A website called "Jesus Believes in Evolution" claims that Jeremiah complained about Torah being corrupted, citing Jeremiah 8:8. However, that is not a common interpretation of the verse.

What did Jeremiah really complain about? Was Torah corrupted during Jeremiah's time? Why do Bibles generally translate "Torah" into "law" instead of "Torah"?

For reference, the Hebrew is

אֵיכָ֤ה תֹֽאמְרוּ֙ חֲכָמִ֣ים אֲנַ֔חְנוּ וְתֹורַ֥ת יְהוָ֖ה אִתָּ֑נוּ אָכֵן֙ הִנֵּ֣ה לַשֶּׁ֣קֶר עָשָׂ֔ה עֵ֖ט שֶׁ֥קֶר סֹפְרִֽים (WLC)

Somehow torat yhwh becomes “the law of the LORD". Even though English has a word for torah, that is, Torah. Did Jeremiah refer to the Torah or some other "law of God" in Jeremiah 8:8?


2 Answers 2


The Bible Forgery URL states that Jeremiah 8:8 should be translated as:

“How can you people say ‘We are the experts, for we have the Lord’s Bible,’ when behold, like a forgery, the pen has been manipulated by dishonest Bible copiers!” (Jeremiah 8:8)

You're right that is far from the common interpretation. Most English translations have something along the lines of:

"How can you say, 'We are wise, And the law of the LORD is with us'? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes Has made it into a lie. (NASB)

The point of contention is obviously how they take "law of the Lord" as "Lord's Bible." The Hebrew behind the phrase is wtorah yhwh, which means "and the law of YHWH." (The w- on the front of torah is a conjunction.)

What did Jeremiah complain about? Was Torah corrupted during Jeremiah era? Was the statement on that URL true? Why bible translation translate "torah" into "law" instead of "torah"

The first thing that needs to be realized is, contrary to the bible_forgery url, the word torah does not simply mean "the five books of Moses." The Hebrew word torah appears 219x, means "instruction" or "law", and can refer to several things each of which can be found in the Hebrew Bible.

  1. human or divine instruction in general (human: Proverbs 1:8; 3:1; 4:2; 7:2; divine: Exodus 13:9; Job 22:22; Isaiah 1:10; 8:16, 20; 42:4, 21)
  2. codified laws of conduct or religious expression (Exodus 24:12; Joshua 24:26; sacrifice Leviticus 6:7; 7:7)
  3. customs (2 Samuel 7:19)
  4. the law of Moses (Joshua 1:7, 8; 8:34; 23:6; 1 Kings 2:3; Daniel 9:11-13; Nehemiah 8:13-14, 18)

Now, simply showing that the word can refer to something besides the five books of Moses renders the argument of the url null as they claim it must mean "the five books of Moses"1 are corrupted.2 But we can go further. There are many places in the five books of Moses that refer to the Law of God. Surely, as those books were being written at the time, "the law of God" could not be referring merely to the five books.

Somehow wa tawrat becomes "law of god". Even though the english have a word for tawrat, that is, torah. Did Jeremiah refer to torah or some other "law of God" in Jeremiah 8:8?

The English word for the Hebrew word torah is "law/instruction." It isn't a mistranslation to render torah with law. It's correct in many places. "Instruction" is also a good word for it.

While looking into this, the NET notes make an interesting statement regarding their rendering of the verse.

Jeremiah 8:8 How can you say, “We are wise! We have the law of the Lord”? The truth is, those who teach it have used their writings to make it say what it does not really mean.

“The lying pen of the scribes have made [it] into a lie.” The translation is an attempt to make the most common interpretation of this passage understandable for the average reader. This is, however, a difficult passage whose interpretation is greatly debated and whose syntax is capable of other interpretations. The interpretation of the NJPS, “Assuredly, for naught has the pen labored, for naught the scribes,” surely deserves consideration within the context; i.e. it hasn’t done any good for the scribes to produce a reliable copy of the law, which the people have refused to follow. That interpretation has the advantage of explaining the absence of an object for the verb “make” or “labored” but creates a very unbalanced poetic couplet.

So the rendering of the NJPS takes the verse a completely different way. That is, the scribes have been faithful, but the people have not been. This rendering would fit in well with verse 9 which states that the wise have rejected the word of God.

But the important question remains. What is Jeremiah complaining about? First off, if he is complaining that the Torah of Moses has been corrupted by the scribes, would he let it remain corrupted? As a prophet, it would be part of his duty to find the correct scrolls and make sure they were used in further copies. In fact, something like that happened with the book of Jeremiah itself (Jeremiah 36).

Secondly, if the books of Moses had been corrupted, how could Jeremiah turn around and tell people to follow it? Remember, the argument of the site is that "torah of YHWH" means "five books of Moses." Jeremiah 26:4-6 has the prophet telling the people to follow the law of God (literally, the LORD says... "follow my Law which I have set before you (i.e. in written form)". (It should also be noted that later prophets will also refer to the Torah of YHWH, telling people to follow it, and Jesus said that the law would not pass away.)

Jeremiah appeals to the Law of YHWH several other times in his book. If he means in 8:8 that it is corrupted, how can he tell the people to trust it? If it is corrupted, how then can Ezra, 400+ years later read it and tell people to obey it (Nehemiah 8:13-18)?

Finally, the site claims that Genesis 1 is part of the corruption, that it is a later addition and not the work of Moses. If this is true, then surely John the Evangelist, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, would not give a clear allusion to Genesis 1:1 when opening both the Gospel with his name and his first epistle.

Assuming the John was snookered into quoting a corrupt source, Jesus surely would not be. As the omnipotent second person of the Trinity, Jesus would not quote approvingly and base teachings upon a corrupt later addition borrowed from the Babylonians. However, Jesus indeed quotes and bases teachings off of Genesis 1.

  1. When asked about taxation in Matthew 22:15-22, Jesus reminds the listeners of whose image they are in (Genesis 1:27).
  2. When asked about marriage and divorce in Matthew 19, Jesus ties together Genesis 1:1, 27 and 2:24 when He says, "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female [Genesis 1:27], And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh [Genesis 2:24]?".


1They also make an amazing leap of logic to say that since the Bible says the five books of Moses are corrupted that Genesis 1 is certainly part of what Jeremiah is referring to. And no, an amateur cannot easily see how the documentary hypothesis is correct. Even as an amateur, that is before seminary training, I could show places in the documentary hypothesis that did not work together and places where the arguments made no sense. For example, J and E can be seen in Genesis by the different names for God. But why not refer to God by different names when you want to make a different point (Elohim for his power and majesty, Yahweh when speaking of his personal nature)?

2Let us also consider that this site claims we should believe the Bible is corrupted because the Bible says it is. Think about that. As long as you need. Just think about it.

  • a bible that says that it is corrupted can't possibly be correct. But yea your answers make a lot of sense. As how Jesus, Ezra, etc. quote the bible. You seem to assume that all those guys are perfect. Maybe they're not as perfect as you think. Ezra could be a racist plotter that mistakenly kicked out southern Israelites thinking they were non jewish. Gospel writers may combine a bunch of teaching and put it in Jesus' mouth.
    – user4951
    Oct 17, 2014 at 10:00
  • @JimThio while I don't consider the prophets and apostles perfect, I do conclude (not assume) that what they recorded as Scripture is correct. That is, I do not believe them sinless (except Jesus), but what they wrote is inspired and what God wanted them to write.
    – Frank Luke
    Oct 18, 2014 at 21:52

I interpret scripture as clearly stating the Torah as a corruption of the 'Law'. (The Ten Commandments I believe according to scripture were the 'Law') I don't believe 613 additional acts or policies authorised by God through Moses means either God or Moses made a mistake. God gave people free will so Moses was told by God to give the people what they wanted. Another time this happens in scripture is when the people wanted another king and the people were warned then also that the king would fleece them. We can effectively make our own choices! The rule applies though, what we sow is what we reap! The people got what the people wanted. It hasn't made things better from what I see. God gave Ten Commandments in stone to obey! Jesus gave Two 'Laws' to obey in His own Blood for all! Matthew 22:37-39 New King James Version (NKJV)

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’

I believe that Jeremiah was saying the people corrupted the 'Law' and made their own law x 613 times causing more problems for them then remedies. Jesus- (God manifested in the flesh as it states in scripture)- made it even simpler by saying all the 'Law' could be put into just Two 'Laws' with the new testament. A Will and Testament takes effect after one dies. Jesus died so it could be done!
The answer to all problems appears obvious. Love! Not touchy feely love! Compassionate, Caring and Considerate Love. Peace Love Light and Blessings.

  • So Jeremiah complain about the priests corrupting torah?
    – user4951
    Oct 17, 2014 at 9:54
  • The irony is that Mathew seems to differ from the 1st (date written) Gospel Mark where he said Mark 12:29 "And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord" biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+12:29 Oct 17, 2014 at 20:49
  • Public Static, re: "The irony is that Mathew seems to differ from the 1st (date written) Gospel Mark where he said Mark 12:29 "And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord” In ancient Aramaic, this verse (Mark 12:29) actually reads as: "Eashoa said to him, "The first of all the commandments, hear, O, Israel, the Almighty God is the only Almighty God."
    – user10635
    Sep 20, 2015 at 13:53

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