Psalm 44.4 in Brian Simmons’ Passion ‘translation’: ‘command deliverances for Jacob’ or ‘decree majesties for Israel’?!

In my last three posts I have looked at three cases in the Psalms where Brian Simmons, in his so-called ‘Passion Translation’, has erased all mention of Jacob. In Psalm 47.4, it is no longer Jacob whom God loves but, apparently, ‘us’, likely the Christian reader. In Psalm 147.19, Simmons has the psalmist apparently speaking of another people of God, apart from Israel. And in Psalm 14.7, he appears to replace the salvation of Israel with the rescue of the poor! Shame on him for changing the holy scripture. I do pray for him that he would realise the great harm that he is doing and repent. I happen to believe that he is sincere and means well, but has been deceived into thinking that God Himself has called him to translate the holy bible. He seems to be partially aware of his lack of scholarly capability as a bible translator, since he apparently said in response to criticism of his work on amazon.com that:

I do not claim to be a “scholar” of the original languages.

It appears that he deleted this comment ten days later, but that it was then retrieved and posted on Holly Pivec’s blog. It carries exactly the same date and time of posting:

as the record of a deleted comment that is still visible on Amazon:

Praise the Lord, who leads us into all truth, and guards His holy people from heresy.   I have nothing against Brian Simmons personally. My reason for pointing out the gross errors and distortions in his so-called translations is that sincere Christians, including young people in particular, are reading them believing them to be the true word of God, translated as accurately as possible from the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts, when in fact they are nothing of the kind. The faith and Christian life of these believers is thus being put in peril through the actions of this very foolish man.

The replacement of ‘Jacob’ by ‘Israel’

I have previously pointed out that in his ‘translation‘ of the Psalms, Brian Simmons has removed 17 out of 34, or exactly half of the occurrences of the name יַעֲקֹב  (Yaʿăqōḇ, Jacob). In this post, I examine a case where he has replaced ‘Jacob’ by ‘Israel’, and ask why he would do this.

psalm 44.4

אַתָּה־ה֣וּא מַלְכִּ֣י אֱלֹהִ֑ים צַ֝וֵּ֗ה יְשׁוּעֹ֥ות יַעֲקֹֽב׃

You are my King, O God; Command victories for Jacob. [NASB]
Thou art my King, O God: Command deliverance for Jacob. [ASV]
You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob! [ESV]
You are my God, my King! It’s now time to decree majesties for Israel!b

(Footnote b: 44:4 Or “Jacob.”)

צַ֝וֵּ֗ה  (ṣawēh) is the Piʿel singular masculine imperative of צִוָּה (ṣīwâh) Piʿel verb meaning ‘order’, ‘direct’, ‘appoint’, ‘command’ (Holladay). 1 ‘Decree’ is inaccurate, it seems to me, since while a decree may be thought of as a form of order, there are other ways to issue orders. With reference to Almighty God, one thinks for example, of the simple word of command.

The original says nothing about it now being time for an order to be made.

יְשׁוּעֹ֥ות (yešûʿôṯ) is the plural form of  יְשׁוּעָה (yešûʿâh), which means  ‘help’, ‘prosperity’, ‘salvation’ (Holladay); ‘prosperity’, ‘deliverance’, ‘salvation’, ‘victory’ (BDB). The Hebrew plural form does not necessarily convey the idea of plurality in number, but may express an intensification or heightening of the idea of the singular. 2 Holladay gives the meaning of the plural יְשׁוּעֹ֥ות  as ‘help’, ‘helping deeds’, ‘salvation’; while BDB suggest ‘victories’ as the meaning in this verse.

It can be seen, therefore, that the various renderings of word in the ASV, ESV, and NASB, namely ‘deliverance’, ‘salvation’, and ‘victories’, are all within the lexical range of the word.

Then where does Simmons get ‘majesties’ from? I have checked the LXX and it has σωτηρίας here, meaning ‘deliverances’. So has he simply made it up? And what does he mean by it here? He seems to be pretending that the Psalmist is saying that it is time for God to bestow on His people honours fitting for kings and queens! And on which people? Why does Simmons change the scripture so as to call this people no longer ‘Jacob’ but ‘Israel’?

I may be wrong, but I suspect first, that he thinks that his Christian readers will identify themselves more easily with ‘Israel’ than with ‘Jacob’, and second, that he wants his Christian readers to view themselves as royalty. We are, after all, a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2.9), and there are a few Greek manuscripts which have us made ‘kings and priests’ in Revelation 1.6, as in the King James Version. It is sometimes said in churches that we are princes and princesses, since we are children of the King of Kings.

But βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα in 1 Peter 2.9 was the phrase used by the LXX translators for מַמְלֶ֥כֶת כֹּהֲנִ֖ים  (mamlęḵęṯ kōhanîm), a kingdom of priests, in Exodus 19.6, and this may be what Peter meant by it. Alternatively, according to Selwyn, if Peter took βασίλειον in Exodus 19.6 as an adjective rather than a substantive (a noun formed from an adjective), then he would have meant by βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα a “priesthood in the service of a king”, the king being Almighty God. 3 In either case, we are priests, but hardly kings.

As for Revelation 1.6, the reading βασιλεῖς ‘kings’ is rejected even by modern editions of the Majority Text, with both Robinson/Pierpont and Farstad/Hodges having βασιλείαν, ‘a kingdom’, here.

So on reflection, I think it is enough that we think of one another in the body of Christ as sons and daughters of the most high God, and members of His household. What a wonderful privilege we have to be called His holy children!

Andrew

 

 

Notes:

  1. English equivalents are from William L. Holladay, ‘A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament’ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971) and ‘The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon’ [‘BDB’] by Francis Brown et al (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1979).
  2. A. B. Davidson, ‘Hebrew Syntax’ (Edinburgh, T & T Clark, 1912) 18, 19.
  3. E. G. Selwyn, ‘The First Epistle of Peter’ (London: Macmillan, 1947) p. 166.

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Andrew Chapman

I live for Jesus. He is my life, my hope, my Saviour and Redeemer and Lord. Hallelujah! God has blessed me with a wonderful wife called Alison, and we serve the Lord together with gladness and joy. Pray for us that we may fulfill our calling and persevere to the end on the narrow path that needs to life.

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