Psalm 2:11-12

The Anti-Missionary’s Charge:

The King James Version (KJV) of Psalm 2:11-12 reads:

“Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you perish from the way.”

In the Jewish Tanakh, Psalm 2:11-12 says:

“Do homage in purity (nash-ku bar) lest He be angry and you perish.”

The meaning of the Hebrew word bar is pure or clear. Yes, in Aramaic, the word bar does mean son, but it’s used only as a combination of two words-“son of.” If in Aramaic, the author wanted to mean just the son, he would have used the phrase ber’a with the letter alef at the end. By simply leaving off one Aramaic word, the entire verse is altered.

HaDavar’s Response:

This objection is actually a moot point. We can go into all the technicalities of Aramaic and Hebrew, but the result would be the same. The point of verse 12 is submission to Israel’s sovereign King.

There is ample evidence in rabbinic writings that this is a Messianic psalm. The great Messianic Jewish scholar, Dr. Alfred Edersheim, in his classic work The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, documents this fact. In Appendix 9 of that work, he lists one complete page of rabbinic quotes and references attesting to the fact that Psalm 2 is a Messianic psalm. Rev. Tom Huckel in his book The Rabbinic Messiah lists 14 rabbinic quotes attesting to the Messianic nature of Psalm 2.

Psalm 2 is one of the most quoted psalms in the New Testament supporting the Messiahship of Jesus. The first-century Jewish believers were taught by the rabbis that Psalm 2 spoke of the Messiah. They were convinced that it applied to Jesus, and they proclaimed that message at the risk of their lives. I am trying to make a point here. The point to be made is the fact that the Messianic nature of the psalm and its application to Jesus does not rest upon verse 12 in any way. Verse 12 can be translated in various ways and it will not affect the impact of Psalm 2. The controversy about nash-ku bar is well known. Translators have struggled with the unusual construction and have come up with various renderings:

  • Kiss the son, lest he be angry, and ye perish in the way, for his wrath will soon be kindled. Blessed are all they that take refuge in him. (American Standard Version)

  • Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. (King James Version)

  • Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! (New American Standard Bible)

  • Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (New International Version)

  • Kiss his feet, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Revised Standard Version)

  • Do homage in purity, lest He be angry, and ye perish in the way, when suddenly His wrath is kindled. (Jewish Publication Society)

Unusual in the verse is the apparent use of bar, an Aramaic word for son. Therefore, the versions translate it differently. Jerome rendered it, “Give pure (bar is a Hebrew word for pure) worship,” or “Worship in purity,” rather than translating the word as son. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary)

“Son” is a defendable translation just as “purity,” “pure,” and “feet” are defendable, but it is not a necessary translation. The Messianic nature of the psalm is not determined by the translation of the Aramaic word bar. The point of the thought is submission to the Jewish Messianic King. There is no “tampering” here. It is simply an example of a translator’s normal struggle as he goes through the translation process. This struggle for accuracy is especially apparent when the construction is unusual. All the possible renderings support the same idea, submit to Israel’s sovereign king. None of the references to Psalm 2 in the New Testament demand that “Son” be the required translation in verse 12. It would be nice, as well as providing more support to the Messiahship of Jesus. However, it is not a rendering necessary to the Messianic nature or message of Psalm 2.

With all due respect, the anti-missionary’s objection entirely misses the point of the psalm. He misses the mark by unduly focusing on a technicality of translation regarding one phrase. The phrase in question does not alter the message of the psalm no matter what rendering is chosen. This is a psalm that is well attested to by the rabbis as Messianic. The first-century Jewish believers simply agreed and applied the psalm to Jesus.

The objection is simple an example of quibbling. To quibble is:

  1. to evade the truth or importance of an issue by raising trivial distinctions and objections
  2. to find fault or criticize for petty reasons.[1]

Learn to recognize quibbling when it occurs and call it for what it is – an evasion of truth.

  1. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fourth ed., copyright 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company