IS THE KING JAMES BIBLE IN ERROR—“THOU SHALT NOT KILL?” SHOULD THAT BE “THOU SHALT NOT MURDER” INSTEAD?
by Shawn Brasseaux
NO! … and NO!
Strangely, we find critics of the King James Bible in the most unexpected places— supposed “Christian” institutions! Ironically, they who “love and believe the Scriptures” viciously deride and pick them apart after professing to find “mistakes.” We cannot grasp the absurdity of these who proclaim to not be interested in opinions—all the while expressing their opinions as to which Bible words could be “better translated.” These preachers and teachers are allegedly “not the final authority,” but then they disparage and “correct” the Book they claim is their final authority. How they censure the unsaved for mocking and refusing to trust the Scriptures, but they themselves, touting “textual improvements,” are equally guilty of unbelief. They ridicule Bible doubters and then proceed to erode people’s faith in the Bible! Behold, the madness of sinful men!
What of the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill?” This brief study will demonstrate (once again) how the protests of the King James Bible critics are unwarranted and, quite frankly, rooted in ignorance. Before speaking evil of something they know not, they should study the English language much more than they have already—if they studied it at all. Unless they have first examined the evidence, they are not qualified to make any authoritative analyses or offer any “corrections.”
Notice the sixth of the 10 Commandments: “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). That word “kill” greatly troubles some people. It bothers them nonstop. Desperate to take a swipe at the King James Bible, they cannot help but complain that the word “murder” is more acceptable. The following modern English translations use “murder” here—Amplified Bible, English Standard Version, Good News Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Living Bible, The Message, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, New King James Version, New Living Translation, New Revised Standard Version, New World Translation (Jehovah’s Witness “bible”), and The Voice.
In fact, people will argue that this verse is one reason to justify throwing out the “erroneous” King James Bible and using the “more accurate” modern versions. Were our 1611 (King James) translators mistaken in utilizing “kill” instead of “murder” in Exodus 20:13? Is that a correct evaluation of the verse?
The reason why the King James Bible says “Thou shalt not kill” is that God forbids all instances of any human taking the life of another person. “Kill” is generic but “murder” is specific. Contrary to what we hear and/or believe, they are not interchangeable! All murder is killing, but not all killing is murder. Murder is the intentional, premeditated killing of another; it involves planning, malicious thoughts beforehand. Killing, however, can be deliberate or accidental. (If you want to see how God distinguishes between murder and manslaughter, see Deuteronomy 19:4-10.) Almighty God does not condone anyone taking the life of another human (whether deliberate or accidental). Consequently, He uses that word “kill” in His Book—“Thou shalt not kill.” This prohibition goes beyond murder. (If the modern versions stand in Exodus 20:13, we can say that it is acceptable to accidentally kill another!!)
The Hebrew word (Strong’s #H7523) translated “kill” in Exodus 20:13 is “ratsach” (pronounced “raw-tsakh’”). It means “to dash in pieces, i.e. kill (a human being), especially to murder:—put to death, kill, (man-) slay(-er), murder(-er).” The word appears 47 times in 40 verses, and our King James scholars rendered it as follows: “slayer” (16 times), “murderer” (14 times), “kill” (5 times), “murder” (3 times), “slain” (3 times), “manslayer” (2 times), “killing” (1 time), “slayer” (with H310) (1 time), “slayeth” (1 time), “death” (1 time). It was rendered “kill” not only in Exodus 20:13, but (four other times) here too:
- “And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill [ratsach] the slayer [ratsach]; he shall not be guilty of blood:…” (Numbers 35:27).
- “That the slayer [ratsach] might flee thither, which should kill [ratsach] his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in times past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live:…” (Deuteronomy 4:42).
- “Thou shalt not kill [ratsach]” (Deuteronomy 5:17).
- “And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed [ratsach], and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine” (1 Kings 21:19).
Friend, our 1611 King James translators were fully competent in the Bible languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek). They were also quite knowledgeable in English. “Kill,” not “murder,” is the better word in the context of Exodus 20:13. This is the position that faith takes: the Bible is correct 100 percent of the time, and we are wrong whenever we disagree with it. The prideful, sinful human heart is offended, but so what!
SUPPLEMENTAL: WHAT ABOUT THE DEATH PENALTY?
The death penalty was something God instructed to be carried out by government rather than individuals (except in the case of avenging the death of a relative—see Numbers 35:27 above, for example). The Sixth Commandment forbids individuals taking the lives of others, so that does not detract from capital punishment (governmental involvement). See our related study linked below.
» Should Christians support the death penalty?
» Which belongs in the King James Bible—“the Spirit itself” or “the Spirit Himself?”
» Is “excellent” a King James mistranslation in Philippians 1:10?