The Way To Yahuweh I am Yahuweh – That is My Name
Isaiah 42:8

Wadi Murabba’at Isaiah and The Way to Yahuweh Transcription Process

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Wadi Murabba’at Isaiah and The Way to Yahuweh Transcription Process

March 13th, 2018

Whilst I can’t exactly fathom how I missed such a Dead Sea Scrolls Manuscript (I mean, it’s not like I haven’t done transcriptions for the other Wadi Murabba’at scrolls… oh wait, yes I did!), it does however give a good opportunity to discuss the Dead Sea Scrolls and the transcription process for TWTY, using this very manuscript as an example.

Prior to 2011, the only way to see manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls (which include those from Wadi Murabba’at, Wadi Sdeir, Nahal Hever etc.) would either a) be a scholar and have access to them for a scholarly article/Masters/Ph.D.; b) have a copy of one of the numerous volumes from the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert series (DJD), which range from the ‘oh that’s not that expensive (£96)’, to the ‘OH MY WORD I’LL NEED TO REMORTGAGE MY BLASTED HOUSE! (£282.50)’ – you’re looking at £6,000+ for the entire collection (40 Volumes at the moment); or c) find a book about a Dead Sea Scrolls manuscript produced by a scholar, that also includes the image(s) (or facsimile as a reproduction of a manuscript is more commonly known).

Obviously, getting all those volumes and producing a free to use transcription of the facsimiles would not have been an easy job, but there was some earlier assistance, and that was the production of the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (DSSB), published in 1999. This at least gave the mere ‘public’ the opportunity to see a translation of the Scriptural Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts, which also provided lots of supplementary information, such as a list of the names or designations given to Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts (such as 4QGenn, 3QLam etc.), and a glimpse into the Hebrew letters or words extant in the manuscripts. This gave people the ability to use the list of manuscripts, and shown extant or non-extant letters, to create preliminary transcriptions of the manuscripts in question, as the Masoretic Tanakh was already digitised by this time. This unfortunately didn’t give anyone the capacity to produce a proper transcription of the manuscripts, as how many letters per line etc., etc., was not given in the DSSB.

It was, however, a fantastic start.

Nevertheless, role on 2011, and in conjunction with Google, the Israel Museum was able to provide a high-resolution ultra-version of several of the larger Dead Sea Scrolls, one of which was the Great Isaiah Scroll. Being able to see quite probably the most famous Dead Sea Scroll in all of its glory was a fantastic achievement for both.

It wouldn’t stop there, however. Again in conjunction with Google, the Israel Antiquities Authority released The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library (LLDSSDL) online. This gave photographs (both original and newer ones, and they have continued to provide more recent ones too), of nearly all the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered. To call this a ‘treasure trove’ would be a huge understatement.

Clearly the Internet has done a lot of good to assist with Dead Sea Scrolls research (especially the behemoth that is Google), and before 2011 you could quite easily find images of several of the Dead Sea Scrolls dotted around online. But not nearly as much as the collection now on the LLDSSDL.

In the recent release of the Dead Sea Scrolls Image Sources page on TWTY, I spent quite a few days going through all the images again, and came across several things I had missed, one of which was an entire manuscript designated MurIsa (short for Wadi Murabba’at Isaiah)! How it was missed I cannot explain. Notwithstanding, checking through my copy of the DSSB and some much earlier notes on the Dead Sea Scrolls, I did find a few peculiar things that might solve the mystery.

In its original discussion of the Isaiah manuscripts among the Dead Sea Scrolls, the DSSB states this (image taken from the book itself), which I have underlined the reference to Wadi Murabba’at Isaiah:

So the DSSB mentions it in the initial discussion. But what about when it comes to the actual content of the manuscript?

At the start of each chapter from a Scriptural Book, the DSSB gives a list of the manuscripts that contain words from the chapter, and how many verses it has extant.

One should expect therefore to find Wadi Murabba’at Isaiah listed somewhere at the start of one of the chapters of Isaiah. I say one should expect, but in this case, we don’t!

Wadi Murabba’at contains text from Isaiah 1:4-14. Here’s what the DSSB has for this section:

As can be seen, this is somewhat bizarre. MurIsa isn’t given in the list of manuscripts containing text from Isaiah Chapter 1, yet is given in the notes on variant readings from the main one used in the DSSB! This may explain why I found an old note in one of my notebooks that just says “MurIsa?” Needless to say that even now, information on MurIsa is somewhat scarce (most places I’ve found just give the name, but no indication of verses or content), so whilst not a great excuse, it goes someway to explaining how MurIsa was missed for so long a time.

Let’s have a look at the manuscript in question, and describe the transcription process used for TWTY.

Using the infrared image on the LLDSSDL, we can see that the manuscript has quite a few letters and words that are very easy to read. But how can we determine that this manuscript contains text from Isaiah, and not some other place in the Tanakh that has similar words? Perhaps it isn’t even a Scriptural book at all?!

The first full word that can be seen is on line 2 (I’ll explain why I don’t refer to it as line 1 later on), which reads as אחור. A search in the Tanakh shows that there are only 24 places that have the word אחור. This therefore narrows our choices for this manuscript to Gen 49:17; 1 Sam 1:22; Isa 1:4, 28:13, 42:17, 44:25, 50:5, 59:14; Jer 15:6, 38:22, 46:5; Psalms 9:4, 35:4, 40:15, 44:11, 19, 56:10; 70:3, 78:66, 129:5, 139:5; Lam 1:8, 13, 2:3. The final choice is that this isn’t a manuscript containing text from any Canonised Scriptural book, but is a different non-canonised book or previously unknown composition instead.

Our next full word is on the next line, and is כל. This is a very common word in the Tanakh, so doing a search on this would be somewhat fruitless. What we can glean from this though is that the manuscript most likely contains the defective (short) rather than the plene (full) spellings of words.

Right next to כל is ראש meaning head. Now on its own, ראש is seen 99 times in the Tanakh, reducing our choices quite a lot, but how many times is it preceded by the common noun כל? The answer is four times: Isa 1:5; Jer 48:37; Ezek 29:18; and Amos 8:10. This reduces our pool significantly, for if we compare to our previous extant word, there is only one viable conclusion: we’re likely looking at a manuscript of the book of Isaiah.

Could it be another composition? Possibly, but directly following כל ראש is one extant letter, and part of another. The extant letter is ל, and in the text of Isaiah, what directly follows כל ראש is לחלי, granting a big clue that we’re looking at a direct copy of the text of Isaiah. The rest of the extant words and letters also fit in exactly with how the text of Isaiah has descended through the centuries.

From here we can start to build the transcription.

Based on the easiest to see letters, the following can be given as to what the text of the manuscript looked like:

Clearly this isn’t a ‘transcription’ of the manuscript just yet; there’s no indication of missing letters etc., but this is all added later on. Regardless, as we can fit the text of Isaiah into what is seen on the manuscript, we can start to deduce several things about it:

1) From the extant text, there are no variants from what came to be the standard Masoretic Hebrew Text of Isaiah. Therefore it is more than likely there’s no variants in the non-extant portions either.
2) The line length ranges from around 22 letters to 30 letters, with an average amount of 6 words per line.
3) Like other Hebrew manuscripts, words are not split up from line to line. This is in contrast to Greek and Latin works, which happily split words up from one line to the next.

All the above helps to determine the non-extant text. We can then produce the following:

Now I’ve left some lines (3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9) without indication of where the final extant letters appear. This is due to the fact that there’s at least a bit of several letters that are visible, but not in their entirety.

Looking at line 3 in the image, we can clearly see the letters כל ראש ל, but can also see the right-hand side of another letter:

As we learned before, the rest of the word following ל is most likely חלי, with the right hand side of the letter extant above being from ח. If we compare this to how the fully extant ח are within the manuscript (line 2, line 15), then this becomes even clearer.

Applying this to the rest of the just-about-extant letters seen, we can produce the transcription of lines 2-10 thusly:

On lines 4 and 5, there’s a bit of scarring on the manuscript that has rubbed away two full letters, and quite a good chunk of a few more, but these at least have left some evidence. On lines 7 and 8, we can just about see the bottom or tops of the last couple of letters; in this case there is enough left of them to give more than just a ‘?’ in their place.

The really tricky part comes in determining exactly which letters we can see in those lines that have barely a dot left of a letter.

The reason I’ve not designated the line beginning with אחור as line 1 is due to the fact that there’s a bottom right corner dot of one letter just above the initial א of line 2:

But what letter is this? Is it even possible to determine what letter it can be from just a small dot as this? Well, yes is the answer; although there is always a very certain degree of doubt as to the identification. This however is where knowing the line-length comes in handy.

We know from the earlier discussion that the line length is around 22-30 letters, averaging at around 6 full words (though there is a minimum of 5, max of 9 based on the word-length). Also, the extant portion, as mentioned, demonstrates that this manuscript contains no variants. Therefore we can deduce that this dot is from a letter, 22-30 letters preceding אחור in Isaiah 1:4, at an average of around 6 full words.

The 6 full words prior to אחור in Isaiah 1:4 are the following:
יהוה נאצו את קדוש ישראל נזרו

Not only is this 6 full words, but also 23 letters which is within our range of 22-30. But is this right? Can that dot be the bottom of the letter י at the start of יהוה? Checking for the fully extant י’s in our manuscript (see lines 18 & 19), this dot is too low and too far to the right-hand side for it to be the bottom of a י. We’re looking really for a letter that has a sort of hook to the bottom right.

If we take our maximum amount of letters (30), and apply it to the words before אחור, we end up with עזבו את יהוה נאצו את קדוש ישראל נזרו. Here we have 29 letters, 8 words, right within our range once more. Unfortunately we have no extant ע’s in our manuscript to see how the scribe would’ve written the letter. Therefore is this an ע? Here we need to look at similarly dated, and similarly styled manuscripts to see how they wrote the letter ע to give a guestimate on how the letter may’ve looked in MurIsa.

MurIsa has the closest similarity with MurDeut, both of which are dated to have been produced 20-84 CE in a post-Herodion style of writing. Thankfully, MurDeut has some extant ע’s that can be looked at.

Taken from Fragment 1 Column 1:

Here we can see the style of ע that was prevalent in post-Herodian style handwriting: a long, sloping right line, with an almost vertical and smaller left line going up from the middle of the right line. This therefore removes the letter ע and the word עזבו as being what we can see extant in the first line of MurIsa; the letter ע wouldn’t have left a bottom-right mark.

What would be our next choice? As noted above, we could easily remove the word עזבו from our sentence, giving us את יהוה נאצו את קדוש ישראל נזרו. Not only is this still within our range (25 letters, 7 words), but the letter א, as seen numerous times in MurIsa, always leaves a bottom-right hook.

Therefore the dot visible in line 1 is from the bottom-right corner of the left downward stroke of the letter א.

We can then give the following:

This fits what is detectable in MurIsa, but also all the available ranges and evidence from other manuscripts that are at our disposal.

One of the last things to decide upon is what letter we can just see the top-right hook of in line 11:

Again, if we take the average line length, we can leave lines 11-13 for the time being and look at what can be decided for from line 14 onwards:

We begin in line 14 with some text from near the start of v11. This indicates that the start of v11 must come in one of the lines above, more than likely line 13 directly above. Therefore as נצורה at the start of line 10 is the last word in v8, then what we must have in lines 10-13 is text from Isaiah 1:9-10.

Taking our average line lengths, and omitting the amount of letters that can be surmised from the transcription, line 10 has 17-25 letters left to fit in, and line 13 has 15-23 left to fit in. Adding in the total possible letters for lines 11 and 12 into the equation, this leaves us with around 76-108 letters from verses 9-10 to place within the brackets.

Accepting the evidence from the extant letters, and the conclusion that this manuscript has no variants from the standard text of Isaiah, the total number of letters in Isaiah 1:9-10 is 89, meaning we’re looking at line lengths of around 22-26 letters for lines 10-13.

One has to presume therefore that the letter we see at the start of line 11 is from somewhere in v9. As the manuscript shows no evidence of gaps between verses, v9 will have started straight after the final word of v8 in line 10. We are also looking at a letter that has a sort-of right-slopping top-right hook.

Accepting the text of v9 as follows:

לולי יהוה צבאות הותיר לנו שריד כמעט כסדם היינו לעמרה דמינו

Then comparing these letters to the extant ones we see in MurIsa, there are very few letter candidates that could produce something as seen in line 11, with the only one I would argue being the letter ש. There’s more than a few extant ש’s in MurIsa, which look like this:

As is distinguishable, though never written exactly alike, the start of the right-side hook is nigh-on perfect for what we can see at the start of line 11. Whilst not 100%, the likelihood that it’s another letter is quite low, as no other letter gives such a right-curving mark.

The transcription of MurIsa is now able to be completed, and is as below:

The above detailed process actually doesn’t take as long as I’ve taken to explain it; most of the decisions are made very quickly once a base-text has been established for the manuscript in question. If this was an unknown composition, then what I’ve explained above would be extremely complicated, and it’s very difficult to conclude what the missing letters are, or what letter one can just about see scrapes and dots from. Thankfully we do actually have a base text to work from, making transcriptions of the Scriptural manuscripts a lot easier.

Thus wraps up the transcription process used for the manuscripts seen on TWTY, and the discussion of MurIsa. Hope it’s been informative, and not quite as mundane or boring as such explanations can be 🙂

Yahuweh’s Feasts: Fixing the dates Part 1

April 23rd, 2011

Passover, Unleavened bread, Firstfruits, and Weeks

One of the stickiest subjects regarding the Festivals/Feasts of Yahuweh (Passover/Pesach, Unleavened Bread/Matstsah, Firstfruits/Re’shiyth, Weeks/Pentecost/Shabuwa’, Trumpets/Taruw`ah, Reconciliations/Kippuryim, Tabernacles/Sukkah) is when exactly to date them, with regards to both the Hebrew calendar, and our Gregorian calendar.

As with all things it’s probably best to let Yahuweh tell us how this all pans out, so as to make an informed decision.


When it comes to Passover/Pesach, the dating is quite easy. Yahuweh tell us in Leviticus 23:4‑5: These are the appointed feasts of Yahweh, the Set-Apart (qodesh) Assemblies (migra’ (although as this is in its plural form, this is pronounced mirqra’ay)), which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them. In the first month, on the fourteenth [day] of the month at twilight, is Yahweh’s Passover.

Pretty simple, is it not? In the first month (called Aviv in the Hebrew calendar), on the fourteenth day of the month, we are to celebrate Yahweh’s Passover (notice the fact that Yahweh says this is His Passover, not “man’s” or “the Jew’s”, whom people seem to think that Passover was only for – it isn’t, by the way). The main point of contention with regards to Passover is when exactly to eat it. The Hebrew word translated as “twilight” above is ‘ereb/ערב which means “evening, sunset, night”. The problem is that according to Yahweh, days end and start at sunset/evening, compared to our common timing of days which is from midnight to midnight.

So the question is: which sunset are we to eat the Passover? Do we eat it at the starting sunset, that is, the beginning of the day, or do we eat it at the finishing sunset, the end of the day?

The problem, I think, with presuming that we’re to eat it at the finishing sunset, is the fact that the finishing sunset is also the starting sunset of the fifteenth day of the month of Aviv. Therefore, as far as I’m concerned, if Yahweh had wanted us to have the Passover meal on the finishing sunset of the fourteenth/starting sunset of the fifteenth, is that Yahweh would’ve said “you are to eat it at the start of the fifteenth day of the first month”, not “on the fourteenth of the month at twilight/sunset”. So from what I can see, is the fact that we’re to eat the Passover meal sometime during the day of the fourteenth of Aviv, and not as a dinner on the fifteenth of Aviv.

Another reason to also trust that the Passover meal is to be consumed during the day of the fourteenth is the fact that the Hebrew definite article ha/ה precedes the Hebrew ‘ereb/ערב, literally giving the translation “the evening/sunset”, which would give the translation for Leviticus 23:5 as In the first month, on the fourteenth of the month, at the evening, is Yahweh’s Passover.

What also shouldn’t be overlooked is the fact that ‘ereb/ערב is in its dual form (ערבים/’erbayim), literally giving “evenings” or “sunsets”. And the word translated as at is actually the Hebrew beyn/בין which means “between”.

So, the full translation of Leviticus 23:5 is as follows: In the first month, on the fourteenth of the month, between the evenings/sunsets, is Yahweh’s Passover.

As a result, Leviticus 23 makes it quite clear that Passover is between the two “evenings”, and doesn’t overflow into the fifteenth, which would be the first day of unleavened bread.

Exodus 12, where Passover is first mentioned by name, also gives the words beyn ha ‘erbayim in Exodus 12:6, where Yahuweh states …and all of you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Yisra’el shall kill him between (beyn) the (ha) evenings (‘erbayim).

Then, regarding when we’re to eat it, Yahuweh says in Exodus 12:8: And they shall eat the flesh during this very night (literally “the night, this”), roasted on a fire; they shall eat him with unleavened bread over bitter herbs.

With this in mind, there is only one “night” between “the evenings”, and that is the night of the fourteenth of the month of Aviv.

Accordingly, I’m confident in the fact that the Lamb was to be eaten on the fourteenth of the month of Aviv, and not anytime on the fifteenth. Whilst people might make the argument that killing a roasting a lamb would take quite a while, I agree with you: it would, which would mean that the Passover Lamb should actually be eaten sometime around midnight, when the night would be at its darkest.

I also think that this means that no one would actually be sleeping on Passover night, and everyone should actually be awake and ready, as Yahuweh tell us in Exodus 12:11.


Unleavened bread is a lot easier to date and decide what things are to be done on it. In Leviticus 23:6-8, Yahuweh says: And on the fifteenth day of this very month is the Festival of Unleavened bread to Yahweh; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day all of you shall have a Set-Apart Assembly; none of you shall do any labourious occupation. But all of you shall approach to draw near to Yahweh for seven days. On the seventh day is a Set-Apart Assembly; none of you shall do any labourious occupation.

This is brilliantly straight forward and explanatory. Knowing when and how to celebrate the festival of Unleavened Bread: From the fifteenth day of the first month, for seven days, is the festival of Unleavened bread. The first and last days are Set-Apart Assemblies, on which none of us are to do any “labourious occupation” (basically, what you’re employed to do). And for each of the seven days of Unleavened Bread week, we are to “approach to draw near to Yahweh”. We couldn’t’ve asked for a better thing to do. There really is no contention regarding the Festival of Unleavened bread.


Firstfruits, contrary to Unleavened bread, has quite a lot of contention about when it’s to be celebrated. A common interpretation is that the feast of Firstfruits is to happen on the sixteenth of Aviv, the day after the first day of Unleavened Bread. This therefore coincides with a pattern of one – two – three, each and every year.

However, what does Yahuweh say about the dating? Leviticus 23:10-11: Speak to the sons of Yisra’el, and say to them, ‘When all of you come into the land that I give to all of you, and reap its harvest, then all of you shall bring the sheaf of the Firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before Yahweh, so that all of you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.

Previously, on the feast of Passover and festival of Unleavened bread, Yahuweh has specifically stated the date that they were to happen on. For Passover, Yahuweh specifically states that it is to happen on the fourteenth; for Unleavened bread, Yahuweh specifically states that it is to start on the fifteenth. Yet here, for Firstfruits, Yahuweh does not specifically state a date when the feast of Firstfruits is to commence. This is rather odd, is it not, for Yahuweh to specifically state a date when two feasts/festivals are to fall on, yet for this he doesn’t state a specific day of the month when it is to occur?

So either we have a corrupt Hebrew original, Yahuweh is inconsistent, or, more probably, Firstfruits does not always happen on the sixteenth of Aviv. If it was to always happen on the sixteenth of Aviv, Yahuweh would’ve said so. This therefore means that the Feast of Firstfruits fluctuates the day that it is on each and every year.

However, Yahuweh doesn’t leave us in the dark as to when Firstfruits is to occur. As Yahuweh has stated above in Leviticus 23:11: On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it (this being the sheaf of the Firstfruits).

Now, those who say that Firstfruits is always on the sixteenth of Aviv like to argue that when Yahuweh refers to “the Sabbath” in Leviticus 23:11, He is referring to what they call the “High Sabbath” of Unleavened bread, that being, the first day of Unleavened bread. This therefore means that it goes Passover (14th); Unleavened bread/High Sabbath of Unleavened bread (15th); Firstfruits/after High Sabbath of Unleavened bread (16th).

That seems logical, doesn’t it?

Well, it would be, if it wasn’t for the fact that Yahuweh never, ever refers to the first day (or last day for that matter) of Unleavened bread as a “High” Sabbath. Yahuweh doesn’t actually even refer to it as a Sabbath, never mind a “High” one. The clause “High Sabbath” doesn’t actually appear anywhere in Scripture. This therefore means that the clause “High Sabbath” is completely made up by men, and as Yahuweh tells us numerous times, men aren’t to be trusted.

All Yahuweh says regarding the first and last days of Unleavened bread is that we’re to not do any “labourious work”. Yahuweh never calls these days “Sabbaths”. The only time Yahuweh has referred to the Sabbath in Leviticus 23 is all the way back in Leviticus 23:3, where Yahuweh has stated: Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a Set-Apart Assembly. None of you shall do any work. It is a Sabbath to Yahweh in all of your dwellings.

So, when Yahuweh states in Leviticus 23:11 that Firstfruits is to occur on “the day after the Sabbath”, what day do you think He’s referring to as “the Sabbath”? The only logical, rational, and Scriptural conclusion is that He’s referring to the Seventh day Sabbath, and not this imagined “High Sabbath” of Unleavened bread.

If Yahuweh had wanted Firstfruits to occur on the sixteenth of Aviv each and every year, He would’ve stated so as He did with Passover and Unleavened bread. But seeing as though Passover and Unleavened bread won’t fall on the same day each year, this means that the date of Firstfruits would fluctuate as well.

Due to the fact that the festival of Unleavened bread is always a week long, this means that a Seventh day Sabbath will always fall in the midst of the week. And then, as Yahuweh has stated, we are to celebrate the feast of Firstfruits on “the day after the Sabbath”, which would always be a Saturday sunset to Sunday sunset.

Now I know this will probably offend a few people, but it is quite clear: Firstfruits will always fall on a “Sunday”. This isn’t an argument for a “Sunday Sabbath” as Christians would like us to believe, but only the fact that on one Sunday a year, we’re to have a special feast, as ordained by Yahuweh Himself.


The final feast for this part we’re going to look at is the feast of weeks (more commonly known as “Pentecost”, based on the Greek πεντηκοστη/pentekoste meaning “fifty”).

Yahuweh tells us to count it this way in Leviticus 23:15-16: All of you shall number seven full Sabbaths, from the day after the seventh Sabbath, from the day that all of you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days, to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall bring a new offering to Yahweh.

Now, most English translations like to translate the first mention of “Sabbaths” above as “weeks”, despite the fact that Hebrew has a word that means “week” – shabuwa’/שבוע. If Yahuweh had wanted to say “weeks” here, I’m absolutely certain He would’ve used the Hebrew word that meant “weeks”, and not use the plural form of the Hebrew shabbat/שבת instead.

This gives further credence to the feast of Firstfruits being on the day after the Sabbath, as Yahuweh has reiterated that the sheaf of the Firstfruits offering was waved on the day after the Sabbath, and hasn’t specified the sixteenth day of the month of Aviv.

The dating of Weeks/Pentecost is therefore quite straight forward. Starting from the day that the feast of Firstfruits was on (a Sunday – day one), we are to count “seven full Sabbaths” until the day after the “seventh Sabbath”, when we are to bring a “new offering” to Yahuweh. This would mean that the first Sabbath would be the seventh of the fifty days, the second Sabbath would be the fourteenth of the fifty days, all the way up to the seventh Sabbath which would be the forty-ninth day that we’re to count, and then on the fiftieth day, the day after the seventh Sabbath, is the Feast of Weeks.

Consequently, this means that not only does the feast of Firstfruits fall on a Sunday, but that the feast of Weeks shall also fall on a Sunday (more specifically, Saturday sunset to Sunday sunset), as it is again on “the day after the Sabbath”.


So there you go. Yahuweh has specifically told us the dates that Passover and Unleavened bread are to be on (fourteenth and fifteenth of Aviv respectably), and the days (not dates) that Firstfruits and Weeks are to be on (the day after the Sabbath during the festival of Unleavened bread, and the day after the Seventh Sabbath respectably).

Passover and Unleavened bread are always on the same dates in the Hebrew calendar each and every year, but Firstfruits and Weeks, whilst being on the same day of the week, are on different dates each year in the Hebrew calendar.


(Please also refer to the Blog Acts 20:7: Did they really meet on a Sunday? for a slightly different discussion on the dating of certain feasts and festivals mentioned here)

Acts 20:7: Did they really meet on a Sunday?

January 8th, 2011

(To discuss this blog post, please go here)

Acts 20:7a (ESV): On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread…

There has been a lot of debate over the years regarding this verse (as well as Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, and John 20:1), as most English Bible translations would have us think that “The first day of the week” or “Sunday” is mentioned at least 5 times in the New Testament/Renewed Covenant. But are they correct?

Most Christians would take this at face value and say “Yes, of course it refers to Sunday, as Sunday is the new Sabbath day,” however most Messianics would say that “No, this is actually a corrupted translation of the Greek, and it actually refers to a Sabbath day, not to a Sunday.”

Let’s first deal with the Christian interpretation of this verse.

Whilst it could be true (we haven’t decided just yet) that this is referring to a Sunday, I’m afraid I must ask one question: where does it say that they had changed the Sabbath day from Saturday to Sunday? Whilst they may have “gathered together to break bread” on the “first day of the week”, meeting together on a Sabbath day wasn’t actually part of the 10 Commandments. All it says is “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it set-apart. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahuweh your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days Yahuweh made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore Yahuweh blessed the Sabbath day and made it set-apart.” (Exodus 20:8-11) There is no instruction here to “gather together” on the Sabbath day – just that one is to cease from their public business (“work”) on the Sabbath day, keeping it set-apart (“special”) compared to the other days during the week. So, even if they did gather together on a Sunday (in this one, solitary place in the NT/RC), it is hardly changing the day we’re supposed to rest on.

Leviticus 23:3 does refer to the Sabbath day as a “qodesh miqra’” which is translated as a “set-apart convocation” or “special called together assembly”, but then are we to think that each and every time people are “gathered together” in the New Testament or in the Tanakh that they were engaging in a Sabbath day on a different day of the week? No, because people can gather together whenever they want. And this here in Acts 20 is probably one of these times. We’ll find out as we continue on.

Even if the translation of Acts 20:7 may be correct (again, we’ve not even looked at the Greek yet), the interpretation of the verse is far off track, with far too much eisegesis (“reading one’s own opinion into the text”) compared to exegesis (“getting one’s opinion out of the text”) going on.

So, even though the Christian interpretation of the verse is far out there, are the Messianics correct in stating that it refers to “the Sabbath”, preferably the first Sabbath day during the 7 weeks leading up to Pentecost, and not to a Sunday?

Unfortunately, they’re not correct either. Mainly because the word they would like to translate as “Sabbath”, is actually in its genitive, plural, form – σαββατων – and so is the definite article (“the”) before it – των. Therefore, the word, if we were to transliterate it into a plural form to coincide with the plurality of the Greek, we would have to transliterate it as “Sabbaths” not just “Sabbath.” If the definite article before it, and the Greek transliteration of Shabbat, were to be in their singular form, we would actually see του σαββατου, not των σαββατων.

So, not only is the Christian interpretation wrong, the Messianics translation is also wrong as well.

Even though the Christian interpretation is wrong, and the Messianics translation wrong too, is perhaps the Christian translation correct, and the Messianics interpretation correct?

Well actually, the answer is “yes” and “no”, to both questions. The Christian translation is almost correct, and the Messianic interpretation is also almost correct, but neither is complete.

Let’s have a look at the Greek:

τη μια των σαββατων (Acts 20:7, Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1)

Here it is translated, with the Greek words in brackets:

On the (τη) one (μια) of the (των) Sabbaths (σαββατων)

Ignoring the definite articles (don’t really need to look at them to be honest), we should concentrate on exactly what μια and σαββατων are referring to.

Firstly is μια. μια is the adjective, dative, singular, feminine form of the Greek number εις, meaning “one”. It does however have numerous other meanings: first, chief, main, singular, only, merely, alone, someone, anyone, certain person, unique, unitary, unanimous, one of two or many, once for all, and same.

As you can see, there are many choices to choose when translating just this one verse in the NT/RC.

So, I really can’t find fault with the translation of “first” by the Christians who created the ESV “translation”. That is a satisfactory choice as a translation of μια.

Nevertheless, where on earth did they get the word “day” from? It’s not there in the Greek, so why have the ESV “translators” put it in?

I could blame it on “Christian tradition” and their attempt to turn this into some sort of justification for their interpretation above, but then that wouldn’t be correct.

There are actually quite a few clues we can look at in the NT/RC regarding this, none more apparent than in Matthew 26:17a.

The usual translation is as follows: Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread….

But the Greek is as follows: Now, (δε) on the (τη) first (πρωτη) of (των) Unleavened (αζυμων).

As you can see, the word “day” is missing from the Greek text, and so is the word “bread”. However, how is one to make sense of this verse, if the word “day” is not included? “Now, on the first of Unleavened” really isn’t very good English. The word “day” has to be included for us English speakers, but for the Greeks, one doesn’t have to be as explicit as we English speakers do. Everything has to be spelled out for us in order to make sense out of our sentences. “On the first of Unleavened” could only mean to the Greek reader, the starting day of the festival of Unleavened Bread (αζυμων being the Greek word used to designate the festival of Unleavened Bread).

This coincides with τη μια των σαββατων, because not only is πρωτη in Matthew 26:17a the adjective, dative, singular, feminine form of the Greek πρωτος, a word not dissimilar in meaning to the Greek εις/one (εις being a numeral, πρωτος an adjective), coinciding with μια being the adjective, dative, singular, feminine form of the Greek εις, but the fact that αζυμων is the genitive, plural, neuter form of the Greek αξυμος, coinciding with σαββατων which is the genitive, plural, neuter form of the Greek σαββατον. The only difference between Acts 20:7 and Matthew 26:17 is what’s used to indicate the word “first”, and what’s being talked about. This means that “day” can be implied when it is to make sense in English.

If we look at the parallel passage to Matthew 26:17 in Mark 14:12, we see the following: And (και) on the (τη) first (πρωτη) day (ημερα) of (των) Unleavened (αζυμων).

As you can see, this is nigh-on identical with Matthew 26:17, but Mark has used the conjunction και instead of δε (a very common difference between Matthew and Mark on parallel passages and stories – there’s a reason they’re called “The Synoptics”, along with Luke), and has also included the Greek ημερα, meaning day. Both have omitted the word “bread”. Mark is being more explicit than Matthew, but the meaning of both verses is the same: On the first day of Unleavened Bread. Just because one has omitted the extra noun (ημερα/day), it doesn’t mean they’re talking of a different event.

So, whilst “day” isn’t contained in Acts 20:7, the word can be implied or meant, even if the author doesn’t explicitly use it. However Luke is writing in Greek and not English, so expecting English word usage and grammar to be incumbent in the Greek is quite silly. Greek is not English, and English is not Greek – whilst we may have many loanwords from Greek in the English language, they hardly follow the Greek spelling of the word, and we certainly don’t follow their syntax and grammar.

There’s a reason why those who only look at the root of words from a Greek-English Interlinear shouldn’t attempt to translate Greek – you’re not going to get even a remotely accurate translation of the meaning across. There’s a lot more to translation than people realise.

Now, there is therefore a discussion on what is meant by the plural form of σαββατων/Sabbaths here in Acts 20:7, as well as in Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1 and John 20:1. Not surprisingly, we should look to the Torah to find our answer.

After the Sabbath during the festival of Unleavened Bread, what does Yahuweh tell the Yisra’elites? Leviticus 23:15-16: You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to Yahuweh.

In the Hebrew, what word is used for “weeks”? That’s right – שבת/shabbath. And in what form? Again plural. The usage of the Greek σαββατων, sabbath in its plural form, is a Hebraism meaning “weeks”, σαββατων being a transliteration, rather than a translation of the Hebrew שבת (to translate שבת into Greek would be ημερα της καταπαυσεως – a day of rest).

Further proof of this is the fact that the Greek phrase that we’ve been discussing – τη μια των σαββατων – only ever appears between the feasts of Unleavened bread, and of Pentecost, after the seventh-day Sabbath. It appears in Matthew 28:1, the day after the Sabbath in the week of Unleavened Bread, which is also true for Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, and John 20:1. And in Acts, it appears between the feast of Unleavened Bread (Acts 20:6 (the word translated as “after” should actually be translated “together with”)) and Pentecost (Acts 20:16).

There can therefore only be one conclusion as to what the meaning of τη μια των σαββατων is – the first day/day one of weeks (or even “Sabbaths”), “weeks” being a Hebraic reference to Pentecost. Therefore, “One of Weeks” can only refer to the first day of the 50 days that lead up to the feast of Pentecost. And as Yahuweh tells us in Leviticus 23:15-16, the “first day leading up to Pentecost” is the “day after the Sabbath” from “the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering” – the feast of Firstfruits, which always, according to Scripture, falls on the day after the weekly Sabbath day.

A Sunday.

So they’re both wrong, and they’re both about 1/3rd right – The only logical translation is “the One/First of Weeks/Sabbaths”, which is a reference to the feast of Firstfruits, as it is the “first day of Sabbaths/Weeks,” which just happens to fall the day after the seventh-day Sabbath – a Sunday.

The followers in Acts 20:7 weren’t gathering together because it was a Sunday, or because they had changed the Sabbath day to another day – they were gathering because they were following Scriptures command to gather in an assembly on the Feast of Firstfruits, which just happens to always fall on a Sunday.

(To discuss this blog post, please go here)

‘Ask’ or ‘asking’ – Translational error

March 2nd, 2009

As I've been translating the eye-witness account of Lucus/Luke, I thought it'd be nice to just have a look at a blatant translational error in one of its chapters.

In Chapter 11:5-10, we read (ESV/English Standard Version):
And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.’’

I'd like to focus on the words “ask”, “seek”, and “knock”. In the Greek, they are the words αιτεω/aiteo, ζητεω/zeteo, and κρουω/krouo, and each of them, each and every time they are mentioned in this passage, are in the present, active tense.

Now, anyone who's at least read a book on Koine Greek will know that the Greek present tense indicates “a processing” or an “undefined” aspect – context will aid you with deciding which one. And what does the context of this passage indicate? That you ask, seek or knock once, and then you receive, find, or have something opened for you? Not what I can see, and certainly what isn't implied at all by the word impudence.

The man in the example wasn't “rude” by asking his friend once to give him what he needed and then going away; the point of the passage is that the man was continuously pestering his friend until he got what he needed, to which Yahushua actually says, Keep asking, and it shall be given to you; keep seeking, and you shall find; keep knocking, and it shall be opened to you.” Anyone who's studied Greek learns about the processing aspect of the Greek present tense as soon as he learns the Greek Alphabet! How is it that Ph.D Scholars can't even get such a simple, basic thing into their translation?!

The ESV and its scholar's pride themselves on their “translation” being, and I quote, “a new, essentially literal Bible translation that combines word-for-word precision and accuracy with literary excellence, beauty, and depth of meaning(italics mine).” (source) “Precision”, “accuracy” and “depth of meaning”? Really?! And yet they can't even get the actual meaning of three damn words across properly!? One thinks that the ESV translators need to go back and do a first-year koine Greek course again before they make such claims of being “precise” or “accurate”.

But enough about the ESV. Let's have a look at some other popular English Bible Translations, and see how they fair.

Lucus 11:9

  • NJB:
  •  ‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.
  • ASV:
  • And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
  • CEV:
  • So I tell you to ask and you will receive, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you.
  • Darby:
  • And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.
  • Geneva:
  • And I say vnto you, Aske, and it shall be giuen you: seeke, and yee shall finde: knocke, and it shalbe opened vnto you.
  • God's Word:
  • So I tell you to ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you.
  • Good News Translation:
  • And so I say to you: ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.
  • The Message:
  • Here’s what I’m saying: Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open.
  • NET:
  • So I tell you: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.
  • NCV:
  • So I tell you, ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you.
  • NIV:
  • So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
  • NKJV:
  • So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
  • NRSV:
  • So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.
  • RSV:
  • And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
  • Revised Websters:
  • And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.
  • KJV:
  • And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
  • WNT:
  • So I say to you, ‘Ask, and what you ask for shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened to you.
  • YLT:
  • and I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you

These 17 Bible translations all miss the point, and are inaccurate translations of the processing aspect of the Greek Present tense. And most of these (ESV, NRSV, The Message, KJV, NKJV, NIV) are some of the most popular English Bible Translations – and none of them are able to do their job properly. They also (apparently) follow the “Formal Equivalence” or “Essentially Literal” translational philosophy – bar the NIV and the Message of course – One's a Dynamic Equivalence (NIV (“Thought for thought” translation)), and the other's a piece of crap that isn't worth mentioning (The Message).

There are a few, though, that actually translate the words correctly and get the processing aspect of the Greek present tense across:

  • NLT:
  • And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
  • LB:
  • And so it is with prayer—keep on asking and you will keep on getting; keep on looking and you will keep on finding; knock and the door will be opened.
  • ISV:
  • So I say to you: Keep asking, and it will be given you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened for you.
  • HCSB:
  • So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
  • AMP:
  • So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you.
  • DRP:
  • So I say to you: Keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep seeking, and you will find; keep knocking, and it will be opened to you.

Six compared to seventeen, only one of which (NLT) is actually considered “popular” compared to the rest. It's shocking to say the least.

A translation that deserves a special mention is the NASB (New American Standard Bible). In its main text, it translates the passage as So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you, but it has little notes next to ask, seek, and knock, and states that Or Keep asking/seeking/knocking. The NASB managed to to put the wrong meaning in the main text, but the right meaning in the margin! Why bother doing that, when you could've just put the correct meaning in the main text itself, and not have anything in the margin!

Problem is, people are far too familiar with the KJV, and none of the “major” translations have the guts to break away from it.
Just compare the KJV to the ESV, for example: KJV:And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.; ESV:And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Apart from updating the KJV's English, what exactly makes the ESV different to the KJV?

Not very much, I can assure you of that. And trust me, this isn't the only place where the ESV and other “Bible Translations” can't get simple meanings of Greek words across. But pointing them all out requires several volumes of books; not a mere blog.

No it doesn’t…

December 16th, 2008

A friend of mine recently lent me a book to read, The Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola, a vehement proponent of house churches who attacked the “paganism” of Christianity in his other book, Pagan Christianity, although he completely didn't do that in the book, but more attacked the use of Church buildings rather than house-Churches, as you'd expect.

I'm not exactly sure why I expected this new book to be any better, but I did, and it's already full of completely untrue and useless 'information', non more blatent that what's written in brackets on page 57,

The report that the Gentiles have received the gospel spreads like wildfire all throughout Judea. When Jerusalem hears of it, some of the believers in the church are alarmed and infuriated. (The Law prohibits the fraternization of Jew and Gentile…..)

In typical Chrisitan fashion, “The Law” is in reference to the Torah, aka the Pentateuch, aka the books of Moses, aka the first five books of the Old Testament, and in typical Christian fashion, Mr. Viola has stated that the Torah prohibits something that it actually doesn't. One wonders if Viola has even bothered to read the Torah before he states something like this in a book. Funnily enough, this is another of the places in the book where Viola doesn't give a reference for his statement, mainly because it's not true, and Viola should know better.

When stupid, idiotic statements like this are finaly brought to end, I may actually start feeling less irritated at fools, such as Viola has shown himself to be.