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In the original Hebrew, the Ten Commandments don't address coveting, so common translations like "do not covet" or "thou shalt not covet" are inaccurate.

The Hebrew verb in the 10th commandment (or, for some, the 9th and 10th commandments) is chamad. As usual, we learn what the word means by looking at how it is used elsewhere.

The clearest case against "covet" is Exodus 34:24, which has to do with the three pilgrimage holidays, for which the Israelites would leave their homes and ascend to Jerusalem. Exodus 34:24 promises that no one will chamad the Israelites land when they leave for Jerusalem to appear before God.

It's absurd to think that the Israelites were worried about leaving their land for a while because other people would then desire it. After all, other people could desire the land whether or not the Israelites were around.

So it's pretty clear that chamad doesn't mean "covet" or "desire" there.

In Deuteronomy 7:25, we see chamad in parallel with "take," that is, lakach in Hebrew: "Do not chamad the silver and gold [of statues of false gods] and take it." Just from this context, the verb could mean covet, but other than our preconceptions of what the text should mean, we see nothing to suggest that translation.

Furthermore, the parallelism here suggests that chamad is like lakach. That is, to chamad is to take in some way, not to want in some way.

We find the same juxtaposition of chamad and lakach elsewhere. For example, in Joshua 7:21, we read that, "[Achan said,] `when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, then I chamaded them and took them.'" Proverbs 6:25 also puts the two verbs together. These examples further reinforce the close connection between chamad and lakach.

And in Proverbs 12:12, we see a pair of opposites: "righteous" and "give" versus "wicked" and chamad. So chamad seems to be the opposite of "give."

All of these point in a clear direction: chamad doesn't mean "covet." It doesn't mean "desire." And it doesn't mean "want." chamad means "take."

So the last commandment should read: "Do not take..."

``For God so loved the word that he gave his only begotten son...''

That line, from John 3:16, is among the most popular Bible quotations.

But it turns out that the usual translation is wrong. The Greek there doesn't mean, ``for God so loved the world...'' at all. So the line shouldn't read (as the New Revised Standard Version has it) ``For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.''

The translation used to be right, though, when ``so'' between a subject and a verb meant ``in this manner.'' The word ``so'' is meant to translate the Greek hootos, and the point of John 3:16 is that ``God loved the world like this....'' or ``God loved the world in this way....'' or ``This is how God loved the world.''

The word hootos appears hundreds of times in the New Testament, including in the introduction to what has become known as the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:9. Most translations get the word right there, as for example, The King James Version's ``after this manner,'' which is needlessly awkward but still generally accurate; or the New Revised Standard Version, ``in this way''; the English Standard Version's ``like this''; variations on ``this is how'' in the New American Bible and the New International Version; and so forth.

Similarly, John 3:16 should read along the lines of, ``for this is how God loved the world...''

How accurate is the King James Version today?

English has changed in the four centuries since the King James Version was written, so even where it used to be accurate, sometimes now it no longer is.

Here's a short quiz of KJV English. How many questions can you get right?

1. The turtle (E.g., from Song of Solomon 2:12 or Jeremiah 8:7) is:

A. An animal that crawls on the land;
B. An animal that swims in the sea; or
C. An animal that flies in the sky.

2. "Prevent" (E.g. from Psalm 59:10, "The God of mercy shall prevent me") means:

A. Allow;
B. Disallow;
C. Precede.

3. "God so loved" (from John 3:16) means:

A. Loved a lot;
B. Loved a little;
C. Loved in this way.

4. "Thee," "thou," and so forth (as in, "thou shalt not steal") indicate:

A. Social respect;
B. Social distance; or
C. Social closeness.

5. "Suffered" (E.g. from Matthew 3:15, "then he suffered.") has to do with:

A. Pain and agony;
B. Patience; or
C. Consent.

6. "Who shall let it?" (from Isaiah 43:13) means:

A. Who shall allow it?
B. Who shall reverse it? or
C. Who shall prevent it?
The answer to all six questions is (C).

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