Skip to comments.Ten Commandments Translated Wrong, Claims Scholar
Posted on 06/18/2010 12:16:49 PM PDT by Alex Murphy
NEW YORK, June 17 /PRNewswire/ -- The Ten Commandments don't forbid coveting or killing, claims Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, a noted Bible scholar and linguist who has applied modern translation techniques to the Bible.
Hoffman reports that the commandment commonly quoted as "thou shalt not covet" is more accurately translated as "do not take," and that the commandment applies only to actions, not to states of mind.
"We now know that the Ten Commandments take no position on how you feel, only on what you do," he says.
Hoffman claims that flawed translation techniques led to the familiar but inaccurate rendering of the Hebrew in this case. His evidence comes from how the Hebrew verb in the commandment is used elsewhere in the Bible.
"Perhaps more than any other part of the Bible, the Ten Commandments have shaped Western culture," Hoffman suggests. "The good news is that most of the commandments have been translated accurately. The bad news is that two have not."
According to Hoffman, the other mistranslated commandment is the one that concerns killing. (It's the sixth commandment for most Protestants and Jews, the fifth for Catholics.)
One familiar rendering, "do not kill," is too broad, he says, because the original Hebrew did not prohibit all kinds of killing. So recent high-profile political claims that the Bible categorically forbids killing are in error, says Hoffman.
But the other common variation, "do not murder," is too narrow, because the commandment included not just murder but also the equivalent of manslaughter and other illegal homicide.
The Ten Commandments are not the only parts of the Bible to be misrepresented in translation, Hoffman argues.
The well-known opening of Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd," is misleading, Hoffman says, because shepherds in the Bible were "brave, strong, valiant," and "regal," while the modern shepherd is "a marginalized loner who spends more time with sheep than with people." Hoffman explains that using the word "shepherd" to translate Psalm 23 "suggests all of the wrong images and none of the right ones."
Other translation gaffs include the prophesy of the virgin birth in the book of Isaiah --- Hoffman translates the word there as "woman," not "virgin" --- and the exhortation from Deuteronomy (quoted in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul," which is considered theologically central by Christians and Jews alike.
The words "heart" and "soul" there are mistranslations, Hoffman says. The first Hebrew word refers to all of the intangible aspects of life, including emotions and intellect, while the second connotes the physical flesh, blood, and breath.
Unlike most others who study the Bible, Hoffman's training is in linguistics and translation. "English speakers who read Ovid or Aristotle or Pushkin in translation have a better sense of the original texts than do readers of any existing English translation of the Bible," claims Hoffman, who has taught graduate-level translation courses in both religious and secular university settings.
Most Bible translations are produced by theologians, not translators, and their training doesn't generally include modern translation techniques.
Hoffman published his findings in his latest book, And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning (www.AndGodSaid.com). The book, released in February by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, is already in its second printing.
The author claimed otherwise about 2000 years ago.
“I bring you fifteen. (drops tablet) TEN Commandments”, - Mel Brooks
I don’t know what the other five are but I hope they don’t involve football and beer.
Well, he’s had his 15 minutes of fame, let’s move on now ...
Has this guy done any consulting work for obama translating the constitution? The outcome sounds familiar.
What a load of crap.
His comment about murder is ridiculous. I think anybody considers manslaughter murder in the sense of the commandment.
As for the other point, that’s just insane.
Christ makes it very clear the intents of the heart play into every single commandment, such as murder etc. Even wishing somebody dead is just as bad as actually spilling their guts.
Really? Then why did Jesus tell people that if they looked upon a woman with lust they have already committed adultry? Hmmmm....
Did he have anything to say about that whole “adultery” thing?
Maybe I missed it, but has he told us -- in his infinite wisdom -- what the REAL meaning is?
This doesn’t sound totally unreasonable.
“Do not covet is the only commandment that focuses on internal feelings rather than actions”.
And “Do Not Kill” is too broad.
There are many times where killing is quite appropriate.
There is a distinction between killing and murdering.
Great. NOW you tell me.
Although I haven’t read his book yet, the man is right on what is in this article. Next time you read the bible do a word study. It’s fascinating and gives a much deeper meaning to scriptures you read.
I read and speak Biblical Hebrew. The author is (partly) right about “do not kill”; the actual Hebrew word used is “murder.” As to “covet,” he is mostly wrong; the best translation I can come up with is “desire.”
Mat 5:27 ¶ Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
Mat 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Now isn't that interesting. Whom do you speak it with?
That’s the first thing I thought of when I spotted this article...
Stop right there. NOBODY is going to be discovering anything new about the bible in 2010. Its all twisting of words now. Revelation 22:18 "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds anything to them, G-d will add to him the plaques described in this book."