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

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In his book, The Unbound Scriptures, Rick Norris criticizes the King James Bible for using the word "steel". He quotes several Bible dictionaries and scholars who say emphatically that the Hebrew word should never be translated as "steel". It is claimed, he says, that steel was not known during Bible times until the first century A.D.

Mr. Norris then asks: "Can KJV-only advocates offer any consistent evidence that shows that these two Hebrew words should be translated as "steel" in some verses?" Yes, brother Rick, we can, and will do so presently.

As for the claim he makes about the date of the invention and use of steel, there are many who would disagree about his supposition. A friend and fellow King James Bible believer, brother Jim, is an excellent researcher. He located a site for me by a Professor David K. Jordan, professor or Anthropology and Provost at Earl Warren College, University of California, San Diego. This professor has written an article about metalurgy and he discusses brass, iron and steel production.Here are some of his findings.

An important technique in modern and late historic steel production is "quenching," that is, heating the metal and then rapidly lowering its temperature again by plunging it into water. The result is a dramatic increase in the strength of the metal, which can be increased yet further by repeating the process. THE EARLIEST QUENCH-HARDENED STEEL THAT WE KNOW ABOUT DATES FROM ABOUT 1200 BC or so. (Homer refers to the process.) Obviously there is a fine line between iron and steel, and some metallic products are difficult to classify as quite one or quite the other.

At another site we find a discussion of ancient Indian steel production dating from the 8th century B.C.

The Ancient Indian Steel by D.P. Agrawal - J. Le Coze, of the Centre for Materials Science, France, has come out with an interesting essay about the different names of steel in different parts of the world that the ancient Indian steel known as wootz inspired. This steel making process was practiced in peninsular India since great antiquity. The ancient Indian steel was known as Damascene steel in Persia and was in great demand in the Persian courts of the First Millennium BC. Even Alexander was presented a sword made of such steel.

Coze informs that in ancient Greek, three names were attributed to steel: stomoma, adamas and chalybs. Since Hesiode (8th BC), adamas signifies inflexible or hard. It was systematically translated into "hard as steel".

I'm not going to base my defense of the King James reading of "steel" solely on the debateable timeline of the use of this material in making weaponry. It may be literal steel or a composite of various hard metals that are referred to by "a bow of steel"; but it may also be figurative.

Webster's 1828 Dictionary lists the second definition of "steel" as: Figuratively, weapons; particularly, offensive weapons, swords, spears and the like.

The word steel is found four times in the King James Bible. Three times the KJB refers to "a bow of steel" - 2 Samuel 22:35 "He teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by my arms." Job 20:24 "He shall flee from the iron weapon, and the bow of steel shall strike him through." Psalm 18:34 "He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by my arms." In Jeremiah 15:12 we read: "Shall iron break the northern iron and the steel?"

The first three times the Hebrew word is # 5154 nekh-oo-shaw. This word has a variety of meanings as translated in many different Bibles, both old and new. Among the meanings found in the King James Bible for this word are: "brass" (7 times) and "steel" (3 times)

The second word for steel found in Jeremiah 15:12 is #5178 and this word likewise has several meanings including: "brass, steel, copper, fetters, and chains."

Mr. Norris says: "M'Clintock wrote: In all cases where the word 'steel' is used in the A.V. the true rendering of the Hebrew is copper." Unfortunately for Mr. Norris and Mr. M'Clintock (whoever he is), not even the NASB, NIV, or NKJV have translated it as "copper" but as "bronze".

Examples of multiple meanings for a single word abound even in the modern versions. For instance, the NASB translates the Hebrew word #5178 as brass -2 times, bronze - 130 times, and copper - one time. The NASB also translates #1270 as "axe, iron, axe head, and chains."

The NIV translates the same word as "bronze" 128 times and as "copper" 4 times.

When it suits the purposes of Mr. Norris, he refers to various older Bible versions that differ from the King James Bible to show, in his opinion, how they differ from the KJB. However these same older Bible versions often agree with the KJB against the modern versions.

The word "steel" as in the expression "a bow of steel" can be used figuratively to express something that is very strong, and not necessarily made of literal steel. We sometimes speak of someone having nerves of steel, but we mean that he is of a strong constitution and not literally made of steel. We also use the expression of having to "steel ourselves" for the coming difficulties.

One possible explanation of the expression "a bow of steel" as found in the King James Bible is that they are figurative rather than literal. In Psalms 18 David says of God that He is a BUCKLER (a shield), and A ROCK, and that God "maketh my feet like HINDS' FEET, and setteth me upon my HIGH PLACES. He teacheth my hands to war, so that a BOW OF STEEL is broken by mine arms. Thou hast also given me the SHIELD of thy salvation, and THY RIGHT HAND hath holden me up...Then did I BEAT THEM SMALL AS THE DUST."

None of these things mentioned are literal. God is not a buckler nor a Rock, and neither did God literally hold David up with His right hand. The "high places" were not literal but figurative of exaltation and victory, and David did not literally beat anyone "small as the dust". These are all figurative expressions.

Some people like to criticize the King James Bible when it is too literal, as in the expression "to cut off him that pisseth against the wall" (1 Kings 14:10), which is literally what the Hebrew texts and older Bible versions read. Then they criticize it for being too loose in expressing figurative concepts "in the receptor language".

The King James Bible is not the only one to use the word "steel" in its translation.

Webster's 1833 translation follows all four verses exactly the same as the King James Bible, as do the KJV 21st Century Version and the Third Millenium Bible.

The 1936 Jewish translation, put out by the Hebrew Publishing Company, New York, has "steel" in Job 20:24; Psalm 18:34, and in Jeremiah 15:12.

The Geneva Bible renders this same word as "steel" in Job 20:24

The Bishop's Bible 1568 has "steel" in 2 Samuel 22:35; Job 20:24, and Psalms 18:34

The Spanish Reina Valera of 1909 version has "steel" (acero) in 2 Samuel 22:35, Job 20:24, and Psalms 18:34. Likewise Las Sagradas Escrituras 1999 edition reads "steel" (acero) in these verses.

Rotherham's 1902 Emphasized Bible has steel in Ezekiel 27:19 "Wedan and Javan, from Uzal, Brought into thy traffic, - Steel, cassia and calamus, Were, in thy merchandise:"

The Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha 1952 has "steel" in Sirach 31:26 - Fire and water prove the temper of steel, so wine tests hearts in the strife of the proud.

Even the New English Bible 1970 reads in Jeremiah 15:12 "Can iron break STEEL from the north?"

The 2002 version called The Message actually has the word "steel" 10 times in the Old Testament. Here are a few examples:

Job 40:18 - His skeleton is made of steel, every bone in his body hard as steel.

Proverbs 27:17 - You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another.

Jeremiah 15:20 - I'll turn you into a steel wall, a thick steel wall, impregnable.

Jeremiah 17:1 - "Judah's sin is engraved with a steel chisel, A steel chisel with a diamond point-- engraved on their granite hearts, engraved on the stone corners of their altars.

Some other modern versions also have the word "steel" in them, but these do not agree even among themselves. In Nahum 2:3 the ASV 1901, the 1917 Jewish translation (JPS), Darby, Amplified 1987, and the NASB 1995 say: "the chariots are enveloped in flashing STEEL".

The brand new 1998 Complete Jewish Bible says: "The STEEL of the chariots flashes like fire as they prepare for battle", but the NIV, ESV say: "the METAL on the chariots flashes", the RSV has: "the chariots flash like FLAME", while the NKJV has: "the chariots come with flaming TORCHES." Isn't it nice that all these Bible scholars are in such total agreement with each other?

BRASS or 'bronze'?

Another oft repeated criticism of the King James Bible is its use of the word "brass" as opposed to the modern version "bronze". Brother Daryl R. Coats has written a good article refuting this silly complaint. You may see it here.

External Link

Other Artilces by Will Kinney

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


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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