Old English and its Modern Definitions
Many people who study the Bible do not realize that in biblical times when the Bible versions were written, they were written in a type of language that can be referred to as Old English. What exactly do I mean? It is very simple as you will see in helping you to understand the Word of God more fully and without any confusion, misinterpretation, or misunderstanding. Let’s get right to the teaching and you will easily see what I mean. In a nutshell, this teaching is designed to help you understand more of the Bible and not to be confused by Old English.
To begin with, let’s take a look at Philippians 4: 6. This seems to be a perfect example to begin with. There is a word in this verse that can really throw you off because the word is a word that was used in Old English. You should be able to recognize it.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. -- Philippians 4: 6
You should have spotted the difficulty, but if you have not, I am going to show it to you and hope and believe that you never have a problem with this verse again. The problem word that is written in Old English is “careful”. Now if you took that literally, it would say that no matter what you do, you are not to be careful. It makes no sense, am I correct? Now to make double sure that I’m giving you the accurate rightly divided Word of God, I am also going to go to my lexicon.
In Philippians 4: 6, my lexicon points out that this is usage number one. This states and I quote “to be anxious about, to have anxious or distracting care”. Now let me tell you that this verse is extremely important. It helps us to live the more than abundant life when it is completely understood. In my Bible and it should be done in your Bible right now, you should cross out the word ‘careful’ and right next to it, write the words “anxious or distracted”. Now, you have the rightly divided Word of God. Now it all makes sense because God does not want you to ever be anxious. He does not want you to be in a hurry and he does not want you to be distracted. For many years, I had learned this verse by memory and I always began the verse: ‘Be anxious for nothing.” As time went on, I learned that God was not only trying to tell us not to be anxious, but he was trying also to tell us never to be distracted. Now we all know what this means. Many times we try to work at our jobs without distractions. Many times I try to teach a teaching and I may hear noises outside. I may react to this noise which means I am being distracted. God wants us to have enough mental discipline not to be distracted. The same situation applies when we feel ourselves being anxious. Almost everyone knows that anxiety is a negative emotion. Isn’t it beautiful how God puts these emotions in their proper order? We do not seem to realize the depth of this Scripture. Believe it or not, when we are anxious, we get out of fellowship and we sin. I John tells us how to get back into fellowship when we sin after we are born again.
We need to go on to other Scriptures that can portray the wrongly dividing of the Word of God due to the common use of Old English. There is a Scripture that I always found quite humorous, but I realized that there was one word written in Old English that seemed to throw the whole verse to pieces.
In II Timothy 3: 6, we have another similar example as we did in Philippians. I used to joke with my wife about this Scripture, but it is really not very funny at all. Now again, I am going to quote the Scripture and I am going to ask you to pick out the word that is in Old English.
For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, -- II Timothy 3: 6
Did you find the word that seems to make no sense? If there is one thing that I will never do as long as I can help it, it’s to wrongly divide the Word of God. I will tell you what word is Old English, but first, and again, I am going to go to my lexicon to make sure that I give you the proper interpretation of the word in question. Now look at the verse again and the word ‘silly’ should stand out to you. That is the word in question and my lexicon says and I quote “a little woman; a weak, silly woman.” Even your lexicon will sometimes give you an interpretation that might reflect Old English. I was even surprised that this was the case.
But let’s put everything in perspective and accurately rightly divide the Scripture. Years of research has shown that this word silly simply means “harmless”. I’m sure that women who were very much into women’s liberation do not like this Scripture. But it does not mean what it appears to mean. It’s, once again, Old English. Is the teaching beginning to make sense to you? I thought we would take a break from the normal pattern of the teachings on this website. I felt that there would be great profit in you understanding the proper modern meanings of some of the words that are in the Scriptures. Now guess what I would like you to do? Take a pencil, never an ink pen, and put a line through the word ‘silly’ and in place of it write the word ’harmless’. Next time you read this verse, you will read it rightly divided. You should never make fun of a woman because of this verse. I many times say that you do not want to ever deal with the wrath of God. While second to that, you surely don’t ever want to deal with the wrath of a woman. We both have our strong points. A man has physical strength while in my opinion, a woman has greater emotional strength. Put the two together and you’ve really got something. Every person is different and I cannot help but say at this point that you should always sit down and talk and work all things out with the person that you married. You always have to make concessions when you are married because you are two different people. Let’s get back to our subject matter.
I am going to mention another word that is used throughout the New Testament that confuses people. Billy Joel wrote a song called “Keepin’ The Faith”. Well, that’s a nice song but when the word faith is used in the Bible, it has a tendency to confuse people. I am going to go right to my lexicon and give you a correct and more modern definition of the word ‘faith’. According to my lexicon, here is the following definition:
“Firm persuasion, the conviction which is based upon hearing, not upon sight, or knowledge; a firmly relying confidence in what we hear from God in His Word.” Now the latter part of that definition is really powerful. But to understand what the word faith really means, we must know that it is almost always the Greek word pistis and that Greek word means TO BELIEVE. Many so-called preachers of what they think is the Word of God will constantly use the word faith. I have crossed that word out in my Bible in so many places that I can’t even mention it. Let me give you just one example.
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, -- Romans 4: 16
In the both words that are in this Scripture, I have taken the word ‘faith’ and twice I have underlined it and put in the word “believing”. You have to be careful of the word faith because almost always it is that Greek word that means believing. Think of it this way. How did you get born again? You believed that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. You confessed that Jesus Christ was now the Lord in your life. You believed it. At least for now, take Romans 4: 16 and do what I do so you can understand it when you read the verse knowing the words faith should be believing. I want to say that I am not telling you that there is not such a term as faith used in the Bible. But most often, it is used incorrectly. I should have you look at Romans 5: 1. The first part of the verse says “Therefore being justified by faith”, . . . . . . . In this case it is referring to the faith of Jesus Christ. So try not to get confused by this word faith. If you have a way to look up any of the Greek words and can understand them, you can always check to see if the word faith is the Greek word “pistis’. If it is, then you know that the word faith should be believing. That may be a difficult example, but if you read it a few times, you will find out that it is rather simple. Remember, as I always said before, you just do your best and God will do the rest.
This next example is very important and very powerful as pertaining to your renewed mind understanding of the rightly divided Word of God. This particular word which we are about to study has been constantly misinterpreted and misunderstood throughout the centuries. And of course that applies to today. I am going to go to a Scripture that you may not be very familiar with. We are going to go back to the book of Genesis.
And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake. – Genesis 20: 11
Old English uses a certain word in this Scripture which has an archaic meaning. I mean that it is Old English and that word is “fear”. To build an important foundation to understand this Scripture, we are going to go back to II Timothy 1: 7.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. – II Timothy 1: 7
So it becomes obvious from this Scripture that fear is not of God. If it is not of God, then it must be of the other god, who is the god of this world. Now take a look back at the verse in Genesis and we see a phrase that says ‘the fear of God’. Now we should know by now that the true God and Father of Jesus Christ does not put fear into anybody. So the verse in Genesis now becomes a problem because of the phrase “the fear of God”. Now I want to say to you that there is a very simple explanation. The word fear is used often throughout the Bible and it really means ’respect or reverence’. Many people, Christians, and so-called teachers, use the term “the fear of the Lord” many times in their teachings or in their everyday language. You need to understand this once and for all that many times that the word fear is used it means reverence or respect for God. We are not to be afraid of God because we know from II Timothy that fear does not originate from the true God who is all light and in Him is no darkness at all. If this is true and the Bible teaches it, then how can the true God want people to fear Him? It makes no sense at all and that is because the word fear in Old English, many times, means respect or obedience to the true God and father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us go to another verse where the word fear is actually fear.
The fear of man bringeth a snare [a trap]: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe. -- Proverbs 29: 25
In this Scripture, we are talking about another subject that is immensely important. That is the law of believing. Fear is believing in reverse. That is why the verse says that the fear of man will bring upon him a trap. But I only went to this verse to show you that many times when the word fear is used it is actually fear. That is when someone is afraid of something or fear is eating away at them about something in their life. The law of believing states that if a man fears something enough in his heart, he will actually bring it to pass himself. I don’t want to get too far into the subject but that is why we need to know and apply the Word of God. That is the only thing that will root fear out of our lives. But as you can see in this Scripture, fear is not used in the Old English sense. It does not mean reverence or respect – it is actual fear.
I’m going to go to another verse in the Old Testament in the book of Job. This is another verse where Old English can cause a serious problem as far as understanding what God is saying.
To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend; but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty. -- Job 6: 14
As with the other example that we spoke of previously, we cannot really make sense of the phrase “the fear of the Almighty”. Fear does not originate from the true God but from the god of this world who is Satan. Not to get repetitious, we should be able to recognize that the word ‘fear’ is Old English. The word fear in this verse means reverence, respect, or obedience. The beginning of the verse talks about the man who is afflicted. Why is he afflicted? Because he does not express respect or obedience for God Almighty. This example should start to become familiar with you and if you like, you can look up more of these examples on your own. For many years now, I am trying to get my readers to start to work the Word of God on your own. This is what I did. Yes, I did have a good background and I took a lot of biblical courses in my life, but you can learn an awful lot on your own because God is not a respecter of persons, but of conditions only. If you fulfill those conditions and study on your own, God will show you great things that you will treasure in your life. We’re going to move away from this example and get on to other words in the Bible that are written in Old English.
In the first place I would like to give credit where credit is due. I have done some work as far as looking up verses that contain Old English. But my IT person has brought up some examples to me that are great as far as I am concerned. One of those examples is one of the best examples that I can present to you and we are going to go to that next. We’re going to stay in the Old Testament for now and go to what I feel is almost a perfect example for this teaching. Let’s go to the book of Isaiah.
Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. – Isaiah 1: 13
Now you take a look and tell me which phrase appears to be difficult. It seems to not make any sense and it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the Scripture. Again, I am having you guess. I want you to use your own mind and heart and to ask God what is wrong here.
Well of course you know that I am going to help you. There is a phrase in the Scripture that is written in Old English. That phrase is “I cannot away with”. It doesn’t seem to make any sense, does it? Do we say that in our everyday speech? Does it ever come up? Well, we already know that it is written in Old English. Now I will give you the correct meaning of that phrase and the verse will then make much more sense to you and you will have it rightly divided. Those words ‘I cannot away with’ really mean in modern language ‘I cannot tolerate it’. Now, as we can see, the phrase makes more sense. God is stating that He hates vain oblations and He wants to see them no more. He states in this verse that incense is an abomination to Him. People worship the new moons and the calling of assemblies. God states “I cannot tolerate it”. All the things mentioned in this verse point to false worship and worship of other gods and even worship of the occult, mentioning astrology when it talks about the moons. Now the verse makes sense. The words ‘I cannot away with’ don’t seem to make any sense to us at all. But back in the olden times, when the Bible was first written, those words meant what they do today. They were only said in a different way. For us now in this day and age, they illustrate to us nothing but confusion. You should always remember this example because when you run across certain phrases in the Bible that you cannot understand and a deceiver tries to get in your head and says to you, “You see the Bible is full of misinterpretation and errors”. Don’t pay attention to thoughts like this – just put them out of your head as soon as possible. You could possibly be reading something that is written in Old English. Don’t forget that. My IT person, who some of you know as my lovely wife, has again brought me a very profitable list of Old English examples. Let’s get right to it.
By now, you surely are beginning to understand the differences between Old English and its modern equivalents. In our Bibles, there are many words and phrases that are written in Old English. This can cause us problems in understanding and interpretation. I am going to cover as many of these examples as I can in the time frame of this teaching. I do not like teachings to extend past seven or eight pages. Most people can only concentrate for a certain length of time. Think about it. If you see an article that is really long about a subject that you are interested in, you may place that article aside. That is because it is just too long to read. I do my very best to make these teachings interesting and exciting. They should be because they talk about the only truth in the world today and we know what that is. Let’s go to I Corinthians.
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. – I Corinthians 16: 13
This is an excellent example pertaining to this type of teaching. The verse is short and there is one word in this verse that should stand out to you as being a problem. You should be able to pick out this word because it seems to throw the whole verse out of order and makes it very difficult to understand.
You should have been able to pick out that word out by now. The word is “quit”. It obviously makes no sense at all. We are to quit like men? What man who is strong and virtuous in the Lord quits? It shouldn’t have to be mentioned that this is ludicrous. It makes the verse very difficult to understand. But, when we take that word and give it its modern meaning, we can see the verse totally clear up and be understandable. Remember, the original Word of God that was given to holy men to write down was perfect. There are no original texts of the Bible available anywhere on this earth. There are texts that are close to the original and these are the texts by which I was fortunate to learn the rightly divided Word of God. However, in the available texts there are many mistakes in punctuation and even in paragraphs that were added by men. Some men made mistakes on purpose to prove their own doctrine such as the Trinity. I have to take advantage of this time to tell you that the verses that spoke of the Trinity were added to the Scriptures in 4 A. D. That was 4000 years after Jesus Christ was born. Well, let me get back to our subject matter because you’re probably wondering what that word ‘quit’ means in modern terminology. In my Bible, I simply scratched out the word ‘quit’ and penciled in the word “conduct”. My helper and sister in Christ had written in her Bible “show oneself a man”. You can use either definition because it now lines up with what God is saying.
Now the verse makes absolute sense. ‘Watch ye’ means to be sharp spiritually. Conduct yourself and act like a man. Stand fast in the faith means to stand on the Word of God and don’t ever move. Put your feet in the cement of God’s Word and let it dry and don’t ever look back. By doing this, you comply with the last part of that verse and that says to “be strong.” It’s simple once you substitute the Old English for our modern interpretation.
Another simple example of a problem with Old English is in the book of James. Let’s take a quick look at this problem.
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. – James 5: 1
I would like to say something about the verse itself. Many times a rich person is not a happy person by any means. I knew of a young man who was so successful that he could not fall asleep that night. He had to take some type of drugs and one night he mixed them with alcohol and he died. Most people who are very prosperous have very little, if any, privacy in their lives. You have heard of Hollywood stars who are constantly being followed by photographers no matter where they go. Do you think this is fun? Would you give up your money to have some peace and quiet? I sure would. So God is saying to rich men that they may weep and howl because of the miseries that they have brought upon themselves and will also continue to come upon them.
Now I want to get back to the first three words in that verse. They are Old English. What those three words should really say in modern language is “Come now”. The words ’Go to now’ appear to be confusing. Where are these people supposed to go to? Of course I’m going to repeat myself again. I had penciled a line through the first three words and above them I wrote “Come now”. Surely we have heard of the expression ‘come now’ in our lifetime. It’s almost like saying “Hey, let’s get with the program” or let’s get with it. The words ’come now’ make a lot more sense than the words “Go to now”.
Now we are going to close this teaching with a very simple example that is written in the Gospels – in the gospel of Mark and Matthew. We will be using the same example in both Gospels. I’m sure that this will help you to understand two more verses where modern language should is used in place of the Old English.
But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. – Mark 1: 30
The unusual word should stand out like a very sore thumb to you. It is the word “anon”. I have never heard this word used in my lifetime, have you? In Old English, people knew what this word meant, but most of us never even heard of it. It simply means ‘immediately’. That’s it. It’s that simple. Now the latter part of the verse makes a lot more sense to us and it is easy to understand. Let’s take a look at a similar example in the gospel of Matthew.
But he that received the seed in stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; -- Matthew 13: 20
The last part of that verse has that unusual word ‘anon’ once again. And that word in our modern language means the same thing as in Mark 1: 30 which is ‘immediately’. The last part of the verse is then rightly divided as follows: “and immediately with joy receiveth it.”
I chose these last two examples to show you the simplicity of working with Old English and its modern usages. If you like, you can research this even farther by looking in a good lexicon or a very good concordance. You can probably find more usages of the same words that I chose to include in this teaching. I hope and pray with all my heart that this teaching has helped you in some way to understand more about the Word of God. Take care and remember you are God’s best. God bless you.