Claims of Christian Tampering for Psalm 22:16


Today, there is a large movement by those who deny the existence of God, the Bible as an inerrant book of prophecy, and Jesus as a valid person of history. One of the tactics that is commonly used, is the isolation of certain verses of scripture–with an assertion that these particular sections of the Bible have been incorrectly translated from the original languages. The purpose of these attacks are to create doubts in the minds of those who read the Bible, in their search for whether Jesus is really a valid person of history and the only Savior of the world.

As a student and teacher of the Bible, I welcome these claims–as they serve to further define to scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as credible and reliable accounts of actual events of history–which prove that Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.

Claims of interpolation (tampering).

David penned a vivd depiction of a person under crucifixion by the words of Psalm 22:16b:  “They pierced My hands and My feet…”

There has been some debate over the correct translation of Psalm 22:16b. Those with a bias against Jesus, the Christian faith, and the Bible—claim that the Jewish Masoretic text has this verse translated as: “like a lion, are at my hands and feet.” Of course this assertion is made for the purpose of disqualifying the entire text of Psalm 22 as a prophecy of the Messiah–fulfilled by Jesus. Critics claim that the text: “they pierced my hands and feet,” is an interpolation by Christians at a later date. In fact, what has occurred here—is the omission of an important verb in the Hebrew Masoretic text that has led to these inaccurate conclusions.[1]

According to Hebrew scholars, the text: “like a lion my hands and my feet,” is lacking the Hebrew verb, Strong’s #3738. כָּרָה (karah).[2]

The Masoretic text of Psalm 22:16 reads: כי סבבוני כלבים עדת מרעים הקיפוני כארי ידי ורגלי׃, translated as:
“They encompass me like a booming committee, dogs surrounded me like a lion my hands and feet.”

The Aramaic Targum adds the correct verb, “karah,” and it reads: “they bite like a lion my hands and my feet”.

The Greek Septuagint has ωρυξαν χειράς μου και πόδας, “they have dug/pierced my hands and feet”, which was correctly translated from the Hebrew root: ‏כרה, this conclusion is also supported by the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hahal Hever, 5/6Hev1b f8 9:12), ‏כר[ו ]ידי. “Dig” has been understood in the sense of “pierced,” as in Psalm 40:7/6), hence the rendering in the Syriac (“they have pierced my hands and feet”).

An important confirmation of the correct translation of Psalm 22:16, comes from the Dead Sea scrolls which were discovered in Israel between 1946 and 1956.[3] In this portion of Psalm 22:16 that was discovered between 1946 and 1956 at Khirbet Qumran in the West Bank, confirms the translation: “they pierced my hand and feet…”[4]

The missing Hebrew word from the Masoretic text: “karah,” is translated seventeen times in the Old Testament as: “dig, digged, digs, cut, cutout, pierced, and opened.”[5]

Clearly, the error that has been made here, is the omission of one verb. There is no translation in existence which removes the text of “hands and feet, pierced.” At the very least, the text reads: “”they bite like a lion my hands and my feet”. No credible Hebrew scholar today, agrees that the text of Psalms 22:16 simply says: “like a lion my hands and my feet.”

The objections made by critics of this text have only served to fully define and correct what has been misstated and misunderstood. As these unfounded objections have been made by those who are unskilled in the original languages—scholars in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, have come forward to correct these errors.

In the end—the translation that we have in our English Bible today for Psalm 22:16, “They pierced My hands and My feet,” is the most accurate rendering of the original language. David was clearly predicting the events of the Messiah in all seventeen prophecies of Psalm 22 (see Prophecy 78).

[1] Gregory Vall noted that is possible that the LXX translators were faced with כארו; i.e. as in the Masoretic text, but ending with the longer letter vav (ו), rather than the shorter yod (י). This word is not otherwise known in Biblical Hebrew, but could be an alternative spelling derived from the root כרה, “to dig” (Vall, Gregory (1997). “Psalm 22:17b: The Old Guess”. JBL 116 (1): 45–56 [p. 45]. JSTOR 3266745.) Vall proceeds to note nineteen conjectural emendations, (Vall (1997), pp. 50–52) while Brent Strawn appeals to iconographical data in support of the MT reading (Strawn (2000), p. 440).
[2] Ibid, Gregory Vall.
[3] The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 981 texts discovered between 1946 and 1956 at Khirbet Qumran in the West Bank. They were found inside specific caves about a mile inland from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. David Down, “Unveiling the Kings of Israel.” P.160. 2011.
[4] Charlesworth and others, in consultation with J VanderKam and M Brady. Miscellaneous Texts from the Judaean Desert. DJD XXXVIII. Oxford: Clarendon, 2000.
[5] Genesis 26:25
HEB: שָׁ֖ם אָהֳל֑וֹ וַיִּכְרוּ־ שָׁ֥ם עַבְדֵי־
NAS: Isaac’s servants dug a well.
KJV: servants digged a well.
INT: there his tent dug and there servants

Genesis 50:5
HEB: בְּקִבְרִ֗י אֲשֶׁ֨ר כָּרִ֤יתִי לִי֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ
NAS: which I dug for myself in the land
KJV: in my grave which I have digged for me in the land
INT: my grave which dug the land of Canaan

Exodus 21:33
HEB: א֠וֹ כִּֽי־ יִכְרֶ֥ה אִ֛ישׁ בֹּ֖ר
NAS: or digs a pit
KJV: or if a man shall dig a pit,
INT: or If digs A man A pit

Numbers 21:18
HEB: חֲפָר֣וּהָ שָׂרִ֗ים כָּר֙וּהָ֙ נְדִיבֵ֣י הָעָ֔ם
NAS: of the people dug, With the scepter
KJV: of the people digged it, by [the direction of] the lawgiver,
INT: sank the leaders dug the nobles of the people

2 Chronicles 16:14
HEB: בְקִבְרֹתָ֗יו אֲשֶׁ֣ר כָּֽרָה־ לוֹ֮ בְּעִ֣יר
NAS: which he had cut out for himself in the city
KJV: him in his own sepulchres, which he had made for himself in the city
INT: tomb which had cut the city of David

Job 6:27
HEB: יָת֥וֹם תַּפִּ֑ילוּ וְ֝תִכְר֗וּ עַל־ רֵֽיעֲכֶֽם׃
KJV: the fatherless, and ye dig [a pit] for your friend.
INT: the orphans cast dig over your friend

Job 41:6
HEB: יִכְר֣וּ עָ֭לָיו חַבָּרִ֑ים
INT: dig over will the traders

Psalm 7:15
HEB: בּ֣וֹר כָּ֭רָֽה וַֽיַּחְפְּרֵ֑הוּ וַ֝יִּפֹּ֗ל
NAS: He has dug a pit and hollowed
KJV: He made a pit, and digged
INT: A pit has dug and hollowed fallen

Psalm 22:16
HEB: מְ֭רֵעִים הִקִּיפ֑וּנִי כָּ֝אֲרִ֗י יָדַ֥י וְרַגְלָֽי׃
KJV: have inclosed me: they pierced my hands
INT: of evildoers has encompassed dig my hands and my feet

Psalm 40:6
HEB: חָפַ֗צְתָּ אָ֭זְנַיִם כָּרִ֣יתָ לִּ֑י עוֹלָ֥ה
NAS: My ears You have opened; Burnt offering
KJV: mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering
INT: desired my ears have opened Burnt and sin

Psalm 57:6
HEB: כָּפַ֪ף נַ֫פְשִׁ֥י כָּר֣וּ לְפָנַ֣י שִׁיחָ֑ה
NAS: is bowed down; They dug a pit
KJV: is bowed down: they have digged a pit
INT: is bowed my soul dug before A pit

Psalm 94:13
HEB: רָ֑ע עַ֤ד יִכָּרֶ֖ה לָרָשָׁ֣ע שָֽׁחַת׃
NAS: Until a pit is dug for the wicked.
KJV: until the pit be digged for the wicked.
INT: of adversity Until is dug the wicked A pit

Psalm 119:85
HEB: כָּֽרוּ־ לִ֣י זֵדִ֣ים
NAS: The arrogant have dug pits
KJV: The proud have digged pits
INT: have dug the arrogant pits

Proverbs 16:27
HEB: אִ֣ישׁ בְּ֭לִיַּעַל כֹּרֶ֣ה רָעָ֑ה וְעַל־
NAS: A worthless man digs up evil, While
KJV: man diggeth up evil:
INT: man A worthless digs evil While

Proverbs 26:27
HEB: כֹּֽרֶה־ שַּׁ֭חַת בָּ֣הּ
NAS: He who digs a pit will fall
KJV: Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall
INT: digs A pit will fall

Jeremiah 18:20
HEB: רָעָ֔ה כִּֽי־ כָר֥וּ שׁוּחָ֖ה לְנַפְשִׁ֑י
NAS: with evil? For they have dug a pit
KJV: for good? for they have digged a pit
INT: shall evil for dig A pit my soul

Jeremiah 18:22
HEB: פִּתְאֹ֑ם כִּֽי־ כָר֤וּ [שִׁיחָה כ]
NAS: raiders upon them; For they have dug a pit
KJV: suddenly upon them: for they have digged a pit
INT: suddenly When have dug pit to capture

Categories: Claims of Interpolation, Common objections by Atheists, Principles of Biblical Interpretation

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