Were the King James translators justified in adding the word “quarters” in Acts 9:32?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Acts 9:32 says, “And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.” If you look in a printed King James Bible, the term “quarters” is italicized, meaning there is no corresponding Greek term to that English word. To signify this, the 1611 scholars placed the word in italics. They are often vilified for adding such words, yet (strangely) the people who criticize italicized words usually add or remove words from the English Bible themselves. Indeed, there is quite a difference between a translator adding a word to complete the thought in the new language, and a teacher assuming his job involves questioning and changing the Bible because he has limited insight. The former is the King James Bible translator; the latter is the King James Bible critic.

The Greek Textus Receptus reads thus in Acts 9:32: “Egeneto_de Petron dierchomenon dia panton, katelthein kai pros tous agious tous katoikountas Luddan.” As even the layman could likely discern, “dia panton” is “throughout all.” The word “katelthein” is “came down.” There is indeed no Greek word for “quarters.” Unless that English word is added, the verse would read, “And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all, he came down….” This could read smoother. Peter visited “all” what? Well, our 1611 translators elected to insert “quarters” to clarify the sense—“all quarters.” While they are no longer here for us to ask why they chose that of all English words (as opposed to “regions” or “territories,” for example), we can study the rest of their work to arrive at the simplest—and therefore, most likely—explanation.

Here are other occurrences of the term “quarters” in the Authorized Version:

  • Jeremiah 49:36: “And upon Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and will scatter them toward all those winds; and there shall be no nation whither the outcasts of Elam shall not come.”
  • Revelation 20:8: “And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.”

Similar terminology is found elsewhere in the King James Scriptures:

  • Isaiah 11:12: “And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”
  • Ezekiel 7:2: “Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land.”
  • Revelation 7:1: “And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.”

Why did the King James scholars insert “quarters” in Acts 9:32 even though there is no corresponding Greek? It was to make the resultant translation read clearer. Furthermore, they likely picked that particular word so as to indicate the four cardinal directions—north, south, west, and east. “Regions,” “territories,” and “lands,” would not have been descriptive enough. The word “quarters” prompts the reader to think of four regions or quadrants, not any one particular direction but all directions. From where does Peter’s ministry radiate though? It is Jerusalem (the last place where he was seen before arriving in Lydda—Acts 8:25). Peter is going north, south, west, and east of Jerusalem, but he always eventually returns to Jerusalem (read Acts chapters 1–12, 15). Lydda is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northwest of Jerusalem. After Peter visited it, he went on to Joppa (northwest) and Caesarea (northeast), before ultimately heading south to go back to Jerusalem (Acts 11:2).

If we just give the King James Bible the benefit of the doubt, we understand that it does not contain mistakes. Rather than deriding it and attempting to correct it (as a Roman Catholic is taught to criticize this the Protestant Bible), we should study it to see why it says what it does. Conditioned by the modern-version sales pitches, we have been trained to quickly pounce on the Authorized Version and falsely accuse it of so-called “numerous errors” and “inferior translations.” It is far better to let the Holy Bible be the authority than endeavor to change it. Simply put, the word “quarters” in Acts 9:32 is likely being used to refer to the four primary directions. The text reads clearer with it. Leave it there and just believe it!

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Also see:
» Is there a geographical error in 2 Kings 2:2?
» Is “excellent” a King James “mistranslation” in Philippians 1:10?
» Which belongs in Romans 8:16 and Romans 8:26 in the King James Bible—“the Spirit itself” or “the Spirit Himself?”