Is the Right Reading, Strain at a Gnat or Strain Out a Gnat?
criticize the KJV rendering here that says scribes and Pharisees
strain at a gnat and swallow a camel, thinking strain out
is right (e.g. Ewert, D. 1983. From Ancient Tablets to Modern
Translations. Gr. Rap. Zond. p202).
Now the usual sense of the Greek is strain out, but here it has the form of a participle, and the verse says literally Blind guides, the ones straining the gnat, but the camel swallowing, so either strain out or strain at can apply linguistically. Actually, the participial form seems to be chosen to convey a sense different from the usual, for it results in a verse that is an incomplete thought, (as in the KJV & certain others) which causes readers to examine the context and see that the verse is a summation of verse 23; here Christ speaks of minor aspects of tithing emphasized in the dogma of the Pharisees & scribes, and their great error of neglect of major points of the law. Context & its metaphoric language control verse 24, and swallow a camel signifies the great error of allowing neglect of major aspects of the law, as in swallow a huge lie, and strain at a gnat signifies exerting great effort in emphasizing trivial matters. In context, the Pharisees & scribes did not separate (strain out) trivial issues from great ones, but allowed (swallowed) great error, and fussed over (strained at) the trivial. The KJV rendering recognizes that Pharisees & scribes strain at minor matters like paying tithe of mint, anise & cummin, and here there’s no sense of straining-out or subtracting of these practices. Rather, they’ve been stressed above major matters of the law, so the sense of strain out isn’t stressed in the context. Now strain out might apply in a secondary sense in that Pharisees & scribes strain at their goal to strain out of their dogma (separate for special favor) what to them is great truth. However, context treats their favored dogma as gnat-like in importance. As we have noted, the error of these men is not a straining out of minor doctrines from the law, but favoring them over major ones, so the KJV strain at, an uncommon rendering of the Greek, is the primary one being emphasized in this context. Context emphasizes one certain sense of a Greek or Hebrew term in scripture, which in this case is an uncommon one, and the KJV alone renders the true sense, as can be expected of an inerrant translation.