Isaiah 6 is a magnificent account of Isaiah’s encounter with the true king. The scene features supernatural creatures, the שרפים (śĕrāphîm). Most translations going back as far as the Greek simply transliterate the Hebrew and so call the creatures “seraphim” (the Greek has σεραφιν). But I think there may be a viable alternative.
- Seraph is the Hebrew word for serpent/snake. The word also means “burning” and it is supposed that the association comes about because the bite of a serpent produces a burning sensation.
- These serpents have legs (they cover the legs with one set of wings) and hands (used to pick up the burning coal).
- They have wings!
- The Greek word drakōn means “dragon, serpent,” so a dragon is meant to be serpent like! The Greek word is used in Rev 12–13 and often translated as “dragon” in English versions.
- These creatures are supernatural, so not something you’d expect to see every day.
- They’re impressively sized and loud enough to cause the temple, built from heavy stone, to tremble.
So perhaps “dragon,” as popularly conceived, actually does fit quite well. Here, then, is a quick translation of the first verses of Isaiah 6:
In the year king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and exalted. The bottom of his robe filled the temple. Dragons with six wings were stationed above him – each had six wings: with two it covered its face, with two it covered its feet, and with two it flew.
They called to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is General Yahweh! The whole earth is filled with his glory!”
The stone frames of the doorways shook at the sound of their calls, and the temple filled with smoke.
Then I said, “Woe to me for I am destroyed, for I am a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the king, General Yahweh.”
Then one of the dragons flew to me and in its hand was a burning coal which it had taken from the altar with tongs. It touched my mouth and said, “Now this has touched your lips your guilt has been removed and your sin dealt with.”
Perhaps the only downside is that “dragon” is used in Revelation in reference to Satan. Yet perhaps like angels there can be good and evil dragons!
Genesis 3 recounts the undoing of the intimate relationships established in the previous chapter between humans and God, between the man and the ground, between the woman and the man. In recent decades most of the discussion seems to have been over what God says to the woman, traditionally translated something like:
[Yhwh Elohim] said to the woman:
I will intensify your labor pains;
you will bear children in anguish.
Your desire will be for your husband,
yet he will rule over you. (HCSB)
Of most interest is the syntax of the second half of the verse and the meaning of the word translated “desire.” While most studies have sought to clarify the nature of this desire, I want to suggest that perhaps the word “desire” is not the best way to render the Hebrew at all. Read on for more.
The New York Times recently published an opinion piece by Rabbi Mark Sameth entitled “Is God Transgender?” You can read it here. In this he argues that “the Hebrew Bible, when read in its original language, offers a highly elastic view of gender.”
His argument is very thin on the ground (he has a book coming out on the Tetragrammaton which he seems to be promoting and which presumably will include more detailed argument), but I’d like to take a quick look at what he does say. Read on for more!
We all know that lying is wrong, and we all know that God does not lie. After all, 1Sam 15:29 reads:
… the Eternal One of Israel does not lie or change His mind, for He is not man who changes his mind. (HCSB)
But is it really true that God never lies? It turns out that the Bible itself records instances where God or Jesus do deceive people and where God’s people lie and are blessed for doing so! So what’s going on? Read on to find out.
The story of the creation of man and woman in Genesis 2 begins with God forming the first human who is designated האדם (hāʾādām, ‘the human’). The word is used as a generic term referring to human beings in many places in biblical Hebrew. Furthermore, there are a number of other words which mean ‘man’ as specifically distinct from ‘woman’. This has prompted quite a few people to argue that when first created this human was sexually undifferentiated or androgynous or a hermaphrodite. This creature was then divided into the first man and the first woman in Gen 2:21.
If this is a valid understanding of Genesis 2 it clearly undermines any claim that the man’s creation prior to the woman indicates that he has authority over her, because he is not created as a man until she is created as a woman.
It’s an interesting idea apparently rooted in a careful analysis of the hebrew text of Genesis 2, but it is ultimately untenable. Read on to find out why. Continue reading
Last week I heard Thomas R. Schreiner speak at Moore Theological College on the topic of “What the Bible says about Women in Ministry.” While briefly making reference to Genesis 1–3 he made a particular point that the man’s act of naming the animals and the woman is an exercise of authority on his part, and hence demonstrates his position of authority over the animals and the woman.
Frankly I’m surprised that appeal is still made to naming in discussions about women’s roles in the church. Read on for my reasons. Continue reading
February 8th is International Septuagint Day.
In celebration, this year I thought I’d post one of the two major differences between the LXX and MT in the Book of Job, the details of Job’s wife. For those unfamiliar with her, this is all we hear of and from Job’s wife in the MT:
ותאמר לו אשתו עדך מחזיק בתמתך ברך אלהים ומת
Then his wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
Sounds pretty harsh, right? Well the LXX of Job tends to tone things down quite a bit throughout. When it comes to Job’s wife, however, we get quite a lot more information! The LXX has this:
Χρόνου δὲ πολλοῦ προβεβηκότος εἶπεν αὐτῷ ἡ γυνὴ αὐτοῦ
Μέχρι τίνος καρτερήσεις λέγων
ΔΙδοὺ ἀναμένω χρόνον ἔτι μικρὸν
προσδεχόμενος τὴν ἐλπίδα τῆς σωτηρίας μου;
iοὺ γὰρ ἠφάνισταί σου τὸ μνημόσυνον ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς,
υἱοὶ καὶ θυγατέρες, ἐμῆς κοιλίας ὠδῖνες καὶ πόνοι,
οὓς εἰς τὸ κενὸν ἐκοπίασα μετὰ μόχθων.
sύ τε αὐτὸς ἐν σαπρίᾳ σκωλήκων κάθησαι διανυκτερεύων αἴθριος·
kἀγὼ πλανῆτις καὶ λάτρις
τόπον ἐκ τόπου περιερχομένη καὶ οἰκίαν ἐξ οἰκίας
προσδεχομένη τὸν ἥλιον πότε δύσεται,
ἵνα ἀναπαύσωμαι τῶν μόχθων καὶ τῶν ὀδυνῶν, αἵ με νῦν συνέχουσιν.
ἀλλὰ εἰπόν τι ῥῆμα εἰς κύριον καὶ τελεύτα.
The NETS translation of this is:
Then after a long time had passed, his wife said to him, “How long will you persist and say, ‘Look, I will hang on a little longer, while I wait for the hope of my deliverance?’ For look, your legacy has vanished from the earth—sons and daughters, my womb’s birth pangs and labors, for whom I wearied myself with hardships in vain. And you? You sit in the refuse of worms as you spend the night in the open air. As for me, I am one that wanders about and a hired servant—from place to place and house to house, waiting for when the sun will set, so I can rest from the distresses and griefs that now beset me. Now say some word to the Lord and die!”
Nowhere near as harsh! The LXX gives Job’s wife a more human face, referring to her own loss and sufferings. Furthermore, it removes the lexical link to the words of the Satan by simply exhorting Job to say some word to God, rather than explicitly ask him to “bless” God.
What can I say? Genesis 1 is not poetry, nor is it some weird hybrid of poetry and prose. Genesis 1:27 alone is poetry, but the rest of the chapter is pretty much stock-standard biblical Hebrew narrative in regards to its syntax. It is not poetry!
Why is this an issue? It’s an issue because debates about Genesis 1 seem to align figurative reading (of some sort) with poetry and literal reading with prose. This is a manifestly false disjunction. It is perfectly possible to have “literal” poetry, and it is quite common to have figurative prose. In other words, the whole argument is daft!
In the last week, Apple has released a flurry of software updates, including updates to its iWork productivity software. While there are some who are unhappy with the changes, the good news is that Pages — Apple’s versatile word-processing application — now supports right-to-left and mixed direction text entry.
Previous versions of Pages would allow entry of Hebrew, but the cursor would remain at either end of the Hebrew text. Attempting to click into the middle of a Hebrew word would leave the cursor at the end of the word giving the user no idea that they were able to edit the word or what would happen when the next key was pressed. Now this has been fixed, and Pages (and presumable Numbers and Keynote) correctly inserts and edits Hebrew text.
The difference/improvement is easily illustrated in the following screenshots. First, Pages 4.3 (the previous version):
Here you can see the cursor to the left of the Hebrew text even though I had clicked into the middle of the Hebrew. Furthermore, Pages was clearly incapable of coping with the niqqud (the vowel points) which are pretty messed up.
Compare this with Pages 5.0:
The cursor is now correctly positioned in the middle of the Hebrew text, the niqqud are well placed.
For any existing Pages users, or for people purchasing a new Mac, the update is free.
In short, Pages has gone from useless for Hebrew to entirely usable. At last.
All extant manuscripts of the NT consistently use the Greek word κυριος (kyrios, ‘lord’) when translating the name of God in the OT, יהוה (Yhwh). The background to this is not entirely clear nor uncontested, but it is worth noting a few points about what is and isn’t known, and what is and isn’t likely.