Mark Ward’s “Authorized” Lies: False Friends

If you haven’t already, please see the introductory article to this series here.

The more I look into the meat and substance of Mark Ward’s book, the more that the issues become glaringly obvious.  The fact that some people are swallowing Ward’s argument tells me a lot about those “swallowers”.  As I said in my previous article, I read Ward’s book over a year ago and I thought the arguments were so poor that I didn’t think many would fall for them.  I made the mistake of thinking people would actually check to see if Ward was correct and telling “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”.  Instead, we are observing that many are NOT checking to see if Ward is telling the truth.  Therefore, this series of articles will shed light on the book’s inconsistencies and, for lack of a better word, lies.  The truth about Ward’s assertions should be made easily available.  Because of this, more people will reject Ward’s book and stick to their King James Bibles.  Hopefully.

In a discussion, one of the first and most important questions that need to be asked is, “What do you mean by that?”  If you are discussing evolution, then ask, “What do you mean by the word “evolution”?”  They might be speaking about MACRO evolution or MICRO evolution.  The course of the discussion will change drastically depending on if you are discussing Macro or Micro evolution.  When dealing with environmentalists, you need to ask if you are discussing “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” or “Man Made Climate Change”.  The failure to define the actual terms at play can lead to serious consequences.

This question must be asked to Mark Ward.  He thinks that the main reason for not using the King James Bible as our primary version is because of what he calls “False Friends.”  His exact words are, “The biggest problem in understanding the KJV comes from “false friends””.  So we must ask Mr. Ward, “What do you mean by that?”  To his credit, Mr. Ward does define what he means.  He says that “false friends” are, “words that are still in common use but have changed meaning in ways that modern readers are highly unlikely to recognize.” The idea here is that you will read a word and use your 21st Century definition and not even know that the word had a different definition in 1611.  This seems so simple and straightforward, but there is a catch.

The catch is that he has given an incorrect definition of what a false friend is.  Here is the correct definition: “In linguistics, false friends are words IN DIFFERENT LANGUAGES that look or sound similar, but differ significantly in meaning.”  Did you get that?  In order to have a “false friend” you have to have two different languages.  If you are only talking about one language you cannot have a “false friend”.  Ward himself admits that the King James Bible is written in English and more specifically, Early Modern English.  But then he goes on to use the term “false friend” to speak of words that have supposedly changed meaning since 1611.  Ward is too smart to have done this on accident.  Using this term incorrectly is blatant misrepresentation.  You could never prove it, but I wouldn’t argue with you if you said that Ward is subliminally trying to make you think that the King James Bible has words from another language in it.  Regardless, every example given by Ward is most certainly NOT a “false friend” according to a dictionary.

In Ward’s defense, Ward may have used the term because it looks like his “favorite linguist” John McWhorter may have been the first person to start using the term this way.  It takes seconds to look up the meaning of the term on Google.  And a person should do that before he writes a book about getting rid of the King James Bible. Ward should have done better than copying McWhorter’s mistake.

(Side Note: In one of Ward’s articles he talks about how “McWhorter’s head is screwed on straight”.  Which is a strange comment for a Christian to make about an ATHEIST, such as McWhorter.  Especially in light of, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” Ps 14:1))

Now that we have established that Ward has incorrectly labelled these supposed problem words, we must look and see if these “words that are still in common use but have changed meaning in ways that modern readers are highly unlikely to recognize.”.  In other words, we will ask: does Ward still have a point?  How better to do this that to look at his examples and see if they “hold weight”?

UNICORN

The very first word that Ward brings up in this section of his book is UNICORN (although it’s not in his list of “false friends”, he does claim that the word has changed).  He asserts that, “every English speaker knows what that word means today: a magical white horse with a single horn protruding from the center of its head.”  Of course this is nonsense.  Not EVERYone assumes the word has anything to do with magic.  “Unicorn” at it’s most basic level means an animal with one horn.  There is nothing connecting the word to a “magical horse”  Look at the Siberian Unicorn or Elasmotherium or look at the Indian Rhinoceros.  And even if the word needed to be defined in the margin, (as I argued in my first article about Ward’s book), then Ward again exposes himself to being not so knowledgeable about the Bible.

Ward never clearly states what the word should be, but he remarks about the MVs writing “wild ox” instead.  He says that the KJV translators, “used it as something of a technical term.” If that is so, then how does changing it to “wild ox” help anyone?  Does he think that the KJV translators didn’t have the words “wild” and “ox” at their disposal?  Of course they did.  And they wrote “unicorn” instead because it’s not a wild ox at all.  What Ward doesn’t tell you is that there’s more to it.  “Unicorn” is the translation of re’em in Hebrew.  This is distinct in English and Hebrew from the te’ow or “wild ox or bull” that shows up in Deut 14:5 and Is 51:20.  They are different words in both Hebrew and English.  There is no reason to pretend that the King James translators were wrong and that they are different words for the same animal.  Unless the goal is nothing more than to rip the King James Bible out of the ordinary Christian’s hands.

The solution to any misunderstanding about the word “unicorn” is simple, write in the margin, “Probably an extinct one horned animal or Indian Rhinoceros”.  Don’t pretend it means a “wild ox” when it doesn’t.

As I said, “unicorn” isn’t in Ward’s official list of “false friends”.  So now we will look at the first word on his list.  Ward says that he gives “six significant examples of false friends.”  We will look at every example and ask “Are they really false friends?” and “Are they significant?”  We will show, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Ward fails to prove that we need to use anything besides a King James Bible.

HALT

Ward now turns his sights on the word “halt” in I Kings 18:21, “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long HALT ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.”  It is Ward’s opinion that the word should be “limp” and that English speakers today are confused.  We foolishly think it should be “stop” according to Ward.  And we are somehow getting our Bibles all screwed up and we don’t even know it!!!

Here is Webster’s 1828 definition:

HALT, v.i.
1. To stop in walking; to hold. In military affairs, the true sense is retained, to stop in a march. The army halted at noon.
2. To limp; that is, to stop with lameness.
3. To hesitate; to stand in doubt whether to proceed, or what to do.

We won’t isolate the word from its context (as Ward can tend to do) and so we don’t need to “halt“.  Clearly definition #3 is the obvious meaning in I Kings 18:21. Still, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for a publisher to write the meaning in the margin.  As we have said.

What do other so called scholars have to say about this verse.  The NASB has “hesitate”.  The NKJV has “falter”.  The NLT, NIV, and CSB have “waver”.  Darby and WEB stick with “halt“.  The RSV, ESV, ASV, and HNV have “go limping”.    And others have “go on balancing”, “be paralyzed” and even “leaping” (which would be the complete opposite of how Ward would have you believe it should be translated).

What does this prove?  It proves that the issue is not as clear cut as Ward would have you believe.  He claims that, “Halt in 1611 meant “lame.”  Prove it?  He can’t or won’t and doesn’t.  We don’t have to speculate on his motivations since he has already stated them: he wants people to stop reading the King James exclusively.  So he has only given you part of the story.  The rest of the story is that many, way more knowledgeable, scholars think Ward is simply not correct.  Even Gesenius’ Lexicon gives “halt” as an acceptable translation in this text.

Another question needs to be asked here.  How does changing “halt” to “limp” make anything clearer or more understandable?  Ward’s whole book is about making the Bible more understandable and how the King James isn’t understandable: yada, yada, yada.  But if someone came up to me and asked, “How long are you going to limp between two opinions?”  I’m going to give you a funny look and say, “I don’t understand what you are asking.”   The vast majority of people would agree with me and have never heard that expression used before.  Making the change that Ward proposes doesn’t fix the problem, nay IT CREATES A PROBLEM.

There is no reason to “halt” between two opinions.  Whatever reason you may have for not reading your King James Bible, this passage should not be one of them.  For Ward, it is Exhibit A in his case for “false friends” in the KJB.  He should get laughed out of the courtroom.  If this is his best example, then the rest is presumably not as good.  His whole thesis is in a crisis.

COMMENDETH

Next, Ward takes issue with the word “commendeth” in Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Many people say that the differences between the versions don’t affect doctrine, but Ward implies this is incorrect by claiming to find a “false friend” in one of the famous verses of the Roman Road.  This exposes the hypocrisy of the “middle of the road, accept every version” people.  They act like there is something wrong with the King James Bible and then says it’s still OK to read from it.  But they must take that position in order to lure King James Bible readers away from reading their King James Bibles.  If you really think the King James is wrong, THEN DON’T READ IT.  That is the honest position.  Since I have observed errors in the modern versions, then I refuse to read them.   Whatever position you take on the Bible version issue, be honest and consistent.

Ward claims that “commendeth” should be… oh wait… he NEVER tells us what word should be there instead.  How ’bout that?  Most modern versions have “shows” or “demonstrates”.  Which is more or less the meaning of the word “commendeth” in the context.  But as usual, there would be nothing wrong with giving a basic definition in the margin.

Even though he never officially gives a different translation, Ward claims (with some kind of strange quasi-omnipotence) to know exactly what the King James translators meant with their translation.  He claims the word meant “showcase” to the translators.  So, I suppose, we are to read the text like this, “But God “showcased” his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Which of course makes perfect sense and now everything is completely understandable.  The theological fog has been cleared away by Ward’s magical, theological fog removing machine.

Should we apply the same definition to Ecc 8:15, “I then “showcased” mirth…“?  Clear as mud, right?  Or what about Luke 16:8, “And the Lord “showcased” the unjust steward…“?  Or Luke 24:46 where Christ says on the cross, “Father, into thy hands I “showcase” my spirit.“?  How is that for perfect and clear understanding?  Once again, we are seeing that Ward’s little correction is creating some bigger problems.  None of these verses were exceptionally hard for a 21st century American to understand in the King James.  But by straining at a gnat in Romans 5, Ward has swallowed a camel.  How exactly does one showcase mirth?

What shall we say to these things?  (As Paul often asked.)  Ward accuses KJV people of always telling people to just look up difficult words in a dictionary.  This is completely untrue.  Sometimes, that’s all a guy can do.  But the best answer is: KEEP READING.  When you do that, you’ll find that the definition is given in another passage somewhere else.  If you keep reading, you will find the definition of “commendeth” given by means of an illustration in Genesis.  In chapter 12, we see Abram and Sarai in Egypt.  The Egyptians think that Sarai is beautiful and the Bible says, “The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.” This would illustrate the first definition of the word given by Webster’s 1828 dictionary, “To represent as worthy of notice, regard, or kindness; to speak in favor of; to recommend.”  Sometimes illustrations or examples are better for giving the sense than just giving a short definition.  This happens all through the King James Bible.  So this illustrates the use of the word in Romans 5, but most of the other 6 definitions are seen in other places in the Scriptures and are quite clear from the context.  If you don’t like how the word commend works with its multiple definitions, then take it up with the English language.

I’ve told countless people to just KEEP READING.  No one understands every word the first time.  That is no reason to get yourself a Vatican version based off of corrupt Greek texts (something Ward thinks is barely even worth addressing in his book).  It is not a reason to waste 10 years of your life with Greek and Hebrew study.  There is nothing wrong with your King James Bible.  Read it.  And then read it again.  Ask God for help.  But by all means, keep your King James Bible.  Neither “unicorn,” “halt,” or “commendeth” are really “false friends” even according to his personal definition of the term.  They are not impossible to understand as Ward would have you believe.  Ward is simply wrong.

We have now looked at 3 examples given by Ward.  Four remain.  Lord willing, we will look at those in a future article.  SPOILER ALERT: The remaining “false friends” are even more nit-picky than these examples.

6 thoughts on “Mark Ward’s “Authorized” Lies: False Friends

  1. Michael,

    Thank you for your comment. Yes, you are right that Strong’s gives the definition of “Limp”. Gesenius gives “halt” as a perfectly fine translation. Most would agree that Gesenius is much more authoritative. If by nothing more that sheer volume. Haha.
    Ultimately, my point is that when Ward claims that the English word means something different today than in 1611 he cannot PROVE it. My evidence is Gesenius and also the other modern English translations.

    As for what exactly Ward claims about “showcased”, his claim is that “commendeth” meant “showcased”. I attempt to show that he is incorrect, because the other times that the word comes up in the KJV, it did NOT mean “showcased”. It is almost as if he never checked the other references. So I did it for him.

    Ward presents his evidence as if his argument was a “slam dunk”. I am trying to show that it is not. His 6 main examples of “false friends” are not a reason to get rid of the KJV.

    I hope I answered your questions. Thanks again for your comment.

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  2. I guess I’m still not sure though because couldnt Gesenius have been using halt to mean limp? I tried to find it on Google Books, and actually he does have limp as the first translation and be lame as the third. Am I missing something? Here’s a link:

    https://www.google.com/books/edition/A_Hebrew_and_English_Lexicon_to_the_Old/ReE5AQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=dislocated&pg=PA487&printsec=frontcover

    And not trying to be rude but I guess I still don’t have the answer to my second question either. Did Ward actually say that “commendeth” means “showcased” everywhere in the AV or just in Rom 5:8. Do you know?

    Also does he give only six examples of false friends and say we should chuck the KJV/AV for only those six!? Crazy if true!

    Maybe I should read the book. I’ve really been looking for reviews on this book that go into lot of detail. Yours goes into more detail on false friends than anyone else Iveseen but I still have these questions.

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  3. Hi Michael,

    I see what you are saying. These are good questions. Thank you.

    I am not saying that halt definitely does not mean “limp”. I am saying that there is more to the story than what Ward tells you. This is proven by Gesensius (who points to “waver” also) and also by the other modern bible versions, as I said earlier. If Ward’s point is so clear, how come those other “scholars” missed it? People are swallowing Ward’s info without looking at all the evidence. I am trying to present as much evidence as possible.

    As for “commend”, Ward is trying to say that in 1611, “commend” meant “showcased”. If this were 100% it would fit all the other times it shows up in the KJB. He DOES NOT say that it always meant that. I am showing him that, according to his thinking, he SHOULD have said that. Had he thought like that, his whole argument would have fallen apart because “commend” does not only mean “showcased” in 1611.

    Finally, as I said, this list is “six significant examples” according to Ward. He ends his chapter on the subject with 25 more. But a quick look will show you that they are not included in the list of “significant” examples because they are horrible examples. So he just lists them without much comment. They are examples of straining at a gnat.

    Finally, remember that Ward uses an incorrect definition of the term “false friend”. None of these examples come from other languages and therefore none of the list of 6 or the list of 25 are actually false friends according to the dictionary.

    Thanks again for your comment.

    VB

    Like

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