Seraphims and Cherubims in the King James Bible
Seraphim, Seraphs or Seraphims?
Objection: “Those of you that are kjvo, do you dismiss errors like the usage of seraphims? The proper plural is seraphim.” Brian Whalen
The King James Bible is not at all in error. It should be obvious that the King James Bible is an ENGLISH translation, and to clearly show that the word “seraphims” is plural (there were more than one of them) we form the English plural by adding an “s” to the word.
There are quite a few English words whose singular form ends in 'im' and the plural of these English words ends in "ims". We have brim, claim, denim, interim, maxim, trim, pilgrim, rim and victim to name a few. The King James Bible is obviously an English translation. When an English speaker sees a transliterated Hebrew word like seraphim, we would not know if this is a singular or a plural, so the KJB translators (and many others as well) add an 's' to the end of the word to make it clear that it is plural in number; thus we have the perfectly acceptable English word seraphims.
The word “seraphims” occurs only twice in the King James Bible; both in Isaiah chapter 6 verses 2 and 3. Here we read: “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly...6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar”
Not only does the King James Bible have “seraphimS”, showing that there were more than one of them, but so also do the following Bible translations: Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible (Cranmer) 1540 " And aboute him stode the Seraphins", Matthew's Bible 1549, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587-1599 "The Seraphims stoode upon it", the Douay-Rheims 1610 "the seraphims", Noyes Translation 1869 - "Around him stood seraphs", Young's literal - "Seraphs are standing above it", the 1950 Douay "upon it stood the seraphims", The Word of Yah 1993 - "Seraphims", the KJV 21st Century version 1994, the 1998 Third Millennium Bible, Bond Slave Version 2009, the Jubilee Bible 2010 - "Above it stood the seraphim's.", Conservative Bible 2011.
The NIV 1978 and 1984 editions likewise had a plural form “seraphs” as well as The Message, the 1985 New Jerusalem Bible, the NRSV 1989, God's First Truth 1999 - "SeraphinS", Green’s 2005 ‘literal’ translation, Dan Wallace and company's NET version 2006 "Seraphs stood over him", Lexham's English Bible 2012 has "Seraphs" and the 2014 New International Reader’s Version - "SeraphS",. The Message 2002 - "angel seraphs", God's First Truth 1999 has "Seraphins", The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011 - "seraphims".
Common English Bible 2011 has "winged creatures"
Living Bible 1971 - "mighty, six-winged angels of fire"
New Century Version 2005 - "heavenly creatures"
Good News Translation 1992, Contemporary English Version 1995, The Voice 2012 have: "Flaming creatures"
God's Word Translation 1995 and Names of God Bible 2011 - "Angels"
Easy to Read Version 2006 has "Seraph angels"
Expanded Version 2011 has "Heavenly creatures of fire"
Some foreign language Bibles also have a plural form. Among these are the Spanish Reina Valera 1960, 1995, the NIV (Nueva Versión Internacional) “uno de los serafines”, the French Martin 1744, Louis Segond 1910, the French Ostervald 1996, the 1999 La Bible du Semeur, “l'un des séraphins”, the Italian Diodati 1649, the Riveduta 1927, the 1991 New Italian Diodati “uno dei serafini”, the Portuguese Almeida and the 2000 O Livro “um dos serafins”.
Cherubims, Cherubs or Cherubim?
We find the same thing applies when the Bible talks about the Cerubims. These heavenly beings are talked about a lot more in Scripture. They are mentioned some 59 times in the King James Bible and are found in such places as Genesis 3:24 - “So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. “
And in Exodus 25:18-19 - “And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. “
Notice that the “cherubimS” is plural and the “cherub” is singular.
Not only does the King James Bible have “cherubimS” but so also do the following Bible translations: the Great Bible (Cranmer) 1540, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, the Douay-Rheims 1610 "Cherubims", the Douay 1950, The Word of Yah 1993 - "cherubimS", the 1994 KJV 21st Century version, the 1998 Third Millennium Bible, Bond Slave Version 2009, The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011.
Others have the plural form “cherubs”. These include Coverdale 1535, the Brenton Translation 1851, Green’s 2005 ‘literal’ translation, Young’s 1898 - "cherubs", the World English Bible 2000 "Cherubs", Conservative Bible 2011, and the New Heart English Bible 2010 " he placed Cherubs at the east of the garden of Eden."
Wallace’s NET version 2006 says: “angelic sentries” in Genesis 3:24 and the brand new International Standard Version say: "winged angels".
The Common English Bible 2011 and Contemporary English Version 1995 (critical text versions) have "winged creatures".
The Easy to Read Version 2006 has "Cherub angels"
God's Word Translation 1995, New Century Version 2005, Names of God Bible 2011, New International Reader's Version 2014, and Expanded Bible 2011 all have "angels".
Good News Translation 1992 has "living creatures"
The Voice 2012 has "winged guardians"
The International Standard Version 2014 has "winged angels"
Likewise many foreign language Bibles have a plural form like the KJB including: The Spanish Sagradas Escrituras 1569, the Reina Valera 1909, 1960, 1995, the 1997 Spanish La Biblia de las Américas, the Spanish NIV “al oriente del huerto del Edén puso querubines”, the French Martin 1744, Louis Segond 1910, the French Ostervald 1996, the 1999 La Bible du Semeur, “les chérubins”, the Italian Diodati 1649, the Riveduta 1927, the New Diodati 1991 “di Eden i cherubini”, the Portuguese Almeida and the 2000 O Livro “os querubins”
Would the Bible critics also tell us that such versions as the NASB, NIV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, ESV, Holman Standard etc. are all in error because they all translate the Hebrew word Elohim as both God and gods?
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Even in the world of modern English literature the word seraphims is sometimes used to refer to these heavenly beings. Here, for example, are three lines from three different works of modern literature.
“She was a dark horse, in field of fleet footed seraphims, a thick oil in the spun gold tapestry of the world around her.”
—somewhere she went 2007
“The bright form, lifting up my charmer through it to a firmament stuck round with golden cherubims and seraphims, indicates the charming little boys and girls, that will be the fruits of this happy reconciliation.”
—Clarissa Harlowe by Samuel Richardson 2006
“Through the aperture the imaginative artist had made a spirit to be passing — - his head and shoulders were in paradise; these were also gilt and glorious, and on his shoulders two little seraphims were fixing wings; his nether parts below the aperture, were still brown and dingy, as were the four recumbent spirits who rested on their gridirons till the time should come that they also should be passed through.”
—La Vendee by Anthony Trollope 2010
Further Notes. Arguing with the Bible agnostics.
At a Creation site I was discussing the King James Bible issue and a bible agnostic named Jonathan posted the following arguments. He said:
“There is absolutely no need to add "s" to "seraphim" in the KJV. The plurality of "im" is communicated via the context.
Isaiah 6:2-3 King James Version,
"Above it stood the seraphims: EACH ONE had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And ONE CRIED UNTO ANOTHER, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory."
This would have been a great opportunity to let the reader learn about Hebrew suffixes, and keep errors out of the text. The context clearly speaks of a plurality here without man trying to dumb the text down.
Straining at gnats and swallowing camels.
Jonathan posts: "This would have been a great opportunity to let the reader learn about Hebrew suffixes, and keep errors out of the text. The context clearly speaks of a plurality here without man tr...ying to dumb the text down."
Dear Jonathan, I really am beginning to think that your blind devotion to textual criticism has unhinged your ability to think straight. You are straining at gnats and swallowing a camel again here.
You are arguing about the meaning of a single word here and yet when shown a list of numerous direct and obvious numerical contradictions you say "Variant readings don't bother me". Yet with this little example of "seraphim" or seraphims or seraphs, you have completely lost all sensible perspective.
You now tell us that when we see the word seraphim then this is a good opportunity to explain Hebrew suffixes! Why? Because you have to explain that this is a plural word. I don't have a problem with "seraphim". You can explain that it is a plural here.
But does the English word "seraphimS" or the Spanish, French, Italian etc. words "serafinES" communicate the exact same meaning? Of course they do. Helloooooo?
You latch on to a really silly example and think you have destroyed King James Bible onlyism by what YOU think is an error, when numerous other Bible translators both before and after the King James Bible, in English as well as in French, Italian and Spanish, have all translated the single word the same way the KJB translators did.
And then you have the unmitigated hubris to declare all these other good Bibles as being "inferior". Seeing you bible agnostic guys in action is sort of like watching a house on fire or a train wreck. Lots of damage being done but it is sort of fun to watch.