Textual Criticism of Translations: Contradiction

Posted by on Jun 21, 2021

In the previous articles in the series Textual Criticism of Translations, we studied how the capitalization and punctuation can alter the original meaning of the Hebrew script. In the following, we will study how to detect and solve contradictions in the text.

And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover? (Mar 14:12 KJV)

First, we should notice that in KJV translation of the above verse there is something incomplete, namely, the textual context in English begs for the preposition “on” before “the first day” to make sense: “And on the first day”.

With that being mended, the text does become even more confusing. According to King James’ version of the Bible, the disciples asked Yeshua on the first day of the Festival of the Unleavened Breads (the first pilgrimage of the year) where he would wish them to prepare the Passover lamb. But a closer reading of the text will show us that it was too late to ask him, because according to the Torah, the Passover lambs should have been already slaughtered, as we read in Leviticus 23.

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month between the evenings, is the Pesach of Yehovah. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Festival of Unleavened Breads to Yehovah. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. In the first day you shall have a set-apart gathering; you shall do no servile work. (Lev 23:5-7)

We also read in the law of the Pesach when it was first established in Egypt,

And you shall keep it (the Pesach) until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then all the assembly of the congregation of Israel shall slay it between the evenings. (Exo 12:6)

So, according to the Torah of YHVH, the Passover lambs were to be slaughtered on the fourteenth day of the first month between the evenings, that is, at the going down of the sun, and be eaten that night (see also Exo 12:8) on the fifteenth.

But, according to KJV, on the first day of the Unleavened Breads (the fifteenth day of the month), the Passover lambs in Jerusalem were not yet slaughtered.

The intelligent reader will understand that there is something wrong here. And the wrongness is not in the Torah.

We should not err and conclude from one verse that Yeshua and his disciples did not know when the Passover lambs were to be slaughtered. And if it is so, we are coming to the classical definition of contradiction, which we will resolve below.

The Greek word in question in our verse is πρῶτος, protos, translated as “first”. And protos can indeed mean “first”. The problem is that thus translated this word creates a contradiction.

But this contradiction is easily resolved when we take into account that πρῶτος, protos, can also mean “foremost” (in time, place, order or importance). Thus, πρῶτος , protos, has the meaning of before, beginning, first (of all), former. Furthermore, πρῶτος, protos, is a superlative of another Greek word πρό pro, which means “fore”, that is, “in front of”, “prior to”. Hence, by implication πρῶτος, protos, means “first” or “chief”.

With its concrete meanings πρῶτος, protos, can be found in Joh 1:15 and Joh 1:30 translated “before”; in Act 1:1 and Rev 21:4, “former”; and in 2Pe 2:20, “beginning”.

Therefore, the correct rendering of Mar 14:12 must be thus,

And before the day of Unleavened Breads, when they were slaughtering the Pesach, his disciples said to him, “Where do you wish us to go and prepare, for you to eat the Pesach?” (Mar 14:12)

Now, everything comes into place and the Scripture is reconciled. The reader does not need to know Greek nor English, but the Torah only to know that the Pesach (the Passover lamb) is to be slaughtered before, not on the first day (the beginning) of the Festival of the Unleavened Breads. For this reason, that day when the Pesach is slaughtered (the fourteenth of the first month is called “preparation day” or “Passover Day”.

For further knowledge on the matter, the reader may do well to read Leviticus 23 and what we have written in our commentary on the appointed times of the Eternal.


May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.