HOUSMAIL HM#109 -- THEY PIERCED MY HANDS AND FEET - Psalm 22:16                           August 2003

My attention was recently drawn to claims by Jewish "anti-missionaries", that Psalm 22 was not a Messianic Prophecy. They base their attack on Psalm 22:16, which in the KJV and RSV reads: ?They have pierced my hands and feet?.

The RSV has a marginal note which instead of ?they have pierced?, offers the alternative ?like a lion ?. Some modern versions translate the passage, using this alternative.

The Jewish Anti-missionary claim is that the original Hebrew text has the word ?LION?, and not ?PIERCED?, and that Christian translators have deliberately misled their readers.

If you can read Hebrew, you will discover that it is certainly true that the Hebrew texts on which the KJV and RSV are based, do indeed have the word ?LION?. So, where does the word ?PIERCED? come from? Is it possible that the English translators have got it completely wrong? If so how is that possible?

As a layman whose knowledge of Hebrew is VERY limited, I don't normally like to give ?Hebrew lessons? to ?prove? a point. However, for those like me, who feel a need for a valid logical reason to reject the claims of the anti-missionaries, this is one of those occasions where it can't be avoided.

The answer lies in the similarity of the Hebrew words for ?pierced? and ?lion. ?They Pierced? is KA'ARU?. ?Like a Lion? is ?KA'ARI?. The only difference is in a couple of tiny ?squiggles? in the Hebrew Alphabet.

The KJV Old Testament English version was based on a ?composite? text which was compiled from many different Hebrew manuscripts, none of them older than the 15th century AD. With only a very few exceptions, all of these have the word ?lion?. However, there are a very small number of Hebrew Manuscripts which do have ?pierced?. These are so small in number, that they were ignored when compiling the ?composite? text. However it is reported that modern scholars are in large agreement that the text is corrupted at this point.

Is there any evidence to support the conclusion that later versions of the text are corrupted? YES! There is VERY strong evidence dating back to at least the third century BC.

The SEPTUAGINT (LXX) version, is a translation of the OT into Greek, made by Jewish scholars in the 3rd Century BC, for Greek speaking Jews. It is the common language version which would have been in almost universal use amongst Jews everywhere in the Roman Empire, including the early centuries of the Church. New Testament writers often quote from it.

The LXX does use the word ?pierced?! And of course this means that the ancient text from which the LXX was made, most likely does have that word in the Hebrew!

There is also positive evidence in several OT manuscripts from the DEAD SEA SCROLLS, dating back to a couple of hundred years BC. e.g. The Qumran text 4QPf, and the Hever text 5/6HevPs. These also have the word ?pierced?, and NOT ?lion?.

It would of course be easy to speculate that over many hundreds of years, Jews have either deliberately, or by accumulated scribal error, modified this text to favor their own rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. However there is no clear positive evidence to support that speculation, so we won't make it an ?accusation?!

What we will do, is take note that the information provided above is very strong evidence that ?PIERCED? is the correct word in Psalm 22:16. It was the word in the texts from which the LXX was translated. And it IS the word in the oldest Hebrew texts we now have.

This verse and other features of the Psalm are completely consistent with our Christian understanding that it is indeed a very positive Messianic Prophecy!