In the comments section of my page on mistranslation in the NIV, frequent contributor John Kesler recently suggested that the NIV’s translation of Psalm 22:16 (Hebrew 17) and its associated footnote were incorrect. Dr. David Instone-Brewer, a member of the NIV translation committee, replied with a comment of his own defending the NIV against some of John’s remarks.
A copious amount of literature has been written on this very verse, not only because it is apparently corrupt and uncertain in meaning, but also because of its importance in Christian interpretation. I have by no means read all this literature, but after perusing most (if not all) of the articles published in the last decade, I believe I can summarize the problem and provide some suggestions on what might be an acceptable English translation approach.
I am not a Hebrew scholar, so any mistakes in what follows are purely my own.
Psalm 22: An Overview
Psalm 22 is a lament psalm in three sections; the first two describe the miserable situation the psalmist finds himself in, and the last section praises Yahweh for rescuing him.
It seems to have taken on particular significance among Christians in the first century. Although it is not a messianic psalm, the Gospels (and especially Mark) make numerous allusions to it in the story of the crucifixion. Many Christians have therefore understood the psalm to be a sort of prophecy about Jesus.
Verse 16: The Main Textual Problem
Verses 16–17 (Hebrew 17–18) are translated fairly literally by the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) as follows:
Dogs are all around me,
a pack of villains closes in on me
like a lion [at] my hands and feet.
I can count every one of my bones,
while they gaze at me and gloat.
The main difficulty is the italicized phrase like a lion. This is the literal translation of the Hebrew word כארי (ka’ari) that appears here in almost all Masoretic Hebrew manuscripts. However, this text is generally regarded by scholars as unsatisfactory for several reasons:
- Contextually and syntactically, the phrase ought to have a verb there instead of a noun.
- The relationship of “hands and feet” with the rest of the sentence is ambiguous and hard to explain. How are the author’s hands and feet “like a lion”? The CJB attempts to improve the sentence by adding the preposition “at”, but that is not in the Hebrew.
- Our Masoretic manuscripts are all from the Medieval period or later, and early textual traditions in other languages (Greek, Latin, and Syriac) vary widely in their translations; only the Aramaic Targum has the word “lion” there. This confusion suggests that the Hebrew text became corrupt and ambiguous in meaning at an early stage.
Verse 16 in the Greek Septuagint
The Septuagint (LXX) has an odd translation that is quite different: “They have dug my hands and feet.” It is generally believed that the translator must have had a Hebrew original (Vorlage) that read כארו (ka’aru), which is very similar to the Masoretic כארי (the letters waw and yod are easily confused). The problem is that כארו doesn’t actually mean anything in Hebrew; but it does look a bit like a misspelling of כרו (karu), which would be the perfect tense of כרה (karah), meaning “to dig” (as in “to dig a well”). The translator thus assumed that the word meant “they have dug”. Early Christians, who used the LXX almost exclusively, were soon interpreting this passage as a prophecy about the crucifixion of Christ, whose hands and feet, according to John, were pierced with nails. (Never mind that digging and piercing aren’t quite the same thing.) Mainly for that reason, most Christian translations up until recently translated this phrase as “they pierced my hands and feet”, even though Hebrew manuscript support is flimsy, as we shall see.
Masoretic Hebrew Variants
A small minority of Masoretic (medieval) manuscripts read ka’aru instead of kaari—hence the assumption that this is what the LXX translator had before him. However, there are at least three problems with this variant.
- As noted, its meaning is unclear. If it is supposed to be a conjugation of the root כרה (karah, “to dig”), then it should not have the aleph (א).
- It is unlikely that a word used for digging pits would be used to describe the piercing of someone’s hands and feet with nails. Hebrew has several words that would be more appropriate if “pierce” were intended.
- Crucifixion is not appropriate to the context of Psalm 22 or its historical setting.
There is also a very rare variant כרו (karu, the correct way of writing “they have dug”), but by the textual-critical principle of lex difficilior (“the more difficult variant is to be preferred”), this is almost certainly a late Medieval correction to the text.
Other Hebrew Variants
Just one fragmentary copy of Psalm 22 has been identified among the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran. Unfortunately, this document, known as 4QPsf, becomes illegible at precisely this location in the text. The faded remnants of what may be כר (kr) are visible, but nothing definitive can be learned.
A somewhat later fragment called 5/6HevPs from a cave at Nahal Hever appears to read כארו (ka’aru), but several scholars who have examined the only published facsimile say the ink is too faded to be certain. (See citations for Swenson and Strawn below.)
Other Greek, Latin, and Aramaic Translations
Other ancient translations add to the confusion. The first Greek translation by Aquila (2nd century CE) read “they have disfigured”, while his second translation read “they have bound.” The Greek translation by Symmachus read “like those who seek to bind”. Jerome translated it initially into Latin as foderunt, “they have pierced”, in his Gallican Psalter (c. 387), but later in his Psalterium iuxta Hebræos (c. 391), he changed it to vinxerunt, “they have bound”—presumably having found a different or better Hebrew source.
Some Modern Proposals
“To bind” — Gregory Vall (Ave Maria University) proposes that the text originally said אסרו (’asaru), which means “they have bound”. He theorizes that an inadvertent swapping of two letters resulted in the meaningless סארו, which was then interpreted as כארו, and eventually “corrected” to כארי, as most extant manuscripts now read.
The advantage of this view is that it would explain why Aquila, Symmachus, and Jerome all translated it as a verb meaning “to bind”.
Source: Gregory Vall, Psalm 22:17B: “The Old Guess”, JBL 116/1 (1997)
“To become short/shriveled” — Michael L. Barré (St. Mary’s Seminary and University) recently revived an earlier proposal by J.J.M. Roberts, who proposed an otherwise unattested Hebrew verb כרי (kari) meaning “to become short/shriveled” on the basis of similar words found in Akkadian and Syriac. Barré concurs that not only did such a verb exist, but that כארו (ka’aru) would be a valid alternative spelling in late Hebrew.
Barré marshals additional evidence from Babylonian medical texts as well a Dead Sea Scroll (1QH) that contains similar language to Psalm 22. He concludes that the psalmist means to say his arms and legs are paralyzed and unable to move.
He proposes that the problem is compounded by a misunderstanding of the following line, “I can count every one of my bones”—a statement that is difficult to explain in context. The Syriac translation reads “all my bones have wailed”, and Barré concludes that the Hebrew verb in this line was corrupted at some point. He interprets this line, properly corrected, to express a lament on behalf of the psalmist’s impending death: “All my bones have intoned my funeral dirge.” He cites further parallels with Babylonian texts and shows how this makes greater sense of the overall psalm: the psalmist is surrounded by attackers, unable to defend himself (with his hands) or run away (with his feet), so he is bemoaning his impending death.
The advantage of this view is that is based on a known variant (ka’aru) and makes more sense of the passage than any other interpretation I have seen. The disadvantages are its need to propose an unattested verb and to emend the following line.
• J. J. M. Roberts, “A New Root for an Old Crux, Ps. XXII 17c,” Vetus Testamentum 23/2 (1973)
• Michael L. Barré, “The Crux of Psalm 22:17c: Solved at Long Last?” Bernard F. Batto et al. (eds.), David and Zion; Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, Ind. (2004)
“To pick/pluck” — Two earlier scholars, R. Tournay and M. Dahood, argued that the word was derived from ארה (’arah, “to pick, pluck”) with a preposition attached. In other words, the psalmist’s body has been “picked clean” by the “dogs” who encircle him, exposing his bones. More recently, James Linville has taken up the case, arguing not only that this is the correct reading, but also that the author has chosen a word that sounds like “lion” in Hebrew as a deliberate pun, since lions and other wild animals are mentioned elsewhere.
Source: James R. Linville, “Psalm 22:17b: A New Guess”, JBL 124/4 (2005)
The “Lion” Reading Reconsidered
A few scholars have also recently lent support for the MT’s reading of “like a lion”. Brent A. Strawn has analyzed the chiastic structure of Psalm 22 and believes that a reference to a lion in v. 16 fits well. He proposes the addition of a missing verb, טרף (taraf), meaning “to tear”.
Kristin M. Swenson believes v. 16, which is currently divided into three phrases, should be a bicolon (two-part verse). Putting the divider in its correct location produces the following text:
Dogs surround me, a pack of wicked ones. Like a lion, they circumscribe my hands and feet.
• Brent A. Strawn, “Psalm 22:17b: More Guessing”, JBL 119/3 (2000)
• Kristin M. Swenson, “Psalm 22:17: Circling around the Problem Again”, JBL 123/4 (2004)
Consensus amidst Discord
These examples are just a few of the ways in which scholars reconstruct Psalm 22:17 in order to make sense of it. While there is no consensus as to what the original reading was—and barring a new manuscript find, there may never be one—a few general observations can be drawn.
- Most, though not all, critical scholars believe the majority Masoretic text is defective on syntactic grounds and probably not original.
- There is widespread agreement among critical scholars (including all those surveyed here) that Psalm 22 is not a depiction of crucifixion, and that the Septuagint’s translation of “dig” is incorrect. It is best explained as a misunderstanding of the word כארו, which may or not have been the original Hebrew reading.
- Most solutions require emending the passage, and this must be done in a way that is sensitive to the passage’s poetic structure and the meaning of v. 16 in its larger context.
English Translations of Psalm 22
Historically, most Christian, church-oriented translations of Psalm 22 have deviated from the Masoretic text in this verse, preferring instead a christological interpretation inspired by the Septuagint.
KJV: For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
RSV: Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet—
NASB: For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet.
Recently, more ecumenical and academically-oriented translations have approached passages like Ps 22:16 with a clean slate. The NRSV, for example, adopts Roberts’ interpretation as the best one while stating in a footnote that the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain:
For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled;
The Jerusalem Bible gives more weight to the witness of Jerome, Aquila, and Symmachus:
A pack of dogs surrounds me, a gang of villains closes me in; they tie me hand and foot…
The recently completed Common English Bible (CEB) adheres to the majority Hebrew:
Dogs surround me; a pack of evil people circle me like a lion—oh, my poor hands and feet!
What should we consider to be a correct translation versus an incorrect one, if we cannot confidently reconstruct and interpret the original Hebrew? In part, it comes down to the stated intent of the translation. If a translation claims to be based on the Hebrew Masoretic text, then “like a lion” is probably the best translation. If a translation’s goal is to provide a “best guess” at what the original author intended, then there are many scholarly reconstructions that would suffice, and explanatory footnotes are in order as well. I regard the latter three examples (the NRSV, JB, and CEB) all to be adequate translations, though they differ completely from each other.
Psalm 22:16 in the NIV
The NIV purports to be based on the Hebrew Masoretic Text, though its translators also consult other ancient versions in places where the MT “seems doubtful”:
For the Old Testament the standard Hebrew text, the Masoretic Text as published in the latest editions of Biblia Hebraica, has been used throughout. …The translators also consulted the more important early versions—the Greek Septuagint, Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion, the Latin Vulgate, the Syriac Peshitta, the Aramaic Targums, and for the Psalms the Juxta Hebraica of Jerome. …these versions were occasionally followed where the Masoretic Text seemed doubtful and where accepted principles of textual criticism showed that one or more of these textual witnesses appeared to provide the correct reading. …These departures from the Masoretic Text are also indicated in the textual footnotes. (Quotation from the preface of the NIV, 2011 edition.)
In Psalm 22:16, the NIV has not followed the standard Masoretic Text, even though Jewish translations and some English translations find it acceptable.
Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.
If the translators felt the MT was dubious, then fair enough. But did they choose in its place a textual witness that “appeared to provide the correct reading”, or did they simply acquiesce to Christian tradition and theological bias of what the verse should say?
Three of the sources they mention—Aquila, Symmachus, and Jerome—interpret the psalmists hands and feet as being “bound”, without any reference to crucifixion or piercing. The Aramaic Targum supports the Masoretic reading of “lion”. Even the Septuagint can only be vaguely construed as meaning “pierced”. I would say that the NIV, having abandoned the Hebrew text, has chosen the least viable of the alternative interpretations available.
The NIV redeems itself somewhat by including a footnote:
Dead Sea Scrolls and some manuscripts of the Masoretic Text, Septuagint and Syriac; most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text me, / like a lion.
This footnote is helpful but perhaps also a bit misleading.
- The “Dead Sea Scrolls” are generally taken to mean the scrolls found at Qumran, all dating from the centuries before the Jewish War. No such manuscript supports the NIV’s reading. Presumably, the Nahal Hever fragment is meant, but this dates to a later period and its reading is still inconclusive.
- It is a bit misleading to say that “some” MT manuscripts support this reading. In fact, it is only two manuscripts that say “dug” (not “pierced”). The reader is likely to infer better manuscript support than there actually is.
- The Septuagint says “dug”, not exactly “pierced”.
To its credit, the NIV footnote at least mentions the majority Hebrew reading.
I have been reluctant to add this verse to my list of bad translations, since the MT is problematic and there is genuine room for different interpretations. However, I think it falls short of being accurate and unbiased for all the reasons given above.
29 thoughts on “A Few Remarks on the Problem of Psalm 22:16”
Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.
Hi Paul. Great Blog. I have faith that you have studied my “Psalm 22:17, Hebrew Text, “Like A Lion”. Determining Who’s Original And Who’s Lion?” Thread at the old FRDB site. First, a few general observations:
1) Christian Authority is moving away from the “pierced” translation.
2) In Textual Criticism variation in editing is normally evidence of a decision not to accept what the evidence indicates is likely original, in this case, “like a lion”. Note here that the entire Christian history up to present consists of what the substitute should be for “like a lion”. Variation is due to not having a logical alternative with a minimum amount of evidence.
3) The Manuscript tradition is dominant for “like a lion”. The Masoretic tradition is completely different from the Christian Bible Manuscript tradition. We have the evidence to repeatedly convict the Christian tradition of deliberately editing for theological reasons. No such evidence exists for a likewise conviction of the Hebrew.
4) It’s clear that some Hebrew Manuscripts were Christian creations. Some of these may be the ones that lack “like a lion”.
I also have my new blog up http://thenewporphyry.blogspot.com/ The New Porphyry. Enjoy!
Hi Joe, nice to see you here. Those are all good points for treating “like a lion” as the standard Hebrew reading for basing Bible translations on, even if we doubt its originality on other grounds.
Paul, a few other general observations:
1) I do not see any other instance in the Psalms of what we would call a sentence, lacking a verb.
2) They are a few instances in the Jewish Bible where a verb is implied.
3) 2,000 years ago the Hebrew yod was longer making it less distinguishable from the vav and the 2nd century Jewish Greek translations sometimes confused the two.
4) In the Hebrew textual tradition the variation here is insignificant.
5) My guess is variation was started by Greek translations. Obviously any translation is forced to use a word that is different from the original language. Any non Hebrew version would have been unofficial and done by those less qualified than Hebrew scribes. Greek translators may have also noticed there was no verb and that the yod was similar to a vav and started guessing as to a Hebrew verb that was similar to “like a lion” and had a vav. None of the Greek guesses make any more sense than “like a lion” without a verb so this would help explain the variation in the Greek translations.
It’s still hard to imagine, though, where Aquila and Symmachus got the verb “to bind” from if the Hebrew reading has always been “like a lion”. I don’t think this will ever be resolved without additional manuscript discoveries.
A few other related resources:
My related Thread at the old FRDB:
Psalm 22:17, Hebrew Text, “Like A Lion”. Determining Who’s Original And Who’s Lion?
My focus is on denying the “pierced” translation.
The best and most detailed article I’ve seen on the subject:
Psalm 22 (LXX 21) and the Crucifixion of Jesus by Mark George Vitalis Hoffman (Dissertation)
He concludes that “like a lion” is clearly original. He also concludes that Symmachus had “like a lion” by speculating 3 mistranslated letters in the Syriac, 2 of which are quite similar.
Paul Tobin’s Psalm 22:16: A Prophecy of the Crucifixion?
Paul makes a number of astute observations regarding the Internal evidence:
1) “Lion” fits the theme very well
2) The second lion is needed for the animal chiastic structure
3) The overall tone of distress supports incomplete sentences
4) The theme is consistent as limited to threats. There is no inflicted physical damage from the enemies. The theme and ending is to save from physical harm.
Since “the more difficult variant is to be preferred” criterion can be used when deciding between two MT variants, why not also when deciding between the majority MT reading and textual variants? The assumption seems to be that there must be a Hebrew vorlage that has “pierced,” “dug,” or something other than “like a lion,” which the LXX and other manuscripts followed. “‘Like a lion’ doesn’t make sense” or some similar sentiment is often expressed when arguing for a non-MT variant. However, is it not at least as likely, perhaps more so, that, just as their modern counterparts do, ancient translators “corrected” the more “difficult” reading to one that has a verb? The NET Bible’s annotation of Psalm 22:16/17 provides a perfectly reasonable explanation for the MT translation:
If anything, the “it doesn’t make sense” argument validates the MT reading. Are we to believe that the Masoretes had before them a grammatically correct text and chose to change it to “like a lion”? It seems to me much more probable that the change went in the other direction. As I said to Dr. Instone-Brewer in the NIV article referenced above: It seems more likely that given the lion metaphor in vv. 13 and 21 (translated faithfully by the NIV)–“Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me” and “Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen–combined with the lack of NT citation and the fact that “like a lion” is the more “difficult” reading, the MT’s rendering is correct.
Here is what you say at the beginning of the NIV article:
Since you state that the NIV’s “translation” of Psalm 22:16/17 is inaccurate and biased, why would it not be added to your list of deliberate mistranslations?
There are certainly some scholars who think so, and I’ve tried to show that. If “lion” is original, then it seems to me that Swenson’s idea has merit. But there are also ways that transcription errors and other processes can produce a corrupt text.
Well, no. The general belief seems to be that if the Masoretes corrected the text to read כארי, it was because they couldn’t make sense of כארו. (And perhaps, also, they wanted Christians to stop interpreting it as כרו.)
I think that’s a valid position for a modern translation to take. Though I was surprised at how many newer translations prefer one of the alternate interpretations, “to bind” in particular.
Well, I had to do my homework first. 🙂 This article was the result, and I’ve added an entry to the list, at least for now.
john, you usually link to a linguist called leolie on the jehova witness forums , does loelie have a blog and does she still post at the jw forum?
[…] Davidson remarks on the problem of Psalm 22:16 and comments on the Canaanites, Amorites, and Hittites in history and the […]
The most important question regarding NIV’s translation of “pierced” is not what evidence NIV used but what evidence NIV should have used. Unfortunately, Textual Criticism in Bible studies has no standardized formal methodology. The best known Textual Critics such as Bruce Metzger (late) and Bart Ehrman use The Difficult Reading Principle (DRP) as their most important individual criterion. Under the DRP, the candidate for originality with a minimum amount of quality external support and who’s usage would either present a bigger problem or smaller solution for Christian assertions, is the more likely as to being original. Likewise, the definition of “minimum amount of quality external support” is subjective. Definition by the Textual Critic seems to be directly related to their level of Christian belief (as we will see here). Near as I can tell, at one one extreme, a Skeptic might only require as few as 3 independent sources. A fundamentalist would require many more.
As far as I know, there is no example in Textual Criticism of the Christian Bible (when I say Christian Bible I mean the “New Testament”), where a majority of English translations for a specific word have no external support for that word in the underlying, original Greek. Some Textual Critics may still doubt for other reasons, but this is never enough for most translations to use a word that is not External anywhere in original Greek.
Specifically for NIV:
“” they pierce[a](B) my hands and my feet.
Psalm 22:16 Dead Sea Scrolls and some manuscripts of the Masoretic Text, Septuagint and Syriac; most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text me, / like a lion”
The most important Textual Criticism question here is what External support is there for “pierced” in the underlying Hebrew? The answer is none. There is no Hebrew word for “pierced” in the Dead Sea Scrolls here or any Masoretic text. There is also no “pierced” in Rabbinic commentary or Scribal comments (Masorahs).
Regarding the other part of the DRP, the problem/solution that a candidate causes/provides, that does not apply to Jewish Hebrew transmission because unlike Textual Criticism for the Christian Bible, there is no evidence that it ever was a factor for Hebrew transmission of the Jewish Bible. However, regarding Christian selection of English translations, it very much applies but goes against “pierced”. If one accepts/thinks that there is a minimum amount of quality external evidence against “like a lion” as original, than under the DRP “pierced” is more likely not to be the original since that would be an important proof-text for Christianity.
Excellent point, Joe. Hence my conclusion that the NIV has chosen the least plausible translation choice for fairly transparent theological reasons.
I have my first version (kneads editing) of my related article up now:
manely discussing the likely last letter of the offending word at Nahal Hever.
My key points:
1) A vav would be contradicted by the superior Masoretic transmission text.
2) The meaning of the resulting Hebrew word with a vav would be unknown and this word is not found anywhere else.
3) Yods and vavs of the time were very similar and some exemplars of the time probably had identical yods and vavs.
4) The Nahal Hever fragment in general and specifically for this letter is very difficult to read.
These points make it likely that Nahal Hever intended a yod. Even if Nahal Hever intended a vav there is a reasonable explanation of mistaking a vav for a yod and thus Nahal Hever would not be strong evidence against “like a lion”.
One more thing, regarding anyone saying for instance that the NIV use of “pierced” is “dishonest”, the situation may be that the committee as a whole is primarily relying on only a few or even just one member of the committee that they consider to be an expert in Biblical Hebrew for this type of decision. Thus if a majority of the Committee accepts “pierced” based on someone else or others on the Committee they think is an authority and they consider themselves a lesser authority, that’s not being dishonest.
Please see my article on this question:
It’s normal for David to write about “digging” (Karu) into body parts.
David’s very frequent and only style of writing the word “lion” in Hebrew is “Aryeh”, not “Ari”.
Based on the author’s style of writing, he meant Karu (they gouged), not Kari (like a lion).
For all uses of “dug” (karu) in Psalms to see what I mean, click here:
For all possible uses of “lion” (Ari or Aryeh) in Psalms, click here:
Read my essay, get informed, and don’t let them tell you otherwise.
Thanks for the comment, Raccko.
Karah appears five other times in the Psalms. Four of those refer to digging pits. The fifth (Ps 40.6) is an obscure expression that is usually translated as opening or fashioning ears (and the LXX reads quite differently). None of these five instances is about piercing or “digging into” body parts in the destructive sense implied in Ps. 22:16, so to say it is “normal” is a misrepresentation of the facts. You have not established any “style of writing” that makes the case for karu.
Taking a broader look at the Hebrew corpus, the word is used to mean “dig a pit” 15 times, and “pierce a body part” part 0 times.
Contextually, it makes little sense either. Why would a pack of villains pierce the author’s hands and feet? How would that make him see all his bones? Etc.
It also fails to explain the other manuscript traditions — Aquila, Symmachus, Jerome, the Targums, etc. A good explanation should address all these issues.
I surveyed all recent scholarly literature I could find on the subject, so I believe I am adequately informed.
Strong contextual evidence here of the concept of piercing:
[quote]12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water,
16 [b]For [/b]dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: [u]they pierced [/u][?]my arms and my feet.
20 Deliver my soul from the sword
21 Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.[/quote]
Bulls attack by piercing with horns
Attack of a lion and a “lion’s mouth” uses pointy teeth for piercing.
Being poured out happens to a person after getting pierced.
If the text says that the enemies “encompass and surround” him, do the Hebrew verbs potentially mean “bind”? (Someone earlier on the thread showed a picture of a lion being tied up.)
A sword attacks by piercing.
Horns of unicorns attack by piercing.
there is a lot of lion and bulls going on in the authors imagination, but he never says that he is being ripped apart. since he is describing a smothering ,WHY didn’t he say that he is being ripped apart?
he is not describing a smothering, i made a mistake, he is asking to be saved from danger.
I’ve asked elsewhere and no one has been able to point one ut for me – is there a literal translation of the earliest versions of the OT that translates the character’s names to show the mythic quality of them, admits that the meanings of many words are not known (and doesn’t pretend to know them) and uses real words in place of euphemisms?
I’ve never heard of a translation like that. Some will do the opposite and leave the various names of God untranslated (e.g. the Jerusalem Bible).
Almost all the original meanings of the names are relatively straightforward to BH readers. While theophoric names (Shmu’el, Yishma’el, etc.) are trivially so, some names, like Ya’aqov, admit of a couple of hypotheses, and there can be some disagreement about which is the more likely. Everett Fox’s Bible translation often comes close to what you want.
The entire discussion around that final vav in the word “kaaru” “כארו” as it (seems to) appear in the Nahal Hever fragment 5/6 HevPsa would be kind of humorous if it wasn’t so widely publicized. The bottom line is this: when they wrote the scrolls the vav and the yod were interchangeable. Take a close look at the fragment and you will see 3 more cases where a final vav appears instead of a final yod. In other words, this is no mistake, this is perfectly normal scribal practice from 2000 years ago.
Here’s a video I recently did on the subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MImJI68_-Po&t=6s
Interesting. That would lend even less weight to “kaaru” as a valid reading then.
Actually it would give zero weight to “kaaru” as a valid reading.
What’s even more serious though is how this is parlayed about as fact and as “proof” that “the rabbis” purposely changed the text. It should call into question the scholarship of those who teach “kaaru” as “pierced” on one hand and that of those who say “kaaru” is simply a mistake on the other. In all honesty, we tend not to be too inquisitive about these things. That, I believe, should change. It is borderline criminal to accept these teachings without investigating for ourselves and “kaaru” is just one example why.
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Mr. Feigenbaum, how has your view been received by scholars of the Hebrew Bible?
Hi John. Thanks for your question.
For starters this “view” is not my personal view rather it is accepted and proven. The vav and yod at the time were interchangeable. Professor Emmanuel Tov, one of the, if not the foremost experts on the scrolls writes:
As for interchanges of letters, in the period covered by the Judean Desert texts, the two graphically closest letters are yod and waw, and consequently the largest number of mistakes is made with these letters. In several scrolls, such as 11QPsa, there is almost no distinction between these two letters; furthermore, in that scroll ligatures of >ayin–waw (e.g. col. XXVIII 4 bgw[), >ayin–zayin (XVI 14 zwz[w), and >ayin–yod (XXVIII 3 ry[xw) are not distinguishable – (_Scribal practices and approaches reflected in the texts found in the Judean desert_)
Furthermore, in addition to the scrolls, this phenomenon exhibits itself in engravings of the time.
Now to your question about scholars of the Hebrew Bible. If you are talking about theologians then I can state that the Rabbis that I’ve been in contact with have abandoned the “it’s a mistake” argument altogether. All-in-all when presented with the evidence the kaaru = pierced argument falls to pieces.
Hope this answers your question.
Thank you for your reply, Yosi. You said, “Furthermore, in addition to the scrolls, this phenomenon exhibits itself in engravings of the time.” Can you give us some examples? Thank you.
Sure John! This one comes to mind because ir was recenrly put on display. Note in the last line how Jerusalem (m’Yerushalaim – מירושלים) is spelled with a vav-like yod (מורושלים)
A verb with the three consonants (ka’ar) does not show up in the lexicons of biblical Hebrew. Some, however, have suggested that the root is (kur) and that it was written in an archaic form with aleph instead of with vav. We actually do have examples of verbs with middle vav being spelled with aleph. For instance, the verb (kum) “to get up” is spelled with aleph in Hosea 10:14, Daniel 2:13; 3:3; 7:16, and the word (rum) “to be high above” is likewise spelled with aleph in Zechariah 14:10. So there is at least a reasonable possibility that an original verb spelled (kur) was written with aleph, i.e., (ka’ar).
That Yeshua referenced this Psalm while on the execution stake (Matt 27:46; Mk 15:34) must indicate that He saw Himself as fulfilling its prophetic purpose. Quoting the opening lines was like naming the Psalm’s title. And when He declared, “it is finished,” He paralleled the Psalm’s ending: “He has done it.”