I’ve noticed something unusual in the way that the way the word “even” is used in the King James Bible. Mostly in modern English when it is used at the beginning of a phrase, it is meant to indicate inclusion. “Open every day, even Christmas.” “I love all my kids, even Laura.” etc. But in the KJV, it seems to just modify a previous phrase somehow.
I’m listing a few examples with both the King James Version and the New Revised Standard Version, which is a modern English translation based in part on the KJV.
Psalms 68:19 KJV “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.”
NRSV “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.”
2 Samuel 23:4 KJV “And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without cloud”
NRSV “[He] is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning”
John 14:16-17 KJV “He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;Even the Spirit of truth”
NRSV “He will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth”
John 5:45 KJV “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.”
NRSV “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope.”
This is a particularly egregious example, because to a modern reader it gives the impression that whoever is accusing you is also accusing Moses, when in fact it is saying that Moses is the one accusing you.
I wonder if it’s this sense, from the Online Etymology Dictionary: “…16c. from use of the word to emphasize identity (“Who, me?” “Even you,”)”.
A long article at Language Log [http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/]
According to the OED, even started out meaning “flat, level, uniform”, passed through related notions like “equal, coincident, balanced, exact”, and eventually came to be used “in weakened senses as an intensive or emphatic particle”, which might be “Prefixed to a subject, object, or predicate, or to the expression of a qualifying circumstance, to emphasize its identity”. Thus
Shakespeare Tempest (1623) iii. i. 14 These sweet thoughts, do even refresh my labours.
This version of even was used hundreds of times in the King James bible, for instance:
Gen. 34:29 And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.
Hope that helps; it’s the sense of identity, with some intensity added, that I hear.
The KJ usage seems not as intensifier (or any of the various common uses). More than anything, it is equivalent to the relative pronoun or the hyphen:
there is one that accuseth you, even Moses
there is one that accuseth you, who is Moses
there is one that accuseth you – Moses
That’s also true with Gen. 34:29 :
And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.
And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive – all in the house , they spoiled.
That of course doesn’t answer any questions. Perhaps it is a distinctive usage of the KJ.
The OxED has,
8. a. Prefixed to a subject, object, or predicate, or to the expression of a qualifying circumstance, to emphasize its identity. Obs. exc. arch. Also in 16–17th c. (hence still arch. after Bible use) serving to introduce an epexegesis; = ‘namely’, ‘that is to say’.
OE Guthlac B 923 Wæs neah seotid þæt he fyrngewyrht fyllan sceolde þurh deaðes cyme, domes hleotan, efne þæs ilcan þe ussa yldran fyrn frecne onfengon.
a1000 Met. Boeth. viii. 46 Efne sio gitsung.
1490 Caxton tr. Foure Sonnes of Aymon (1885) xii. 306, I shall smyte of your hede, evyn anone.
1535 Bible (Coverdale) 2 Chron. vii. 22 Euen because they haue forsaken the Lorde God of their fathers.
1593 R. Hooker Of Lawes Eccl. Politie Pref. 15 They imagined..they euen beheld as it were with their eyes.
1600 Shakespeare Merchant of Venice v. i. 242, I sweare to thee, euen by thine owne faire eyes.
1611 Bible (A.V.) Zech. xi. 10, I took my staff, euen Beauty, and cut it asunder.
1611 Bible (A.V.) John viii. 25 Euen the same that I said vnto you from the beginning.
a1616 Shakespeare Two Gentlemen of Verona (1623) ii. i. 42 Speed. She that you gaze on so… Val. Even she I meane.
a1616 Shakespeare Tempest (1623) iii. i. 14 These sweet thoughts, doe euen refresh my labours.
1820 Keats Eve of St. Agnes in Lamia & Other Poems 91, I will, even in a moment’s space, Awake..my foemen’s ears.
The 1490, 1611 Zech, and the first Shakespeare quotes seem to be the closest examples.
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