Another False Friend

by Nov 22, 2019KJV1 comment

When you know a helpful label and understand the phenomenon it is naming, you see that phenomenon better than you did before.

So it is with the central concept of Authorized: “false friends.”

I was just reading the KJV, and I saw another false friend. Can you find it below in John 8:44?

Betcha you can’t without reading Greek—or a contemporary translation!

It’s actually the little word will. In a context like this, today, “ye will do” means “you will do it in the future,” or “you customarily do.”

I don’t think the KJV translators got this one wrong. I assume they did not. I will say, however, that I’m having trouble understanding their construction. I thought that even in Elizabethan English, “will” in a context like this (“ye will do”) was a helping verb indicating future action. I gather that that wasn’t the KJV translators’ intent, but the niceties of Elizabethan English sometimes escape me. I would have expected “the lusts of your father ye will to do” if the KJV translators intended for me to read “will” as something other than a helping verb.

The Greek is clear to me, though. The sentence means “the lust of your father you desire to do” or “purpose to do.” The KJV translators must have been using the word “will” as in “desire” or “purpose,” not the word “will” as in the helping verb indicating future.

Because I assume the KJV translators were right but I nonetheless get the “wrong” meaning out of the phrase “ye will do” (because all I know is contemporary English, not Elizabethan), this is a false friend.

Thank you, conceptual labels. Thank you, false friends.

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1 Comment
  1. Brian Morgan

    Wow. That’s a clear example of the false friend concept, and it’s impact on interpretation. Thanks for sharing it with us.