In the King James Version, Luke 2:4–5 reads:

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

Today we wouldn't have that apparent smiley, but instead write it as:

… (because he was of the house and lineage of David): to be taxed …

Is that ":)" a result of later typesetting rules, or is that how the translators wrote it in the first edition?

1 Answer 1


The 1611 edition of the King James Version does not have such punctuation:

Authorized Version, 1611 ed.

Regarding such punctuation in other verses—during the 17th century (at least), the colon was used as one of several rhetorical pauses. These pauses included the comma, semi-colon, colon, and the period.

The Standard-Phonographic Visitor, Vol. 2, p. 292,

The Standard-Phonographic Visitor, Vol. 2, p. 292, §60, 2.

Again, in An English Expositor,1

An English Expository, “colon”

On the colon, Heinrich Lausberg wrote,2

928 ... Das Kolon wird somit von Hause aus als >Teil der Periode< aufgefaßt (§ 930), kann aber dann auch für die Bezeichnung selbständinger Einzelsätze verwandt werden (§ 932).

928. ... The colon is thus primarily regarded as “part of the period” (§ 930), but can then also be used to denote independent, individual sentences (§ 932).

929. Das Kolon als Teil der Periode (§ 928) ist die erste Unterteilung der Periode: es kann umfassen einen ganzen (Haupt- oder Neben-)Satz oder eine Wortgruppe.

929. The colon as part of the period (§ 928) is the first subdivision of the period; it may include a whole (main or subordinate) clause, or a word group.

As for the reason why the colon is contained within the parentheses rather than outside, it is likely a convention of English writing. Even today, American writers follow different conventions for punctuation. For example, American writers place a period within quotation marks, while English writers place a period outside quotation marks.


1 approximately the 55th page of the book
2 German text, p. 461; English translation, p. 417


Bullokar, John. An English Expositor. London: Legatt, 1641.

Lausberg, Heinrich. Handbook of Literary Rhetoric: A Foundation for Literary Study. Ed. Anderson, R. Dean; Orton, David E. Trans. Bliss, Matthew T.; Jansen, Annemiek; Orton, David E. Leiden: Brill, 1998.

Lausberg, Heinrich. Handbuch der literarischen Rhetorik: eine Grundlegung der Literaturwissenschaft. 4th ed. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2008.

The Standard-Phonographic Visitor. Ed. Graham, Andrew J. Vol. II, No. 10. New York: Graham, 1866.

  • For this verse , however I have a list of over 30 instances of this syntax in the 1611.
    – user21676
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 8:40
  • @user21676—Ok, please provide examples. Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 8:42
  • There are likely several more than 30; however up until Luke 2:4-5 I count 31.
    – user21676
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 8:45
  • Of the total 31 found before the present verse, only five match the Bishops'(Jdg 2:18,13:21, 1Sam. 26:13, 2Chr 13:2, and Mark 6:48), meaning in at least 25 cases the KJV 1611 contains it while the latter does not.
    – user21676
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 10:09
  • By Bishops' I meant the Bishops' Bible of 1568; looking at the Bishops' Bible of 1572 however, I found four differences between them(Psa 47:1, Pro 20:14, Mar 6:14, 7:26), that is, where the 1568 did not contain the ':)' and the 1572 did, or in other words the 1611 matches the 1572 at least nine times as per the syntax, meaning at least 20 cases where the KJV contains it and the 1572 does not. Also, I happened to find some later instances of it(Col 4:10, 1Th 4:11).
    – user21676
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 12:13

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