"For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: But the way of the wicked shall perish."

[Bible _ Ps 1:6 {see BibleHub}; closest to ERV, but with 'Lord' where ERV has 'LORD' (and this is an important exegetical difference) and with a capital after the colon (which isn't).]

I have understood the sentence as "Because the Lord knows the ways of the righteous, the ways of the wicked shall perish"

I have understood the meaning of the sentence from the Bible in my own way. But I can not understand the use of "But" in the second part of the sentence because the sentence in the Holy Bible begins with the conjunction "For".

I think the sentence reads well without the conjuction "But"

Could you please explain to me the special use of "But" in the sentence?

As far as my knowledge goes, "Because "and "but " do not come in the same sentence..

Let us observe the following sentences

"Because the teacher knows the ways of the goodstudents, but he punished the bad students" (I think) is not acceptable in modern English

Because the teacher knows the ways of the good students,he punished the bad students sounds natural for me

"The teacher knows the ways of the good students so he punished the bad students" is commonly found in the standard grammar books Anyhow., I feel that "because and "but" can not occur in the same sentence. The quotation from the Bible is really special use and its grammatical use cannot be questioned but is called antithetic parallelism which is rarely used in normal English

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    How is this a special use of but? Can you explain why you think it is different from the simple contrasting use as in "I know how to make desserts, but starters are a complete disaster."? – oerkelens Aug 19 at 5:29
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    The problem here is not just about contemporary English language usage. It is a matter of translation from another language: Hebrew. To make matters more complicated, it is also a matter of understanding the conventions of a literary medium: the psalm - a poetic and musical form (the word ‘psalm’ is from the Greek word ‘psalma’ from ‘psallo’ I sing. Translators from Hebrew will also have know Greek: in the courtyard of Oxford’s mediaeval Bodleian Library you can see the door to the “School of Hebrew and Greek Languages.”. <continued> – Tuffy Aug 19 at 7:51
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    This is the last verse of Psalm 1 (thanks, @oerkelens) and it sums up the ideas previously expressed; the contrasting fates of 'the righteous' and 'the wicked'. You can't expect an old translation of a Hebrew poem to conform to the conventions of modern English. – Kate Bunting Aug 19 at 8:02
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    For what it is worth, a characteristic of the psalm, I believe, is the use of balanced clauses, a characteristic reflected in traditional psalmodic music in at least Britain. “Balance” can mean “A and B” or the contrasting “A but B”. I know that ancient Greek was fond of balanced clauses, and of the balancing particles ‘men (μεν , often translated ‘on the one hand)’ and ‘de (δε - usually ‘but’ but sometimes ‘and’). In that context, the “but” would make sense as a reflection of this. Whether anything like this applies to Hebrew I do not know. But it is the Hebrew that should be researched. – Tuffy Aug 19 at 8:03
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it belongs on Bibilical Hermeneutics SE. – Hot Licks Aug 19 at 11:49

Hebrew poetry makes up one-third of the Old Testament.

At the "Introduction to Hebrew Poetry" page, the author describes the general characteristics:

A. It is very compact.

B. It tries to express truth, feelings or experiences in imagery.

C. It is primarily written not oral. It is highly structured. This structure is expressed in:

  1. balanced lines (parallelism)

  2. word plays

  3. sound plays

In particular, let's draw our attention to C1 (parallelism). When the Psalms were translated into English (and most other language as well), most translators preserved the notion of poetry by arranging the phrases using indented lines. The King James Version translators sometimes used conjunctions to heighten the parallelism.

Here is a graphic that describes a chiasm in Psalm 1:6. Parallelism in Hebrew Poetry


To directly answer your question, the "but" in Psalm 1:6 is a conjunction the KJV translators used to draw attention to the poetic contrast that would be obvious in the Hebrew reader's mind.

Some translators will strive to preserve the meaning of the text, at the expense of maintaining the feeling of poetry. Consider this translation of Inferno. Start of Canto 1

Although Dante wrote Italian poetry (with a rhyming scheme), these translators rendered Inferno as English prose.

At some level, the translator is a traitor. See “traduttore, traditore” Do not judge the translators too harshly, lest you be judged.

  • Marvellous stuff, but translation belongs on another site – exegetics is also too specialised for ELU. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 19 at 13:14
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    Agreed. I tried to answer the OP's question with contrasting approaches for translating poetry into English. – rajah9 Aug 19 at 13:22

I think that your instinct is correct and so do two Hebrew scholars. Conceptually, 'for' leads to a decisive conclusion ; 'but' diverts to another concept - which creates somewhat of a hiatus in the mind.

Young's Literal Bible (1862) - a very literal rendering of the original Hebrew - translates the verse as follows :

For Jehovah is knowing the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked is lost.

Green's Literal (1993) is almost exactly the same :

For Jehovah is knowing the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked shall perish.

Textus Receptus Bibles - Psalm 1:6

These two Hebrew scholars are translating the 'conjunctive waw' as 'and' rather than 'but'.

Biblehub Psalm 1:6

My own understanding of the wording is that Jehovah, the Lord, observes, knows, is aware of - and also directs, chastens and guides - the way of the righteous.

As is also stated in another Psalm :

Though the Lord be high yet he hath respect unto the lowly : but the proud he knoweth afar off.

Textus Receptus Bibles - Psalm 138:6

He holds such persons at a distance, knows them from afar, has little to do with them. They go their own way. And their way is self-destructive.

Note on Terminology

'Righteous' in the bible means 'justified', which is a matter of faith.

Abraham believed God, and there was evaluated to him - unto righteousness.

[As stated in Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:3 and Galatians 3:6.]

  • All great stuff, but translation belongs on another site – exegetics is also too specialised for ELU. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 19 at 13:14
  • @EdwinAshworth I think the key to the apparent 'problem' of 'for/but' is the matter of translating the conjunctive waw. Once that is seen, there is no problem in the English. – Nigel J Aug 19 at 13:22
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    There are the age-old problems of trying to be as word-for-word as possible while trying to negotiate different grammatical structures (including trying to reproduce devices English doesn't have), different semantic spreads of individual words, different imagery bases.... – Edwin Ashworth Aug 19 at 14:03

since nobody is interested in answering my question, I would like to answer my self.I have referred to some research papers and found answer to my question. According to Robert B kaplan the use is called "Antithetic parallelism. Mr Robert gives the explanation for it and it is given below

"The idea stated in the first part is emphasized by the expression of a contrasting idea in the second part. The contrast is expressed not only in thought but in phrasing as well"

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    Please provide a link, and properly quote the exact phrase, or explanation given. Please supply the name of the research papers, they sound very interesting! – Mari-Lou A Aug 19 at 9:51
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    "since nobody is interested in answering my question" I would argue that many were interested in helping you, see all the comments, and asked you to clarify the exact nature of your question. It was unfortunate that you didn't seek to clarify or improve your question or share any evidence of research. – Mari-Lou A Aug 19 at 9:57
  • And how is this a “different” use of but? Seems like the standard use as illustrated by @oerkelens’s dessert/starters sentence. – Jim Aug 19 at 16:53
  • @jim please refer to Edwin and Nigel j's comments above.can we use because and but in the same sentence? – Englishmonger Aug 19 at 16:59

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