Let My People Think


Let’s consider a passage that seem to have puzzled many sincere believers:

Hebrews 12:5-6
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”

Note that this passage is very specifically a variant translation from Hebrew. The other variant of the same text is found in Proverbs 3:11-12. These are copies of the same exact text – in fact, Hebrews 12:4-6 is a quote from Prov 3:11-12.

Proverbs 3:11-12
11 My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor detest His correction;
12 For whom the Lord loves He corrects,
Just as a father the son in whom he delights.

See the difference in the last line? So, which one is it? Does God delight in his children, or beat them?!

Keep in mind that Hebrew didn’t have spacings between letters, and no vowels. The relevant letter sequence is “כאב”. Now, watch this. If you parse it as “כ אב” (ke ab) – you get “like father”. If you parse it “כאב” (kaab) – you get “he spoiled, wasted, marred, ulcerated” in 3rd person singular. In around 3rd century BC a committee of scholars made their choice when translating Hebrew into Greek (Septuagint). Much later groups of scholars translating original Hebrew into modern languages chose a different translation for Prov. 3:12, but still stuck with the Septuagint variant for Hebrews 12:6, even though it’s the same exact verse! And there you have it.

What’s intriguing with the variant translation this verse is that we are all accepted exclusively through a son who was scourged on our behalf. Even with that said, the context of the original text doesn’t lend any support to the idea of extreme physical pain, especially to a very specific method of scourging. Therefore, the last line of Hebrews 12:6 has to be a mistranslation, albeit a Biblically-documented one.

This variant translation, and the exact way it’s arrived at, is actually documented in Adam Clarke’s commentary on the verse.

The Scriptures as inspired by God should have no contradictions in it. The translations thereof sometimes do.

By the way, “chastening” in either Greek translation is παιδεία – “paideia” (Strong’s G3809) – child training, instruction, correction, nurture. You get pediatrician, pedagogy, etc. from the root word. Correction is ἐλέγχω – “elegcho” (Strong’s G1651) – to convince, to reprove. Elsewhere in NT that verb is translated as “convince, convict, reprove, rebuke, tell one’s fault”. This verb carries a connotation of verbal correction.


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