The multi-volume works of Emanuel Swedenborg has given us the most comprehensive commentary on the hidden spiritual meaning of the Bible. In preparing for it, Swedenborg had to learn Hebrew, as well as find a translation that was close to the original Hebrew. For this he used a Latin translation of the Old Testament by Schmidius. When one understands the hidden spiritual sense of scripture, one realizes that it is very important to have an accurate translation. And not only an accurate translation, but it is also important to translate in such a way, where possible, that distinct Hebrew words are given distinct English translations. Unfortunately there is no English translation of the Bible that does this. Worse, modern translations will paraphrase the Hebrew to make it "look nice" to modern English readers. That we should have something close to the original Hebrew is important, as Jesus Himself declared:
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matt. 5:18)Here, a "jot" is actually the smallest Hebrew letter yod, which is also the first letter of God's name, Yehovah. A "tittle" is the stroke of a letter (see The Jot and Tittle Were NOT Vowel Points). So if the English translations are not bad enough, I discovered that we probably have a missing line in the Masoretic Hebrew text that is present in the Septuagint (see Is the Masoretic Text of the Bible the Most Reliable?). That just drove me nuts. What else is missing? That prompted me to start comparing the Masoretic with the Greek Septuagint, and from the research I have come to realize that next to the Masoretic, the Septuagint is a very, very important translation. It will occasionally contain a more ancient reading that improves on the Masoretic (some I have documented here - see Masoretic misreadings in the Psalms, from the Septuagint). The Masoretic dates from the 6th-11th centuries A.D., but the Septuagint was a translation from the Hebrew that was started in the 3rd century B.C.
So lately, for those who have been wondering, I have been trying to complete a translation and spiritual commentary on the Psalms. Unfortunately that means I have been taking a bit of a "blog break," and I have received a few emails wondering where have I disappeared to. So my apologies to my blog readers. The translation is complete, and I have created a commentary on every Psalm gathered from the scattered quotes of Emanuel Swedenborg. Its over a 1000 pages, and if there is a passage he did not discuss, a spiritual commentary is derived using a spiritual index of words discussed in other passages.
I thought I would share with everyone the tools I have been using - how do I do it? One tool, completely free is theWord, which has a ton of add on modules with some Hebrew and Greek lexicons. What is nice, one can line up multiple versions of the Bible in one view. Here is a screenshot of the one I use, where I line up the KJV, the Septuagint, the Vulgate, Lamsa's Aramaic translation of the Peshitta, and finally the ESV:
I chose to show Psalm 145:13, as there is a missing line in the Masoretic that shows up in the Septuagint (the LXX) which got me started on this project. Since I published all the works of Emanuel Swedenborg on Amazon (see The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem: Expanded Edition) I happen to have the original e-book so I use the e-book Calibre to view and search through it (see Calibre e-book reader). However one more thing about the tool theWord. I found an add on module, where I can examine the original Hebrew, lined up with the English. Here is the same view, where I switch to the Hebrew view:
So another problem, is that Strong's concordance does not exactly always give accurate or complete definitions of Hebrew. I more up to date lexicon is Brown Driver Biggs (BDB). And guess what - it is all online for free. For that I go to this web site: Bible Hub.
Now, there is the occasional problem where not only Strong's, but Brown Driver Biggs still does not get a Hebrew definition right. So for those occasional confusing words, I go look up a cognate in Akkadian, otherwise known as ancient Assyrian. All Akkadian words are catalogued in a multi-volume work, the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary. And it just so happens you can download the entire set for free as a set of Adobe PDFs. Just go here: The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (CAD).
So, what happens when I see a difference between the Masoretic text, and the Septuagint? In theWord, you can use a Septuagint add in module which contains the original Greek. If you want to look at it online, here is an online tool that lists the Septuagint Greek version for any text: StudyLight.
Next, I want to figure out what was the original Hebrew word for the Greek text. With practice, one can make a likely guess. But what if one wanted to see each and every Hebrew word that was translated into that particular Greek word in the Septuagint? Unfortunately not a lot has been published in this area for the last 100 years. For this, one needs to find the following standard reference work:
A Concordance to the Septuagint, by E. Hatch and H.A. Redpath
This was published in the years 1897-1906. Unfortunately one cannot find the complete set in Google's massive book scan (I have seen books mysteriously disappear from there over the years). Luckily, someone actually took all three volumes and did a page scan and put it up on Wikimedia Commons. You can see a full set here: Bible Ref Shelf.
So, what is the end result? Each Psalm is actually written in a form of Hebrew poetry in which lines are parallel to each other, and all Bibles mangle the lines of poetry with their verses. So the lines are fixed, and if I have made a correction to the translation I hyperlink it to a Hebrew word definition. So for example, Psalm 145 now looks like this:
If the word is in blue, it means I have changed the translation from the KJV, and more often than not it is to improve the translation consistency. If, however, the words are in italics, it means I have overridden the Masoretic with a better reading from another source - in many cases the Septuagint. Psalm 145 is an acrostic Psalm, and there is a missing line in it. Some debate whether its original or not, as not all Psalms contain all the letters. But it is original - one can see that the missing 2 lines completes a section or stanza of 8 lines, and fills in for the missing letter nun. I shift the verse numbers to the right, so that I can use indentations to show poetic stanzas in the Psalms. This is not the only case where the Masoretic needs to be corrected, it is just one of many, but overall, the Masoretic is still 99% accurate, at least from my examination looking at the translation of the Psalms.
So what tool am I using to create an e-book? There are a variety of tools, but the one I use is a free tool called Sigil. Its not for beginners, you have to know what you are doing and at times have to understand the epub format.
So, my plan is to eventually publish this, if not as a book, then as an e-book. It will include the translation, with every single translation change documented in translation notes, as well as a dictionary of the Hebrew word that was changed from the KJV. It has been fixed to be modern English, and of course restores the poetic structure. Alongside this, there will be over 1000 pages of commentary based on the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. It explains all of those odd poetic passages in the Psalms. And yes, every single word does have a spiritual meaning applicable to one's spiritual development and growth.
I had one publisher look at it, but they wanted it reviewed by a Biblical scholar who directly knew Hebrew. So what am I doing for that? As it turns out, a group of about 20 Biblical scholars have produced a translation of the entire Bible, with excellent translation footnotes, called the NET Bible, located online here: Bible.org. I have been using it to validate the changes I have made. I disagree with their paraphrase translation, but there is excellent footnotes on the translation containing years of research, often from hard to find sources. Unlike other translations, they put in all their translation research in the footnotes for everyone to examine, to see if they are right or not.
So when its done it will be done, I will post an announcement here on the blog so stay tuned on a future spiritual commentary of the Psalms, based on the revelations received by Emanuel Swedenborg. One will see that the methods Swedenborg exposed allows for a systematic interpretation of scripture.
METHOD OF LAST RESORT: THE SPIRITUAL SENSE
One last note here. There are situations that arise, where a text can be read in two different ways, either from revocalizing the Hebrew, or from a variant text. Sometimes this is resolved by the parallel poetic structure. I have seen cases where translators, not understanding the spiritual sense of scripture, will then try to unnecessarily alter the text. So on a few occasions I have found that knowing the spiritual sense allows one to reconstruct the actual original. This, I believe, is in reality how every "jot" and "tittle" of scripture is preserved. And there is an actual case of how this works in Swedenborg's writings, when discussing the Lord's prayer. Here is the passage:
"It was granted me to have a perception of angelic ideas about these words in the Lord's Prayer: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Temptation and evil were rejected by the nearest good spirits, by a certain idea perceptible within me, and this even until what is purely angelic, namely, good, remained, without any idea of temptation and evil; the literal sense thus perishing altogether. In the first rejection innumerable ideas were being formed respecting this good — how good may come from man's affliction while the affliction still is from the man and his evil, in which there is punishment, and this with a kind of indignation joined with it that it should be thought that temptation and its evil come from any other source, and that one should have any thought of evil in thinking of the Lord. These ideas were purified the higher they ascended. The ascents were represented by rejections (spoken of also n. 1393), which were made with a rapidity and in a manner that were inexpressible, until they passed into the shade of my thought. Then they were in heaven, where there are only ineffable, angelic ideas concerning the Lord's good." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1875)The interesting point here is that the phrase of the Lord's Prayer "lead us not into temptation," which Swedenborg discussed here, is most probably a mistranslation, and a bad one at that. This is due to how the original Aramaic saying was translated into Greek. It makes it sound like God tempts us to do evil. This probably came up early in the church, for the half brother of the Lord, James, mentions it:
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:In the spiritual explanation of temptation, temptation is the result of a spiritual conflict between angels and evil spirits when one is being reformed and regenerated. Before one can become spiritually regenerated, the evils and falsehoods in our will and thought have to be removed. This can only happen through temptation and repentance. Those who separate faith from works have a hard time going through repentance, since they tend to dwell on belief alone and not look at the actual deeds of their life.
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:13-15)
So, what is interesting here, is that when Swedenborg reads "Lead us not into temptation," in his waking visionary state he sees that angels immediately reject the idea that God tempts anyone to do evil. If one looks at the actual Aramaic, it says something like this:
Do not let us enter into temptation.
Swedenborg did not have any idea of the original Aramaic. And yet, when he withdraws his mind from the literal sense, and is brought up into the spiritual sense, he arrives at the true meaning, through a series of "rejections" of apparent meaning that was in the literal sense. From that, in certain cases one can derive what the actual literal saying. As I was fixing the Psalms, more and more I was seeing cases where the closer I got to the original, the closer it was to the hidden spiritual sense. And the closer the literal words are to the hidden spiritual sense, the more likely it is that reading the Word will open the mind between our world, and the spiritual world of good and truth, which can then flow in through Divine influx.