I thought I found an omission.

One of my favourite books in my personal library is Nelsons New Illustrated Bible Dictionary © 1995.

Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary: Completely Revised and Updated EditionThis dictionary is often the first book I reach for when I want to research a topic. In the past it has served me well and until now I have not found any omissions in it. That is until today, when I picked it up to do some research on Zechariah the father of John the Baptist. In looking up his name I found there were 31 Zechariahs in the Old Testament and none listed for the New.

I normally use the NIV or TNIV for devotional purposes and I double checked the spelling. I then opened up my E Sword program to do a comparable check on the spelling of his name and found that the ESV, ISV and the RV also spell Zechariah as Zechariah. But then I noticed that the KJV spell Zechariah as Zachariah. So I open my trust worthy 1958 interlinear and find that Zechariah is spelt Ζαχαριασ. And now I find that Zechariah is spelt as Zacharias in the KJV. Here the translators of the KJV have it wrong in translating him as Zacharias. Their translation is based on the Greek nominative (subjective) case whereas the stem word is  Ζαχαρια. (Zacharia)

However I digress. This interlinear is based on the same text of the KJV and through looking into the copyright page of the Nelsons Dictionary, I find that unless otherwise noted, the articles are based on the KJV. And so I find him listed in the dictionary as Zachariah and not Zechariah.

Ηmmm the plot thickens. What is the right spelling. So I go to my current Greek Bible printed in 2007 and find it also spells Zechariah in the Greek as Ζαχαριασ.  Ouch! The Greek clearly says its spelt with an “A” and not an “E”.  How frustrating is this.

Now this has raised my curiosity some what. I love a good diversion. I love going down the rabbit trails and so I do a Google search and cannot find out why he is spelt differently in the various versions, particularly in our more modern translations. What ever the answer is, I think there has to be a reason why our modern translations use the “E” spelling and not the “A”.

I think the father of John the Baptist is an important key person in the Scriptures. His story is integral to the foundation of Luke and indeed the Gospel story. Keeping in mind that the majority of Christians now use modern versions of the Bible, and those same readers would know little of the KJV, I wonder how many would miss finding him in this dictionary. Therefore I believe this shows a need for Thomas Nelson to update their otherwise very handy dictionary, using the modern text as its basis….or our modern translators go back to using the traditional format to spell his name. 

But… in the mean time…..can someone please fill me in on the whys of the different spellings”?

About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
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6 Responses to I thought I found an omission.

  1. Hi Craig,

    The Hebrew name זְכַרְיָהוּ is always transliterated into Greek in the Septuagint (LXX) as Ζαχαριας, the spelling that appears in the NT. Now if you were to transliterate the Hebrew directly into English it would normally be zĕḵaryāhû — the shewa under the ז is written as ĕ which explains the transliteration of the Hebrew name as Zechariah. Modern translations, for consistency, use this spelling in both OT and NT since it is clearly the same name. The other point to note is that the shewa is a short vowel sound and so given differences in pronounciation, variation from a short “a” to short “e” is probably pretty minimal (I have read that the LXX more often transliterates shewa with α than ε).

    I hope that makes some sort of sense!

    • Craig Benno says:

      Martin. Thanks heaps. Makes perfect sense. While I didn’t mention it in my post, I assumed through Zechariah’s linage, he was given his name after the priest / prophets of the OT.

    • It was probably a good name to have at the time, meaning something like “Yahweh has remembered.” It has connotations of God remembering his promises and fulfilling them—remember when the writer of Genesis says that God “remembered” Noah (Gen 8:1) which results in God causing the flood to recede?

      • Craig Benno says:

        I think its a great name. I see echos of Abraham in his life. I wonder if every priest / prophet of old who had that name had thoughts that they might be the one God would use.

        Certainly his name had prophetic connotations in that God remembered him in his childlessness, and used his son to be the beginning of fulfilment of the OT and the ushering in of the new.

  2. Brian says:

    it is a weird omission though.

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