LESSON 82.

“NO WORD OF GOD IS VOID OF POWER”

(Concluded.)

663.     It is possible to demonstrate that this clause which is omitted from the Greek Septuagint rendering of 1 Samuel 2:22, existed in the original Hebrew, and was intentionally omitted from the Greek,¾so that it is futile for the Higher Critics to shelter their “modern theory” under the pretext that it is an interpolation into the Hebrew.

664.     Prof. Margoliouth has worked out the demonstration, but it will require very close attention for the student to appreciate its full value. Rather than hazard an attempt to represent him, we will quote his proof: “The whole of the modern theory of the Pentateuch is liable to be wrecked on a verse of 1 Samuel (2:22), where it is stated that the sons of Eli misused the women who assembled (A. V.) at the door of the Tabernacle of the congregation that clause is omitted by the Septuagint translator…”

665.     “Either the editor of the Hebrew interpolated the clause (as the Higher Critics claim), or the Septuagint omitted it. Omission can happen accidentally, whereas addition in such a case must be intentional; whence the supposition that it can have got accidentally into the Hebrew may be dismissed, whereas the possibility that it may have been accidentally omitted by the translator (of the Septuagint) must be allowed.”

666.     “Was there then, any motive for omitting it, supposing the omission to be intentional? One has but to glance at the rabbinical commentaries to see: the rabbis do their utmost to clear Eli’s sons from this terrible charge. The oldest exegesis made the words allegorical; the crime of Eli’s sons was so bad that the text is supposed to compare it to the crime with which it really charges them. The later exegesis gives the words senses which they certainly do not possess. Hence it is clear that there was a motive for the omission of the words from the Septuagint.” (It must be remembered that Jews made this translation).

667.     Next the writer questions whether there was an equally strong motive for adding them to the Hebrew text, an addition of this sort must be by intention, as he has said, after the Septuagint was made,¾for it must have been after that time (nearly 300 years before Christ), or the translators would have had the words before them to translate. At this point the subject has special interest for women. Prof. Margoliouth says that against the view that the clause was interpolated into the Hebrew after 300 B.C., “It is to be observed that there is a second difficulty in the clause, which the Jewish exegesis has to overcome. Who were the women that served at the door of the Tabernacle? The word translated ‘assembled’, but really meaning ‘served’, is of great antiquity, and corresponds with the word ‘served’ in being specialized in certain contexts. ‘One who has served’ means, if used of a man, one who has been a soldier; and the word used in Hebrew for ‘the army’ means literally ‘the service’. But just as the word ‘service’ in other contexts means religious service, so this Hebrew word used of something done at the door of the Tabernacle of the Covenant means some religious performance done by these women as functionaries. . . . But the idea of women in attendance at the Tabernacle is so odious that it has to be got rid of.”

668.     He next proceeds to show that just as the rabbinical commentaries prove that there existed, in the desire to “whitewash” the character of the sons of Eli, a motive for omitting the clause, and it was intentionally omitted, so there appears, in the various versions of ancient times, proof that the strongest prejudices of Jewish men would have been violated by interpolating such a clause, at this time, into the Hebrew text of Samuel, and hence it could not have been done: “The Peshitta [a Syriac version of the early part of the 2nd century,¾see par. 131] renders ‘the women who prayed; there; and this the Targum [see par. 134] adopts. The rabbis, followed by our Authorized Version [margin renders it ‘the women who thronged.” He next turns to the passage in Exodus.

669.     “In Exod. 38:8 . . . the same objection is felt [an objection to admitting that women had a share in the Tabernacle ritual service]. The Aramaic [Peshitta and Targum] translators make them women who prayed, the Septuagint, women who fasted. Thus it is evident that by the time when the Septuagint translation of the Pentateuch was made, the idea of women ministering at the door of the Tabernacle had become so odious that it was wilfully mistranslated. What chance is there, then that anyone would have wilfully added an allusion to them after that date?”

670.     “This, then, is a case in which an argument, at first sight powerful, if steadily glanced at, vanishes. The Septuagint rendering of Exodus is most likely earlier (certainly not later) than that of 1 Samuel. From that rendering, coupled with those of other authorities, we learn that a certain phrase had become odious by the time when the translation was made. What we infer thence is surely that no one would have willfully inserted the same phrase [in 1 Samuel] where it did not occur.

671.     The omission, he declares, is fully accounted for. The crime of Eli’s sons was bad enough. They corrupted some of the women they were in daily association with; and the context, in that God visited them with judgment, shows the sons of Eli were the chief offenders, not the women. But when, to escape admitting that women served at the door of the Tabernacle the word was mistranslated “prayed” and “fasted,” such terms acquitted the women altogether, and left the inference that Eli’s sons committed violence towards pious women bent only upon worship, and when they were in the act of worship. But when others translated “assembled” (or “assembled in troops”) the inference is that women “thronged” to these two evil men,¾indeed the rabbis and our A. V. margin so render.

672.     Such misinterpretations as these might pass at home in Palestine¾particularly after women were “silenced” in the synagogues and churches, and could not defend themselves from such slander. But when the Jews sat down at Alexandria to the task of translating their Bible for the foreign Egyptian king, would they admit that their priesthood ever sank so low? Would they wish to admit that their women ever sank so low, to a foreign nation? Prof. Margoliouth says: “When faced with such difficulties, many persons think the wisest course is to flee. And this is what the Septuagint translator has done.” In a word, they omitted the clause intentionally from 1 Samuel 2:22.

673.     Thus, the effort to defend the reliability of the Mosaic literature involves the defender in the duty to uphold the ancient right of women to serve at the Temple of the Lord either as priests or as Levites. “No word of God is void of power,” not even such a word as certain men, because of preconceptions as to “woman’s place,” wish to alter or reject. In due course, the male translator discovers that he must retrace his steps, and pick up again the genuine meaning of a word which he has corrupted in the translation, unless he is willing to weaken the credibility of the entire Pentateuch, and probably, it will be found in the end, of the entire Bible.

This honor put upon women of the O. T. is in marked contrast to the decision of the ecclesiastical Council of Laodicea, of the 4th century, and by which the Church abides to this day: “Women may not go to the altar.” This was explained by Zonaras, and by other “Fathers” as due to the fact that women are “unwillingly indeed,” at times ceremonially “unclean.” As though men priests were not sometimes “ceremonially unclean”¾yes and even morally unclean!

We may be accused of sex bias if we charge translators of the Word with lack of candor in dealing with the position of women in God’s economy. But we ask, Have women ever used stronger language than Prof. Margoliouth has used in this connection¾“wilfully mistranslated”¾to drive the accusation home? And we must remember that that same willful mistranslation stands in the text of our Authorized Version to this day.  It has been corrected in the Revised Version.

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