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Where does the comma go?

It's almost Advent and the time to go back to those lovely familiar readings from Isaiah and friends.

Today I have been mulling over Isaiah 40: 2 - 11 and finding myself challenged by the call to 'comfort my people' - i.e. to be gentle with my congregation - not always an easy balance with the challenges of life 'in the wilderness' as good old Moses shows us.

I was also struck, for the second year running (was it prophetic last year?  Hmm.) by verse 3: -


'A voice of one calling, "in the desert prepare the way for the lord"...' (NIV. similar NRSV, GNB)


and its contrast with the synoptics


'A voice of one calling in the desert, "prepare the way for the Lord"...'


In the KJV the apparent discrepancy is absent.  So have the later translators changed the sense of it, did good old Q (or whoever) misquote Isaiah, is the LXX different from the Hebrew, or what?  Hopefully some clever Bible scholar out there can tell me (my Greek is bad, my Hebrew non-existent).  And if the two do differ, how does it matter?

For my congregation, the 'placing of the comma' becomes significant.  It is in our 'wilderness' our desert place of seeking and wondering that we are to prepare for God's coming.  Perhaps somewhere in this sense of God coming into our wilderness experience are the gentle words and loving arms my folk need to receive?


  • Hi Catriona

    the confusion comes because Mark is quoting the LXX which connects the desert to the voice rather than to the way.

  • Thanks Sean, I should have known I should have just picked up the phone and asked you!

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