The Psalm 22:16 Controversy: New Evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls

Few verses in the Bible have produced as much debate and commentary as Psalm 22:16: “For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.” The discussions center on the last character (reading right to left) of the Hebrew ודאכ (“pierced/dug”), assumed to be the word from which the Septuagint Greek ὢρυξαν (“they have pierced”) was translated—assumed because the original Hebrew texts from which the Septuagint was translated are no longer extant. If the last character of the Hebrew word was a waw (ו), as the Greek seems to indicate, then the translation “pierced” is tenable. But a later Hebrew text called the Masoretic text has a yod (י) instead of a waw (ו), making the word ידאכ, which translated into English reads “like a lion my hands and my feet.” Thus, two divergent possibilities have existed side by side for centuries, causing much speculation and debate. The controversy has often been heated, with large variations in modern translations into English, as evidenced by a brief survey of some important Bible translations:

Anciently, the debate was fought between Christians, who saw this verse as an indisputable prophecy of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and Jews, who denied the existence of prophetic references to Jesus in the Hebrew Bible. The battle continued in modern times between traditionalist scholars, who favor the ancient Christian interpretation, and some textual critics, who deny the existence of the prophecy of future events in the Bible.

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