Exodus 20:13 and the KJB critics - "Thou shalt not KILL."
There are those who argue that the King James Bible is in error for saying: "Thou shalt not kill." They insist it should be as the NKJV, NIV, ESV and NASB read with "You shall not murder."
It should be noted that ALL the versions, including the NKJV, NIV, ESV, and NASB, translate this same Hebrew word as " TO KILL" in other passages. One such example is found in Numbers 35:27. Throughout this chapter the same word found in Exodus 20:13, is used 16 times and variously translated as "kill, slayer, manslayer, murderer, and put to death."
In Numbers 35:26-27 we read: "But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled; And the revenger of blood find him...and the revenger of blood KILL the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood." The NIV, NKJV, NASB, ESV etc. all read: "the revenger of blood KILL the slayer".
"THOU SHALT NOT KILL"
Regarding Exodus 20:13, not only does the King James Bible read "Thou shalt not kill" but so also do Tyndale 1534 (he translated Exodus before his death), Coverdale 1535, The Great Bible 1540 - "Thou shalt not kyll.", Matthew's Bible 1549, Bishops' Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, the Douay-Rheims of 1610, Webster's translation 1833, the Longman Version 1841, the Brenton Bible 1851, Lesser Bible 1853, the Smith Bible 1876, The Revised English Bible 1877, the Sharpe Bible 1883, Darby 1890, the American Standard Version 1901, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907 - "Thou shalt not KILL.", The Improved Bible 1913, Lamsa's 1933 translation of the Syriac Peshitta - "You shall not KILL.", the 1936 Hebrew Publishing Company version, the Catholic Douay 1950, the Revised Standard Version 1952, the New Life Version 1969, the St. Joseph New American Bible 1970, the Updated Bible Version 2003 - "You shall not KILL.", The Word of Yah 1993, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, Green's Modern KJV 1998, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, God's First Truth 1999 "you shall not KILL", the Heritage Bible 2003, The Complete Apostle's Bible by Paul Espositio 2005 - "You shall not KILL.", The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, the Context Group Version 2007, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011, the brand new critical text Common English Bible of 2011 - "Do not KILL.", The New Brenton Translation 2012 - "You shall not KILL.", The Bond Slave Version 2012, The Revised Douay-Rheims Bible 2012, and the Katapi New Standard Bible 2012 - "You shall not KILL."
George Lamsa's 1933 translation of the Syriac Peshitta - "You shall not kill."
The Hebraic Transliteration Bible 2010 - "Thou shalt not kill." (illegal killing, premeditated murder, manslaughter)
The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907 - "Thou shalt not kill."
And this online Interlinear Hebrew Old Testament - “Thou shalt not KILL.”
The most common form of the so called Greek Septuagint in print - The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament and Apocrypha with an English Translation, Zondervan Publishing House, Published by special arrangement with Samuel Bagster & Sons Ltd. London, Fourth Zondervan printing 1977 says in Greek ou Phoneuseis and then translates it as "Thou shalt not KILL."
English Translation of the Greek Septuagint - "Thou shalt not kill."
Foreign Language Bibles
Among foreign language Bibles that also say "Thou shalt not KILL" are the Spanish Cipriano de Valera 1602, the Reina Valera 1909, 1960, 1995, La Biblia de las Américas 1997 - "no matarás", (the Spanish word for murder is "no asesinarás" or perhaps "no cometerás homicidio", but "no matarás is clearly "thou shalt not kill"), the French Martin 1744, Louis Segond 1910 and the French Ostervald 1996 - "Tu ne tueras point.", the Italian Diodati 1649, the New Diodati 1991 and the 2006 Nuova Riveduta - "Non uccidere.", Luther's German Bible 1545 - "Du sollst nicht töten.", the Russian Synodal Version - "Не убивай." = "Thou shalt not KILL.", the Tagalog Ang Dating Biblia 1905 - "Huwag kang papaya." = "Thou shalt not KILL.", Swedish Bible 1917 - "Du skall icke dräpa.", Vietnamese Bible 1934 - "Ngươi chớ giết người.", Chinese Union Traditional Bible - "不 可 殺 人 " , The Czech BKR Bible -"Nezabiješ.", the Dutch Staten Vertaling - "Gij zult niet doodslaan." and the Portuguese Almeida Actualizada (Modern Almeida), A Biblia Sagrada em Portugués and the 2000 O Livro - "Não matarás."
It is more than a little hypocritical for the NIV English version to make a big deal out of the alleged difference between "to kill" and "to murder", but at the same time to make foreign language translations of the NIV that simply say "Do not KILL."
The NIV Spanish version simply says: "No mates.", which clearly means "Do not KILL." and NOT "Do not murder."- La Santa Biblia, Nueva Versión Internacional® NVI® Copyright © 1999.
Likewise the NIV Portuguese version simply say "Do not KILL." - “Não matarás." - Nova Versão Internacional NVI® Copyright © 1999
Dr. Thomas Holland on Exodus 20:13 "Thou shalt not kill."
Modern Versions and the Sixth Commandment
Recently I have been asked about the sixth commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," as compared with the majority of contemporary versions, "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13 NIV). Because I have had this question before, I thought it might be well to address it for the student's consideration.
Personally, as with so many renderings, I do not have a problem with either "kill" or "murder." Both are a proper translation of the Hebrew word "raw-tsakh" and have to do with putting another person to death. The King James Version translates this word as "kill" (Exod. 20:13 and Deut. 5:17) and as "murder" (Jer. 7:9 and Hos. 6:9). The two are used synonymously in English and the Scripture. For example, if a man shoots another man in front of a witness, the witness may say, "You killed him." That is true, but he will be charged with murder. Common sense and our English dictionaries demonstrate that these two words mean the same thing.
Nevertheless, those who oppose the Authorized Version have stated that the KJV has mistranslated the Hebrew word "raw-tsakh" as "kill" when it really should be "murder" or that the word "murder" is a better translation. But is that really the case? It may come as a surprise to those who make such claims against the KJV that the weight of the evidence is against them.
First we must consider the Hebrew. As mentioned above the Hebrew word "raw-tsakh" is translated as "kill" and "murder" in the KJV. There are also several other words translated as "kill" or "murder" in the KJV. But this word carries the idea of dashing in pieces, to slay, or to do violence in an unjust manner that causes death. It is never applied to the slaying of animals, such as in a sacrifice. Nor is it used in regard to the taking of life in war.
However, those who insist that the KJV has mistranslated the word have a problem when we see how other versions translate it in various additional passages. For example, the word "raw-tsakh" in Exodus 20:13 (and Deut 5:17 where the commandments are repeated) stands in the future tense. The same word in the same tense appears again in Deuteronomy 4:42. The text reads, "That the slayer might flee thither, which should kill his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in times past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live."
If the KJV is incorrect in its translation of "raw-tsakh" as "kill" and the NIV has corrected it as "murder" in Exodus 20:13, then we would expect this same Hebrew word that the KJV "mistranslates" to be "corrected" in Deuteronomy 4:42 as well. However, the NIV reads in this passage, "to which anyone who had KILLED a person could flee if he had unintentionally KILLED his neighbor without malice aforethought. He could flee into one of these cities and save his life." So do the NKJV, RSV, ESV.
If translating "raw-tsakh" in the future tense as "kill" is wrong in Exodus 20:13, then it is also wrong in Deuteronomy 4:42, but there modern versions translate it as "kill." Why? Because the word can be translated either way; either one is therefore a correct translation.
Second, the same is true of the New Testament. In Matthew 5:21, the KJV states, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not KILL; and whosoever shall KILL shall be in danger of the judgment." Clearly the Lord is quoting from the Ten Commandments. Here the Greek word used is "phoneuseis" a form of the word "phoneuw" and again means "to kill, slay, murder" (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). This Greek word appears several times in the New Testament and is translated as "kill" (Matt. 5:21; 23:31; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Rom. 13:9; James 2:11; 4:2; and 5:6). However, it is also translated as "murder" in Matthew 19:18 and as "slew" in Matthew 23:35.
If the KJV was incorrect with the Hebrew by translating it as "kill" in Exodus 20:13, we must say that it is also incorrect when translating the Greek word in Matthew 5:21 as "kill." However, as with the Old Testament Hebrew word, modern versions translate the Greek "phoneuw" as both "murder" and "kill." Yet in James 4:2 the NIV translates this Greek word as "kill." Again, this demonstrates that it means either.
Finally, we come to the English. Both my 1828 and 1975 Webster Dictionaries inform me that the word "kill" means, "to deprive of life." The word "murder" means, "the crime of unlawfully killing a person." Both can be used interchangeably, in that it is impossible to murder a person without killing them. However, there are those who still object to the phrase, "thou shalt not kill" insisting that it must be "you shall not murder." Therefore, so they state, modern versions have clarified the difference for us. But have they really?
The English word "kill" means to deprive of life. The word "murder" means to unlawfully kill a person." Therefore, by English definitions, the word murder involves an unlawful act. However, if it is lawful it would not be murder to deprive someone of life. With this in mind, I certainly think the phrase "thou shalt not kill" is much better. For this simple reason, abortion is the law of the land. It is not illegal for a doctor to deprive a living child of its life if the mother consents to this act. I can almost hear the liberal theologian justifying abortion on the grounds that it is not murder because it is not unlawful. The same may be said of euthanasia. While it is not the law of our land yet, it is the law of the land in many countries and it not an unlawful act in those nations. Nevertheless, both acts deprive a living being of their life. Both acts KILL. With this in mind, which do you think is really the better translation?
Yours in Christ Jesus, Dr. Thomas Holland
In addition to Dr. Holland's comments about the word correctly being translated as either to kill or to murder in the King James Bible, I would like to add some additional support for his position.
If, as the KJB critics affirm, there is a distinct difference between "to kill" and "to murder", they are contradicted by the very versions they promote. Other words are also translated as both "to kill" and "to murder", and often when describing the clear act of what we would call "murder", the NKJV, NIV, NASB use the word "to kill".
The Hebrew word 'harag' # 2026, is translated by all these versions as both to kill and to murder, showing them to be synonymous terms. Notice these few examples of the many that could be given.
Genesis 4:8 "And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and SLEW him." ESV, NASB, NIV, NKJV - "KILLED him".
See also Genesis 4:23, 25. "I have KILLED a man for wounding me." KILLED = ESV, NIV, NKJV, NASB. Oh, wait. Shouldn't this be "murder", according to our bible critics?
Genesis 27:41 "And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand: then will I SLAY my brother Jacob." ESV, NASB, NIV, NKJV - "I will KILL my brother Jacob." - Again, according to our Bible critics, this should be "MURDER", right?
Genesis 34:25-26 This incident occurred when Shechem the Hivite had taken Dinah, the sister of the sons of Jacob, and lay with her. He then wanted to take her as his wife and the sons of Jacob lied to the people, saying they would join them if they were circumcised. "And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, (after being circumcised, and were defenseless), that the two sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and SLEW all the males. And they SLEW Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out." ESV, NKJV, NIV, NASB - "KILLED all the males", "KILLED Hamor and Shechem".
Genesis 37:20 Here the brothers of Joseph envied him and wanted to kill him. Another clear case of what we would call "murder". "Behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now therefore, and let us SLAY him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him; and we shall see what will become of his dreams." ESV, NIV, NASB, NKJV - "let us KILL him".
Exodus 21:14 "But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbor, TO SLAY him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die." ESV, NKJV, NIV, NASB - "KILL HIM".
In addition to this, we have the Bible itself to read as a whole to get the mind of God on any particular subject. The Bible tells us "thou shalt not kill" but we also see the intent of this commandment by reading other portions of the Bible and comparing Scripture with Scripture.
In Deuteronomy 19:4-6 we read: "Whoso KILLETH his neighbour IGNORANTLY, whom he hated not in time past, as when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down a tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die...he was not worthy of death, inasmuch as he hated him not in time past." So we see there is a difference between killing someone and killing someone accidentally. Just use some God given common sense.
Numbers 35:30 " Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.
Numbers 35:31 Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death."
Notice that scripture defined what sort of killing God forbids.
"Who so killeth any person, THE MURDERER SHALL BE PUT TO DEATH..."
These are just a few of many examples found in the modern versions where the clear act of "murder" is referred to as "killing". The King James Bible is not in error in Exodus 20:13 and the Bible critics have not done their homework.
It can rightly be said of the KJB critics as of other false teachers: "understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." 1 Timothy 1:7.
The King James Bible is ALWAYS right. Accept no substitutes.
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Re: Exodus 20:13 Thou shalt not kill
This objection was raised at a Bible club by a Whateverist who opposes the KJB.
"Both you and Dr. Holland skip the obvious thing here, Will. Dr. Holland defines 'kill' as to end a life, for any reason, while murder is UNLAWFULLY killing another person. Therefore, by those definitions,"thou shalt not kill" is a blanket prohibition against killing ANYTHING FOR ANY REASON.
Wherever else the Hebrew 'ratsach' is rendered "kill", there's a contextual indication that indicates the reason behind the killing, be it battle, the killing of a sacrificial animal, an execution, or murder. Exd.20:13 has no such contextual tag. Therefore, in this case, "murder" is the better rendering, since God was NOT forbidding any killing whatsoever. And murder is the act of wrongfully ending the life of another PERSON, and does NOT apply to the killing of animals. We see throughout the Bible that MURDER was the act forbidden by God.
When we see how often this one little verse from the KJV has been misused by the opponents of capital punishment and those trying to avoid military service, we should stop and think awhile."
My Response: Mr...., you have solved nothing by your way of defining words, but rather have created more problems than solutions. I know of many Christians who with a good conscience before God believe that to kill another person for any reason whatsoever is murder. They believe that for the state to kill a killer (or to kill the murderer) is still murder. You are guilty of doing the very act you are condemning the murderer for. Many Christians likewise believe any act of war whereby a Christian is called upon to kill another human being is still murder. They even have a lot of Scripture to back up their views.
"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" Mat. 5:44.
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." Mat. 5:38-39
"And the soldiers likewise demanded of him (John the Baptist), saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages." Luke 3:14
"My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence." John 18:36
"he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." Rev. 13:10
"Then Jesus said unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." Mat. 26:52
Many sincere Christians believe that to kill that other person whom you never met before and who has done nothing against you personally is an act of murder, even if your government tells you to do so. You have solved nothing by changing "Thou shalt not kill" to "you shall not murder".
If we take your definitions and use the modern versions you promote, then using the examples I listed, we can say that the sons of Jacob were not guilty of murder, they merely "killed" the people of Shechem. Why did they kill them? Because they raped their sister, but it wasn't "murder". So also Lamech just "killed" another man because he hit him first, but he didn't "murder" him. Joseph's brothers were not guilty of "murder" in their hearts. They only wanted to "kill" Joseph and they had a right to do so because they were envious. And then of course the act of "killing babies" is OK because they are not really "murdering" them. Murder is against the law and abortion is legal, so it is merely "killing babies", not "murdering" them.
Mr...., the KJB and all the other versions I listed are not wrong for saying "Thou shalt not kill". No matter which version you use, you still have to use some common sense and compare Scripture with Scripture to find out the intended meaning of the passage, and still some Christians will not reach the same conclusions as others.
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Long after I wrote this article, a member at our Which Version club posted the following short article about "killing". I think it is pretty good, so I will copy it here for your consideration.
By Joshua Joscelyn
When Israel first heard the 6th commandment they would have understood, not that all killing was wrong, but that killing unjustly was wrong, killing without divine sanction was wrong, killing without good reason was wrong, killing on one’s own initiative was wrong. The Jews would have known that before God gave the 6th commandment some killing was lawful and some was not.
God allowed for the killing of animals for clothing (Gen 3:21), food (Gen 9:3), and sacrifices (Gen 4:4, 8:20), as well as the killing of men via capital punishment (Gen 9:6). They would have known that it was wrong for Cain to kill Abel (Gen 4:8) and that it was wrong for anyone to kill Cain (Gen 4:15). They would have known that God told Abraham to kill Isaac (Gen 22:2). They would have known that God commanded Israel to kill the Amalekites (Ex 17:8-16). Right after God gave the 6th commandment in Exodus 20, he commanded that people be killed for murder (Ex 21:12-15), stealing a man (Ex 21:16), cursing parents (Ex 21:17), owning an animal that kills someone (Ex 21:29), being a witch (Ex 22:18), beastiality (Ex 22:19), and idolatry (Ex 22:20). On the very day that Moses delivered the Ten Commandments, he ordered the killing of 3,000 idolaters (Ex 32:15, 26-28). After God gave this commandment, he said a man was to be punished if he killed his servant (Ex 21:20) but then instructed the Jews to destroy the heathen nations (Ex 23:23-24, Deut 20:16-17).
Therefore, the Jews, having all of this discernment concerning the conditions surrounding this commandment, would not have been confused when God commanded them to wipe out a heathen nation, women and children included, or when He commanded them to kill homosexuals, etc. However, notice that these are commandments for Israel. We have no mandate from God to invade nations in His name or kill homosexuals, etc. In this New Testament age, civil government is not to enforce religious issues. That is for preachers and Christians to speak out about, but not to kill over.
So there is no contradiction to this commandment, because it was obviously a conditional commandment. Killing without authorization from God was what was being forbidden. As the lawgiver, God can make exceptions to this law, because He created it. And as for us in the New Testament, it seems the only exceptions to this law that pertain to us are capital punishment (Rom. 13:4) and self defense (Luke 22:26-38; I Tim. 5:8). Killing is wrong…unless God specifically and explicitly authorizes it.