Wednesday, February 14, 2007

And the earth was without form....

Genesis 1:2 is says,
"And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
However, this translation does not do this passage justice. The Hebrew version says:

"w'ha`aretz hay'tah tohu wabohu w'hoshek al-p'nay t'hom w'ruakh alohiym m'rakhefet al-p'nay hamayim"
Now, the first word "w'ha'aretz" is made from affixing the waw "w" and the hay "ha" (the) to the word "aretz" (land). In this form, the waw affixed to a noun, although always in such a connection grammatically disjunctive in some fashion, is here used specifically with emphatic force to introduce the clause. It should therefore be rendered as "now" or "yea," rather than "yet," or "but," or otherwise "and" (as would be the case if the waw was affixed to the verb. See Genesis 1:3 for this example.)
Also, the second word "hay'tah" should be rendered as perfect "became" or "appeared," rather than imperfect "was."
The next three words make up a figure of speech which substitutes a conjunction for a subordination. This is common in Hebrew, Greek, and English. The typical form substitutes the normal noun plus adjective form with a noun conjunction noun form. In Greek, this particular (three for one) form is called a "hendiatris." An English example is "wine, women, and song" to mean "party." If the units involved are not in any way synonyms but rather "circumnavigate" the one idea expressed, the figure may be more correctly, precisely, and expediently described as a triad.
In this case, the Hebrew words mean, "formlessness," "emptiness" and "darkness." All are similar, but are better understood to circumnavigate the idea of "void" or "chaos"-a formless and disordered state. So, in this case, the most likely intent of the form could be translated by either converting the triad back to a adjective plus noun form (i.e., a formless and empty darkness), or alternatively maintaining the hendiatris form (i.e., formlessness, emptiness and darkness). However, perhaps the best way to understand this hendiatris is as a figure of speech which is best translated by a descriptive version of the idea that it circumnavigates - "utter chaos."
The next work "al-p'nay" literally means "on the face," and can be translated as "over" or "surrounding."
The next word t'hom comes from the root hwm, meaning "roar," and it refers to the roiling primal waters (again a reference to chaos). It is a cognate of the Akkadian word "tamtu," which means "a primal ocean."
A better translation of Genesis 1:2 would be:

"Now, the earth came into being; an utter chaos surrounding a primal sea; yet, the spirit of God was soaring over the sea."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

“I AM”

Most commentators make the claim that Yeshua (primarily in the Gospel of John) uses the code word ego eimi (translated “I am”) to equate himself with Yahweh. It is said that, the Greek words ego eimi refer to Yahweh’s statement to Moses in Exodus 3 (Hebrew - `eh'yeh `asher `eh'yeh – “I’ll be what I’ll be”). It is also claimed that the phrase is only used of Yeshua (and Yahweh).

For Yeshua to have used the first person present (I am) in Greek to refer back to the first person cohortative in Hebrew (I'll be being) is a far stretch.

Of course, without resort to complex linguistics, this is demonstrated to be untrue. For, if it were true, the Gospel writer Luke would not have had the messenger Gabriel say (at Luke 1:19) “ego eimi gabriol” (I am Gabriel). Also Luke, would not have had Zachariah, the father of John the baptizer say “ego gar eimi” (I, indeed, am). Even the Gospel writer John has John the baptizer say “ego ouk eimi” (I am not). Matthew recounts (at 26:22) Yeshua’s pupils saying to him “sorrowfully” ego eimi kurio (…I am Lord?).

Of course, these are only a few of the occurrences of the phrase ego eimi, which demonstrate the fallacy of the claim. In fact, the more accurate translation is demonstrated in the account in Matthew 26:22 “it is me.ego eimi (lit. “me I am”).

For example:

Mat 24:5 For many will come in My name, saying, (ego eimi) It is me, the Christ. And they will cause many to be led astray.

Mat 26:22 And grieving exceedingly, they began to say to Him, each of them, Lord, not at all (ego eimi) it is me?

Mat 26:25 Then Yhudah (which betrayed him) answered and said, Rabbi, (ego eimi) is it me? He said unto him, Thou hast said.

Mar 6:50 For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: (ego eimi) it is me; be not afraid.

John 9:9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, (ego eimi) it is me.

And, on and on…

Saturday, February 10, 2007

“Wisdom is justified…”

In both of the gospels of Matthew (at 11:19) and Luke (at 7:35), Yeshua is quoted as saying “Wisdom is justified from her deeds (or children).” But, what exactly did Yeshua mean by this?

First of all, I will briefly say that the word translated by both Matthew and Luke as "children" (Gr teknon) is either a mistranslation of the Aramaic word bnyh, which comes from the child root bna "to build," or a correct translation of the same word from the primary root bn "son." The yh suffix (with the dropped a for the root bna) denotes femenine possession. Thus the word should be translated as either "her building" or otherwise "her son." In either case, as we will see, the meaning remains the same.

This passage is not as mysterious as many make it out to be. Luke preserves the thought better than Matthew does.

What Yeshua is doing is comparing the "generation" or "lineage" of the current, unjust Jewish elite class to the generation of the poor, but just, working class. Proverbs 24:3 says:

b'khak'mah yibaneh bayiT uvit'vunah yit'covnan - or -
"With wisdom is built a house and by understanding it is set out."
Pro 9:1 says: khak'movt ban'tah baytah - or -
"Wisdom has built her house."

These wisdom riddles do not, of course, refer to the construction of a real "house," but to the building or siring of a family, clan or lineage. It is clear from these riddles that Wisdom's "building" was her "sons."

Luke writes (7:29-30) “And all the people and the tax collectors, baptized with the baptism of John, hearing, justified God. 30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers, not baptized by him, set aside God's counsel for themselves.

Now, "hearing" is "doing" or "obeying."

In other words, Yeshua is saying that the humble sinners heard God’s wisdom (as espoused through Yeshua) and acted on it by doing what was asked--namely teshuva (repenting) and rakhetset (bathing or baptism). Conversely, the self-righteousness scribes and Pharisees, heard God’s wisdom and, rather than acting upon it, stood around and endlessly debated with each other, considering whether they, as righteousness men, needed to do teshuva and whether they needed to submit to baptism.

Of importance is the word translated as "wisdom" - Khokmah. While this word is commonly translated by the Greek sophia and the english "wisdom," it is better understood to mean "conscience" - the inner knowledge of right and wrong. Khokmah was believed to be transmitted via the spirit Khokmah from God to men.

This Lukan passage highlights a few items, 1) the use of the Greek word dikaioos (normally translated “justified”) applied here to God (whom one would not normally think of as being “justified.”) and the word atheteo (to lay aside) as its opposite. The word dikaioos appears twice in the passage. Once referring to the "justification" of God and at Luke 7:35 “…wisdom is justified from all her deeds.” Clearly from this context the word dikaioos (in the aorist – edikaiosan) means “bore out,” or “proved to be right.” It was the action of the sinners (teshuva, rakhetset) that “bore out” the truth of the wisdom of God. Also, of note is the fact that although the passage says that the sinners "justified God," it is clear from the next sentence that it is "God's counsel" that is "justified."

Now, let’s look closer. Yeshua was a Khokmah, "a wise man," a sage (or a "man of conscience"). In this role, he was dedicated, as all sages were, to dividing (sifting through) the Khokmah of the law and the prophets to divine “the way of equity” (which we often call “paths of righteousness”)--in simple words, “the right way." The Hebrew people believed that “the right way” is hidden from the self-professed “wise” men (priests, etc.,), but was revealed to the humble sage in the form of conscience.

Matthew 11:25 “… I praise You, Father, Lord of Heaven and of earth, because You hid these things from the sophisticated and cunning and revealed them to babes.”

And further that “good behavior” is demonstrated as a result of this wisdom

Jam 3:13 "Who is wise and knowing among you? Let him show his works by his good behavior, in meekness of wisdom."

The role of the humble khokmah was to divide the word of God, taking up the “true knowledge”, and laying aside (atheteo) that information with which it was hidden. Of course taking up "true knowledge" also led to proper behavior in accordance with this conscience. In this way, he justified, vindicated, bore out, or proved (dikaioos), by means of his behavior, the knowledge as “wise.”

After Luke’s preamble (7:29-30), Yeshua begins his statement by comparing the current generation in a simple parable or riddle (at Luke 7:31)

“And the Master said, ‘Then to what shall I compare the men of this generation? What are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in a market and calling to one another.”

Although both Matthew and Luke add “saying” to this quote, the quote should actually end here. Both Luke and Matthew misunderstood the meaning of this passage and thought that the words following it were quotations of these so-called “children sitting in the market.” But this is not correct. Yeshua, by this statement was referring to the common practice of the khokmah (sage) of standing in the market and calling out (proclaiming, preaching) his wise words. This, John did as well as Yeshua. In this passage, Yeshua is simply saying to the Pharisees and Scribes, that they are like children, playing a game, pretending to be sages, but instead of conscience, spouting gibberish.

Next, Yeshua says

“We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed to you, and you did not weep.”

By this, Yeshua means that he and John approached from two different means. One, (John) proclaimed the woe of their sinful state and the ultimate outcome (“we mourned to you”). The other (Yeshua) was the opposite (“we piped to you”), he proclaimed the liberty of living a life of equity. Yeshua follows this up by repeating the same thought differently. (Luke 7:33)

“For John the Baptist has come neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, He has a demon. 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, Behold, a man, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners."

A better paraphrase of Luke would reorder it in this way: Luke 7:29-35

The Master said, “Then to what shall I compare the men of this generation?" And, "to what are they like?" "They are like children sitting in a market and calling to one another.” Also (he) said, “We piped to you, and you did not dance (For, the son of man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'). We wailed to you, and you did not weep. (For John the Baptist has come neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He is deranged.'). And all the people (including the tax collectors) obeying, baptized with the baptism of John, vindicated [the counsel of] God, But the Pharisees and the lawyers, not baptized by him, set aside God's counsel for themselves. Therefore, wisdom was vindicated from all she built."