A Funny False Friend

The ESV (2000s) of 1 Thessalonians 5:22:

Abstain from every form of evil.

Wycliffe’s translation (1380s) of the same verse:

Absteyne you fro al yuel spice.

Why did Wycliffe take a very general command—the most general command possible—and focus it on a very specific sin that, I would say, is no longer a temptation? I personally, at least, have never been drawn toward yule spice, which I presume is some kind of mixed drink consumed at Christmas.

Actually, we’re dealing with “false friends” created by spelling and word order changes in English. Yuel is an older spelling of “evil,” and spice an early spelling of “species,” or we might say, “types.” He’s saying, “Abstain from all species of evil.”

Language changes in funny ways, and normal people cannot be expected to keep track of them in order to read the Bible. I’m glad we have no Wycliffe-Onlyism out there.

HT: an Ambassador Bible College grad who has left KJV-Onlyism—with a nice attitude.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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