Is “corn” a mistake in the King James Bible?


by Shawn Brasseaux

The word “corn” appears 100 times (nearly 90 verses) in the King James Bible. Critics are sorely displeased because these occurrences supposedly mislead readers into believing ancient Middle Easterners were familiar with our North American “maize.” Is that so? How daunting is our task in sorting out the confusion!

In North America (United States and Canada), when we say “corn,” we really mean maize. Centuries ago, when our European ancestors migrated here, they encountered this new crop (of Mexican/Spanish origin). They called it “Indian corn,” but the qualifier “Indian” was later dropped and the name “corn” remained. However, the original meaning of “corn”—as it still exists outside of North America—is general. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, “corn” is a broad term for the grain of any cereal (edible) crop. It could be corn kernels from the cob (our maize or “corn”)—but it can also be wheat, barley, and so on.

We are not to suppose our King James Bible translators were incompetent. They were not insinuating Middle Easterners of millennia ago knew of North American “maize.” It is not a mistake when the Authorized Version has “corn” to refer to a crop other than maize. Again, we must look at the matter from the British standpoint—the 1611 translators’ view—and not from our North American perspective. The context of the verse may identify the corn (grain), or it may not. However, the translators of the Authorized Version understood our maize was not in their work!

For example, notice how they handled the Greek word “kokkos:”

  • Matthew 13:31: “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain [kokkos] of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:….” Is that our maize? No, that is a mustard seed!
  • Matthew 17:20: “And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain [kokkos] of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” Again, is that our maize? No, that is a mustard seed!
  • Mark 4:31: “It is like a grain [kokkos] of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:….” Once more, is that our maize? No, that is a mustard seed!
  • Luke 13:19: “It is like a grain [kokkos] of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.” Is that our maize? No, that is a mustard seed!
  • Luke 17:6: “And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain [kokkos] of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.” One last time, is that our maize? No, that is a mustard seed!
  • John 12:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn [kokkos] of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Certainly, they did not think this was maize—the verse itself indicates they knew they were dealing with “wheat!” The word “corn” is generic for any edible grain; “wheat” specifies what type of corn.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:37: “And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain [kokkos], it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:….” Again, the translators know they are dealing with crops other than our maize.

As another example, watch how they used the word “corn”—and we know it was generic here as well as opposed to maize. In fact, the term “corn” is now restricted to barley and wheat!

Ruth 1:22: “So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.”

Chapter 2: “[2] And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter…. [14] And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left…. [23] So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law.”

Ruth 3:7: “And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn: and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down.”

Again, there is no mistake in the King James Bible. What needs to be corrected is our understanding of our own language. “Corn,” in pure or older English—not (diluted) American English—is the grain of any cereal/edible crop. If we are “reading maize into these verses,” then we have the problem (not the King James Bible!).

Also see:
» Is the King James word “borrow” a mistranslation in Exodus 3:22?
» 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?”