July 2008


Last Sunday, our pastor preached on this passage (among others). As I was scrambling to keep up in my Readers Hebrew Bible, I realized that the translation that he read was not even close to what I had in my Hebrew Bible. He read something like this: ‘Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, but the one who gathers by labor increases it’ (NASB). A look at several different translations show the struggle to understand this verse:

NRSV – Wealth hastily gotten will dwindle, but those who gather little by little will increase it. 

NET – Wealth gained quickly will dwindle away, but the one who gathers it little by little37 will become rich.

NIV – Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.

ESV – Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.

NASB – Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, but the one who gathers by labor increases it.

JPS – Wealth may dwindle to less than nothing, but he who gathers little by little increases it.

The Hebrew, however reads: הון מהבל ימעט וקבץ על־יד ירבה. Translated as literally as possible this reads: (more…)

Septuagintal Saturdays have become an occasional affair, and I think I”m going to have to make my peace with that. However, when I get around to doing them I find them very educational and fun. This one was no exception.

Gog or Agag? Num. 24:7


Num. 24:7 ἐξελεύσεται ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτοῦ καὶ κυριεύσει ἐθνῶν πολλῶν καὶ ὑψωθήσεται ἢ Γωγ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ καὶ αὐξηθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ 

MT/LXX Comparison

יזל־מים מדליו ἐξελεύσεται ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτοῦ
וזרעו במים רבים κυριεύσει ἐθνῶν πολλῶν
וירם מאגג מלכו καὶ ὑψωθήσεται ἢ Γωγ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ
נשׂא מלכתו καὶ αὐξηθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ 


“A man will come forth from his seed 

and he will rule many nations 

and his kingdom will be lifted up above Gog, 

and his kingdom will be increased.”


Having reviewed both books by Fitzmyer and Kaiser, and having noticed their significant differences, I thought it would be interesting to compare the two of them on certain key texts. Here is a first look at Fitzmyer vs. Kaiser. We’ll start at the beginning, with Gen. 3:15.

Gen. 3:15 is also known as the protoeuangelion, because it is often interpreted as the ‘first gospel.’ It is often understood to be the first promise of a coming deliverer. The crux of the interpretation turns on the understanding of the Hebrew word ‘he/him’ (הוא). Here is a comparison of the views of Kaiser and Fitzmyer.

Gen. 3:15

Gen. 3:15 ואיבה אשׁית בינך ובין האשׁה ובין זרעך ובין זרעה הוא ישׁופך ראשׁ ואתה תשׁופנו עקב׃


‘And enmity I will put between you and between the woman, and between your seed and between her seed. He will strike you [on the] head and you will strike him [on the] heel.’

Fitzmyer Kaiser
“The pronoun should not be rendered ‘he,’ because that immediately specifies an individual male, whereas the Hebrew speaks of a collectivity, ‘your seed, your offspring.’ (27) “the reference to ‘his heel’ bears out the correctness of understanding Hebrew [הוא] as a singular masculine pronoun in the phrase ‘he will crush your head.” (39)       


the LXX: “only in 3:15 did the translators of the Greek text break their own grammatical rules, which require that the pronoun agree with its antecedent in gender and number.” (40)  Kaiser sites, Martin, saying “The most likely explanation for the use of [masculine pronoun] autos [rather than the neuter pronoun auto] in Gen 3:15 to refer back to [the neuter noun] sperma is that the translator has in this very way indicated his messianic understanding of this verse.” (40, citing, Martin, 427)

“‘Seed’ is often used as ‘offspring’ in a collective sense: e.g., Gen 9:9; 12:7; 13:16; 15:5, 13, 18; 2 Sam 7:12.” (27) “the very fact that the noun ‘seed’ is a collective singular deliberately provides for the fact that it may include the one who represents the whole group as well as the group itself.” (39)



Regarding the first argument, (more…)

Continuing my lessons from Sertillanges’ wonderful little book, The Intellectual Life, are a series of observations about the relationship between the Truth and the Good:

Truth visits those who lover her, who surrender to her, and this love cannot be without virtue. (19)

The true springs up in the same soil as the good: their roots communicate. (19)

We think ‘with our whole soul,’ declared Plato. Presently we shall go much farther, we shall say: with our whole being. Knowledge involves everything in us, from the vital principle to the chemical composition of the least cell. (20)

Purity of thought requires purity of soul; that is a general and undeniable truth. (22)

…study must first of all leave room for worship, prayer, direct meditation on the things of God. (28 )

My pastor once told me a story about a time he was preparing a sermon. In the middle of his study he was so overwhelmed by the truth of what he was studying that he stood up at his desk and sang the doxology. I was very convicted. I have spent much time studying the Word, but I have never been moved to praise God because of it. Digging deeply into Scripture must be an act of worship or we are doing it wrong. I am guilty of this.

Another favorite ‘nugget’ I have gleaned from Sertilannges’ The Intellectual Life, is the following:

Every truth is practical; the most apparently abstract, the loftiest, is also the most practical. Every truth is life, direction, a way leading to the end of man. And therefore Jesus Christ made this unique assertion: ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’ (13)

One of my Hebrew professors in seminary always pressed on us to dig into the details of the Hebrew text. To go as far as we could go, and then to apply that depth to the average person (or a specific person) in the pew. How important it is to remember as we pursue the depths of academia that all that we learn must be also be practical or we have lost the goal of what we do.

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Messiah in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 235 + Appendices and Indices. 

In preparation for my ‘Messiah in the Old Testament’ class this summer I read Kaiser’s take on the subject. Having read Fitzmyer’s work, I found this one to be an entirely different take. Kaiser is only concerned with the biblical texts themselves, paying little attention to how they have interpreted historically (though he does touch on this at points).

Kaiser organizes his book diachronically based on a very conservative dating of texts. Thus, after an introduction, he looks at 1) messianic passages in the Pentateuch, 2) before an during the monarchy, 3) in the psalms, 4) in the ninth and eighth century prophets, 5) in Isaiah, 6) in seventh and sixth century prophets, and 7) in the post-exilic prophets.

Kaiser begins by citing what he believes is the usual definition of the term ‘messianic,’ namely, “everything in the OT that refers to the hope of a glorious future” (15). He is aware that this is problematic since many passages that speak of a glorious future speak of the Lord’s actions rather than the Messiah’s but he also claims that there are significant overlap between the actions of the Lord and the actions of His Messiah. 

From the start, as Kaiser surveys the various texts, he sees Messiah in almost every passage traditionally thought of as messianic. He argues that the ‘edenic promise’ is a messianic promise, even though he is aware it is only the beginning of a progressive revelation of the messianic message. Throughout his book he tends to make arguments (some very good, some less so) for Messiah in all the traditional passages. 

One major weakness of Kaiser’s book is that it reads like an insiders discussion amongst evangelicals. He interacts most often with James Smith, What the Bible teaches about the Promised Messiah; Charles Briggs, Messianic Prophecy; the commentaries of Keil and Delitzsch, and Kaiser’s own previous works. Almost no mention is made of classic texts such as Mowinckel’s. 

Despite that drawback, Kaiser’s work, though written at a semi-popular level is also capable of making fairly detailed arguments. For example, he argues that Jeremiah 23:5-6 should be understood as “the LORD our righteousness” (as opposed to “the LORD is righteousness”) based on the accent marks of the Masoretic Text (and not just the atnac or zaqef…)

It took me a while to get into this book but in the end I enjoyed it. If you are looking for a good defense of a conservative reading of messianic prophecies than this a good choice. If Fitzmyer is overly minimalistic in his views, Kaiser may be overly maximalistic. Hopefully, somewhere between them is a good view of the messianic passages of Scripture. It would be a great exercise to compare the arguments of Kaiser and Fitzmyer of some specific passages but that is fodder for another post, or series of posts.

Well, it has been quite a while since I’ve contributed to my Septuagintal Saturdays. Apparently this series is becoming more of “Occasional Septuagintal Saturdays” than a firm weekly occurrence. But this series is more for my own edification than any potential readers. Anyway, today I looked at the interesting text-critical difference between the MT and LXX of Gen. 4:8. 

The Death of Abel

Gen. 4:8 καὶ εἶπεν Καιν πρὸς Αβελ τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ διέλθωμεν εἰς τὸ πεδίον καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ πεδίῳ καὶ ἀνέστη Καιν ἐπὶ Αβελ τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀπέκτεινεν αὐτόν 


And Cain said to Abel his brother, “let us go into the field.” And it happened in the time they were in the field that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

Translation Note:

ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ πεδίῳ

The above phrase appears to be trying to render the two prepositions in the MT as ἐν τῷ.  The difficulty with the first ἐν τῷ, is that it makes the verb ‘to be’ (εἶναι) articular. This is not the case in the MT. Thus my rendering of ‘in the time,’ even though the word ‘time’ is not in the Greek.

MT vs. LXX

διέλθωμεν εἰς τὸ πεδίον vs. ???

There is no equivalent for the above Greek phrase, best rendered “let us go into the field,” in the MT. The MT simply has ‘and Cain said to Abel and it happened when they were in the field’ (ויאמר קין אל־הבל אחיו ויהי בהיותם בשׂדה). Either the MT has lost the phrase ‘let us go into the field’ or it intentionally places an ellipsis here in order to add tension (see NET Bible Notes). It is possible that this phrase could have been omitted by homoioteleuton (similar ending) based on the ending of אחיו and בשׂדה but that is far from certain. The MT is definitely the more difficult reading and one could make an obvious case for the LXX clarifying a difficult reading of the MT. However, the interesting thing is that even with the support of the Samaritan Pentateuch, Latin Vulgate and the Syriac, the LXX rendering is not unanimously accepted by modern translations. The NIV, TNIV, NRSV and NET all accept the LXX. But the NKJV, JPS and NASB do not (though they include it in footnotes). My question is this: even though this may not be the best rendering according to our internal text-critical rules, it clearly has overwhelming support according to our external text-critical rules. Therefore, should we not include the LXX’s rendering because the thought is clearly implied in the MT, though not expressly stated? It obviously has virtually no bearing on interpretation either way, but it is an interesting case.

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