Pageviews last month

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

A Review of "Why Psalm 12:6,7 is not a promise of the Infallible Preservation of Scripture"

{1}Help, LORD; for the godly* man ceaseth*; for the faithful‡ fail‡ from among the children‡ of men*. {2} They‡ speak‡ vanity every one* with his* neighbour*: with flattering§ lips* and with a double heart* do they‡ speak‡. {3} The LORD shall cut* off all flattering§ lips‡, and the tongue* that speaketh* proud§ things§: {4} Who* have said‡, With our‡ tongue* will we‡ prevail‡; our‡ lips‡ are‡ our‡ own: who is lord over us‡? {5} For the oppression* of the poor‡, for the sighingº of the needy‡, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth* at him*. {6} The words§ of the LORD are pure§ words§: as silver* tried* in a furnace* of earth*, purified* seven times‡. {7} Thou* shalt keep* them‡, O LORD, thou shalt preserve* them† from this generation* for ever. {8} The wicked‡ walk‡ on every side, when the vilest* men‡ are exalted*. -Psalm 12, KJV

all words in this Psalm which can be categorized by gender and number are flagged as indicated below:
* masculine singular
‡ masculine plural
º feminine singular
§ feminine plural
† masculine singular or genderless plural; see text below

This passage is put forward by proponents of the King James Version to prove that God has specially and literally preserved His word down through history, most recently in the KJV. They always point out, in conjunction with this, that this promise is lacking in the very versions (most popular today) that reject this doctrine.

Doug Kutilek has written what appears to be the definitive rebuttal of this claim, usually accessible here. As is typical of Kutilek, it is well researched and carefully laid out. But as Proverbs 18:17 states (NIV),

"The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him." (as an aside: has the English language really changed so much in 30 years that 'till' in the NIV can only now finally be replaced with 'until' in the TNIV?)

I here question just two of Kutilek's statements. I leave it to my readers to decide whether his argument can withstand these questions.

1. "When we turn to the Hebrew text of Psalm 12, the ambiguity of the English disappears."
This is claiming too much. While KJVO proponents may be the only ones making the claim for preservation from this passage now, it is not because any new information has driven away the clouds of ambiguity that once kept the true meaning of this passage in obscurity. The ambiguity inherent in the switching from masculine plural (them) to masculine singular (it or him) remains. It doesn't fit either antecedent! This is without even noting that leaving out the dagesh forte (located in the nu of the last pronoun in the Masoretic text) changes the meaning, to 'us'--as reflected in the Septuagint and the NIV (which, as Kutilek is evidently unaware, states in its preface that it doesn't footnote such details)*.

None of the commentators mentioned as being against the preservation interpretation accounted for the following:

1) The second alleged referent to the masculine plural antecedents is masculine singular.

2) This, rather than interpretive indecision, is the reason why many commentators split the referents according to number, rather than re-interpret the second one to mean the same as the first.

3) Synonyms for the words of the Lord are reported as antecedents for oppositely gendered plural substantives/pronominal suffixes in verses 111, 129, 152, and 167 of Psalm 119.

Many more pre-20th century interpreters than Kutilek listed could be mentioned as not finding it obvious that 'words' could not be the antecedent to either pronoun (with the present popular interpretation nonetheless having very deep roots):

19th century

Youngs Literal:
Thou, O Jehovah, dost preserve them, Thou keepest us from this generation to the age.

Thou, Jehovah, wilt keep them, thou wilt preserve them from this generation for ever.

16th century

Some understand here certain men, some others word.

Coverdale, Rogers:
Keep them therefore (O Lord) and preserve us from this generation for ever.

Martin Luther's Psalter:
Thy truth thou wilt preserve, O Lord, from this vile generation.

15th century

Michael Ayguan:
Keep them: that is, not as the passage is generally taken, Keep or guard Thy people, but Thou shalt keep, or make good, Thy words: and by doing so, shalt preserve him--him, the needy, him, the poor--from this generation.
2. "It is persecuted men, not written words, that occupy the psalmist’s attention and thought."
This is also claiming too much, and hinges, like the argument for KJV primacy, upon the word 'written'. There is a single mention of persecuted humans to support the one interpretation, whilst, in support of the other interpretation, nearly the whole rest of the psalm is given over to a contrast between the lips, tongues, and words of evil men, and the words of the LORD. Moving verse 7 from one column to the other does not shift the preponderance of evidence to the other side.

Doug Kutilek sets out to deny the King James Version proponents a key proof text, but in so doing he oversteps his goal and stumbles on the same points wherein he accuses them. In assaying to answer the fool, he has joined in his folly (Proverbs 26:4) of making inflated claims concerning a text of scripture.

Mr. Kutilek has released an updated version of his rebuttal, now incorporating mention that a dagesh forte would render 'him' as 'us.'  He still doesn't understand, though, that the NIV does not footnote variants within the pointed Hebrew text. And, while he admits that in some cases Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar points out that feminine nouns can serve as antecedents to masculine pronouns, he says that this passage is no example of that, because "the Book of Psalms is exceptionally regular on the matter of gender agreement, and no grammar or commentary that I have seen cites this passage as one of those exceptions." So, apparently he has not seen this review, because I  point out that the book of Psalms is far from regular in this matter, especially in reference to God's word.

An interesting translation of this verse emerges in Jerome's Epistle to Paulus, in which he refers to the writings of Fortunatianus as "the words of the Lord, pure words, even as the silver which from this earth is tried, and purified seven times in the fire."

In other words, not silver tried in a furnace of earth, but silver of the earth tried in a furnace.

This is indeed the Vulgate reading: "argentum igne probatum separatum a terra"
that is,  "as silver tried by the fire, purged from the earth"

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for a more balanced view of this verse.


One comment per viewer, please--unless participating in a dialogue.