“Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” (Mathew 23:24, KJV)
Critics point to the phrase, “strain at”, as either a printer’s error or a translation error of what ought to be “strain out”. However, Dr. David Norton, editor of the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (2005), says in A Textual History of the King James Bible:
“It has been asserted that ‘straine at’ in the Bible of 1611 is a misprint for ‘straine out’… But quots. 1583 and 1594 show that the translators of 1611 simply adopted a rendering that had already obtained currency. It was not a mistranslation, the meaning intended being ‘which strain the liquor if they find a gnat in it’…. In short, ‘strain at’ probably was deliberate.” (45)
The Greek “διυλιζοντες τον κωνωπα” is literally, “straining the gnat.” There is no preposition “out” in the Greek; neither is there the preposition “at.” So either preposition could be added to convey the sense of the sentence. “Strain at” conveys the attempt to strain at the sight of a gnat, whereas “strain out” conveys the actual act of straining out a gnat. Either rendering conveys the Pharisees’ tendency of paying attention to trivial details.