Volume 1 No. 1

Keys to Research

The Word of God interprets itself.

To understand God's Word certain keys to research must be understood and applied when working the Word to avoid private interpretation and maintain the integrity of the original text.

These studies are provided to outline some of the simple keys to understanding God's Word.

Michael Cortright

Keys to the Word's Interpretation

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The Authorized King James Version

In working the Word of God it is important to use a Bible that attempts to maintain an accurate rendering of words in its translation. The Authorized King James Version is such a Bible.

One of the major reasons for using the King James Version is that translators of the Authorized KJV attempted to select English words that would maintain the richness of the original meanings of the Greek words from the Stephen's text of the Bible. Modern translators were much less careful in selecting words and modern versions of the Bible are much less accurate (including the New King James Version). It is very important when studying the Word of God to gain a clear understanding of the meanings of words used by God and avoid private interpretation.

Italicized Words

The italicized words in the Authorized King James Version are words that were added by the translators. Another major reason for using the King James Version is that this version points out what has been added to the Stephen's Greek text from which it was translated. There are places where a proofreader or publisher missed some of the italics but for the most part all added words are italicized. Italicized words were added by the translators in order to convey the complete thought when moving from one language to another. Many times the added words do not change the meaning of the original text. Sometimes, however, the added words change the meaning of the text and must be deleted to have the true word. In studying God's Word from the King James Version you may delete an italicized word and you will not be touching the original text as all italicized words were added.

King James English

Some people select modern translations and versions of the Bible because they believe that the old English in the King James is more difficult to understand than modern English. However, the Authorized King James Version is not any more difficult to read than any other version. You simply have to get used to reading it. The rich use of words and accurate translation make the KJV worth the trouble of understanding the old English.

In reading seventeenth century English you must understand the words as they were commonly understood in 1611 when the King James Version was translated. Some words used in the seventeenth century are no longer used today. Other English words have changed over the centuries and require careful discrimination. The best way to understand the words in the King James Version is to get a good dictionary and check the archaic usage. Following are just a few examples of words that mean something different today than they did in 1611:

I Thessalonians 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep.

In 1611 the word prevent meant precede. Those of us who are alive at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ shall not precede or come before those who have died.

James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness [worthlessness], and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

The word naughty is used today as a watered down way to refer to evil. In 1611 the word naughty meant worthless.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick [alive], and powerful . . .

In 1611 the word quick meant alive. The word of God is alive and powerful. The rich use of God's powerful words understood in light of their Biblical use is important in studying God's Word.

Chapter and Verse Divisions

In the original texts of the Bible there were no chapter divisions or verse divisions. Chapters were first put into the Bible in 1250 AD. Verses first appeared in the Geneva Bible in 1560 and then in the 1611 King James Version.

While good for finding a particular passage of scripture, chapter divisions and verses must never be used to interpret God's Word. Chapters and verses were added by men and do not carry the authority of God. For example the first chapter of the Bible (Genesis chapter 1) ends with the sixth day of God's setting the earth in order. The second chapter begins with the completion of God's work on the seventh day in verses one, two, and three. The logical place for the end of chapter one and a chapter division would have been after verse three as verse four of chapter 2 begins an entirely new thought. To completely understand God's work in chapter one you must continue reading on through the first three verses of chapter two. If you stop at the end of the chapter (which was added by man) you miss the conclusion of the work.

Chapter and verse divisions are good for reference but NEVER for interpretation.

Capital Letters

The original texts of the Bible are continuous text with no word breaks. Uncial texts are continuous capital text such as GODSOLOVEDTHEWORLD. Cursive texts are continuous hand-written script such as godsolovedtheworld. All capital letters at the beginning of sentences or the first letters of proper nouns were added by the translators. Again, capital letters are good for reference but carry no authority in understanding God's Word.

For example, in most places in the new testament where Jesus Christ is referred to as the Son of God, the translators have capitalized the word son. Jesus Christ was God's son because he had God's seed in him. Capitalizing the word son does not make Jesus any more or less God's son.

Another example is where the words Holy and Spirit are capitalized. Some places in God's Word Holy Spirit refers to God and should be capitalized. At other places holy spirit refers to the gift God gave on Pentecost. When capital letters (which were all added by man) are used for interpretation, a great deal of misunderstanding and private interpretation regarding the gift of holy spirit is the result.


Punctuation was also added by the translators and as such has no authority in understanding God's Word. The Word of God can be made to say something that it does not really say simply by adding a comma. Each translator followed his own plan or pattern when adding punctuation. When reading God's Word you must not allow the presence of a comma to determine the meaning of the text. Rather consider the verse in the context to see if the comma makes sense.

For example:

Acts 21:4 And when he [the apostle Paul] would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

The commas in this verse make the verse say that the people tried to persuade Paul but when they could not they said to him "go ahead and do the will of God."
In the context Paul wanted to do something contrary to God's will. The believers tried to persuade him but he refused to listen. Finally the believers stopped saying "the will of the Lord be done" as it was clear that Paul was not going to listen. Putting commas in this verse changes the meaning that is clear from the context.

Once again, punctuation is good for reference but has no authority for interpretation of God's Word.

Paragraph Markings, Chapter Headings and Center References

Paragraph markings are little "flags" at the beginning of a paragraph that look like ¶. Paragraph markings are used by the translators to let you know when they think that a new thought is being introduced. They are added by man and hold no authority when understanding God's Word. It is interesting to note that when they were added to the text the translators stopped using them in Acts 20:28 and they do not appear in the rest of the Bible. If God were marking His word He surely would have continued through Revelation 22:21.

Chapter Headings are usually in italic print and appear at the top of a page or beginning of a chapter. They are the translator's opinion of what is contained on that page or in that chapter. They hold absolutely no authority and are often wrong.

Center References are scripture references that run down the center of the page in some Bibles and refer the reader to other scriptures that the translators think might have some relation to the passage being read. They also contain alternate translations of some words. Sometimes they are accurate and helpful. Many times they are distracting and in error. As with other man added remarks they hold no authority and are not of God.

Red Letters

Red letter Bibles have become so popular in the United States today that it is difficult to buy a Bible without Christ's words printed in red. The red print identifies what the translators think are the words spoken by Jesus Christ. Again they are man's opinion and not God's.

Christ's words in red elevates the words spoken by Jesus above the other text of God's Word. The whole Bible is God's Word. It does not mater if Jesus spoke it, Paul, you, or me. If we are speaking God's Word then it has the authority and power or God.

II Timothy 3:16 ALL SCRIPTURE is given by inspiration of God and is profitable . . . not just the words in red.
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Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
II Peter 1:20

Keys to the Word's Interpretation
Volume 1 No. 1

URL http://www.cortright.org/key1.htm
© Copyright January 1998; 2010 Michael Cortright