Usury or Interest? Is the King James Bible in error as some Bible critics claim?
One particular King James Bible critic I ran into recently, who himself is a promoter of the modern Vatican supervised text versions like the ESV, NIV, NASB and does not believe that ANY Bible in ANY language is now or ever was the complete and inerrant words of God, tells us that the King James Bible is in error when it translates the Greek word tokos as “usury” instead of “interest”.
This Bible critic says: “The translators of the King James Version of the Bible translated the Greek word tokos as “usury”. But it doesn’t mean usury in the Greek; it means “interest.” How did the King James scholars make such an error?”
He also repeats the typical Bible Agnostic Party line that his modern versions are based on ALL manuscripts instead of the Byzantine texts, (which are the basis of the Reformation bibles in all languages).
The simple FACT is, the Vatican versions are primarily based on two corrupt manuscripts that not only disagree with the Majority of remaining Greek manuscripts, but with each other as well more than 3000 times just in the gospels.
The learn more about this, see The true character of the so called "Oldest and Best Manuscripts"
And “Is James White right about Westcott and Hort and the modern "Vatican Versions"?
Are the modern versions like the ESV, NIV, NASB, NET, Holman Standard etc. still based on the Westcott and Hort Revised Greek critical Text?
The short answer is an absolute and unequivocal Yes, they are.”
“USURY” or “Interest”?
The word “usury” is found 23 times in the King James Bible. 21 in the Old Testament and 2 in the N.T. and both are parallel passages.
“Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with USURY.” Matthew 25:27
“Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with USURY?” Luke 19:23
First, we will look at the meaning of the word “tokos” in the Greek. Then we will see what the definition of usury is in English, and then compare the Bible versions in history.
The Greek-English Lexicon by Liddell & Scott 1887 page 709 tells us that the word tokos means: “interest, the produce or usance of money lent out, Latin usura.”
The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament by Joseph Henry Thayer 1889 on page 627 defines the word “tokos” as 1. “birth; the act of bringing forth. 2. interest of money, USURY (because it multiplies money, and as it were ‘breeds’) Matthew 25:27; Luke 19:23.”
Merriam-Webster Dictionary - usury = 1. archaic : interest
2. the lending of money with an interest charge for its use; especially : the lending of money at exorbitant interest rates
American Heritage Dictionary - usury = 1. The practice of lending money and charging the borrower interest, especially at an exorbitant or illegally high rate.
2. An excessive or illegally high rate of interest charged on borrowed money.
3. Archaic Interest charged or paid on a loan.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
U'SURY, noun s as z. [Latin usura, from utor, to use.]
1. Formerly, interest; or a premium paid or stipulated to be paid for the use of money.
[Usury formerly denoted any legal interest, but in this sense, the word is no longer in use.]
2. In present usage, illegal interest; a premium or compensation paid or stipulated to be paid for the use of money borrowed or retained, beyond the rate of interest established by law.
3. The practice of taking interest. obsolete
How the Bible uses the word USURY
In the Old Testament, an Israelite was forbidden to loan anything upon usury to a fellow Jew, but he was permitted to lend upon usury to the Gentiles who were not members of their nation.
Deuteronomy 23:19-20 tells us: “Thou shalt not lend upon USURY to thy BROTHER; USURY of money, USURY of victuals, USURY of any thing that is lent upon USURY:
Unto A STRANGER THOU MAYEST LEND UPON USURY; BUT UNTO THY BROTHER THOU SHALT NOT LEND UPON USURY; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.
But in the case of a poor, fellow Israelite we read: “If thou lend money to any of MY PEOPLE that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an USURER, neither shalt thou lay upon him USURY.” Exodus 22:25
So read Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale 1535, The Great Bible 1540, Matthew’s Bible 1549, the Bishops’ bible 1568, the Geneva bible, the Revised Version 1881, the 1936 Hebrew Publishing Company bible, Darby 1890, Young’s 1898, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907, KJV 21st Century 1994, Third Millennium Bible 1998, God’s First Truth 1999, the Jubilee bible 2010, New Heart English Bible 2010, Hebrew Transliteration Bible 2010, The Work of God’s Children’s Bible 2011 and the Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011.
Notice that both usury and increase were forbidden -
“And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him; yea, though he be a stranger (one who came to live among the Jews and adopted their religion) or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take no USURY of him, OR INCREASE; but fear thy God; that THY BROTHER may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon USURY, NOR lend him thy victuals FOR INCREASE.” Leviticus 25:35-37
And we see in the book of Nehemiah that some of the Jews DID engage in USURY with their fellow Jews and they charged them exorbitant rates of interest.
Nehemiah 1:1-13 relates where some had “mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.”
And they had brought their sons and daughters into bondage to be servants, and they couldn’t redeem them back. Then Nehemiah rebukes them saying to the nobles and rulers “Ye exact USURY, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them….I pray you, let us leave off this USURY.” Nehemiah 5:7-10
Nehemiah rebuked these nobles and rulers for charging exorbitant interest rates of their own Hebrew brethren. In other words, USURY.
In the case of the New Testament it seems to have been common practice for the exchangers and bankers to loan money with usury. Most of the publicans or tax collectors who worked for the Roman empire were guilty of engaging in this practice.
Matthew Henry comments on Matthew 25:27 - “should have received my own with usury;" which, it seems, was a common practice at that time, and not disallowed by our Saviour.”
John Lightfoot’s Bible Commentary is quite good, with: “Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with USURY.
“The lord did not deliver the talents to his servants with that intent, that they should receive the increase and profit of them by usury; but that, by merchandise and some honest way of trade, they should increase them. He only returns this answer to the slothful servant, as fitted to what he had alleged; "You take me for a covetous, griping, and sordid man: why then did you not make use of a manner of gain agreeable to these qualities, namely, interest or USURY (since you would not apply yourself to any honest traffic), that you might have returned me some increase of my money, rather than nothing at all?" So that our Lord, in these words, doth not so much approve of usury, as upbraid the folly and sloth of his servant.”
John Gill comments: ‘and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury: this is said not so much to encourage usury, though it may be lawful”
People’s New Testament Commentary - “Usury. Interest. The Jews were forbidden to take it from their brethren, but were allowed to take it from aliens.”
Not only does the King James Bible use the word USURY in Matthew 25:27 and Luke 19:23 but so too do the following Bible translations - Wycliffe 1395, Douay-Rheims 1582, (Tyndale, Bishops’s and Geneva bible all have “vantage” which meant “profit, or gain”), Whiston’s New Testament 1729, The Revised New Testament 1862, The Alford New Testament 1870, The Sharpe Bible 1883 and The Hebrew Transliteration Bible 2010.
Spanish Reina Valera Antigua - “hubiera recibido lo que es mío con USURA.”, and the Spanish Cipriano de Valera 1602 - “ recibiera lo que es mío con USURA.”
The King James Bible is NOT in error for translating this word tokos as USURY, because that is what the word means, and usury was a common practice in New Testament times. And it still is today as well.
The Lord is not approving of this practice of usury, but is merely telling the unjust servant that things being what they are, he should have made better use of his talent in the conditions of life and society in which he found himself.
All of grace, believing the Book - the King James Bible,
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