Friday, November 07, 2014

Psalm 12:6–7 and Gender Discordance: the anti-KJV and anti-preservation argument debunked (again)

Psalm 12:6–7 states:

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Opponents of the perfect preservation of Scripture often claim that Psalm 12:6–7 cannot refer to the preservation of the words of God because the two pronouns "them" in verse seven are masculine in Hebrew, while in verse six "words" is feminine. Therefore, opponents of preservation argue that verse seven is not about the preservation of words, but refers to the persons mentioned in verse five.

However, such an argument does not take into account the facts of Hebrew grammar and syntax. In the words of the standard reference work A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, Jouon & Muraoka, page 516:

The suffixed pronoun quite often takes the masculine instead of the feminine, especially in the second person plural and (mainly) in the third person plural. . . .

Examples include nominal suffixes (with noun and preposition): Gn 31.9 MRkyIbSa but vss. 5, 6 NRkyIbSa; Ru 1.9a MRkDl, but 9b NRhDl; 1.8 MRkD;mIo; Ex 2.17 MÎnOax, but 16 NRhyIbSa; even in a single verse (Nu 27.7), Nhl Nhyba .. Mhyba .. Mhl; likewise when talking about animals Gn 32.16
MRhy´n◊;b; 1Sm 6.7 MRhyElSo; or about things Gn 41.23 MRhyérSjAa. Examples of the sg.: Ex 11.6 ..
x◊oDqDh g◊dOlDh aCr k;DmOhw… la nhyth a great cry .. the like of which has never been; Jdg 11.34 …wZ…nR;mIm wøl Nya .. h∂dyIj◊y ayh she was an only child .. he had none except for her.

Verbal suffixes: the suffix of the 2nd pers. fem. pl. is wanting in all the verbal forms; and the suffix of the 3rd pers. fem. pl. is wanting in most (cf. Paradigm 3): Jdg 16.3 MEoD;sˆ¥yÅw (referring to the doors twøtDl√;d); Pr 6.21 Mér◊vDq; 1Sm 6.10 M…wr◊sAaÅ¥yÅw.

Note that the Hebrew reference grammar indicates that the third person feminine plural suffix is not even found in most verbal forms – yet this is the form that opponents of preservation allege must be present if Psalm 12:7 is to refer to the preservation of the words of verse six.

The statements of the grammar are confirmed by the evidence. In fact, a comprehensive search of the Old Testament reveals that the type of verb found in Psalm 12:7 for “keep” and “preserve”—a qal imperfect second masculine singular—never, I repeat, never even once has a third person feminine plural suffix in the entire Old Testament. By way of contrast, qal imperfect second masculine singular verbs have third person masculine plural suffixes in numerous passages, such as, in the Psalter, Psa 2:9; 12:8; 21:10, 13; 31:21; 45:17; 59:12; 83:16; 144:6. For that matter, there are only 19 examples in the entire Old Testament of third person feminine plural suffixes on verbs of any kind (Gen 30:38; Ex 2:17; 2 Sam 20:3; 2 Kings 19:26; Is 34:16; 37:27; 48:7; Jer 8:7; Ezek 1:9, 12, 17; 42:12; Hab 2:17; Zech 11:5; Job 39:2; Ruth 1:19), while there are 1,403 masculine plural suffixes. Note that not even a single solitary third person feminine plural suffix is found in the entire book of Psalms.

It is very clear that the argument that Psalm 12:7 cannot refer to the words of God because of gender discordance, as argued by many opponents of perfect preservation, is an exceedingly poor argument which should be abandoned once and for all. Those who reproduce it evidence either a lack of solid understanding of the Hebrew language or a lack of careful study.

Note the article here for more on Psalm 12:6-7 and preservation.


KJB1611 said...

I will be interested to see if those who deny perfect preservation will admit the facts in this article and stop employing the gender discordance argument or if they will ignore the facts and continue to employ the arguments to support their preconceived position.

Don Johnson said...

You know, it is kind of inflammatory to call those who disagree with your interpretation as "opponents of preservation" and "those who deny perfect preservation".

That is simply not the case at all. Folks who hold a variety of positions on preservation disagree with the interpretation that Ps 12.6-7 refers to preservation of the Scriptures.

One wonders why you resort to inflammatory rhetoric in making your case.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...


This is Thomas's article above, but could you send me to a biblical theology of preservation or a systematic theology that teaches preservation, written by eclectic text supporters?

Can you also point me to where those who buttress their position on Psalm 12:6-7 upon Hebrew gender accord have recanted of this faulty argument?

Lastly, do you believe that 1 Samuel 13:1 has a manuscript with the authentic or original text, that is, is every word of 1 Samuel 13:1 preserved for us today?

I see the logic here as (1) This is the one view of preservation taught by scripture and history, (2) We believe it, (3) There can't be two correct or right positions, and (4) The other position does oppose the scriptural and historic position. You can't accept both. No doubt, people oppose our position. I'm fine with saying opponents of our position. Do you think calling it not "sane" is inflammatory? That's the language of Mike Harding.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Don,

Thanks for the comment. I don't want to be unnecessarily inflammatory. I don't see my comment as that way, but it can't hurt to think about it. It is opponents of verbal, plenary preservation whom I have seen using the gender discord argument, and I don't believe that describing them as "opponents of preservation" is more inaccurate than calling those who believe in some non-biblical theory of inspiration are "opponents of inspiration."

If someone argues, with at least what appear to be decent exegetical reasons, that Psalm 12:7 is not a promise of the preservation of the words of God based on context, etc., while I would disagree with his position because I think the context, as well as the fact that "words" is the nearest antecedent, show that Psalm 12:7 is a promise of verbal preservation, perhaps such a position could at least be respected. I don't think that the gender discord argument is worthy of respect, however. It is simply an exegetical fallacy that ignores the fact that the entire Psalter doesn't have a single 3rd plural feminine suffix.

Thanks for the comment.