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But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, "Hosanna to the son of David!" they were indignant, and they said to him, "Do you hear what these are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise'?" -Matthew 21:15,16

Jesus quotes from Psalm 8:2

Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.

My question is in regards to the end of David's clause "you establish strength." How does Jesus find "praise" in this verse?

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  • 1
    If anything, it goes to show that even Jesus Himself does not endorse the MT if it’s deriving predecessor version even existed in the same form as the MT. It’s highly debatable that a MT-like version existed at the time of Jesus. The MT is evidently strategically modified to deny the divinity, heritage and prophetic evidence of Jesus as the Messiah. Where it hasn’t been changed it’s remarkably similar to the DSS, LXX, and other ancient texts that quote the Scriptures. I agree with Nigel on his point too Jul 18 at 11:47
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Jesus is quoting a version of Psalm 8 that corresponds to the Septuagint (Greek translation), which does contain significant variations from the Masoretic (Hebrew version). The Masoretic is used for most versions of the Christian Old Testament in English. The Septuagint was completed roughly two centuries before Jesus did his teaching.

Psalm 8.31 εκ στοματος νηπιων και θηλαζοντων κατηρτισω αινον ενεκα των εχθρων σου του καταλυσαι εχθρον και εκδικητην

Matthew 21.16 και ειπον αυτω ακουεις τι ουτοι λεγουσιν ο δε ιησους λεγει αυτοις ναι ουδεποτε ανεγνωτε οτι εκ στοματος νηπιων και θηλαζοντων κατηρτισω αινον

The portion of Psalm 8 that Jesus quotes is identical to the Septuagint version: εκ στοματος νηπιων και θηλαζοντων κατηρτισω αινον.

Those two words at the end, κατηρτισω αινον, mean '[he] prepared praise'.


1 Just for clarity, 8.3 was not a typo. Psalm 8.2 in the Masoretic text is numbered as Psalm 8.3 in the Septuagint text.

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  • 1
    According to the Jewish editors of the Oxford Jewish Study Bible, the meaning of the Masoretic Text in Psalm 8:2-3 is "uncertain".
    – user33515
    Mar 17 '17 at 19:09
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A supplement to Mark Edward's answer:

Though "strength" and "praise" are two very different words, the "strength" in Ps 8 in the Hebrew text comes from "mouths", and the psalm is about praising God. It is not a stretch to think that the psalm talks about praise from the infants' mouths.

Moreover, the New Testament seldom quotes the Old Testament word for word, but rather refers to the meaning of the text as it related the topic at hand. Cf. the table on this site.

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Ps 8:2 reads as follows:

Masoretic Text (Hebrew): From the mouths of infants and nursing babies You have established strength Because of Your enemies, To do away with the enemy and the revengeful. The highlighted word is עֹז (oz), meaning (BDB) noun masculine strength, might; — absolute ׳ע Judges 9:51 +, עוֺז Psalm 84:6 +, עָזֿ Isaiah 26:1, once עָ֑ז Genesis 49:3; construct עֹז Micah 5:3 +, עָזֿ Psalm 28:8; suffix עָזִּי Exodus 15:2 2t., עֻזִּי Psalm 28:7 +; עָזְּךָ Psalm 21:2 2t., עֻזְּךָ Psalm 66:3 +; suffix 1 plural עוּזֵנוּ Psalm 81:2; 3 masculine plural עֻזָּמוּ Psalm 89:18, etc.; — strength, might (usually in poetry, 44 t. Psalms)

Septuagint (= LXX, Greek): Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou perfected praise, because of thine enemies; that thou mightest put down the enemy and avenger. The highlighted word is αἶνος (ainos) which means (BDAG) "praise"; Thayer - "praise, laudatory discourse".

In Matt 21:16, the Greek text of the NT uses exactly the same word as the LXX. So, Jesus quoted the LXX exactly.

WHY?

Therefore, we should ask, Why does the LXX differ from the Masoretic (Hebrew) Text? We do not know the answer to this but it is very likely one of the following reasons:

  1. The exemplar for the LXX differed here (and many other places) from the Masoretic text
  2. The LXX translators took liberties with the translation. (This is much less likely but instances of this can be shown in other places.)

Therefore, the most likely reason that the LXX differed from the Masoretic text is that the Hebrew text the LXX used differed as in mast places where the two diverge.

There may also be a third possibility as noted by Ellicott and his comments on Ps 8:2 -

Ordained strength . . .—At the first glance, the LXX. translation, as quoted in Matthew 21:16 (see Note, New Testament Commentary), “Thou hast perfected praise,” seems to be correct, from a comparison with Psalm 29:1, where strength translates the same Hebrew word, and plainly means homage. This expresses, doubtless, part of the thought of the poet, that in a child’s simple and innocent wonder lies the truest worship; that God accomplishes the greatest things and reveals His glory by means of the weakest instruments—a thought which was seized upon by our Lord to condemn the want of spirituality in the scribes and Pharisees. But the context, speaking the language of war, seems to demand the primitive meaning, stronghold or defence. The truth which the Bible proclaims of the innate divinity of man, his essential likeness to God, is the principal subject of the poet; and in the princely heart of innocence of an unspoilt child he sees, as Wordsworth saw, its confirmation. “Trailing clouds of glory do we come, From God who is our home.” Such a proof is strong even against the noisy clamour of apostate men, who rebel against the Divine government, and lay upon God the blame of their aberration from His order. “His merry babbling mouth provides a defence of the Creator against all the calumnies of the foe” (Ewald). Others think rather of the faculty of speech, and the wonder and glory of it.

Benson and Barnes offer a similar explanation.

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  • You could say Matthew repeated LXX exactly in his translation of Jesus's words. Jesus probably did not quote it in Greek.
    – Henry
    Jul 18 at 16:40
  • 1
    @Henry - that may also be correct as well.
    – Dottard
    Jul 18 at 21:31
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In Hebrew it's ?oz, "strength".

In the Septuagint it's ainos, "praise" (though Strong's says it's more properly simply a story or a saying).

The New Testament writers generally use the Septuagint. (Jesus, speaking Aramaic, may or may not have done so; the author could always cross-reference it to the LXX afterwards anyway.)

Is the LXX mistranslated? Maybe. We don't know exactly how well the Masoretic Hebrew text we have corresponds to the original that the Septuagint translators had.

Two things suggest to me that "strength" could be "praise". First, Strong's includes public or personal strength in it. One might say someone is in a strong position if they go up in the polls.

Also, it's out of the mouths, not the hands, of babes. That kind of suggests verbal strengthening.

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  • Up-voted +1, but I would personally like to see more than just Strong quoted, which is not, strictly speaking, a 'lexicon' (even the 'lexicon' listing within it). But your answer valued as a partial result.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 18 at 8:49
  • Is the LXX mistranslated? Maybe” Seeing that the MT is a far more recent piece of work with added niqqud it would stand to reason that the MT should be put into question for its veracity rather than the LXX that has numerous other documents from antiquity with corroborate with the LXX. Jul 18 at 11:59
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The two sayings are synonymous, for "perfected praise" is an "ordination of strength" to the praiser, as well as to those in the faith who are hearing the praise. Have you not been blessed and strengthened by another brother's praise of God? In this way, the idea, though using different words, is actually the same regardless of the phrase used because God ordains strength via perfected praise.

The same thing can be said when Peter seemingly misquotes an old testament verse in saying "He who believes shall not be confounded"… but the original says "shall not make haste". Again, these two carry the same idea, even though they sound far different. This is because when we "make haste" or get ahead of God, we will often find ourselves put to confusion and confounded; Whereas, proper faith and belief will never make haste or get ahead of God, but will patiently wait on Him, and thus never be confounded, at least not by God. We often confound ourselves in our human reasoning, but we know that proper and patient faith always pleases our Creator and thus would never result in Him granting us confusion, for He is not the author thereof.

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  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange -- we're a little different from a forum, so do take the site tour if you haven't already. Please also see what we’re looking for in answers, and note too that this is not a "Christian" site
    – Dɑvïd
    Feb 26 '17 at 14:06
  • "... but the original says 'shall not make haste'" - What are you taking to be the "original"? The JPS Tanakh translates Isaiah 28:16 out of the Masoretic Text as He who trusts need not fear.
    – user33515
    Mar 17 '17 at 19:07
-1

Oz עֹז in Hebrew is “strength” in English. | Since the Masoretic niqqudim was not available yet for Jesus to study, Could the Aramaic-speaking Yeshua of Nazareth have misquoted the Hebrew vowels from “Psalms”|Tehillim 8:2 [actually Psalms 8:3 in a Hebrew Tanakh] when singing the phrase יסדת עז “Yisadeta Oz”?

  • Ez עֵז would be “goat”.
  • Az עַז would be “strong”.
  • Oz עֹז is “strength”.

“Oz” is used as [strength] in Proverbs / Mishlei 31:25, and in Psalms / Tehillim 8:3.

“Out-[of the]-mouth [of] infants and sucklings You-founded strength because of Your-adversaries, to put an end to enemy and avenger.” ( מִפִּ֚י עֽוֹלְלִ֨ים וְֽיֹנְקִים֘ יִסַּ֪דְתָּ֫ עֹ֥ז לְמַ֥עַן צֽוֹרְרֶ֑יךָ לְהַשְׁבִּ֥ית א֜וֹיֵ֗ב וּמִתְנַקֵּֽם )

The niqqudim of the MT was not available to Jesus of Nazareth. - The oral tradition of singing the phrase יסדת עז “Yisadeta Oz” with context of the verse would have been what Yeshua learned. - Jesus did not say : “You have established goat”, or “You founded strong”, but would have memorized through singing the word Oz as strength.

Whoever wrote the KJV version of Matthew 21:16 misquotes Psalms|Tehillim 8:3 and the Hebrew words of Jesus|Yeshua of Nazareth.

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  • 1) the original Hebrew Scriptures did not have the niqqud 2) you don’t know where Jesus got His Scriptures from 3) you can’t prove it was through singing. 4) the MT is a much more recent piece of work made by anti-Jesus scholars Jul 18 at 12:03
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    @NihilSineDeo - By stating : "the original Hebrew Scriptures did not have the niqqud", do you feel my statements "Since the Masoretic niqqudim was not available yet for Jesus to study" & "The niqqudim of the MT was not available to Jesus of Nazareth." do not get that message across to the reader? Jul 18 at 12:05
  • No it does not because you’re implying that the niqqud is a) correct and b) somehow was available to some during the time of Jesus c) was available during the time of Jesus. Jul 18 at 12:07
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    @NihilSineDeo - I love your editorial "3) you can’t prove it was through singing." :) What does a "Mizmor" מזמור mean to you? - If its not sung, why call it a Song or Melody? Jul 18 at 12:09
  • 1
    @NihilSineDeo :) may your questions continue to guide others to context in their Torah studies! Jul 18 at 12:14

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