When Jesus was dying on the cross, he cried out: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In the English translation this is verse 1 but in the original Hebrew, it is verse 2. In the Hebrew Bible, verse 1 is “To the chief Musician.To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A Psalm of David.
In the Hebrew Bible, verse 17 (16 in the English translation) of Psalm 22 is translated as:
“For dogs encircled me, An evil congregation surrounded me; Like a lion my hands and my feet.”
In the Christian Bible, the same verse (verse 16) is translated as:
An evil congregation surrounded me;
They dug (pierce) my hands and my feet.”
Tim Hegg writes:
An ancient controversy has surfaced once again in our times. It revolves around the text of Psalm 22:16 (verse 17 in the He brew). In the Hebrew Masoretic text, the verse reads: “For dogs have encircled me, an evil congregation surrounded me; like a lion my hands and my feet.” The LXX ( Greek “Septuagint”, because 70 translators) translation, however, did not read the Hebrew word כָּאֲרִי ;”ka’ari, “like a lion” but rather כָּאֲרוּ ka’aru, “they dug,” and thus they translated the word with the Greek word oruxsan, “they dug” or “they pierced.” The difference was whether the original word ended with a vav or a yod.”
Scraps from a scroll containing some of the Psalms were discovered at Nachal Hever, and one scrap contained the line from Psalm 22:16 with the word in question well in view. Though the writing on the scrap was faint, under magnification it was easy to see and decipher. The word clearly ended in a vav not a yod, and was therefore a 3rd person plural verb: “they dug” or “they pierced… Since this scrap is dated (in accordance with the style of letters used) to 50-68 CE, it is al most 1000 years earlier than the Masoretic text, and shows that in at least one of the earliest Hebrew traditions of Psalm 22, the word is not “like a lion” but “they dug” or “pierced.”
Here is a picture of the scrap from Psalm 22 found at Nachal Hever (5/6Hev Col. XI, frag. 9) from Hegg’s article. I have highlighted the VAV in red.
Here is a blow up of the letter VAV.
The nail-looking VAV is interestingly the Hebrew word for NAIL. The Hebrew letters are in one respect “letters of fire.” “The spiritual concept of each and every letter (says Rabbi Glazerson) contains a glorious light, derived from the essence of the sefirot…each letter is like a splendid palace, containing and corresponding to its spiritual concept. When one of the letters is pronounced aloud, the corresponding spiritual force is necessarily evoked…these spiritual forces inhere not only in [the vocalized letters] but also in their written forms.”
In my “Letters of Hebrew fire – the depth and death of meaning”, I was somewhat dismissive of this “divinising” of the Hebrew letters, but as I study these letters more deeply, it’s beginning to dawn on me that there is not only fire but much light emanating from them. I will try to show why in my study of the letter VAV in the context of Psalm 22:17 (22:16 English translation). Rabbi Glazerson, of course, is not one to follow me on this path, even if he follows my drift, for he will most certainly (unless he is a secret follower of “The WAY”) think that I have gone, if not mad, wildly astray.
“Dr. Peter Flint, who published the principle edition of the scrap in Discoveries in the Judean Desert, Vol. 38 (Oxford), notes that in the Herodian script, “vav and yod are usually distinguished, with vav generally longer than yod.” Indeed, in this instance, we have a perfect example for comparison, since the very next letter following the word in question is a yod: “my hands” יָדַי . The last letter of ka’aru is without doubt a vav when compared with the beginning letter of the next word which is clearly a yod. Here, then, is a Hebrew manuscript, preChristian, with “they dug” or “they pierced.”
Here is a picture of the ankle bone of a man in his twenties found at Giv’at ha-Mivtar, a Jewish neighbourhood in North East Jerusalem. (The complete foot nailed to the cross is a simulation). The man lived around the time of Christ. After 2000 years, the nail is still lodged in the bone. “The right calcaneum (heel bone) of the individual, (explains Joe Zias) [was] pierced by an iron nail 11.5 cms. in length. The nail penetrated the lateral surface of the bone emerging on the middle of the surface in which the tip of the nail had become bent. The bending of the tip of the nail upon itself suggests that after the nail penetrated the tree or the upright it may have struck a knot in the wood thereby making it difficult to remove from the heel when the victim was taken from the cross.”
In making a case that the VAV in כָּאֲרוּ ka’aru could have been in the original spelling, I don’t think it wise to write off the YOD in כָּאֲרִי ka’ari, owing to the fact that all the other manuscripts we have of Psalm 22:17 (22:16 in the English translation) have כָּאֲרִי ka’ari. But it does make you wonder, like as wondering Jew. (For an explanation of the ALEPH in כָּאֲרוּ ka’aru see Hegg).
In the traditional version of Psalm 22, we have a lion who must surely be doing something like biting (with sharp teeth) or digging (piercing) with sharp claws into flesh – unless he thinks Jesus is Androcles. In the Nachal Hever version we have a digging, which must obviously be into flesh; in other words, a piercing.
There are two “linguistic” hands in the word yadaih : the letter YOD (which means “hand”) and the word YADAI itself, which means “my hands.”
The reader may have noticed something unusual about yadaih (above, from the Nachal Hever manuscript): The traditional spelling of “my hands” is YOD DALET YOD, whereas in the Nachal Hever manuscript, the spelling of “my hands” has an “h” added on at the end of the word: יָדַי ה YOD DALET YOD HEI. Does this mean that the Nachal Hever manuscript has misspellings and can therefore not be trusted? No, because the Hebrew of the Qumran scrolls – according to the standard reference on the topic by Elisha Qimron (1986) – often use final h to mark final dipthongs. The dipthong in question is the דַי dai in יָדַי yadai.
Now here’s a surprising – or should that be an unsurprising thing? Hei ה often represents HASHEM, “the name” (of God). Here’s the thing, at the Pesach Seder (Passover celebration), there exists the tradition of breaking (yakhatz) the matzah into the shape of a ה (hei). What has that to do with the ה in
Some of my (shocked) Jewish readers know where I am going with this, and will be outraged, but I need to say two things: First, I am not out to offend anyone, but, of course, offense will come – that is the name of the “game.” Second, I am doing this with deep awe, which Jewish believers in Yeshua will understand, and Jewish non-believers in Yeshua will execrate.
But there is more (I’m afraid).
The Hebrew H can mean “Behold” so YHVH can legitimately mean: Behold the Hand, behold the Nail.
Christians make the connection between “pierced” of Psalm 22 and the VAV (Nail) in YHVH. We find in the Nachal Hever scroll that the Hebrew word ka’aru – with a VAV at the end of the word – means “They pierced.” For this reason, it is not far fetched at all to make a connection between the VAV in YHVH and the VAV in ka’aru “they pierced.” It isn’t just a literate (poetic) possibility but also a literally poignant possibility ( poignant, from Old French “to prick,” “to sting”; poignard “dagger”).
The reader who is unfamiliar with Hebrew may ask, “How do you get a V(AV) from the “u” in ka’aru? The “u” in ka’aru – the English sound “oo” – consists of the letter V(AV) and a dot, as in
The CRUX of God’s eternal, and ultimate, cosmic plan was set in motion at the CROSS. There has been a lot of controversy on whether Christ in his divine nature, or the Father in his divine nature can suffer. The Jewry is definitely not out on this one. I can’t just drop this important issue of suffering and the divine nature, so I will have to tackle it soon; not only to try and disprove that the NAIL in the Godhead is at best a tasteless bit of graffiti, at worst, a blasphemy, but to try and deal seriously with this important matter of the suffering (?) of God. In the meantime, here is one Jewish view of the matter.
“When a person sins, he causes tremendous suffering to Heaven, though he may be oblivious of this at the time. However, when Heaven imposes suffering on him to rectify his sin, as he suffers, so too does Heaven as well, because G-d suffers along side us. Therefore, when a person prays to end his suffering, in reality, he should pray to relieve Heaven of its suffering, and automatically this will take care of his own.”
If only we can find one other ancient scrap like the Nachal Hever scroll, Christians could then say, “one swallow doesn’t make a summer but what about two? I’m not very hopeful. Even if a hundred were found, no Jew will go down without a scrap.
Why did Jesus begin to recite Psalm 22 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” but not carry on at least up to ka’ari/ka’aru and, in so doing, settle the matter? Was it only because he was suffocating to death and had little breath left in his body? Some of the Jews at the cross – if not all – would have understood perfectly that by reciting the first line of Psalm 22, Jesus was indicating that his crucifixion was a fulfilment of prophecy. Here is the complete Psalm:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel.
4 In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
8 “He trusts in the LORD;
let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”
9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you
even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast upon you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions tearing their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet. (If you’ll permit:They have dug their lion claws into my hands and my feet)
17 I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.
19 But you, O LORD, be not far off;
O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver my life from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save [d] me from the horns of the wild oxen.
22 I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the congregation I will praise you.
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you [e] will I fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
they who seek the LORD will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.
29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness
to a people yet unborn—
for he has done it.
We know from the historical record (more reliable than any record of classical antiquity except for the Dead Sea Scrolls) that:
“… those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (Matthew, 27:39-44).
Jews who accept the historical Jesus see an effusion of blood followed by death and a hasty burial of an accursed blasphemer: “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).
Of course, there is also the Wandering Jew, who, poignant as his story may be, is – unlike the Onedaringjew – a myth. There’s at least one cocky Jew who, on reading this, will bark, “Onedaringjew, you’re no exception; you have,with your cleverly invented stories, also mythed the boat! You have followed cleverly devised myths about the power and coming of Jesus Christ. But, but, but “but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:16-21).
I’ve never understood Jews who say Jesus was a good Jew; for example, Dr. Lawrence J. Epstein a Conservative Jew, in his “The differences between Judaism and Christianity” says that Jesus was a good teacher, but not God. (Thanks to watch.pair.com for alerting me to this book).
There are at least five possibilities but the former is not one of them: He was mad, He was a liar, He was stupid, he was deceived, He was telling the truth – that he was fulfilling Psalm 22. But – as C.S. Lewis said, “don’t come with that claptrap that he was a good man” (“Mere Christianity). (Lewis mentions three: Jesus was, mad, a liar or telling the truth). If we had to choose between “liar”, “deceived” and “daft” for someone who says that he can forgive sin “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me (John 14:6), we would normally say (unless we’re not normal ourselves) that the person was daft. But the Talmud’s impression (in its earlier editions) of Jesus was that he knew exactly what he was doing and therefore, in the Talmud’s eyes, could be nothing but a deceiver, and thus also a fool. This is still the view of many Jews; for example, “Jews for Judaism” says Jesus was a stumbler, a false prophet, who was predicted in the Book of Daniel:
“…Jesus the Nazarene, who imagined that he would be messiah and was killed, is alluded to in the book of Daniel, as it is said, `And the sons of the transgressors among thy people will rise, in order to establish a vision, and will stumble‘ (Dan. 11:14, my emphasis). Can there be a greater stumbling then this? All the prophets said that messiah will be a redeemer and a savior to the Israelites, will bring together their outcasts, and will strengthen their obedience to the Divine precepts, but he (Jesus) caused destruction by the sword to Israel, the dispersion of those left, and their humiliation. He changed the law, and misled many people to worship a being beside G-D….”
What do JewsforJudaism make of Hashem’s prophecy against the tottering Jewish system of Isaiah’s day?:
For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken” (Isaiah, 8:11-15).
Jesus was referring to the above passage when he told this parable, which is a vivid illustration of why JewsforJudaism is so maddened by Jesus:
And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat andtreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves,(S) ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” But helooked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?
Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (My emphasis).
The Jew who sees – because of God’s mercy – in and through the blood the Son of God will also see the outshining of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3). This remains a rare occurrence, but a time is coming when,
“I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for [his] only [son], and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for [his] firstborn.
It is finished.