Excerpted from "The Answer Book"
©1989 Samuel C. Gipp. Reproduced by permission
QUESTION: I've heard that the italicized words in the King
James Bible should be removed because they were added by the
translators. Should they be removed?
ANSWER: If we remove any of the italicized words we must
either remove them ALL or accept them ALL as Scripture.
EXPLANATION: Following are the problems with removing
the italicized words from the Bible:
1. Anyone who has ever translated from one language to
another knows that words MUST be added to the finished work
to complete the sentence structure of the new language.
All translators do this when translating the Bible. The King
James translators were men of integrity so they put the added
words in italics.
Psalm 23:1 reads "The LORD is my shepherd" in the King
James Bible. The word "is" was added by the translators to
complete the sense of the sentence.
Psalm 23:1 in the New International Version reads, "The
LORD is my Shepherd."
So it is plain to see that both sets of translators added the same
word to complete the sentence. Yet the King James translators put
the word in italics to inform the reader that they had added it.
John 1:8 reads, "He was not that Light, but was sent to bear
witness of that Light" in the King James Bible.
John 1:8 reads, "He was not that light, but was sent to bear
witness of that Light" in the New King James Version.
Again both sets of translators have added words to their
translation so that it would make sense. In this case it is the phrase
"was sent." Yet again, it is the King James translators who put their
addition in italics for clarity.
Thus we see that the translators of our Bible should be
commended on their integrity and ethics for their addition of the
italicized words instead of castigated for a practice which all of
our modern "would be" scholars follow routinely.
2. Critics of the Bible, fundamental or otherwise, claim that the
italics can be removed, but NEVER remove them all. Usually they
are stumped by a passage such as the word "unknown" in I
Corinthians 14. Since they cannot explain the passage with the
italicized word in the passage they make the thoughtless statement
reproduced above and remove the problem word.
But this opens a tremendously large "can of worms"! For if we
say that italicized words do not belong in the text, we cannot say
that one italicized word should be removed from the Bible, but we
must say that ALL italicized words must be removed from the
Bible. Even the casual student of Scripture knows that the Bible
will make no sense at all if ALL italicized words are removed.
To remove one italicized word and leave another in is to claim
Divine Inspiration in knowing which words should go and which
words should stay.
Regardless of how great a preacher, soul-winner, or scholar
might be none of us are going to bow our knees to them with the
claim that they are Divinely inspired to reject or accept words in
the Bible. If we are so foolish as to exalt a man's opinion in such a
way, who should we exalt? There are hundreds of Bible critics
who would vie for the office of "Official Divinely Inspired Bible
Corrector". Who would be the lucky person? How would we
choose him? And WHO would be so naive as to think that all
Christians would follow his decrees? Yet without his decrees we
have NO WAY OF KNOWING which italicized words belong in
the Bible and which ones do not.
So we see that overcoming problem passages will require
prayer and Bible reading instead of carelessly removing a
3. One of the classic defenses for leaving the italicized words
alone is found in II Samuel 21:19.
"And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where
Elhanan the son of Jaaroregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of
Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver's
By omitting the italicized words we have the Bible saying that
Elhanan killed Goliath. Of course everyone knows that I Samuel
17 says that David killed Goliath. So we finally have the Bible that
all lost men love to refer to when they say, "The Bible has
contradictions in it".
Of course, our "Divinely Inspired Bible Corrector" would
probably say the italics in II Samuel 21:19 do not need to be
removed. But then who's to know which words to remove or
which ones to keep in unless God "appeared" to them and told
4. Our fourth and best reason for not meddling with God's
choice of words for His Bible comes from none other than the
Apostles Peter and Paul and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
First, take a Bible (King James, of course) and read Psalm
16:8. I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my
right hand, I shall not be moved.
You will notice that the two words "he is" are in italics. Yet
when we find the Apostle Peter quoting this verse in the New
Testament in Acts 2:25 we find it says:
"For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord
always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not
So here we find the Apostle Peter quoting Psalm 16:8
italicized words and all! You would almost believe that God
wanted them in there wouldn't you?
Now it might be pointed out that Peter was an unlearned and
ignorant man (Acts 4:13) and so, lacking the "benefits" of a Bible
college education, he blindly accepted the Bible (King James?) as
every word of God. But let us look at the same phenomena
concerning the Apostle Paul and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul, as did other New Testament writers, often quoted from
the Old Testament in his writings. In doing so, he quoted as did the
others directly from the Hebrew Text. We have several of Paul's
quotes which contain words not found in the Hebrew original.
In Romans 10:20 Paul quotes Isaiah 65:1.
Romans 10:20: "But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found
of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that
asked not after me."
Isaiah 65:1 "I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am
found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me,
unto a nation that was not called by my name."
Yet we see that the words "them that" which Paul quoted as
though they were in Isaiah 65:1 exist only in the italics of the King
The same is true of I Corinthians 3:20, "And again, The Lord
knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain." which is a
quote of Psalm 94:11, "The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man,
that they are vanity." where we find the word "are" supplied by the
But the most unexplainable is Paul's quote of Deuteronomy 25:4
in I Corinthians 9:9. For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou
shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.
Doth God take care for oxen?
Deut 25:4: "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out
Here we find Paul quoting the words "the corn" just as if they
had been in the Hebrew original even though they are only found in
the italics of our Authorized Version!
If one were to argue that Paul was quoting a supposed Greek
Septuagint translation of the original Hebrew, our dilemma only
worsens. For now, two perplexing questions present themselves to
us. First, if such a Greek translation ever existed, (which is not
documented in history) by what authority did the translators insert
these words? Secondly, if they were added by the translators,
does Paul's quoting of them confirm them as inspired?
While you ponder these important questions, we will note that
Jesus also quoted from what appears to have been a King James
We find Him quoting a word that wasn't in the "originals". In
fact, a word that only exists in the italics found in the pages of the
King James Bible.
Read below, please, Deuteronomy 8:3.
"And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed
thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers
know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by
bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of
the LORD doth man live."
You will note that the word "word" is in italics, meaning of
course, that it was not in the Hebrew text. Upon examination of
Deuteronomy 8:3 in Hebrew one will find that the word "dabar"
which is Hebrew for "word" is not found anywhere in the verse.
Yet in His contest with Satan we find Jesus quoting
Deuteronomy 9:3 as follows in Matthew 4:4.
"But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by
bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth
While quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 Jesus quotes the entire verse
including the King James italicized word! Even an amateur
"scholar" can locate "ramati", a form of "rama", which is Greek for
"word", in any Greek New Testament.
So, just as critics of the Bible like to joke and say, "Well, the
King James was good enough for the Apostle Paul so it's good
enough for me." A true Bible-believer can truly say, "Well, the
King James was good enough for the Apostles Peter and Paul and
for the Lord Jesus Christ, so it's good enough for me".
So we see we have three options on what to do with the
italicized words in the Bible.
(1) Remove All of them.
(2) Exalt one of our fundamental Bible critics to the office of
"Official Divinely Inspired Bible Corrector" and then give his
decrees all the weight and allegiance that we would give to Jesus
(3) Leave all the words in our divinely inspired Bible alone, and
trust that just maybe Jesus Christ is correct.
It's as though we had a choice.