Governing the Modern Day Congregation
Cake, Fruit, and the Limits of Reason

So There was this Lutheran Evangelical, and he Approaches this Rabbi

so as to SAVE him. Only, he doesn't know he's wearing a big "kick me" sign on his behind. No sooner does he finish his pitch and the rabbi does kick him. Hard! HA!!

[Okay, okay, Tom Sheepandgoats, don't gloat. Stop it!. The rabbi doesn't like you any more than him, most likely. Maybe he'll try to kick you, too. Well....maybe, but at least I have one saving grace. I'm using a decent Bible translation.]

Dear Rabbi [Tovia Singer, who runs Outreach Judaism, and responds to issues raised by "missionaries, cults, and Jew for Jesus."]:

".......I admire your commitment to your faith." [Roll eyes. Does he also admire the Pope's committment to his faith. Sheesh! When you're writing a someone like the rabbi, you don't lead off with patronizing twaddle about admiration. If you truly admire him, the tone of your letter will show it.]

Brackets mine, by the way.

yet I am perplexed as to why you so assuredly reject Jesus Christ as your messiah. [Not the Messiah, but your Messiah. What, is he trying to get this fellow mad? Not that I disagree with the "your," necessarily, but you have to know your audience. Even Jesus' disciples referred to him as the Messiah. (John 1:41) Do these modern day evangelicals simply love him more than the original twelve?]

He came not only for the gentiles, but for the Jews as well. He was born to a Jewish mother and came to the Jewish people. [Perhaps the rabbi has never heard this.]

[Wait a minute....haven't church Christians treated Jews abominably through the centuries? Better defuse that one. Shouldn't be a problem:]

"I know that the Jews have been maligned and persecuted by so-called Christians. This has certainly left a bad taste in the mouths of the Jewish people against Christ; but certainly you must know, rabbi, that these were not real Christians, for a believer in Christ must love the Jew, for his Savior is a Jew....The true Christian loves the Jewish people." [There! Done! Easy as Pie! Hundreds of years of persecution out of the way! Now, on to business:]

"You surely have read the 22nd Psalm which most clearly speaks of our Lord’s crucifixion. Read verse 16. [Do it, rabbi. NOW!] It states, “Dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked has enclosed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.” Of whom does the prophet speak other than our Lord? This Old Testament prophecy could only be foretelling Jesus’ unique death on the cross. What greater proof is needed that Jesus died for the sins of mankind than this chapter which was written a thousand years before Jesus walked this earth?"

I'll concede I'm being somewhat hard on this Lutheran fellow. He's certainly sincere enough But these guys come after us all the time, too, set to save us. Positively cooing love, until you refute them, and then you're likely to catch a hellfire backhand. Well....if you're going to pull stuff like this on the rabbi (and us), you'd better have your ducks lined up. As it turns out, this fellow's ducks are waddling all over the place, and the rabbi calls him on it.

His verse is fraudulent translating, the rabbi replies. It does not read in Hebrew "they pierced my hands and my feet." It reads "like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet." The Hebrew word is kaari. It means "like a lion." It does not mean "pierced." Furthermore, this is no accident of translating, the rabbi goes on to assert. It is deliberate. Other places in the Old Testament, such as Isaiah 38:13, the Hebrew work kaari is translated "like a lion," as it should be. Only at Psalm 22:16 (some translations have it vs 17) is it "pierced." a word that, in this setting, just sounds so much better for religionist church translators! Never mind that there actually are Hebrew words that mean pierced - words that are not used in the verse. No, we'll just change the word kaari so as to support an image we like!

Well.....honest mistake, reply some churchy types that know of the switch. You see, they explain, those early church translators mistook kaari for kaaru.....it's only one letter off, and kaaru means "pierced." They probably suppose Jesus maneuvered matters this way. The only trouble, says the rabbi.....is that there is no kaaru. No such word. Or, at least, not until those religionists coined it to justify their mistranslation.

Now, I didn't know any of this. I checked various translations, some in my own library and some on the internet. The website BibleGateway.com has a feature by which one may compare different translations. I refer to it a lot. Out of the 18 English translations listed, none have "like a lion" at vs 16. They all say "pierced" or (in two cases) phrases that mean pierced.

StudyLight.org makes 37 complete English translations (there is some overlap with BibleGateway) available for comparison. Only four say "like a lion." The Easy to Read Version, trying to please everybody, I guess, uses both: Like a lion, {they have pierced} my hands and my feet." [are lions known to pierce hands and feet?]

Four translations out of fifty! So I look up the verse in the New World Translation, the one used by Jehovah's Witnesses:

For dogs have surrounded me; The assembly of evildoers themselves have enclosed me. Like a lion [they are at] my hands and my feet.

The NWT gets it right, one of only a handful of translations to do so! Since the other accurate translations are all somewhat obscure - not well known - for all practical purposes, the NWT is the only accurate one available. Moreover, in translating the word kaari accurately, the NWT works "against" its translators own interests, since we also believe the Christ is foretold in various psalms, including the 22nd. We'd love it to say "pierced," too. but it doesn't. No fair stacking the deck. Accuracy in translating comes first. The Foreword of the New World Translation says, in part: The translators of this work, who fear and love the Divine Author of the Holy Scriptures, feel toward Him a special responsibility to transmit his thoughts and declarations as accurately as possible. They ought to cite Ps 22:16 as a case in point, for here they ignore a rendering they must instinctively agree with doctrinally, because the original Hebrew word does not allow it!

I've seen how born-again Bibles alter the New Testament, trying to sneak their Trinity doctrine in, but I've not seen it before with the Old Testament. Moreover, I am so sick and tired of these know-nothings, buttressed only by the opinions of ones who think like them, shouting that the NWT is a shoddy translation. And maligning it's authors, making much of the fact they haven't gone to their seminaries, in striking similarity to how religious leaders of Jesus' day sneered at the first century Christians (and even Jesus himself):

Now when they beheld the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were men unlettered and ordinary, they got to wondering. And they began to recognize about them that they used to be with Jesus.  (Acts 4:13)

Therefore the Jews fell to wondering, saying: “How does this man have a knowledge of letters, when he has not studied at the schools?  (John 7:15)

There was some trial somewhere, decades ago...you see it all over the internet.... in which Fred Franz is asked to translate an English phrase into Hebrew and he replies "I won't attempt to do that." This means, say his detractors, that he doesn't know Hebrew at all, and yet he chaired the NWT translating committee! Does he even know Pig Latin? But all sneering aside, the New World Translation got Ps 22:16 right, when virtually nobody else did. Everyone else repeats uncritically (they surely by now have had opportunity to correct matters) the faulty King James rendering! Rather, they vigorously defend it. Possibly, one might (gingerly) allow that the verse, in Hebrew, is homonymic. Alas, such wordplay, along with poetic devices as alliteration, rhyme, onomatopoeia, and so forth, is not translatable. Even if you were to attempt it, you still need a good dose of "translator privilege" to derive pierced. Not to be lost sight of is the fact that this verse is not cited as messianic in the New Testament although several other Ps 22 verses are. In the end, responsible translating demands you translate only what is actually there. (in a footnote, the NWT Large Print with References includes two alternate readings: Biting like a lion my hand and my feet (Targum) and They bored (dug through) my hands and my feet. (Septuagint, Vulgate))

.............................................

By the way, the rabbi's not buying into this "love the Jews" slogan, either [his word]. Doesn't this Lutheran character know of Luther's reputation? "Among all the church fathers and reformers, there was no mouth more vile, no lips that uttered more vulgar curses against the children of Israel than this founder of the Reformation whom you apparently revere. Even the anti-Semitism of the New Testament and the church fathers pales in comparison to the invectives launched by Luther’s impious tongue during his lifetime.....Have you not read his odious volume entitled 'Of the Jews and Their Lies'?"

"Although evangelicals repeatedly declare that true believing Christians love the Jewish people, the annals of history clearly do not support this slogan. With few exceptions, the tormentors of the Jewish people emerged out of the fundamentalist genre of Christianity. Remarkably, denominations that evangelical Christians regard as heretical, such as Mormonism or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, do not have a strong history of anti-Semitism."

[It's true. Didn't I go to bat for Dov Hikind when everyone else wanted his head on a platter?]

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And while we're at it, the rabbi also takes a swipe at Trinitarianism, which he wrongly equates with Christianity. Psalm 22 opens with "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" If these words are to be attributed to a Trinitarian Jesus on the cross, asks the rabbi, (Matt 27:46) can it really be that God has forsaken himself? This is the sort of nonsense you have to buy into repeatedly when you accept the Trinity doctrine. It's nonsense that clears up instantly once you appreciate that Jesus and his Father are two separate beings, just like any other son and father we can imagine. Indeed, that's why the Bible uses that bit of personification - in order to highlight the intense closeness and absolute harmony existing between them, while all the time making clear they are separate beings.

Comments

hugenoggin

Just wanted to say I enjoyed the article. What I find interesting is the ease in which the Rabbi proves his point- not by even quoting scripture, but simply by referencing historical facts and using common sense. It is true that, "by their fruits you will recognize them." In one paragraph the Rabbi not only identifies falsehoods of christendom, but in the same breath recognized Jehovah's people by their 'fruits'. Great article. Take care.

Mike.e

Hey Tom, I think you might be jumping the gun on this one. While the NWT isn't necessarily wrong in their translation choice, I would be much more hesitant in accusing all of these other translations in the way that you have.

The reason being, there are various principles that textual critics must hold to if they are to have a consistent basis in which they choose which variants contain the best reading. If we are going to go with the raw data and never consider whether a particular reading makes grammatical, semantical, or contextual sense, then we would be left with some very interesting cases. And in this case, we aren't necessarily dealing with a word as much as we are a vowel point.

Here's just one example of many. As you mentioned, the difference is between "karu" and "kari." And if you are going to be consistent in your defense of the NWT in sticking to the "raw" MT, then you are going to run into some issues:

Compare the "raw" MS of Isaiah 7:11,

"Ask for a sign for yourself from YHWH your God; make the request deep, or exalt it on high."

with the NWT:

"Ask for yourself a sign from Jehovah your God, making it as deep as Sheol or making it as high as the upper regions."

Why is it that the NWT adds Sheol when its not in the Hebrew? The footnote in the NWT reference edition explains:

"As Sheol" by a slight change in vowel pointing as suggested in BHK and BHS ftns and in agreement with AqSymVG; M(Heb.), she'a'lah, 'do ask.'

So basically, since the change in the vowel from simply "deep" to "sheol" makes more contextual sense, and because of the testimony of non-Hebrew texts, the later reading is chosen. In other words, the NWT didn't stick to the Hebrew on this one.

But why did they do this here, but not in 22:16?

In 22:16, the situation is almost exactly the same. We have the Hebrew reading one way, and the non-Hebrew texts reading another way. And even in this case, the LXX has chosen (a JEWISH source, by the way) to translate it as "pierced." So are those JEWISH translators guilty of theological bias in their translation?

The point being, most bibles have chosen to choose "pierced" (though I think "gouged" would be a better translation choice) because of the context and the testimony of the non-Hebrew witnesses. After all, why would the LXX (which is earlier than the MT) translate it as "pierced" if the Hebrew at the time was "lion?" Could this be a result of scribal emendation? The evidence points to yes, especially given a very very important piece of evidence that you didn't seem to mention: the dead sea scrolls (which predate the MT), which in Psalm 22:16 uses "Karu."

But even if we grant the MT on this one, there are still some grammatical issues. The MT uses a singular noun, "like a lion," instead of the plural, "like lions." The problem is, singular nouns (lion) do not modify plural/dual nouns (hands, feet). Thus, the MT should have read, "like lions are my hands and feet." But what does this even mean? The answer is, its non-sensical and the NWT were forced to add in brackets [they are at] even though there is no grammatical basis for doing so. Of course, translators have to do this from time to time, but I believe this is largely unnecessary due to the facts presented above.

Here's a few links I found that addresses the issue in much more depth:

https://kata-christon.blogspot.com/2006/11/psalm-2216-56hevps-they-pierced-my.html

https://www.torahresource.com/EnglishArticles/Ps22.16.pdf

tom sheepandgoats

HN: It was a powerful letter that rabbi wrote, wasn't it? Thanks.

Mike.e

I'm impressed that the NWT translators were willing to go against their own religious bias to stay true to the text. They would have loved to translate it "pierced," no doubt, because that makes for a slam-dunk prophesy fulfillment, entirely in harmony with our beliefs. But it seemed less supportable textually than did "like a lion," so they passed.

I did not "accuse" those translators who choose to render kaari as "pierced" (though the rabbi certainly did!) Rather, I pointed out that theirs was aggressive translating, playing on Hebrew near-homonyms, which may be suggestive in the Hebrew, but cannot be translated into the English (or any other language). You yourself state that "gouged" seems a better choice than "pierced." If so, why has no translator chosen "gouged"? (save perhaps two or three) Almost to the man, they chose "pierced." Surely the answer must be that "pierced" agrees with their pre-existing religious bias. It agrees with OURS, too, yet we passed on that rendering since it seems less supportable textually than other choices.

Furthermore, similar to your "gouged," the NWT (LPwR) in footnote HAS offered "bored" and "dug through", as found in LXX, for comparison.

Why does the NWT favor the MT for Hebrew when extant LXX manuscripts are older, as you point out? The following is pure guesswork on my part; I really don't know, but I suspect the translators are impressed with Paul's words at Romans 3:1-2: "What, then, is the superiority of the Jew, or what is the benefit of the circumcision? ... they were entrusted with the sacred pronouncements of God." Jewish scribes have been meticulous through centuries in preserving their sacred texts. Christian translators on the other hand, while certainly not sloppy, have been more prone to let changing doctrinal views find expression in their translating itself - as an example, various alterations have appeared over the years in support of the Trinity, which in recent times have been (often, not always) weeded out, the most striking example being 1 Jn 5:7. The LXX BEGINS as a Jewish source, but it is maintained and recopied over the years by those with Christian leanings, who are more apt than Jewish scribes to be susceptable to changing religious views. An example which we've previously discussed is use of the Divine Name. It appears in early LXX manuscripts. It is dropped in later LXX manuscripts.

https://tinyurl.com/yfcx99d

Essentially then, I suspect MT texts have stayed truer to the original writings than have LXX manuscripts; Hebrew scholars can be better entrusted with safeguarding the Old Testament, THEIR sacred scripures, than can the scholars of Christendom, who tend to regard the OT as secondary, merely setting the stage for the NT, and are ever wont to choose renderings that will make the OT most support the NT. If the NWT translators also share this view, that would account for their favoring the Masoritic Texts.

Mike.e

Hey Tom, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I'd to point out a few things with what you said.

"I pointed out that theirs was aggressive translating, playing on Hebrew near-homonyms, which may be suggestive in the Hebrew, but cannot be translated into the English."

I still am having a difficult time understanding why you feel this is the case when their reasons for translation are perfectly valid, though not preferable for your taste. I had mentioned Isaiah 7:11 because the NWT did almost exactly what all the other Bibles did with Psalm 22:17 in not sticking with the MT. Instead, they went with their best understanding of the context and used non-Hebrew texts instead.

As you may or may not know, the MT is full of "mistakes," whether they be missing words, letters, vowel points, or whatever. And in many of these cases, all we have to go on is the non-Hebrew texts, like the LXX, which give us a glimpse of what the MT might have said at the time. And if you choose to go with the raw MT, then you are going to have some very non-sensical readings. But this is what you seem to be commending the NWT for doing, but my example in Isaiah 7:11 (and I can cite others) that this is not always the case.

And it is very interesting that you bring up the divine name, because it seems to be going against what you are arguing. In the Christian Scriptures, we have absolutely not one shred of textual evidence that the divine name was used. That is, there are no Christian Greek manuscripts with the name.

If you claim to "stick with the manuscripts" as you seem to be commending the NWT for doing in the MT, regardless of whether the reading suits your theology or not, then why not do the same with the Christian Scriptures? In other words, you choose "Jehovah" over "kurios" not because of manuscript evidence, but because your theology and contextual readings indicate to you that the name MUST have been there.

Next, you mentioned the LXX, but not the reason for why the Jewish scribes would have translated it as "pierced." Were the LXX translators playing "aggressively" with the text? Were they inserting their theological bias in translating it as pierced? If "Karu" isn't an original MT reading, then it would seem very strange for a Jewish source to be translating the word as pierced.

Next, there are Bibles which translated "Karu" as other than "pierced." Just to name a few:

NCV- "bitten"
NLB- "cut through"
NRSV- "shriveled"
DRB- "dug"
BBE- "made wounds"
ISV- "gouged"
ABP- "dug"
NET- "pin"

Though I wouldn't say its wrong to translate it as "pierced" (which is just flat out going with the non-Hebrew texts), I think that "dig" or "gouged" is a better choice, and plenty of translations use these words.

As far as sticking with "lion" though what are your thoughts on how this is supposed to make any grammatical sense? I found one Bible that seems to bring out exactly how the text should read if one were to really go with the MT:

"For dogs have surrounded me; Bands of evil-doers have encompassed me, like lions my hands and my feet."

Even in this case, they translated "lions" as plural, when it should probably be singular. But how does this make any sense?

Last, you didn't commend on the dead sea scrolls, which contains the earliest reading of "karu." If this is indeed an early reading, then are you faulting all of these Bibles for using this Hebrew word?


tom sheepandgoats

I'm not sure we disagree all that much:

We both agree that "like a lion" is not wrong. We both agree that "pierced" is not optimal. And we both agree that "gouged" or the like is permissible. If we have different preferences for various reasons among those three, it does not change the fact that we agree on the three.

If a translator goes by the MT, it is "like a lion." If a translator goes by the LXX, it is "dug". So where does "pierced" come from? Only by stretching "dug." Should that be done? It's a judgment call, I guess. The majority of New Testament translations have done it. Perhaps I should not go so far as to call it flat out "wrong," or even "aggressive." But it is pushing the envelope.

Both sources you have linked to in your initial comment first offer "dug" or "bored" (from the LXX), and then, as if it were a synonym, "pierced." Your second source, the one by Tim Hegg, mentions "karah, which does mean “to dig” (and by inference) “to pierce.” " Thus, "and by inference" is how we arrive at "pierced" from "dug". Mr Hegg also states that when Jesus utters the words of Ps 22:1 (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?) he is making the entire psalm prophetic, and this seems to be the deciding factor in Hegg's accepting "pierced."

The New World, for whatever reason, sticks with the MT and offers "like a lion." Yet as stated in my post: "in a footnote, the NWT Large Print with References includes two alternate readings: Biting like a lion my hand and my feet (Targum) and They bored (dug through) my hands and my feet. (Septuagint, Vulgate)) Thus, the "bored" or "dug through" rendering is not ignored. It is offered as a valid alternative, even if not selected for the main text. How many Bibles do that? Certainly the "pierced" Bibles give no indication that theirs is not the most obvious rendering, even of the LXX.

As to comparing this with use of the Divine Name, the two situations are not really the same. You are right to capitalize MUST. The name MUST have been there since it IS found among contemporary LXX manuscripts that the NT writers would have used in translating. It was removed in later manuscripts, but the NT writers didn't refer to manuscripts produced after their deaths, did they? (we've already discussed this thoroughly in the appropriate post) At least ten separate fragments are offered for support in the NWT appendix (LPwR). In the case of Ps 22:16, we have the least likely definition assumed from one possible source, and though it is found among the Dead Sea scrolls, and thus far older than the MT, only one fragment is produced to support it.

I've already acknowleged, though, that inclusion of the name in the NT is "bold" translating. Until the name is actually found in extant NT manuscripts, I would think it cannot be regarded otherwise.

ChrisL

Re: ...inclusion of the name in the NT is "bold" translating...

Tom: I'm sure you know that the New King James Version uses upper case LORD in the Greek/NT? I think that is also "bold translating", especially for those who have long denied Jehovah's name belongs ANYWHERE in the Bible! It's particularly bold when you consider its use at Romans 10:13. So...how should that verse actually read? Very touchy for some NKJV readers!

I don't have a list of all the verses in front of me but I believe the NKJV uses that convention wherever a Greek/NT verse quotes a Hebrew/OT verse that contains the divine name (also as "LORD" of course). That being so, it's not quite so easy to claim JW bias for the divine name in the Greek/NT.

tom sheepandgoats

"I'm sure you know that the New King James Version uses upper case LORD in the Greek/NT?"

Actually, I did not know that, and it surprises me. But then, I don't know much about that translation. Got to check it out. Thanks for the alert.

ChrisL

Did a little Googling and it looks like some (many? most?) conservative churches HATE the NKJV, even calling it a fake and a counterfeit. Appears to be from KJV-or-nothing types. But it's not surprising since the NKJV exposes some of the translating issues they rely on to teach hellfire and the trinity. I guess it shows how shaky the ground is under those doctrines when they attack the NKJV for using Sheol, Gehenna and Hades instead of "hell".

I've had this kind of abuse in the field ministry over the NWT but I've never seen anyone direct this kind of venom at a Bible used by "mainstream" religions. To be consistent, then, would anyone claim that THOSE religions are now "cults" deceived by their Bibles?

It shows how dangerous it can be to insist on specific words rather than the meaning they are intended to convey.

tom sheepandgoats

And to think that all this time I supposed that the NKJV was simply a warmed over KJV, made a bit more up to date by dropping thee's, thou's and ye's! My interest is picqued. I've got to read the Foreword.

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