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Richard Elmore | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, May 23 2011 3:25 AM

I have been working with hebrew for awhile , both english and greek are abstract languages but hebrew is not so when we check word meanings we getting abstract meaning my problem I don't want to know what the translators think it means I want to know what Moses thought it meant. here is an example bara means create that is an abstract word

dig a little deeper it could mean cut or shape and a little more it could mean fatten.

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David Knoll | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 23 2011 4:04 AM

Pay attention to verbal stems (binyanim).

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 23 2011 5:56 AM

Hi, Richard, and welcome to the forums. You may not always get what you're looking for, but your contribution will certainly be appreciated.

Your frustration is with a very old language which has limited examples, almost demanding the use of other similar languages, and a considerable amount of ego  among its exponents.

 Here in Arizona, we don't even have languages to work with (early native american); just ancient images. So hebrew is a sheer riot of comparable information that invites your appreciation (and frustration).

You're already well into digging out 'create' and its possible meaning.


Posts 23
Conquer | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jun 19 2011 6:54 PM

Hi Richard, Yes, what does a word REALLY mean? Remains difficult.  For instance, what does 'wicked' mean? Up till 10-20 years ago, it meant 'evil'. Today, in teenage slang, it means 'good'. Then there's an alcoholic drink of that name. Or it might be a pun on 'wicket', something used in cricket I believe. How do we decide in English? We use our knowledge of the language, the context, the time something is written. If you find the word in a book written 1950, you can assume it means 'evil'. In any serious work today it means the same. But when a young person says it in a particular tone, it might mean 'good'. And if you're handed a bottle on which the word is written vertically without vowels, you're being offered an alcoholic beverage. In a poem, you might find that the author intended a play on words involving two or three of the above meanings. Language is very complicated. In our own language we don't realise it so much. We do these interpretations instantly and effortlessly. It's when we are learning another language it gets complicated.  

In Hebrew it works more or less the same. I'm not an expert on this, have learnt Hebrew to MA level (and love it :)). Here is what I do:  

First, I usually look for the word in a Hebrew dictionary. Dictionaries give you an overview of  how scholars have translated the word in different contexts. There might be several options. For Hebrew verbs, pay particular attention to the verb parsing - as the qal, for instance, has a different meaning from the piel or hiphil forms of the same verb. 

Second, I look at the context. Which of the meanings indicated in the dictionary might reasonably apply? 

Third, I usually do a search for the lemma - right-click on the word, choose 'lemma' and choose 'search this resource'. You then get a list of verses in which the word is used. This shows you the 'usage' of the word. For instance, I looked at 'machaseh' in Joel 3.16, which is translated 'refuge'. In a couple of verses in the OT, the word is used for a mountain shelter where people or animals hide from the storm. So that is the original, literal meaning. Then the word gets used metaphorically in the context of the relationship with God for 'refuge' often with another word for 'stronghold' in the same verse. That's how language works. You can still translate 'mountain shelter', certainly in this context that is very appropriate. Another example. In Ps 19:14, 'zedhim' is often translated as 'wilful sins' in English Bibles. However, when you look at all the uses of that word in the OT, in every other context it is clearly used for persons; the arrogant, the haughty - those in opposition to God. The dictionary doesn't give an origin for the word, so we don't know much more than what we have in the OT. Therefore, my translation here would be, "evildoers". There is no firm evidence that the word was ever used of sins, but we do have evidence that the word was used of people. Another example: the OT often uses the expression 'the arm of God'. It is variously translated as the arm, the strength, the power, the hand of God. Robert Alter, in his introduction to 'The Five Books of Moses' [not on Logos, though all his books should be - please Logos take note] says such translation can really make you miss the point. The writer has consciously used the same phrase over and over again for emphasis, and translators try and use different words for variation to make it harder. 

Fourth, I check with specialist dictionaries, such as 'Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament'. They can sometimes give new insights. Commentaries are good sources. I have found that Keil and Delitsch's commentary gives a lot of language help, though maybe a little advanced. 

About Bara' - if you do a search, you will find that only God is every the subject of this verb. The dictionary gives three verbs Bara'. Because the meanings are different, scholars seem to have thought that there were three different verbs Bara', with different meanings. Though I am not a Hebrew linguist, I suspect that the meaning 'to cut' [as in to sculpture] may have been the original meaning in other languages, which the OT writers have taken to express God's creative work. Even so, you find that if the word is used in the "qal" form of the verb, it is always used of God creating. In the "nifal" form, it is used of things and beings which have been created by God [the nifal is a passive form]. In the meaning of 'to cut' it is only in the "piel". The OT writers seem to have been quite careful to reserve the qal and nifal forms of the word for creation by God alone. The other two forms named are used only once, in different forms. So they are really exceptions to the rule. 'to fatten oneself' is used only once, in the "hifil" [another form that verbs can take], and probably comes from Barah [with an 'h'] or Mara'. [I use HALOT - Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament as my first dictionary - it is very good and discusses each of these forms of the verb separately].  

I think for any language, it's going to be difficult to work only with dictionaries and interlinears. They will help you up to a point, but every now and then you're going to get confused or get it wrong. If you really want to dig well and deep, you may want to learn a beginners level of Hebrew. It will help you understand the structure of the language and the way it 'works'. Then when you use all the Logos helps, you can translate and interpret several levels above that. Logos make a little bit of Hebrew go a very long way. And that's where the fun really starts :)) Futato's book Beginning Biblical Hebrew is very good and easy to follow. But still requires a good amount of hard work. Logos have a great video product, "Learn to Use Biblical Greek and Hebrew with Logos Bible Software" that helps you use Logos to the max. It isn't cheap though.

Keep digging!

 

 

 

Posts 23
Conquer | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jun 19 2011 6:59 PM

In the post above, it should read Ps 19:13. [the Hebrew verse numbers are one out of kilter with the English]. 

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jun 19 2011 8:05 PM

Conquer:
[the Hebrew verse numbers are one out of kilter with the English]. 

depending upon the translation that you use..

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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George Somsel | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jun 19 2011 8:08 PM

David Knoll:

Pay attention to verbal stems (binyanim).

Also, pay attention to the context. Context is king !  No word in any language I have encountered means always and only one thing.

george
gfsomsel

יְמֵי־שְׁנוֹתֵינוּ בָהֶם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וְאִם בִּגְבוּרֹת שְׁמוֹנִים שָׁנָה וְרָהְבָּם עָמָל וָאָוֶן

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