Questions From Readers
● Why do certain Bible translations differ as to the numbering of the Psalms, and where exactly do they differ?—J. C., U.S.A.
While it is generally agreed that the book of Psalms originally contained 150 psalms, there is some uncertainty as to how they were divided. This is illustrated when one compares Psalms in the King James or Authorized Version (AV), with Psalms in the Roman Catholic Douay Version (Dy). Both have 150 psalms, but their numbering is not the same.
The Authorized Version follows the arrangement in the Hebrew Masoretic text (M). Since the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NW) was translated directly from the original languages, it also follows the Hebrew numeration. However, the ancient translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, called the Greek Septuagint (LXX), arranges some of the psalms differently. It unites Psalms 9 and 10 as well as Ps 114 and 115, and it divides both Ps 116 and 147. Yet, the total is the same. The Latin Vulgate (Vg) continues the divisions found in the Greek. Since the Douay and many other Catholic translations are based primarily on the Vulgate, the numbering in these translations is different from that found in translations following the Hebrew text.
There are reasons offered to support both sides of the question of whether the Greek Septuagint is correct or not. And it must be admitted that no man today can be absolutely certain how these few controversial psalms were originally arranged. But many scholars acknowledge the weight of authority of the Masoretic text. Even if it is not as old as extant copies of the Septuagint, it is not a translation into another language, as is the Greek Septuagint.
The following chart presents the two most common arrangements:
M, NW, AV, etc. LXX, Vg, Dy, etc.
It is evident from the above that if one is accustomed to using a translation following the Hebrew arrangement, he might have difficulty in locating a certain psalm in the Douay Version or another translation following the Septuagint arrangement. As a general guide, he could try the psalm with the next lower number. If he commonly used the Douay, he could increase the number by one when seeking most of the psalms in translations following the Hebrew arrangement.
One other noteworthy variation in certain translations involves the verse numbers. Some translations at times number the superscription or introductory remarks for certain psalms as verse one in those psalms. So, if one located the correct psalm, but the verse seemed in error, it might well be one verse later in that translation. It might even be two verses later if the title or superscription was long and was counted as verses one and two in that psalm, such as in Psalm 52 (Psalm 51 in the Douay Version).
● Since the Jewish priests wore head coverings when serving in the temple, why did the apostle Paul later write that men should not wear a head covering, but, rather, that women should?—L. H., U.S.A.
These two directions were under different arrangements. It was not until the conclusion of the Jewish arrangement, with its systems of priests, sacrifices and temple worship, that Paul explained what God desired concerning head coverings under the Christian arrangement. (Heb. 9:26) Just as Jehovah had the right to alter his procedure of true worship, he could make a change in regard to who should wear a head covering.—Dan. 4:35.
The wearing of head coverings on the part of Israelite priests was not a matter of personal choice; it was by directive from God. The high priest had to wear a special turban. A small gold plate engraved with the words “Holiness belongs to Jehovah” was fastened to the forefront of the turban and thus came to be upon the high priest’s forehead. (Ex. 28:4, 36-38) The underpriests wore headgears of a somewhat different type. (Ex. 28:40) In both cases the head coverings would serve as a sign of submission to Jehovah, as well as being “for glory and beauty.” (Ex. 28:2, 40) Thus the priests wore head coverings out of obedience to their God and Lawgiver.
However, in describing what was proper in the Christian congregation, the apostle Paul showed that women praying or prophesying in the congregation, where a male would normally do that, should wear a head covering. For the male ministerial servant in the congregation, a head covering would be improper; it would shame his head, Christ. (1 Cor. 11:3-16) Let us note, though, that there was a difference here. At the temple or tabernacle under the Jewish arrangement, no women performed priestly duties, so there was no need to draw a distinction between male and female. But in the Christian congregation both males and females might be serving. So, by inspiration, Paul appropriately pointed out that under certain circumstances a Christian woman was to “have a sign of authority upon her head because of the angels,” whereas the men who were directly representing Christ were to do so bareheaded.
In both cases, under the Jewish priestly arrangement and under the Christian arrangement, the head covering served as a sign of submission. But there was double reason for the women serving in the Christian congregation to have a head covering. They thus pictured the subjection of the congregation to Christ, and, additionally, by wearing a head covering they acknowledged the headship of the male in God’s arrangement.—1 Cor. 11:8, 9; Eph. 5:21-24.
● What does the Bible mean when it speaks of Christians’ ‘greeting one another with a holy kiss’?—L. L., Canada.
In the conclusions to four of his letters, the apostle Paul encouraged Christians in the first century to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26) And in a similar vein, the apostle Peter urged: “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (1 Pet. 5:14) Though the Bible does not provide details about this practice among first-century Christians, a brief look at the custom of kissing among the Hebrews sheds some light on the matter.
In Biblical times affection, respect or peace was often shown by kissing on the cheek, forehead, lips or hand. This could be done without any romantic or erotic overtones. There are Bible examples of male relatives kissing, and of kisses between male and female relatives. (Gen. 29:11, 13; Ex. 18:7) Also, kissing was a gesture of affection between men who were very good friends. (2 Sam. 19:39; Acts 20:37) These tokens of friendship and affection might seem unusual to persons who have been trained to be more reserved with their feelings. But to those people it was no more unusual than is a hearty handshake between close friends today.
So Paul and Peter were not establishing any new Christian custom or solemn religious rite. Rather, they were drawing upon a form of greeting that was already common in their day. Among Christians this would not be a mere formalism, but would truly reflect the brotherhood and spiritual oneness of those united by true worship. When fellow Christians greeted “one another with a holy kiss” there would be no improper familiarity or scandal, but a demonstration of chaste, godly affection. This same close, warm and chaste spiritual affection and brotherhood is cultivated among true Christians today, even though local customary greetings usually take some other form.—John 13:34, 35.