[I wrote an earlier version of this article which I felt needed revising. This is the second and final version].
He read the following to me from The King James Bible, Psalm 22:
16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
My Christian friend drew my attention to the detailed prediction of verse 16 ‘they pierced my hands and my feet.’ This supposedly refers to Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross as told in the gospels.
I remarked that my Jewish Study Bible (published by Oxford University Press) has a different translation, which gives a rather different meaning. He looked at me very skeptically and said that “God’s Word was very clear in Psalm 22” and that I had not provided any proof of my claim. Of course I did not have The Jewish Study Bible with me at Speakers Corner. But I do now, and here is the translation of verse 16:
Dogs surround me;
a pack of evil ones closes in on me,
like lions [they maul] my hands and feet
I also checked some modern Christian translations of the Bible. The respected New Revised Standard Version (produced by Professor Bruce Metzger) renders the verse:
For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shrivelled;
The New Jerusalem Bible has:
A pack of dogs surrounds me, a gang of villains closing in on me as if to hack off my hands and my feet.
There seems to be considerable scholarly disagreement about the meaning of this verse, as most other modern Christian translations (such as the NIV) follow the KJV. I am not a scholar and I know no Hebrew, so I don’t feel qualified to make a convincing case either way.
But it seems fair to conclude that this favourite proof text employed by Christians as a prophecy of Jesus is no longer as certain as it once was.
I recommend the article They have pierced my hands and my feet for an interesting discussion of the translation problems.
Also there is a fascinating discussion from a Jewish perspective: Why do the respective Jewish and Christian renderings of Psalms 22:17 (16 in some versions) differ in the translation of the Hebrew word ka-‘ari?