Among Millerites, this phrase came to be associated with Jesus Christ’s failure to return.


Under certain circumstances, the Hebrew letter waw, when placed before a verb, changes its tense; future becomes past, and past, future. This is, of course, a gross simplification of Hebrew grammar. Any basic text, such as Choon-Leong Seow’s A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew (Nashville: Abingdon, 1987), will discuss the waw consecutive.


Compare these translations with the New Jewish Publication Society (NJPS) versions: “Some time afterward, God put Abraham to the test. He said to him, ‘Abraham,’ and he answered, ‘Here I am.’” (Genesis 22:1); and “When Joseph came up to his brothers, they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the ornamental tunic that he was wearing, and took him and cast him into the pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it” (Genesis 37:23–24).


The NJPS renders this passage “Late one afternoon, David rose from his couch and strolled on the roof of the royal palace and from the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful” (2 Samuel 11:2).


For more on variations in the order of the books of the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament, see “How the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament Differ—An Interview with David Noel Freedman—Part I,” BR 09:06.


Special treatment of the divine name (the tetragrammaton, often transliterated YHWH) is an ancient practice observed by Jews and Christians. To avoid pronouncing the divine name, Jews traditionally say adonai (lord) when they encounter these letters, and many Christian translations honor this tradition by using the word Lord. Jehovah is an artifical construct, made from a tortured half-English, half-German pronunciation of JHWH, which is one transliteration of the divine name. To this were added two vowels from the Hebrew word adonai, the o and final a. (The first a and final i of adonai are indicated by Hebrew letters and were considered consonants.) Put together, with an added schwa to facilitate pronunciation of the first consonant, the result was Jehovah. Although intended to indicate reverence, the practice of using a substitution for the divine name sometimes distorts the text, as in Psalm 110:1 or Isaiah 42:8, “I am the Lord, that is my name.”



Cited by Susan Shaw from a translation of Smith’s diary (A Religious History of Julia Evelina Smith’s 1876 Translation of the Holy Bible: Doing More Than Any Man Has Ever Done [San Francisco: Mellen Research University Press, 1992], p. 117). A significantly different version appears in Kathleen Housley, The Letter Kills But the Spirit Gives Life: The Smiths—Abolitionists, Suffragists, Bible Translators (Glastonbury, CT: The Historical Society of Glastonbury, 1993), p. 78.


For a discussion of the relationship between the Millerites and Seventh-Day Adventists, see The Disappointed: Millerism and Millenarianism in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Ronald L. Numbers and Jonathan M. Butler (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987).


P. Marion Simms, The Bible in America (New York: Wilson-Ericson, 1936), p. 149. In the 60 years since Simms made this claim, there seems to have been no challenger to this accomplishment.


This quotation comes from a letter written by Julia Smith to the Smithfield Union (November 27, 1875). It is contained in one of the best primary sources available (Julia Smith, Abby Smith and Her Cows, with a Report of the Law Case Decided Contrary to Law [Hartford, CT: American Publishing Co., 1877; reprint: New York: Arno Press, 1972], p. 62, [page citations are to the reprint edition, which contains letters and articles compiled by Smith]).


Julia Smith, The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments, Translated Literally from the Original Tongues (Hartford, CT: American Publishing Company, 1876), preface.


See the interview “The Bible in a New Dress,” in the New York Sun, reprinted in The Woman’s Journal 7:1 (January 1, 1876).


In her second translation of the Hebrew Bible, Smith used the standard procedure with the waw consecutive. This results in a much smoother reading, with no disconcerting leaps of tense. Unfortunately, this translation was never published.


Smith, The Holy Bible, preface.


Ernest Cadman Colwell, “Greek Language,” in The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962), vol. 2, p. 486. According to Colwell, differences between New Testament Greek and other forms of the language were “explained as ‘Hebraisms’ due to the Semitic background of the Scriptures” and were thought to relate to “the sacredness of [the text’s] content…Thus, for example, in the matter of syntax a German scholar explained the peculiarities of NT usage as due to the influence of the Holy Spirit, so that NT Greek could be called the ‘language of the Holy Ghost.’ This scholar argued that the Holy Spirit changed the language of any people who receive a divine revelation and that this adequately explained deviations in NT Greek from the usage of the classical period.”


Letter from Abby Smith to the Springfield Republican (January 12, 1874) (Smith, Abby Smith and Her Cows, p. 14).


Smith, Abby Smith and Her Cows, p. 18.


The Woman’s Journal (January 29, 1877), p. 20.


From a private letter signed by both Abby and Julia Smith to an unnamed gentleman, July 20, 1875 (Smith, Abby Smith and Her Cows, p. 57).


“The Bible in a New Dress.”


Madeline B. Stern, “The First Feminist Bible: The ‘Alderny’ Edition, 1876,” Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress 34:1 (1977).


A copy of the original advertisement belonging to the Connecticut Historical Society indicates a price of $3.00.


Smith, Household goods at auction on Wednesday, April 23, at the Smith Sister mansion house, Glastonbury (Glastonbury, CT: 1884).


None of Julia’s translation from the Latin was published.


Housley, The Letter Kills, p. 86.


See Frances Burr’s obituary of Julia Smith in the Hartford Times (March 8, 1886).


M.P. Loew, “Julia Smith’s Translation of the Bible,” The Unitarian Review 5 (1876), pp. 322–323.


Elizabeth Cady Stanton, The Woman’s Bible (1895; reprint, Coalition Task Force on Women and Religion: Seattle, 1974).


Stanton, The Woman’s Bible, p. 27.


Bruce Metzger, “The Revised Standard Version,” The Duke Divinity School Review 44:2 (1979), p. 72.


Although Smith attempted to reproduce the Hebrew by omitting the present tense, she could not always sustain the effort, as shown in the first line of this passage. Nevertheless, the omission of the verb in the following clauses does produce an effect that its inclusion would dampen.


Frederick Grant (Translating the Bible [Greenwich, CT: Seabury, 1961], p. 88), cited in Housley, The Letter Kills, p. 87.


Ernest S. Frerichs, The Bible and Bibles in America (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988), p. 3.


“The Bible in a New Dress.” Smith’s response was published in “The Smith Sisters—A Correction,” The Woman’s Journal (January 15, 1876). In her translation, Smith even avoided the opportunity to use a feminine plural noun to translate twrcbmh (ham«vas«rot) in Psalm 68:11 (Hebrew Bible 68:12), choosing the neutral form “those” where the English Revised Version used “women.”