In King James Bible, John 12:6 we read:

This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

As said here, bare is archaic past simple form of verb "bear". But in all modern versions of this line the meaning of this phrase "and bare what was put therein" is that Judas used to pilfer what was put into it.

So the question is: what is semantics of this old form "bare" in original KJV John 12:6? Does it mean "carry" ("bare" = "carried"), or it has something similar to modern verb "bare" (="open to view")? or "carry" in sense of "carry off"?

UPD: I'm not asking about interpretation of this particular New Testament text, but about how this archaic form of verb "bear" was used and should be interpreted with direct and first reading.

  • If you compare to other translations the word is replaced with "steal" and "pilfer". But how that relates to the meanings we would apply to the word I don't know. It could, eg, be an archaic form of "borrowed". Could even be a typo.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 12:14
  • It can not be just a typo because in slavonic version of this line verb "ношaше", which can be interpreted as "carried" too. But it can be strained interpreted as "carried out" too (imho).
    – aaa
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 12:18
  • 1
    Any connection between the KJV bare as a past tense of bear = take/carry [away] and bare = open to view is purely coincidental, since the two words have completely different etymologies. I think it's pretty clear from context that the sense is of Judas bearing away = taking, stealing from the [money] bag, nothing to do with bare = naked. Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 12:40
  • @FumbleFingers Thank you. Idea about "bare"="open to view" was just of one assumptions. What is important to me here is that "bare" here has sense of "bearing away" and it's clear from context for English-native. I think your comment should be an answer.
    – aaa
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 12:42
  • @Andremoniy: I didn't mean to imply the meaning is "obvious" to the average reader on first encounter (not 1 in 10 native speakers would understand the KJV text without help). That's why more recent translations completely rephrase to, for example, *...not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it. I don't know ancient Greek so I've no idea why "continuous/repeated action" is relevant here, but apparently that's important to scholars. Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 12:49

1 Answer 1


This bare is surely an archaic past tense of v.t. bear, and OED indeed does show the form as “ME–17,” i.e., Middle English through seventeenth century; it is not a form of bare “uncover.” I have combed the OED entry for v.t. bear in vain for any sense suggesting pilferage. The ambiguity is in the Greek: the verb βαστάζω [LSJ lexicon] can mean either to lift up or carry on the one hand, or to pilfer on the other. The KJV is usually better than this at reproducing Greek ambiguities in English. A tempting translation would be lift; but perhaps lift in the sense of pilfer was rejected as slang, for the OED does so categorize it, even while dating that sense back to the sixteenth century.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.