Italics in a translation

From: Edward Hobbs (
Date: Tue Apr 02 1996 - 16:25:46 EST

Dear Friends:
        Of course, the original "King James" translation did not use
italics for indicating words inserted into the text for clarity; rather
than tell you what they did, I suggest you look at a facsimile.
        But once Roman type was used for the text itself, italics became
widespread and eventually standard.
        That people today understand italics as emphasis is well-known. My
favorite proof of this is something told me back in 1948 by my friend
Talmage Gornto at the University of Chicago, where I was teaching at the
time. We were discussing over lunch the presence of humor in the Bible.
He told me that his favorite example of Biblical humor was in 1 Kings 13,
the story of the old prophet in Bethel who set off to invite the man of God
to dine with him. He said to his sons: "Saddle me the ass." So they
saddled HIM!
        There is a simnple solution, which translators resist mightily.
Insertions today are almost universally marked by square brackets. Why
not use them? (Because people will know that they indicate an insertion,
that's why!)

Edward Hobbs
(An old translator myself)

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