In reality, though, those italics were meant to signify "help words" that did not appear in the original text, but have been inserted to smooth out the English translation.
But I was young and naive! How could I have avoided such a pointless blunder?
I should have read the introduction to the translation.
Obviously, the introduction in your Bible is not the inspired Word of God. But, the introduction give you a vast amount of information about the translation and features of your Bible.
The introduction answers important questions like:
- What do the italics mean?
- Why are these brackets here?
- What ancient manuscripts is this translation based on? Why?
- How close is this translation to the original languages?
- Why is LORD in capital letters in the Old Testament?
- Why doesn't my Bible contain the name YHWH (Yahweh)?
- What sort of men and women translated this version, and what was their agenda?
- What is the deal with all the formatting?
You don't have to read everything in the introduction (sometimes called "Preface") but spend five minutes skimming through it. You'll understand the Bible that much better!
I've interacted extensively with the New International Version (1984), New American Standard Bible, English Standard Version, and the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Each of them are wonderful translations, but the introduction contains very useful information.
And on one last note, every so often I run into some well-meaning folks who believe that the King James Version is the only "inspired" translation, and that the other translations are "perversions". And to these well-intentioned, but erroneous, individuals I send them to the original introduction in the KJV. In the introduction, the translators say it is not a perfect (or perfectly literal) translation, that other translations are needed for a complete biblical understanding and that the KJV sought to use words and language that was accessible to the contemporary culture so they could readily access the Bible!
Read your Bible's introduction!