Psalm 22:16 - Corruption of the Massoretic Text?

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PointyHaired Calvinist

Puritan Board Sophomore
KJV
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

ESV
For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet
(compare NKJV, NIV, NASB, CSB, most others)

This is the common translation into most English Bibles and is based on the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and was recently confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, the Massoretic reads differently:

NET
Yes, wild dogs surround me— a gang of evil men crowd around me; like a lion they pin my hands and feet.
(compare LEB, CEB)

This honestly doesn’t make sense to me, and apparently didn’t to most translators. Is this a later unintentional corruption (apparently “like a lion” and “they pierced” are almost identical in Hebrew) or is it an intentional corruption of the descendants of the Pharisees? (Seriously, does a lion attack someone by pinning their hands and feet? Only Scar from the Lion King that I can recall!)

Others (mainly academia) accept that it’s a corruption but conclude the original was something entirely different, e.g “shriveled” (NRSV) or “hacked off” (NEB)

It seems to me this is a clear prophecy of the crucifixion that had been hidden by unbelievers. Many MT advocates - even before the DSS confirmed it - go to the ancient versions. I’m interested in everyone’s thoughts here.
 

hLuke

Puritan Board Freshman
KJV
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

ESV
For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet
(compare NKJV, NIV, NASB, CSB, most others)

This is the common translation into most English Bibles and is based on the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and was recently confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, the Massoretic reads differently:

NET
Yes, wild dogs surround me— a gang of evil men crowd around me; like a lion they pin my hands and feet.
(compare LEB, CEB)

This honestly doesn’t make sense to me, and apparently didn’t to most translators. Is this a later unintentional corruption (apparently “like a lion” and “they pierced” are almost identical in Hebrew) or is it an intentional corruption of the descendants of the Pharisees? (Seriously, does a lion attack someone by pinning their hands and feet? Only Scar from the Lion King that I can recall!)

Others (mainly academia) accept that it’s a corruption but conclude the original was something entirely different, e.g “shriveled” (NRSV) or “hacked off” (NEB)

It seems to me this is a clear prophecy of the crucifixion that had been hidden by unbelievers. Many MT advocates - even before the DSS confirmed it - go to the ancient versions. I’m interested in everyone’s thoughts here.
I watched this video a few years ago. Two messianic Jews discuss this text and show that Jewish scholars who where on the Masoretic Text panel may have changed one stroke of a Hebrew letter to generate the word lion instead of pierced so to remove the significance of the crucifixion. Of course, most, probably all, Masoretes would've passionately rejected Jesus as their Messiah.
Video
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
I find the accompanying translation note for the NET insightful:

tc The Masoretic text reads “like a lion, my hands and my feet.” The reading is difficult and the ancient versions vary, so the textual difficulty is probably very early. Without a verb, the syntax appears broken and the role of “hands and feet” unclear. One option is to understand the verb of the previous line to apply again, a poetic technique called ellipsis and double duty. But “my hands and feet” would be an odd object for a verb meaning “they encircled.” Otherwise, the broken syntax may represent the emotional outcry of the Psalmist, first mentioning the lion as part of the third person description, but suddenly shifting to the first person perspective and crying out as the lion attacks, pinning down his hands and feet (a scene depicted in ancient Near Eastern art). But this development seems late textually. All the other witnesses have a verb instead of “like a lion.” The LXX says “they dug my hands and feet; the verb ὀρύσσω (orussō) means “to burrow in the ground, to dig.” A Qumran witness seems to read similarly, “they dug.” Instead of the MT’s כארי (kᵉʾariy; like a lion”), the scroll from Nahal Hever has a verb form כארו (kaʾaru) ending with vav instead of yod. Supposing that the א (ʾaleph) is a superfluous spelling variant, the form would be understood as כרו (karu) from the root כרה (karah), meaning “they dug.” In that case, the Qumran scroll and the LXX agree because כרה is one of the two verbs translated in the LXX by ὀρύσσω. But as both these verbs mean “to dig [in the dirt]” this has not helped us understand the context. Assuming that the enemies are still the subject, we might expect “they dug a pit for my hands and feet.” In fact the Hebrew words behind “they dug a pit” look similar (כרו בור) so it is not hard to imagine that one of these two would be overlooked by a scribed and dropped from the text. Some suppose that “to dig [in the ground]” means “to pierce” in reference to hands and feet (possibly from the root כור). Other variants and suggestions include “they bound,” or “they picked clean” (from אָרָה, ʾarah, “to pluck”) my hands and feet. Or “my hands and feet are consumed,” or “worn out.” The latter two assume a copying error of resh for lamed, making the verb come from כלה. P. Craigie (Psalms [WBC], 1:196) opts for this last but also cites Syriac and Akkadian for additional root K-R-H meaning “to be shrunken, shriveled.” The Akkadian verb (karu) is said of body parts and can refer to paralysis, which is the kind of metaphor which occurs in battle contexts elsewhere (e.g. Ps 76:5). It would be very natural to read “my hands and my feet” as the subject of the verb because verb-subject is typical word order. There is no decisive answer to the problem and the NET translation includes the lion imagery (cf. v. 13) and supposes a verb that conveys an attack.
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
I first heard of this a few years ago from James White. It was in one of his debates but i can't remember which one. Your logic fits within his statements in that lions do not attack hands and feet but one's neck. Outside of sources I heard that this was written at a time when crucifixion wasn't practiced. The notes you send certainty are helpful.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
The first article is a thoughtful exploration of the challenges of this difficult verse. The conclusion of the second seems to me to be more "Never mind worrying what the Hebrew really said, God inspired the KJV."

I also think we should be really reluctant to use the "The Masoretes deliberately corrupted the text" line (even though Calvin does, without mentioning the small minority of variant manuscripts). After all, if they deliberately distorted one text, how would we know that they didn't distort others? Especially if you are as reluctant as the KJV is to use the Septuagint to correct the MT. Doesn't this also demonstrate that the KJV translators didn't believe that the Majority Text is always the text that God has preserved pure?
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Hello Iain, the value of Kinney in the 2nd article is he provides a lot of relevant information and views. The KJV translators may well have been aware that כארו minus the lion was a minority reading in the Masoretic tradition, and went with that, as they made such choices in the NT as well (Luke 2:22; Rev 16:5).

Did the KJV translators think God preserved the Majority Text pure, or in their editorial judgment think a minority reading had better warrant? And did the Westminster divines who stated that the Hebrew and Greek texts they had in hand were preserved pure, agree with the translators' winnowing through some variants? There are some things we will not know with perfect clarity until we meet the Author.
 
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