Article: "Would to God" - Another alleged 'error' bites the dust by Will Kinney

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“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: Coverdale 1535, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587 - 1602, the Douay-Rheims bible, the Revised Version 1881 (See Numbers 11:29; 14:2, 2 Samuel 18:33, 2 Kings 5:3, Deuteronomy 28:67) Webster’s 1833, Darby, the 1936 Hebrew Publication Society version, the KJV 21st Century version 1994, and the Third Millenium Bible 1998.


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 Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, John Wesley’s 1755 translation, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, the Third Millenium Bible 1998 and even Weymouth’s New Testament in Modern Speech 1902! 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 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.


God Forbid


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,


Will Kinney


External Links

Other Artilces by Will Kinney in the Textus Receptus database ~

Old Testament

Genesis Genesis 1:28 Replenish or Fill? - Genesis 6:6 Can God repent? - Genesis 22:1 Did God "Tempt" Abraham? Exodus Exodus 20:13 Thou Shalt Not KILL - Exodus - the Israelites "borrowed" of the Egyptians Numbers Numbers 22 Why was God Angry with Balaam? Job Bible Babel in Job - a comparative study 1 Samuel 1 Samuel 13:21 "a file" a "pim" or "two-thirds of a shekel"? 2 Samuel 2 Samuel 21:8 Michal or Merab? - 2 Samuel 21:19 Who Killed Goliath? 1 Kings 1 Kings 20:38 ashes upon his face - 1 Kings 22:38 "washed his armour" or "while the harlots bathed" NKJV Nonsense Psalms Psalm 8:5 Lower than the Angels, or a little lower than God? - Answering Doug Kutilek's anti-Preservation in Psalm 12 - Psalm 74:8 the synagogues of God; Psalm 77:2 my sore ran in the night - Psalms 1 How Different the Versions! - Psalms 2 How Different the Versions! - Psalms 3 How Different the Versions! - Psalms 4 How Different the Versions! - Psalms 5 How Different the Versions! Proverbs NKJV Bible Babel in Proverbs - Bible Babel in Proverbs Isaiah Isaiah - a Comparative Study - Does God Create Evil? Isaiah 45:7 Jeremiah Jeremiah 8:8 the pen of the scribes is in vain - Jeremiah 27:1 Jehoiakim or Zedekiah? - Ezekiel Ezekiel 29:7 Hebrew, Greek or Syriac? Hosea Hosea - a Comparative Study

New Testament

Did Jesus Tell Them to Take a Staff or Not? Matthew Is Matthew 23:14 Scripture or not? - Matthew 27:44 cast in teeth Mark Gospel of Mark - a Modern Version Mix-up Luke Is "cousin" wrong in Luke 1:36 - Luke 17:36 Is it inspired Scripture or not? John John 1:18 the only begotten Son Acts Act 3:19 times of refreshing; 7:20 Moses was exceeding fair - Acts 9:5-7 hear the voice; 7:20 exceeding fair - Acts 5:30 slew and hanged; 19:20 word of GOD - Acts 13:33 this day have I begotten thee - Acts 19:9 DIVERS were hardened, and believed not - Acts 19:35 Diana or Artemis? Jupiter, Zeus or Heaven? - The So-called "Science" of Textual Criticism. Science or Hocus-Pocus? Gospels through Acts Romans James White discussing Romans 6:17 Philippians Textual Studies in Philippians 2 Timothy 2 Timothy 3:16 Inspiration of God or God Breathed? Hebrews The Book of Hebrews - a Comparative Study 1 Peter 1 Peter - Shifting Sands of Scholarship 1 John And These Three Are One Article defending the inclusion of 1 John 5:7. - 1 John 5:7 These three are one Jude The Book of Jude - James White's "inferior" texts Revelations Revelation 13 Confusion - Vials or Bowls in the book of Revelation - Rev.16:5 and SHALT BE; 5:8-10 redeemed US - Revelation 17:8 "the beast that was, and is not, and YET IS" - Acts 28:13 We Fetched a Compass; 1 Tim5:4 Nephews - Matthew 24:3; Hebrews 9:26 End of World or Age?

Modern Versions

Bible Babel 1 - Bible Babel 2 - Bible Babel 3 - Bible Babel 4 - The Oldest and Best Manuscripts? - Every Man for Himself Bible Versions - the HCSB, NET, ESV, TNIV, NKJV - The Inerrancy of Scripture - are you a Bible believer or a Bible agnostic? - True Bible? - Modern Versions Teach Racism - Modern Versions Teach Pride as a Virtue - Do Ghosts Exist? Modern Versions say Yes ESV The English Standard Version 2001 NASB The Ever Changing NASB's NKJV NKJV Word Changes - When the NKJV departs from the TR - The New KJV is a Hack Job Translation - NKJV vs KJB Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah - Is the NKJV the same as the KJB? - Don't go on Safari with a New KJV Translator - The NKJV is a Poor Substitute for the True Bible - NKJV vs KJB Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah - NKJV Bible Babel in Proverbs

King James Word Definitions

Lucifer - Jehovah - Unicorns - Is the word "Easter" an error in the King James Bible? - Are the words "CHURCH" and 'BISHOP' wrong? - Hell and Damnation in the King James Bible - "By and by" versus "the-by-and-by" - Servants or Slaves? - Is "charity" an error in the KJB? - The Grace of God Destroyed - "Would to God" - Another alleged 'error' bites the dustIs "bottles" an inaccurate word in the King James Bible?

King James Bible

Is King James onlyism Scriptural? - Does the KJB only position "blow up"? - What About Those Printing Errors in 1611? - Does the King James Bible depart from the Hebrew Texts? - Why do you King James Bible onlyies Attack the word of God? - The Historic Confessions support the KJB position - Can a Translation be Inspired? - The Old Latin versions and the KJB

Septuagint

NO LXX Part 1 - NO LXX - the Fictitious Use of Septuagint

Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls Fiasco

Hebrew Text

The NIV, NASB reject the Hebrew Texts - NIV, NASB reject Hebrew texts Part 2 - How to Destroy Messianic Prophecies

Greek Text

"The Greek" and Hebrew Games

Gender Inclusive Versions

Gender Inclusive Versions Dealing with the TNIV

Answering Critics

E mail exchange with Bible Agnostic Doug Kutilek - John MacArthur - Pastor with NO Infallible Bible - A Bible Believer's Response to James Price's book King James Onlyism - a New Sect - A King James Bible Believer's Response to Rick Norris' book 'The Unbound Scriptures' - 17 Parts

Part 1 - The "logical" Premise of Mr. Norris

Part 2 - Those Dreadful Archaic Words

Part 3 - Imperfect men, Perfect Bible

Part 4 - Revision

Part 5 - Printing Errors and Spelling

Part 6 - Inspiration and Inerrancy

Part 7 - Alleged Errors in the King James Bible

Part 8 - Let Me Count The Ways

Part 9 - Beasts or Living Creatures?

Part 10 - Mules or Hot Springs?

Part 11 - "Digged down a wall" or "hamstrung an ox"?

Part 12 - Steel, brass, copper, bronze - Paper or Plastic?

Part 13 - The Usual Suspects

Part 14 - The Preservation of the words of God

Part 15 - KJB Only versus Latin Vulgate Only Argument

Part 16 - Where Was the Word of God Before 1611?

Part 17 - Final Thoughts


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