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Month 6:12, Week 2:4 (Revee/Shavu'ot), Year:Day 5941:159 AM
2Exodus 4/40
Gregorian Calendar: Saturday 2 September 2017
The Hebraic Roots Bible
A Preliminary Assessment
III. The Text, Test Passages

Don Esposito, HRB Translator

    Continued from Part 2

    "The less one knows, the quicker one can form an opinion"
    (Moisés Silva, translator)


    I have been reading Bible translations now for nearly 40 years and with every passing year the less I realise I actually know, in spite of having acquired some Classical Hebrew along the way and a fairly good knowledge of Bible versions.

    Classical Languages

    I was offered Classical Greek when I was at school and I am still kicking myself for refusing but then I was biased after having had 10 years of Latin shoved down my throat against my will. I hated that language then but am grateful for it now. Learn as many languages as you can, I say - you'll never regret it! And so it was when I went up to Oxford as a young Biochemist, I made friends with students and professors of languages - Chinese, Japanese and Hebrew, principally - and attended their lectures in my free time.

    Learning Hebrew

    I started learning Biblical Hebrew in October 1982 when I enrolled in the class of curate and scholar, Peter Southwell, Senior Tutor of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, England, at noon every Wednesday and Friday during the term times. Ever since he thrust a copy of J.Weingreen's, A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew into my hands, I have been in awe of classical linguistics because I discovered that understanding ancient languages was a thousand times harder than I had imagined. You can't just browse through a copy of Strong's Concordance and hope to muddle your way through what amounts to a dead language. For this reason, modern Hebrew isn't much good - it's as different to Classical Hebrew as modern English is to old Anglo-Saxon.

    Géza Vermes

    Another bonus of being in Oxford was that I got to personally know and attend the lectures of the now late Professor Géza Vermes, a Hungarian Jew and one of the leading scholars and experts on the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS). The picture below shows a copy of one of his latest books which he signed while we were eating together one day in my favourite Chinese restaurant, the old Hang Chow on Little Clarendon Street, Oxford. It is through him that I came to learn about the Essenes. I mention this only to show why I have come to appreciate the importance of the work of linguistic scholars in coming to grips with the Bible.

    Of Bible Scholars

    There are many hundreds of good Bible Scholars in the Protestant and Catholic worlds but they run very thin indeed in the Messianic Movement and most of the 'versions' produced by the latter are only good for cosmetic value. They're not true translations. Of the truly serious Bible translators in the Messianic Movement, two are Aramaic scholars (Trimm and Roth) and two speak Hebrew (Stern & Koniuchowsky) (see below). There is quite a breadth of knowledge between them which is why I always say, 'the more the merrier'. But we still need a Messianic Version of the Bible made by a large team of scholars, like that of the KJV, NRSV, ESV or other serious version. I think we have enough solo efforts by scholars for the present, interesting though their work is, and there are altogether far too many amateurs.

    Left to right: James Trimm (HRV) & Gabriel Roth (AENT)
    Left to right: David Stern (CJB) & Moshe Koniuchowsky (RSTNE)

    Why We Still Need Christian Translations

    So why am I devoting so many articles to what is essentially an amateur version? Because I want believers to be careful. It is easy to get bowled over by smatterings of Hebrew and Aramaic if you don't have any knowledge of these ancient Biblical languages and to wrongly assume that those using these are necessarily experts. It annoys messianic brethren that I enthusiastically use and promote Protestant versions of the Bible still and why I don't take 'paraphrase-commentary' versions like the Institute for Scripture Research (ISRV), Halleluyah Scriptures (HS), Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB), Messianic Renewed Covenant (MRC), and other similar versions that seriously, all the incredible research and hard work that has gone into them notwithstanding.

    Which Versions Should We Trust?

    I am not saying you shouldn't study or even use them but that you need to be very, very careful in making sure that what you're reading is actually 'Bible' and not some revisor's 'commentary' or personal beliefs woven into the text. Don't get mesmerised by them and don't fall for all the hype that they are the "Original Bible Restored" (HRB), or "has been in the heart of Father YHWH since the very dawn of His covenant with Jacob/Yaakov" (RSTNE) [1], or the 'Best Bible' ever. That's just idle, boastful propagandistic spin and upon closer inspection reveals itself to be manifestly untrue. If the King James Bible translators didn't have as high an opinion of themselves as these conceited moderns seem to, then maybe we need to be asking ourselves some searching questions about who and what we should trust, and why.

    Zionist Bibles

    I think another reason some people uncritically embrace messianic Bibles is because of what I call 'zionolotary', the assumption that anything that supports Zionism must, by default, have Elohim's (God's) unconditional blessing and therefore holy Imprimatur. Most of the messianic version translators are, sadly, zionists, having been blinded, and therefore influenced, by that false spirit. The HRB is unapologetically Zionist and indeed the author spends half of his time in the Israeli Republic, in Jerusalem. I am not sure if he had 2 Kings 19:31 or Isaiah 37:32 at the back of his mind when he moved there from New Jersey but, according to one of his representatives in Uganda, Andrew Walungama [2], it the practice of all his congregations worldwide (like the Jehovah's Witnesses) that only his sermons be read out each Sabbath. Perhaps in the minds of some, 'coming out of Jerusalem' carries some special appeal even though according to Paul the physical Jerusalem is the "city of Hagar" now (Gal.4:25). And there you have one of the major problems when dealing with messianics - so many of them haven't fully left the Old Covenant for the New.

    Our Own Aborted NCAY 'Translation'

    Having attempted a Bible 'translation' ('revision' would be a better word) of my own I think I have a little knowledge about these matters. It was called the 'New Covenant Version' (NCV) but never got past a few dozen retranslations of short key passages. I realised quite early on that, (a) I lacked the scholarly competence for such a serious undertaking, and (b) with so many good versions already in print, what was the point? I still think the passages I revised were well done (they were revisions of the NIV and NKJV for the most part) but they'll never be more than inserts into a recommended scholarly version. My hope is still to find the 'best' version there is and then produce a booklet with suggested translation improvements. And I don't deny that at the back of my mind, in moments of vanity, there lurked the entertaining thought that it might be 'nice' for NCAY to have its own version. But Yahweh never called me to that and the original NCV project just naturally, and rightly, dried up.

    Bible Translation Requires Lots of Skill and Training

    I mention all of this just so the reader knows the inbuilt scepticism I have towards all new revisions like the HRB and to remind aspirant new version-makers not to overestimate their ability to translate the Bible into English. Andy Naselli illustrates the problem well:

      "A story from linguist and New Testament scholar Moisés Silva illustrates this principle. Silva’s mother tongue is Spanish, and when he was a student, one of his professors asked him whether he’d translate a Spanish theological article into English for him. Silva thought that he could do this quickly without a problem, but it ended up being a nightmare. He hadn’t translated much written material from Spanish to English before, and he quickly realized that an English translation simply can’t convey all the connotations of the Spanish original.

      "This experience got Silva thinking: Why did he struggle so much to translate from Spanish to English when he didn’t struggle to nearly the same degree when he translated from Greek to English or Hebrew to English? He had known Spanish since infancy, but he’d known Greek and Hebrew for only a few years. Yet he felt far more confident translating Greek and Hebrew. Why? Silva identifies two reasons:

      • 1. Because he was a native Spanish speaker, he understood subtleties and connotations in Spanish that he simply couldn’t know in Greek or Hebrew. So while he understood how poor his Spanish-to-English translation was, he didn’t understand how poor his Greek-to-English translation was.

      • 2. Colleges and graduate schools tend to emphasize translating Greek to English in an extremely form-based way. That’s not bad. It’s like learning to ride a bike with training wheels. But the problem is that some students get the idea that riding a bike with training wheels is the goal. Translating Greek into stilted, barely intelligible English is not the goal...

      "Bible translation is complex, and high-quality translation requires a massive amount of training and skill and experience" [3]

    And Now to the Task at Hand...

    In the last essay we looked at six passages especially selected by the HRB's author, Don Esposito, as highlights to woo the reader into buying his Bible. Today I would like to look at my own selection of texts that I habitually utilise as a kind of preliminary litmus test whenever looking at a new translation. I shall also be reading a couple of the books right through in the last part of this series to see how they flow, what the quality of English is like, and whether or not they clearly get over the authors' theological points. These particular ones which I know intimately as I once taught them academically for the University of London's Advanced Level General Certificate of Education: Moses and the Apostle John. These two, separated as they are by a very large expanse of time, operated out of a very different milieu to one another, as might be expected. There may be said to be distinctly 'Mosaic' and 'Johannine' styles, the former heavily influenced by Egyptian culture and the latter by Judean. My selection of books will therefore be Genesis from the Tanakh (Old Testament) [4] and John from the New [5].

    A Review of My Own 8 Test Passages
    from the HRB Text

    1. Local, Imperial or Global Famine?

      "And in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus rising up, he signified through the Spirit that a great famine was about to be over all the habitable earth, which also happened on Claudius Caesar's time" (Ac.11:27-28, HRB)

    A famine of such magnitude would have been recorded somewhere in the annals of the nations but a famine on such a scale has never happened. Besides, this is illogical. Why would those in Antioch be sending relief to the qadoshim (saints, set-apart ones) in Judea if they were experiencing a famine too? In the Aramaic, the word a'ra can mean 'world' (Prov.19:4), 'earth' (Dan.2:35) or 'land' (Dan.9:15) where 'the land' is a recognised euphamism for 'eretz Yisra'el' or the 'Land of Israel' (Dan.9:6). The context reveals the correct meaning and since it cannot mean the whole world, it can only mean the Land of Israel.

    Nearly all versions - Messianic, Protestant and Catholic - repeat this error: the RSTNE2e ("olam" = world, earth), CJB - OJB - MRC - ISRV - HS - KJV - NKJV - NASB - NRSV - ESV - NEB - NAB - KNT - AmpV &c. ("world" or "earth"), CJB - JB ("Roman Empire"), NIV - HCSB ("Roman world"). I have only found two versions that have got this right:

      "And one of them, whose name was Agav, stood up and informed them by the spirit that a great famine would occur in all Har-Eretz" (Ac.11:28, HRV).

      "And one of them arose whose name was Agabus, and informed them by the Spirit that a great famine would occur in all the area" (Ac.11:28, AENT).

    2. Eunuchs or Believers?

      "For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who made eunuchs of themselves for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. He who is able to understand, let him understand it" (Mt.19:11, HRB).

      "And he arose and went and met a certain faithful one who had come from Cush, an official of Candace, the queen of the Cushites, and he was an authority over all her treasures. And he had come to worship in Jerusalem" (Ac.8:27, HRB).

    The Aramaic word anmyhm can either mean "faithful one / believer" or "eunuch" and only the context can tell you which to use. Esposito has got Acts 8:27 right since a eunch would not have been allowed to come up to a pilgrim festival in Jerusalem according to the Torah instruction in Deuteronomy 23:1ff. But why has he not chosen "faithful ones" or "believers" in Matthew 19:11? In common with nearly every other Bible translation, Messianic and Christian, Esposito, in spite of his obviously understanding of the Aramaic here (the Greek translation clearly opted for "eunuch(s)" in error), seems to agree with the Greeks that castration - either by others or by self - is an excellent thing, a idea repugnant to Hebrew thought and clearly contrary to the Torah which is against celibacy and any kind of mutilation. James Trimm is at least consistent:

      "For there are faithful ones, which were so born from their mother's womb, and there are faithful ones which were made of man, and there are faithful ones which are self-made faithful ones for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake. Who can accept, let him accept" (Mt.19:11, HRV).

      "And he arose, went and he met a believer who had come from Ethiopia. an official of Kandake, queen of the Ethiopians. And he was in authority concerning all of her treasure and had come to worship in Yerushalayim" (Ac.8:27, HRV).

    Quite clearly Esposito has followed Roth who uses "eunuchs" in Matthew and "believer" in Acts in his AENT. Koniuchowsky (RSTNE2e) agrees with Roth though he uses "faithful believer" at Acts 8:27. The Messianic Renewed Covenant (MRC) version translators stick, along with almost every other Bible version, with "eunuchs", giving as their reason (at least for Matthew 19:11) that it must be understood in light of the disciples' remark in verse 10, "it is not advantageous to marry" (MRC), which is almost certainly the reason why Roth and Koniuchowsky (and Esposito following) stuck to the traditional rendition.

    The Matthean passage is very hard to translate because of the subject material (marriage and divorce) preceeding this verse. Katya Mattyah uses "eunuchs" but adds the footnote saying that a eunuch is a synonym for one who is a faithful follower, citing Esther 2:15. Like Trimm, I reject the idea that Yah'shua (Jesus) would have advised castration because this would contradict His Father's own Torah. On the other hand, the subject under discussion is marriage. Has Yah'shua (Jesus) changed subject (something He does do, especially in the Johannine writings, but also elsewhere in the Synoptics) or is he using 'eunuchs' as a synonym for one, like Jeremiah, chosen for celibacy for the sake of 100 per cent devotion to the Kingdom...something that would ordinarily be regarded as dishonourable and very fitting in view of the disdainful way believers were viewed by both Jews and pagans alike?

    I like John MacArthur's exegesis which, in responding to Yah'shua's (Jesus'), "let him accept it" (Mt.19:12, KJV), says:

      "Since not everyone can handle celibacy (verse 11), Christ is not requiring it here. Rather, He makes it entirely a matter of personal choice - except for those who are physically unable to marry, either through natural causes or because of the violence of other men. Still others may find there are pragmatic reasons not to marry for the good of the kingdom. But in no way does Christ suggest that celibacy is superior to marriage (cf.Gen.2:18; 1 Tim.4:3)" [6]

    I do not believe, therefore, that Esposito's choice of "eunuchs" in Matthew 9.11 is unresonable though I do believe it merits an explanatory footnote as mutilation of the testes or any other part of the Image of Elohim (God) is not permitted by the Torah. At least we are agreed that the Ethiopian convert was not a eunuch as he would not have been allowed to become a member of the Congregation of Israel under former Covenant.

    3. Leaving and Believing vs. Believing More and More

      "But the chief priests were also thinking that they might kill Lazarus also, because through him many of the Jews were leaving and believing into Yahshua" (Jn.12:10-11, HRB).

    Aside from the awful English (a regrettable and consistent feature of this version), this and other verses betray a lack of understanding ofg Aramaic idioms so that a literal translation misses the original intent. Much as the idiomatic American English, 'He's a really cool guy' might, in another language erroneously be rendered with the sense, 'In reality he is a shabbily dressed man at a low temperature' instead of 'He's an admirable person', so this passage has been translated literally without any cogniscence of the idiom. The Aramaic lza, which ordinarly means 'to go' or 'depart', here carries the extra sense of progressing more and more, a thought rendered better in Trimm's translation:

      "And the Chief Cohenim thought that they should also kill El'azar, because many of the Judeans, on account of him, were trusting more and more in Yeshua" (Jn.12:10-11, HRV).

    What this passage is not saying, as so many translators miss, is that the people were turning away from the Jewish leaders (even if that was undoubtedly true) as Roth, who follows the mainstream, puts it, "many of the Yehudeans were leaving and believing in Y'shua" (Jn.12:11, AENT), or to quote a Protestant dynamic equivalent version, "on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him" (Jn.12:11, NIV). Paraphrasing, Koniuchowsky says the same thing:

      "Because on account of him many of the Yahudim were leaving the kohanim (priests), and believed on YHSH" (Jn.12:11, RSTNE2e).

    All the other messianic versions (CJB, ISRV, HS, etc.) follow suit in misunderstanding.

    But, you may ask, is this really so important since we can assume the people were both turning away from the local leadership and believing in Messiah more and more? Aside from the importance of being accurate, I believe this is important because of its implications for discipleship. Three chapters on John uses the same idiom which the HRB (again, with its terrible English) and most other versions get wrong:

      "You have not chosen Me, but I chose you out and planted you, that you should go and should bear fruit, and your fruit remain, that whatever you should ask the Father in My name, He may give you" (Jn.15:16, HRB).

    Likewise Roth's "go and produce fruit" (AENT), Koniuchowsky's "go and bring forth fruit" (RSTNE2e), Stern's, Koster's et al "go and bear fruit" (CJB, ISRV, HS, MRC) and every Protestant version I have come across, such as Wright's "go and bear fruit, fruit that will last" (KNT).

    None of these translations are wrong, they're just not complete. What if Yah'shua (Jesus) wanted more than simply bearing fruit that will last? The emet (truth) is brought out in Trimm's translation, recognising the idiom for what it is:

      "You did not choose me but I chose you and have appointed you that you also should bear fruit more and more, and your fruit should abide..." (Jn.16:16, HRV).

    Here, then, are the three signs of the true talmid (disciple):

    • 1. Producing spiritual fruit;
    • 2. Producing more and more of it; and
    • 3. The fruit abides, lasts or continues on.

    In other words, the correct translation conveys the sense not of simply being 'fruitful' but of producing 'more and more' fruitfulness, which is permanent. In other words, Yah'shua (Jesus) is underlining the Law of Spiritual Multiplication so well illustrated in Isaiah's messianic prophecy:

      "Of the increase of his government and shalom (peace) there will be no end" (Isa.9:7, NIV)

    and in Yah'shua's (Jesus') own Parable of the Talents (Mt.25:14ff.).

    We must therefore salute Trimm for getting this correct and important sense out, something the self-acclaimed restorer of the 'Original Bible' (NRB) seems to have missed.

    4. Has Torah Been Abolished?

      "Do not think that I came to annul the Torah or the Prophets; I did notcome to annul, but to fulfill. Truly I say to you, Until the heaven and the earth pass away, in no way shall one yod or one stroke pass away from the Torah until all comes to pass." (Mt.5:17-18, HRB).

    One thing that unites all Messianic versions of the Bible is a more-or-less correct reading of this passage which is 'key' to messianic teaching about the validity of the non-ceremonial Torah in the New Covenant. Esposito includes a necessary footnote:

      "Verses 17-20 are extremely clear that Yahshua's intention was NEVER to abolish the eternal Torah of YHWH, but to magnify the intent."

    I am not myself sure that "fulfill" is the best word choice here, though it's a pretty common rendition in all Bible translations, and personally I think Stern's is the best:

      "Don't think that I have come to absolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete" (Mt.5:17, CJB).

    Other versions (which mostly do not use "fulfill") render this passage:

    • "I have not come to abolish, but to fulfill" (HRVM)
    • "I have not come to weaken or destroy, but to completely reveal it in its intended fullness" (RSTNEMp)
    • "I have not come to loosen but to fulfill them through proper meaning" (AENTMp).
    • "I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill (make perfect, live and interpret perfectly)" (MRCM)
    • "I did not come to destroy but to complete" (ISRVM, HSM)
    • "I did not come to abolish but to complete" (OJBM, NEBP, BVP)
    • "I have not come to abolish but to complete them" (JBC, JBPP)
    • "I have not come to do away with them but to complete them" (S&GP)
    • "I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true" (GNBPp)
    • "I have come not to do away or undo, but to complete and fulfill them" (AmpVPp)

    Key to superscripts above: M=Messianic P=Protestant C=Catholic p=paraphrase

    And so, whilst I do not think Esposito's choice of the word "fulfill" is the best one, nor of his mentor Ross (AENT), he does at least explain what he means by it.

    The true sense of this statement by the Messiah is that the Torah has not been abolished, destroyed, removed or done away with, but has been 'filled up' ('fulfilled'), that is to say, brought to completion, rather like when the picture of an unfinished jigsaw puzzle is completed by the addition of the remaining pieces, to then continue in use in its perfected form, not 'completed and to be then cast away' as antinomian (lawless) Christians would teach. In this matter all messianics are more-or-less agreed, any disagreements tending centre around the question as to what has been abolished and what has not (e.g. circumcision).

    5. Whose Son Was Zechariah?

      "Because of this, behold, I send to you prophets and wise ones and scribes. And some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and will persecute from city to city; so that should come on you all the righteous blood poured out on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Berechiah whom you murdered between the Holy Place and the altar" (Mt.23:34-35, HRB).

    This almost universal error in English Bible translations is repeated by Esposito which actually shows that he has not followed the Aramaic here or (more likely) he has simply copied Roth uncritically (who likewise - and surprisingly - makes the same error). You see, the problem is that Zechariah was not the son of Bererchiah but of Jehoida as even Esposito himself acknowledges in his earlier Tanakh (Old Testament) translation:

      "And the Spirit of Elohim came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, and he stood before the people and said to them, So says The Elohim, Why do you transgress the commandments of YAHWEH, and do not prosper? Because you have forsaken YAHWEH, He has forsaken you" (2 Chr.24:20, HRB).

    So which is it to be? Or, more pertinently, why have Trimm (HRV) and Koniuchowsky (RSTNE) got it right and evenyone else - including Stern (CJB), Koster (ISRV, HS), and every other English translation I have checked - got it wrong? It's because they have been using the Greek manuscripts! And the Greek translator simply got it w-r-o-n-g proving that the Greek version of the Messianic Scriptures is not infallible!

    So what's going on here? Jerome, who had an ancient Hebrew copy of the New Testament, said this error was not present. In it, we read "son of Joiada" and not "son of Barachias" [8].

    Now some of you may think this is just a trivial detail but it isn't because it establishes, along with a lot of other evidence, that the New Testament was not originally written in Greek but in Hebrew or Aramaic [9]. It means that the Greek translator made a mistake. Worse, as far as the compiler of the HRB is concerned, it means that Esposito has not only not done his homework but has leaned on someone whom he supposed had but hadn't, not a good testimonial for one claiming to be restoring the 'original Bible'.

    All credit goes to Trimm (HRV) and to Koniuchowsky (RSTNE).

    6. Is the Ruach/Spirit Male, Female or Neuter?

    As we saw in Part 1, Esposito does not believe in a personal Ruach (Spirit) and so, ignoring all the rules of grammar, stubbornly (like a good former member of the Armstrongite Worldwide Church of God) translates the third member of the Elohim (Godhead) as 'it'. One example will suffice:

      "The Spirit itself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of YAHWEH" (Rom.8:16, HRB).

    Nearly all Protestant versions, because of Trinitarian tradition, and because of the Latin Vulgate which dominated the Western Church for so many centuries before the Reformation simply translated the Latin Spiritus which is a male noun, have consistently referred to the Ruach (Spirit) as 'he' as in this modern translation:

      "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God" (Rom.8:16, ESV).

    A number of messianics follow the Trinitarian formulation of the Ruach (Spirit) and like Protestants and Catholics stay with 'him' or 'he' like Stern (CJB), Koster (ISRV & HS), Goble (OJB) and the authors of the MRC.

    Roth naughtily steers clear of the controversy (because he knows very well what the Aramaic says) by simply rendering the phase "And this Spirit testifies..." (AENT) unlike Koniuchowsky who, opts for "it" (RSTNE). So you might say there is a lot of 'gender confusion' when it comes to the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) in the Messianic Movement.

    The emet (truth) is far more radical and only Trimm has the guts to spell it out albeit in a footnote:

      "And the spirit gives testimony to our spirit that we are sons of Eloah" (Rom.8:16, HRV).

    Messianic Evangelicals are the only messianics that I know of who acknowledge what the Peshitta actually says:

    adhsm atwr yhw
    "And SHE the Ruach gives testimony..."

    Sadly, Trimm, who is a kabbalist like so many other messianics (including Roth and Koniuchowsky) believes in an impersonal spirit which is why he, like the Jehovah's Witnesses in their New World Translation (NWT), writes "spirit" with the lower case 's' instead of "Spirit" like most English Bibles. Therefore he will only admit to the Ruach (Spirit) being female grammatically which in my opinion is just a cop-out.

    Irrespective of what you may conclude about the identity of the Ruach (Spirit), it is man's responsibility to translate the Scriptures accurately, and that means using "She" and "Her". And as the Peshitta consistently pairs the Ruach (Spirit) with feminine verbs and/or feminine modifiers, all true English translations should properly represent Her gender [10].

    Esposito totally fails to make mention of this important issue either in his main Bible text or in his footnotes and forces "it" into his references to the Third Member of the Elohimhead (Godhead).

    For a full study on the Ruach (Spirit) being female and our Heavenly Mother, please see the study, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and His Place in the Elohimhead (Godhead)

    7. Cross vs. Torture Stake

      "But may it never be for me to boast, except in the torture stake of our Master Yahshua Messiah, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal.6:14, HRB).

    This is a most curious rendition given the author's evident attempt to get away from the word 'cross' which he, Jehovah's Witnesses and others find offensive because of alleged pagan connections. And yet in the very same sentence he uses the verb 'crucify' which means to be executed on a cross (from the Latin crux)! Even the Jehovah's Witnesses don't fall for that 'error' in their New World Translation:

      "But may I never boast, except in the torture stake of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been put to death with regard to me and I with regard to the world" (Gal.6:14, NWT2e).

    Yet it was on a cross that Yah'shua (Jesus) was crucified. Esposito in his footnotes claims that Yah'shua (Jesus) was nailed to a horizontal beam of wood and then this beam was nailed up on, or attached to, a living tree which would still make a cross-shape and not a simple vertical pole as the Witnesses and others maintain (see right). So which is it to be?

    The Watchtower people and Esposito are not alone in believing Yah'shua (Jesus) was executed on a vertical execution stake. Other 'stakers' include Roth (AENT), Stern (CJB) and Koster (ISRV & HS) who use just "stake". Goble (OJB) uses more Orthodox Jewish terminology, as one might expect of his project to reach that community:

      "But may it not be to me to boast, except in HaEtz HaMoshiach (the Tree of the Messiah - Dt.21:23) Yehoshua Adonaeinu (Jesus the Lord) through whom the Olam Hazeh (this world) has become nevelah talui al HeEtz (a corpse hanging on a tree - Dt.21:23) to me, and I have become a nevelau talui al HaEtz (a corpse hanging on a tree) to the Olam hazeh (this world)" (Gal.6:14, OJB).

    Interestingly, and a little unexpectedly, Trimm mixes terms like Esposito though he uses "gallows" rather than "torture stake":

      "But for me, I have nothing to boast about but in the gallows of our Adon Yeshua the Messiah, that by him the world was crucified to me and I was crucified to the world..." (Gal.6:14, HRV).

    The problem in using "[torture/execution] stake" is that it does not carry the same theological load attached to it as "cross" and so is easily diminished in its actual meaning. That is why Messianic Evangelicals have consistently adhered to "cross". In that respect we agree with the Messianic Renewed Covenant (MRC) translation team's policy:

      "But may it never be for me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal.6:14, MRC).

    Why has Esposito opted for the Jehovah's Witness term 'torture stake' rather than just 'stake' or 'execution stake'? That's something he will have to answer himself.

    8. Darkness vs. Light: Stupid or Weak...or Both?

      "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it" (Jn.1:5, HRB).

    The question we are asking here is what the 'darkness' has, or has not, done in respect of the 'light'. There are two broad categories of meaning in the translations, and here I have had to dip into Protestant and Catholic Bibles as Messianic versions tend to span both categorties whilst predominating in the first:

    • 1. The Darkness Cannot Conquer the Light: "overtake" (AENT, HRV, BV), "overcome" (ISRV, HS, RSTNE2e, MRC, RSV, NRSV, ESV, KNT, HCSB, NAB), "overpower[ed]" (NWT2e, JB), "master[ed]" (NEB, Moffat), "suppressed" (CJB), "put it out" (S&G, GNB, JBP), "extinguish" (LB, NLT);

    • 2. The Darkness Cannot Understand the Light: "comprehend[ed]" (KJV, NKJV, NASU, NASB, Coverdale), "apprehended" (ASV, Benjamin Wilson) "understood" (NIV), "grasp[ed]" (OJB, CLNT).

    Now whilst both of these categories are undoubtedly true, which is the correct one here? The Amplified Version (AmpV), recognising that there are a number of overlapping nuances here, tries to span both categories:

      "And the Light shines in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it - put it out, or has not absorbed it, has not appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it" (Jn.1:5, AmpV).

    It is not often that the Amplified Version does a job no other version has succeeded in doing, but here is a shining example of one (if you'll excuse the pun), though I would also have added "for whom it is a complete mystery".

    So I am only giving Esposito half marks for this translation.


    These are, admittedly, only 8 passages and I could muster many more were I to have time. On this section, Esposito scores 2˝/8 which added to the score of Esposito's own star texts of 3/6 from part 2 makes a total of 5˝/14 or 39%. In the final part we shall look at a couple of books for overall style, readability and any other translation queries that may arise from the text.

    Continued in Part 4

    Also see Bible Versions


    [1] Moshe Konniuchowsky, Restoration Scriptures True Name Edition Study Bible, Second Edition (Your Arms to Israel, North Miami Beach, Florida: 2005), p.vii
    [2] Sarah Tumwebaze, Congregation of Yahweh; another sect, other beliefs
    [3] Andy Naselli, How Not to Argue About Which Bible Translation Is Best
    [4] See my Old Testament Essays
    [5] See my Johannine Essays
    [6] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, Nashville: 2005), p.1159
    [7] Goble (OJB) craftily leaves out Zecharaiah's Dad's name altogether!
    [8] Jerome, Commentary on Matthew 23:35
    [9] Also see James Trimm, Introduction to the Hebraic-Roots Version Scriptures
    [10] Mark 1:10; John 1:32-33; 6:63; 7:39; Acts 8:29,39; 16:17; Romans 8:9-11,16,26a-b, 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:1, 1 Peter 1:11; 4:14; 1 John 5:6

    Comments From Readers

    [1] "Amen!" (DK, Ethiopia, 5 September 2017)

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