Friday, December 27, 2013

Psalm 22:16 notes: Karu or Kaari?

Note: Look at the comment by catholicnick for a compelling argument "pierced" would be used and not lion, based on the list of animals, which is reversed in Psalm 22.

Psalm 22:16 (verse 17 in some numbering, Psalm 21 in LXX and the Vulgate) has been a verse in dispute between Christians and Jews for a few hundred years. The issue is less over translation, and more over what the Hebrew text says. The modern Hebrew text reads:

 כארי ידי ורגלי --Psalm 22:16 (Masoretic Text with vowels removed)

Like a lion, my hands and feet.--Psalm 22:16b (Masoretic translation)

The word  כארי (kari) means "like a lion,"  "ארי" referring to a lion, and "כ" meaning "like."  The issue is that Christians have always read this as "they have dug/pierced." We find the word pierced in several ancient translations:

ὤρυξαν χεῖράς μου καὶ πόδας --Psalm 22:17b Greek Septuagint(Psalm 22:16 in non LXX numbering) ὤρυξαν meaning "dig/bury"

"They have gouged my hands and feet"--Psalm 22:17b (NETS translation of the LXX)

 ܒܙܥܘ ܐ̈ܝܕܝ ܘܪ̈ܓܠܝ--Psalm 22:17 Peshitta text (Aramaic) ܒܙܥܘ meaning bury, dig, pierced, wounded.

Foderunt manus meas et pedes meos;--Psalm 21:17 Latin Vulgate, Foderunt meaning "dig."

We also have the Targum of the Psalms which is in Aramaic and reads:

  נכתין היך כאריא אידי ורגלי .--Psalm 22:17b Targum נכתין meaning "bite" and כאריא meaning "as a lion""
they bite my hands and feet like a lion"--Psalm 22:17 Targum translation
 This is interesting since it makes it obvious that Psalm 22:16/7 is reference to biting/piercing since, what else would you expect a lion to do at your "hands and feet"? The Masoretic reading does not explicit say, though it should be obvious and antimissionaries act as if the lion would not pierce the hands and keep, perhaps lick them even?

Finally, we have a fragment of Psalm 22:16(17) in the Dead Sea Scrolls Nahal Hever (5/6Hev1b f8_9:12). Which is provided below.

Another picture can be found at the website for the Dead Sea Scrolls at Israel's Antiquities Authority. Though the quality is much more diminished there.

The Hebrew word has כארו (they dug), though an unusual spelling not found else where, instead of the word in the כארי (lion), this is evidence Christian did not tamper with the text, but that this may very well have been the original. The only difference between the two words, as can be seen in the fragment, is that the yod, is smaller than the vav, Kaaru has a "vav" and Kari has a "yod," so an error could have happened with either making the letter too short, or too long.

Concerning the spelling of כארו (to dig) it is spelled elsewhere in the Hebrew bible lacking the א Aleph כרו  in the middle of the word, as in:
כָּרוּ לְפָנַי שִׁיחָה --Psalm 57:6(7) (Masoretic Text)
They dug (karu) before me a pit.--Psalm 57:6(7)
כָּרוּ-לִי זֵדִים שִׁיחוֹת --Psalm 119:85 (Masoretic Text)
The proud have dug pits (karu) for me--Psalm 119:85
 כִּי-כָרוּ שׁוּחָה לְנַפְשִׁי --Jeremiah 18:20 (Masoretic Text)
For they have dug (karu) a pit for my soul.--Jeremiah 18:20
 כִּי-כָרוּ שׁוּחָה לְלָכְדֵנִי --Jeremiah 18:22 (Masoretic Text)
 For they have dug (karu) a pit to take me--Jeremiah 18:22
Now concerning the word for as-a-lion it appears 4 times in the Hebrew Bible
 כארי ידי ורגלי --Psalm 22:16 (Masoretic Text with vowels removed)
Like a lion, my hands and feet.--Psalm 22:16b (Masoretic translation)
 כָּרַע שָׁכַב כַּאֲרִי וּכְלָבִיא, מִי יְקִימֶנּוּ--Numbers 24:9 (Masoretic text)
He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a lioness; who shall rouse him up?--Numbers 24:9 
 שִׁוִּיתִי עַד-בֹּקֶר כָּאֲרִי, כֵּן יְשַׁבֵּר כָּל-עַצְמוֹתָי--Isaiah 38:13 (Masoretic text)
The more I make myself like unto a lion until morning, the more it breaketh all my bones;--Isaiah 38:13 
 קֶשֶׁר נְבִיאֶיהָ בְּתוֹכָהּ, כַּאֲרִי שׁוֹאֵג טֹרֵף טָרֶף--Ezekiel 22:25 (Masoretic text)
There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey;--Ezekiel 22:25  
 So, we can see that the word for "they have dug" does not appear to be spelled in the ordinary way, and certainly not a way used elsewhere in the Masoretic Hebrew text, yet the "like a lion" simile does not really make a whole lot of sense in Psalm 22:16 since it doesn't explicitly mention anything the lion does, just says "like a lion, my hands and feet." Some Jewish translations changed it to "like a lion AT my hands and feet" to try to make more sense of it.

 It is interesting how the Antimissionaries insist on an error, despite the fact the ancient Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and at least 1 Dead Sea Scroll contain dug/pierce. This is not the only instance where the Masoretic text is in the minority, a similar case is with Genesis 4:8, where the Masoretic text lacks what Cain said to Abel, all the other texts including some Jewish targums add "let us go into the field."

In the Masoretic text of the Psalms there are variant readings for some verses, some of which are far more explicit than Psalm 22:16. For instance, Psalm 100 contains a variant based on a homophone--"v'lo" which can mean either "and not" or "and his" depending on whether the O is spelled using a vav or aleph:
הוּא-עָשָׂנוּ, ולא  אֲנַחְנוּ--Psalm 100:3 (One Masoretic version "and not")
He made us, and not ourselves--Psalm 100:3 (Variant)
This reading is rejected by most Protestants but it is the traditional Christian reading and is used in the traditional Latin Vulgate. Now here is the alternate version preferred by Protestants:
הוּא-עָשָׂנוּ, וְלוֹ אֲנַחְנו--Psalm 100:3 (one Masoretic version "and his")
He made us, and we are his--Psalm 100:3 (Variant reading favored by Protestants)
So we see a small error crept into the manuscript tradition based on two letter that look nothing alike, but make the same sound, produce a completely different reading of the text. If an error so significant could have been made here, why not in Psalm 22:16(17), and the original reading be "they have dug", theoretically spelled correctly?

Finally, the Hebrew bible, even the Torah contains defective spellings of words FREQUENTLY, which rabbis have historically exploited for gematria purposes, or to interject some midrashic idea about WHY its spelled the way it is. It is possibility that the LXX, Peshitta, and DSS reading was based on some form of defective spelling that no longer exists, or perhaps the DSS just added an aleph. Who knows.
Video Part 1
Part 2:


  1. Hello Berhane,

    There is actually a strong argument I noticed in this Psalm that makes it certain that "Pierced" is the right term. It's all about the parallelism found in the Psalm:

    12Many BULLS have surrounded me;
    Strong BULLS of Bashan have encircled me.
    13They open wide their mouth at me,
    As a ravening and a roaring LION.
    16For DOGS have surrounded me;
    A band of evildoers has encompassed me;
    They PIERCED my hands and my feet.
    20Deliver my soul from the SWORD,
    My only life from the power of the DOG.
    21Save me from the LIONs mouth;
    From the horns of the wild OXEN You answer me.

    Notice how there is a parallel going: Bull-Lion-Dog-Unknown-Sword-Dog-Lion-Bull/Ox
    Clearly, "pierced" corresponds to "the Sword", which maintains the parallel as well as the fact "lion" is already mentioned twice.

    1. Thanks Nick that is a good catch, it does look like its going in the reverses order like in Genesis 3, I looked at the words for ox/bull and they do seem to be interchangeable at times, at least in many translations.