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Although it seems to be a fairly common error, even in significant writers such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Twain, etc, still I was surprised to find the "from whence" instead of "whence" error in Bible translations (e.g. KJV, ASV and others: 2 Samuel 1:3, Job 2:2, and Psalm 121:1-2). I guess I just assumed that Bible translators tend to be of the highest caliber and so they of all people would watch for that kind of thing.

In fact, so surprising is it that I'm wondering if it's not actually an error. Can anyone shed any light on this; was "from whence" (i.e. "from from where") used on purpose?

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"From whence" IS the formula in the KJV and other translations. Shakespeare also uses this, as does Emerson, Hobbes, Milton, Dickens and others, as the OP mentioned. E.g.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. [Psalm 121:1]

Nor want we skill or Art, from whence to raise Magnificence [Milton, Paradise Lost, Book II, line 272.]

Since "whence" means "from where", the phrase "from whence" is considered substandard nowadays. This misusage has been simply overlooked by grammarians, even the most dogmatic of whom are loathe to condemn the likes of Shakespeare and the KJV on such a minor point of usage. I think the understanding has been that "whence" can also just mean "where", thus "from whence" isn't altogether offensive.

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    I work in computing and often someone will say or write something like, "The TCP protocol does such and such...." It's technically redundant to say 'TCP procotol' since TCP itself stands for "Transmission Control Protocol." However it makes the sentence clearer to the listener or reader.
    – user6503
    Feb 29 '16 at 19:15
  • I work in a similar area. "CAC card", "GUI interface", etc., etc. But, this forum isn't really for splitting hairs and grinding axes. I suppose it's tolerable for the same reasons as the misuses under discussion, eh?
    – C. Kelly
    Feb 29 '16 at 19:20
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    @Bʀɪᴀɴ Yup. I work at a bank. Guess what we call those machines that allow you to withdraw and deposit outside? You guessed it, an ATM Machine. Oh, and that number you use to make transactions with your debit card? PIN Number. Both of those have redundant words attached, like you said for clarity. I agree with this answer and suggest the OP mark it as answered, though I do recommend that the response be edited to include a source or two if available. Mar 1 '16 at 19:57
  • @RJNavarrete, There are two sources included already. Are you looking for URLs for them too? I was just lazy. I guess you requested them because you are too, eh?
    – C. Kelly
    Mar 1 '16 at 21:37
  • @C.Kelly Precisely, friend :) Mar 2 '16 at 1:06
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First let's analyze one of the scriptures referenced. For ease I choose the first.

2 Samuel 1:3 Hebrew OT: WLC (Consonants Only)

ויאמר לו דוד אי מזה תבוא ויאמר אליו ממחנה ישראל נמלטתי

  • ויאמר - "and he will say" : say (אמר) . he will (י) . and (ו)
  • לו - "to him" : him (ו) . to (ל)
  • דוד - "David" : (Dwd)
  • אי - "where"
  • מזה - "from this" : this (זה) . from (מ)
  • תבוא - "you will come" : come (בוא) . you will (ת)
  • ויאמר - "and he will say" : say (אמר) . he will (י) . and (ו)
  • אליו - "I will to his" : his (יו) . to (ל) . I will (א)
  • ממחנה - "from fromcamp" : camp (חנה) . from (מ) . from (מ)
  • ישראל - "Israel" : (Ishral)
  • נמלטתי - "we will escape I did" : I did (תי) . escape (מלט) . we will (נ)

Build

and he will say to him David where from this you will come and he will say I will to his from fromcamp Israel we will escape I did

Structure Attempt 1

and he said to David, "Where from this you will come?" and he will say, "I will to his from camp Israel we will escape I did."

Structure Attempt 2

and he said to him, "David where from this you will come?" and he will say, "I will to his from camp Israel we will escape I did."

"from whence"

Apparently "from whence" was used to translate the two Hebrew words "אי" and "מזה" meaning "where from this". With the absence of the Hebrew word "מזה" it would be only "whence".

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