Isaiah 9:6 says:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Some bible translations add a comma between "Wonderful Counselor" and some don't. Adding a comma makes Wonderful a standalone name while no comma makes it an adjective. What criteria are translators using when they add or refrain from adding a comma to a text? I know that the originals did not have any punctuation -- is there an indication in the Hebrew rendering that points to a role of an adjective?

  • 1
    Pele is a noun (masculine singular) not an adjective. See, for example, Biblehub interlinear.But a good question, nonetheless (+1).
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 12:01
  • Then why to translators add the comma? NASB and RSV leave it off, treating it as an adjective, and they are supposed to be stricter translations.
    – Steve
    Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 18:07
  • Updated my answer to reply to the edits. +1
    – user17080
    Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 19:45

1 Answer 1


The MT for Isaiah 9:5 is:

כִּי־יֶ֣לֶד יֻלַּד־לָ֗נוּ בֵּ֚ן נִתַּן־לָ֔נוּ וַתְּהִ֥י הַמִּשְׂרָ֖ה עַל־שִׁכְמ֑וֹ וַיִּקְרָ֨א שְׁמ֜וֹ פֶּ֠לֶא יוֹעֵץ֙ אֵ֣ל גִּבּ֔וֹר אֲבִי־עַ֖ד שַׂר־שָׁלֽוֹם

The verse ends with a list of nouns or noun phrases:

  1. פֶּ֠לֶא - wonder
  2. יוֹעֵץ֙ - counselor
  3. אֵ֣ל גִּבּ֔וֹר - God is great
  4. אֲבִי־עַ֖ד - eternal father
  5. שַׂר־שָׁלֽוֹם - minister of peace

There is nothing in the MT, neither in the consonantal text nor in the Masoretic tradition (the diacritics and readers marks) that would indicate that the verse should not be read as if with commas after each noun:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonder, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

And פלא should be translated as a noun, "Wonder", not as an adjective, and followed by a comma.

The readers marks imply the commas, however, the intent of the consonantal text is apparently that the list is actually one long name, with no commas at all, as if it were:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonder-Counselor-Mighty-God-Everlasting-Father-Prince-of-Peace.

since "his name" is singular.

The commentators and translators who translate "Wonderful Counselor," rather then "Wonder, Counselor," see פלא יועץ as a construct state noun phrase. This has aesthetic appeal in that the name list becomes a list of four noun construct state phrases. However, this interpretation reads heavily against the readers mark for "wonder", a tilsha yemina, which is a hard stop type of mark, indicating a comma or period. There is also no hyphenation in in the MT between "wonder" and "counselor" as there is in the other noun constructs. In addition, the phrase "פלא יועץ" presents problems in Hebrew. The meaning would seem to be "a counselor of wonders", which does not make sense with the way פלא, wonder, is used in the MT or the way יועץ, leader or counselor is used. If the intent were really "wonderful counselor" we would expect the order to be reversed, "יועץ פלא". Nonetheless, in later Hebrew, the phrase "פלא יועץ" took on a life of its own, and came to mean "wonderful counsel" (not "wonderful counselor"). From there it was probably back read into the translations.

  • 1
    Re:4 - Is the 'eternal' an adjective or definitely a noun in its own right ? Re:3 - is the 'is' present or inferred ? Re : 5 - is the 'of' there or inferred ? (I am wondering if it is a seven-fold or eight-fold name.)
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 15:04
  • 2
    @NigelJ עד is usually translated using an adjectival form. In Hebrew it is a masculine noun. A more literal translation might be "father for eternity". As in most instances, the "to be" form "is" is inferred. The "of" is also inferred. 3-5 are examples of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Construct_state noun phrases. There are some commentators and translators who see 1-2 as a single noun construct also, but this strongly contradicts the readers marks that indicate a hard stop after "wonder", and presents us with a noun construct "wonder counselor" that is grammatically problematic in Hebrew.
    – user17080
    Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 18:45
  • It most probably means "father of the world to come" (cf. Vul. Pater futúri sǽculi). I.e. abi (father of) ad (futurity). Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 19:03
  • "there is no "world to come" in the OT" You're literally staring it in the face and outright denying it exists! "Father of eternity" is all that is meant by "father of the world to come;" I'm not saying it literally contains the words "world"/"age." How "post OT" can it be if Jesus casually refers to it in 12:32? It was obviously common knowledge. Just like we don't see oppression by devils explicitly talked about in the OT but it was taken for granted that demons possessed people as we learn from the Gospels, and moreover that Beelzebub was considered the prince of them. Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 19:48
  • To begin with "the anointed" just referred to the king, i.e. the son of David expected to come sooner or later. Technical use is not substantive change, but a matter of speaking about beliefs. Also, the 'hundreds of years gap between the testaments' is a lie: the canon was never 'closed' by anyone before or after Christ, except by Rabbis hundreds of years after Christ. Besides, you're making the fallacious mistake of only considering what is written in inspired Scripture/canon to comprise all of Judaism's beliefs. Which historically is false. Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 20:41

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