Friday, July 2, 2010

Watch Your Mouth! (part 1)

There are pastors, who in their sermons from time to time, will mention how self-vindication (works righteousness) before a holy God will not save anyone. Many of them use Isaiah 64:6, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” They may explain that the word “filthy garment” in Isaiah 64:6 is literally a “menstrual cloth.” It is offensive to think about—which is the purpose of it. Some pastors have even gone so far to say that our righteous acts to justify us before a holy God are as a “bloody tampon.”  I am not arguing for the right to use “bloody tampon”, even though that is what many call a menstrual cloth.  It is interesting that when I asked a young teenager boy in our church what a menstrual cloth was, his response was that it is something that music leader uses to wipe down an instrument. 

I even had someone tell me that it was not proper to use the word "menstrual cloth". When asked why, the reply was, "because it is wrong." But why is it wrong? "It just is!" Really? Have we become so prone to coming up with our own system of ethics that we have a hard time with what the Bible says? I am arguing for the right to explain what the text says.  I will not refrain from explaining that it is justified to explain that the “filthy rag” in the NASB is literally a “menstrual cloth.”
I will give 11 pieces of evidence that will show that a pastor is justified to explain that “filthy rags” in Isaiah 64:6 can be understood as “menstrual cloth.”

1. Brown, Driver and Briggs Hebrew Lexicon: menstruation (prop. time, period), stained garment (fig. of best deeds of guilty people (pg 723) (BibleWorks 6 software)

2. A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, William L. Holladay: (menstrual) period Isaiah 64.5 (p. 265)

3. Theological Workbook of the OT (Harris): (1564a) menstruation (Isa 64:5). (BibleWorks 6 software)

4. The NET Bible is a completely new translation of the Bible with 60,932 translators’ notes! It was completed by more than 25 scholars – experts in the original biblical languages – who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts.
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The New English Translation says, 64:6 We are all like one who is unclean, all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight. 12 We all wither like a leaf; our sins carry us away like the wind.

Footnote 12 tn Heb “and like a garment of menstruation [are] all our righteous acts”; KJV, NIV “filthy rags”; ASV “a polluted garment.”
See internet:

Did the NET have any justification for such a translation? Yes. Hebrew dictionaries translate the Hebrew word as “menstrual cloth”.

5. The Hebrew was later translated into Greek and the Greek use of that word in Isaiah 64:6 is translated in other places as menstrual period (Lev. 15:33; 20:18; Isa. 30:22; 64:5; Lam. 1:17; Ezek. 22:10; 36:17).

6. J.A. Motyer, in his commentary on Isaiah, says of 64:6:
Filthy rags/’a garment of menstruation’, i.e. stained by menstrual blood. Bodily discharges that were linked with procreation were considered a defilement because they were so vitally associated fallen human life. Even what we might consider to be in our favour, our righteous acts, flow from a fallen nature and partake of its fallenness (The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary, p. 520).

7. The 1599 Geneva Study Bible:
64:6 But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our h righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
(h) We are justly punished and brought into captivity, because we have provoked you to anger, and though we would excuse ourselves, yet our righteousness, and best virtues are before you as vile cloths, or (as some read) like the menstruous cloths of a woman.
See internet:

8. The Pulpit Commentary: “Isaiah 64:6 All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; or, as a menstruous garment (see Lam. 1:17)” (p..460).

9. Adam Clark's (1762–1832) commentary:

Verse 6. As filthy rags iddim. Rab. Mosheh ben Maimon And we ben made as unclene alle we: and as the cloth of the woman rooten blode flowing, all our rigtwisnesses. -Old MS. Bible. If preachers knew properly the meaning of this word, would they make such a liberal use of it in their public ministry? And why should any use a word, the meaning of which he does not understand? How many in the congregation blush for the incautious man and his "filthy rags!"
See internet:

10. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary On the Whole Bible (1871)
unclean thing--legally unclean, as a leper. True of Israel, everywhere now cut off by unbelief and by God's judgments from the congregation of the saints. righteousness--plural, "uncleanness" extended to every particular act of theirs, even to theeir prayers and praises. True of the best doings of the unregenerate (Php 3:6-8; Tit 1:15; Heb 11:6). filthy rags--literally, a "menstruous rag" (Le 15:33; 20:18; La 1:17). fade . . . leaf-- (Ps 90:5, 6).
See internet:

11. MacArthur Bible Commentary, p 840.
As in 53:6 (cf. 6:6, 7), the prophet included himself among those confessing their unworthiness to be in God’s presence. Isaiah employed the imagery of menstrual cloths used during a woman’s period to picture uncleanness (cf. Lev. 15:19-24). This is true of the best behavior of unbelievers (cf. Phil. 3:5-8).

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