Zechariah 12:10

"They changed Zech 12:10 from..." ...And they have looked upon Me, whom they have pierced." To "...and they will certainly look to the One whom they have pierced..." Clearly GOD had said HE was pierced. The NWT says One was pierced. It would be embarassing for the Watchtower Society to admit that the Son, who was the one pierced, is GOD."

So one web site critic has asserted(and which is often come across in similiar forms on anti-NWT websites/discussion lists)regarding the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.

However, does Zechariah say, in the words of the above quoted critic, "Clearly GOD had said HE was pierced."?

Not according to the following translations:

"They will look at the one they stabbed to death."- The Bible in Living English, Byington

"They will look at him they have pierced."- Living Bible, Taylor

"They will look at the one whom they stabbed to death."- Todays English Version

"They will look at the one whom they have pierced".- The Jerusalem Bible

"They shall look on whom they have thrust through."- New American Bible.

"They shall look on him whom they stabbed."- Moffatt

"They shall look at him whom they have stabbed."- American Translation, Goodspeed

"They shall look upon Him who they have pierced."- Modern language Bible

"When they look on whom they have pierced."- Revised Standard/New Revised Standard Version

"Their eyes will be turned to the one who was wounded."- Bible in Basic English

"When they see the one they pierced with a spear."- Contemporary English Bible

"They shall look upon HIMı Whom they pierced."- The Complete Bible in Modern English, F. Fenton.

All of the above, whether they are over-all literal or dynamic equivalent('paraphrase') translations, offer a literal accurate translation of the underlying Hebrew text as they have decided it should be read and all agree with the New World Translation. It should be understood from the outset that the issue is not whether the above are literal translations or not! Whether a translation reads "me" or "the one", either in the main text or in a footnote, both are literal translations of the Hebrew. Anyone who argues against the above on the basis that "the one" is not a literal translation are offering a mistaken specious argument which is, hence, a misleading, disceptive argument that totally misses the issues involved as to the identity of the "pierced one"! These issues are revealed now below and will explain on what grounds the New World Translation and others have offered the translation they do:

Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar has this to say;

"138.The relative Pronoun...(2)Not depending on a governing substantive, but itself expressing a substantival idea. Clauses introduced in this way may be called independent relative clauses. This use of ["asher"] is generally rendered in English by he who, he whom, &c...In Z[echariah]12:10 also, instead of the unintelligible ["elai eth asher", "to me whom"], we should probably read ["el asher", "to him whom], and refer this passage to this class [of 'independent relative clauses']. pp. 444, 445, 446.

Paul K. Redditt comments:

"....The NRSV reads: when they look upon the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him,... Where the NRSV translates "one", however, the MT points the preposition and pronominal suffix elai as a first person singular ("to me"). While some scholars and both the NEB and NIV translate the suffix in the first person, BHS[Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, Elliger/Rudolph 1967/77] suggests either dropping the final vowel or (better) repointing the word as the rarer form of the preposition ele. Adopting this suggestion would result in agreement with the NRSV."
Redditt then go on to describe how the NRSV reads(as the NWT does of course) as "the more likely reading."-The New Century Bible Commentary, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Errdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1995, pp.132, 133.-words in all brackets ours.

Zechariah 12:10 is quoted in the Christian Greek Scriptures(N.T.) at John 19:37, where we find the words in our collection of 50 English Bible versions reads, not "me," but "him," "the man," or, "the One." Jehovah who "No man has seen at any time," was not the One pierced through. It is as A. E. Kirkpatrick has said, "It is Jehovah who has been thrust through in the Person of His representative." -The Doctrine of the Prophets, p.472.-italics ours. Hence, the New World Translation and all those others listed above give a consistent and harmonious reading of Zechariah 12:10 and that of John 19:37. Undoubtedly John had the true, original reading in front of him and so we can rely on John himself, who was directed by God's holy spirit, to preserve that true reading, "the one" rather than "me." Hence, when John also 'refers' to the words of Zechariah 12;10 at Revelation 1:7 the Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges, The Revelation of St. John the Divine by the Rev. William Henry Simcox correctly states: "[KAI OITINES AUTON EXEKNTHSAN]. Zech. xii. 10; in his Gospel, xix. 37, St John translates that passage correctly, and here refers to the same translation..."-Notes, p.45.-italics ours.

The Expositor's Greek Testament, edited by W.Robertson Nicoll comments in part on John 19:37:

"Another scripture also here found its fulfilment, Zech. xii. 10. The original is: "They shall look upon me whom they pierced." The Sept[uagint] renders: EPIBLEPSONTAI PROS ME hANQ WN KATWRXHSANTO: "they shall look towards me because they insulted me." John gives a more accurate translation: OPONTAI EIS ON EZEKENTHSAN: "They shall look on Him whom...they pierced". The same rendering is adopted in the Greek versions of Aquila, Theodotian and Symmachus, and is also found in Ignatius, Ep.Trall., 10; Justin, I. Apol., i.77; and cf. Rev. i.7, and Barnabas, Ep., 7. In the lance thrust John sees a suggestive connection with the martyr-hero of Zechariah's prophecy."- Vol.1, p.860

Raymond Brown wrote in his note on John 19:37:

"John's citation of Zech xii 10 does not follow verbatim either the MT or the most common LXX reading. The MT is: "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced." In the context the "me" is Yahweh; the implication is strange and the text my well be corrupt, perhaps for accounting for early translator's attempts to improve. Since all the following sentences refer to "him," both scribes (forty-five of the Hebrew mss. collated by Kennicott and De Rossi) and commentators have read "him" for "me." Codex Vaticanus and most other LXX witnesses read: "They shall look upon me because they have danced insultingly [=mocked]," reflecting a verbal form from the Hebrew root dqr, "to pierce," misread as a form from rqd, "to skip about." Yet there is a Greek reading in the 5th- or 6th-century Vienna Codex(L) that is much closer to a literal rendering of the MT. Almost certainly the Vienna reading stems from an early (proto-Theodotianic) recension, conforming the LXX to what was then (1st century A.D.) becoming the standard Hebrew text. We can be reasonably certain that John's citation stems from such an early Greek recension, perhaps in the short form, "They shall look upon whom they have pierced." (Actually there is no "him" in John's text, but it is required by sense: compare the citation of Zechariah in Rev 1 7: "Every eye will see him, everyone who pierced him." See S. Jellicoe, The Septuagint and Modern Study(Oxford, 1968),p. 87."- The Gospel According to John(xiii-xxi), Introduction, Translation and Notes, The Anchor Bible Vol 29A, Geoffrey Chapman, London 1971.

Interestingly, F.F.Bruce wrote, after commenting how the Revised Standard Version had handled Isaiah 7:14, how Zechariah 12:10 reads in this Bible version:

"This has been done with Zech. 12:10, which foretells a day of great mourning in Jerusalem and the surrounding territory when, as the Masoretic Hebrew text puts it, "they shall look unto me whom they have pierced" (so R.V.). The passage is quoted once and echoed once in the New Testament, and in both places the pronoun is not "me" but "him". This is not so significant in the place where the passage is merely echoed (Rev. I : 7, " and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him"), for that is not an exact quotation. Here the predicted looking to the one who was pierced is interpreted of the Second Advent of Christ. But in John 19:37 the piercing is interpreted of the piercing of Christ's side with a soldier's lance after His death on the cross, and here Zech. 12:10 is expressly quoted: "And again another scripture says, 'They shall look on him whom they have pierced'." It is a reasonable inference that this is the form in which the Evangelist knew the passage, and indeed the reading "him' instead of "me" appears in a few Hebrew manuscripts. The R.S.V. thus has New Testament authority for its rendering of Zech.12:10 , "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall moum for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him,as one weeps over a first-born" Why then is the R.S.V. criticized for conforming to the New Testament here? Because, if the reading "me" be retained, the reference would be to the speaker, who is God, and in view of the application of the passage in the New Testament, there are some who see here an anticipation of the Christian doctrine of our Lord's divine nature. The reading "me" is certainly quite early, for it appears in the Septuagint (which otherwise misses the point of the passage); but the New Testament seems to attach no significance to Zech. 12:10 as providing evidence for the deity of Christ,....And, whoever the pierced one is, the fact that he is referred to elsewhere in the verse in the third person ("they shall mourn for him....and weep bitterly over him") suggests that he is Yahweh's representative(probably the annionted king), in whose piercing Yahweh Himself is pierced."- History of the Bible in English, pp.199,200, Lutterworth Press, 1979 third edition.

Also, The New Interpreter's Bible says:

"Both translation and interpretation of these verses are difficult. It is possible to read, "they will look to me whom they have pierced," meaning that David's house and Jerusalem had pierced Yahweh. But piercing[Heb.daqar]elsewhere in the O.T. always means physical violence and usually death (e.g., Num. 25:8; 1 Sam 31:4); it does so expressly in 13:3. The mourning described in vv. 10b-12 is mourning "for him," the one pierced or stabbed. It seems preferrable to take the MT's object marker before the relative pronoun as indicating an accusative of respect, allowing one to translate "concerning the one whom they pierced" (cf. LXX.)."-Volume 7, p.828.

It is of interest then that in 1953 an issue of The Watchtower magazine in a "Question from Readers" article this question was asked and answered : "Jehovah is the speaker, and it sounds as though he was the one pierced instead of Jesus. Some argue this proves that Jehovah and Jesus are one in a trinity. So how is Zechariah 12:10 to be explained?" This article shows that at that time those who wrote and those who approved the article for publication believed that the true, correct reading of Zechariah 12:10 was "me" rather than "him/the one." However, the article also shows that this would in no way indicate that Jesus who was the one who was "pierced," and in fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10 as borne out by the apostle John applying it to him, is Jehovah. We will reproduce for the benefit of our readers this article:

"To avoid what seems to be a piercing of Jehovah some of the later Hebrew manuscripts read "look upon him whom they have pierced," rather than "look upon me whom they have pierced."
At first these late Jewish manuscripts show this in the Keri, or corrected reading in the margin; but eventually in some manuscripts the change was brought up into the body of the text itself. Rotherham's translation, on the basis of these late manuscripts, offers in a footnote "him" as an acceptable reading in place of "me" . So does the American Standard Version. Some modern translations, such as Moffatt and An American Translation and Revised Standard Version, use "him" instead of "me" in the main body of the text itself. However, the oldest and best Hebrew manuscripts read "me" rather than "him" .
As far as literal piercing is concerned, this occurred in the case of Christ Jesus, and at John 19:37 the prophecy of Zechariah 12:10 is quoted and applied to Jesus: "They will look upon the one whom they pierced."(NW) They did not literally pierce God, who was in heaven and to whom Jesus spoke when he was on the torture stake. (Matt. 27:46; Luke 23:46) God could not die, and then resurrect himself. (Ps. 90:2) Yet inasmuch as Jesus Christ was Jehovah's representative who became "the exact representation of his very being", in piercing Jesus they could be said to be piercing Jehovah. (Heb. 1:3, NW) When sending out his followers to preach Jesus said: "He that receives you receives me also, and he that receives me receives him also that sent me forth."(Matt. 10:40, NW) This shows that in receiving Jesus we receive Jehovah who sent him. In like manner, to pierce Jesus is to pierce Jehovah who sent him. It does not prove Jesus and Jehovah are one, any more than it proves Jesus and his followers are literally one. In another case Jehovah showed that to reject his representative is to reject Him. When Samuel was Jehovah's appointed judge over Israel the people came requesting a king instead of a judge. Samuel was displeased when they said: "Give us a king to judge us." But Jehovah told Samuel: "They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me."(1 Sam. 8:4-7, AS) In rejecting Jehovah's representative they rejected Jehovah, in effect; but this did not make Samuel one with Jehovah in a trinity.
Some of those used as tools to accomplish Jesus' impalement realized their mistake and became frightened; the crowds that had sanctioned the piercing smote their breasts when they saw their blunder, and later some involved ones repented and followed Christ. (Matt. 27:54; Luke 23:47, 48; Acts 2:23, 36-42) But the only bitterness and mourning that hit the religious instigators of the piercing was when things did not work out fully for their selfish interests. The ones who truly mourned were his faithful followers. (Luke 24:17) But as Zechariah 12:10 also foretold, about this time Jehovah's spirit was poured out upon the faithful remnant of natural Israel, at Pentecost. So the text had its miniature fulfillment.
At the second presence of Christ Jesus the complete fulfillment takes place. His followers are persecuted and jailed and some are killed, and the work of announcing Jehovah's King and kingdom is pierced and killed. These things done to Christ's work and followers are counted as done to him; the persecutors are charged with piercing him. Any mourning by them is in selfish fear when they see coming upon them the dire consequences of their acts. The only true mourning is on the part of Jehovah's people who had allowed themselves to fall short of their duties and be taken captive in Satan's worldly system and made inactive in Jehovah's service. But Jehovah comes to the rescue of this remnant of spiritual Israel, cleans them up, pours out his spirit or active force upon them, and under the enthroned King Christ Jesus the work is revived. (Matt. 25:40, 45; Rev. 1:7; 11:1-13) Their mourning gives way to gladness. Hence Zechariah 12:10 cannot be properly understood to support the trinity doctrine."

However, when the New World Translation Committee sat down to translate the book of Zechariah some 7 years after the appearance of the above quoted article they decided that the true reading was "the one" rather than "me. " They gave their reasons for this in a footnote to Zechariah 12:10 which reads: "To the One whom," M. On this passage Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, by E. Kautzsch and A. E. Cowley (1940 reprint), says on page 446, in footnote 1 belonging to section 138 (2) e, the following: In Zechariah 12:10 also, instead of the unintelligible e.la'i eth a.sher, we should probably read el-a.sher', and refer the passage to this class." In two Hebrew manuscripts the written text reads ela'i eth a.sher' ("to me whom"), but the marginal note reads e.la'iw eth a.sher' (to him [or, to the one] whom"). LXX reads: "to me for the reason that"; Vg, "to me whom" Sy, "to me for him whom"; Th, "to him whom." See German Bible translation by Emil F. Kautzsch (1890): "To that one whom" also Jon 19:37."

So, from this and following on from the words of A.E.Kirkpatrick already quoted, who said, "It is Jehovah who has been thrust through in the Person of His representative" (The Doctrine of the Prophets, p.472), and as A New Commentary on Holy Scripture agrees "....shall look unto me whom they have pierced:....RVm gives alternative reading in several MSS. It is impossible to decide which is original. The allusion is also uncertain. If me be retained, then the words may refer (a) to the prophet, or (b) to Jehovah, or (c) to one in whose mutilation Jehovah suffered as if it were inflicted on Him. The word rendered pierced seems usually to refer to 'mortal' wounding (cf. 13.3), so that it is unlikely that the prophet is referring to himself(unless he forsaw his death) or Jehovah..."(SPCK, reprint of 1946-italics ours)then we can readily understand that it matters not whether we read Zechariah 12:10 as "me" or "the one," or "him" for as George R. Beasley-Murray writes:

"Zech 12:10 was an important testimony in the primitive Church, as its use in Matt 24:30 and Rev 1:7, and this passage shows. The Masoretic Hebrew text reads, "They will look upon me, on him whom they have pierced"; the speaker is God, but the change of person supports the belief that he has been "pierced" when his representative, the "Shepherd," is stricken with the sword[italics ours here](13:7; so P. Lamarche, Zacharie IX-XIV, Etudes Bibliques[Paris: Gabalda, 1961] 80-83; W. Rudolph, Haggai-Sacharja-Maleachi [KAT 1976] 224, who believes that the "piercing" of the Messiah is in view.)"-Word Biblical Commentary, Vol.36, John, 2nd Edition, p. 355.

And, as Farrar Fenton remarks in a footnote to his translation, quoted above and which translation agrees with the New World Translation:

"Some manuscripts read "On me- Whom they have pierced." Both letters in the Hebrew alphabet are very much alike... So that it is difficult to decide which is absolutely the correct one, as the slightest stroke of a pen transforms one into the other. In a theological sense both might be right- F.F."

Yes, even those who might prefer the "me" reading here of the Masoretic Text would still have to admit that that does not necessarily mean/prove that the one "pierced" is here identified as Jehovah, God Himself, but that God was "pierced" when his "representative," the "Messiah," Jesus Christ, God's Son, was. That this is so is shown by the apostle John himself at 19:37. So, it can be inserted here that if anyone attempts to prove or even show that "Jesus is Jehovah of the O.T" by referencing this scripture text this same attempt would show the very fragile grounds, to put it generously, for such a belief in the first place!

There is, therefore, absolutely no warrant for any accusations, like that which has been quoted at the beginning of this page, toward the New World Translation at Zechariah 12:10. If any reader comes across any then please be assured that not only is the criticism without any scholarly basis but the critic must be seen as one who is either ignorant of the above presented facts or dishonest. There is no excuse for either. As can readily be seen the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of Jehovah's Witnesses are certainly not "embarrassed" by this text! What is "embarrassing" are those who have criticised the New World Translation with either "changing" Zechariah 12:10 or using an argument that is specious and side-steps the real issues surrounding what the original actually was.


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