Untangling Hebrew


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Friday, September 22, 2006

Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets)

L'shanah Tovah!

Today I will examine some interesting translations of a simple and difficult Hebrew phrase... (aren't they all?) But the only difficult thing about this phrase is that it contains the word "atonement" (coined by John Wycliffe) and although this is a basic theological concept it is really amazing how few translators really seem to understand what it means when they try to write "simpler" translations of the Bible.

לכפר עליכם "L'KHAPPER ALEIKHEM" (Num. 29:5) is translated, for a sampling, (NASB) "to make atonement for you", (NLT) "to make atonement for yourselves", (MESSAGE) "as an Absolution-Offering to atone for you", (NIRV) "It will pay for your sin", (New Life Version) "to pay for your sins". The best translations stick to Wycliffe's word, "atonement", to translate the Hebrew "L'KHAPPER", which had (and apparantly still has) no exact equivalent in English.

עליכם "ALEIKHEM" is an inflected pronoun, in which the prefix על (AL) means on, upon, or above. the suffix KHEM כם- means second person, plural (ie. you)

The word כפר "KAPPER" means more "a covering", which seems to elude most modern translators. I would simply translate it, "for a covering over you", keeping in mind the context of the goat being a sin-offering (חטאת "KHATAT", which we learned last time). The goat does not "pay for your sins" (Hebrews 10:4) and you don't "make" atonement (especially not "for yourselves"). The worst of them all, however is the Message's use of "Absolution" which was a term Wycliffe rejected. It does not mean the same thing at all. Church leaders were the ones who "absolved" penitents from sin- and then assigned penance and sold them indulgences so they could avoid purgatory. They twisted the meaning and used the word to suit themselves.

2 Comments:

Blogger Meg McCool said...

does the fact that the goat means more of "a covering" have anything to do with the fact that god made clothing to "cover" adam and eve after "the fall."

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Tangle said...

Yes, in fact the "covering" for Adam and Eve was a sacrifice and atonement for their sin, and the reason they didn't die that day even though they should have.

7:57 PM  

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