[b-hebrew] Psalm 22:17 (was Re: Verbs, text-segmenting and clause-types)

Heard, Christopher Christopher.Heard at pepperdine.edu
Sat Jul 30 11:35:52 EDT 2005

Just as a bibliographical note, I would point to the following  
articles on this verse:

Roberts, J.J.M. "A new root for an old crux, Ps 22:17c." Vetus  
Testamentum 23 (1973) 247-252. Roberts surveys the various  
translations attempted (as of 1973) of כארי ידי ורגלי [K) 
RY YDY WRGLY]. Noting that (a) the majority of commentators agree  
that there is something amiss with the word כארי [K)RY], (b) the  
ancient versions routinely try to read כארי [K)RY] as a verb, (c)  
intrusive alpehs are relatively common, and (d) graphic confusion  
between W and Y is common, agrees with the tendency to read כארי  
[K)RY] as a slightly anomalous 3mp verb derived from a verbal root  
כרה [KRH]. This is how translations like LXX and, following LXX,  
NIV get "they dug through/pierced my hands and my feet," by reading  
כרו [KRW] (ignoring the intrusive aleph and "restoring" ו [W] for  
MT י [Y]. LXX and, following its lead, NIV then read כרה as an  
instance of כרה I, "to dig." Roberts argues convincingly that  
כרה I semantically ill fits the usage here, and after surveying  
other possibilities, he suggests reading here a previously  
unrecognized Hebrew root כרה V "to be short, shrunken, shriveled."  
He demonstrates that such a root exists in both Syriac and Akkadian,  
and proposes that we read the same thing here. Roberts writes:

There is no particular merit in "discovering" vast numbers of  
"hiherto unrecognized" Hebrew roots, particularly when the passages  
being explicated make sense with the old established roots.  
Nevertheless, classical Hebrew undoubtedly possessed a much richer  
vocabulary than has been preserved in our limited corpus of texts,  
and where none of the old roots make sense in the context, as is  
certainly the case in Ps. xxii 17c, it is legitimate to suggest a new  
root. The only requirements are that the root be well-attested in a  
cognate language or languages, the difference in root consonants, if  
any, be explainable by the principles of Semitic phonology, and the  
meaning suggested for the new root be consistent with its attested  
meaning in the cognate languages and with the context in the other  
language where it is posited. A root kara(h) V, "to be short,  
shrunken, shriveled", which I would posit for Ps. xxii 17c, meets all  
these criteria. Hence one may accept the commonly adopted reading  
karu, interpret it as a verb form, and translate Ps. xxii 17c-18a as  
follows: My hands and my feed are shriveled up, / I can count all my  

In the 2004 Festschrift for Roberts (_David and Zion_, Eerdmans),  
Michael Barré's article "The Crux of Psalm 22:17c: Solved at Long  
Last?" refines and extends Roberts's suggestion by surveying the  
Akkadian diagnostic texts in which Akk. karu is used, to better  
define the semantic range of the Akkadian verb.

Roberts' reading is reflected in NRSV, "My hands and feet have  


On Jul 30, 2005, at 4:50 AM, Rolf Furuli wrote:

> Dear Peter,
> It is fine that you ask about contradictions, so I get the  
> opportunity to
> clear up things in behalf of other list-members as well.  
> Translation is
> interpretation, so a translator will all the time make decisions  
> without the
> knowledge of the readers. In my view such decisions should be  
> limited as
> much as possible - and that is the advantage of a literal  
> translation - and
> footnotes should notify the readers of different possibilities.
> One example of an ambiguous text is Psalm 22:17 K)RY YDY WRGLY,  
> literally
> "like the lion my hands and my feet". Many solutions to this  
> ambiguity have
> been tried:
> NIV: "they have pierced my hands and my feet" ( LXX: "they have dug  
> out my
> hands and my feet")
> JPS: "like lions they maul my hands and feet"
> NAB: "so wasted are my hands and my feet"
> NET: "like a lion they pin my hands and feet to the ground"
> NJB: "a gang of villains closing in on me as if to hack off my  
> hands and my
> feet"
> TEV: "they tear at my hands and my feet"
> NWT: "like a lion /they are at/ my hands and my feet"
> Poor readers!
> I would say that the best solution here has NWT, which gives a literal
> rendering but adds in brackets three words that make the text  
> legibile. The
> text is still ambigous, and the reader is allowed to do the  
> interpretation.
> The temporal references of verbs are more important than the  
> meaning of
> single words, so in most cases it is fine for the translators to make
> decisions here. My view is that the temporal reference in *most*  
> cases must
> be decided by the translators, but in a very few cases  the  
> translator may
> decide to retain the ambiguity. Regarding words and clauses I think  
> that the
> ambiguousness to a greater degree should be retained, but again,  
> that is
> particularly possible in literal translations. And I fully  
> understand that
> translators who for the first time translate a part of the Bible  
> into a
> language take great care to make an unambigous text.  So the key for
> clearing up the supposed contradiction is "quantity"
> A fine test-case of temporal ambiguousness is Psalm 107.
> Best regards
> Rolf Furuli
> University of Oslo
> In most instances the temporal references of verbs are clear
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Peter Kirk" <peterkirk at qaya.org>
> To: "Rolf Furuli" <furuli at online.no>
> Cc: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: Saturday, July 30, 2005 11:47 AM
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Verbs, text-segmenting and clause-types
>> On 30/07/2005 09:30, Rolf Furuli wrote:
>>> ... My view of Bible translation is that the translators should  
>>> refrain
>>> from exegesis as much as possible and instead whenever possible  
>>> make a
>>> text that gives the reader the opportunity to do the  
>>> interpretation. ...
>> Thank you for this clear statement. While I don't agree with this, at
>> least for typical target audiences, this is a clear and rational
>> principle. This seems to mean that where there is an ambiguity in the
>> meaning of the original, translators should make no attempt to  
>> resolve the
>> ambiguity but should present an ambiguous text to the readers. In  
>> general
>> I don't think this is possible, but it is a reasonable aim.
>>> ... There may be situations where the temporal reference is  
>>> ambiguous in
>>> the original text and where the translators will preserve this
>>> ambigousness. But in most instances it is the duty of the  
>>> translator to
>>> make decisions regarding the temporal reference of the verbs and  
>>> convey
>>> these to the readers. In other words, the reader should be able  
>>> to in an
>>> easy way to find the temporal reference of a passage in an  
>>> English Bible
>>> translation.
>> But now you seem to be contradicting your principle. For, rather than
>> refraining from exegesis and preserving the ambiguity, you now  
>> insist that
>> with verb forms translators should make the exegetical decision  
>> concerning
>> the temporal reference and resolve the ambiguity in the translation.
>> So how do you reconcile this apparent contradiction between your  
>> general
>> principle and your instructions for this case?
>> -- 
>> Peter Kirk
>> peter at qaya.org (personal)
>> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
>> http://www.qaya.org/
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R. Christopher Heard
Assistant Professor of Religion
Pepperdine University
Malibu, California 90263-4352

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