Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Reformed Wisdom

Interesting argument by Calvin for the correctness of the Septuagint re:  Psalm 22:16

They have pierced my hands and my feet. The original word, which we have translated they have pierced, is כאריcaari, which literally rendered is, like a lion. As all the Hebrew Bibles at this day, without exception, have this reading, I would have had great hesitation in departing from a reading which they all support, were it not that the scope of the discourse compels me to do so, and were there not strong grounds for conjecturing that this passage has been fraudulently corrupted by the Jews. With respect to the Septuagint version, there is no doubt that the translators had read in the Hebrew text, כארוcaaru, that is the letter וvau, where there is now the letter יyod. 513 The Jews prate much about the literal sense being purposely and deliberately overthrown, by our rendering the original word by they have pierced: but for this allegation there is no color of truth whatever. What need was there to trifle so presumptuously in a matter where it was altogether unnecessary? Very great suspicion of falsehood, however, attaches to them, seeing it is the uppermost desire of their hearts to despoil the crucified Jesus of his escutcheons, and to divest him of his character as the Messiah and Redeemer. If we receive this reading as they would have us to do, the sense will be enveloped in marvellous obscurity. In the first place, it will be a defective form of expression, and to complete it, they say it is necessary to supply the verb to surround or to beset. But what do they mean by besetting the hands and the feet? Besetting belongs no more to these parts of the human body than to the whole man. The absurdity of this argument being discovered, they have recourse to the most ridiculous old wives’ fables, according to their usual way, saying, that the lion, when he meets any man in his road, makes a circle with his tail before rushing upon his prey: from which it is abundantly evident that they are at a loss for arguments to support their view.
Again, since David, in the preceding verse, has used the similitude of a lion, the repetition of it in this verse would be superfluous. I forbear insisting upon what some of our expositors have observed, namely, that this noun, when it has prefixed to it the letter כcaph, which signifies as, the word denoting similitude, has commonly other points than those which are employed in this passage. My object, however, is not here to labor to convince the Jews who in controversy are in the highest degree obstinate and opinionative. I only intend briefly to show how wickedly they endeavor to perplex Christians on account of the different reading which occurs in this place. When they object, that by the appointment of the law no man was fastened with nails to a cross, they betray in this their gross ignorance of history, since it is certain that the Romans introduced many of their own customs and manners into the provin ces which they had conquered. If they object that David was never nailed to a cross, the answer is easy, namely, that in bewailing his condition, he has made use of a similitude, declaring that he was not less afflicted by his enemies than the man who is suspended on a cross, having his hands and feet pierced through with nails. We will meet a little after with more of the same kind of metaphors.

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