Harmonizations in the 1599 Geneva Bible

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Puritan Board Freshman
From reading the 1599 Geneva Bible, I have come to realize that certain passages appear to have been harmonized in order to provide the reader with a better feeling of what the actual connotation of the passage is, especially where an apparent contradiction might arise. One good example I have is from Deut. 5:3 which reads:

"The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers only, but with us, even with us all here alive this day."

I cannot think of any other English version that adds the word "only" in this passage. Just compare this to the KJV 11 years later:

"3The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day."

One paraphrase (The Contemporary English Version) also adds the word "only" with a footnote explaining that the word only is not in the Hebrew original.

However, it is clear from the context of Exodus and Numbers that God did make a covenant with the Israelites and their children, and Moses is not contradicting himself here by claiming that God did not make the covenant with the fathers who had passed away. So I believe that the Geneva Bible is giving the true sense of the Hebrew to the reader. I personally do not know any Hebrew, or if the word "only" actually exists in Hebrew, or whether it could have been written otherwise, but I would be interested to know what the experts have to say.

Do you think that this harmonization is warranted, or should the passage have been translated more literally?


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Almost every translation does this to some degree. The KJV does it, just check out some of the Pauline letters, where there can be three or four words in a row in italics (added in), sometimes from the previous verse to show in English what the previous referent for the second verse is. That's just one kind of example.

When the KJV writes "God forbid!" The Greek has neither word, but rather "may it never be." Call it 17th century "dynamic equivalence." But they keep it to a minimum.

The best translations, in my opinion, do the best they can to give a word-for-word rendering, and limit the "sense" renderings. In other words,, do the least tampering with the author.
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