Article: Acts 28:13 We Fetched a Compass; 1 Tim5:4 Nephews by Will Kinney

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We fetched a compass

Acts 28:12-13 "And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days. And from thence WE FETCHED A COMPASS, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli."

In his book, The King James Only Controversy, author James White says on page 234: "One could easily fill many pages with examples of unclear, difficult readings based upon archaic language from the KJV." He then shows three verses where the phrase "fetch a compass" is used in the King James Bible, and then comments: "Surely 'fetched a compass' is a phrase that few modern readers, even those skilled in such things, would understand. Some might even think that the expression refers to an actual compass, which, of course, did not exist at the times in which these passages were written. This kind of difficult reading is hardly a rarity, especially in the Old Testament portion of the KJV."

Of course Mr. White is trying to get us to abandon that dusty old King James Bible and embrace his NASB or the NIV. Apparently the facts that the NASB and NIV omit or substitute some 5000 words from the New Testament of the King James Bible (including 17 whole verses) and they both often reject the Hebrew text in favor of the Greek Septuagint, Syriac, or the Vulgate; or the fact that they do not even agree with each other in hundreds of verses, and both contain proveable contradictions and theological errors, is of little importance. The main thing Mr. White is concerned about is getting rid of difficult readings like "fetched a compass".

James White and others like him do not believe that any single Book called the Holy Bible is actually the complete, inerrant, inspired words of God. I know this for a fact, having read his book several times and having talked with him both on the radio and the internet. All he has to recommend his readers are a variety of multiple-choice, Let's Hope They're Close Enuf, conflicting and contradictory "reliable versions". But an actual paper and ink Book we can hold in our hands and believe every word of it? Nah, no such thing exists in James White's thinking.

This phrase "to fetch a compass" admittedly is not as common as it once was, but if you merely think about it just a bit, you can easily figure out what it means. To fetch is to get or obtain, and a compass is something that forms a circle. So to fetch a compass means to go around or turn in a wide circular motion.

Do modern English versions still use such "archaic" words like "compass" and "fetch". Of course they do. In the 2001 English Standard Version we see the word "compass" meaning to circle something.

ESV 2 Samuel 22:5 "For the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me;

ESV 1 Kings 7:24 Under its brim were gourds, for ten cubits, compassing the sea all around. The gourds were in two rows, cast with it when it was cast.

ESV Psalm 22:12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

ESV Isaiah 44:13 The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass.

Is fetch archaic? Not according to the NASB, NKJV, The Message and others.

NASB, NKJV -Job 36:3 "I will fetch my knowledge from afar, And I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.

The Message -Deuteronomy 29:11 "...your babies, your wives, the resident foreigners in your camps who fetched your firewood and water"

The phrase "to fetch a compass" is found in the King James Holy Bible five times - 4 in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament. Tyndale also translated Acts 28:13 as "we fetched a compass" . Both Coverdale 1535 and the Geneva Bible 1599 say: "we set a compass"

In the Old Testament the phrase "fetch a compass" occurs four times - Numbers 34:5; Joshua 15:3; 2 Samuel 5:23, and 2 Kings 3:9.

Numbers 34:5 "And the border shall fetch a compass from Azmon unto the river of Egypt..."

"shall fetch a compass" is also the reading of Matthew's Bible 1537 and even the 1950 Douay Version. The Geneva Bible said "shall compass from Azmon unto the river of Egypt", while Wycliffe said: "shall go by compass".

In Joshua 15:3 we read: "And their south border....went up to Adar, and fetched a compass to Karkaa." This is also the reading of Coverdale 1535 and Webster's 1833 translation. The Bishops' Bible reads "and set a compass".

In 2 Samuel 5:23 when David was planning his strategy for attacking the Philistines we read: "And when David enquired of the LORD, he said, Thou shalt not go up; but FETCH A COMPASS behind them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees." Webster's 1833 translation and the Douay Version of 1950 also say "fetch a compass behind them". The Geneva Bible says "set a compass".

2 Kings 3:9 "So the king of Israel went, and the king of Judah, and the king of Edom: and they FETCHED A COMPASS of seven days' journey." Webster's translation and the 1950 Douay Version also read this way.

This English expression is not that hard to figure out, and those who criticize it know full well what it means. What many may not be aware of is the fact that the phrase is still found in modern dictionaries.



1. To bear toward the person speaking, or the person or thing from whose point of view the action is contemplated; to go and bring; to get.

Time will run back and fetch the age of gold. --Milton.

He called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bred in thine hand. --1 Kings xvii. 11, 12.

2. To obtain as price or equivalent; to sell for.

Our native horses were held in small esteem, and fetched low prices. --Macaulay.

5. To bring to accomplishment; to achieve; to make; to perform, with certain objects; as, TO FETCH A COMPASS, to fetch a leap; to fetch a sigh.

6. To bring or get within reach by going; to reach; to arrive at; to attain; TO REACH BY SAILING.

Meantine flew our ships, and straight we fetched The siren's isle. --Chapman.

TO FETCH A COMPASS (Nautical), to make a circuit; to take a circuitious route going to a place.

To fetch a compass - to make a circuit.

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dicionary 1998

To Fetch

1 : to get and bring something; specifically : to retrieve killed game 2 : to take a roundabout way: TO CIRCLE 3 : to hold a course on a body of water

Webster's Dictionary 1913

To fetch a compass (Naut.), to make a circuit; to take a circuitious route going to a place.

The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

"to fetch a compass"

A passing round; circuit; circuitous course.

They fetched a compass of seven day's journey. 2 Kings iii. 9.

What many Christians seem to be unaware of, or even unconcerned about, regarding the Bible Version issue is that there is far more involved than just updating a few "archaic words". There is the supremely important question concerning the very words God Himself inspired. Do we have a complete, inerrant, infallible and inspired Bible today or not? God promised to preserve His words and the Lord Jesus Christ said "heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." This is either a true statement or else the Lord Jesus lied to us.

Here are just two of the hundreds of examples that can be given to illustrate the point. Both are found in Acts chapter 28 where we find the expression "From thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium."

In Acts 28:16 we read: "And when we came to Rome, THE CENTURION DELIVERED THE PRISONERS TO THE CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him."

All the capital lettered words are found in the majority of all Greek texts, as well as some Old Latin copies, the Syriac Harkelian, Coptic Sahidic and Slavonic ancient versions. These words are also in the NKJV, the Spanish Reina Valera, Italian Diodati, the modern Greek Bibles, Young's, Darby, Hebrew Names Version, and the previous English bibles of Tyndale, Coverdale, Bishops' and the Geneva Bible.

However, based on a few Greek manuscripts that constantly disagree with each other, modern versions like the NASB, NIV, RSV, ESV and Holman Standard omit all these capitalized words.


This entire verse is omitted from the text by such versions as the NIV, RSV, NRSV, ESV and The Message. The NASB is of interest in that from 1960 through 1972 the NASB omitted this verse from its text and consigned it to a marginal note saying: "SOME manuscripts add..." Then in 1977 and again in 1995 the NASB decided to put the verse back in the text, but this time in brackets, indicating that it is not part of the original text. Then they footnote: "MANY manuscripts do not contain this verse."

The 2004 Holman Standard includes the verse but places it in brackets

The entire verse is found in the vast majority of all remaing Greek copies as well as many Old Latin copies. The Old Latin translation predates anything we have in Greek. It is also found in Lamsa's 1933 translation of the Syriac Peshitta, the Armenian, Ethiopic and Slavonic ancient versions and is quoted by church fathers including Chrysostom and Cassiodorus. Since the verse occurs only one time in the New Testament, it would be a bit difficult for an early church father to quote it if it did not exist.

The entire verse is found in the following foreign language Bible versions: The Albanian, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, French Louis Segond, German Luther, Modern Greek, Gypsy Rhomanese, Haitian Creole, Modern Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian Diodati, Korean, Latvian, Maori Bible, Norwegian, Portuguese, Rumanian, Russian, Shuar N.T., Spanish Reina Valera, Turkish, Uma New Testament, and the Vietnamese Bible.

Yet in this country such versions as the RSV, NRSV, ESV, NIV, NASB, Holman Standard and The Message all omit this verse entirely from their New Testament text, or else they place it in brackets indicating it is not inspired Scripture.

It is a simple matter. Either these words and thousands of others found in the King James Bible are the inspired words of the living God or else they are human additions that have no place at all, even in brackets, in the Holy Bible.


1 Timothy 5:4. The KJV’s “nephews” is wrong. As we now know, the Greek word refers to “grandchildren.” Edwin Palmer of the NIV translation committee.

On a well known site promoting the NIV bible version, one of the chief translators of the NIV first proclaims how much "he loves" the King James Bible. Then he proceeds to give a long list of what he thinks are errors or mistranslations, to convince the unlearned that we should abandon the King James Bible and use his NIV.

I hope to show through this study that the use of the word "nephew" is indeed an archaic term, but it is far more accurate than the word "grandchildren" that is found in the modern versions.

In 1 Timothy 5:4 we read: "But if any widow have children or NEPHEWS, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God."

In the NIV we read: "But if a widow has children or GRANDCHILDREN, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents AND GRANDPARENTS, for this is pleasing to God."

First of all it should be noted that the NIV is mostly a paraphrase instead of a translation. The word "home" has been changed to "family" and the simple words "to shew piety" (RV, ASV, NKJV, NASB) have been greatly expanded to read "to put their religion into practice".

The NIV has also added the words "and grandparents" which occur in no Greek text on this earth. The word "parents" (progonois) simply means progenitors, which are any biological ancestors.

The NIV has also omitted the words "is good and" (KJB, NKJV, Tyndale, Coverdale, Bishops', and Geneva Bibles) which are found in the texts that underlie all previous English Bibles before the Westcott-Hort text came out in 1881.

Secondly, the word translated as "nephews" in the King James Bible is also translated as nephews in Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, Bishops' Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599 and in Webster's 1833 translation.

According to the Greek lexicons, the word used in 1 Timothy 5:4 (ekgonos) has several meanings, including that of any lineal male descendant. Liddell and Scott list "any descendant, a son or grandson, offspring, posterity". Likewise Thayer lists the meanings for the Greek word ekgonos as "descendants, son, daughter, offspring, children, grandchildren"; and Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich say: "ta ekgona - generally "descendants", or specifically "grandchildren".

Darby's translation - "but if any widow have children or OR DESCENDANTS, let them learn first to be pious as regards their own house"

Adam Clarke comments on this verse: "This shows that widows indeed are those that have neither children nor nephews, i.e. no relatives that either will or can help them, or no near relatives alive."

Nephew - the meaning of the word (capital letters are mine)

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 Inc.

Neph"ew n. OE. neveu, nevou, nevu, fr. F. neveu, OF. also, nevou, L. nepos; akin to AS. nefa, D. neef, G. neffe, OHG. nevo, Icel. nefi A KINSMAN, gr. ne`podes, pl., brood, young, Skr. nep[=a]t grandson, DESCENDANT. 1. A grandson or grandchild, OR A REMOTER LINEAL DESCENDANT. [Obs.]

But if any widow have children or nephews --1 Tim. v. 4.

Webster's Unabridged Dictionary 1913

Nephew * (n.) A cousin. * (n.) A grandson or grandchild, OR A REMOTER LINEAL DESCENDANT. * (n.) The son of a brother or a sister, or of a brother-in-law or sister-in-law.

Webster's 1828 Dictionary

1. The son of a brother or sister. 2. A grandson; ALSO A DESCENDANT.

The Encyclopedia Britannica

"NEPHEW, the son of a brother or sister. The word is adapted from Fr. neveu, Lat. nepos (originally grandson OR DESCENDANT)... the ultimate root is seen in the cognate Greek - DESCENDANTS, KINSMAN, and Sans. napat, napt, descendants or descendant."

The Greek word used in the New Testament passage of 1 Timothy 5:4 occurs only one time. It is eKgonos, and in Diury's Modern Greek Dictionary 1974 this word is defined as "any relative or descendant". It does NOT mean "grandchild" in Greek today.

The word for "grandchild" in the Greek language today is a slighty different Greek word. This word is eGgonos. This is not the word that is used in the New Testament Greek text. - Diury's Modern English-Greek Dictionary.

There is a modern Greek translation online and another one in print. I have access to both modern Greek translations and they both use the word eKgona, meaning "any lineal male descendants" and not the word for "grandchildren" (eGgona).

Regarding the Old Testament use of the word "nephew" which is found in the King James Bible and many others as well, brother Herb Evans, a well known pastor and King James Bible defender, has made some good observations refuting the claims of Bible critic Robert Joyner.

Dr. Joyner tries to prove the KJB is not infallible by pointing out the use of the word "nephew". He says: " In the KJV the word "nephew" actually means "grandson." The Hebrew word means "sons of sons." In Judges 12:14 the "thirty nephews" are changed to "thirty grandsons" in the NASV. The word "nephews" in I Timothy 5:4 in the KJV means grandchildren in the Greek. The NIV says grandchildren. The KJV can bring confusion here because it is telling us who is responsible to take care of the destitute widows in our family. The KJV says children and nephews are responsible. The NIV says children and grandchildren are to do it. It is easy to see which is right." Dr. Joyner

Then brother Herb Evans wisely counters these false arguments with the following comments on the Old Testament passages: "swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son - NIV - descendants (Hebrew neked) Genesis 21:23

"He shall neither have son nor nephew - NIV - descendants (Hebrew-neked) among his people . . . Job 18:19

" I will cut off from Babylon the name and remnant, and son, and nephew - NIV descendants (Hebrew-neked), saith the LORD." Isaiah 14:22

In Judge 12:14, the underlying Hebrew word BEN is general and not specific as to whose "sons of sons" they are, and are indicated by Strong's dictionary to be sons with the family name. This permits a wider sense of usage than Dr. Joyner would ever allow. Oddly, the NIV recognizes this wide sense and translates the KJB "nephew" of Isaiah 14:22 and Job 18:19 as DESCENDANTS rather than grandchildren or "sons of sons" as Dr. Joyner demands in Judges 12:14. The real gasser is when the NIV translates the KJB's son's son as descendants in Genesis 21:23 and not grandchildren. If you can find a pattern to this NIV madness, let us know.

Brother Evans continues: "The other word Ekgonon is used only once in the New Testament in 1 Timothy 5:4. It comes from EK or "out of" and GINOMAI, which means "to become" or "come into being" and is said by Strong's to have a wide latitude in its usage. The root sense here would also seem to be descendents or relatives. And so Berry's interlinear has it, "descendants" and not grandchildren. Herb Evans

The simple facts are these: The word "nephews" has several meanings and applications. We get the word nepotism from this same English word. Nepotism is often used in modern day politics to describe "patronage or favoritism based on family (extended family) relationship." These favors of position and wealth are not just for the grandkids, but for any relative in the extended family.

The archaic sense of the word "nephews" as used in the King James and all older English Bibles has the sense of any male descendant no matter how far removed. This includes all living male relatives in the extended family.

The modern Greek language still retains this meaning and differentiates between any male member of the extended family and a "grandson".

The King James Bible, even though it employs an "archaic word", is actually more accurate to the original intent of the apostle Paul.

There are several words or phrases that are omitted from the epistle of First Timothy in most modern versions like the NIV, NASB, RSV, ESV and Holman Standard. This is because they are based on a different Greek text than the Traditional New Testament of the King James Bible.

For example the NASB, NIV, RSV, and Holman Standard all omit the following words or phrases I have placed in capital letters: LORD Jesus Christ 1:1; the only WISE God 1:17; I speak the truth IN CHRIST 2:7; NOT GREEDY OF FILTHY LUCRE 3:3; GOD was manifest in the flesh 3:16; we both labour AND SUFFER REPROACH 4:10; in charity, IN SPIRIT, in faith 4:12; FROM SUCH WITHDRAW THYSELF 6:5; we brought nothing into this world AND IT IS CERTAIN we can carry nothing out 6:7; we trust... in THE LIVING God 6:17; lay hold on ETERNAL life 6:19.

Among these omissions there is one in particular that definitely changes the meaning as it relates to the family members and the widows, which is the topic of this discussion.

In 1 Timothy 5:16 we read in the King James Bible: "If any MAN OR woman that believeth have widows, LET THEM relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed."

This is the reading found in the majority of all Greek copies, as well as the Old Latin and the Syriac Peshitta, both of which texts predate the corrupt manuscripts on which most modern versions are based.

"If any MAN OR woman that believeth have widows, LET THEM relieve them" is also the reading of the Spanish Reina Valera, Itatian Diodati, Tyndale, Coverdale, Bishops', Geneva, Young's, Webster's and the NKJV.

However the NASB, NIV, RSV, ESV and Holman read the verse in this way: "If ANY WOMAN who is a believer has widows in her family, SHE should help them and not let the church be burdened with them..."

What happened to "the man"? Don't they have an obligation to help out the poor widows too? So if you get all upset about the "archaic" word nephews in the King James Bible (which in reality is more accurate than the modern word "grandchildren"), then feel free to use a modern inferior bible version that omits literally thousands of God inspired words and changes the meanings of hundreds of other verses. You may settle for the Non Inspired Version if you want to, but I and thousands of other Bible believers will not settle for anything less than the Book God has continued to honour far above all others - the Authorized King James Holy Bible.

Will Kinney

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