Solemn, Solemnity


sol'-em, so-lem'-ni-ti:

The word "solemn" had

(1) at first the meaning "once in the year," through its derivation from Latin sollus, "whole," annus, "year." As, however, a regular annual occurrence is usually one of particular importance, the word took on

(2) the meaning "ceremonious." From this is derived

(3) the usual modern force of "grave" in opposition to "joyous."

This last meaning is not in Biblical English, and the meanings of "solemn" in English Versions of the Bible are either (1) or (2). Nor is there any certain case of (1), for the word is always a gloss in English Versions of the Bible and, although frequently introduced in references to annual events (Leviticus 23:36, etc.), it is even more often used where "annual" is foreign to the passage (2 Kings 10:20; Psalms 92:3, etc.). The use of the word in the King James Version is unsystematic. It is always (except in Jeremiah 9:2) found in conjunction with "assembly" when (10 times) the latter word represents atsarah ('atsereth) (Leviticus 23:36, etc.) (retained by the Revised Version (British and American) with margin "closing festival," Leviticus 23:36; 2 Chronicles 7:9; Nehemiah 8:18). the King James Version uses "solemnity" or "solemn day," "feast," etc., 17 times for the very common word mo`edh ("appointed" time, etc.).


RV's treatment of these passages defies analysis. "Solemnity" is kept in Isaiah 33:20; Ezekiel 46:11, and "solemn" in Lamentations (4 times); Hosea (3 times); Zec 3:18. In Ezekiel 36:38; 45:17; 46:9 it is replaced by "appointed," elsewhere (and for mo'adhoth, 2 Chronicles 8:13) by "set." The margins further complicate the renderings. the King James Version also uses "solemn" with chagh, "feast," 4 times, and with chaghagh, "keep a feast," in Deuteronomy 16:15. The word is dropped by the Revised Version (British and American), except the English Revised Version in Psalms 81:3. Finally, the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) have "solemn sound" for higgayon, in Psalms 92:3. The context, however, demands "resounding melody." And 11 times the Revised Version (British and American) has introduced "solemn" to represent the intensive in the form shabbath shabbathon (Exodus 16:23, etc.), where the King James Version has simply "sabbath" or "sabbath of rest." the Revised Version (British and American) here has imitated the adverbial "solemnly" in the similar intensified expressions in Genesis 43:3; 1 Samuel 8:9.

The Revised Version (British and American) Apocrypha translates en hemerais kairou, "in the days of the season" (Baruch 1:14), by "on the days of the solemn assembly" (the King James Version "solemn days"), and both the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) have "solemn feast days" for dies festos (2 Esdras 1:31). Otherwise the King James Version's use of "solemn" is dropped by the Revised Version (British and American).

Burton Scott Easton

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'SOLEMN, SOLEMNITY'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.