As we all know, punctuation is a necessary component in understanding the languages that we speak. Various markers have been constructed to pinpoint pauses, stops, and to even insert additional thoughts – all for the sake of conveying the intended meaning of the speaker/author. However, this has not always been the case.
Like anything, both the art and structure of languages have evolved over time. Furthermore, newer linguistical discoveries dealing with world languages continue to unfold as knowledge continues to progress. Thus, many of the ancient languages [Hebrew, Greek, etc.] rarely, if ever, made use of the various punctuation marks we take for granted today. On the contrary, the original speakers would have understood their peers by other means such as the context of the discussion.
The Name of God
A world-renowned example, regarding the use of punctuation, is seen in Isaiah 9:6. This specific Bible verse just so happens to be one of the most often quoted passages in the entire Old Testament, especially during the Christmas season. Why? Because it was a prophecy to Israel about the coming Messiah who would, once and for all, deliver His people. Isaiah 9:6 reads as follows:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Did you notice what I just did? I inserted a comma after the name “Wonderful” because I believe that it fits better with the overall context of Scripture. The insertion of this punctuation mark is not something you will find in many Bible translations today, yet it could not be more necessary for a proper understanding of this passage. Yes, Jesus is not just a counselor; He is the Wonderful Counselor. However, I would argue that this term is not Scripturally meant to be an adjective, but a noun [i.e. His Name].
For example: within the book of Judges (Judg. 13:18), there is an encounter between The Angel of the LORD [Jesus in the Old Testament] and a Jewish couple. As is Isaiah 9:6, this account is also a prophetic declaration in which God promises to bring about a son. At the end of the discussion, when Manoah asked for the name of the Angel, His response was that His Name is “Wonderful!”
Another example would be found in John 14:16 where we see that Jesus promised the disciples that the Father would send “…another Counselor.” The term “another” implies that Jesus is a Counselor and, as we now know from the rest of the New Testament, the Counselor [i.e. The Holy Spirit] is the very Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; 1 Pet. 1:11).
It is easy to read over something as seemingly insignificant as punctuation marks, especially when we have heard this verse quoted so often and always in the same manner. However, as students of God’s Word, we are called upon to do everything we can in order to gain a better understanding of the Scriptures. My challenge to you is to read God’s Name as both Wonderful and Counselor. It is not necessarily wrong to connect the two together and view “wonderful” as an adjective, but Isaiah’s prophecy is clearer when they stand alone.