Ancient Aramaic, Bible Study, Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Languages, Christian Life, Create, Indwelling Spirit, Questions
Hello and welcome-or welcome back-to another week and another post on Renaissance Woman. This week I am going to venture down one of those side paths I did not go down during my Isaiah 45:7 study. This path presented itself during my study of the Hebrew word bara which is most often translated by the English word “create”.
While studying bara, I had had a video shared with me where the meaning of bara was given as “to fill”. I had found another video which expanded on that first one by pointing out that the Hebrew word bar meant “son” and thus bara not only meant “to fill” but also “to increase”. I can’t say any of this is wrong. The root of the English word “create” used to translate bara is kre and means “to grow”. Filling, increase, growth…all of these ideas are contained within the word bara. However, while none of this is wrong, perhaps it is incomplete.
Bar is the Aramaic word for “son”. The Hebrew word for “son” is ben. Bar in the Hebrew means “beloved, pure, empty, choice, clean, clear.” The root barar means “to clarify, brighten, examine, select, make bright, choice, chosen, cleanse (be clean), clearly, polished, pure, purify”. Bar is also used to mean “field” or “grain, in the sense of winnowing”. All of these definitions are from the Strong’s concordance where I also find an entry for bar defining it as “borrowed from the Chaldean as a title, the heir, son, grandson”. The Strong’s then says bar corresponds to ben: son.
The Young’s concordance concurs. Both concordances show several different Hebrew words used throughout the Old Testament all translated as “son”. Ben is used most often and there are pages of scriptures associated with that word. Bar is also translated “son” in a few different passages. But then, bar is also translated as “pure” and “clean” in other passages (See Psalm 19:8, 24:4, 73:1, Proverbs 14:4).
All of this might just be a matter of interest in studying the Hebrew language if it weren’t for Psalm 2:12. The King James Version has it as: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” The Hebrew word translated “Son” in this passage is bar. What interests me is that the English word “son” also appears in verse 7 of this Psalm: “…Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.” In verse 7, the Hebrew word is ben. I wondered to myself, why are the different Hebrew words translated with the same English word? The Strong’s Concordance answers this question by telling me in this passage bar is “Son” in the sense of a title. I checked and didn’t find anything in any of my reference books or any other Bible translation that suggested bar in this passage could or should be translated as anything but “Son”.
I looked up this passage in every Bible translation I have access to and didn’t find much variation. The Young’s Literal has “Chosen One” in place of “son” and the New English Bible has “king” but the majority of the other translations all have “Son”. Only two translations had footnotes associated with this passage that suggested there might be more to the standard interpretation. One is The Complete Jewish Study Bible which states, “Regarding this verse, the Targum says, ‘Those who reject his instruction will incur his anger and perish but blessed are those who trust in his Word’.” The second footnote appears in The Passion Translation which states, “Or ‘be ruled by the Son”. The Hebrew word for ‘kiss’ is nashaq and can also mean ‘to be ruled by’ or ‘be in subjection to’ (the Son). Yet another possible translation of this difficult verse is ‘be armed with purity’.”
I found other glimmers of possibility. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon did have “kiss purely, of sincere homage” under the entry for bar but none of this was enough for me to question how this verse has been translated. And I did want to question it because the verse bothers me.
“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way when his wrath is kindled but a little.” Every resource I have access to are in agreement this is a messianic Psalm and thus I have to ask myself whether this passage is an accurate reflection of the Jesus I read about in the gospels. That Jesus came to save the lost, received and ate with sinners, and wept over Jerusalem. He washed filthy feet and died on a cross. Am I to expect that if I don’t kiss or show proper homage to that Jesus, He’s going to get angry with me and I’ll be left to perish? That seems to be what this passage is saying and ending the Psalm with “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him” doesn’t really soften that blow. Still, I couldn’t find anything that suggested there was any other possible interpretation for this passage and, since I agree with those who are saying we can’t make the Bible say whatever we want, I put all my discomfort with this passage firmly with the Holy Spirit and waited for what He would say.
I waited a while. I did shift my focus from studying Isaiah 45:7 but my questions about this passage percolated in the back of my mind. Then came the day when I happened to pick a Hebrew word study book off my shelves and found the last two studies in it were devoted to Psalm 2. The book is Hebrew Word Study: Exploring the Mind of God by Chaim Bentorah with Laura Bertone and I ask you to imagine my surprise when I read someone else asking the same question I had asked. Mr. Bentorah writes, “In Hebrew, the word for “sin” is ben (בן). Only in Aramaic is the word bar (בר )used as son. This passage was written in Hebrew, so why suddenly insert an Aramaic word?” (Bentorah, 248). My question exactly, Mr. Bentorah!
He goes on to say that there is a basis for using the word “Son” and capitalizing it to imply a reference to Jesus. Mr. Bentorah says that, because Jewish tradition teaches this psalm in a messianic context, Christians do have a legitimate basis for assuming the word bar is “Son” with a capital S and implying we are to kiss the Son of God-Jesus. But then, he goes on to say, “I’m okay with this interpretation, except the idea that Jesus will become angry with us and we will perish if we don’t kiss Him is a little unnerving to me. Out salvation has nothing to do with “kissing” Jesus. Additionally, Jesus threatening us to submit to Him doesn’t fit His character” (Bentorah, 249).
Mr. Bentorah points out that rendering nashaq as “kiss” is a later, postexilic use of the word and that nashaq, which is derived from an old Akkadian word, signifies a voluntary joining together or a desire to be joined together. He also points out that if the New Testament attributes Psalm 2 to David (which does seem to be the case in Acts 2:24-26), then rendering the word nashaq as “kiss” postdated David’s time and we ought then revert to the original meaning of the word which is a voluntary joining together. If we also use the Hebrew meaning for bar which is “purity” rather than translating it by the Aramaic “son”, then command in this passage becomes to embrace or desire purity in our relationship with God. Mr. Bentorah goes through the other words in this passage questioning why ‘aneph is translated “anger” and “wrath” instead of “passion”.
Mr. Bentorah closes his study with: “By saying that ‘aneph ( אנף) does not refer to anger or wrath but rather to God’s passionate love for us, I know I am trying to put a positive spin on something that is traditionally read in a negative context. That may be the case” (Bentorah, 252).
As I said before, every Bible translation is consistent in the interpretation of this scripture. I am not saying Mr. Bentorah is correct and everyone else is wrong and Mr. Bentorah isn’t saying that either. What he is saying is that there is valid reason to take a deeper look at this passage, the ancient language it was written in, and to question the interpretation. It’s okay to ask questions.
There was a recent post on a Biblical Archeology forum I follow that said the Bible had to be taken “as is”. It is difficult to glean just what exactly someone means by a one sentence post so I can only speak to what I thought when I read it. I hear Believers declare the Bible is the inerrant word of God. This is said as if it’s the arguments to end all arguments. The Bible means exactly what it says and the idea of questioning what’s written there is unthinkable. Besides, the very act of questioning means you don’t have any faith and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). I don’t agree. I’ve found my questions about scripture passages are an invitation from the Living God to enter deeper into relationship with Him.
I love my Bible. Reading it used to be a chore, a box I would tick to prove I’d done my Christian duty for the day. Reading it was a chore because I’d finish with this sense of unease that my life was not quite measuring up to the standard set down combined with the certainty it never would. It’s a great irony that, the closer I have drawn to Jesus and the Father through the Spirit, the more questions I have and the more I delight to read the Bible. One of the greatest privileges of my life is being able to possess as many copies of it as I like. And yet, I also never lose sight of the fact that what I possess is a translation. The translators have done the best they could whether they sought to produce a literal translation or express what they thought the ancient languages were saying. I agree the Bible is the inerrant word of God because the One who inspired it is inerrant and any interpretation of it is inerrant if the Holy Spirit is the One doing the interpreting.
There is no relationship on earth that is formed without asking questions and I have not found my relationship to the God who loves me to be any different. The Bible is a crucial way of getting to know Him. When I have a difficult passage I present it to Him. “This passage says this,” I say. “Is this truly who You are? Show me. Help me to know You.” I have found our God is delighted to answer my questions and draw me closer to Himself. Does He answer everything at once in the way I expect? No. Sometimes His answers have been years in the receiving and I have found He had to teach me other things before I could understand His answer. Doesn’t stop me asking.
My precious fellow believers, Jesus Himself says, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39:40). The Life we live in Christ Jesus is one of relationship. His perfect love casts out all fear and I think that includes the fear of asking questions.
The Bible contains the promise of a day when we will know as we are known. So ask. Ask whatever you would. He is safe. He loves you. He will answer you.
inerrant meaning – Google Search
Two Competing Philosophies of Bible Translation | Patterns of Evidence
Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
The Comparative Study Bible, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984
The Complete Jewish Study Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, 2016
The New English Bible with the Apocrypha, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, 1970
The Passion Translation, Broadstreet Publishing, Passion & Fire Ministries, 2018
Bentorah, Chaim, with Laura Bertone, Hebrew Word Study: Exploring the Mind of God, Whitaker House, New Kensington, Pennsylvania, 2019
Brown, F., S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Eighteenth Printing, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Massachusetts, 2018
Guralnik, David B., Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, William Collins + World Publishing Co., Inc., Cleveland • New York, 1970, 1976
Peterson, Eugene H., The Message, NavPress, Tyndale House Publishers, 1993, 2002, 2018
Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville Tennessee, 1990
Wilson, William, Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts
Young, Robert, Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts
Young, Robert, Modern Young’s Literal Translation: New Testament with Psalms & Proverbs, Greater Truth Publishers, Lafayette, Indiana, 2005
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