PSALMS 2:12 – “KISS THE SON”? WHERE IS THAT SON OF A GUN? [ 1 ]
Internet sources that list Christian “messianic prophecies”, along with the alleged accounts of their “fulfillment” in the New Testament, contain at least seven entries for Psalms 2.2 Among this set, Psalms 2:12 is the most prominently used so-called “proof text” in the portfolio of Christian missionaries.
Many Christian translations, the King James Version among them, employ the mistranslation Kiss the Son of the Hebrew opening phrase נַשְּׁקוּ־בַר (nashQU-VAR), the origin of which is a homiletic interpretation, not a translation, of this phrase by Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra, the noted Jewish exegete.
A rigorous analysis of the linguistic and grammatical structure of this phrase, understanding the difference between a translation and a homiletic interpretation, and placing the psalm in its proper context, will demonstrate that Kiss the Son is an incorrect translation of נַשְּׁקוּ־בַר , which removes the basis on which the so-called “proof text” was fashioned.
When the psalm is read in the Hebrew text, or in an correct translation thereof, with proper attention to its context, the true and entirely different perspective unfolds.
II. COMPARISON OF JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS
Side-by-side renditions of key verses in Psalms 2 are displayed in Table II-1. The
King James Version (KJV) renditions also show references to key passages in the
New Testament, where the respective portions of this psalm are cross-referenced.
[The references are found in the New American Standard Bible (NASB), but the
corresponding passages, quoted below the table, are quoted from the KJV.]
(i) Acts 4:25(KJV) – Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?
(ii) Acts 4:26(KJV) – The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
(iii) Acts 13:33(KJV) – God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Hebrews 1:5(KJV) – For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? Hebrews 5:5(KJV) – So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
(iv) Revelation 2:26(KJV) – And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
Excepting two revisions from the Hebrew, one obvious and the other subtle, the two
translations are reasonably consistent. The obvious revision occurs at Psalms 2:12,
where the two translations disagree on the opening phrase, and where the Christian
rendition imputes a heavy dose of Christology into the context of King David’s words.
The subtle change occurs at Psalms 2:7, where the KJV translators have replaced the term “son” with “Son”, an action that enhances the Christological appeal of this psalm (“Son” is also used as part of the revision in Psalms 2:12). In addition, tenses of some verbs were changed, but these do not have a serious impact on the context.
III. OVERVIEW OF CHRISTIAN AND JEWISH INTERPRETATIONS
A. The Christian Perspective
The Christian view of this psalm is based on the claim that David and his kingdom are “types” that foreshadow Jesus and his kingdom, and that the prophecies related to the “first coming” of Jesus refer to David as his ancestor. In most Christian Bibles the opening phrase of Psalms 2:12, “Kiss the Son”, creates a link to the declaration in Psalms 2:6-8 regarding who this “Son” is. Verses 1, 2, 7, 8 are cross-referenced with passages in the New Testament as shown under Table II-1. These passages in the New Testament identify Jesus as the subject in the corresponding verses being “quoted” from Psalms 2. Curiously, the New Testament is silent on the opening phrase of Psalms 2:12. This may very well be due to the fact that, in the form it was known to the authors of the New Testament, they did not consider this part of Psalms 2:12 to have any Christological value. Yet, excepting the ancient translations, most Christian translations render the opening phrase of Psalms 2:12 as Kiss the Son, an overt attempt to link Jesus into this verse as well.
Standard Christian sources, such as the commentaries by Matthew Henry (MH) and Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown (JF&B), provide more detailed verse-by-verse Christian interpretations of Psalms 2 that are beyond the scope of this essay. [ 3 ]
B. The Jewish Perspective
King David, the author of Psalms 2, is saying here that, no matter how powerful the force, nothing can thwart God’s will. The Jewish Sages, both ancient and modern, are split on whether the subject of this psalm is מָשִׁיחַ (maSHI’ah), the Messiah, or a former king and, if a former king, they disagree on the identity of this king. The noted Jewish Sage RaSHI (Rabbi Shlomoh Ben Yitzhak [1040-1105 CE]) offers the following commentary at the beginning of the psalm:
“Our Rabbis expound it as relating to king Messiah; but according to its plain meaning it is proper to interpret it in connection with David, in the light of the statement: ‘And when the Philistines heard that David was anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek David; and David heard of it, and went down to the fortress.’ (2Samuel 5:17).” 
So that in its plain meaning, פְּשָׁט (pSHAT),[ 5 ] this psalm describes a plot against one of God’s anointed kings, which could very well have been its author, King David, who even speaks in the 1st-person at one point. The following outline of the psalm helps to clarify this:
Verses 1-3 – Kings plan to revolt against God by attacking one of His anointed
Verses 4-6 – God ridicules the plot, chastises and scares the schemers
Verses 7-9 – The anointed one relates God’s promise of his triumph over the schemers
Verses 10-12 – The anointed one urges the schemers to accept God’s ways & choices
Although the author of the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament attempts to link Psalms 2:1-2 to Jesus (Acts 4:25-26), other psalms indicate that King David is this anointed king:
Psalm 89:21-22[20-21]6 – (21) I found David My servant; I anointed him with My holy oil. (22) With whom My hand will be established; even My arm will strengthen him.
And, as was noted by RaSHI, the Hebrew Bible records situations in which
foreign kings and rulers took counsel (plotted) against King David:
2Samuel 5:17 – And when the Philistines heard that David was anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek David; and David heard [of it], and David went down to the fortress.
2Samuel 10:16-17 – (16) And Hadadezer sent, and brought out the Arameans that were from beyond the River; and they came to Helam, and Shobach the captain of the host of Hadadezer, before them. (17) And it was told to David; and he gathered together all Israel, and he crossed the Jordan, and came to Helam. And the Arameans set themselves against David, and fought with him.
None of these situations apply to Jesus since no accounts are recorded in the New Testament in which the leaders of the surrounding Gentile nations had hatched a plot against him, and for which Jesus waged war against them and militarily defeated them.
It is also evident that David was speaking about himself in this psalm:
Psalms 2:7 – I will tell of the decree; The Lord said to me, “You are My son [ בְּנִי (bNI)];
this day have I begotten you.”
The New Testament “quotes” this verse as if God were speaking to Jesus (Acts 13:33), which is the likely motivation for the KJV translators to have changed “son” to “Son” at this verse. King David is the “son” here, a figurative characterization similar to the way God referred to Solomon as His “son” in His promise to David concerning the establishment of his everlasting dynasty (2Samuel 7:12-16):
2Samuel 7:14 – I will be to him a father, and he shall be to Me a son; so that when he
goes astray I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with afflictions of human
And this figurative language is found elsewhere in the Book of Psalms:
Psalms 89:20-21,27-28[19-20,26-27] – (20) Then You spoke in a vision to Your pious ones, and said, “I placed help upon a hero; I have raised a chosen one from the people. (21) I found David My servant; I anointed him with My holy oil.” (27) “He will call to Me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’ (28) Also I will make him a firstborn, highest of the kings of the earth.”
Verse 8 further indicates that David spoke about what God had promised him:
Psalms 2:8 – “Ask of Me, and I shall make nations your inheritance; and the ends of the earth [I shall make] your possession.”
The Hebrew Bible records that, after many wars, this promise to King David was
2Samuel 7:1,9 – (1) And it came to pass, when the king sat in his house, and the Lord
had given him rest from all his enemies around. (9) And I was with you wherever you went, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I have made for you a great name, like the name of the great ones who are on the earth.
1Chronicles 14:17 – And the fame of David went forth throughout all the lands; and the
Lord placed the fear of him upon all the nations.
Lastly, there is verse 12 which, as noted in the Introduction, is the focus of this
article (more on it in the sections that follow):
Psalm 2:12 – Do homage in purity [ נַשְּׁקוּ־בַר ], lest He become scornful and you perish in the way, for in a flash His anger will kindle; happy are all who take refuge in Him.
The outline of the psalm indicates this verse is a continuation of the theme King
David started in verse 11 where, in addressing the (Gentile) kings and judges of
the earth, he exhorts them to follow the righteous path and rejoice, rather than
continue to be wicked and suffer the consequences for it.
An alternate interpretation offered by some Jewish Sages has this verse pointing
back to verse 7, where the “son” mentioned in it is a reference to King David, and
its message is that acknowledging with sincerity of heart that King David is God’s
anointed avoids incurring His wrath.
The Jewish messianic interpretation of Psalms 2 parallels the alternate
interpretation, since David’s name is used in the Hebrew Bible as a metaphoric
reference to מָשִׁיחַ (e.g., Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23-24, 37:24-25; Hosea 3:5).
IV. A LINGUISTIC ANALYSIS OF THE OPENING PHRASE IN PSALMS 2:12
The phrase in question, נַשְּׁקוּ־בַר , consists of two components, נַשְּׁקוּ (nashQU) – a verb, and בַר (VAR) – a noun. The verb נַשְּׁקוּ is conjugated in the 2nd-person, plural, imperative, in the pi’EL stem (the active intensive verb form in Hebrew grammar) of the root verb נשׁק (NUN-SHIN-QOF), which appears on 35 occasions in the Hebrew Bible in different conjugations with several meanings, depending on the particular verb stem and the context within the respective passage. The most common contextual application of this verb is [to] kiss (e.g., Genesis 27:27), from which the noun נְשִׁיקָה (neshiQAH), a kiss, is derived (e.g., it appears in the plural form at Song of Songs 1:2). The other applications are: [to] unite (e.g., Psalms 85:11; correctly translated in the KJV!), and to knock against or to touch (e.g., Ezekiel 3:13; correctly translated in the KJV!). In some cases, this verb is applied in the context of [to] arm oneself with a weapon (e.g., Psalms 78:9; correctly translated in the KJV!), from this context the noun נֶשֶׁק (NEsheq), arms/weapons, is derived (e.g., as at Job 39:21). The rendition of the term נַשְּׁקוּ at Psalms 2:12 as the 2nd person, plural, imperative, kiss, in the KJV, and in most other Christian translations, becomes problematic when combined with the way in which the next term is
translated in these Bibles.
The noun בַּר (BAR) is rendered here as בַר for grammatical reasons.7 The Hebrew
word בַּר [also בָּר ] occurs in the Hebrew Bible 22 times with two distinct meanings.
Its most common application is as the noun grain (15x; e.g., Genesis 41:35,49); the
other application is as the adjective pure or clean or choice [as in select, superior,
top quality] (7x; e.g., Job 11:4).
The correct translation of בַר at Psalms 2:12 is pure or clean, or purity or cleanliness, and it is even possible that King David used it here as a metaphor for the Torah (see the Targum Yonatan rendition below). The KJV and most other Christian translations render this as the Son, claiming that בַר , as an alternate form of בַּר , is the Aramaic word for son. However, this claim is invalidated by at least the following linguistic issues:
No Aramaic words are used in the Book of Psalms. The Aramaic language was not the spoken vernacular until the time of the Babylonian exile, i.e., in the sixth century BCE, long after the Psalms were composed and recorded by King David and others.
The Aramaic term בַּר is used in some of the Aramaic portions in the Hebrew Bible (but not in the Book of Psalms). This term has the meanings of the noun ‘a son’ as well as the possessive form, ‘son of …’, where the rest of this expression must be provided in the phrase itself. For example, in the Aramaic portion of the Book of Daniel appears the expression כְּבַר אֱנָשׁ (keVAR eNASH), ‘like a son of man’ (Daniel 7:13). In the very next chapter, after the language switches back to the Hebrew, appears the Hebrew equivalent [without the preposition ־ כְּ (ke-), like], בֶּן־אָדָם (BEN-aDAM), ‘son of man’. The Hebrew term for ‘son’, בֵּן (BEN), is used by King David in Psalms 2:7 in the inflected form בְּנִי , ‘my son’. Had he used the equivalent Aramaic word in Psalms 2:7, it would have been בְּרִי (bRI).
Even if בַּר in Psalms 2:12 were Aramaic, and even if it meant ‘a son’ (neither of which is the case here), the form of the Aramaic noun with a definite article, בְּרָא (bra), is missing from the phrase נַשְּׁקוּ־בַר , and the proper translation would then be ‘Kiss a son’, not ‘Kiss the son’.[ 8 ]
A word study on the Hebrew (not Aramaic!) term בַּר illustrates the problem with the KJV rendition. There are two instances of וּבַר (u’VAR), where the term is prefixed by the conjunction ־ וּ (u-), and [a variant of the conjunction ־ וְ (ve-)].[ 9 ] The analysis is shown in Table IV-1, where the item of interest is located at the top of the list.
Is it not odd that the KJV translators captured the proper context in 21 of the 22
cases, and only at Psalms 2:12 their rendition deviated from the correct meaning?
A variant of בָּר , namely, בֹּר (BOR), purity or cleanliness, is also used in the Hebrew
Bible, where it appears on seven occasions, as shown in Table IV-2.
It is evident from Table IV-2 that the KJV translators were able to recognize this
variant and translate it properly in each of the seven instances.
The question that begs for an answer is, “Is it just by coincidence that the only significant mistranslation by the KJV of בָּר occurs in a passage with imputed Christological relevance?” The data presented in Tables IV-1&2 provide the answer to this question.
V. From Where Came “Kiss the Son”?
It is interesting to research the possible sources for the common Christian translation
of the opening passage in Psalms 2:12, נַשְּׁקוּ־בַר , as Kiss the Son.
Several are clues available that help in this effort. One clue was already mentioned before – none of the authors of the New Testament ever point to or invoke this opening phrase at Psalms 2:12. As stated above, this indicates that it had no particular Christological appeal in the form this verse was known to them.
The following marginal note from the R.V. (the 1881 Revised Version [of the 1611 KJV Bible]), which uses the translation Kiss the Son, is quoted by one source:
Some ancient versions render, “lay hold of (or, receive) instruction,” others “worship in purity.” [10 ]
The results of a search for additional clues in several available ancient Biblical texts
are summarized below, listed in ascending chronological order of the source:
The Targum Yonatan, an ancient interpretive translation into the Aramaic vernacular of the Hebrew Bible, has קָ בִּ ילוּ אוּלְפָנָא (qaBIlu ulfaNA), accept the Law.
The Greek LXX, an ancient Christian translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, has δραξασθε παιδειας (draxasthe paideias), which breaks down as follows: δραξασθε (draxasthe), grasp (in the 2nd-person, plural, imperative); παιδειας (paideias), instructions.
Thus, the Greek LXX has Grasp instructions.
Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (405 CE) has adorate pure. adorate is the 2nd-person, plural, imperative of adoro, [to] call upon, or [to] entreat, or [to] worship; purus is the root verb [to] be clean/pure, from which comes the Latin term pure, meaning purity. Therefore, this translates as Worship in purity.
o The 1582 Rheims translation of Jerome’s Latin Vulgate renders adorate pure as Embrace discipline.
o In 1907, Pope Pius X ordered a revision of Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, and the new version has Apprehendite disciplinam, which translates as Embrace discipline.
Martin Luther’s 1545 German translation has Küsset den Sohn, which translates as Kiss the Son.
The 1611 KJV [The Authorized Version (A. V.)] has Kiss the Son.
The above information indicates that the revision took place somewhere between
the fifth and 16th centuries CE. It should be noted that this revision of the Hebrew
text has not been universally accepted by all Christian translations, old and new.
Curiously, the likely source for this mistranslation may come as a surprise to many:
the two great Jewish Sages, Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra [1089-1164 CE], the Jewish-
Spanish Bible exegete and philosopher, and Rabbi David Qimhi [1160-1235 CE], the
Jewish-French/Spanish Bible exegete and grammarian. Rabbi Ibn Ezra offered the
interpretation Kiss the son by linking the phrase נַשְּׁקוּ־בַר to the anointed individual
referred to as My son in Psalms 2:7, and he suggested that it is a reference to
מָשִׁיחַ . Rabbi David Qimhi accepted Ibn Ezra’s interpretation. They explain that the
anointed one, who will be pure, i.e., he will be righteous by keeping Torah, is מָשִׁיחַ
and, therefore, people should pay homage to him. In the Hebrew Bible, a way of
paying homage is at times expressed through the act of kissing someone or
1Samuel 10:1 – And Samuel took the vial of oil, and poured it on his [Saul’s] head, and
kissed him. And he [Samuel] said [to Saul], “Indeed, the Lord has anointed you to be a
ruler over His inheritance.”
This interpretation caught the attention of the Church, which seized upon it and
applied it as referring to Jesus, the Messiah of Christianity. Rabbi David Qimhi,
aware of this misapplication, issued a detailed refutation to this Christological retrofit
of his and Rabbi Ibn Ezra’s interpretation of this phrase.11 The fact that most
Christian Bibles have retained Kiss the Son indicates that it is widely accepted as
the proper translation, since it serves to enhance the Christological relevance of the
VI. AN EXCURSION INTO THE ARAMAIC DOMAIN
As was noted in Section IV, the common Aramaic noun for son is בְּרָא , not .בָּר
Several applications of the Aramaic term בַּר are present throughout the Aramaic
portions of the Hebrew Bible, and these are shown in Table VI-1.
Abed-nego, Who sent His ANGEL and rescued His servants, who trusted Him; and [who] deviated from the command of the king, and risked their lives in order not to worship or prostrate themselves to any god except to their God.
Even the KJV confirms this with a reasonably accurate translation:
Daniel 3:28(KJV) – Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his ANGEL, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
As is evident from Table VI-1, all (undisputed) applications of the Aramaic noun בַּר in the Hebrew Bible show that the term is used in the possessive construct, son of…, not as a free standing noun, a son, nor the noun with the definite article, the son.
VII. AN EXCURSION INTO THE BOOK OF PROVERBS: THE CASE OF בַּר IN PROVERBS 31:2
Christian missionaries point to the use of the word בַּר in Proverbs 31:2 as they
attempt to support their claim that the expression נַשְּׁקוּ־בַר uses the term בַּר in the
context of son. The term בַּר occurs three times in Proverbs 31:2, but these were
not included in either Table IV-1 or Table VI-1 due to the fact that their classification,
as Hebrew or Aramaic terms, is ambiguous. An analysis of these three instances of
בַּר in Proverbs 31:2 is presented below to help determine their proper context and
whatever relationship may exist, if any, with the usage of בַר in Psalms 2:12.
Table VII-1 provides the Hebrew text of Proverbs 31:2, as well as side-by-side
translations – the KJV rendition is on the left side, a common Jewish translation is on
the right side, and an alternate Jewish translation is in the middle.
The three instances of בַּר are highlighted in the Hebrew and in the respective
English translations of the verse. The first instance is the term בְּרִי (bRI), rendered
“my son” both in the KJV and in the common Jewish translation, and “my choice
one” in the alternate Jewish translation. The remaining two instances are identical
and are simply the term בַּר , rendered “the son of …” in the KJV, “son of …” in the
common Jewish translation, and “[O] choice one of …” in the alternate Jewish
translation. It is noteworthy that, regardless of the differences in the respective
renditions of בַּר , all three applications agree that it is a possessive construct of the
noun. This fact alone is sufficient to invalidate the basis for comparing its use here
with the use of the term בַר in Psalms 2:12 by Christian missionaries.
The applications of בַּר in Proverbs 31:2 may be understood in two distinct ways,
either of which leads to a correct interpretation of the verse:
It may be the Aramaic term for ‘son of …’, which was introduced into the original text at some later time
It may be the Hebrew term described above as ‘pure’, or ‘clean’, or ‘choice’ [as in select, superior, top quality], and cast in a possessive construct
These two approaches are explained and evaluated below.
A. The Case for the Aramaic בַּר
Why is it plausible that בַּר in Proverbs 31:2 is the Aramaic possessive construct son of … from the root noun בַּר , a son?
According to Jewish tradition, and this is also accepted among Christians, King Solomon authored the following: Proverbs [ מִ שְׁלֵי (mishLEI)], Song of Songs שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים] (SHIR ha’shiRIM)], and Ecclesiastes [ קֹהֶלֶת (qoHElet)]. The Hebrew Bible records the following regarding King Solomon’s works:
1Kings 5:12 – And he [Solomon] spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were a
thousand and five.
1Kings 11:41 – And the rest of the acts of Solomon and all that he did and his wisdom,
they are assuredly written in the Book of the Acts of Solomon.
Though the Book of the Acts of Solomon appears to have been lost and is
unknown to us today, the Hebrew Bible and Christian Bibles contains the above mentioned three works of Solomon, and these may very well represent the surviving remnants of it. However, when the data provided in 1Kings 5:12 is contrasted with the actual contents of these works – Proverbs (915 verses/31 chapters), Song of Songs (117 verses/8 chapters), and Ecclesiastes (222 verses/12 chapters) – the numbers fall significantly short of those reported in 1Kings 5:12.
What happened to the rest of King Solomon’s writings? There are different speculations about what the answer to this question might be. Among these, perhaps the most plausible paradigm is that the three Books being attributed to King Solomon – Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes – are, in fact, versions of his complete original works, which were edited or redacted by others at a later time.
The Hebrew Bible offers clues that lend support to this theory. One such clue is provided in the opening verse of Proverbs 25: Proverbs 25:1 – These too are proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, maintained.
Why would it be necessary to make this statement in the first place? Perhaps its purpose was to serve as a disclaimer, to indicate this is not King Solomon’s original work but, rather, maintained by others who may have done some editing. King Hezekiah had his scribes create and maintain copies of the proverbs of Solomon for distribution throughout the Kingdom of Judah. It is well documented in the Hebrew Bible that, already at the time of Hezekiah’s reign as King of Judah [ca. 728-699 BCE], the officials of his court spoke the Aramaic language, although it was not yet the vernacular among the population:
2Kings 18:26 – And Eliakim the son of Hilkiah and Shebnah and Joah said to
Rabshakeh, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic for we understand it; do not
speak with us in Judean within the hearing of the people who are on the wall.” [See
also Isaiah 36:11.]
The official positions each of the above-named individuals held are identified in another passage:
2Kings 18:18 – And they summoned the king, and Eliakim the son of Hilkiah who was appointed over the palace, and Shebna the scribe and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, came out to them. [See also Isaiah 36:3.]
It is quite plausible that, while maintaining and transcribing the proverbs, some editing and redacting took place, which could have easily included the introduction of the Aramaic term בַּר in Proverbs 31:2. From a strictly poetic stylistic perspective, albeit subjective, replacing the Hebrew בְּנִי and בֵּן with the Aramaic בְּרִי and בַּר , respectively, makes the verse flow better. So, while the original material is credited to King Solomon, the recorded material may be the product of King Hezekiah’s scribes and perhaps others.
There is still stronger evidence in the Hebrew Bible that supports this theory. If King Solomon’s writings were edited during a later era, as exemplified by Proverbs, then this should also be reflected in his other two extant works, Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes. Is this the case? Yes, indeed it is! Various linguistic indicators attest to the fact that elements of the language used in the Hebrew text of King Solomon’s writings are of a vintage that is later than his own era. When those who are proficient and knowledgeable in the Hebrew language read through the Hebrew Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes, they will encounter words that are not native to Hebrew, but which are rooted in languages of some Near-Eastern nations of later times, among which were the Aramaic and Persian languages. One such example, the word פַּרְדֵּס (parDES), an orchard, is of Persian origin, and it appears in both Song of Songs (4:13) and Ecclesiastes (2:5; here in the plural form, פַּרְדֵּסִים [pardeSIM]). This particular term has a somewhat familiar “ring” to it; its Greek form, παραδεισος (paradeisos), is the origin of the English word paradise. The only other occurrence of this word in the Hebrew Bible is at Nehemiah 2:8 (a product of the fifth century BCE).
Another example is found in the Song of Songs, which contains the only three instances in the Hebrew Bible of the word סְמָדַר (smaDAR), an Aramaic word of undetermined origin that means early fruit (of a vine or berry still in its budding stage; 2:13,15, 7:13).
A final example is the word פִּתְגָם (pitGAM), an Aramaic word of Persian origin that means judgment, sentence, or order, with one of its eight instances found in Ecclesiastes (8:11). The other seven cases of this word are at Esther 1:20 (which is in the Hebrew portion of the Hebrew Bible), Daniel 3:16, 4:14, Ezra 4:17, 5:7,11, 6:11 (which are all in Aramaic segments of the Hebrew Bible).
B. The Case for the Hebrew בָּר
Some people will not accept, for one reason or another, the case presented above for the Aramaic בַּר . So here is another plausible explanation of the applications of בַּר in Proverbs 31:2, in which the Hebrew word, as described in Section IV, is shown to be utilized in the possessive constructs as “choice one of …” from the root noun .בָּר The alternate Jewish translation has the first two verses in Proverbs 31 as:
Proverbs 31:1-2 – (1) The words of Lemuel the king; a prophecy with which his mother chastised him; (2) What, my choice one [ בְּרִי ], and what, [O] choice one of [ בַּר ] my womb; and what, [O] choice one of [ בַּר ] my vows?
The inflected noun בַּ ר in the 1st-person, singular, masculine or feminine gender is בְּרִי , my choice one, or my pure one, puts the noun into its possessive form. In the remaining two cases, the second noun in the phrase is inflected in the 1stperson, which leaves the noun בַּר unchanged, except for a vowel change from a qaMATS under the letter בָּר) בּ ) to a paTAH under it ( בַּר ), which is due to the change from a standalone noun to its possessive form in the respective phrases.
Considering the alternate translation, can this reading of Proverbs 31:2 be explained? Possible later redacting notwithstanding, according to Jewish tradition, this Proverb is attributed to King Solomon. And, although the actual identity of King Lemuel is not crucial for the explanation of this verse, several Jewish Sages have proposed that it is yet another pseudonym for King Solomon. King Lemuel’s mother, as she starts to give her son advice about ruling with dignity and justice, refers to him as my choice one. Based on the opening verse and the three characterizations found in the second verse, it appears that he was
the most favored of her sons:12
She devoted most of her instruction and education to him
He was born with unusual natural talents, the most gifted of her sons
She made great vows and offered up devout prayers to God, even before he was ever conceived, in her hopes for him
A similar use of the noun בָּר in the context of the choice one is found here: Song of Songs 6:9 – My dove, my perfect one, is but one [of a kind]; she is one [of a kind] to her mother, the choice one [ בָּרָה ] she is to the one who bore her; women saw her and acclaimed her, queens and concubines [saw her] and praised her;
The KJV agrees, as do many other Christian translations:
Song of Songs 6:9(KJV) – My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her
mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed
her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.
Consequently, the Hebrew term בָּר could easily apply in this same context at
Proverbs 31:2. It is not important which of the above two interpretations one accepts, and they are not mutually exclusive, which means that both may be valid explanations. The analysis presented here demonstrates the importance of an intimate and thorough knowledge of the Hebrew language as one of the tools for learning and understanding what the Hebrew Bible teaches.
Sidebar note: In Judaism, the phrase ‘son of God’ never takes on the Greek mythological meaning that the New Testament ascribes to it – a divine being that is a literal son of God – a concept that would never occur to a Jew. Greek gods have literal sons, but the One God of Israel does not (Rabbi David Qimhi’s refutation of the Christian revision in Psalms 2:12 addresses this issue). To a Jewish person, the title ‘son of God’ may have either of the
following two meanings: A king from the line of David and Solomon (e.g., 2Samuel 7:14, Psalms 89:28)
Any one of us, as we are all metaphoric children of God, the Children of Israel in particular (e.g., Exodus 4:22, Jeremiah 31:8, Hosea 11:1)
Therefore, the only time the noun ‘son’ occurs in Psalms 2, which is the Hebrew word בְּנִי , ‘my son’, at Psalms 2:7, it refers to one of God’s anointed Jewish kings (likely to be King David).
The goal of this study was to show that the claim by Christian missionaries about Psalms 2:12 is based on an incorrect translation of the opening phrase in the verse, נַשְּׁקוּ־בַר , and the false claim that it contains the Aramaic word for son. The analysis proved that the term בַּר\בָּר , as used in the Hebrew Bible, does not mean son, neither in Hebrew nor in Aramaic. The reasons that the rendition of this phrase as Kiss the Son is an incorrect “modern” revision in many Christian Bibles are:
It is a grammatically incorrect translation of the Hebrew phrase
o The phrase נַשְּׁקוּ־בַר does not contain the term בְּרָא , the form of the Aramaic noun בַּר with the definite article. Therefore, if בַר were the Aramaic noun for ‘a son’, then the phrase would have had to be translated as ‘Kiss a son’, not ‘Kiss the son’
o If בַר in Psalms 2:12 were an Aramaic word, then, as used in the Aramaic portions of the Hebrew Bible, it is the possessive form ‘son of …’ (where the rest of this expression must be provided in the phrase itself), not the term for ‘son’
There are no Aramaic words in the Book of Psalms
o Both Jews and Christians generally agree that 19,478 of the 19,479 words in the Masoretic Text of the Book of Psalms are Hebrew words. Does it make any sense to say that בַּר is the lone Aramaic word therein?
There was no logical reason for King David, the author of this psalm, to have used an Aramaic word in Psalms 2:12, or elsewhere in his works
o He lived several centuries before the Babylonian exile, in which the Jews began to
formally use Aramaic as the vernacular
o He used an inflected form of the Hebrew noun בֵּן , son, in the same psalm
o He never used Aramaic words in any of his other psalms
The authors of the New Testament did not find any Christological significance in
o There are no references or pointers to it in the New Testament
o Ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible, by Christians and Jews, which post-date the canonization of the New Testament, have correct translations of the phrase
Conclusion: The translation of the Hebrew phrase נַשְּׁקוּ־בַר as ‘Kiss the Son’ is not only incorrect, it is a later product of Christian translators. Therefore, the Christian perspective on Psalms 2:12 is invalid.
IX. SUPPLEMENTARY SECTION
Reproduced here, with permission from the publishers, is the response by Rabbi David Qimhi (referred to as Redak in the source – a transliteration of the Hebrew acronym for his name) to the Christian claims concerning his and Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra’s interpretation of נַשְּׁקוּ־בַר as Kiss the son.
Before getting to the response by Redak, two brief notes are in order. The first is about Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai (Chida – this, too, is a transliteration of the Hebrew acronym for his name), who is credited with the discovery of this material. Chida [1724-1806 CE] was born in Jerusalem and became a well-known Jewish scholar who wrote several classic works in Halachah (Jewish Law). He is regarded as one of the most fascinating and multi-faceted figures in Jewish history. He traveled extensively, and wherever he visited, Chida made sure to inspect the important libraries. He thereby became familiar with many thousands of
manuscripts, and a portion from one of these is the text being reproduced below. Out of these visits grew his remarkably compact and informative classic bibliographic and biographic work, Shem HaGedolim. During his lifetime, Chida
produced some one hundred volumes in every field of scholarship. [This is an edited and condensed version of the biographical sketch found on the Orthodox Union (OU) website, under the title, “Great Leaders of our People”].
The second note concerns the translation of the Hebrew phrase נַשְּׁקוּ־בַ ר , shown below as Arm yourselves with purity. This is the rendition in the Judaica Press publication.13 It is one of several acceptable translations of the phrase.
R’ Chaim Joseph David Azulai, known by the acronym Chida, writes in the diary of his travels that when he was in Paris, he visited a library of manuscripts, where he saw “many hundreds of our books in manuscript, and there was a Redak on Psalms, in which there was more than [in] the printed edition, and we saw on the verse (2:12) a column larger than half a folio.”
2:12 – Arm yourselves with purity – Heb. נְשְׁקוּ־בַר [sic;15 actual is נַשְּׁקוּ־בַר ]. The Christians [rendering: Kiss the son] explain this as referring to Jesus, but the verse they bring as evidence and which they make a support to their error is itself their stumbling block. This is (verse 1[sic; a misprint that should be verse 7]): “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son.'” If they tell you that he was God’s son, tell them that we cannot say that a human being is God’s son, because the son is of the species of the father. Since it is impossible to say, for example, that this horse is Reuben’s son, the one to whom God said, “You are my son,” must be of His kind and be a God like Him. Moreover, He said, “this day I have begotten you.” and the one begotten is of the same species as the one who begot him. Tell them also that in divinity there cannot be a father and a son, because divinity cannot be divided. It is not a body that can be divided, but God is one in all kinds of oneness; He will neither increase, decrease, nor be divided. Tell them further that the father precedes the son in time and that the son is a product of the father. Although neither can have his name without the other – for one cannot be called a father until he has a son and one cannot be called a son unless he has a father – nevertheless, the one called father undoubtedly had existed before he had a son. Consequently, the God in Whom you believe, Whom you call the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost – the part that you call the Father preceded the part you call Son, for if they had always existed together, they would be called twin brothers; you could not call them Father and Son, and not begotten and begetter, for the begetter must undoubtedly precede the begotten. Now if they say to you that the one who is not divine cannot be called the son of God, tell them that we can speak of God only figuratively, as it is said about Him: the mouth of the Lord, the eyes of the Lord, the ears of the Lord, and the like, which are figurative. Likewise, it is figurative when Scripture says: the son of God, the sons of God, for whoever performs His commandments and His mission is called a son, as the son performs the orders of the father. Therefore, the stars are called the sons of God, as (Job 38:7): “And all the sons of God shouted.” Similarly, when man – because of the heavenly spirit within him and prompted by the intelligent soul which guides him – performs the commandments of God, he is called His son. Therefore, He says,
“You are My son;today I begot you.” And He says (Exod. 4:22): “Israel is my firstborn son.” And He says
(Deut. 14:1): “You are children of the Lord your God.” And He says (ibid. 32:6): “Is he not
your father, who possessed you,” and He says (II Samuel 7:14): “I shall be to him as a
father, and he will be to Me as a son.”
Tell them further: This God of Whom you speak – the Father said to the Son, “Request
of Me and I shall make nations your inheritance.” How is it that the Son requests of the
Father? Is he not a God like Him, and does he not have power over the nations and the
ends of the earth like Him? Moreover, before the request, nations were not his inheritance;
if so, was the strength of this god lacking in the beginning, and did he later gain strength?
That cannot be said of a god. Now if they tell you that that is said only concerning the flesh,
[that] after the god took on a physical body, he said to the flesh that he should ask of him
and he would give him nations as his inheritance, that was not so, for the flesh never had
dominion or any ruling power over any nation. If they answer you that he said that the
[Christian] faith would be accepted, [that too is not true,] because the majority of the nations,
both Jews and Ishmaelites, did not accept his faith.
Behold, I have instructed you what to answer them concerning the psalm. If they ask you its meaning, explain it according to either one of the two interpretations that you wish to choose: either concerning David or the King Messiah, as I have explained to you.
[ 1 ] Transliterations of Hebrew terminology into the Latin alphabet will follow these guidelines:
Transliterated terminology is shown in bold italicized font
The accented syllable in transliterated terminology is shown in SMALL CAPS font
Latin vowel-sounds, A – E – I – O – U, are used (not the English versions thereof!)
Distinct Hebrew letter that have ambiguous Latin letter sounds are transliterated according to the
– A vocalized letter א is transliterated as the equivalent Latin vowel
– A vocalized letter ע is transliterated as the equivalent Latin vowel with an added underscore
– The letter ח is transliterated as “h”
– The letter כ is transliterated as “ch”
– The letter כּ is transliterated as “k”
– The letter ק is transliterated as “q”
– A vocalized SHVA ( שְׁוָא נָע ) is transliterated as a superscripted “e” following the consonant
– There is no “doubling” of letters in the transliterations to reflect the daGESH (emphasis)
[ 2 ] Two examples of such lists are: (1) 365 Messianic prophecies that Yeshua fulfilled –
http://therefinersfire.org/messianic_prophecies.htm, and (2) Messianic Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus Christ – http://www.jesus-is-lord.com/messiah.htm
[ 3 ] MH and JF&B commentaries are available on the Internet at – http://www.blueletterbible.org/
[ 4 ] Soncino Books of the Bible – The Psalms, Rev. Dr. A. Cohen, Editor, p. 3, The Soncino Press (1992)
[ 5 ] The methodology of Jewish biblical interpretation consists of four levels: plain ( פְּשָׁט – PSHAT), symbolic רֶמֶז) – REmez), homiletic ( דְּרוּשׁ – DRUSH; also דְּרָ שׁ – DRASH), and mystical ( סוֹד – SOD). These four
levels are commonly referred to by their Hebrew acronym פרד״ס (pronounced as parDES). It should be noted for future reference that, according to the Jewish rules of biblical exegesis, only the PSHAT, i.e., the plain meaning of the text, can serve as the basis for prophecy.
[ 6 ] Verse numbers shown in square brackets, e.g., [20-21], are those used in Christian bibles.
[ 7 ] The grammatical rule states that, when the letter בּ (BET) follows an open syllable, i.e., one that ends with a vowel, then the בּ is replaced by the letter ב (VET), the same letter, but without the accent mark in it. [This is also the case with several other letters of the Hebrew alphabet.]
[ 8 ] Thanks to Professor Mordochai Ben Tziyyon, I learnt that the Aramaic term בַּר can represent both the noun, “a son” as well as the possessive form “son of …”. The א־ suffix in Aramaic often represents the definite article, so that the phrase “the son” in Aramaic is .בְּרָא
[ 9 ] The change is due to a grammatical rule which states that, when a letter בּ follows the conjunction ־ ,וְ then ־ וְ changes to ־ וּ, and בּ changes to ב. This same rule also applies to the letters כּ and פּ, which then change to the letters כ and פ, respectively, which changes their sound from ‘hard” to “soft”.
[ 10 ] Soncino Books of the Bible – The Psalms, Rev. Dr. A. Cohen, Editor, p. 5, The Soncino Press (1992)
[ 11 ] See the Appendix (Section IX) for a reproduction of this refutation.
[ 12 ] David had four sons with Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother (1Chronicles 3:5).
[ 13 ] PSALMS, Volume One – A New English Translation, Rabbi A. J. Rosenberg, p. 9, The Judaica Press (1991).
[ 14 ] Ibid. pp. clxvii-clxviii.
[ 15 ] The notation [sic] is generally used in written texts to indicate that the previous word or phrase exactly reproduces the original, which may be an unusual form or even an error (as it is in this case).