Bookstore
Home    Topics    Contact    Support

Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics



By Jeff A. Benner


What is the significance of the words Aleph, Beyt, etc found through Psalm Chapter 119? Answer

What are the oversized and undersized letters found in the Hebrew Bible? Answer

What is Henotheism? Answer

Which English translations do you use in your teachings? Answer

Isn't the Septuagint much older than the Masoretic texts? And isn't the Septuagint what New Testament authors used to quote the Old Testament? Answer

Was the Hebrew Bible ever written in Hebrew pictographs? Answer

Which book of the Bible is the oldest book? Answer

Has archeology proven the existence of Biblical Characters? Answer

What are the Hebrew names for the books of the Torah (Pentetuch)? Answer

What is the best Translation of the Bible? Answer

Is the Hebrew word Torah encoded in all five books of the Torah? Answer

What is the difference between the "rod" and the "staff" In Psalm 23:4? Answer






What is the significance of the words Aleph, Beyt, etc found through Psalm Chapter 119?

Psalm 119 is divided up into twenty-two parts. At the beginning of each part (in some translations such as the King James Version) is the name of a Hebrew letter. The first section is called aleph; the second is beyt, and so on. This Psalm is what is called an acrostic psalm. An acrostic is where each verse begins with the next letter of the alphabet such as in the following example.

Apples are good
Berries are sweet
Cherries are round
Dandelions are yellow
Eggplants are large etc.

There are several Psalms like this. Psalm 119 is unique in that the first 8 verses all begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the letter aleph. The next 8 verses all begin with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the beyt. This is form of Hebrew poetry. Other forms will be discussed in future issues.

Back



What are the oversized and undersized letters found in the Hebrew Bible?

An example of oversized letters can be found in Deuteronomy 6:4 (Hear O, Israel, YHWH our Elohiym, YHWH is one);

The


Notice that the ayin (ע), the last letter in the first word is written oversized, as is the dalet (ד), the last letter in the last word. When these two letters are placed together, they form the word עד (eyd, Strong's #5707) meaning “witness.” In Judaism, the sh’ma (the name given to this verse as it is the first word in this verse) is Israel’s witness, their statement of faith if you will.

However, none of these oversized or undersized letters are found in any ancient scroll such as found in the Dead Sea Caves. They first appear in the Masoretic Hebrew texts from 1,000 A.D. Whether the Masorites added them or not we don't know, in fact the origins of these oversized and undersized letters are a mystery.

Even though these letters do not appear to have been in the original texts, they are still excellent teaching tools.

Back



What is Henotheism?

Most of us are familiar with the terms polytheism (Latin for “belief in many gods”) and monotheism (Latin for “belief in one god”). But not too many are familiar with the term Henotheism, which also means “a belief in one god,” but refers to the worshiping of only one god, but recognizes the existence of other gods.

In the Biblical text we find references to all three belief systems. While polytheism is forbidden, it was practiced by some Hebrews. On numerous occasions we read in the Bible of the Hebrews worshipping Ba’al or Asherah alongside of Yahweh. Isaiah 43:10 is a clear monotheistic view which states “before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” Several passages in the book of Psalms imply a more Henotheistic view.

God standeth in the congregation of the mighty [El in Hebrew], he judgeth among the gods (KJV, Psalm 82:1)

Among the gods there is none like unto thee. (KJV, Psalm 86:8)

For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. (KJV, Psalm 95:3)

Back



Which English translations do you use in your teachings?

If I want to show how a particular translator translated a particular verse, I will use that specific translation. I will often use the American Standard Version (ASV), especially on printed material in the eZine and other publications, because it is in the Public Domain and there are no copyright issues using this translation. I will also use the Revised Standard Version (RSV) frequently because it is easy to read and in my opinion better than other translations. In addition, the RSV, which is a newer translation, has incorporated some of the discoveries from the Dead Sea Scrolls and other more recent discoveries.

Back



Isn't the Septuagint much older than the Masoretic texts? And isn't the Septuagint what New Testament authors used to quote the Old Testament?

Yes, the Septuagint is older by about 1,000 years. In most places the Septuagint and the Masoretic text agree, but there are times where they are different, which means that the Hebrew text used to make the Septuagint is different from the Hebrew text used to make the Masoretic text. So we can compare the Septuagint with the Masoretic text along with other texts (such as the Aramaic Targums, the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.) to try and figure out which one preserves the original text. Sometimes it will be the Septuagint and other times it will be the Masoretic text. Only the Greek NT uses the Septuagint for OT quotes, which makes sense. If you were going to quote the OT in Greek, you wouldn't translate from the Hebrew OT as this was already done with the Septuagint, so you just quote the Septuagint. The Aramaic Peshitta (an Aramaic NT that dates to about the 5th C. AD, which I prefer over the Greek NT) likewise would not translate the Hebrew OT when quoting the OT; it quotes the Aramaic Targums (Ancient Aramaic translations of the OT) instead. There are several Hebrew NT texts as well, but they are more modern, and when they quote the OT, they don't translate the Greek quotes of the NT into Hebrew; they take their quote from the Hebrew OT. The point is that the New Testament writers quote the OT that is written in the same language in which they were writing.

Back



Was the Hebrew Bible ever written in Hebrew pictographs?

The Hebrew alphabet has gone through four stages: Early, Middle, Late and Modern. The Early alphabet, also called Proto-Siniatic and Proto-Semitic, is the pictographic script, which is the script that you are referring to. We know this alphabet existed in 2,000 BC and is found on such inscriptions as the Wadi El-Hhol inscriptions and those found in Serabit El-Khadim in the Sinai Peninsula. It is called a pictographic alphabet because each letter is a picture of something. For instance the word aleph means "ox" and the Hebrew letter aleph is a picture of an ox.

Around 1000 BC the alphabet transformed into the Middle Hebrew, which is usually called Paleo-Hebrew. These letters are still pictographic, but written in a simpler form. For instance, the Paleo-Hebrew aleph is a simpler form of the letter, but still looks like the head of an ox. This Paleo-Hebrew alphabet was used by all peoples, Semitic and non-Semitic peoples in the Near East including the Hebrews, Phoenicians, Arameans, Moabites, Amorites, etc.

When the Israelites were taken into Babylonian captivity around 400 BC, they adopted the Aramaic script of that land. The Aramaic script is an evolved form of the Paleo-Hebrew and this is the alphabet that was predominately written with the Aramaic, or "Late" Hebrew. While the Hebrews used this Late Hebrew script, they still continued to use the Paleo-Hebrew script into the 1st Century AD and can be seen in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls and coins minted at this time.

The Modern Hebrew is very similar to the Late Hebrew and anyone who can read Modern Hebrew can read the Late Hebrew with just a little bit of guidance.

So to your original question; It will depend on when the Bible was written as to which alphabet was used. It is largely accepted by Biblical scholars that the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, was written around 1200 BC, which means that it would have been written with either the Early or Middle alphabet, but probably a form that is similar to both. The later books of the Bible would have definitely been written in the middle Hebrew.

Back



Which book of the Bible is the oldest book?

The books of the Bible are not arranged in a chronological order. The books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are, by tradition, believed to be written by Moses and are usually believed to be the oldest books of the Bible. But this is not the case. The book of Job is the oldest book, some even believing it was originally written before the flood. The most compelling evidence for the antiquity of the book of job is its use of Hebrew words. In many cases the more ancient, concrete meaning of a word is found in the book of Job. As an example the Hebrew word "pachad" is used to mean fear or awe, an abstract concept, but is used in its concrete form only in Job 4:14 - "dread came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake."

Back



Has archeology proven the existence of Biblical Characters?

Many ancient inscriptions have been discovered that identify many of the key figures in the Biblical text. The Tell Dan Insciption mentions King David, the Temple ostraca mentions the Temple of YHWH and the seal of Baruch, the scribe of Jeremiah has also been found.

Back



What are the Hebrew names for the books of the Torah (Pentetuch)?

Most people are familiar with the common names of the first five books of the Bible; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These names were given from the Greek language based on what the book is about. Genesis means "origins," Exodus means "coming out," Leviticus means "Levites," Numbers means "numbering," and Deuteronomy means "second law." The Hebrew names for these use the first word (or first major word) of that book. They are Bereshiyt meaning "in the beginning," Shemot meaning "names," Vayikra meaning "and he called," Bemindvar meaning "in the wilderness" and Devariym meaning "words."

Back



What is the best Translation of the Bible?

This is probably the most common question we are asked. There really is no "best" translation just different kinds. Some translations attempt to translate each word accurately while others look to translate the meaning of a verse. There are also different translations from different religious groups. In many cases a Jewish translation is going to read very differently from a Christian translation. There are also some very good Messianic translations available as well. What we recommend is to compare three or more different translations from the three different religious groups. If each of the various translations appear to agree on how a verse should be translated then you can be pretty sure that it is a fair translation. However, if one or more have conflicting translations (and in some cases add or subtract complete phrases) then further investigation is warranted as there appears to be some religious or translational bias affecting how the verse is being translated.

One of the major problems with modern translations is that they translate an Ancient Hebrew text into a Modern Western text and much of the cultural perspective of the text is completely lost. Jeff A. Benner, the AHRC founder and administrator is working on a new and unique style of translation that will help one see the Hebrew and Hebrew perspective behind the English without knowing Hebrew. For more on this translation go to the Mechanical Translation website.

Back



Is the Hebrew word "Torah" encoded in all five books of the Torah?

The "Bible Codes" is a theory that special words and phrases have been "encoded" in the Biblical text proving a divine authorship of the Bible. While it is not our position to accept or deny this theory, there are some very interesting "codes" present in the text, either by accident or by design. One of the most famous is the word תורה (Torah) found in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). Beginning with the first ת (T) in Genesis and counting every 50 letters you find the word Torah spelled out. The same is true in Exodus. However in the book of Numbers the word Torah is written backwards, the same is true for deuteronomy except in this case the sequence begins in verse 5 and at an interval of 49 letters instead of 50. The Torah sequence is not found in Leviticus but instead the Hebrew word יהוה (YHWH/Yahweh) is found at intervals of seven. It has been proposed that this code shows the Torah pointing to Yahweh;

TORaH > TORaH > YHWH < HaROT < HaROT


To see the Hebrew text and the sequences Click Here.

Back



What is the difference between the "rod" and the "staff" In Psalm 23:4?

Hebrew will frequently use two or more words, such as "rod" and "staff," as a form of poetry to express "one" idea. Let me provide a couple of other examples to demonstrate this style of poetry.

In Genesis 15:17 we read; …a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. While it is common to interpret this passage to include two distinct "things," a smoking fire pot "and" a flaming torch, the reality is that this is "one thing" being expressed in two ways. We know this because the Hebrew for the verb "passed" identifies the subject of the verb, which is the "smoking fire pot and flaming torch," as "singular" and not "plural."

Zechariah 9:9 includes a phrase that is commonly misinterpreted because of this parallelism. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

How can a person "ride" an ass "and" a colt at the same time? You can't and this verse is not speaking of two animals, but only one, the "foal of an ass," which is identified as an "ass," and also as "a colt." Back to Psalm 23:4, the "rod" is the "staff."

Back




If you would like to be notified of new articles from this website...
Join the Mail List



Search the AHRC Website

Google
 
Web Ancient-Hebrew.Org