The Force of Min in Isa. 53:5

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The Force of Min in Isa. 53:5

Postby jwm » Fri Aug 18, 2017 7:30 pm

The usual translation of Isa. 53:5 is "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities" (NIV).

I am unable, however, to find any instance in the Hebrew Bible of min (inseparable מְ twice in this case) carrying that kind of force. בְּ would work fine to mean someone is being punished for something, e.g. Deut. 24:16 || 2 Chron. 25:4:

אִישׁ בְּחֶטְאֹו יָמֽוּתוּ

עַל is used in this same verse when it is someone getting consequences of somebody else's sin:

לֹא־יָמוּתוּ אָבֹות עַל־בָּנִים וּבָנִים לֹא־יָמוּתוּ עַל־אָבֹות

I'm aware that min shades over into an instrumental meaning, so that it could mean "because of" or "as a consequence of" or even "by" so that the noun governed by min is being indicated as the agent of the preceding verbal action. See, e.g., Hos. 7:4: “an oven lighted by [=min, from] the baker”; Isa. 28:7, “they are overcome by [=min, from] wine”; Zech. 11:13: “cursed by [=min, from] the LORD.”

The word min never seems to mean “for” in the sense of “this standing in for that” or “X paying for Y.”

Am I missing something, or is "for" in English translations essentially a theological over-translation of min in Isa. 53:5? Should it not be rendered "But he was pierced because of our transgressions, he was crushed because of our iniquities"?
J. [James] Webb Mealy, PhD

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Re: The Force of Min in Isa. 53:5

Postby Schubert » Fri Aug 18, 2017 8:23 pm

Webb, I agree that "because of" is an acceptable English translation. The Vulgate similarly uses "propter" and at least one French translation uses "a cause de". I may be missing something in your post but my sense is that the use of "for" by many English translations does not reflect a strained use of מִן but simply a short English word used in the same sense as "because of". "For" need not used in a transactional sense "X paying for Y" etc.
John McKinnon

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Re: The Force of Min in Isa. 53:5

Postby S_Walch » Sat Aug 19, 2017 11:54 am

Yes, the English 'for' has many usages, to which I personally prefer translations that render the as either 'because of' or 'due to', which removes the somewhat ambiguity that the English 'for' can bring. Having a meaning that can indicate both cause and purpose leads to certain misunderstandings.

Though there's no doubt that the usage of 'for' goes back to the KJV, which has:

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Ste Walch

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Re: The Force of Min in Isa. 53:5

Postby jwm » Sat Aug 19, 2017 12:41 pm

Please excuse the discussion of English...

"For" as a conjunction can carry a causative meaning, but no instances come to mind where "for" as a preposition could mean "owing to" or "due to" or "because of." In addition, as soon as you put the preposition "for" in a sentence in context of sins or bad behavior and unpleasant-sounding consequences that take place "for" the sins or bad behavior, there is no escaping the connotation of retribution or at least payment. "For" in Isa. 53:3, I would reassert, is an over-translation.
J. [James] Webb Mealy, PhD

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Re: The Force of Min in Isa. 53:5

Postby kwrandolph » Mon Aug 21, 2017 12:33 am

This is a good example of why I don’t consider translations as evidence in these discussions.

I agree with previous posters that the prefixed mem in this context carries the idea of “because of”.

There are also other words that don’t make sense in modern English:

“Trespass”, you mean walking on someone’s property without permission?

I have no idea what is meant by “iniquity”. I have looked up dictionaries and have asked around, and no one else seems to have an exact idea either.

In Hebrew, the verse has עון “perversion, twisting (truth into a lie)” and פשע “rebellion”—why don’t translations make use of perfectly good English?

There are other words and phrases, but that’ll do for now.

Karl W. Randolph.

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