An Editor made a Call

Coincidentally considering my post yesterday, I now have a gripe with the English Bible as I know it. It’s a case where, essentially, an editor made a call and now I’m befuddled! It has nothing to do with salvation. It’s not exactly an “error” either, but, man, writers and editors are powerful, influential people, as this post will demonstrate. An editor made a call and the world is different because of it.


Who hasn’t thought about biblical names, right? Certain ones pop to mind: Peter, Paul, Mary. James, Joshua, etc. Biblical names continue to have an impact on society, even as people consider less and less what those names mean or come from. (Naming a little girl Jezebel, for instance.)

And, as you know, there are traditions of teaching your children to memorize the books of the Bible. Sometimes, even the apostles are memorized, and this bit of craziness that inspires this post affects all of that!

It boils down to transliteration. Translation at work, my friends, turning a foreign name into a more recognizable—or more spellable—one. A common musical example is Tchaikovsky: П. Н.   Чайковски. In older music, you can find an assortment of Tsjaikovski, Chaikovskii, Chaykovsiy, etc. Spelling changes. Ok.

And, sometimes names get tweaked a bit further in translation, dealing with word endings: for example, Mary was Maria. Ok. Still pretty straight forward. Then there are little tidbits like Indiana Jones is correct: there is no J in Hebrew, so even Jesus was Yesus or Yeshua. I am still majorly boggled, however, that James comes from . . . ready? Jacob!!! (And there’s not even a J in Hebrew!!!)

It’s true. I never thought about Jacobean as a descriptor to things associated with James (like the King James Bible), but the connection is that direct.

Transliteration at work, my friends: transliteration, vocal variables, and an editor made a call.

According to a random, unverified google find, “King James VI of Scotland ordered in 1604, ‘a translation to be made of the whole bible, as close as possible to the original Hebrew and Greek.’ The name James doesn’t mean anything, but it came from the name Jacob, which means ‘supplanter.’” In late Latin “Iacobus” became interchangable with “Iacomus,” the b and the m being somewhat similar in sound. Then early French shortened it to “Gemmes,” which in English became James in the Wycliffe translation.

The telephone game, people. It doesn’t work. Original sources!!!

James is still biblical, but in the sense of biblical translations. Maybe it’s silly, but I wish I had known sooner. I have this mental image of people walking up to him following the resurrection and asking, “You’re JAMES?!”

An editor made a call. Thousands of parents over hundreds of years have made decisions in part because of it. Makes me glad I’m not an editor.

Guess we’d better stick with writing!

1 Comment

Filed under As Christian Writers

One Response to An Editor made a Call

  1. Ziggy Rein

    Luther’s tremendous German translation of the Bible renders “James” as “Jakobus,” “Mary” as “Maria,” and “Isaiah” as “Jesaja,” for example.

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