Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hebrews 9:16-17

Today I read the Messianic Portion for this week, Hebrews 9:11-28. I got caught up on a few things but wisely consulted my husband, interrupting his own study. He eagerly shared with me something that I believe is worth passing on.

In the Complete Jewish Bible, translated by David Stern, verses 16-17 say:  For where there is a will, there must necessarily be produced evidence of its maker's deathsince a will goes into effect only upon death; it never has force while its maker is still alive.  Most translations say something very similar to this. The problem lies in the phrase maker's death. How can the covenant have meaning in our lives now if it doesn't go into effect until the makers have died?

Being a good teacher Tom pointed me to Dan Gruber's translation of these verses: For where there is a covenant, the death of what confirms the covenant must be presented, because a covenant is confirmed over dead bodies. For it is never in force while what confirms the covenant lives. The New Covenant, according to Jeremiah 31:31, is made between G-d and the households of Israel and Judah. So if either party dies then how can they fulfill the terms they've agreed to? It's through the death of Yeshua, the Mediator and Sign of the New Covenant, that we enter into this relationship with G-d, the Maker of the covenant.  

Gruber gives a good explanation in Copernicus and the Jews about how this problem of translation happened. If you own it you can read about it on pages 40-47. If you don't have it, you should get it. Tom addresses covenant in his thesis, relating the problem of mistranslation to the lack of focus on covenant throughout Church history. If you'd like to read his thesis e-mail me at  If you didn't know, covenant is Tom's passion and he continues to research this topic for his PhD.

As Gruber says, this "strange mistranslation has had monumental theological and historical repurcussions." Boy, I'd say so.


  1. this was so helpful, as i had also read the portion and was left with a bit of a head scratch. thanks for sharing leah!

  2. I'm glad it helped out, Stephanie, and that you're reading the portion. Sometimes I wonder what people do when they have questions about stuff like this; I suppose they look it up themselves. I'm thankful I have the Tom Blake Commentary in the flesh.

    Miss you, hope life is wonderful!