Saturday, September 13, 2014

Geza Vermes' Statement on DSS and the Hebrew Bible

I'm addressing issues of Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) reliability.



Duncan said...

See 2011 edition pg16 - The community's attitude to the biblical canon,

In any case my example is unaffected by this as the MT cannot be translated as per current English bibles. Interestingly the 1918 jps translation does not attempt to translate the names. I believe that due to the rise of messianic Judaism since, the later translations attempt other solutions that still do not fit the grammar which in Hebrew has little flexability.

Duncan said...

Duncan said...

Edgar Foster said...


I thought we were discussing whether we can trust the Hebrew text currently in our possession. As Vermes says, the DSS does not substantially affect the message we have in scripture. His analysis harmonizes with Archer's observations, and there are other sources that buttress his claims.

I respectfully disagree with the claim that the Hebrew has very little flexibility. My experience has been just the opposite.

Duncan said...

So you are still in effect claiming that Pele yoets can mean wonderful councellor ? Are you claiming that the grammar is that flexible. If it is that flexible how can we really be sure of any translation? What about the final name sar shalom vs DSS sar ha shalom. Since king of THE wholness could in the period be interpreted as king of jerusalem?

To my knowledge Vermes expertise was spent on analysis of the non biblical scrolls. So can you state any of the other sources for examination please.

Duncan said...

Perhaps my issues of concern have not been made clear. It has more to do with the scribal additions to the text, the difference between the qere and the ketiv. The vocalisation markings. The marginals. These have a very significant effect on the text. As an example Malachi 4:2. Sun of righteousness or servant of rightouseness - it,s all in the vowel marking. "Sun of righteousness" a common term used upto first cent. for mithra. (Luke 20:28). Healing in his corners (tzitzit - luke 8:44).

The main body of the text has a long tradition as Geoffrey Allan Khan states in the Oxford illustrated history of the bible on page 69 which states-

The majority of the scrolls, however, exhibit a text that is very close to the Masoretic consonantal text, and have been termed 'proto-Masoretic'manuscripts. These differ from the medievel manuscripts only in a few orthographic details and in isolated words. The tradition of the masoretic consonantal text,therefore, can be traced back to the earliest surviving bible manuscripts in the second temple period.

Edgar Foster said...


You bring up some important subjects; I don't want to ignore them. But please keep in mind that my time is limited now: I'm teaching 6 classes and I have 2 independent studies in addition to other responsibilities (domestic and spiritual). So for the sake of time, I'm going to quote the NET Bible. I also wanted to say tht I agree with you about the qere and kethiv (ketiv) which was one reason why I said Hebrew is complex. Plus there's the possibilities of syntax. NET Bible states:

Some have seen two titles here [Isa 9:6] ("Wonderful" and "Counselor," cf. KJV, ASV). However, the pattern of the following three titles (each contains two elements) and the use of the roots פָּלַא (pala’) and יָעַץ (ya’ats) together in Isa 25:1 (cf. כִּי עָשִׂיתָ פֶּלֶא עֵצוֹת מֵרָחוֹק אֱמוּנָה אֹמֶן) and 28:29 (cf. הִפְלִיא עֵצָה) suggest otherwise. The term יוֹעֵץ (yo’ets) could be taken as appositional (genitive or otherwise) of species ("a wonder, i.e., a wonder as a counselor," cf. NAB "Wonder-Counselor") or as a substantival participle for which פָּלַא provides the direct object (“one who counsels wonders”). יוֹעֵץ is used as a royal title elsewhere (cf. Mic 4:9). Here it probably refers to the king’s ability to devise military strategy, as suggested by the context (cf. vv. 3-4 and the following title אֵל גִּבּוֹר, ’el gibor). In Isa 11:2 (also a description of this king) עֵצָה (’etsah) is linked with גְּבוּרָה (gÿvurah, the latter being typically used of military might, cf. BDB 150 s.v.). Note also עֵצָה וּגְבוּרָה לַמִּלְחָמָה in Isa 36:5. פֶּלֶא (pele’) is typically used of God (cf. however Lam 1:9). Does this suggest the deity of the messianic ruler? The NT certainly teaches he is God, but did Isaiah necessarily have this in mind over 700 years before his birth? Since Isa 11:2 points out that this king will receive the spirit of the Lord, which will enable him to counsel, it is possible to argue that the king’s counsel is “extraordinary” because it finds its source in the divine spirit. Thus this title does not necessarily suggest that the ruler is deity.

Edgar Foster said...

Also, John Goldingay from the New International Biblical Commentary:

The Hb. of the first two phrases reads literally "Wonder planner,
God warrior." NIV "wonderful counselor" apparently takes the first phrase to mean "wonder of a planner." If that is a natural rendering of the first phrase, the natural way for the prophet to expect people to understand the second is to take it to suggest "God of a warrior," "God-like warrior" (rather than "warrior-like God," presupposed by NIV). The plural of the phrase rendered Mighty God indeed appears in Ezek. 32:21 to mean "mighty leaders." In isolation, the four terms would then be quite intelligible as descriptions of a hoped-for king.

But the recurrence of the phrase rendered "Mighty God" el gibbor in
10:21 with definite reference to Yahweh make it harder to accept
that here the phrase means "God-like warrior" or that it refers to the promised king. Indeed, to say that someone is a "wonder of a planner" is to call him God-like (see on 5:8-24), and Wildberger (Isaiah 1-12, p. 403) argues strongly that the phrase must mean "Wonder-planner." The basis for translating the second phrase "God-like warrior" then disappears. Even Father, let alone Everlasting Father, is not otherwise instanced as a title for a king.

There is a further point. Other names such as Isaiah, Shear-jashub, and Immanuel comprise statements rather than merely strings of epithets. They mean "Yahweh [is] salvation," "A remnant will return," "God [is] with us." It is natural also to assume that the designation of Yahweh in v. 6b is one or two statements. How to construe the statements is then open to discussion, as is the case
with Maher-shalal-hash-baz (see Additional Note on 8:1). As the
middle two phrases are the ones that apply most distinctively to
God, we might take the four as a characteristic prophetic chiasm: 'A Wonderful Counselor is the Mighty God; the Everlasting Father is a Prince of Peace."

Edgar Foster said...

For Isa 9:6 and its translational possibilities, see

Duncan said...

Thank you very much for your time and patience I will check in from time to time for any further progress and dialogue. Agape.

Duncan said...


A small update from someone who has Hebrew expertise (I have been waiting for his comments & they have come at just the right time):-

the ancient Hebrew grammar contained in 1 chronicles 27:32; Isaiah 25:1; 8:3, and other passages instructs that ... in the verse that concerns you:

1. פלא , "pele" , "marvel," represents a noun; and

2. יועץ , "yo-etz" , "one counseling," represents a verb in participle form.

3. in English, a comma would separate those two words.

4. those two ancient Hebrew words appear adjacent to one another physically ... in the verse that concerns you .... but do not connect grammatically, either by way of adjective and noun; or the construct state; or otherwise.


And later....

further to my prior post, another grammatical possibility exists ... which appears more in line with the alternate adjectival translations in your initial post;

1. "yoetz" represents a verb in participle form.

2. ancient Hebrew participles can and do reverse normal syntax; in other words, the sentence subject can precede a participle whereas normally the sentence subject follows the verb.

3. so here, "pele yoetz" could be translated as a connected and complete clause "marvel counseling."

4. in other words, the name of this person, includes in relevant part: "a marvel which counsels" (or a sign which advises; or a miracle which instructs).

5. "4" renders the remaining three parts of the name in symmetrical balance; i.e., a total of four names.

6. "4" also renders the other three parts of the name (each adjective/noun) in symmetrical balance.

7. and I suppose the ancient Hebrew idiom "marvel counseling" could be translated into English as "marvelous counselor," although such a translation seems to me inconsistent with the idiom.


So there is a nuance that I was missing.

I'm going to see if he can give some advise on avi ad.

Duncan said...

I just thought of something which is more in your field of expertise. What is the earliest reference to Isaiah 9:6 being a messianic prophecy in early christian literature?

Edgar Foster said...


One of the earliest occurrences of Isa 9:6ff being viewed as a messianic prophecy is found in Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho (126). Also see his 1 Apology 35.

Duncan said...


Thanks for the references, very interesting.

I have had a further communication on the Hebrew:-

I looked again at the issues underlying your first question ... that is .... the meaning of: פלא יועץ

I modify my earlier comments as follows:

1. a grammatical phenomenon exists in the ancient Hebrew literature ("ahl") that modern commentators describe as the predicate adjective ("p.a.").

* * *

2. The p.a., can manifest as:

a. an adjective;

followed by and modifying,

b. a noun;

contrary to normal ahl noun/adjective syntax.

* * *

3. examples include:

a. genesis 3:6 טוב העץ

b. genesis 4:13 גדול עוני

c. psalms 112:5 טוב איש הונן

d. Isaiah 41:7 טוב הוא

* * *

4. so perhaps, my earlier statements do not apply in this instance; and perhaps פלא יועץ means "marvel(ous) counselor."

* * * *

I suppose when one looks far enough and deep enough into any phenomenon .... be it stellar evolution; quantum mechanics or ancient Hebrew grammar .... a level of uncertainty arises ... because limits exist as to what we can know, at any given moment.

perhaps that's why many people prefer the comfort zone of a black and white world; where certainty resides.


So perhaps I have come full circle on this one since the commentaries & alternative renderings are so varied I am forced to put this one on the shelf for the time being.

JimSpace said...

Hi Edgar,
Thank you for sharing those photographs. The subject matter is right down my alley and addresses things in common circulation in my mind.

Best regards!

Edgar Foster said...

Hi Jim,

You're welcome. I plan to post something from Paul Wegner too.

All the best,


Edgar Foster said...

Thank you for the additional information, Duncan.