by John Hinton, Ph.D.
The following is an excerpt from the author's "The Ugaritic Scam and the Bible: An Analysis of the Erroneous Use of the Materials from Ras Shamra to Rewrite and Alter the Old Testament" ©2004. Please excuse internet induced transliteration problems.
The KJV translation of Proverbs 26:23 has been attacked from every conceivable angle, and has inspired some of the most ludicrous and incompetent scholarship imaginable. It is one of the many examples of faulty use of the clay tablets that were written in the Ugaritic language. Although the tablets were scanty, fragmented, unknown until the twentieth century, and very obscure as to their meaning, they have been used more than any other sources, except for maybe the Septuagint, in attempts to pervert the Old Testament. It has amounted to be as big a scam in OT translation as the Greek pseudo-texts of Westcott, Hort, Nestle and Aland have been to the NT. The first example that I will deal with in this series is Proverbs 26:23.
Proverbs 26:23 KJV "Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross."
The KJV rendering of Proverbs 26:23 is attacked by Hoerth, a professed maximalist archaeologist, and he quotes the New Living Translation's botched excuse for a translation. A maximalist is supposed to be an archaeologist who completely believes the Bible. They almost always turn out to be liars.
NLT: "Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a common clay pot."
This alleged Bible-believing archaeologist claims that "only recently did Ugaritic linguistic studies allow for restoration of the correct rendering of the proverb... The proverb has regained its contrasting parallelism and meaningful imagery. The retrieval of this verse's intent is a small thing in itself, but is a big thing for those interested in the accuracy of translation."1 Let us examine the translation that this "Bible-believer" asserts has opened our eyes to the "true" interpretation of this verse. Hoerth's contention that this Proverb should be corrected with the aid of an alleged cognate in Ugaritic that means "common clay pot." He also states that this makes sense of the parallelism, which he otherwise was unable to comprehend. The statement that this Ugaritic "correction" of God's Word returns the parallelism to the text is without merit. The point is that decorating something that is without value not something that is common. The purport of the proverb has never been lost on Bible-believing commentators throughout history; only the modern Bible-scoffer and apostate Christian has had difficulty understanding it. The point of the proverb is that putting silver dross, which is a decoration - on a broken piece of pottery is worthless. The piece of pottery is good for nothing, as are the mouths of the wicked, which produce nothing good. It is very much like having a Laodicean church-goer, who falsely claims to believe God's Word while he is actually attacking it, use archaeological data to defend it. It is better that someone more worthy and genuine defend it. Furthermore - the statement that the word was corrected by the Ugaritic is foolishness. My 1831 addition of Gessenius' Hebrew-Latin Dictionary gives as its first definition of the Hebrew word in the verse as meaning testa. Testa means any baked earthen vessel. It also refers to any piece of a broken vessel, bone, tooth, and the like. This range of meaning was obviously available to the translators of the King James Bible, as well as to translators before and since the KJV, and long before anyone had even heard of the city of Ugarit. They were perfectly aware that some believed that it could refer to a common pot, but context made it obvious that it did not. The other biblical examples make this more abundantly clear, as we can see by the above quoted verses.2 Rather than examining a tree exclusively like most modern scholars, let us look at the forest and examine three other occurrences of the same word in the KJV.
Job 2:8 "And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes. "
Job 41:30 "Sharp stones are under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire. "
Psalm 22:15 "My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. "
Let us look at what Hoerth's suggestion does to these verses.
Job 2:8 "And he took him a common clay pot to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes. "
Job 41:30 "common clay pots are under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire. "
Psalm 22:15 "My strength is dried up like a common clay pot; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. "
Do these replacements make these verses make more sense? They turn them into gibberish, just as 26:23 becomes gibberish at the hands of the NLT reprobates. Even the master of Old Testament Bible perversion, Mitchell Dahood, believed the word meant potsherd and he even translated Psalm 32:3 thus: "But I had become like a potsherd, my bones had wasted away through my groaning all day long."3 However, ironically, this is a perversion of the text.
32:3 "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long."
What Dahood has done here is to corrupt the text by arrogantly changing hr¸s to hr©s. However, it remains that Dahood did not think that the Ugaritic cognate meant common pot; he thought that it meant potsherd, and if he saw an Ugaritic cognate that he could have used to distort the verse further, he would have jumped on it. Another problem with Hoerth's silly attack upon God Word is his failure to even provide any evidence for this alleged meaning of ?rs. What word is it that means pot? Is it ??hrs, ƒhrs, ?hr¸s, ƒhr¸s, ?hr±, ƒhr± (Sorry, the transliteration is too hard to reproduce for internet posting, but these letters are all similar sounds that are often interchangeable Semitic languages) or something else with similar phonemes? Where in the Ugaritic corpus does it mean common pot? Who decided that it has this meaning and what evidence did they give? Is this alleged meaning certain or a guess? Is it a good guess? Did the translator of the Ugaritic have an ulterior motive, as Hoerth did, which was to undermine the King James Bible and make it appear in error? If there is such an Ugaritic word and it does mean "common clay pot", is there a reason that we should believe that this is relevant in a Hebrew context (clearly it is not since the translations provided by it are downright nonsensical)? After going through a number of Ugaritic dictionaries, glossaries and vocabulary lists, I was completely unable to locate any suggestion of an Ugaritic cognate that has this meaning, including de Olmo's recent dictionary, which was published a few years after Hoerth's book on biblical archaeology. I also have failed to encounter any mention of this alleged meaning in any of the Ugaritic literature that I have read, which is quite substantial. Wherever Hoerth picked up this bit of nonsense, it is a mystery. It also should be added that nowhere in the text does it say pretty glaze. The word ?hesep only means silver, and sigim means dross. The NLT has not only translated the word in question wrong, but it has unarguably mistranslated the second term in the clause. Hoerth has done here what most modern Pharisees do. He has elevated scholars above God's Word by making a scholarly sounding statement that is intended to shake people's faith in their understanding of the Bible and look to scholars with esoteric information for the "real" answer. However, he has provided no source for the information. Most Christians lack the know-how or inclination to pursue the research required to verify such statements and many will accept them due to an unfortunate modern tendency to trust titled men over God. What is particularly amazing is that he uses the New Living Translation (NLT) as his quoted version for this "correction." Other than some of the wackiest translations, such as those aimed at sodomites, and perhaps Peterson's The Message, this is probably the sorriest excuse for a translation that has ever been produced, and in spite of its name, its editors do not actually claim it to be a translation, but rather a paraphrase.4 It is astounding that anyone with any qualifications as an archaeologist or philologist, minimalist, maximalist, even a fake maximalist, would accept the NLT as a serious translation. Unfortunately, this type of work is typical of the majority of archaeologists that claim to be maximalists, that is professed Bible-believing archaeologists. They make the claim that they believe the Bible and support it, but when you look at the route that they map out for the exodus from Egypt, for instance, they invariably draw a route that goes completely around the Red Sea, which is saying that the Bible lied about the whole incident. Hoerth who did exactly that is no more a maximalist than Bernard Anderson, Gottwald, or any other academic Bible mocker, and he is less of a scholar. The argument over the word glaze has been presented by many. Oswald Loretz in Ugaritic und die Bibel devoted more than two pages to disputing the translation of Schlacke (silver dross). Although he is of the opinion that the translation should be just Silber, he does argue against the modern confusion over the issue of changing it to glaze. The word in question, sigim, we are told means glaze in context, although no solid evidence is actually even given. Gordon, in the glossary of his Ugaritic Textbook, even has the arrogance to state that it should be amended to spsg, which is alleged to mean "white glaze" in Ugaritic.5 What is so dumbfounding about the argument is that it is completely obvious that the word refers to glaze; but the word is sigim! That is exactly what silver dross is used for; it is used for glaze. These vain scholars are arguing about nothing. They seem to have the idea that silver dross is something of no value or use. Silver dross was used to decorate pottery, and therefore, was used as glaze! The translation silver glaze is not a bad translation, but it falls short of perfection. The KJV translation is perfect since it gives the precise rendering and assumes that the reader is intelligent enough to figure out for what it is used. If he is not, then he should ask someone who is; he should not change it. I could translate "oil and vinegar" into the equivalent word for "salad dressing" in a target language, and that might be acceptable if I was working as an interpreter who needs to work fast, but when working as a translator that would make me an inaccurate translator because that is not what the source language says. Salad dressing can be French, Russian, Thousand Island, blue cheese, Italian, or ranch, to name just a few; oil and vinegar is a precise type. The great minds that were behind the KJV probably never imagined that anyone of reasonable intellect would have trouble with understanding such a simple verse, but human intellect has degenerated significantly since the 17th century. The metallurgical process that was probably involved is described in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. The silver that was used may have been obtained by smelting lead sulfide ore, which is full of silver. The lead was then changed to lead oxide, which is a powder and blown away. This process is still used by Syrian potters today, and it is the lead dross that is used as glaze.6 An internet Bible-scoffer by the name of Khilaf offers an idiotic criticism of the same proverb.
"One example of this is found in Proverbs 26:23. In the Hebrew text Mygys Psk7 is divided just as it is here. This has caused commentators quite a bit of confusion over the centuries, for what does "silver lips" mean? The discovery of the Ugaritic texts has helped us to understand that the word was divided incorrectly by the Hebrew scribe (who was as unfamiliar as we are with what the words were supposed to mean). Instead of the two words above, the Ugaritic texts lead us to divide the two words as Mygysps k which means "like silver". This makes eminently more sense in context than the word mistakenly divided by the Hebrew scribe who was unfamiliar with the second word; so he divided into two words which he did know even though it made no sense."8
The problem is that Khilaf is not even using a valid translation on which to base his criticism. Nowhere are silver lips mentioned here or anywhere else in the entire Bible! Either this incompetent critic is using a version that has completely botched this verse, or perhaps he is conflating the two segments of the proverb. In ether case, he is arguing about a strawman. Furthermore, he does not even site the text that has given us this "deep insight" that escaped the attention of the "less competent" Masoretes, the King James translators, and scores of other translators throughout the ages. Finally, the phrase k spysgym is not Hebrew; it is Ugaritic, so it has nothing to do with the Old Testament, but if it were Hebrew, it would still not mean "like silver". It would mean "like glaze"! Finally, the translation of "smooth lips," and the like, as presented by Hoerth's NLT example, and that of many Ugariticists, was pulled out of thin air. It exists nowhere in the real world. This is based on the Septuagint's translation xeile leia kardian kaluptei luperan which Rudolph Kittel, a dedicated Nazi during the era of Hitler, assumed to have been derived from an underlying ?lq. Ignoring the actual text and altering it based upon the opinion of a Nazi's view of the counterfeit Greek Old Testament of the self-castrated heretic Origen, is not only an act of incompetence, but one of deceit. Nevertheless, the apostates who prepared the NLT have decided that they liked ?lq (smooth) better than the Masoretic dlq (to burn). Although, such a change has no foundation or justification, the arrogant and confused scholar of the modern age chooses to change what he fails to understand rather than to accept that he might not understand an ancient Hebrew idiom. Several dictionaries and a few translations suggest that burning lips means fervent lips, which makes perfect sense. This is how the vulgate viewed burning lips.
"quomodo si argento sordido ornare velis vas fictile sic labia tumentia cum pessimo corde sociata."
Again, Hoerth has given us a good example of what this verse means by his fervent attack upon it. It is a shame that so few so-called maximalists actually read God's Word as they should. A few translators have indicated that they have provided a translation that is not actually in the text by marking the altered word, such as H. Ringgren's translation: "und 'glatte' Lipppen un ein böses Herz."9 However, most deceive the reader by making no indication at all. In summary, there is scarcely an element in this proverb that has not been perverted by modern biblical studies delinquents. However, it wasn't broken; we don't need to fix it. I should add here that this is the only example that was provided by Hoerth for Ugaritic correcting the King James Bible's alleged misunderstanding of verses. Apparently this ridiculous example was his best! I would love to see his worst. There are many other examples of verses of the Bible being mangled by the mishandling of Ugaritic clay tablets. Others will follow in this series.
1. Hoerth, Archaeology and the Old Testament, p. 18.
2. I would suggest that anytime someone starts crowing about what the King James Bible translators did not know that they look up the word in old dictionaries. Quite frequently this crowing is without foundation.
3. Dahood, Psalms, p. 193.
4. The worst example of shoddy and deceitful mistranslation that I have ever seen are in the NLT and Peterson's Message.
5. Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook, p. 451.
6. Patch, James A. "REFINER, REFINING" The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
7. Again, the would-be scholar appears to be confused about transliteration convention, and has written this backward.
8 Khalaf, Salim George. Were Parts of the Old Testament (the Torah) Plagiarized from Ugaritic Literature?"
9 Ringgren, H., Sprüche, ATD 16/1 (1962), p. 104.
The preceeding is part of a series of examples of KJV verses that arrogant would-be scholars have tried to correct and showed themselves to be fools. These examples are for the benefit of those who would like more ammunition to defend God's Word against the attacks of the arrogant Bible "correcting" modernists. I hope that some of you find them useful.
Your servant in Christ,
John Hinton, Ph.D.
Bible Restoration Ministry
A ministry seeking the translating and reprinting of KJV equivalent Bibles in all the languages of the world.
"Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read" —Isaiah 34:16, KJV
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