Opinions on faith and life

More Phantom Pharisees

2007-08-12

As I was reading a series of articles today on Ezekiel 38-39 I came across yet another instance of deliberate mistranslation of the Bible, or at least knowing perpetuation of previous errors. The article is found at This Link and concerns the identification of one of the key players in the prophecy.

If you scroll down to the section titled “Reasons Rosh Refers to Russia” (was that alliteration intentional??), we read the following:

The problem is that the word rosh in Ezekiel can be translated as either a proper noun or an adjective. Many translations take rosh as an adjective and translate it as the word “chief.” The King James Version, The Revised Standard Version, and the New International Version all adopt this translation. However, the New King James, the Jerusalem Bible, New English Bible, American Standard Version, and New American Standard Bible all translate rosh as a proper name indicating a geographical location. The weight of the evidence favors taking rosh as a proper name. There are five arguments that favor this view.

First, the eminent Hebrew scholars C. F. Keil and Wilhelm Gesenius both hold that the better translation of Rosh in Ezekiel 38:2-3 and 39:1 is as a proper noun referring to a specific geographical location...

This identification by Gesenius cannot be passed off lightly, as DeMar attempts to do. Gesenius, as far as we know, was not even a premillennialist. He had no eschatological, end time ax to grind. Yet, objectively, he says without hesitation that Rosh in Ezekiel 38-39 is Russia. In his original Latin version of the lexicon, Gesenius has nearly one page of notes dealing with the word Rosh and the Rosh people mentioned in Ezekiel 38-39. This page of notes does not appear in any of the English translations of Gesenius’ Lexicon. Those who disagree with Gesenius have failed to refute his sizable body of convincing evidence identifying Rosh with Russia. I do not know what DeMar would say about this evidence since he never deals with it.

Second, the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, translates Rosh as the proper name Ros. This is especially significant since the Septuagint was translated only three centuries after Ezekiel was written (obviously much closer to the original than any modern translation).[12] The mistranslation of Rosh in many modern translations as an adjective can be traced to the Latin Vulgate of Jerome, which did not appear until around a.d. 400.[13] James Price, who has a Ph.D. in Hebrew from Dropsie, which is the leading Jewish academic University in America says, “The origin of the translation ”chief prince of Meshech and Tubal“ is traced to the Latin Vulgate. The early translators of the English Bible were quite dependent on the Latin Version for help in translationg difficult passages. They evidently followed Jerome in Ezek 38:2, 3; 39:1.”[14] Price further explains the reason for the erroneous translation as follows:

Evidently by the second century a.d. the knowledge of the ancient land of Rosh had diminished. And because the Hebrew word rosh was in such common use as “head” or “chief,” Aquila was influenced to interpret rosh as an adjective, contrary to the LXX [Septuagint] and normal grammatical conventions. Jerome followed the precedent set by Aquila, and so diminished the knowledge of ancient Rosh even further by removing the name from the Latin Bible.

By the sixteenth century a.d. ancient Rosh was completely unknown in the West, so the early English translators of the Bible were influenced by the Latin Vulgate to violate normal Hebrew grammar in their translation of Ezekiel 38-39. Once the precedent was set in English, it was perpetuated in all subsequent English Versions until this century when some modern versions have taken exception. This ancient erroneous precedent should not be perpetuated.[15]

Clyde Billington explains why Jerome went against most of the evidence and went with a deviant translation:

Jerome himself admits that he did not base his decision on grammatical considerations! Jerome seems to have realized that Hebrew grammar supported the translation of “prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal” and that it did not support his own translation of “chief prince of Moshoch and Thubal.” However, Jerome rejected translationg Rosh as a proper noun because, “we could not find the name of this race [i.e. the Rosh people] mentioned either in Genesis or any other place in the Scriptures, or in Josephus. It was this non-grammatical argument that convinced Jerome to adopt Aquila’s rendering of Rosh as an adjective [”chief’] in Ezekiel 38-39.[16]

Third, many Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, in their articles on Rosh, support taking it as a proper name in Ezekiel 38. Some examples: New Bible Dictionary, Wycliffe Bible Dictionary, and International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

I should emphasize the fact that in spite of all the tampering, mistranslations, and cover-ups I’ve found so far, the gospel essentials are still firmly intact. Remember that for every specimen under a microscope there is a much larger world out there; we’re picking out the bones but not the meat, so to speak. Don’t let this trouble you or shake your faith. Instead, take it as a refining process. It’s a lot like studying diet and nutrition: if you listened to all the debates, you’d think all food is poison.