What does it mean a Bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD?
An argument that is often used to try to prove that Jesus could not be the Messiah is that he was the produce of “parents”, God and Mary, who were not married. As Mary and God were not married Jesus would have been a bastard. The Bible states that no bastard can enter into the congregation of the LORD.
Deuteronomy 23:2 A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.
It is very clear that the Bible does state that a bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD. If Jesus was indeed a bastard then according to the law he would not have been allowed to enter and therefore could not possibly be the Jewish Messiah.
However the argument is based entirely on the English word ‘bastard’. It rests on the meaning of the word bastard being that of a child that is born out of wedlock.
If we look at the Oxford English dictionary’s definition of bastard it states:
archaic, derogatory Born of parents not married to each other; illegitimate.
‘a bastard child’
It clearly states that it is used for a child whose parents are not married.
However it also states illegitimate.
Now if we look at the word in the Mirriam-Webster dictionary we will see that it means illegitimate child.
1: an illegitimate child
The Hebrew word translated as bastard is מַמְזֵר mamzer. Mamzer does NOT mean a child born out of wedlock but one who is born illegitimately.
While the English bastard may well mean an illegitimate child specifically one born out of wedlock, in the Hebrew sense (and meaning of the word Mamzer) it refers to a child born either through incest or through an illegitimate marriage (a forbidden marriage). In Israelite culture that would mean a marriage between an Israelite and a non Israelite who has not converted.
The Septuagint renders mamzer as son “of a prostitute” This is the Greek ek pornes. The Latin Vulgate uses “born of a prostitute” de scorto natus.
The word Mamzer is only used twice in the entire Bible. Here in deuteronomy 23:2 and one other place in Zechariah 9:6
Zechariah 9:6 And a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines.
As we can see it is translated as bastard here as well.
BUT, in the context of this verse it is either referring to a mix bred nation. One of none pure blood. It is translated as mongrel in the NIV and a mixed people in the ESV
Zechariah 9:6 A mongrel people will occupy Ashdod, and I will put an end to the pride of the Philistines. NIV
Zechariah 9:6 a mixed people shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of Philistia. ESV
Or it could be referring to ‘foreigner’ as in the Israelites themselves. This was a prophetic judgment against the Philistines who dwelled in Ashdod that the city would be inhabited by foreigners, the Israelites.
What it is not referring to is that of a child born out of wedlock. To insert this meaning into the verse would be to totally misrepresent the Hebrew and change the true meaning of the verse.
Just as doing so with the use of Bastard in Deuteronomy 23:2. We cannot override the Hebrew meaning of illegitimate with a specific English definition that does not have the same meaning as the Hebrew. While the English word bastard meaning illegitimate child is correct, the specific meaning of being born out of wedlock is not.