Mark 6:20

"For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly."

The objection to Mark 6:20 has been noted by James R. White:

"Did Herod 'observe' John, as the KJV says, or 'keep him safe,' as the NASB says? The Greek term simply does not mean 'observe,' but instead means 'to protect.' One might possibly suggest that 'observe' once meant 'to protect,' but such seems a long stretch, especially since the KJV renders the same word 'preserve' at Matthew 9:17 and Luke 5:38." (The King James Only Controversy, [Bethany House, 1995], 224-225).

The problem is not with the translation, but with White's lack of understanding concerning our English language. Much of our own language is derived from other languages, such as Latin, Greek, German, French, to name a few. According to the Webster's Third New International Dictionary, the word "observe" comes from the Latin word "observare" which means to watch, guard, and observe. (Philip Babcock Gove, editor. [Springfield Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster Inc., 1981], 1558). This agrees with Dr. John C. Traupman's Latin Dictionary which defines "observare" as "to watch, watch out for, take careful note of; to guard; to observe, keep, obey, comply with; to pay attention to, pay respect to." ([New York: Amsco School Publications, 1966], 200). Further, the Oxford English Dictionary offers this definition of "observe" as well. "6. To regard with attention; to watch; to watch over, look after." (2nd edition, J.A. Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner, editors, [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989], 1196).

For the most part, we think of the word "observe" as meaning to watch, study, or take notice of. However, it also means to keep, protect, or preserve. For example, we speak of "observing the speed limit." We do not mean that we are watching how fast we travel down the road, we mean we are obeying or keeping the law of the land. Some observe the Sabbath, or a religious holiday. Again, this means they keep or respect the day. When the Coast Guard speaks of "observing our shores," they mean they are protecting them. So it is with Forest Rangers who set up "observation posts" for the purpose of protecting the wilderness. Both "observe" and "preserve" mean to keep something. This is why this very same Greek word is used in Luke 2:19 and is translated as "kept," "Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."

The basic Greek word is "suntereo." According to the 1978 revision of The Analytical Greek Lexicon it is defined as, "to observe strictly, or to secure from harm, protect." (Harold K. Moulton, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan], 392.) James H. Moulton and George Milligan note that one of the uses of this word in ancient non-literary writings was when, "a veteran claims that in view of his long military service, exemption from public burdens ought to be 'strictly observed' in his case." (The Vocabulary Of The Greek Testament, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949], 614). These definitions stand in direct contrast with White's statement that, "the Greek term simply does not mean 'observe,' but instead means 'to protect.'" Clearly, it means both. The problem is not with the King James Bible, but with those who do not fully understand either Greek or their own language.

For those who would like to see this same verse approached from a literary sence, Brother Thomas Hubeart has done a wonderful job of this on his web site .


Back To Index

ape) thou me" (vs. 15), "lovest (agape) thou me" (vs. 16), and "lo