The Hebrew text of Psalm 51:17, as pointed by the Masorites in the 6th century, reads “Sacrifice of God” rather than “My sacrifice.” While it is true that, in Hebrew, the only difference is in the vowel markings and those markings were not originally part of the text, early translations, like the Greek LXX (2nd Century B.C.), Aramaic Targums, 1 Century A.D.), and Latin Vulgate (4th Century A.D.), reflect a reading that is identical to the way that the Masorites pointed this text and, unlike the Hebrew text, the possessive form is not a “possible” reading in these early translations. I know of no ancient translation that supports the reading found in the updated NIV nor is this reading found in other modern translations. The 2011 revision offers a new reading of Psalms 51:17, but the textual evidence shows much stronger support for the reading found in the 1984 revision of the NIV.
The goal of this translation is to provide a text that enables the bible student to more easily identify places in the text where significant interpretive choice have been made by the translators of other versions. For this reason, some of the English readings are purposely awkward where the corresponding Hebrew text itself is also awkward and in a few places an alternate translation has been offered where the interpretation of a specific phrase is more open in the original text.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth[i]. And the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was blowing[ii] on the surface of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God divided between the light and between the darkness. And God called the light “day” and the darkness he called “night.” And it was evening and it was morning, one day[iii].
And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters and it will divide the waters.” And God made the expanse and it divided between the waters which were under the expanse and the waters that were above the expanse and it was so. And God called the expanse “sky.” And it was evening and it was morning, a second day[iv].
And God said, “let the waters under the sky be gathered to one place and let dry land appear” and it was so. And God called the dry land “earth” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. And God said, “Let the earth sprout grass, plants producing seed, fruit trees producing fruit according to their kind which has its seed in it” and it was so. And the land brought forth grass, plants producing seed according to their kind and trees producing fruit with seed in it according to their kind. And God saw that it was good. And it was evening and it was morning a third day.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to divide between day and night and to be signs for the seasons, days, and years and let there be lights in the expanse of heaven to shine on the earth” and it was so. And God made two great lights, the greater light to rule over the day and the lesser light to rule over the night and the stars[v]. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to shine on the earth and to govern the day and the night and to divide between the light and the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And it was evening and it was morning, a fourth day.
And God said, “the waters will swarm with living creatures and birds will fly above the earth on the face of the expanse of the heavens” and God created the great sea creatures and all the living creatures that swarm in the waters according to their kind and all the winged birds according to their kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them saying, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters of the seas and the birds will multiply on the land.” And it was an evening and it was a morning, a fifth day.
And God said, “the land will bring forth living creatures according to their kind, livestock, and creeping things, and wild animals according to their kind” and it was so. And God made the wild animals according to their kind and the livestock according to their kind, and all which creeps along the ground according to their kind and God saw that it was good. And God said, “We will make man[vi] in Our[vii] image and according to Our likeness and they[viii] will rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and the livestock and everything that is in the land and all that creeps upon the land.” And God created man in his image, in the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them. And God blessed them and God said to them, “be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it and rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every animal that creeps on the land.” And God said, “behold, I have given you every plant producing seed which is on the face of the earth and every fruit tree which produces fruit with its seed in it, for you it will be for food. And for every land animal and for every bird of the air and for every creeping animal on the land which has a living soul, every green plant will be food” and it was so. And God saw everything which he had made and behold it was very good. And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day[ix].
And the earth and all their hosts were finished. And God finished on the seventh day from his work which he did and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he did. And God blessed the seventh day and he sanctified it because on it he rested from all his work which God created to make[x].
[i] The words שמים (Shamayim) and ארץ (Eretz) when used individually typically refer to “sky” and “land” but when used together refer to the entire universe i.e. “heavens and the earth.”
[ii] The Hebrew word רוח (ruach) means either “spirit” or “wind” and the Hebrew word מרחפת (m’rachephet) can mean “hovering” or “blowing,” thus this phrase could alternatively be translated “and the Spirit/wind of God was blowing on the waters”
[iii] In Hebrew adjectives follow the noun but in English they proceed the noun, so a literal translation יום אחד (yom echad) would be “one day” rather than “day one.” The same phrase is almost always translated as “one day” when used in other places in Scripture i.e. Ge. 27:45, Ge. 33:13, Nu. 11:19, Is. 9:13. Translations that use “first day” as the translation for this phrase have made a highly interpretive choice to harmonize this day with the ordinal days that follow. In Hebrew “first day” is יום ראשון (yom rishon) not יום אחד (yom echad). The NASB is one of the few translations that has translated this phrase as “one day”
[iv] Days 1-5 do not contain the definite article i.e. “the” but it is included with the 6th and 7th days. Many translations have added the definite article despite its absence in every known Hebrew text. The NASB is one of the few translations that has not added the article where it is absent in the Hebrew text.
[v] The Hebrew texts reads simply “and the stars” but many translations have amended the text to convey the idea that “he also made the stars;” however, the original thought may have been that the “lesser light” ruled both the night and the stars.
[vi] There are two common words form “man” in Hebrew, the most common word is איש (ish), but the word used exclusively, except in the phrase “from man she was taken” (Ge 2:23), in the first two chapters is אדם (adam) which is related to the word for “ground” אדמה(adamah) from which man was taken. This is sometimes translated as “man” and sometimes as the proper name “Adam.” The word play between man, Adam, and ground is lost in English.
[vii] The use of the plural reference to God is unique to this passage in Scripture.
[viii] Note the switch to the plural form when referring to man. An identical move between the singular and plural is also found in vs. 1:27
[ix] The sixth day is the first day that includes the definite article although both vs .1:31 and 2:3 are in the construct form and would literally translate as “day of the sixth” and “day of the seventh.” Only in vs. 2:3 do we have the literal Hebrew text for “the seventh day.”
[x] This last phrase is difficult in the Hebrew. Most translations attempt to smooth out the translation in English.
Is racism a problem in America? Absolutely! And it is a problem that seems to be getting worse everyday. We talk more about racism now than ever before but the more we “talk” about it the greater the divide between the races seems to grow and the “solutions” we offer seem only to exasperate the problem of racism in America. Why is that?
I believe that much of the reason we have failed to address problems of racism in America today is because we have failed to understand the motivation for the racism that exists in our culture today. The motivation for the majority of racism we see today is very different than the motivation for the racism that existed in America when slavery plagued our country, but we are still offering the same kinds of solutions that were used to address the racism found in the pages of our history books. What’s the difference you may ask? When America endorsed the evils of slavery, significant portions of our population truly accepted the idea that black people were inferior to white people. Our country decided that a black person would be counted as 3/5 of a white person, our courts said that a black person could be deemed the property of a white person, our government prohibited black people from voting, etc… At that dark time in our history, racism was actually seen as something good rather than evil by much of America.
While there are fringe groups that are still motivated by a “white supremacy” ideology, these groups no longer represent the mainstream of racism in America today and their ideology is recognized as evil by most of Americans. Today’s racism is different because it is largely a reaction to unjust treatment rather than the result of a belief in the superiority of a particular race and today’s perpetrators of racism are no longer limited to only one race. Today’s racism stems from a growing frustration and anger over seeing “privilege” given to others in our society only because of the color of their skin. And because our anger has far too often distorted our own perception of “justice,” we often fail to see “privilege” given to those who are members of our own race while far too easily seeing “privilege” given to those of another race, sometimes even when no “privilege” was actually received.
If we are going to address racism in our society today, we need to look to the root of the problems we face today and come up with solutions that address these problems. Here are a few suggestions:
- Recognize our own propensity to see the “privileges” that others have received while failing to recognize the ones we have received. It is far too easy to only see the advantages that others have received while failing to see the advantages that have been available to us. Take time for self examination and remember that it is often easier to see the spec in someone else’s eye than it is to see the “log” in our own.
- Don’t assume that every advantage given to someone of another race is because of their race. While some people do receive advantages because of their race, not every advantage is a result of racism. The world we live in is far more complex than this and conclusions that fail to recognize the complexity of the world we live in will almost certainly lead to injustice.
- Don’t rush to judgement until all sides have been presented. Proverbs reminds us that “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” If we, as a nation, had heeded this advise when the events in Ferguson had first begun to unfold, we could have avoided many of the tragedies now before us. While there are still many questions about what really happened in Ferguson, it is clear that much of the information that we heard at the beginning was inaccurate. Sadly, very few were willing to wait to hear both sides before making their judgements and now people are so entrenched on their “sides” that it is unlikely that the facts about what really happened, when they are known, will change anyone’s perception of what “justice” should look like in this situation.
- Support only people and organizations that stand against all forms of racism. Any organization that exist to protect the rights of only one race is itself a racist organization and we, as a country, should no longer support these organizations. We need organizations that look to protect the rights of all our citizens regardless of the color of their skin!
- Punish individuals rather than corporations for racism. Racism is never a crime committed by a corporation, it is crime committed by an individual who work for a corporation. If our goal is really to end racism, we then should be prosecuting the individuals who committed the crime rather than the companies for whom they work. If individuals truly had to take responsibility for their own unjust acts towards members of another race then there would be a much greater incentive for change. The way we handle racism in the courts today is not designed to stop racism, it is designed to be a money making endeavor.
- Punish those who practice racism regardless of the race of the perpetrator. Those who suggest that only members of one race can be the perpetrators of racism are themselves expressing a racist ideology and it is an ideology that should no longer be tolerated. Treating anyone unjustly because of their race is racism and nobody, regardless of their race, should get a free pass on this.