Five Alleged Mistakes in the Bible
A recent article entitled Five Mistakes in Your Bible Translation which appeared in the Huffington Post, a liberal online newspaper, alleges that the Bible contains numerous translation errors. Let us consider some of the examples mentioned.
Covet Doesn’t Mean Covet
Supposedly, the command, “You shall not covet” (Ex. 20:17), has been mistranslated. It really means “Don’t take.” Is that distinction valid? It is not. The root form of hamad means “to desire, long after” in an “inordinate, ungoverned, selfish” sense (Brown 1907, 326). Note the parallel in Deuteronomy 5:21 which defines the term “covet” by the companion word, “desire.” Moreover, reflect on Achan’s sin (Josh. 7:21). It involved coveting and taking—different verbs, different actions, thus demonstrating that the two are not the same.
There Is No Jubilee
The claim is made that the term “jubilee” (found twenty-one times in the ASV; cf. Lev. 25:10) is incorrect; supposedly, it should be rendered “ram.” First of all, the original word is of “uncertain origin” (Freedman 1992, 1025 [one of the more liberal dictionaries available]), and no inflexible claim should be made on such a basis.
It is true that the ram’s horn was used to signal the beginning of this special year. Jubilee, however, came to be associated with the term because slaves were released and property debts were forgiven in this year. It was a year of great rejoicing. Hence the word took on a popular sense.
No Virgin Prophecy
The charge is made that Isaiah 7:14 did not prophesy the virgin birth; the allegation is that the Hebrew term almah meant only “young woman.” This modernistic allegation has been debunked numerous times. It is regrettable that uninformed people still make such an irresponsible charge.
Matthew, an inspired apostle, specified that the Old Testament text meant “virgin” when he said that Joseph “knew her not” until after the birth of the baby. This is a euphemism for sexual intimacy. Moreover, Dr. Luke (Col. 4:14) records that Mary made the same argument (see Lk. 1:34). A medical doctor scarcely would have argued for a virgin birth unless the evidence for such was absolutely overwhelming! Why would a modern liberal writer think he knows more about that ancient situation than two inspired historians whose records have stood the test of some twenty centuries? For a more extensive discussion of this matter, see, Did Isaiah Prophesy the Virgin Birth?. (See also Hindson 1978.)
The Lord Is Not My Shepherd
The critical writer further claims that the word “shepherd” (Psa. 23:1) reflects an “inaccurate” translation. He contends that the Hebrew term merely suggests the idea of “mighty, fierce, or royal.” Thus, supposedly, no English translation for the past four hundred years has translated Psalm 23:1 correctly until some relatively unknown critic revealed it in the Huffington Post! Professor Bruce Waltke noted that in Psalm 23 David “uses the metaphor of a shepherd tending his sheep” (VanGemeren 1997, 1105). In the Hebrew Bible the word is ro’eh (found about sixty-two times in the Old Testament). It is applied to God as “one who pastures or feeds his sheep” (Unger and White 1980, 372).
Even an inexperienced Bible student should be able to see the significance of the term in the context of animals who feed in “green pastures” are led carefully in the vicinity of “still waters,” are protected by their master’s “rod and staff,” and have their heads “anointed with oil.” The figure of God as a caring shepherd goes far back in history (Gen. 49:24), and even Christ used the symbol for his relationship with his people (Jn. 10:11).
Love Your Sister
Finally, the pseudo-scholar who authored the Huffington piece alleges that the translation, “sister,” used in Song of Solomon (seven times), would imply an incestuous relationship and is downright “felonious.” Instead, the writer claims, the point being made by the use of this term in Solomon’s narrative is to establish “that the woman in this relationship should be the man’s equal.” How in the world is that conclusion to be drawn?
First, as a human being of worth, woman is equal with man. Both male and female were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). In the matter of salvation, both genders stand on equal ground; they are one in Christ (Gal. 3:28). But in domestic and ecclesiastical realms, the situation is different. The husband is the head of the wife (Eph. 5:23), and the woman is not permitted to exercise authority over the man in church matters (1 Tim. 2:12).
The book of Song of Solomon has absolutely nothing to do with such issues, and the very suggestion of such is absurd. The term “sister” (4:9) is merely a “term of endearment rather than a term for a blood relative” (Unger and White, 384). Professor G. Lloyd Carr states:
“Brother and “sister” as terms of endearment between lovers is well attested from the literature from the ancient Near East. There is no incestuous relationship being discussed here (1984, 121).
It is a sad reality that some so despise the sacred Book that they will attempt every manipulative device at their disposal in their frantic efforts to discredit the word of God due to its condemnation of their eccentric and irrational assaults. What pathetic and disgusting creatures they are.
- Brown, Francis, S. R. Driver, and Charles Briggs. 1907. Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin & Co.
- Carr, Lloyd G. 1984. The Song of Solomon. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
- Freedman, David Noel, ed. 1992. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 3. New York, NY: Doubleday.
- Hindson, Edward. 1978. Isaiah’s Immanuel. Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian & Reformed.
- Hoffman, Joel. 2011. Five Mistakes in Your Bible Translation. Huffington Post. December 9.
- Unger, Merrill F. and William White. 1980. Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
- VanGemeren, Willem A. ed. 1997. Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis. Vol. 4. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.