by Bruce James (Baruch Gershom)
In an old Jews for Jesus brochure I saved from my college days, there is a section that quotes several Biblical verses which they say foretell the life of Christ. One of these is Psalms 22:16, which they translate as “They pierced my hands and feet.” This supposedly foretells the crucifixion of Jesus where his hands and feet were pierced by the nails that hung him to the cross. One problem, it doesn’t work in Hebrew.
The Psalm describes the angst of the psalmist (I think David) who is surrounded by enemies and asks why G-d has forsaken him. Psalms 22:16, which in Hebrew says “k’ari b’yadai v’raglai” (“Like a lion (the enemies) are at my hands and feet”). The disputed word here is “k’ari” which is spelled kaph – aleph – resh – yud. Most graduates of a Hebrew school education know that an ari is a lion, and that the use of the letter “kaph” before a word means “like” or “as.” The Christians appear to have invented a new Hebrew word which they pronounce “koari” yet no such word exists in Hebrew with the same spelling. There is a similar sounding word to koari that is used to mean to dig, or perhaps bore (as in a hole), although there are better words for that. But the spelling is much different. In “koari” there is no letter aleph as there is in the word k’ari and no grammatical reason for dropping it.
D. Psalm 110 — One Lord or Two?
In Matthew 22:41-44, there is a reported conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees concerning the genealogy of the Messiah. The Pharisees said that the Messiah will be the son of David, and Jesus reportedly counted: “‘How then does David in the spirit call him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool”? If David then called him Lord, how is he his son?’ And no one was able to answer him a word, neither did any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.” This conversation could not have happened! Matthew is referring to Psalm 110:1, and is based on a clear mistranslation. The first “Lord” in the sentence is properly capitalized because it uses the four-letter Hebrew name for G-d, the Yud kay vav kay. We would pronounce that in prayer as “Adonai,” which means Lord and only applies to G-d. The second “Lord” is improperly capitalized because the Hebrew word used at that point is “adoni” which means “my lord” and only refers to a human. So Psalms 110:1 should read: “The Lord said unto my lord, sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” So who is the second and lower-cased “lord”? King David. This psalm begins “LeDavid Mizmor” (A song to David as opposed to by David). Accordingly, the song is written for David and makes him the subject of the first sentence. With that knowledge, the rest of the psalm makes perfect sense, G-d is giving much needed comfort to the King of Israel. Alternatively, it can be understood as a psalm written by David to be sung by the Levite choir praising him after his death.
Certainly any Pharisee would have known the meaning of Psalm 110 and would not have been confused by “Adonai” versus “adoni”. It is not so clear that a Greek-educated story teller with little or no Jewish training, and a Christian axe to grind, would have been so knowledgeable. The story in Matthew then must be made up and judged self-serving.
Yet despite the obvious mistranslation, Psalms 110:1, continues to be misused by missionaries to prove that the Messiah sits at G-d’s right hand and is like G-d. Judaism, however, believes that the Messiah is a human being, not a god.
These are the basics.