Proof: The Hebrew Origin of The Wisdom of Solomon
James Scott Trimm
The Wisdom of Solomon is one of the books found in the "Apocrypha". According to Melito in the second century CE, the Wisdom of Solomon was in his day considered canonical by both Jews and Christians. The Hebrew version of the Wisdom of Solomon is also mentioned by Ramban (1194-1270 CE) in the preface to his commentary on the Torah. He also quotes from the book.
Although many scholars have claimed that this book was originally written in Greek, we can now be certain that the Wisdom of Solomon was originally written in Hebrew and that the original Hebrew survived until at least 1611. The original 1611 edition of the King James Version has a marginal note to the word “pricked” in Wisdom of Solomon 16:11 (yes that it’s the verse, and yes it is an interesting coincidence) which says “Hebr. stung.”
From this we know that the KJV translators had the original Hebrew of this book in their hands. (Likewise they also had the now lost original Hebrew of 1st Esdras which has several of these references to readings of the Hebrew in the margins of the original 1611 edition of the KJV.)
Now the Greek of Wisdom 16:11 has enekentronto “they were pricked” (KJV, Brenton) or “they were bitten” (RSV, NEB) (the NAB has “they were stung”). Now this word can be translated “stung” (as in the NAB) but it can also be translated “pricked” as the KJV translators chose to translate in the main text. The footnote indicates that that original Hebrew does in fact have a word meaning “sting” and not “pricked” here. The KJV footnote would seem to indicate that the original Hebrew word had to have been PARASH (Strong’s 6567) the only Biblical Hebrew word for “sting” (as we see it in Prov. 23:32).
Now the Aramaic Peshitta translator must have misread PARASH (Strong’s 6567) “sting” as PARASH (Strong’s 6566) “to break in pieces”. The Aramaic Peshitta translator thus wrongly translated PATZAIT “split, opened”.
The Aramaic has mistranslated the original Hebrew word, and therefore could not have been translated from the Greek. This means that our Aramaic Peshitta version is an Aramaic translation made directly from the Hebrew. Since these are cognate languages with much vocabulary and grammar in common, the Aramaic translation gives us a much better witness as to the original Hebrew than does the Greek. And were it not for this one marginal note made by the original 1611 KJV translators, we would not have this proof that the Aramaic was translated directly from the Hebrew rather than from the Greek. Conversely the mistranslation of this word in the Aramaic Peshitta proves the veracity of the KJV marginal note.
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