Saint Jerome reading the Bible

Troublesome terms to translate in the Jewish and Christian Bibles

David Bar-Tzur

Created 13 May 2006, links updated monthly with the help of LinkAlarm.

(to understand how I describe the signs on this page).

It is a joy to be a member of the Sign4Him mailing list, where religious interpreting issues are discussed. Every once in a while someone brings up a term or phrase there that is presenting her/him with difficulty translating, usually from the Bible. You see my Jewish perspective when I don't use the terms Old and New Testament in the title above, but rather Jewish and Christian Bibles. I do a lot of Catholic interpreting as well as Jewish, so I don't want you to think that I am trying to be partisan, but it should come as no shock that the Jewish and Christian perspectives are sometimes very similar and sometimes at odds with one another. As I add my two cents to the discussion on Sign4Him, I will transfer my thoughts here as well, since they may be of help to others.

My approach at present will be to use the BibleGateway keyword search to find how this term, and possibly similar terms are used throughout the Bible, classify them as to what the meaning seems to be in the various contexts and offer some sort of negotiated sign or phrase that might be of use. I will separate the Jewish and Christian passages, so as to show any difference that might crop up if you are interpreting for the Jewish setting. I also personally go to, which has translations into many foreign languages, as well as parallel English versions, and a lexicon, in case that might help me. For the original Hebrew in the Jewish Scriptures, I consult מאגר–התנ''ך. This is not the most scholarly commentary, and I hope to improve it over the years, but I have tried to make some sense of things by comparing passages and sometimes do consult commentaries. Some day I hope to be able to know Greek well enough to look at the original for the Christian Bible, but am as yet unable to do so. Mea culpa. (Oops, that's Latin!)

footstool Hosanna! uncircumcised heart


Passages in the Jewish Bible

Passage 1. 1 Chronicles (Divrei HaYamim Alif) 28:2 - King David rose to his feet and said: "Listen to me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, for the footstool (hadom [raglei Elokainu]) of our God, and I made plans to build it."

Passage 2. 2 Chronicles 9:18 (Divrei HaYamim Bait) - The throne had six steps, and a footstool (kevesh) of gold was attached to it. On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them.

Passage 3. Psalm (Tehillim) 99:5 - Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool (hadom raglav); he is holy.

Passage 4. Psalm (Tehillim) 110:1 - The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool (hadom l'raglekha) for your feet."

Passage 5. Psalm (Tehillim) 132:7 - Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool (hadom raglav).

Passage 6. Isaiah (Yishayahu) 66:1 - This is what the LORD says: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool (hadom raglai). Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?

Passage 7. Lamentations (Eicha) 2:1 - How the Lord has covered the Daughter of Zion with the cloud of his anger ! He has hurled down the splendor of Israel from heaven to earth; he has not remembered his footstool (hadom raglav in the day of his anger.

Passages in the Christian Bible

Passage 8. Matthew 5:35 - or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.

Passage 9. Luke 20:43 - until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."

Passage 10. Acts 2:35 - until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."

Passage 11. Acts 7:49 - " 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be?

Passage 12. Hebrews 1:13 - To which of the angels did God ever say, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"?

Passage 13. Hebrews 10:13 - Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.

Possible meaning(s)

(A) Passage 1 shows that King David saw the Temple as a link to God so that God could rest his feet upon the Earth. This seems to say that God is so far above us, that even when we try to build an elaborate place for him to dwell it is only fit to rest his feet on, or he is so beyond our grasp we can only envision the very lowest part of him. This image of the earth as being God's footstool is repeated in passages 3, 5, 7, where it seems to me that the Temple is meant. Passages 6, 8, and 11 seems to take the entire earth as God's footstool, such that God complains that people think they can even limit "his feet" to one place on earth. Passage 2, although it is translated as "footstool" is a different Hebrew word and refers to a portion of King Solomon's throne and need not concern us.

(B) A slightly different, but related, meaning of footstool occurs in passages where God says he will make our enemies our (or his) footstool. This occurs in passages 4, 9, 10, 12, and 13. Sometimes in ancient engravings you see the victor with his foot on the enemy, such as the David of Donatello (see image about half way down the page) where his foot is on the severed head of Goliath. "The custom of the Assyrian kings was to put their foot on the neck of the vanquished king, then, unlike the Sumerians, kill him. The Assyrian king might discuss, with his officials, the pros and cons of letting the poor fellow live while he stood for a long time with his foot on his neck. There were cases where the enemy was allowed to live, but it was rare." See image at Assyrian king, from which this quote is taken.

Possible interpretation(s)


Meaning B - Any sign that shows the complete subjugation of the enemy would do. I would use what I gloss as CRUSH - (2h)[B], POs down, FOs away, move rapidly away and close the hands to (2h)[A]. This is used in sports to show that the opposition was crushed. Passage 13 could be translated as FROM-THEN-ON JESUS WAIT UNTIL HE READY CRUSH HIS ENEMY.


Passages in the Jewish Bible


Passages in the Christian Bible

Passage1. Matthew 21:9 - "And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest."

Passage 2. Matthew 21:15 - "And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased."

Passage 3. Mark 11:9 - "And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."

Passage 4. Mark 11:10 - "Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest."

Passage 5. John 12:13 - "Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord."

Possible meaning(s)

(A) If you are interested in the word, itself, read on. From the Hebrew "Hoshia na (Save us, please)", but because of the scene of the Triumphal Entry (of Jesus into Jerusalem before the Crucifixion) where the crowd calls this out to him, this has been traditionally used as an exclamation of joy.

Possible interpretation(s)

HOSANNA - (2h)[O^], POs ><, down almost to the knees and make them circle up repeatedly in a plane normal (perpendicular) to the chest until they rise up to the level of the head.

uncircumcised heart

Passages in the Jewish Bible

Passage 1. Leviticus (Vayiqra) 26:41 - And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts (l'vavam ha-arel) be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity:

2. Jeremiah (Yirmiyahu 9:25) 9:26 - Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised (arelim), and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart (arlei lev).

3. Ezekiel (Yechekel) 44:7 - In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart (arlei lev), and uncircumcised in flesh (v'arlei basar), to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.

4. Ezekiel (Yechekel) 44:9 - Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart (erel lev), nor uncircumcised in flesh (v'erel basar), shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.

Passages in the Christian Bible

5. Acts 7:51 - Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

6. (related) Romans 2:29 - But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Possible meaning(s)

I will quote from a Jewish source, but I think it would equally apply to the Christian use of the term. The difference is that a Jew would feel that there is still a commandment to be circumcised in the flesh, as well as in the heart. A Christian would feel that we are no longer under the Law in this way.

"When Adam ate from the tree, he plunged mankind into the world of nature. By depending upon the physical world to develop himself and his relationship to God, he in fact created a barrier between himself and God. He hardened his heart (Orlas HaLeiv), he reduced his Godly power of speech (Orel S'fasaim), he made the tree a barrier (Orlah), and abused his creative potential (symbolized by the Orlah removed by Bris Milah)."

- Rabbi Yehudah Prero, LifeCycles - Bris Milah.

To help you understand some of the Hebrew terms, orlah is the foreskin, and also the fruit from a tree during its first three years when it is to be left alone and not to be pruned or interfered with. Here a connection is made between the sin of taking from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the rule of Orlah in the second sense. Bris Milah is circumcision.

Possible interpretation(s)

Here is a possible interpretation that could work for either Jewish or Christian settings. YOU BORN WITH HEART HAVE NATURAL BARRIER COMMUNICATE GOD. YOU MUST REMOVE LIKE CIRCUMCISION. There are a number of signs for circumcision, such as snipping at the end of the index finger with "scissors", but the best one for this context would be dominant hand thumb circles non-dominant thumb (or index finger) and ends with the sign DELETE, that is, thumb flicks Orlah away by being held between the index and middle finger and then releasing.

Son of Man

There are 100 instances of the term Son of Man being used in the Jewish Bible and 83 in the Christian Bible. Thanks be to God there is an excellent article in the Catholic Encyclopdia that deals with this and I ask you to please go there now and read it.