[b-hebrew] Isaiah 53

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Mon May 17 04:40:22 EDT 2004

Dear Vadim:

I hesitated  answering this  challenge, as when I looked at your site, you a priori rule out some readings for the text, namely certain historical Jewish and Christian ones. As a linguist, I think it is important to keep one’s philosophical presuppositions apart from one’s linguistic analysis. If one tries to combine the two, as it appears that you have done, one usually ends up with rather tortured results.

If I had been one of the people to whom you sent your article, I, too, would have returned it without comment. I found your “translation” strange.

Do you know modern Hebrew? If so, have you studied the differences between modern and Biblical Hebrew? There’s a greater difference between them than between, for example, Norwegian and Swedish. You have so many nonstandard meanings for lexemes that I suspect they may come from modern Hebrew instead of Biblical Hebrew. If I pointed out every one, it would take a very long response.

I mention a couple below:

----- Original Message -----
From: unikom at paco.net

> Gentlemen:
> A few days ago, I posted a request for review of the article on Isaiah 53.
> Since I did not receive much replies, I realize that probably most
> participants are too busy to go through a long article. Therefore, let me
> posit here several most relevant questions on the chapter:
> Verse 9, waiten, usually translated as was given or they gave
> The only two grammatically possible readings are, you (sing.masc.) gave,
ÿ or he gave

I read this as an idiomatic phrase. It reminds me of one that was used in the U.S. in the late 1800s, where when person A "laid" person B "in the grave", it meant that person A killed person B. I read it as a passive form, "He was given his grave with the wicked" ויתן את רשעים קברו which, when the idiomatic phrase is taken into account, has the meaning of dying with the wicked, followed by being in a state of death with the rich.
> Verse 12, lapsheim ifgia, usually translated as interceded for criminals
> Interceded is always encountered in Tanakh with preposition be, meaning
> before someone, and with a clear definition of the goal of intercession,
> such as not to burn the scroll. Preposition le, when employed with ifgia,
> means attached to. Therefore, he was attached to criminals, or, regarded
ÿ as one of the criminals.

PG( פגע has no equivalent in modern English.

To give an example illustrating its use, parakalein in ancient Greek meant to call to one’s side. Understood in that call is the reason for calling to one’s side: it was to scold, to upbraid, to instruct, to comfort, to exhort, to encourage, and maybe a couple other actions. "To call to one’s side" has a completely different connotation in English, so a translator tries to ascertain from the context which purpose was meant for parakalein and use that.

Similarly, PG( פגע had the meaning "to come up to" or "to go up to" but understood was the purpose for that action: it could be to attack, to request, to discuss, to intercede for (where the person or person interceded for is indicated by a L prefix), to lay a burden on, and maybe a couple other actions, where the person approached was indicated by a B prefix. In Isaiah 53, PG( is found twice, once in verse 6 in the context of laying a burden on, and in verse 12 with a L prefix  noun indicating that it means to intercede.
> There is no need to comment that this reading does not leave place for the
> Christian messianic interpretation.
> I would appreciate any comments or arguments to the contrary. Thank you
> for the time you may devote to this issue.
> Sincerely yours,
> Vadim Cherny
ÿ P.S. The article is at http://www.anarcho.net/on_religion/Ieshayahu%2053.htm

Both Renier deBlois and I are writing dictionaries from Biblical Hebrew to English: we disagree on our methodologies but I respect his scholarship. And I am editing many of my entries in response to one of his criticisms: that terse, short definitions like what I prefer, are often cryptic to others.

Yours, Karl W. Randolph.

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