UPDATE #2: The Jerusalem Bible (Koren Publishers Jerusalem LTD., Jerusalem, Israel ©1992) [Hebrew/English version p. 487] maintains a transliteration policy similar to the JPS (©1917, 1945, 1955) at this particular passage.
UPDATE #3: In this essay, all references to the JPS Tanakh are specifically limited to the JPS Tanakh (©1917, 1945, 1955). I have not seen the JPS Tanakh (1985/1999) and, therefore, cannot comment on its contents.
"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;" (Isaiah 9:5, Jewish Publication Society)*
I recently pointed out in the comments section of a friend’s blog that the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) failed to translate a portion of Isaiah 9:6 (verse 5 in the JPS and the Hebrew)* in their English version of The Holy Scriptures (Old Testament). Rather, they chose to transliterate it. Having offered a rather minimal comment about this topic there, I thought it might be worth a slightly more detailed offering here at Pardon the Interruption.
This particular editorial decision is strange enough that it warrants the question of why it was made. Why did the editors decide to transliterate this particular verse, rather than translate it?
The words in the verse above that look strange to most of my readers are easily translated into English. For example, “Pele” is commonly translated as wonderful, while “joez” is most commonly translated as counselor. In fact, every other time “Pele” or “joez” occur in the Old Testament, the JPS chose translation over transliteration and translated the words as “wonderful” or “marvelous” (for example, Is. 25:1 and 29:14) and “counselor.” Why not translate the same words in Isaiah 9:6 (vs. 5 in JPS and in Hebrew)* rather than leave them in an undiscernible format for most English speakers? The objective, I thought, of an English translation is to put the Hebrew into understandable English. In this case, the JPS failed their readers, unless they felt obligated to confuse their readers.
What I think is even more striking is the fact that in chapter 9 the JPS chose not to translate “el-gibbor” (usually translated as “mighty God”), but did translate it in chapter 10. If you read Isaiah 10:21 in the JPS edition, you will read the following: “A remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto God the Mighty (emphasis added).” The exact same Hebrew words: transliterated in chapter 9; translated in chapter 10. Why?
Given the fact that the Hebrew of Isaiah 9:6 (vs. 5 JPS and in Hebrew)* is easily translated into English and the JPS chose to translate the same words booth in Isaiah and the rest of the Bible, I can only conclude that something deceptive is in the works? Some have asked me why I believe in such a conspiracy theory. “Surely, you don’t think the JPS would handle the Bible in a dishonest way,” they enquire. Well, actually, given the evidence cited here, I do think something dishonest is going on. And the reason is that Isaiah 9:6-7 is one of the most well-known Old Testament passages commonly suggested to reference Jesus:
And unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His Kingdom
To order it and establish it with judgment
From that time forward, even forever,
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
If there is no intentional effort by the JPS to hide this wonderful messianic passage from their Jewish readers, the irony is dramatic. I’m open to be persuaded otherwise, but until a convincing argument for the editorial decision to transliterate Isaiah 9:6 (vs. 5 in JPS and in Hebrew)* is presented, I will contend that the JPS has been dishonest with their offering.
* In most English translations of the Old Testament, Isaiah 9:6 corresponds to Isaiah 9:5 in the Hebrew chapter/verse designation. However, the JPS edition of The Holy Scriptures (Old Testament) follows the Hebrew chapter/verse designation. Therefore, what is rendered as Isaiah 9:5 in the JPS is generally 9:6 in most other English versions of the Old Testament.