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."
People in my synagogue's Bible class, for starters.
So if “Thou shalt not covet” really means “Thous halt not take,” how is that distinguished from “Thou shalt not steal?”
Who was it who said, “Ah have lusted in mah heart...”
You should check out Bill Clinton's big Bible with the Nine Commandments.
Art Linkletter once covered the 10 Commandments in his “Kids Say the Darnedest Things” segment. He asked each child for one of the commandments. Says small boy: “Don’t hover over your neighbor’s wife”.
The Christ most decidedly touched upon feelings, as in, "you have heard it said, thou shall not," etc., "but I say to you," thus and such.
In the latter formulations, e.g., with regard to adultery, Jesus was crystal clear about sins of the inner self, the core being, or "cardia," for the human heart.
I am suspicious of all scholars who make grand, sweeping statements about the scriptures, and those who approach the subject without allowing for the possibility of their being inspired by the Living God, Friend of Abraham and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, creator of Heaven and Earth. (Who spoke and not-a-thing became everything.
The ancient Hebrew vocabulary was succinct, consisting of 500 words in the record surviving to the present age, and yes, it's possible there were less shades of meaning, less ambiguity than we are used to in the English-speaking world of the 21st century. But thought proceeded action then as now, and it is out of the heart, Jesus is reliably reported to have said, that proceeds the plethora of human failings, or evils, for the less politically correct.
That would be Jimmah Cahtah.
Give me a break! (I know something about synagogue Torah classes. Most of us don't speak of the "Bible," BTW.)
Good old Jimmy Carter. I'm kinda glad our current Prez hasn't been interviewed by Playboy - I fear he might say the same thing, but not be talking about women...
I believe he makes no suggestion to replace “Shepherd” in the 23d Psalm.
“The Lord is my Shepherd” has comforted me for my many years. There’s no better translation that I can think of.
To covet is to commit an action; it suggests dwelling on a desire, inflaming one’s urges.
If you want to find out how many translation errors/mistakes there are just go study Hebrew.
On Alleged Flaws in the Ten Commandments
The Ten Recommendations ping!
I think that one was direct at bureaucrats.
It is “do not murder.” Yes, “kill” is too broad.
That warning is specifically regarding the prophecy of Revelation.
The adultery one is that many commit many times. I had a discussion with an acquaintance once and said it was one I definitely had to confess, because there are some guys.... He said, “Women think like that, too?”
That is a totally accurate statement. Note that he says "in his heart" and does not say "in reality" or "is a sin". He warns us of the consequences of thinking something as the first step to actually doing something.
There are also plenty of places in the bible where God commands his people to kill.
The prohibition on murder is the way I understood, though I am no Hebrew scholar and did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. I did, however, graduate from a Christian College with such scholars as room mates and resources. The use of covet (unbalanced desire) was also my understanding. Wanting something like what your neighbor has, and willingness to earn it is fine. Wanting to tax it, err steal it, from your neighbor is not.
But everyone knows that the Bible was written in Old English. How could there possibly be translation problems./sarcasm
The first place that is in Deuteronomy.
Do we throw out every thing past that?
Wow. A woman would conceive and have a child? Amazing prophesy.
Which translation are you quoting?
Click here and scroll down to the 10th commandment on "coveting" and see why women weren't mentioned:
On Alleged Flaws in the Ten Commandments
My wife brought the book home last week from the library. He's got other goodies in there about how the "virgin birth" wasn't really virgin because the word could refer to any young girl. I couldn't take him seriously after that.
Some of it is good, but most of it is just populist pablum with a Jewish apologetic barely concealed in the editorializing. I have nothing against Jewish apologetics and think that all Christians should be ready and able to respond to any challenges to the truth of the gospel from any source, but I generally prefer the challenges to be out in the open rather than hidden behind a veil of faux reasonableness.
I guess 100% of the male population is damned. No overt act no crime, except for scattering ones seed while thinking about the possibilities late at night hunkered beneath the sheets.