Lying Pen of the Scribes?
I think it was the year 2000 when I first heard someone quote Jeremiah 8:8 in order to say that something in Scripture had been corrupted by a lying scribe. I soon found out that anytime I’d go to a different Scripture, to try and show them their error, they’d just repeat the same about that text too: “Well that’s the lying pen of the scribes.”
What this abuse of Jeremiah amounts to is NOT trusting YHWH with all your heart, but instead leaning to YOUR OWN understanding. Any text this person liked, they’d quote authoritatively. Any text they didn’t like (that didn’t align with what they wanted) they’d again holler, “Lying pen of the scribes!” It was exhausting trying to reason with them, because they’d only accept texts that went along with their beliefs.
What this position on Jeremiah 8:8 leads to - consistently - is a denial of the authority of the entire Bible. I’ve seen people who went down this road eventually lose their faith entirely - you know why? Because that’s the consistent thing to do when you start peeling away texts with no manuscript authority to back you. There are certainly interpolations in Scripture, but we have to be able to show such through textual criticism. We can’t just make stuff up.
I’ve recently heard a couple fellows completely throw out the entire Torah available to us today, from Genesis to Deuteronomy. They claim that Moshe wrote a real Torah, but we don’t have that one anymore. They do this predominantly because they don’t like animal sacrifices, and the Torah we have speaks so much in favor of them, they end up throwing it all out.
They then quote texts in Jeremiah, 2 Esdras, and some from the gospel of Matthew; texts which they believe are in their favor. But guess what? They don’t even consider it a possibility that these texts are the lying pen of the scribes. Why? Because that’s the texts they want to use. If they want a text, good scribe. If they don’t want a text, bad scribe. It’s so awful.
If we slow down and exegete Jeremiah 8 properly, it’s not even saying that the scribes changed the Torah. It’s actually a condemnation of *people* who try to get around the Torah by *claiming* scribal lies.
If you back up just a bit, 8:5 speaks of back-slidden Jerusalem, 8:6 says no man repented of his wickedness, and 8:7 says the people don’t know the judgment of YHWH.
With this context, the key to 8:8 is right at the beginning of the verse. The prophet asks the people “How do *YE* say,” and then he goes on to quote what the backsliders are saying. It’s not YHWH saying the scribes are lying. It’s not the prophet saying the scribes are lying. It’s the unrepentant back-sliders that speak of the lying pen of the scribes.
The unrepentant are claiming, “The law of YHWH is with us! The pen of the scribes is in vain!” They are trying to circumvent what is written by the scribes by claiming they have the truth and they are the authority. They say they have the law of YHWH, because they don’t want to go by what’s been written.
So the present-day people that are trying to use this text in Jeremiah to get around the Torah (that we have today) are actually condemned by this very text. They are saying the same thing the back-sliders said way back then.
I’ve seen this so much in my walk over the years. Some people get just enough information to hurt themselves, but they don’t know how to handle the Scriptures properly. They have something in their own mind or heart that they want to believe, so they twist the Scriptures to go along with what they want. They don’t love YHWH enough to trust His instructions and let His Torah change their heart and mind. It’s very sad.
I’ve watched many of these same people veer off into believing pretty much nothing. They eventually stop serving YHWH, and just live their own life and do what they want to do. They have no stability and they wander from doctrine to doctrine like a spiritual vagabond.
If you ever hear someone try to quote Jeremiah 8:8 in an attempt to discredit a Scripture, you are listening to a person why doesn’t want to submit to YHWH. They may say they do, but they’re no different than the people who say “Lord, Lord,” but at the same time practice lawlessness (Matthew 7:21-23). You do not love YHWH by trashing His word. That’s how you hate YHWH.
Translating Nehemiah 13:19 Properly
Sometimes you have read and re-read a passage so much that you never even think about the possibility that the translation you are reading is inaccurate in conveying the original Hebrew or Greek. Such was the case for me with Nehemiah 13:19. I plan to write a more in depth article on this verse in the future, but for now let me explain briefly.
The KJV rendering of the first part of the verse is as follows:
"And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut..."
I have a KJV Bible in my study, but the translation I use mostly in reading and studying is the HCSB. Here is the same very in the HCSB:
"When shadows began to fall on the gates of Jerusalem just before the Sabbath, I gave orders that the gates be closed..."
The KJV sounds more like sunset took place and it was beginning to be dark, but the Sabbath had not begun. The HCSB sounds as though sunset had not taken place (the sun was casting a shadow) and the Sabbath would begin at sunset.
I believe the HCSB is correct in rendering the verse with the word shadows. Notice carefully that in both translations it is the GATES that are getting dark and not the DAY necessarily. The KJV talks about the gates beginning to be dark. Every tranlsation I know focuses in on the gates growing dark or becoming shadowed.
The Hebrew word here for "dark" or "shadows" is the word "tsalal," and is only used 1 other place in the entire Tanak - Ezekiel 31:3. Here is Ezekiel 31:3 in the HCSB:
"Think of Assyria, a cedar in Lebanon, with beautiful branches and shady foliage, and of lofty height."
Note the use of the word "shady" in the text, as it comes from the Hebrew word "tsalal." The use of the word here refers to shade that a tree gives. It is this meaning that is also applicable in Nehemiah 13:19 in reference the the gates becoming dark, i.e. having a shadow cast upon them before the Sabbath.
What was taking place in Nehemiah was this: before sunset the sun must have cast a shadow upon the gates of Jerusalem that made the gates darken. This was some sort of signal that the Sabbath day was close at hand (it would begin at sunset).
Do some further study on this yourself. There are alot of other translations that translate "tsalal" as "shadow" (or some variation) in Nehemiah 13:19.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.