The 134 Emendations of the Sopherim.
One of the Best Kept Secrets of the Old Testament Era, One Having a Profound Effect on Both Old and New Testament Theology with Respect to the Intractable 'Nature of God' Controversy.
It is not disputed that Christian Theology under-went significant revisions after the first century. What is not so readily admitted is the fact that Jewish Theology also, over the centuries, under-went significant changes as well, that traditional Jewish religion as we now know it does not represent views identical to what it originally taught. We could cite some specific areas. The calendar determination for example, another being philosophical and theological differences between the Sadducees and Pharisees, with the latter gaining predominance after the fall of Jerusalem. In many areas it can be demonstrated that subtle and even substantial changes occurred over time. Another area was in what later became known as the ‘Nature of God’ issues. This article relates to the post-exilic belief system that provided basis for these Emendations.
A Most Closely-Kept Secret!
In the fourth century BC, or earlier, those scribes whose responsibility it was to preserve the Hebrew Texts of Scripture, took it upon themselves to make changes to the original texts, in order to edit out those few places which posed a disturbing counter-challenge to their understanding of God’s personal existence. By that time, traditional Jewish religion was firmly set in the belief, in not just One God, but that the One God was a single individual only. When they encountered long-established texts which posed difficult questions, the traditional views were held onto, and thus, those non-conforming texts were altered! It was a case of those custodians of the Original Hebrew Texts, the Sopherim, having changed the wording found in those texts, clearly intentionally. The result lending support to that traditional Judaic Monotheistic-Unitarian view well-known today, that God is just ONE single Being only.
An excellent article on this subject was produced by Hebrew Roots in the spring of 1997 explaining the technical aspects of how and why these 134 Emendations were made, and how it is we know about them. Rather than repeat their well re-searched information, a copy of that article is attached. We can be thankful that the Sopherim always kept meticulous records, and left evidence of what they had done, making notations in the margins of the texts, called the ‘Massorah’. The reader can also find information regarding these in the Companion Bible, Appendix 32. However, this article will address the significance of these Emendations, one in particular, that the attached article does not. We will consider the resulting impact these Emendations had on Judao-Christian theology ever since.
When these Emendations were made is not known exactly, but since the Hebrew Scriptures are recognized as having been finalized by the time of the Greek Translation of the Old Testament prior to 250 BC, called the Septuagint, it was well prior to that time. Some assign it to around the time of Malachi, approximately 400 BC, and some two centuries after Judah’s Babylonian captivity. While in captivity, the Jewish religion assimilated some Babylonian concepts, which have carried forward even into modern times!
The Jewish religion has been known from ancient times as being “monotheistic”. Christianity is regarded as being monotheistic as well. Basically, the idea that there is only One God. (Babylonian religion was also monotheistic.) But the Jewish religion is particularly focused on that concept, being what we call “Strict Monotheism”, in that they believe an hold very rigidly to the idea that God is only one single Being.
In the 4/30/99 issue of the Jerusalem Post, there was an article about the ‘Messianic Signs’, in which they printed this quote, “That in the future, the streets of Jerusalem will be filled once again with the noise of playing children and the throngs of non-Jews coming to pay homage to One-God.” Now, they gave the name of God in their publication as “One-God”! You can see from that the sense of the strict monotheism these Jewish people hold. In our local newspaper, recently, there was an article about a Rabbi who wrote a book on the “Messianic Jews”, and in that article, they had this quote, talking about Messianic Jews, (which to a Jew is a total anomaly). Their quote was, “Traditional Judaism considers a ‘Christian Jew’ to be a theological impossibility, since a Jew is expected to worship One-God.” From these, you can see a little bit, the dimensions of the problem. The Jewish religion regards the Godhead, basically, as a single Being, a single individual. That wasn’t always the case!
The Sopherim being uncomfortable with the few passages that didn’t square with their belief system, selectively changed them! In examining what it was that they changed, we might ask, so what? What they changed might not at first glance appear to be all that significant. What they changed was the name of God as it appeared in the original texts. They were uncomfortable with what they read, not the name itself, but with it being used in a particular way: any which posed a challenge to the essence of their monotheistic views. So, to obscure what these non-conforming scriptures plainly showed, they CHANGED them! They actually changed the original texts of canonized scripture!
These were not ‘translation’ errors. In translating from one language to another, it’s easy to see how that could happen. But, no, this was a change to the texts in the language they spoke! There was no need to translate. It had nothing to do with that. They just didn’t like the word originally used in the way it was used, so they changed it, in 134 places! Thankfully, they kept meticulous records, annotating the margins so we can know what it was they did change. All of those places are listed in the article attached, if you want to see them.
The Sacredness of God’s Name!
The Sopherim did what they did under the pretext of saying that God’s name is too sacred to be used. Pronouncing it was prohibited. Even when written in scripture, Jews think it shouldn’t be pronounced, and will substitute another name, such as “Adonai” or “The Name” for the tetragrammeton (YHWH). So, their stated reasons offered as justification, was protecting the sacredness of God’s name. Later, they also left off the pronunciation marks (that make up for the lack of vowels in Hebrew), making it difficult to know for certain exactly how to pronounce “YHWH”. It wasn’t legal to pronounce it anyway, other than by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, and, if anyone did hear it, he was supposed to prostrate himself. That’s not a Biblical proscription, but it was their traditional belief.
So, under the pretext of protecting the sanctity of God’s name, by limiting how it could be used in scripture, and by having no one ever pronounce it, they changed the use of the name of God as it was originally inspired. Now, they left the original text UNchanged in 6823 other places, but found reason to change it in 134 places. Why these 134? This is the key area we need to focus in on. The places they determined to change fell basically within these technical parameters:
1. Those places where a man directly addresses God;
2. When a man makes a statement bringing God into a personal relationship with himself;
3. Where YHVH was shown directly intervening in the affairs of men;
4. Where anyone caused a reproach against God;
5. Where anyone claimed to have personally seen God.
Jesus Knew What They Had Done!
Ordinarily, this matter would have escaped notice, except for the theological implications it raised. In the New Testament accounts, this matter was brought-up a number of times. It was one of their emended verses that time and time again caused major problems for Jewish theology. Under the pretext of doing something else, the Sopherim, and the Massorites after them, and the Scribes of Jesus’ day perpetuated a fraud against their followers that Christ exposed, to His great peril. In emending the text of their canon, they obscured a fundamental Truth. The Truth that God was more than just a single Being! New Testament theology at first restored that Truth, though subsequent Christian theology again in its own way obscured it once again! (But, that’s another story which needs to be dealt with in its own separate article.)
The issue raised by New Testament writers in so many places, as it related to these Emendations, has a very profound impact on not only the Judaic religions, but on Christianity as well. We can know that from the extraordinary use of one of those key places that were emended. In this place is proof that they altered the text of the sacred scriptures in order to accommodate that belief to which they so rigidly held. Christ knew they had done so, and by the use of one particular verse, He made it known to them that He KNEW what they had done! They had taken on an altered concept of God, and those key scriptures that could have exposed the Truth were altered. As a result, Orthodox Judao-Christian religions, have been confounded ever since.
It was one of these emended passages that appears numerous times in the New Testament scriptures. That one verse is quoted or referenced no less than twenty times. That one passage proved to be a ‘hot-button’, when quoted in the presence of the religious establishment. It was Psalm 110. In that chapter, verse 5 was emended, changing “YHVH” to “Adonai” and in the process here and elsewhere, obscured the fact that there were two persons in the Godhead called “Yahweh” (YHVH)! Old Testament Judaism came to reject that idea utterly.
“Sit Thou At My Right Hand”.
Psalm 110:1 says, “The LORD said unto my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’.” In verse 5 it says,“The Lord at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath.”
Verse 5 is one of those emended places, where they omitted Yahweh (YHVH), substituting in its place Adonai. Ordinarily, under the rules, verse 1 would also have been emended, except for the fact that it already HAD Adonai being spoken to by Yahweh! And verse 5, before they altered it, showed that the Being at Yahweh’s right hand was also Yahweh! In other words, there are two Yahweh’s in the Elohim! A completely blasphemous idea to the religious establishment of Jesus’ day!
This particular passage, when quoted in the presence of those religious authorities, predictably provoked a passionate negative reaction. Not only was their belief system challenged, but also the acts of their predecessors having had the gall to alter the texts of their sacred scriptures to suit their religious preferences! Two of the more notable reactions happened when Caiaphas, the High Priest, tore his clothes at Christ’s trial, another at Stephen’s stoning. Both upon hearing quoted Psalm 110:1. The Sadducees, then the Pharisees and lawyers were silenced by the question this verse raises. (Matt. 22:46.) After having it posed to them, they were unable to answer. They couldn’t answer. To do so, they would have to have admitted the inadmissible. The Apostle Paul, in writing to the same people doesn’t get three verses into the first chapter of the book of Hebrews before bringing up this key issue again, and does so another five times in the book. Why such frequent repetition and such heavy emphasis. Why their violent reaction to it?
What Is God’s True Existence?
It’s an essential component in correctly under-standing who and what God is! Christ and the New Testament writers recognized the fundamental error in the theology of the day. Unfortunately, those fundamental concepts carry forward into many Christian theologies of today! It was so important, that Psalm 110 was quoted or referenced at least twenty times in New Testament writings!
It was the remotest suggestion of there being more than just ONE Person in God that caused such a violent reaction in the first century Jewish mind and often in their actions. Even in the religious establishment of today, there exists a similar rejection of the suggestion of their being TWO Yahweh’s in the Godhead, the Elohim. That goes against orthodox Jewish theology, their “One-God” strict monotheistic position, which allows that God is but one single Being! There are actually two Beings in the Godhead. These and other scriptures show us that. Early Christianity came to understand it, but the theological re-definition of the late first century and later, sought to create a concept accommodating the monotheistic view, while acknowledging the obvious duality of the “Father” and the “Son”. This stumbling-block is what created the problems in that area of theology that is referred to as “the Nature of God” issue.
Christianity came to grips with the evident reality. Christianity, at least originally, recognized that there is more than just one single Being in the God-head, but the monotheistic definition eventually took its toll, because Christians also claim to be monotheists. Monotheism defines a single-Person Godhead. That created profound theological questions, which after a century or two, were answered by the creation of a doctrinal configuration which allowed them to present what could be represented as a monotheistic view, but, at the same time, recognize and admit the fact that there IS more than one Being in the Godhead! This need of a viable explanation was the driving force in the creation and acceptance of Trinitarian doctrine.
The Sopherim Legacy.
So, this thing the Sopherim achieved by their 134 Emendations, obscuring the fact that Yahweh is more than just one single Being, from their time onward, has hindered people’s ability to properly conceive of Who and What God IS. They imposed a theological stumbling-block, not only upon them-selves, but before the Christian world, centuries later, even to the present in most circles.
Christ saw the correction of this fundamental concept as a PRIME doctrinal need, in order to introduce His True religion! Those twenty places God inspired Psalm 110 to be repeated in the New Testament attests to this important fact.
The Church of God has maintained that there is more than one Person in the Godhead. Our theology recognizes that basic premise. We know the Father and the Son to be two separate independent Beings as attested to in Christ’s “…I am not alone…” statement. (John.8:16) There are many Biblical proofs clearly showing the Father and the Son to be two separate Beings:
One possesses a knowledge that the other does not! (Mk.13:32)
One is involved in the area of judgment, while the other dis-involved Himself from that. (Jn.5:22).
One of the two died for our sins, where the other did not! (Jn.3:16 & Heb.1:3).
Many scriptures, if examined thoughtfully, reveal the fact of there being TWO separate Beings. (See the articles on “Who is the Ancient of Days?” and the Doctrine of Antichrist” ). Both are “Elohim”, the family name, and both are called “Yahweh”, the personal name.
That’s what we need to understand. That’s what Jesus Christ placed before the Sanhedrin at His trial, after boldly posing the same issue publicly to the Pharisees and lawyers just two days before, after which, NO ONE DARED ask Him any more questions. (Mt.22:46). He wasn’t just posing the theological fine point of there being more than one Being in the Godhead, but that HE actually WAS that other one! THAT”S what got Him killed! And, the Apostle Paul continued to hammer the same issue in that same context. This is essential to fundamental Christian theology: That one Being, (Christ, God’s Son) IS SITTING at the right hand of the other Being: (God the Father)!
We need to understand, it is correct to conceive of God as two Beings. Judaic theology has a problem with that. Christian theology came to have a problem with that. It’s so unnecessary! The Bible, originally, before it was tampered with (emended) showed that. Psalm 110 is one of the places, and there are many others: (Dan.7:13 for one), which show one YHVH talking to the other YHVH! One YHVH is now sitting at the right hand of the other. God wants us to understand that. He assured His condemnation before the Sanhedrin attesting to that profound and certain fact!
Now, realizing that in ancient times, the people of Israel dealt basically with just one of the two, the one we know today as Jesus Christ. Early on, they weren’t even aware of the Father’s existence as He remained in the background. They only saw and dealt with the one who made the covenant promises with Abraham, the one who brought them out of Egypt and led them through the wilderness, who later became known as Jesus Christ. (1Cor. 10:4) So, there is some degree of logic: that Old Testament theologians would incline toward a single- God Being concept, in that they dealt with just one, for the most part. The Church of God, however, has remained cognizant of what many have not.
Looking into the subject which Psalm 110 presents is key. This particular emendation, made in Psalm 110, verse 5, intended to lend support to the Jewish monotheistic view, is fundamentally illegitimate. It attempts to obscure what is true, while lending plausibility to something that isn’t true! It is one of the things that Christ saw that needed correction. He pointedly addressed this issue, and the final time He did it, was at the conclusion of His trial, when after a whole night of conflicting testimony, there wasn’t enough ‘evidence’ to convict Him of anything worthy of death! Realizing that He faced certain acquittal, He chose to inject this provocative statement, KNOWING the hostile reaction it was sure to draw. By this, He guaranteed His condemnation and sentence of death! The fact that there are two Yahweh’s in the Elohim!, and His claim to being one of those two!
Can God Be a Family?
In conclusion, let’s consider a question. What would happen if thousands more Beings were to added to the God Family? Of course, this is something else understood by the Church of God, that many others don’t or won’t ascribe to, that there are going to be more ‘son’s of God’. When these sons of God become ‘manifest in the Spirit’, will God still be a single entity? The answer is, yes He will. This is something we need to fathom in order to be able to understand the full implications of verses like John 1:12 “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God…” and Hebrews 2:10, “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect though sufferings.” God is reproducing His kind through the human model. He’s given the power to eventually become that to those who have received Him!
Spirit, But Not Supreme!
But, though there are going to be additional members added into the God Family, it doesn’t mean that we will achieve God’s Supreme stature! Many critics have presumed that’s what this means, and have taken serious issue with this particular aspect of the idea, using it as reason to reject the premise entirely! Let’s understand. God is increasing His Kind, and having harvested His Firstfruits  there will still remain just one God: A family of divine Beings, having fully come into that complete one-ness spoken of in Christ’s prayer during His last earthly Passover. John 17:1-26. “And the glory which You gave Me, I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one,.. that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us,..” Verses 22 & 21. God is a Family of Divine Beings, possessing an inclusive oneness. Old monotheistic concepts borrowed from Babylon confound that truth. God’s oneness is a Unity, not a numerical Quantity, otherwise, how could the words of John 17:20-23 be true? Ω