrew word - #278 ah (according to the NIV complete concordance).

The NIV has twice translated this Hebrew word as “cousin” (Lev. 10:4; 1 Chron. 23:22), and yet has also translated this same word as “brother, relative, countryman, family, friends, associate, fellow Jew, companions, and uncle!

The King James Bible is not at all wrong when it translates the Greek word sungenees as both “cousin” and “kinsman”. All one needs to do is to learn more about our own rich and varied English language.

The King James Bible is always right.  Get used to it.

God bless,

Will Kinney

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