Italicized Words?

Question
Why are some of the words in my Bible italicized?
Answer

Italicized words first appeared to make the Scripture easier to understand. They were introduced in the 1560 Geneva Bible (some margin notes were in italics in the 1557 Geneva New Testament, etc.). Though the Bible had been prepared by the Protestant Reformers from Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, the Geneva Bible was for the common person who needed to understand the written Word. Because no language can be translated word for word, scholars "put in that word which, lacking, made the sentence obscure, but set it in such letters as may be easily discerned from the common text" ("The Use of Various Types in the English Bible," Appendix 48, p. 39 of The Companion Bible by Kregel Publications, 1990). Today many Bibles use italics for the same reason.

The Geneva Bible was one of the most influential Bibles of its era. Puritans such as John Bunyan and John Milton used the this Bible. It had study notes written by such great preachers as John Calvin, John Knox, Miles Coverdale, William Whittingham, (the brother-in-law of John Calvin) and others.

The Bible had an expansive history in the 16th century. One does not appreciate this until they see it in print (from - Clausen Books, 2131 North Weber Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80907):

Bibles 1500-1599

1500 - The first Spanish Bible.

1501 - Index Librorum Prohibitorum, the Papal Bull of Pope Alexander VI is published, being the first censorship list of printed books.

1506 - Jacobus Sacon of Lyons, France prints his first edition of the Latin Bible.

1512 - Epistles and Gospels published in Spanish by Ambrose de Montesian.

1514-18 - First Polyglot Bible, Cardinal Ximenes' Complutensian Polyglot; Printed at Alcala de Henares by De Brocar; contains only noble style of Greek employed between the invention of printing and recent times; contains first Hebrew Bible published by Christians, and first separately printed Greek New Testament.

1515 - Latin translation 'after the Hebrew' of the Psalter by Felix Pratensis. (additional info courtesy Dick Wursten of Antwerp, Belgium).

1516 - First Polyglot portion of Bible, the Genoa Psalterium (Book of Psalms).

1516 - Desiderius Erasmus' (1466-1536) first Greek New Testament. Printed and published by Froben in Basel; said to have had greater influence on Tyndale than either the Vulgate or Luther.

1517 - First Biblia Rabbinica (Venice), printed by Daniel Bomberg, and included the Targum and other traditional explanations.

1518 - First separate complete Greek Bible, printed and published in Venice by Aldus Manutius, being the Greek text of the Septuagint, translated by Erasmus.

1522 - Latin Paraphrase New Testament (Erasmus).

1522 - First Dutch New Testament.

1522 - Wolff's Bibliorum.

1522 - First German New Testament of Martin Luther (Wittenberg).

1524 - First Danish New Testament - published in Leipzig, Germany. Translated by Hans Mikkelsen (former mayor of Malmo, Denmark) and Dr. Kristian Winther, from the Vulgate and Luther's German translation; both Mikkelsen and Winther were allies of exiled Danish King Christian II. Mikkelsen's preface defends the King and attacks his foes, which caused the book to be banned in Denmark; later copies omitted the preface and were sent to Denmark, becoming popular; critics of this poorly translated work called it "neither German nor Danish."

1525 - In Cologne, Germany, William Tyndale completes the New Testament, translated directly from the Greek into English; Printed by Peter Quentell in 4to (Quarto), and finished in 8vo (Octavo) at Worms office of Schoeffer; of 6000 copies printed, 3 copies exist of the original octavo edition (one at Baptist College, Bristol; one at St. Paul's, London; and the third ?); a mere fragment (31 leaves) of the quarto edition survives in the British Museum; there were 40 reprinted editions before 1566. This is the first printed book to be officially banned in England.

1526 - First complete Dutch Bible.

1526 - First Edition of the First complete Swedish translation of the New Testament by Olaus Petri, the great reformer of the Church of Sweden, assisted by Archdeacon and fellow-reformer Laurentius Andreae; translation made from the edited Greek text of Erasmus and Luther's German translation of 1522; printed on the King's Royal printing press in Stockholm, bearing the Swedish national coat-of-arms on the last page of text, and dated MDXXVI, with no translator's name given; by the 1930's only six copies were known to exist.

1526 - First separate Latin Septuagint (the oldest translation from Hebrew to Greek of the Old Testament).

1528 - First Latin Bible of modern times - translated from the original languages by the Dominican, Sanctus Pagninus, under Papal authority.

1528 - Robert Stephen's First Latin Bible.

1529 - First Swiss-German Bible. The Zurich Bible, a collective effort by Leo Juda and Ulrich Zwingli.

1530 - The English Parliament declares Henry VIII "ecclesiastically supreme" and he becomes "Protector and Supreme Head of the English Church."

1530 - First Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Old Testament) in English.

1530 - English Psalter.

1530 - Brucioli's First Italian Testament. Complete Bible in 1532.

1530 - Lempereur's French Bible, a translation of the Vulgate by Lefvre d'Etaples. (additional info provided by Dick Wursten of Antwerp, Belgium).

1530 - The Swiss or Alemannic Bible; a "composite" Bible, a term coined by the scholar Georg Wolfgang Panzer, it consisted of translations by Luther and others, and the introduction has been attributed to Zwingli.

1534 - Dietenberger's Catholic German Bible.

1534 - Martin Luther completes a German Bible.

1534 - Joye's Antwerp revision of Tyndale.

1534-5 - First Hebrew Bible printed by Gentile.

1535 - First Hebrew-Latin Bible (Basle).

1535 - First French Protestant Bible (Pierre-Robert Olivetan).

1535 - First complete Bible in English by Miles Coverdale (1488-1568) who finished his manuscript on October 4th. The sheets were printed either in Zurich or Antwerp, probably in 1536, and then shipped to England for rebinding and publication in 1537. Also known as the Treacle Bible.

1537 - Coverdale Bible first printed in England (see previous listing). Bound and published by James Nicholson as a small folio. Coverdale's dedication referred to Henry VIII as "Defender of the Faith, and under God the chief and Supreme Head of the Church of England."

1537 - Two revised editions of the Coverdale Bible are published, officially sanctioned by Henry VIII.

1537 - Libri Salomonis.

1537 - Eck's German Catholic Bible.

1537 - Rogers-Matthew Bible; better known as the Matthew's Bible, edited and compiled by John Rogers and printed in Antwerp by Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch. Largely a Tyndale translation but also a compilation of various translations, with abrasive anti-Catholic notes. The name "Thomas Matthew" appears on the title page (a pseudonym for John Rogers) since for political expediency William Tyndale's name was left out.

1538 - Coverdale's Diglot (Latin and English) edition of the New Testament.

1539 - Genesis (Pietro Aretino) in Italian.

1539 - (Richard) Taverner Bible (a revision of Matthew's Bible). Although licensed by Henry VIII, it was not as well done as the other English editions, including the Great Bible.

1539 - Great Bible (Cromwell) Authorized English; of "lavish size and adornment" a large folio with frontispiece by Hans Holbein showing Henry VIII enthroned, handing the Bible down to Cranmer and Cromwell; seven editions were published from 1539-1541. Also known as the "Chained Bible" because it was chained to its stand in many churches.

1540 - Bokes of Salomon.

1540 - First Icelandic New Testament, translated by a Lutheran convert, Oddur Gottsklksson; his translation work was carried on in secret at Sklholt, Iceland. The book was published in Roskilde, Denmark, and is the first book published in Icelandic; A copy may be found in the library of Cornell University.

1540 - First Latin New Testament of England.

1541 - First Hungarian New Testament.

1541 - First complete Swedish Bible, published in Stockholm; translated under the supervision of Archbishop of Sweden Laurentius Petri, the brother of Olaus Petri; text similar to Luther's complete translation of 1534 and remained the Church Bible of Sweden until 1917.

1542 - Servetus Bible.

1543 - First Zurich Latin Bible.

1543 - First Spanish New Testament, and dedicated to the emperor Charles V, by Francis Enzina (Driander).

1544 - First North American printed document; (Mexico City)- Doctrina breve muy p[ro] vechosa de las cosas que per tenecen, by Juan de Zumarraga, the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Mexico.

1544-5 - First Standard German Luther Bible, last to be revised by Luther.

1546 - Robert Stephen's First Greek Testament.

1548 - Flemish Bible translated by Nicholas Vinck, printed and published at Louvain.

1548 - First Finnish New Testament, translated by Michael Agricola, and printed in Stockholm, Sweden; Agricola also translated several books of the Old Testament, such that a quarter of the work was complete when he died in 1557.

1548-9 - Erasmus' English paraphrase of New Testament.

1549 - First separate English Apocrypha.

1550 - First Greek-Latin Bible.

1550 - Royal (Stephens) Edition Greek Testament.

1550 - First Danish-Norwegian Bible.

1550 - First French Louvain Bible, by order of the Emperor, Charles V.

1551 - The Inquisitorial Index of Valentia, Spain (supplement) forbids Bibles in Spanish or any other vernacular.

1551 - Teofilo's Italian New Testament.

1551 - Castelione's First Latin Bible (Basle).

1551-52 - First New Testament With Verses.

1552 - Les Pseaulmes de David.

1553 - First French Bible in Verses.

1553 - Biblia en Lengua Espanola Traducida Palabra por Palabra de la Verdad Hebrayca por Muy Excelentes Letrados, Vista y Examinada por el Oficio de la Inquisicion (The Bible in the Spanish Language, Translated Word for Word from the True Hebrew by Very Excellent Literati, Viewed and Examined by the Office of the Inquisition) First Spanish Old Testament, printed at Ferrara in gothic characters, and dedicated to Hercules D'Este, duke of Ferrara. Two editions were printed.

1553 - First Polish New Testament, translated by Jan Sieklutzki, said to be a personal friend of Luther.

1553 - First Crespin Greek Testament.

1554 - The Inquisitorial Index of Valladolid, Spain, lists 103 editions of the Bible condemned because of errors and heresies to suppression, correction or cancellation.

1555 - First Latin Bible in Verses.

1555 - A proclamation by Britain's Queen Mary commands "that no manner of persons presume to bring into this realm any mss., books, papers, etc., in the name of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Miles Coverdale, Erasmus, Tyndale, etc. or any like books containing false doctrines against the Catholic faith."

1557 - The Whittingham New Testament, aka the Geneva New Testament - the first Critical Edition of the New Testament in English, printed at Geneva by Conrad Badius; translated by William Whittingham, brother-in-law of John Calvin; introduction by John Calvin; First English language version to use verses and italics for supplied words; first translation to be printed in Roman type; one edition, never reprinted.

1560 - French Psalter in meter.

1560 - Geneva Bible (also known as the Puritan or Breeches Bible); compiled by Whittingham, Anthony Gilbey, Thomas Sampson, Christopher Goodman, and William Cole; a small quarto, printed by Rovland Hall, Geneva; a meticulous rendering from Greek and Hebrew original translations; first complete English Bible to be divided into verses, the first to be set in Roman type and to use italics for omitted words in the original; meant for the common people, 140 editions were published from 1560-1644.

1561 - First Polish Bible (Leopolita); also known as the Cracow Bible.

1561 - The Place Makers' Bible. The Geneva Bible, Second Edition, Folio. "Blessed are the place makers; for they shall be called the children of God." Matt. v. 9. Published at Geneva, this extraordinary misprint was corrected to read peace and never occurred again.

1562 - First complete Croatian New Testament; translated by Antonius Dalmata and Stephanus Consul Istrianus, edited in Tubingen, Germany.

1562 - Durone's Italian Bible.

1562 - Harrison Great Bible.

1562 - Sternhold & Hopkin's First Psalter.

1565 - Radziwill, Socinian, or Brest Litovsk Bible (Polish Protestant version); a translation from the original languages by eighteen scholars under the patronage of Prince Nikolas Radziwill (Czarny'), and not popular with Polish Protestants.

1565 - First Greek Testament of Beza.

1566 - Buchanan's Latin Psalter.

1566 - Carmarden Great Bible.

1567 - First Welch New Testament.

1568 - Bishop's Bible, also called Parker Bible, Episcopal Bible; went through 22 editions, with the last in 1606; not a popular version, not well edited.

1569 - First Spanish Bible.

1569 - Plantin Polyglot Bible; printed and published by a Frenchman, Christopher Plantin, in Antwerp; text edited by Benedictus Arias Montanus, Chaplain to Philip II of Spain; Plantin's Bible is in five languages - Latin Vulgate, Hebrew, Greek, and Chaldaic (in the Old Testament), with Syriac replacing the Chaldaic in the New Testament; Special types were required, with the Greek and Syriac fonts cut by Robert Granjon and the Hebrew by Guillaume Le B. 1,200 paper copies and 12 vellum copies were produced, and is considered Plantin's masterpiece.

1571 - Anglo-Saxon Gospels.

1574 - Beza's First Separate Latin Testament.

1576 - Henry Stephen's First Greek New Testament.

1576 - First Bible printed in Scotland.

1579 - First Latin Bible of Tremelius & Junius.

1580 - First Slavonic New Testament.

1581 - First Cyrillic Bible, (aka the "Russian Gutenberg") printed by Ivan Fedorow.

1581 - First Slavonic Bible.

1582 - First Catholic New Testament printed in English by Fogny, at Rheims. The O.T. was printed in 1609 at Douai.

1582 - First Slovenian New Testament; translated by Primus Truber, surnamed Creiner, a reformed minister; published at Tubingen, Germany.

1584 - First complete Icelandic Bible, the Gudbrandar Biblia; a work translated, printed and published by Bishop Gudbrandur Thorlksson at Hlar, Iceland; Bishop Thorlksson obtained the printing press that had belonged to the last Roman Catholic Bishop of Iceland, Jn Arason; this edition is praised for its typography and for being a "faithful mirror of Luther's German version."

1584 - Plantin's Biblia Hebraica.

1585 - First South American imprint; (Lima, Peru) Tercero Cathecismo y exposicion de la Doctrina Christiana; the printer was Antonio Ricardo; the book is a religious manual for work in converting the Indians to Christianity.

1586 - Heildelberg Triglot.

1587 - Hutter's Hebrew Bible.

1587 - Sixtine (Roman) Septuagint.

1587 - First Greek Testament printed in England.

1588 - First Welsh Bible, printed in folio.

1590 - First Hungarian Bible.

1590 - Revised Vulgate Bible published by Pope Sixtus V; after his sudden death in August, 1590, the publication was canceled by the College of Cardinals and all copies that could be located were destroyed.

1591 - Legate's Geneva Bible, first English Bible printed at Cambridge.

1592 - First Clementine Vulgate (Vatican Press). Named for Pope Clement VIII (successor to Sixtus V), and became the standard edition of the Roman Catholic Church.

1593 - Kralitz Bible, Biblia Kralick (Bohemian, aka Czech); one of the best among the Slavic translations; made by a committee of eight theologians under the chairmanship of Bishop Blashoslav; printed in Gothic characters by Zacharia Solin at the Castle of Kralic in Moravia, with the entire cost borne by Baron John von Zerotin.

1593 - First Czech Bible of United Brethren.

1596 - Hamburg Polyglot.

1598 - Miniature Geneva Testament.

1599 - Standard Catholic Polish Bible; translated and edited by J. Wupek.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).