Another Example of Language Change in the Last 400 Years: Punctuation
Three minutes ago I discovered another passage I had been misreading for years because I always thought of it in 400-year-old KJV language:
As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. (Isaiah 52:14-15 KJV)
It was the dashes in the ESV that alerted me to my error (the poetic hanging indents helped, too):
As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
so shall he sprinkle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.
(Isaiah 52:14-15 ESV)
The dashes told me that the sentence flow goes like this: Just as MANY people were astonished at him, so shall he sprinkle MANY nations. I always–without knowing it–got lost in all the intervening verbiage in the KJV. The “So” in “so shall he sprinkle” seemed out of place to me. The ESV’s punctuation helped me understand the conjunction and keep the thread.
Punctuation means something, but in all my years I’ve never seen an explanation of the KJV punctuation (aside from the idea that it broke up phrases for easier public reading), and I can’t find a reliable explanation online or in my Logos library. And as a long-time KJV reader, I’ve never been able to pick up a recognizable pattern in its use of colons and semi-colons. It has always seemed somewhat haphazard to me.
If there is a punctuation pattern (and I actually suspect there is), why force modern English speakers/writers to learn that new system? And don’t forget that the total absence of quotation marks in the KJV also makes for unnecessary reading difficulty. I fully and wholeheartedly agree with Bill Combs of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.