“They pierced my hands and my feet”: Psalm 22 as a non-prophecy of the crucifixion

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by Neil Godfrey

It is an axiom among fundamentalists and even many mainstream conservative Christians that Psalm 22 contains an incontrovertible prophecy of the crucifixion of Jesus, and that the key verse establishing this “fact” is the one that reads: “They pierced my hands and my feet” — Psalm 22:16

There is no doubt that two of the gospel authors took the first verse of this Psalm — “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” — and placed it in the mouth of Jesus on the cross. All four gospels used the 18th verse too, which says, “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And one drew on the mocking: “All those who see me laugh me to scorn . . . saying, He trusted in the Lord, let him rescue him, let him deliver him, since he delights in him!” (22:7-8 )

All of these verses are found in the gospels as part of the crucifixion scene:

And when they crucified him, they divided his garments, casting lots for them . . . . (Mark 15:24; Matt 27:35; Luke 23:34; John 19:24)

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “. . . . My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34; Matt 27:46)

Likewise the chief priests, also mocking with the scribes and elders, said . . . . “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he will have him, . . . .” (Matt. 27:41-43)

Is it not strange that the verse in that same Psalm that says “they pierced my hands and my feet” should not be used at all in any of the gospels? This verse, after all, is the one singular verse that would establish that it is speaking, at the very least metaphorically, of a crucifixion. Yet it is totally absent from the gospels. There is not even any narrative detail that makes special mention of nails going through the hands and feet of Jesus at the time he is being crucified. (The closest any gospel comes to this is at the time of the resurrection when Thomas refers to nail-prints in Jesus’ hands. But there is no whiff of allusion to the Psalm.)

The rest of Psalm 22

But one might as well ask, Is it not strange that the Psalm spoke of hands and feet being pierced (presumably a crucifixion image) at all? Such a verse does not sit well at all with the rest of the Psalm. The psalmist begins with a cry to God and a complaint that he has been uttering that cry for days and nights without an answer:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? . . . . I cry in the daytime, but you do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent. (22:1-2)

Jesus was not on the cross for days and nights, and the Gospel of Luke informs us that God certainly heard the prayer Jesus uttered the previous night. He sent an angel to help bolster his courage. Yet this Psalm opens with a cry that is the desperation felt from having no answer for, at the very least, a whole day and night.

This cannot be reconciled with the crucifixion scene of the gospels.

Then there is the verse that says the Psalmist was attached to God from the time of his birth.

From my mother’s womb you have been my God (22:10)

That surely must raise some eyebrows among those who believe that Jesus was, and knew he was, part of the Godhead from eternity. But it gets worse for those who assume this Psalm is depicting a man on a cross:

Be not far from me, for trouble is near . . . (22:11)

Um, yes. A person nailed to a wooden stake to die a slow agonizing death cries out, “I see trouble up ahead”?? Now that is an optimist. Always thinking that no matter how bad the present situation it could always be worse. “Please God, I can handle you deserting me at this moment, but I do hope you hurry up and come to help me when I’m in real trouble!”

Then there is that strange plea to be saved from the sword!

Deliver me from the sword . . . (22:20)

Always worth remembering to ask God to deliver you from a sword when he lets you experience the niggling inconvenience of being crucified.

So the broader context of the Psalm speaks against it being a foretelling of a crucifixion.

But there is metaphoric imagery throughout that also needs to be appreciated to understand it fully. Wild animal imagery dominates.

Many bulls have surrounded me;

Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.

They gape at me with their mouths,

As a raging and roaring lion.

For dogs have surrounded me

Deliver . . . my precious life from the power of the dog.

Save me from the lion’s mouth

And from the horns of the wild oxen!

It is not surprising therefore to find that the Hebrew Bible contains a passage with the same wild lion imagery that happens to be missing from a Greek text of this Psalm that was preserved and copied by a later generation of Christians:

Like a lion they are at my hands and my feet

In place of this Hebrew verse the Greek translation of this Psalm (which has been the work of Christian, not Hebrew, scribes) reads: “They pierced my hands and my feet”. “Pierce” has replaced “Like a lion”.

“like a lion” or “pierced”?

How could that have happened? A Rabbi Singer on the Outreach Judaism site writes:

The word kaari, however, does not mean “pierced,” it means “like a lion.” The end of Psalm 22:17, therefore, properly reads “like a lion they are at my hands and my feet.” Had King David wished to write the word “pierced,” he would never use the Hebrew word kaari. Instead, he would have written either daqar or ratza, which are common Hebrew words in the Jewish scriptures. . . .

Bear in mind, this stunning mistranslation in the 22nd Psalm did not occur because Christian translators were unaware of the correct meaning of this Hebrew word. Clearly, this was not the case. The word kaari can be found in a number of other places in the Jewish scriptures. Yet predictably, the same Christian translators who rendered kaari as “pierced” in Psalm 22 correctly translated it “like a lion” in all other places in the Hebrew Bible where this word appears.

For example, the word kaari is also found in Isaiah 38:13. In the immediate context of this verse Hezekiah, the king of Judah, is singing a song for deliverance from his grave illness. In the midst of his supplication he exclaims in Hebrew. . . . . [Hebrew text missing here]

Notice that the last word in this phrase (moving from right to left) is the same Hebrew word kaari that appears in Psalm 22:17. In this Isaiah text, the King James Version correctly translates these words “I reckoned till morning that, as a lion . . . .” As I mentioned above, Psalm 22:17 is the only place in all of the Jewish scriptures that any Christian Bible translates kaari as “pierced.”

Greek translations of the Hebrew scriptures

Among those who know a little of the Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint such an explanation seems problematic. Did not the Jews themselves translate their Hebrew scriptures into Greek long before the Christian era? Yes they did, but according to legend gleaned from the letter of Aristeas and the preface of Josephus to his Antiquities, only the Torah, the Pentateuch, that is, the first five books of Moses. Singer in the same article referenced above also cites the Talmud, Jerome and the 12th book of Antiquities.

The broader context of the setting of the Psalm as discussed above is strong evidence in support of this. A verse speaking of a literally crucified Psalmist simply would not make any sense in the context of the other verses.

The first appearance of “they pierced my hands and feet”

Christians first began to use this Greek translation after our gospels were written. Justin Martyr refers to this passage (they pierced my hands and feet) in his Dialogue of Trypho, paras 97 and 104. The Gospel of Peter likewise appears to know of it. At least it says explicitly narrates a scene where nails are being pulled from Jesus’ hands. (It is possible, of course, that this is taken from the allusion to the nail prints in the hands of Jesus in the Gospel of John — which also may have been written much later than the other gospels.) Whatever the case with this gospel, it is clear that the earliest indisputable knowledge of this Greek text of Psalm 22:16 is from the mid-second century with Justin Martyr.

It appears that some time between the time the canonical gospels were written and the time of Justin Martyr, this famous “prophetic” verse was introduced in a Greek translation of the Psalms by Christian scribes.

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Neil Godfrey

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35 thoughts on ““They pierced my hands and my feet”: Psalm 22 as a non-prophecy of the crucifixion”

  1. Good article, but imho asserts too strongly that Psalm 22 was the work of Christian translators. The tradition of Aristeas is not evidence that more than the Pentateuch was translated into Greek in the third century BC, but neither is it evidence that Psalms was not translated into Greek by Jewish bilinguals more than two centuries later. I may not remember the specifics too well, but my impression is that the intertextual evidence of the Psalter in the NT demonstrates that a Greek translation related to the LXX was already in existence and shared between different writers.

    Psalm 22:17 was the subject to a JBL article by Gregory Vall in 1997 which had a rather different analysis of the text forms. The Greek verb translated “pierced” (which in English conjures the image of metal nails), from the root ORUSSW, pertains more to digging or burrowing into the earth (cf. Matthew 21:33, 25:18, Mark 12:1), such that passage has more of a sense of “They dug my hands and my feet”. This is not necessarily a crucifixion image per se. This reading is explicable from the Hebrew; the LXX suggests a (difficult) Vorlage of K’RW YDY WRGLY (which is, in fact, a minority variant in the MT tradition), the first word of which the translator took as a verb of the root KRH “to dig”. The Latin fathers who utilized the text (including Tertullian, Cyprian, Lactantius, Augustine, and Cassiodorus) followed the LXX reading and used FODERUNT (“they have dug”). It was in Syriac where the phrase was specifically rendered by a phrase meaning “they have pierced”. Eventually K’RY (like a lion) arose as a variant of K’RW in the MT tradition, reflected HWS LEWN in a sixth-century Cario Genizah copy of Symmachus-Hexapla, establishing itself as the dominant variant (perhaps in contradistinction to the Christian use of text, cf. the anecdote from the 16th century in which the printer was told to have K’RY in the verse instead of K’RW or else no Jews would buy the Bible), alongside the less common K’RW and the even less frequent KRW.

    The secondary nature of K’RY suggests itself on several grounds: all ancient versions and the minority reading take the first word as a third person suffixed verb, the juxtaposition of “like a lion” + “my hands and my feet” is syntactically difficult, and there are also metrical and contextual considerations. As for the original reading, Vall suggests (picking up an old proposal by H. Graetz) that K’RW is itself a corruption of ‘SRW (“they have bound”), which fits the context very well, which has a parallel in 1QH 5:37-38, which is reflected in Aquila who has EPEDHSAN (“they have bound” ) in this verse and in Jerome’s Psalterium iuxta Hebraeos which has VINXERUNT (“they have bound” ) here, and from which K’RW can be derived through (1) metathesis of the initial two letters, ‘SRW -> S’RW and then (2) confusion between the similar-looking KAF and the SAMEK. This is plausible but conjectural, whereas the existence of K’RW in the Hebrew text tradition is an acknowledged fact. It seems more likely that the variant “they dug my hands and my feet” was already present in the text tradition, and perhaps played a role in drawing attention to this psalm as a source for the passion narrative. Why wasn’t it quoted verbatim or the language used as the other passages in the psalm? Perhaps the odd use of ORUSSW was one reason.

  2. Despite your anonymity, and given the fact that I knew, and even felt, a slight sense of guilt over being lazy by not cross-examining and following up in detail each and every point I and my source, Rabbi Singer, asserted, I am tempted to defer to your argument above. (Despite that to do so means I am again failing to follow up each and every detail you assert! But I also plead that part of my complex rationalization at the time included the expectation that if I was egregiously wrong in fact someone who cared would tell me! :-/

    But I do appreciate and thank you for your comment. I am not surprised at all that the deeper history of this verse is more complex than I had presented.

  3. First all, I should note that I have really enjoyed your blog in the past year, especially your series on Bauckham’s book, which made many of the same points that I had in mind when I read it. And I am in general agreement about the main point of this posting, that there is no “messianic prophecy” in the verse, and that these OT intertexts are source material for the NT narratives. The main point of my comment is that things were a bit more complex textually, and that there is no evidence that the LXX reading was of Christian origin, as there is a basis of it in the Hebrew text.

    In fact, I didn’t go far enough in discussing how the LXX use of ORUSSW definitely does not reflect crucifixion imagery. The translator who read K’RW as “they dug” (taking it as a variant spelling of the third person plural of KRH, as there is no root K’R) evidently connected it with the KLBYM “dogs” earlier in the verse, i.e. the assembly of the wicked is imagined as a pack of dogs “digging” at the subject’s hands and feet with their claws. This image is entirely different from that of piercing one’s hands and feet on a cross. This would explain why the translator also renders KLBYM as KUNES POLLOI — the number of the dogs is emphasized in order to heighten the image of their savage attack on the speaking subject.

    I should also clarify that the solution given by Vall is hardly the only one, this verse is a “notorious crux” with a vast literature, and more recent discussions (with other possible solutions) include in JBL alone Kaltner 1998, Strawn 2000, Swenson 2004, and Linville 2005. I feel that Vall’s suggestion is probably still better than some of the others, but it is definitely conjectural and hardly conclusive. The one thing that most agree on is that the Hebrew text is corrupt, or misparsed in the MT, with problems attending each of the two major variants:

    (1) K’RW : interpreting this as a verb has the difficulty that there is no relevant root K’R and taking KRH as the root fails to account for the extraneous ALEF.

    (2) K’RY: interpreting this as a preposition and a noun has the difficulty of there being no verb in the clause, and inserting a “dropped” verb (as can be found in the Targum, which inserts “they bite” ) upsets the meter of the clause if the verse is a tricolon, and the spelling of “lion” as ‘RY is a rarer variant that differs from its spelling as ‘RYH in the same psalm (v. 14, 22).

    So, for instance, Kaltner accepts with Vall that the original sense was “they bind” (as it fits best in the context, with the preceding references of enclosure and confinement in view), but accepts with earlier proposals the existence of an unattested Hebrew root K’R/KWR meaning “to bind, tie, fetter” (on the strength of an Arabic parallel). Strawn leaves the matter unresolved, finding value in the arguments supporting the textual priority of both K’RY and K’RW, but finds enough contextual and extra-contextual evidence to support the originality of “lion” in the text. Swenson reparses the verses, taking the missing verb from the preceding clause and treating the verse as a bicolon (such that the lion encircles or circumscribes the speaker’s hands and feet). Linville proposes that K’RY is the original reading (noting a possible wordplay in YR’W “they gawk” in the next verse, which has a reversal of ‘RY) but actually had two layers of meaning in another wordplay — a verbal meaning “since they have picked clean” (accepting an older proposal by Dahood) and the nominal “like a lion”. I am sure this proposal will, like the others, be discussed and critiqued in the future.

  4. I apologize for yet another message, but I also just noticed that the reference to dogs in v. 21 accords very well with the LXX interpretation of v. 17 as involving dogs clawing at the speaking subject — salvation is petitioned “from the paw/hand of the dog (MYD-KLB)”. That could have contributed to the translator reading K’RW as “they dug” with the understanding that it imagines the persecutors as a pack of dogs clawing at the speaking subject with their paws.

  5. Pity the image of “binding hands and feet” is at best an educated guess. Are there any other figurative or cultural parallels anywhere similar to the idea of “digging at hands and feet” that might help us flesh out that image. When I see angry dogs the fear of them digging at my hands and feet is rarely the first thought that pops into mind. Then again, if the only body bits a lion was interested in eating were my hands and feet I might not like it but would at least feel I had some hope of survival.

    I am not surprised that such a verse has a vast literature and I do thank you for alerting me to the JBL articles. It will take me a little while to access and read them, however.

    Two other queries arise out of your comments:

    You said that it was in the Syriac where the phrase was specifically rendered “they have pierced”. But you did not mention Justin. Are you implying the Justin was following an early Syriac text?

    You also refer to intertextual evidence of the Psalter in the NT. I am sure I have read the answer to my question several times in the past, but can you tell me what NT books specifically point to the a Greek translation of the Psalms that is related to the LXX? Specifically I am interested in knowing if the gospels included? If so, GMark too?

    Many thanks

  6. Hi again. 🙂

    1) The language choice involved in the LXX phrase was probably forced by the Hebrew Vorlage; “digging at hands and feet” is an unnatural way to refer to a dog scratching and biting its prey if that is what the author originally wanted to say, but if it was the translator who was faced with a difficult text with an obscure K’RW, then this unnatural phrasing may nonetheless represent what he thought was the best solution of making sense of the text.

    2) The Syriac is thought to be similarly based on the reading of K’RW as “dig”, although I am not sure of the semantics of the verb; most authorities seem to give it as “pierce” but one has it as “pierce/hack off”. I don’t know much about Syriac however.

    3) I wasn’t making any claim about Justin vis-a-vis the Syriac text. And Justin has exactly what is in the LXX: WRUCAN MOU XEIRAS KAI PODAS (1 Apologia 35.7), WRUCAN XEIRAS MOU KAI PODAS MOU (Dialogus cum Tryphone, 97.3). So “they have pierced” in Justin is just as much an overtranslation as it is in the Psalms.

    4) I don’t think it is controversial that Septuagintal quotations and allusions appear throughout the NT (alongside free translations from the Hebrew and the Proto-Theodotionic revision). How about this example from the Gospel of Mark?




    Consulting Field’s edition of the Hexapla, we can see some of the other translation choices an independent translator could have made with the Hebrew text. So instead of TW KURIW MOU, Symmachus has TW DESPOTH MOU. And instead of KAQOU EK DECIWN MOU, Symmachus has PROSDOKHSON THN DEICIAN MOU. The verbatim agreement between Psalm 109:1 LXX and Mark 12:36 speaks for itself.

    I would also add that the signs of intertextuality may be less obvious in narrative composition than in the underlying exegetical traditions. An excellent example with respect to Psalm 22 can be found in Mark 15:24. Crossan and Koester make the excellent observation that the Epistle of Barnabas attests a more primitive stage than the gospels in the development of the passion traditions — the use of a catena of OT intertexts applied to Jesus while not yet cast in narrative form. So we may compare the verbatim wording in Psalm 22 and Barnabas 6:6 with the looser use of the language in Mark (where it is adapted to the third person and adapted to the narrative):

    Psalm 22:16, 18, 118:12: “For many dogs have encircled me (EKUKLWSAN ME), a company of the wicked surround me (SUNAGWGH PONHREUOMENWN PERIESXON ME)… They divided my garments among themselves (DIEMERISANTO TA HIMATIA MOU HEAUTOIS), for my clothes they cast lots (EPI TON HIMATISMON MOU EBALON KLHRON)…They encircled me as bees at a honeycomb (EKUKLWSAN ME HWSEI MELISSAI KHRION)”.

    Barnabas 6:6: “A company of the wicked surround me (PERIESXON ME SUNAGWGH PONHREUOMENWN), they have encircled me like bees at a honeycomb (EKUKLWSAN ME HWSEI MELISSAI KHRION), and for my outer clothes they cast lots (EPI TON HIMATISMON MOU EBALON KLHRON)”.

    Mark 15:24: “And they crucified him and distributed his garments (DIAMERIZONTAI TA HIMATIA AUTOU), casting lots for them (BALLONTES KLHRON EP’ AUTA)”.

  7. That’s fine. I was just wanting to confirm that it was indeed a difficult translation in its own day/s and not simply a difficulty for us. And to doubly check Mark’s place in the larger scheme of things, especially since I often find myself toying with some pretty left-field datings of the gospels.

    Thanks for the comments. I’m glad now that I went ahead and made the original post despite mixed feelings at the time.

  8. One interesting thing to do would be to look at how the passage was used by the Greek and Latin fathers who cited it, and see whether anyone made more out of the “digging” metaphor, or if anyone commented on why this word occurs in the “prophecy”, as opposed to other words for “piercing”.

  9. Okay, I know I could look them up and check this out for myself, but I can also take advantage of the fact we’re talking to ask you what they do say. — Presuming such an obvious question has been explored long since . . . ?

  10. Does it matter? Kaari or Kaaru? Like a lion or They have pierced? Either way this is not a “stunning mistranslation” by Christian authors, but an honest attempt to seek the truth. Naturally, with so many other events mentioned in this Psalm that occurred also during Jesus’s Crucifixion, Christian translators will be naturally biased towards interpreting the phrase as pierced. However, the translation as “they have pierced” also occurs in the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls, predating Christianity. It also occurs in a minority of masoretic text fragments.

    In addition, if the translation “like a lion” is favoured, (as in the Masoretic texts and the Christian Jerusalem Bible) the sentence requires the addition of extra words to the text to make grammatical sense, for it would read “like a lion my hands and feet”. Have “the lying pen of the scribes handled it (the law) falsely”? as Isaiah suggests?

    So who knows? Either way, the accusation of a Christian conspiracy to falsify the text of the Psalm is nonsense. Psalm 22 stands as a potent testimony of the suffering of David, and will always be considered by Christians to be prohetic of the suffering of Jesus, independent of verse 17, or 16 (again depending on the translation).


    Dr Stephen Myers

  11. Revised:

    The reason it matters is that it is surely a dishonest faith that knowingly ignores or rationalizes away the material issues surrounding passages that are used to underpin one’s doctrinal beliefs. I am not saying that all faithful are dishonest. But I do wish that more of those in the know assumed the public responsibility that comes with their learning and did not allow sloppy and often quite false assumptions to be repeated in popular religious literature and among believers. The numbers of scholars dealing with biblical texts who are making their works publicly accessible seems to me to be too few compared with those advancing public awareness in, say, the sciences and history.

    While the rabbi’s words I quoted, “stunning mistranslation”, are admittedly provocative, I don’t know that anyone has made any accusation or suggestion that there has been a conspiracy to falsify the text. If that was his suggestion then I’ll leave that between him and others to discuss for now.

    The significant point, however, is that the translation issues across strands of the Masoretic and the DSS 1QH 5:37-38 do not appear to be as clearcut as you indicate. See eklektekuria’s outline discussion of the issues above.

    Strong evidence that “they have pierced my hands and feet” was not known (or at least not believed to be a crucfixion text) to the New Testament authors is that the passage never appears in Christian circles until the mid second century — possibly first appearing in the Gospel of Peter, and also picked up by Justin Martyr. Mark manages to garner dozens of OT allusions from which to pastiche his narrative. How could he ignore what would have been the most obvious one, especially since the passage would have made little (certainly problematic) sense in its original context?

    Psalm 22 and others were undoubtedly written as pious literature to inspire the devout to trust in God through their sufferings, and David was the ideal with whom readers were intended to identify. But I can see nothing in Psalm 22 that points to a crucifixion scene.

    Selections of texts pulled out of their original contexts and then asserted to be descriptions of what happened to Jesus seems to me to be little more than a mantic or coded reading of the scriptures — searching the OT the way priests once searched sheep livers for signs of what they wanted to believe.


  12. I’m glad another person already posted the textual issues; the post’s own assertions are glaringly mis-informed, and the way Rabbis of late have been touting their horns on this has been catastrophic to people truly being informed about textual issues: their the worst polemicists I know.

    What’s more, though, is I think there is a profound lack of understanding in evidenced in this post about what’s going on in the NT passages; the gospels are Jewish, their content is Jewish, as well as the rest of the NT, and not just superficially, but deeply, and they evidence that it’s Jews writing about this who know what’s going on. Luke’s gospel might be considered an exception since he was gentile, as far as I know,…except it’s thought among some that he was a companion to Paul, a Jews, which wouldn’t be too unlikely, then it may be his transcription rather than his words.

    I realize this is eschewing modernist theories of authorship and origins, but many of the rationalist foundations of those theories are very wanting, and woefully ignorant of such details as I just passingly mentioned above.

    But now the point: there’s a detail about Jewish writing and speech we often don’t take into consideration, which one sees Jesus use in the gospels, and the authors of the gospel use throughout: the allusions aren’t typically merely allusions, but their purposefully incomplete so as to allow the audience to fill-in the details from their own head; for when your audience is biblically saturated this isn’t hard. It’s simply demonstrated with:

    “Knock Knock…”

    And typically you’ll find that people are conditioned to respond “who’s there” without even thinking about it; when you’re saturated with a literature the same occurs; in fact this still occurs in Israel today! One of the former presidents caused a bit of an uproar when he alluded to a passage in the OT which in full is about the Jews being a hardhearted and stiff-necked people.

    Hoping not to denigrate or offend, but I’m not especially impressed with Judaism or its polemic: its own foundations are moored in men like Akiva who proclaimed such and such was the true Messiah “so fight Rome” and he got everyone killed: and he’s like THE hero in modern Judaism; much of Jewish interpretation and dogmatics have been more reactive and playful than serious in considering the text. When I try to read things like the NJPS or check-out the anti-missionary sites and things I cringe at the “liberties” they take with whatever suits their purpose. You read Jewish literature and it says a Rabbi argued with God and won, or the line of David is lost and so the Rabbi couldn’t possibly come, and so on; I have one personally Jewish buddy who disavows this part of Rampant Rabbinism and I’m glad he does.

    Today “Judaism” has become something to use to solve and identity crisis while Rabbis maintain their positions and the admiration of their followers, and hardly a faith; thus the Orthodox (who’re more consistant with scriptures at times) eat Chicken at Passover because, they say, God’s Glory departed and the Messiah didn’t come; the “Reformed” are little more than liberally playful with some poetry that gives them common identity, though some in their ranks are actually believers in the Tanakh, but it seems just woefully unread in it (or they’d be more like the Orthodox in many things); however then there’s all the import given to “Oral Torah” which, they say, was given to Moses but not written down…when contradicts the Written Torah which says nothing God said to Moses he did not write down.

    The moral? It’s great that you like to comment on things as important as the Bible, but it’s also a sacred text to be handled carefully, and more questioningly than assertively when you’re not immersed in it; but more, though I think a lot of “Jewish” stuff is great to consider things…I’d be very very wary, as you’re dealing with a modern Jewish, not a biblical Jewish, but more you’re dealing with a Judaism that has a history of rampant twisting and ignoring the text and making it say whatever the “Rabbi” wants it to, using it for his purpose, with few exceptions (like Rashi who at least strove more for “plain sense” reading). I say this because it just seems dishonest, and not only that, it’s cultic.

    I’m really interested in how that textual problem will turn-out, though, with more evidence (hopefully good/admissable evidence) and more manuscripts/translations/etc. turning-up. I do really wonder as unlike what whole-hearted Massoretic supporters often assert (and I do respect that text extremely) it is tampered with: it says so in its own margins by indicating some “pious” scribal changes which should really read another way; yet those notes are shorthand and poorly kempt so we should all pray for better copies, untampered, to turn-up.

    And since it’s probably of interest I’m a Christian with a Jewish heritage who really wants these issues (such as text) to be more carefully, evidentially, and less polemically (in the sense that it may alter results). I’m working on original languages now but currently studying for medicine as well so it’ll be quite a long time before I’ll be studying for the rest of the life!

  13. edit the above, I’m not especially “impressed”, I’m especially “unimpressed”, because oftentimes the modern Jewish apologetic is either unbelieving/rationalistic (so why apologize?), against ancient Jewish interpretation, uncareful with the text, or misleading about textual issues; I protest if/when anyone as a “chrisitan” does anything like this too, knowingly or not, as I think we should.

  14. Very interesting. I would address the comments about all the other details of the crucifixion that remain with a recommendation that everyone read John Shelby Spong’s “Resurrection, Myth or Reality?”–specifically concerning the Hebrew tradition of “midrash”–backward engineering of prophecy. Matthew, etc., were certainly familiar with scripture, and wanted the Jews to see Jesus as the Messiah, so it was in their interest to write these details into their narratives. I’m writing a book about the limited ministry of Jesus (John 6:40 says “SEE” and believe, after all–and the Gnostic Gospels support it as well) and will revisit here when Xlibris publishes it.

  15. This article is written by a person who obviously: one, does not have the slightest understanding of Scripture; two, writes with a bitterness that demonstrates a clear bias against any Scriptural truth; three, is out on a mission to discredit the Bible instead of being objective. Anyone with a grade school understanding can see this. Just as one example of one of his follies: by saying that Jesus was not on the cross for days and nights, he neglects to consider that Jesus’ suffering began in the garden, NOT on the cross. He DID suffer “days” and “nights.” Scripture is not like reading and understanding a Time magazine article. The Bible says, “Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.” You have to have Jesus in your life in order to understand the deep and spiritual things of the Bible. It’s written in righteousness and only such a mind can “..rightly divide the word of truth.” I could go on all night about his lack of understanding, but I don’t have time. The Bible says, “The just shall live by faith.” I am not on a mission to save people, just to be a witness either for or against them on the day of judgment. If this person really wants to find God, he will. So far it seems he is bent on having his own way and blasting the one Who died to save his soul from sin and eternal death. May God have mercy on you.

  16. I stumbled across your post as I was researching Psalm 22. It appears to me that you are misguiding people with your natural translation of scripture. You use your worldly mind and and natural senses to read the word of God the way you would a book checked out at the library. What you don’t know is that God deliberately confounds he that would presume himself wise. But it’s ok. You simply don’t know. But I will freely share with you what you need, in order to “know”. Here is the key to unlocking what God hides from the proud: Believe. If you don’t believe, then scripture will never be more than text to you. I pray that the Lord will soften your heart by shining His light of Truth, Mercy, Forgiveness, Love, and Compassion, that you too might be able to count yourself among the blessed. As for your diatribe regarding the “translation” of the piercing of hands and feet, here are all the corroborating sources I could find “Including the KJV which I personally use and read” that agree in translation without exception.

    New International Version (©1984)
    Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.
    New Living Translation (©2007)
    My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet.

    English Standard Version (©2001)
    For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—

    New American Standard Bible (©1995)
    For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet.

    King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
    For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

    Aramaic Bible in Plain English (©2010)
    Because dogs surround me and the assembly of the evil have surrounded me; they have pierced my hands and my feet!

    GOD’S WORD® Translation (©1995)
    Dogs have surrounded me. A mob has encircled me. They have pierced my hands and feet.

    King James 2000 Bible (©2003)
    For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

    American King James Version
    For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

    American Standard Version
    For dogs have compassed me: A company of evil-doers have inclosed me; They pierced my hands and my feet.

    Douay-Rheims Bible
    For many dogs have encompassed me: the council of the malignant hath besieged me. They have dug my hands and feet.

    Darby Bible Translation
    For dogs have encompassed me; an assembly of evil-doers have surrounded me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

    English Revised Version
    For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of evil-doers have enclosed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.

    Webster’s Bible Translation
    For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

    World English Bible
    For dogs have surrounded me. A company of evildoers have enclosed me. They have pierced my hands and feet.

    Young’s Literal Translation
    And to the dust of death thou appointest me, For surrounded me have dogs, A company of evil doers have compassed me, Piercing my hands and my feet.

    May God’s Peace and Love be with you.

    1. Did you read the footnotes?

      New International Version: Psalm 22:16 Dead Sea Scrolls and some manuscripts of the Masoretic Text, Septuagint and Syriac; most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text me, / like a lion

      English Standard Version: Psalm 22:16 Some Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac; most Hebrew manuscripts like a lion [they are at] my hands and feet

      New American Standard Bible: Psalm 22:16 Another reading is Like a lion, my…

  17. It’s a bit unfair to describe anything I wrote as a “diatribe”, isn’t it?

    But my last words to God were something like, “If you are going to send me to hell for coming to the conclusions I do as a result of using my mind to the best of my ability that I know how, and with the sincerest of intentions that I can muster, then I would have no respect for you.” My sentiments haven’t changed.

    But if I ever did decide one day to embrace a religion and deity, it would most decidedly be a non-Abrahamic one. Maybe wouldn’t mind it being one of those found more frequently in Asia. I don’t like gods who hide and play with secrets the way yours does.

  18. According to present methods and findings of a historical critical understanding of Scripture: “None of the Old Testament writings is prophetic witness to Jesus in the sense in which the early church assumed them to be”. (Ogden).

  19. If we say that the word is like a lion (ka’ari) form sentences will be incomplete and incomprehensible, you need a verb or preposition to link like a lion with my hands, The group were likened as lion verse 13 and 21, and this person likened himself as a worm and poured out like water, and his bones are out of joint, and heart is become like wax; it is melted in mine inmost part, and strength is dried up like a potsherd, and tongue cleaveth to throat;. So its impossible that he is as lion context is incorrect for this, we must add a link between the word and hands to become the true context… for example, like a lion (they smashed) my hands and my feet … see Psalm 7, or like a lion (they are at) my hands and my feet…JPS 1917 Jews added which is in brackets not found in the original Hebrew to give a true context of the text, and was originally the old versions Septuagint, Qumran scrolls that They pierced (ka’aru) which gives context to the text.. they pierced my hands and my feet.

    KA’ARU with Aleph ot KARU without Aleph

    First:- Ancient Jews did not have a problem with letter Aleph, they have red the word as they pierced, like a lion is incomplete sentence does not fit the grammar.

    The words ‘ka’aru’ and ‘karu’ being variant forms of the same verb (as explained by the lexicographers) is demonstrated by the following Hebrew words that have the same kind of middle Aleph and the same kind of relationship: bo’r, bor (pit, cistern) from the verb bur (dig); da’g, dag (fish) from the verb dug (fish for); la’t, lat (secrecy) from the verb lut (be secret); m’um, mum (blemish); n’od, nod (skin); q’am, qam (he arose); ra’sh, rash (poor) from the verb rush (be poor); sh’at (contempt) from the verb shut (treat with contempt); also in Aramaic, da’er (dweller) from the verb dur (dwell); and qa’em (riser) from the verb qum (he arose).

    These examples are sufficient to demonstrate that a middle Aleph frequently occurs in words and forms derived from middle Waw verbs as in this passage. His argument is convincing only to those who know little or nothing about Hebrew.

    If we read the word like a lion wee will face a problem of the lack of a verb, what happened to the hands and feet?, did I try to fight through the hands and feet?, did I try to protect the hands and feet?, did they tie up the hands and feet, did they hit the hands and feet?, did they cut off the hands and feet? so whats the meaning?, like a lion (—) my hands and my feet alone does not give meaning It needs a verb, logic says that this word is the verb (Ka’aru) They pierced… like a lion needs a verb as I said, look about Psalm 22: 18, This was usually known when the soldiers implement of the death penalty in the cross to someone, So David predicts about an event were not known in his time, verse 6 told us that he scornful from people (the Jewish people), verse 7 – 8 occurred with Christ at his crucifixion, verse 15 told us that he dead.

    God bless you Jews…

  20. “In place of this Hebrew verse the Greek translation of this Psalm (which has been the work of Christian, not Hebrew, scribes)”

    –You do realize that Jews translated this? Perhaps you could argue (without any evidence) that Christian scribes altered the passage, but the original translators were not xians but jews, before Jesus was even born.

  21. Pingback: Nine things you think you know about Jesus but are probably wrong | Welcome to Fisidinho's Blog
  22. Actually – it is possible that the later Jewish scribes are the one who “de-messianiced’ the text. Looking to OLDER manuscripts – For example, in the Dead Sea Scrolls which predate most other Hebrew texts by over a thousand years, note that the term is unmistakably “pierced.” In addition, the oldest Syriac, Vulgate, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions also go with “pierced.” The same is true in the Septuagint, the first Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (done by Jewish scribes in Egypt), which was completed approximately 200 years before the birth of Christ. It also says “pierced”.

    So – I think you are missing the forest by looking at a tree. Even if it is “lion” – what would a Lion do to your feet?

    Still – I believe the evidence points to the Rabbis knowing what Christians have said – and simply choose to alter one letter to fit their theology.

    Google Messianic Jews and they have some good writing on apologetics like this. Especially Dr, Michael Brown “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus” Volumes 1-5

  23. The final yod in many words in the scrolls appears as a vav. Just a cursory look at the Great psalm scroll, available for viewing on-line, will prove this to you. In fact, in additiom to that final yod/vav in the word kaari/kaaru in the Nahal Hever fragment there are 3 occurrences of the final vav/yod in the fragment alone! This is typical Scribal practice of the time. Check out this video:


  24. Hi Neil,

    The real issue regarding 5/6 Hev Psa (and the rest of these ancient scrolls) is that there was a writing style of the time. Once you understand this you realize that the kaari vs. kaaru argument meaningless.

    Here’s a short (6 minute) video I did on the subject.


    Kol Tuv!

  25. OP: “Christians first began to use this Greek translation after our gospels were written. Justin Martyr refers to this passage (they pierced my hands and feet) in his Dialogue of Trypho, paras 97 and 104. . . . it is clear that the earliest indisputable knowledge of this Greek text of Psalm 22:16 is from the mid-second century with Justin Martyr.”

    Justin Martyr. “Dialogue with Trypho translated by George Reith”. Wikisource.

    [Chap. xcvii.—Other predictions of the cross of Christ.]

    David in the twenty-first Psalm thus refers to the suffering and to the cross in a parable of mystery: ‘They pierced my hands and my feet; they counted all my bones. They considered and gazed on me; they parted my garments among themselves, and cast lots upon my vesture.’ —(p. 221)

    Miroslav Marcovich (2011). “Dialogus 96.2–97.4″. Iustini Martyris Apologiae pro Christianis. Iustini Martyris Dialogus cum Tryphone. Walter de Gruyter. p. 237. ISBN 978-3-11-092423-7.

    Καὶ ἐν ἄλλοις πάλιν λόγοις Δαυὶδ εἰς τὸ πάθος καὶ τὸν σταυρὸν ἐν παραβολῇ μυστηριώδει οὕτως εἶπεν ἐν εἰκοστῷ πρώτῳ ψαλμῷ-
    (17) Ὥρυξαν χεῖράς μου καὶ πόδας μου.
    (18) Ἐξηρίθμησαν πάντα τὰ ὀστᾶ μου’αὐτοὶ δὲ κατενόησαν καὶ ἐπεῖδόν με.
    (19) Διεμερίσαντο τὰ ἱμάτιά μου ἑαυτοῖς, καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν ἱματισμόν μου ἔβαλον κλῆρον.

    “Psalm 22:1 (LXX)”. Blue Letter Bible.

    Psa 22:16 (LXX 21:17) ὅτι ἐκύκλωσάν με κύνες πολλοί συναγωγὴ πονηρευομένων περιέσχον με ὤρυξαν χεῗράς μου καὶ πόδας
    Psa 22:17 (LXX 21:18) ἐξηρίθμησα πάντα τὰ ὀστᾶ μου αὐτοὶ δὲ κατενόησαν καὶ ἐπεῗδόν με
    Psa 22:18 (LXX 21:19) διεμερίσαντο τὰ ἱμάτιά μου ἑαυτοῗς καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν ἱματισμόν μου ἔβαλον κλῆρον

  26. Great debate everyone – thoroughly interesting indeed!

    One point I have always wondered concerning this fiercely debated verse is; if we accept the translation as “like a lion” – apart from being grammatically incoherent (as an earlier post rightly highlights), lions when attacking prey, almost always begin by targetting the victims neck and not hands/feet.

    I’ve therefore always found it strange that the verse could ever have read; “like a lion”..(at) my hands and feet.

    To be clear, I do believe the weight of evidence suggests the verse to read; “they pierced”.

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