All Bible translations are interpretations. This quote, by my Hebrew Professor, floored me. I’ve never forgotten it.

“All Bible translations are interpretations.” So said one of my Biblical Hebrew professors from the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, in Jerusalem, some 15 years ago. It’s one of those statements that stays with you for a long time.
(Unlock Bible Meaning Course, Introduction)

Listen to this blog post.

Is there truth to it? If so, what and why?

The consequences are infinite and catastrophic. Here’s why. When you study the Bible, you’re studying the Word of God. At least, that’s what religion purports the Bible to be. But most readers can NOT read the Bible in the original languages, Hebrew and Greek (there’s some Aramaic as well). Which means, 99.99 percent of readers read in their native language, which is a translation. Therefore, they are reading an INTERPRETATION. And if that’s the case, they are NOT reading the original message of God. Straight away from the translation, they’re jumping into what the translator THINKS the original meaning is. That’s the catastrophe.

Readers are understanding and basing their beliefs and faith in interpretations. That’s serious.

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As I prepared this week’s blog post, I wanted to focus on Bible translations. During the research, I entered Hebrew meaning in the Google search box. From the results, I realized that was ambiguous because Hebrew could mean the people or the language? I was looking for the language. Anyway, some videos showed by a professor at the Institute of Biblical Studies. One about the meaning of Kosher. Here it is. You can find this word in the Bible. What does it mean?

It’s only 1.30 minutes and I realize he’s doing a quick commercial presentation.

I went over to Dictionary.com to see what they have to say.

Kosher.

  1. fit or allowed to be eaten or used, according to the dietary or ceremonial laws: kosher meat; kosher dishes; a kosher tallith.
  2. adhering to the laws governing such fitness: a kosher restaurant.

Informal.

  1. Proper; legitimate.
  2. Genuine; authentic.

Both and video and Dictionary are on the same wavelength using the translation fit.

What does the Bible say? The idea is not to get into a lesson here, but to reveal to you what we mean by interpretation.

The Bible uses the word kosher exactly 3 times in Hebrew in the Old Testament.

Esther 8:5

And said, If it please the king, and if I have found favour in his sight, and the thing seem right  (kosher) before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews which are in all the king’s provinces:

Ecclesiastes 10:10

If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct (kosher).

Ecclesiastes 11:16

In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for you know not whether shall prosper (kosher), either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible translates this one Hebrew word, Kosher with THREE English words: direct, be right, prosper. Yes, these Bible translations relate to fitness but this word has NOTHING to do with food. We do not find it in the first 5 books of the Bible, the Tanach, the Books of Moses, where we find the dietary laws.

We have a serious discrepancy between kosher in the Bible and kosher by the Institute of Biblical Studies and Dictionary.com.

One word sums it up: INTERPRETATION

Kosher is quite a common word, and I dare say, you were probably aware of it and had a vague, maybe precise idea of what it means in modern terms. But, as you can plainly see, this interpretation has absolutely nothing to do with the original biblical Hebrew. Please understand, the video presenter and Dictionary are NOT wrong, they are explaining a modern concept of kosher, accepted by all. BUT, to say it is the authentic Hebrew meaning, which the video title displays, is a misnomer. This explanation is correct but, at the least, it is an interpretation, and at the best, it is incomplete.

This is THE reason I put together this course. I believe your interest is NOT in interpretations. You want to know what the ORIGINAL says. You want GOD’S WORD, not how human translators or scholars interpret the Biblical Hebrew.

Let me tell you something. I’ve been using this study method for some 50 years. But it’s only in the last 15 years that I realized it is a method and formalized it with the 7 Keys. If you’ve been with TheExplanation.com you know that I refer to it regularly. Here’s my confession.

This course carried the name 7 Keys to Master Biblical Hebrew, a study method to Unlock Bible Meaning. The emphasis was on the opening phrase, the 7 Keys. The focus was on the Biblical Hebrew. Today, I think that is wrong, and I shall change it.

The result ALL of us are looking for is to UNLOCK BIBLE MEANING. The 7 Keys are the method to lead us to that result. It is important to understand that we NEED to look into the BIBLICAL HEBREW because it is the ORIGINAL. If we depart from ANY OTHER TRANSLATION, we’re departing from an INTERPRETATION.

So, let’s be clear. The goal is NOT to learn and digest Biblical Hebrew. The GOAL is to Unlock Bible Meaning. The Explanation designed this study method to get you from A to Z with the least hassle in the shortest time possible. The ONLY intention is to Unlock Bible Meaning. I hope that’s understandable. Biblical Hebrew is a vital tool God used for authorship of His Word, but, like the Greek, they are tools; they are secondary; the languages are not sacred, God’s Word is.

In this introduction, let’s be open and direct. Here’s a question/comment I received from a student of the first concise Biblical Hebrew course I created as a test.

I am about to start section 7.  So far I only see a course on how to use KJV ONLY Resources. Strongs basically found every Hebrew and Greek word then just placed each word the KJV Translators said those Hebrew and Greek meant to them.  Never do you point (so far) where to go to check / Test (1 Thess 5:19-24) Strongs.  So are you fluent in Hebrew or just is this class on how to use the Strongs? D. Jackson.

Of over 2700 students who’ve signed up for that course, about 2 or 3 have asked me the question of my fluency in Hebrew. I’m sorry, but I need to clarify that question. Fluency in Modern or Biblical Hebrew? Fluency in vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, syntax?

Again, sorry to go through the back door to answer this question, but I need you, and D. Jackson, to understand something very important about Biblical Hebrew, and many other languages, for that matter. I’m going to illustrate this with an example that is not mine. It comes from a question asked on the website Quora. Here’s the link if you want to read the entire entry.

Is it true that there are no verb tenses (past, present, future) in Biblical Hebrew?

 

1st reply > 20+ years teaching Biblical Hebrew and Bible interpretation
The Modern Hebrew language uses the same verb tenses that we do in English; past, present and future. However, in Biblical Hebrew they only had two tenses; perfect and imperfect. The past, present and future tenses are related to time, but the Biblical Hebrew tenses, perfect and imperfect, are related to action. A perfect tense is a completed action and an imperfect tense is an action that is not completed. This does make translating verbs difficult as there are no equivalent tenses in English…

 

2nd reply > Practicing Orthodox Jew
This is unequivocally not correct. There are strict tenses in Biblical Hebrew.

 

3rd reply > Fluent Hebrew Speaker
Wrong. There are tenses in biblical Hebrew, but they used an obsolete method to turn the definition of the tenses around by adding a vav (Hebrew letter) to the start of the word. Basically, if there is a “ve-verb” in Hebrew, it turns the tense into the other, but modern Hebrew doesn’t use this anymore.

 

4th reply
It’s a bit complicated – Hebrew DOES have verb tenses, BUT Hebrew doesn’t quite view time in tenses quite the same way as English does – so the ‘past’ and ‘present’ and ‘future’ don’t exactly line up uniformly with English tenses. Makes translating something of an adventure, sometimes.

The same professor and others I had at the Institute for Biblical Studies told me that Hebrew scholars are NOT in agreement among themselves regarding Biblical Hebrew. The above replies to what appears to be a simple question witness to the complexity of fluency of a language. I think the 4th reply sums it up beautifully. It is a bit complicated. I’d say, maybe a bit more than a bit!

No, I’m not fluent in Hebrew. That’s why this course does NOT teach Biblical Hebrew. That’s why the emphasis of the course is NOT Biblical Hebrew. When I studied Biblical Hebrew with the Institute of Biblical Studies in Jerusalem, my goal was not to become fluent. I’m a native-born English speaker who lives in France for over 40 years. I’ve worked and preached in French and am not and never will be totally fluent in Moliere’s language. You have to live in and with another language to know what it means to be language fluent. And remember, with Biblical Hebrew, we’re talking about an ancient language, on which we base the modern. But they are different.

Check Strongs and KJV ONLY resources

The Explanation has written about Strong’s Concordance, and particularly the KJV resource, and why I use them. Since the above question refers to testing Strongs, let’s do just that. D. Jackson has a perfect summary of Strong’s work. He found every Hebrew and Greek word then just placed each word the KJV Translators said those Hebrew and Greek meant to them. Basically, that’s all Strong did. That’s not meant to be pejorative in any way, it’s a monumental task that is an enormous benefit to Bible students like you and me. He added certain annotations to each entry and we shall discuss them during this course, but not now.

The essential part of his work was curating ALL the English translations for the SAME Hebrew word. There are some 8700 in the Old Testament, hence 8700 entries and lists of  1-50+ English word translations which correspond to each of the 8700 Hebrew words.

To unlock Bible meaning, what interests us are those thousands of Bible translations, which, I remind you, are interpretations. But they are not wild guesses, or let’s get this over and done. To the contrary. They are thoughtful and do lead us in the right direction.

There are hundreds of Bible translations. The translators have taken a lot of time and put much effort and scholarship into their translations. About 50 scholars took part in the translation of the KJV. Although King James wanted it to reflect Church of England theology, these men came from various denominations with various religious backgrounds and beliefs. The basis for the Old Testament translation was the Jewish official Masoretic text. On the team were a number of eminent Biblical Hebrew scholars. Please keep that in mind. Why?

Because Sam Kneller is NOT a translator, and certainly not the translator of Biblical Hebrew. As I’ve said in the past, if I were the translator, readers would say, that’s Sam’s translation, who’s he? And they would be right! I do offer ideas for better ways of expressing certain passages, but always based on Bible translations of the scholars or corroborative Biblical evidence. We shall have more details as we progress.

The key to understanding is that I do not base this course on Strongs. The foundation is the Biblical Hebrew, which The Explanation will always display, and the best Bible translations/interpretations of about 50 Bible scholars. The 7 Keys impact the Biblical Hebrew NOT the translations. The 7 Keys are doors into a more profound understanding of HOW Biblical Hebrew operates.

Here’s a promise. When you grasp the 7 Keys, you’ll have a deeper understanding of Biblical Hebrew and the original text of the Bible than any scholar. No, you won’t know the alphabet, vocabulary, grammar, syntax, punctuation, or any of that. You will NOT be fluent or anything near fluency. But you WILL UNlock Bible meaning.

And comprehending what God says in His Word is the bottom line. That’s why the name of the course is Unlock Bible Meaning with the 7 Keys to Master Biblical Hebrew.

  1. To enroll and take this courseclick here.
  2. Read the information and click on the Take this Course button at the BOTTOM of the page.
  3. Remember, I’m building this course week by week, so I’m continually adding content .

This blog post is an excerpt from the Introduction to the Unlock Bible Meaning Course.

 

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