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Among last night's readings was the familiar opening of Isaiah 9 which includes...

"...and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (NRSV)

" and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (KJV)

The reader commented that in her country, where the KJV is the translation of choice, preachers often stress the comma between 'wonderful' and 'counsellor' making them two separate attributes.  She asked me which was correct... and I said I didn't know but that in Hebrew there are no commas and that is was an interpretive decision.  Alas my Hebrew knowledge is zero and my interlinear is at church, but I seem to recall that the words aren't even in exactly the same order that the translators use. 

Alas without seeing the text (in interlinear form) I have no idea which are nouns and which adjectives linked to them so what follows might be utterly flawed, but here's my thought for today... take out all the commas and let each word be a 'name' in its own right:

He will be called









How does that shape our reading?


  • Well, you could always do what the old JPS version did: 'For a child is born unto us, a son is given unto us; and the government is upon his shoulder; and his name is called Pele- joez-el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom' (Isa 9:6 JPS). I know, fat lot of good that will do anybody but at least you can't be wrong!

  • The practice of separating each attribute may originate in Handel's Messiah.

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