Bible Scholar: Nature of Biblical Prophecy Misrepresented

“The Bible doesn’t say prophecies come true,” claims Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, a Bible scholar who focuses on translation. He blames the misunderstanding on a widespread translation mistake, summarizing his work in a Huffington Post piece entitled, “The Surprising Truth Behind Biblical Prophecies.”

At issue is the Greek word ‘plerow’ (“play-ROH-oh”), which is widely acknowledged to mean “fill.” Due to the similarity between the English words “fill” and “fulfill,” English Bibles also translate ‘plerow’ as “fulfill” in some places, suggesting that prophecies are fulfilled. “But language doesn’t work that way,” says Hoffman. “Just as ‘supplant’ in English is different than ‘plant,’ and ‘supply’ is different than ‘ply,’ ‘plerow’ doesn’t jump in meaning from ‘fill’ to ‘fulfill.'”

If the word doesn’t mean “fulfill,” what does it mean?

Hoffman says that context is the key to correctly deciphering the ancient Greek. He’s analyzed how the word is used, and concludes that a better translation is “match.” He adds that the “use of one text to match another was so popular in antiquity” that scholars today even have a name for it.

The implications are far-reaching, and include a better understanding of the connection between the virgin birth in Matthew 1:18-23 and the text of Isaiah 7:14 that’s quoted there. These and similar passages were never meant to be about prophecies coming true, but rather about “the relevance of Scripture,” according to Hoffman.

Hoffman is well credentialed, with a Ph.D. in linguistics to his name and with over a dozen translations in print. But he has nonetheless met with controversy at times. Last year, Baptist pastors from Texas to North Carolina denounced him in response to an earlier Huffington Post piece he wrote, also about Bible translation.

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman is author of And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible’s Original Meaning (2010, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press) and editor of “The Unabridged Bible,” an on-line exploration of the extra-biblical material that sheds light on the Bible. A frequent guest speaker at churches and synagogues, he has held faculty appointments at Brandeis University and at Hebrew Union College, and traveled the world lecturing about his work.

(Source: Christian Newswire)

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