BYU Studies Quarterly

BYU Studies Quarterly


Shon Hopkin


Mormon studies, Psalms, Dead Sea Scrolls, Bible


Few verses in the Bible have produced as much debate and commentary as Psalm 22:16: “For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.” The discussions center on the last character (reading right to left) of the Hebrew כארו‎ (“pierced/dug”), assumed to be the word from which the Septuagint Greek ὤρυξαν (“they have pierced”) was translated—assumed because the original Hebrew texts from which the Septuagint was translated are no longer extant. If the last character of the Hebrew word was a waw (ו), as the Greek seems to indicate, then the translation “pierced” is tenable. But a later Hebrew text called the Masoretic text has a yod (י) instead of a waw (ו‎), making the word כארי, which translated into English reads “like a lion my hands and my feet.”2 Thus, two divergent possibilities have existed side by side for centuries, causing much speculation and debate. The controversy has often been heated, with large variations in modern translations into English, as evidenced by a brief survey of some important Bible translations:

“they pierced my hands and my feet” (King James Version)

“they have pierced my hands and my feet” (New International Version and Revised Standard Version)

“piercing my hands and my feet” (Anchor Bible)

“they have hacked off my hands and my feet” (New English Bible)

“as if to hack off my hands and my feet” (New Jerusalem Bible)

“like a lion they mangle my hands and feet” (The Psalms for Today —R. K. Harrison)

“like a lion they were at my hands and feet” (Tanakh, Jewish Publication Society)

“my hands and feet have shriveled” (New Revised Standard Version)

“they have bound me hand and foot” (Revised English Bible)

“they tie me hand and foot” (Jerusalem Bible)