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"In the east" vs. "Rising"


In the following exchange, the e-mailers' comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.


>Hello, Gary,

I recently read some information concerning Matthew 2:2 in the KJV that seemed interesting; but I wanted to check on its accuracy with some fundamentalist Bible scholars. On some Internet message boards, I have noticed attacks on the Bible because of the phrase "star in the east," claiming the star was in the west.

In the second revised edition of Werner Keller's book The Bible as History, the following is stated:

"We have seen his star in the east" (Matt. 2:2), said the Wise Men, according to the A. V. [Authorized Version, i.e., the KJV]. The translation is however incorrect, for the words 'in the east' are in the original en te anatole—the Greek singular-- but elsewhere 'the east' is represented by anatolai—the Greek plural.

The singular form anatole has, it is maintained, quite a special astronomical significance, in that it implies the observation of the early rising of the star, the so-called heliacal rising. The translators of the Authorised Version could not have known this.

When en te anatole is translated properly, Matt. 2:2 reads as follows: "We have seen his star appear in the first rays of dawn" (pp. 328-329).

Is this information by Werner Keller accurate or is it only speculation? Thank you for your help with this matter.

In Christ,
Rick Norris <

Interesting question. I hadn't seen this before; but when I looked into it it does appear you are basically correct. In every occurrence of the plural form of anatole the word does mean "east." But when it appears in the singular, in every occurrence, except one, "rising" in reference to the sun is the most likely meaning.

The word occurs in the singular in Matt 2:2,9; Luke 1:78; Rev 7:2; 16:12; 21:3. The first two are the ones you are asking about. The first two occurrences in the Revelation are the most instructive.

The relevant parts read in the NKJV (which is following the KJV) and LITV as follows:

Rev 7:2a:
NKJV: "Then I saw another angel ascending from the east,"
LITV: "And I saw another angel coming up from the rising of the sun;"

Rev 16:12b:
NKJV: "so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared."
LITV: "that the way of the kings who are from the rising of the sun may be made ready."

In both of these cases, the LITV is by far more accurate. The word "sun" (Gr., helios) occurs in the text in the genitive form (which is usually translated using "of"). So "rising of the sun" is clearly most accurate. Both the KJV and NKJV simply leave the word helios untranslated.

Young’s Literal Translation, which I updated for the first stage the Analytical-Literal Translation (ALT), has a reading similar to the LITV, and I will be leaving it as something similar for the ALT.

The most interesting reference is Luke 1:78, which is possibly a reference to the Messiah.

The second half of the verse reads:
NKJV: With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
LITV: "in which the Dayspring from on high will visit us."

So both versions, and the KJV, recognize the translation of "east" simply would not fit here. YLT has simply "the rising" here. So it is being consistent in how the singular is rendered elsewhere. The NAS95 has "the Sunrise" which is an interesting reading, though not quite as literal.

So for the ALT I will be keeping YLT's rendering, but capitalizing it to show the possible reference to the Messiah. But I think I will bracket "Sun" to help make the idea clear. So it will read, "the Rising [Sun]."

Now Rev 21:3 is the verse in which the singular form of anatole appears where it is translated as "east" in all of the above versions. But in that verse, it occurs with the words for west, north, and south.

So the basic "rule" for this word these versions are following is that appears to be it should be rendered as "east" whenever it is in the plural, but only as such in the singular if the context clearly indicates "east" is in view. Otherwise, it should be translated as "rising." But for the ALT I will use the literal rendering throughout.

So for Matt 2:2 for the ALT I will be translating the relevant phrase as, at the rising [of the sun] [fig., in the east]." So I will translate it literally but include a figurative meaning to make it clear.

So, as I said, you are basically correct. Though not as clear in Matt 2:2 as elsewhere, it does appear the word is referring to the magi seeing the star not in the east but right at sunrise.

However, I will add, even the "in the east" rendering would not necessarily introduce a "problem" into the text. It could be interpreted as the magi referring to where they were when they say the "star" i.e. "for we saw his star while we were in the east" rather than indicating the location of the star.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above E-mail Exchange was posted on this Web site June 8, 1999.

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