“Would to God” - Another alleged 'error' bites the dust.
There is a phrase or an expression found several times in the Authorized King James Holy Bible that some Bible critics object to. It is the fairly common expression “Would to God”.
It’s essential that we know something of the mindset of those who allege this phrase to be an error in our beloved King James Bible. All those who think this is an error in the King James Bible do not themselves believe that there ever existed and certainly does not exist now any complete, inspired, inerrant and 100% true Bible in any language on the earth today.
Each one of them has set up his own mind as his final authority and couldn’t tell you where to get a copy of an inerrant Bible if their life depended on it.
As we shall soon see, the King James Bible is by no means the only translation to use this phrase, and there are very good reasons why it is translated this way. The phrase “Would to God” is found in both the Old and New Testaments of the King James Bible. It is found in Exodus 16:3; Numbers 11:29; 14:2; 20:3; Deuteronomy 28:67 (twice); Joshua 7:7, Judges 9:29; 2 Samuel 18:33 and 2 Kings 5:3.
We see it in the New Testament twice, in 1 Corinthians 4:8 - “Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I WOULD TO GOD ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.” and in 2 Corinthians 11:1 - “WOULD TO GOD ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.”
The Old Testament
The first time the expression “Would to God” is found is in Exodus 16:3 after God had brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, the land of their captivity. “And the children of Israel said unto them, WOULD TO GOD we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
There is actually a verb here in the Hebrew texts, though strictly speaking the literal word ‘God’ is not expressly stated. The verb is # 5414 nathan and its primary meaning is “to give”, but it is also translated as “to put, bestow, deliver, grant, make, place, recompense, send, and Would to God.” (Strong’s concordance)
In fact, we get two fairly common names found in both testaments from this Hebrew word - Nathan and Nathaniel. The name Nathan is recorded some 41 times in the O.T. and Nathaniel occurs 6 times in the New Testament. We also have two less common names found some 33 times in the Old Testament - Nethaneel and Nethaniah, meaing “Given of God” and “Given of Jehovah” respectively. The name Nathan is a shortened and elliptical Hebrew name meaning “given of/by God”.
The Bible presents us with the true and sovereign God who is in control of all events, both in creation and in the affairs of men, and those who believed in Him often cried out for His guidance and help. By way of illustration we see this same Hebrew verb (nathan) used in the following Scriptures.
Genesis 1:17 - “And God SET (nathan) them (the sun and the moon) in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.
Genesis 27:28 -”Therefore God GIVE (nathan) thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine.”
Genesis 43:14 - “And God Almighty GIVE (nathan) you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin.”
The next time we see this phrase used is in Number 11:29. Read the whole chapter and see how God is in control of both the chastisements and blessings that He bestows upon His people. After God had put His spirit upon 70 of the elders of Israel to help Moses govern the children, we read: “And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? WOULD GOD (nathan) that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD WOULD PUT (nathan) his spirit upon them!”
Again, to illustrate the point that the word “nathan” can sometimes be an elliptical Hebrew expression for “Would to God” is seen in Deuteronomy chapter 28 and verse 67. There we read: “In the morning thou shalt say, WOULD GOD (nathan) it were even! and at even thou shalt say, WOULD GOD (nathan) it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.”
Yet in the very context of this chapter we see that it was God Himself who was in control of these events and to whom the people cried out for deliverance.
Deuteronomy 28:24-25 - “The LORD SHALL MAKE (nathan) the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed. The LORD SHALL CAUSE (nathan) thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.”
Thus we see that there are very good reasons why the King James Bible and many others as well have correctly at times translated this phrase as “Would to God”. It is an elliptical expression that in effect means “May God grant that...”
Not only does the King James Bible do this but so also do the following Bible translations: Tyndale's translation 1534 - "wolde God it were nyghte." (etc.), Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 1549 (John Rogers) - "wolde God it were mornynge" (etc.), the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587 - 1602, the Douay-Rheims bible 1610, the Bill Bible 1671, the Revised Version 1881 - "Would God it were even!" (See Numbers 11:29; 14:2, 2 Samuel 18:33, 2 Kings 5:3, Deuteronomy 28:67) Webster’s 1833, the Boothroyd Bible 1853, The Lesser Biblee 1853, The Jewish Family Bible 1864, Darby's Translation 1890, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907, the 1936 Hebrew Publication Society version, the KJV 21st Century version 1994, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, God's First Truth 1999, the Bond Slave Version 2009, the Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2011 - "would to Elohim we had died", and the 2011 Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible - "WOULD TO GOD we had died", The Revised Geneva Bible 2005 and The Modern English Version 2014- "WOULD TO GOD we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt."
The New Testament
1 Corinthians 4:8 - “Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I WOULD TO GOD (ophelon) ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.
2 Corinthians 11:1 - “WOULD TO GOD (ophelon) ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.
The particular Greek word used in these two verses is ophelon. It is an interjection and can mean things like “Oh that”, “I would” or “Would God”.
Again, not only does the King James Bible render this expression as “Would God” but so also do Tyndale 1535, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540 - "Wold to God", Matthew's Bible 1549 - "Wolde to God ye coulde suffre me a lytell", the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, the Beza N.T. 1599, the Douay-Rheims bible 1582, the Bill Bible 1671, Daniel Mace's New Testament 1729 - "WOULD TO GOD you did reign", Whiston's Primitive New Testament 1745, John Wesley’s 1755 translation, the Clarke N.T. 1795, the Hewett N.T. 1850, The Commonly Received Version 1851, the Kenrick N.T. 1862, The Revised New Testament 1862, the Dillard N.T. 1885, the Weymouth N.T. 1912 - "WOULD TO GOD you had ascended your thrones" (1 Cor. 4:8), Clarke N.T. 1913 - "Would to God" (2 Cor. 11:1), the Word of Yah 1993, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, the Third Millenium Bible 1998, God's First Truth 1999 (Theron Miller), the Tomson N.T. 2002, the 2003 Evidence Bible, the 2004 New Simplified Bible - "I WOULD TO GOD you did reign", The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, The Conservative Bible 2010 - "God willing" (2 Cor. 11:1), the 2010 Hebraic Transliteration Scripture - "I would to Elohim you did reign", the Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011, The Modern English Version 2014 - "I wish to God" (1 Cor.4:8) & "I WOULD TO GOD" (2 Cor.11:1)
In many of these same Old and New Testament verses the Spanish Reina Valera and the Portuguese Bible versions use the same expression - ojalá and the Portuguese phrase, oxalá, which mean “Would to God”.
Here is Weymouth’s 1902 translation of 1 Corinthians 4:8 - “Yes indeed, WOULD TO GOD (ophelon) that you had ascended your thrones, that we also might reign with you!
In his book, Exposition of the Grammatical Structure of the English Language, John Mulligan discusses the expressions “Would God” and “Would to God”. You can find his book online. On page 498 he says: “Would God, and Would to God are sometimes used in the exclamatory way without a subject. We have examples both with the subject suppressed and with the subject expressed. “Would God it were morning!” “Would to God ye could bear with me.” “I would God ye did reign.” “I would to God that not only thou...” Acts 26:29. A comparison of these passages affords a satisfactory explanation of this ellipsis.” (end of quote from this grammarian)
Those who criticize the King James Bible for allegedly “adding” the word God to the English text are ignorant of how languages work and apparently blindly unaware of how their own versions like the NASB, NIV, ESV, NKJV and other English versions often “add” the words God or Lord when strictly speaking they are not in the text, and versions like the NIV actually omit the name of God or Lord scores of times when IT IS in the texts!
For documented proof of these things, please see the article called “God forbid”, another phrase found in the King James Bible and many others that is hypocritically and ignorantly criticized as well.http://brandplucked.webs.com/godforbid.htm
There is nothing wrong at all with the way the King James Bible and many others have translated these expressions in both the Old and New Testaments. All it takes is a little faith and study to find out why God guided them to put His pure words into the English language the way they did. You will never go wrong with the King James Holy Bible.
By His grace believing the Book,
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