Is “rooms” a King James Bible mistake in Matthew 23:6?


by Shawn Brasseaux

“And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,…” (Matthew 23:6). “And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:…” (Mark 12:39). “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;…” (Luke 20:46).

While we usually assume our English word “room” indicates a place such as a bedroom or bathroom, it can be used in a more general sense. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, “room” simply means “a space that can be occupied.” (Size is irrelevant—it can be large or small.) For instance, we would say, “Make room so I can sit down.” “Room” here is obviously not an enormous space like part of a house. We just mean an empty area. Thus, there is no mistake when the King James Bible translators rendered the Greek word into English. “Room” in Scripture refers to a space at a table that someone can fill. We must be sure to do careful research before we start unfairly maligning our 1611 translators.

The same idea appears in Luke chapter 14, also referring to dining at a table: “[1] And it came to pass, as he [Jesus] went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him…. [7] And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, [8] When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; [9] And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. [10] But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. [11] For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

Israel’s apostate religious leaders enjoyed drawing attention to themselves (read the contexts of the quoted verses). They sought the most prominent positions at the table. “Pay attention to me! I deserve the most distinguished seat—whether to eat at a home or worship at a synagogue! Look at me!” Such is nothing more than man’s sinful flesh, and we should be careful not to adopt this attitude.

Also see:
» What are “phylacteries?”
» Is it truly a good deed if done for selfish reasons?
» What are some verses to help me stop focusing on myself?