Gen 1:1 aleph tav

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Garcia | Forum Activity | Posted: Thu, May 27 2010 9:42 AM

A comment (se below) was posted on the RevInt IV: Reverse Interlinear article on the Logos web page. I find his staement interresting but since I am not schooled in the Biblical languages I am finding hard research this statement.

Could I get some help with how to follow this logic using Logos?

Thanking you in advance for your help.

 

RevInt IV: Reverse Interlinear  comment 2.

The reason aleph tav in gen 1:1 is left untranslated is because that is the name of Jesus or His signature in the OT. It is also the equivalent of alpha and omega in the greek. therefore here is a clear proof of Jesus' pre-existence even before creation.

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Ben | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 27 2010 9:47 AM

That's a theological interpretation, not a linguistic one. It seems fairly ignorant of the actual linguistic reason.

The real reason aleph-tav isn't translated is because it marks definite direct objects in Hebrew, and English has no formal equivalent. We mark our direct objects by putting them directly after the verb e.g. I [subject] fed [verb] the dog [definite direct object.] We know "the dog" is the object, because it comes after the verb. Hebrew is more flexible with its sentence structure, and tends to mark the definite direct objects that way.

 

It's true, however, that Aleph-Tav are the Hebrew equivalent of  Gr. Alpha-Omega and English A-Z.

"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected."- G.K. Chesterton

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Garcia | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 27 2010 9:58 AM

thanks for prompt reply.  looked at few dictionaries and explainations of this word and could not really connect the statement with the definitions.

However I still found it an interesting statement.

Now it makes sense aleph-tav  =  alpha-omega. I guess it take quite a study to find Jesus as the subject everywhere A-T occurs.

Thanks Again.

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Robert Pavich | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 27 2010 10:13 AM

Interesting stuff...thanks for asking, and thanks for answering!

Robert Pavich

For help go to the Wiki: http://wiki.logos.com/Table_of_Contents__

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Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 27 2010 10:15 AM

Ben:

It's true, however, that Aleph-Tav are the Hebrew equivalent of  Gr. Alpha-Omega and English A-Z.

That is true, but deriving some theological significance from the fact that there happens to be a word in the Hebrew language that is spelled with the first and last letters of its alphabet is kind of like saying that the state of Arizona encompasses all of reality because its abbreviation is AZ. It might fuel interesting speculation, but I wouldn't put a huge amount of weight on it. However, when the Greek letters alpha and omega are referred to as separate letters, as in "I am the Alpha and the Omega" -- there it's quite clear an intentional point is being made.

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Ben | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 27 2010 11:56 AM

Agreed Rosie. I try to counterbalance my own tendencies (i.e. this kind of ignorant theologizing transforms me into a mental Incredible Hulk wanting to SMASH) and often end up overcompensating and soft-pedaling. I ask myself, what if this person has misplacedly put some of their faith in Christ on this? Or, to draw a medical analogy, how do I remove the sickness without killing the patient?

Smile

"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected."- G.K. Chesterton

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 27 2010 11:59 AM

Rosie Perera:
deriving some theological significance from the fact that there happens to be a word in the Hebrew language that is spelled with the first and last letters of its alphabet is kind of like saying that the state of Arizona encompasses all of reality because its abbreviation is AZ.

Actually that kind of "word-play" was very common in Rabbinic interpretation - probably very familiar to Paul. One first has to understand that Hebrew can be interpreted very differently than other languages because Hebrew is the language of God. Everything came into being through Hebrew. In addition, rabbinic interpretation also attributes a superabundance of meaning to the text - the "plain meaning" of the text is in Jewish interpretation a post-diaspora technique.

Now I wish there were a rabbi or two active on the forums to correct my simplified, Christian description.

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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Ben | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 27 2010 12:10 PM

James Kugel's How to Read the Bible calls this "omnisignificance."

As to the interpretations (i.e. contextual interpretation was a later development), Halivni's Peshat and Derash: Plain and Applied Meaning in Rabbinic Exegesis covers this, but isn't available in Logos. 

Shai Cherry's Torah through Time talks about it as well, but is much much less technical. I believe that's on prepub. 

At issue, though, is what the interpreter thinks they're doing. Most people today when they interpret the Bible are intending to give the Peshat, the "plain meaning" or historical-contextual meaning. I have a much smaller  problem with saying things like the OP provided that people understand it's a creative, non-contextual interpretation. 

 

"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected."- G.K. Chesterton

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 27 2010 4:36 PM

Ben:
Halivni's Peshat and Derash: Plain and Applied Meaning in Rabbinic Exegesis covers this

Thanks for this reference - it looks very useful. I have read (and found useful) the other two books you mention.

Ben:
At issue, though, is what the interpreter thinks they're doing. Most people today when they interpret the Bible are intending to give the Peshat, the "plain meaning" or historical-contextual meaning. I have a much smaller  problem with saying things like the OP provided that people understand it's a creative, non-contextual interpretation. 

Basically, I agree with you. However, I have a problem with New Testament interpretation that doesn't accommodate both the Greco-Roman and Jewish worlds in which the texts were written. Hence, I see the dismissing of a technique probably well known to Paul as a teachable moment. I wish Logos had more historical studies of exegetical practices - as the very least Jewish, Orthodox and Catholic early practices.

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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Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, May 28 2010 9:48 AM

MJ. Smith:

One first has to understand that Hebrew can be interpreted very differently than other languages because Hebrew is the language of God. Everything came into being through Hebrew.

Really? That's the first time I've heard that. How do we know what language -- if indeed it was a human language -- God spoke when he brought everything into being? It is described to us in Hebrew, but does that mean he spoke creation into being in Hebrew? My mother once found some book of linguistics which claimed to have found evidence that Hebrew was the mother of all languages. My mother was into very simplistic books at the time and I'm not so sure about the validity of that theory. I don't know much about linguistics, though, so I daren't speculate. There are other very ancient languages though. Just because the earliest written evidence of the origins of humanity that we have in the Bible are written in Hebrew doesn't mean that it didn't coexist alongside Phoenecian and Sumerian and other Ancient Near Eastern languages for a while, and it might have had some proto-Semitic origin.

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Fred Chapman | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, May 28 2010 11:08 AM

Aren’t all languages the language of God? I hope I won't have to take classes to learn Hebrew in HeavenWink

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Alex Scott | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, May 28 2010 11:16 AM

Have we as a culture totally lost the ability and courage to label nonsense, nonsense, lest we upset someone's sensibilities?  Most of us on the forums seem to be involved in ministry at one level or another.  Is there a single reputable scholar out there that has taken this position?  If it's fruitcake, label it fruitcake.  If those in leadership would deal with these issues as they come up instead of pussyfooting around them, we'd have a lot less silliness going on in the Christian community.

Longtime Logos user (more than $30,000 in purchases) - now a second class user because I won't pay them more every month or year.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, May 28 2010 1:17 PM

merged into post below

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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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, May 28 2010 1:21 PM

Merged into response below.

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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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, May 28 2010 1:57 PM

Ben:

That's a theological interpretation, not a linguistic one. It seems fairly ignorant of the actual linguistic reason.

The real reason aleph-tav isn't translated is because it marks definite direct objects in Hebrew, and English has no formal equivalent.

Given the turn that my post made this thread go, I want to state that I agree with you.

Rosie Perera:
Really? That's the first time I've heard that. How do we know what language -- if indeed it was a human language -- God spoke when he brought everything into being?

Yes, really. While I certainly can get things wrong, I wouldn't make this kind of assertion regarding rabbinic interpretation lightly.

From Shai Cherry, a historian of interpretation of the Torah who taught at Vanderbilt: (Note this is not the only source in which I have read this - it is merely a source close at hand because a friend and I are reading and discussing the book)

"The process of interpreting the Torah is influenced by how one understands the nature of Hebrew. Among the legacies of the scribes is that the Rabbis of the post-second Temple era (1st-7th c. CE) held that Hebrew, unlike other languages, captured the essence of the thing described. In other words, Hebrew is not a language of conventions whereby we agree that the word book will indicate this thing you happen to be reading right now. For the Rabbis, "God spoke and the world came into being." Because the world was created by the Divine language of Hebrew, language participates in the very essence of reality. The biblical word davar means both word and thing; this means that the word and the thing share an essence according to such an understanding of Hebrew. Many scholars of Rabbinic literature have observed that the Rabbis were inveterate punsters in large part because of the aural nature of their teachings. Although true, such a description belittles the seriousness with which the Rabbis felt Hebrew informed us about the nature of reality. For them, if two words sound alike or share certain root letters, it may well be because there is an underlying commonality that links the essences of those things."

Although I am missing one title, this is a list of non-technical, enjoyable books that have shaped my understanding of Jewish interpretation:

  • God Was in This Place and I, I Did Not Know by Lawrence Kushner 
  • The Ten Journeys of Life: Walking the Path of Abraham by Michael Gold
  • How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now by James L. Kugel
  • The Bible As It Was by James Kugel
  • Torah Through Time: Understanding Bible Commentary, from The Rabbinic Period to Modern Times by Shai Cherry (see http://www.logos.com/products/details/5316

The book I can't find the title of is on a group of people meeting regularly in NYC to discuss the book of Genesis; the author's name begins with a V. Someone know what I'm thinking of?

Logos does have a couple of books on the history of Biblical interpretation, but I would love to see more. I personally like to see whose shoulders I'm standing on. I'm not impressed with interpretative methods that fail to acknowledge their assumptions and history although I am as fascinated by post-modern as by ancient interpretative techniques.

Alex Scott:
Have we as a culture totally lost the ability and courage to label nonsense, nonsense, lest we upset someone's sensibilities?  Most of us on the forums seem to be involved in ministry at one level or another.  Is there a single reputable scholar out there that has taken this position?  If it's fruitcake, label it fruitcake.  If those in leadership would deal with these issues as they come up instead of pussyfooting around them, we'd have a lot less silliness going on in the Christian community.

I would put this another way (language chosen to match Alex's). Have we as a culture become so smug that we are unable to empathize with previous (or future) patterns of thought? Must we label the thought of those whose shoulders we stand on as fools and fruitcakes because they don't think like us? Will we become the supercilious fruitcakes of tomorrow? (I suspect we will.)

Yes, I do not agree with the assumption/assertion that God speaks Hebrew; nor do I agree with the logical consequences of that assumption. However, I do believe that it is important to understand the rules of Biblical interpretation which Paul as an educated Pharisee would have been taught. It also should inform our study of the use of the Old Testament in the New.

The issue, in this case, is not upsetting someone's sensibilities. It is a matter of not treating the New Testament as a document from the West after the "Age of Reason". The reason for my original post was simply to take advantage of a teachable moment to point out a that a technique that is odd to us was not odd at a critical point in the salvation history.

Anyway, I believe I am guilty of bending this thread into a theological discussion which was not my intention. I formally apologize for the breach of guidelines.

An aside: Cherry's book uses a template that I find very useful (of course the fact that it bolsters my opinion that Logos ought to support templates has no influence Smile). It contains the following columns for summarizing interpretations:

  1. Interpretative problem
  2. Resolution
  3. Textual mechanism (technique)
  4. Historical circumstances

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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Fred Chapman | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, May 28 2010 4:35 PM

MJ. Smith:

I would put this another way (language chosen to match Alex's). Have we as a culture become so smug that we are unable to empathize with previous (or future) patterns of thought? Must we label the thought of those whose shoulders we stand on as fools and fruitcakes because they don't think like us? Will we become the supercilious fruitcakes of tomorrow? (I suspect we will.)

Well saidYes

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, May 28 2010 7:11 PM

Rosie Perera:
claimed to have found evidence that Hebrew was the mother of all languages.

when language clearly all derives from Sanskrit "Aum" (or "Om") Stick out tongue

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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Joris Anthonissen | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 29 2010 2:20 AM

MJ. Smith:

Rosie Perera:
Really? That's the first time I've heard that. How do we know what language -- if indeed it was a human language -- God spoke when he brought everything into being?

Yes, really. While I certainly can get things wrong, I wouldn't make this kind of assertion regarding rabbinic interpretation lightly.

To get back to the alef-tav...
I believe that this Alef-Tav in the middle of the first sentence means that God created the Alef-Tav (hebrew alfabet) first so he could then speak the words to create the world...
On studying Hebrew and other languages I would say that there is no other language like Hebrew (Hebrew is clearly a designed language)... so I would say it was made and used and will be used by God...

Joris

 

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Ted Hans | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 29 2010 3:05 AM

MJ. Smith:
I would put this another way (language chosen to match Alex's). Have we as a culture become so smug that we are unable to empathize with previous (or future) patterns of thought? Must we label the thought of those whose shoulders we stand on as fools and fruitcakes because they don't think like us? Will we become the supercilious fruitcakes of tomorrow? (I suspect we will.)

Yes Well said, good on you MJ. To be frank Alex comments were really not called for I.e "silliness", "fruitcake" "nonsense" "pussyfooting" . Name calling & being dismissive does not equal argumentation and demonstration backed by evidence.

That said, I share the same concerns Rosie has expressed on this thread. Then again I am no expert, neither have I studied the issue in great detail.

MJ. Smith:

  • God Was in This Place and I, I Did Not Know by Lawrence Kushner 
  • The Ten Journeys of Life: Walking the Path of Abraham by Michael Gold
  • How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now by James L. Kugel
  • The Bible As It Was by James Kugel
  • Torah Through Time: Understanding Bible Commentary, from The Rabbinic Period to Modern Times by Shai Cherry (see http://www.logos.com/products/details/5316
  • Thanks for providing some resources that share your interpretive stance.

     

    Ted

     

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    James W Bennett | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 29 2010 5:37 AM

    Yes

    Well said M.J.

    I would like to make a recommendation along with M.J.'s. All of the listed books are worth reading, but nearly anything by James Kugel is top scholarship and, better yet, readable. He is an excellent scholar and loves the biblical tradition. While not as "scholarly" as most of his works his "Great Poems of the Bible" is a joy to read.

    ---

    James W Bennett

    http://syriac.tara-lu.com/

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