What is the correct translation of nash-ku bar?

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The respective Jewish and Christian translations of nash-ku bar (Psalms 2:12) differ from each other. What is the proper translation?

Answer:

The Jewish rendering of Psalms 2:12 states: “Do homage in purity [nash-ku bar], lest He be angry, and you perish in the way. . . .” The Christian translation of the Hebrew phrase nash-ku bar is “kiss the son.”

The Christian translation is based on a misinterpretation. The meaning of the Hebrew word bar is “pure” or “clear.” Only in Aramaic does it have the meaning of “son.” However, in Aramaic, bar is used only as a construct “son of” (Proverbs 31:2; Ezra 5:1-2, 6:14), whereas the absolute form of “son” in Aramaic (which would have to be used in verse 12) is ber’a. Thus, according to the Christian conception, the verse should have read nash-ku ber’a, “kiss the son,” not nash-ku bar, “kiss the son of.” Even though “son” could refer to David in verse 12, it is not the proper translation.

There is no compelling reason to employ an Aramaism in view of the use of the Hebrew noun bayn, “son,” in verse 7. The phrase is best rendered as, “do homage in purity,” because kissing is generally an expression of homage, as found, for example, in 1 Samuel 10:1: “Then Samuel took the vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him.” Bar, meaning “purity,” occurs in the phrase “pure in heart” (Psalms 24:4, 73:1).

The intention implied in verse 12 is: with sincerity of heart, acknowledge me, David, as God’s anointed, and thereby avoid incurring God’s anger. Thus the Hebrew phrase nash-ku bar simply means “do homage in purity,” and superimposing any other interpretation will distort the meaning of this psalm.

© Gerald Sigal