The King James Version says in Psalm 14:1 – “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”
Some have said that the italicized words in the KJV (“there is”) are incorrect and misleading, and give the wrong meaning to the Hebrew text. These people will say that the verse should be read without the italicized “there is” to get the real import of the verse; that the true meaning of the verse is that a foolish person will say “no” to God. They explain that it is not that the fool is denying His existence, but that they are denying His authority and disobeying His commandments and acting as if He does not exist.
Of course this is contrary to what the KJV text actually says. As a matter of fact, it is contrary to the text of almost EVERY English Bible version ever published. If it is true that the words “There is” are wrong, and should not be there, then why do almost ALL the Bible versions on the market still have them in Psalm 14:1 (and 53:1)? There are only four versions that I found without the italicized “there is,” and they are the Holman Christian Standard Bible which translates the verse as, “God does not exist,” the Young’s Literal Translation and Wycliffe Bible (2001) which translates the verse as, “God is not,” and “The Message” which renders it as, “God is gone.” (You have to read how “The Message” translates this: “Bilious and bloated, they gas, God is gone.” It’s a gas, gas, gas!)
However, regardless of which version you refer to, it is evident from ALL English versions of the Bible (except maybe “The Message”) that with or without the italicized words, the meaning of “no God” is that God does not exist and God is not. It has nothing to do with defying God by saying “no” to Him, but everything to do with denying His existence. That is the meaning that every translator of ANY Bible assigned to the Hebrew word. Here is the actual Hebrew word used in Psalm 14:1 and its definition from Strong’s Concordance:
“no” (ayin)-- Strong's #369 (Hebrew & Chaldee Dictionary of the Old Testament) – As if from a primitive root meaning to be nothing or not exist; a non-entity; generally used as a negative particle:—else, except, fail [father-] less, be gone, in [-curable], neither, never, no (where), none, nor (any, thing), not, nothing, to nought, past, un [-searchable], well-nigh, without. [NOTE: in other words, “God is not”]
Now, granted, some well-meaning Christians and well-known preachers have used this verse to show that one who says “no” to God is a fool, and I would agree that this is certainly true. This would fall under the category of being a secondary, devotional application of the verse. But the primary interpretation, according to the text in Hebrew and in English, and the rules of grammar, is that the foolish man denies God’s existence.
If someone wants to make a devotional application, let them do so, but not at the expense of impugning the Bible’s integrity and by ignoring the rules of proper interpretation. I personally would never intentionally imply or outright state that the (King James) translation is wrong or misleading; the application can be made WITHOUT casting doubt upon the word of God that we hold in our hands and read every day. Instead of saying that the italics are unnecessarily misleading, one could just simply say: “The Bible here is correct, and the translators got it right. Now, that being said, notice that if you read the verse without the italics, it is interesting to see that a fool says, ‘No God,’ and we know that only a fool would say no to God.” Even though such an application is not grammatically correct according to the original Hebrew or the English, it is more acceptable to state it that way than to charge the Bible with error to “make a point.”
Furthermore, the phrase “there is” appears in the Authorized King James Version of the Bible 392 times, and most of the occurrences are italicized. The construction “there is no God” (with the italicized words) is found ten times in the Bible. God Himself says “there is no God” five times in Isaiah (44:6, 8; 45:5, 14, 21). If you compare the English and the Hebrew sentence structure, these verses are the same as what we read in Psalm 14:1 (and 53:1), including the italicized “there is.” If a person insists that Psalm 14:1 means the fool is saying no to God, then we have God saying no to Himself in Isaiah!!! We know that cannot be so, and the New Testament tells us plainly that God cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13).
[It is interesting to note that the second italicized “there is” added to Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1 (and the 3rd verses) by the translators is quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:12 where those words are not in italics! That means that, although the words “there is” were not in the Hebrew Old Testament, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write them down in the Greek New Testament. This demonstrates that the Holy Spirit, the Author of the Bible, knows that the italics belong in the Bible.]