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I'm currently working on Bible translations and have stumbled accross the word "erre" in James (1: 2-18) of the King James Bible.

To be more specific in verse 16:

Doe not erre, my beloued brethren.

In the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible the same verse is written as:

Do not be deceived, my beloved.

I have the following questions:

Did "erre" always denote the state of believing something that is not true or was this meaning ascribed to the word later on?

Did the word "erre" use to have a different meaning in the 17th century?

Does this word come from French? (There's also the word "erre" in French. It means "momentum" or "inertia")

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  • Have you looked up the etymology of the word already?
    – Joachim
    May 31 at 18:20
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    16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. err: to make a mistake.//biblegateway.com/passage/… It comes from errer: to go astray in French
    – Lambie
    May 31 at 18:26
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    Hello, Java. (1) not all translations are equally reliable, and no English version of the Bible is inerrant. (2) the substitution of a word in a later translation for one in an earlier translation does not guarantee exact synonymity (even between earlier and later meanings). (3) Even modern versions will be judgement calls on the best way to translate the earliest available manuscripts. Quite possibly, there is no exact English equivalent covering the range of meanings the 'original' (or even the actual original in the original texts) word had. Human inadequacy is again apparent. May 31 at 18:36
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    The Greek texts from which these two Bible versions are translated are not the same: the KJV uses Textus Receptus for the New Testament, and the NRSV uses Novum Testamentum Graece. Furthermore, the manuscripts that were used to make them come from different parts of the world and were written at different times. Therefore, analyzing the difference of the English words that were used might be imprudent since the Greek words that the texts used might not even be the same in the first place. I suggest that you look up Majority Text and Critical Text for more information.
    – James
    Jun 1 at 8:57
  • James c.10:00 GMT 20220601 gives an answer now marked for deletion: The Greek texts are not the same: the KJV uses Textus Receptus for the New Testament, and the NRSV uses Novum Testamentum Graece. The manuscripts come from different parts of the world and were written at different times. The analysis of the difference of the English words that were used is imprudent since the Greek words that the texts used might not even be the same. You should look up Majority Text and Critical Text for more information. The answer does not address the question and but is useful as a comment.
    – Greybeard
    Jun 1 at 15:55

2 Answers 2

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Bear in mind that KJV was written by men who had been educated by teachers born in the early 1500s and that religious language is always conservative and somewhat archaic.

OED err

Forms: Middle English–1600s erre, (Middle English erry, 1600s arre), Middle English– err.

Etymology: Middle English erre, < French errer, Provençal errar, Spanish errar, Italian errare, Latin errāre < prehistoric *ersāre, cognate with Gothic aírzjan transitive to lead astray, Old High German irrôn transitive and intransitive (German irren).

†1. intransitive. To ramble, roam, stray, wander. Obsolete.

c1374 G. Chaucer Troilus & Criseyde iv. 274 O wery ghost, that errest to and fro.

1382 Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) Gen. xxxvii. 15 A man fonde hym in the feelde errynge.

1697 J. Dryden tr. Virgil Æneis v, in tr. Virgil Wks. 344 A Storm of Strokes..errs about their Temples, Ears, and Eyes.

Err had a figurative use:

2a. To go astray; to stray from (one's path or line of direction). Chiefly figurative and now archaic.

1303 R. Mannyng Handlyng Synne 9517 Lewede men Þat erre ful moche oute of the weye.

c1340 R. Rolle Prose Treat. 17 Whoso myghte by þe grace of Godd go þis way he sulde noghte erre.

1850 Ld. Tennyson In Memoriam lxxi. 100 Nothing is that errs from law.

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    Why not just provide the correct quote from the KJV?? Which is here: biblegateway.com/passage/…
    – Lambie
    Jun 1 at 16:32
  • Because (i) I would not use a tape measure to measure the accuracy of that same tape measure, and (ii) the OP queries the meaning in KJV, and the examples given have a clearer context, which gives a clearer meaning.
    – Greybeard
    Jun 2 at 11:44
  • But the quote is wrong.
    – Lambie
    Jun 2 at 15:05
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The French verbal form erre is from the verb errer than means "to wander", "to stray", not momentum or inertia.

King James Bible 1611:

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The English erre is an old form of err:

Erre not my deare brethren. (Tyndale Bible of 1526)

Both early Latin and Greek Bible versions already contained this meaning (definitions quoted from the Wiktionary):

Vulgate: Nolite itaque errare, fratres mei dilectissimi.

  1. to wander, rove
  2. to get lost, go astray
  3. to err, wander from the truth
  4. to hesitate, vacillate

Erre etymology is obviously the Latin verb errare.

Greek1: Μὴ πλανᾶσθε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί.

  1. to make to wander, lead wandering about
  2. to lead astray, deceive, mislead
  3. (passive) to wander, stray
  4. to wander in speaking, digress
  5. to do a thing irregularly or with variation
  6. to be in doubt or at loss

1 Both the Greek Textus Receptus for the New Testament and the Novum Testamentum Graece share the same verse.

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