Academic journal article Jewish Bible Quarterly

PSALM 24:3-4: NAFSHI or NAFSHO: His Soul or My Name?

Academic journal article Jewish Bible Quarterly

PSALM 24:3-4: NAFSHI or NAFSHO: His Soul or My Name?

Article excerpt

Some verses in the Bible have variant readings of particular words, called keri (the way it is read or pronounced) and ketiv (the way it is spelled).

In Psalm 24, the psalmist asks: Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? (Ps. 24:3). He is answered: He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not taken a false oath by nafsho [literally "his soul"] or sworn deceitfully (Ps. 24:4). The biblical text has two variants: nafsho (the ketiv) and nafshi [literally "my soul"] (the keri). Nafsho (his soul) was adopted by the Authorized Version. Thus, the Scofield Bible translates this verse as He who has not lifted up his soul unto vanity. This fits in with the rest of the psalm which is in the third person. However, the traditional rabbinic commentators follow the keri of the Masoretic Text, nafshi. Rashi interprets the verse as "He who has not sworn by My Name". Both the old JPS and the Jerusalem Bible follow this approach, translating the verse as He who has not taken My Name in vain. The NJPS deviates slightly in its translation: He who has not taken a false oath by My life. …

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