14

I ran across the KJV translation of Jeremiah 29:11 on Facebook today and was struck by a seeming contradiction in the way the last part was translated. Here is the verse alongside other modern translations for comparison:

Jeremiah 29:11

KJV: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

NIV: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

NLT: For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

ESV: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

NKJV: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

What I found odd was that the KJV translates the last few words as "an expected end" which, to me, implies an actual end, not a non-end as the other translations imply. Especially notable is how the KJV and NKJV have near-identical phrasings except for that last bit. Thus, my question is: why is it translated that way in the King James Version?

  • 6
    Would this be a better fit on BiblicalHermeneutics.SE? – Jas 3.1 Jun 30 '13 at 4:42
  • 2
    @Jas3.1: It's super old. Let's not do that. – El'endia Starman Jun 30 '13 at 7:32
10

This may not be the best answer, but, as @warrend pointed out, I don't think that there's any definitive reasoning.

However, looking at the original Hebrew for the passage, we see:

Jeremiah 29:11

(from the Online Hebrew Interlinear Bible)

The original Hebrew here for that phrase "expected end" is achrith uthque. The original wording appears to have two words associated with the one concept.

I found some margin notes in the Geneva Bible (1611) that shows that the translators had some trouble interpreting this. They decided on "expected end", however they realized that the Hebrew would be better translated as "ende and expadation" (in King James English).

Unfortunately, we don't know why they chose "expected end" over "end and expectations".

[pure speculation] I suspect that in English at that time "to give an end" and "to give a future" were probably similar in meaning.

In light of modern translations, it seems pretty clear that "a future and hope" is a much better translation then "an end and expectation" (or even "expected end").

Ultimately, we won't be able to know the minds of the translators and, without serious historical searching, we probably won't understand their usage of these words. However, there's some idea of where it might have come from.

  • 1
    The same translation issue seems to happen in Proverbs 23:18 as well. KJV has "For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off" compared to NIV "There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off". The Hebrew words involved are the same: acharith (Strong 319; end, outcome, posterity) and tiqvah (Strong 8615; cord, expectation, hope). – James T Sep 6 '11 at 22:12
  • Interestingly, the margin notes for Prov 23:18 show that "reward" is another translation for "end". – Richard Sep 6 '11 at 22:20
6

English has a long and venerable history as a language. Over time the meaning of words shifts. Different words come into common usage for the same meanings. Words can in fact reverse meanings. The King James Version, originally translated some 400 years ago, has seen all of these things happen to its words.

One commonly cited example is the word "charity". Today we would think of benevolence or giving to needy folks (or charities!), but in King James English it meant "love". Another one that has come up already on this site is that "kill" in the KJV means what we would today call "murder" and uses another word, "slay" for what we would call "kill".

In the case of "end" I can tell you just from having read other old English literature that the word did not always imply a terminal point as we might use it today. In fact today if we are careful we can even use it in this sense. The end of a book is not the end of most stories. If something comes to a good end it means they lived happily every after. "The ends don't justify the means." isn't referring to a terminal case, it's talking about results or final outcomes that live on.

Likewise the word "expect" wasn't used in the ambiguous sense that it is today where you could just as easily "expect the worse" as expect something positive. Think about Dickens and his famous book Great Expectations. That is a reference to a hopeful future, things were looking up. Somebody in those times with expectations had an inheritance or a profession waiting for them!

Again in modern usage, although we can use the term more versatility the default implication is positive. If you ask a woman or family if they "are expecting" and ... well expect them to smile if the answer is yes!

The phrase "an expected end" does conjure up in my mind a much anticipated positive future, a story that gets set straight just as today's phrasing of "hope and a future" does.

The thing with the KJV is that you have to remember that the vocabulary is 400 years (or in some updated cases 242) years old! You need to know how that language worked, not just the English you know today.

Perhaps there could have been a better way to translate it at the time, but many issues like this can be explained purely on the evolution of English.

See also: Why are there so many translations of the Bible?

  • In many cases, it's more than 400 years old. The translators of the KJV borrowed from Tyndale, and much of the language in the KJV was old fashioned even at the time. – TRiG Sep 24 '11 at 19:50
5

Several answers have pointed out that the KJV's word choice may be due to usage of archaic English. What has not been adequately explained, as far as I see, is why the KJV and, e.g., the ESV (cf. NASB) differ in the use of one vs. two noun here — "a future and a hope" (ESV) vs. "an expected end" (KJV). This variation is somewhat surprising given that both are relatively formal translations (i.e. they tend to preserve the syntax of the source when possible), and an explanation is warranted.

The Hebrew certainly includes two nouns, connected by a conjunction. The key to understanding the KJV's choice of a single concept is the notion of hendiadys. Hendiadys is a figure of speech using two terms linked by the conjunction "and", where a single idea is intended. This is a way of modifying a nominal (or verbal) idea with another noun/verb rather than using an adjective/adverb. While hendiadys exists in English (see the link for a few examples), it is much more common in Hebrew where adjectives are fewer. The KJV translators understood acharit wetiqvah here as a hendiadys, where tiqvah ("hope" or "expectation") functioned adjectivally and modified acharit ("end" or "future") -- hence, "expected end".

This line of thinking is expanded by E.W. Bullinger:

Here the A.V. gives "to give you an end and expectation" in the margin, and translates it "to give you an expected end."... All this is a recognition of the difficulty, without grasping or catching the spirit of the figure: "to give you the end, yes -- the end you hope for" : i.e. the end which I have promised and on which I have caused you to hope and depend. All this, and more is contained in and expressed by the figure Hendiadys.

E.W. Bollinger, Figures of speech used in the Bible, explained and illustrated, Eyre & Spottiswoode 1898.

  • TIL about Hendiadys. Great answer, and you have my +1. – El'endia Starman Feb 28 '17 at 12:32
3

I disagree that there is a contradiction here. It is more of a subtle difference in the meaning of the two words being compared, “expected” and “hope”. I do see how “expected end” can be a greater indicator of an actual end that the word hope indicates. But, it appears that you are assigning the secular meaning to the word “hope” which is really wishful thinking, which I totally disagree with. As a Believer we have a “hope” that is a rock solid assurance based on the Biblical evidence in many promises God has completely full filled.

Furthermore, I dislike the KJV because we pour a meaning that is different than what the writers meant into some words of that version, which of course causes confusion. In this particular case, and at this time in history, the KJV is probable more accurate than the modern versions. Using Strong’s Dictionary the word expected in Hebrew is “tiqvah” which is noted as H8615 and defined as, “hope, expectation, line, the thing that I long for, expected.” So you can see the connection between hope and expected.

While I agree with some of the other commenters, the “future” or the “end” is Heaven. If Randy Alcorn’s insight, as stated in his book Heaven, is anywhere near accurate, Heaven is going to be unimaginably wonderful way beyond our hopes and expectations. I highly recommend that book.

1

The Hebrew words אחרית (acharit) and תקוה (tikvah) occur in the same phrase separated by the conjunction ו in three phrases:

כִּי אִם־יֵשׁ אַחֲרִית וְתִקְוָתְךָ לֹא תִכָּרֵת

כֵּן דְּעֶה חָכְמָה לְנַפְשֶׁךָ אִם־מָצָאתָ וְיֵשׁ אַחֲרִית וְתִקְוָתְךָ לֹא תִכָּרֵת

כִּי אָנֹכִי יָדַעְתִּי אֶת־הַמַּחֲשָׁבֹת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי חֹשֵׁב עֲלֵיכֶם נְאֻם־יְהוָה מַחְשְׁבֹות שָׁלֹום וְלֹא לְרָעָה לָתֵת לָכֶם אַחֲרִית וְתִקְוָה

Gesenius (p. 37-38) states that the Hebrew word אחרית may also mean "posterity," citing Psa. 109:13, Amos 4:2, and Dan. 11:4.

I believe the solution occurs in Jer. 31:17 wherein we find the phrase וְיֵשׁ־תִּקְוָה לְאַחֲרִיתֵךְ, which could be translated as "and there is hope for your posterity." In other words, although the Israelites were in captivity, "they shall return from the land of the enemy" (Jer. 31:16) and "return to their border" (Jer. 31:17). God would punish them by captivity, but they would be liberated and return to the promised land.

Therefore, I believe Jer. 29:11 should be translated as "a posterity and a hope." The hope of a captive Israel remained in the fact that as long as children existed, a future was certain for the people of Israel.

0

The best answer I can think of is that when you look at the usage of those words ~400 years ago, they had [somewhat] different connotations than they do now.

Excepting someone finding the translators' crib notes for the passage in question, it will most likely remain a point of speculation.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.