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Hebrew - from Eden to the Kingdom


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#1 Mark Taunton

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 08:02 AM

This article is long overdue. I have promised for a while to put forward my case on the issue of Hebrew and its use from the earliest times, and now I'm going to do so.

Note that although the question of the "pure language" of the kingdom (Zeph 3:9) is not my primary concern, I do give my thoughts on it at the end. They will not be surprising, in view of the rest of what I say.

I have split the article into sections, for ease of reading. I hope readers will find it interesting and helpful. All feedback is welcome (I don't doubt there will be some!), if given in a Christ-like spirit. Thanks for reading...

Mark.

#2 Mark Taunton

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 08:04 AM

1. Statement of position, and the question of evidence

It is my belief that:
  • God spoke Hebrew with Adam and Eve (and the serpent), and that Adam and Eve continued to use it even after they were driven from the garden.
  • Hebrew was spoken by at least some people (if not everyone) until Noah's day.
  • Hebrew was the one language spoken by "all the earth", from the end of the flood until the time of Babel.
  • Subsequent to the confusion of tongues at Babel, Hebrew itself was still used, but only by a small proportion of humanity.
How can I say that? What evidence is there? There are no explicit statements in scripture about this issue, covering the aspects mentioned above. Nonetheless, on consideration, I believe that the evidence for it is there to be found and understood, as I seek now to show.

#3 Mark Taunton

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 08:08 AM

2. Names and translations (1)

Consider the genealogy in Matthew 1. Here are the first two verses, as rendered by the KJV:

1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;

Now let's consider the same text in a Spanish version (as a modern non-English language version I could easily grab, from blueletterbible.org):

1 Libro de la genealogía de Jesucristo, hijo de David, hijo de Abraham.
2 Abraham engendró a Isaac, Isaac a Jacob, y Jacob a Judá y a sus hermanos.

And lastly, here's the original NT Greek, with my own rather rough (non-technical) transliteration into English letters following, for those who don't read Greek:

1 βιβλος γενεσεως ιησου χριστου υιου δαυιδ υιου αβρααμ
2 αβρααμ εγεννησεν τον ισαακ ισαακ δε εγεννησεν τον ιακωβ ιακωβ δε εγεννησεν τον ιουδαν και τους αδελφους αυτου
1 biblos geneseos iesou christou uiou dauid uiou abraaam
2 abraam egennesen ton isaak isaak de egennesen ton iakob iakob de egennesen ton ioudan kai tous adelphous autou


Two things to note about this original text, rendered in those two other languages, are
  • The nouns and verbs and other ordinary parts of speech that carry any particular meaning are often (though not always) completely different in form between the languages. E.g.
    - 'book' in English is 'libro' in Spanish and 'biblos' in Greek;
    - 'brethren' in English takes the form 'hermanos' in Spanish and 'adelphous' in the Greek.
    There is no obvious relationship between any of those.
    (On the other hand, 'hijo' in Spanish seems perhaps somewhat similar to 'uiou' in Greek, though quite different from the English 'son'.)
    So it is quite obvious that the effects of God's intervention at Babel, with respect to most ordinary words, are definitely still with us…
  • The same is not true of the names in this passage. They do shift a little in spelling and apparent sound, but they are all recognisable between any two of the languages in which you might want to compare them. Consider these:

  • Jesus -- Jesu -- Iesou. Not exactly the same, but certainly recognisable.
  • David -- David – Dauid. Very similar indeed.
  • Abraham -- Abraham -- Abraam. Again, very similar.
  • Isaac -- Isaac – Isaak. No practical difference at all.
The same is true for all the names in the rest of the list (not just verses 1-2). And if you turn to the genealogy in Luke 3, you can see the same thing, for names right back to Adam. You can recognise them, because they sound similar in any language.


#4 Mark Taunton

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 08:14 AM

3. Names and translations (2)

When we read lists of names (Matt 1, and other similar ones) in a modern translation of the NT, we are seeing words written originally in Greek. Yet, unlike the other words in the same text, the names as we read them in English, or Spanish, or any other modern language, have not been translated (interpreted in meaning) but transliterated. The sound and form of each name has been carried over from the Greek of the New Testament into English, or Spanish.

This principle is applied in practically any translation of scripture. By contrast with ordinary words, names are not translated, they are transliterated.

But of course, all those names were originally Hebrew names, not Greek ones. And what we find, by looking at the Hebrew scriptures in which they first appear, is that the inspired text in Matthew 1 is doing exactly the same thing with those Hebrew names, that we do today in translation of that NT text into modern languages. While ordinary words, in any OT quotation into NT Greek, are translated, names are not; names are always transliterated.

(Aside: there are some (rare) exceptions to the rule about translating ordinary words: e.g. "sabaoth" in Rom 9:29 and Jas 5:4 is a transliteration of the Hebrew word 'tsabbaioth', meaning host or army. But I know of no exception to the rule about transliterating names.)

When we go back to the Old Testament passages that speak of the people concerned, we find those same names that Matthew listed. Of course they are written in Hebrew characters, not Greek ones. (Note: those Hebrew letters themselves changed in form over time: the familiar ones are actually Aramaic-type, not the older (paleo-Hebrew) shapes, though they have the same sound and sense.) But, so long as you know how the letters sound (which we know at least in present day Hebrew pronunciation), they are still recognisable:
  • Abraham is 'avraham'.
  • Isaac / Isaak is 'yitsak' or 'yitschak'
  • David / Dauid is 'david' (it might have been 'dawid' in his own time).
  • Jesus ('Iesou' in Greek) is of course the same name as Joshua (as Acts 7:45 shows); this sounds approximately as 'yashua' (or in a variant spelling, 'yehoshua') in Hebrew.
Between Hebrew and Greek there are certain differences, for various reasons to do with the different sounds (and letters) of the two languages. Yet just as we saw with Greek, English and Spanish, the names are still clearly recognisable. As for translation into modern language, they have not been translated from Hebrew into Greek, but transliterated.

The same principle also works applies between the two OT languages, Hebrew and Aramaic. For example, in the book of Daniel the prophet, his Hebrew name is spelled the same way throughout both the Hebrew parts (1-2:4; 8:1-end) and the Aramaic parts (2:4-7:28). The names of his three friends are also unchanged (e.g. 1:6 vs 2:17), as are the Aramaic alternative names that they were given by the Babylonians (1:7 vs 2:49). The name Nebuchadnezzar is changed very slightly in spelling, comparing e.g. 1:1 with 3:1: an aleph is inserted in the Hebrew form, relative to the Aramaic one. That name is also spelled slightly differently again, as Nebuchadrezzar, in other places in Scripture. But in all cases it is speaking of the same man.

We see then, readily, that in scriptural usage – of which there is plenty! - names are not translated from one language to another. Instead, they are transliterated, more or less unchanged in sound. But other, ordinary words are translated, that is, their meaning is carried over, though the form and sound of the original word is most often lost.

Edited by Mark Taunton, 01 August 2009 - 08:14 AM.


#5 Mark Taunton

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 08:23 AM

4. Names and meanings

But names themselves also have meanings, as scripture shows. Commonly, no meaning is given for a name, at least explicitly. Yet the meanings of many names can be worked out from the basic spelling of them in relation to ordinary words in the scriptural languages, and seem relevant to them. For example, "Theophilus" (Acts 1:1) means "friend of God" or "lover of God", which is apt for a man to whom Luke is communicating more about the Gospel of salvation through Jesus, which he had already spoken of in his earlier account.

And an important point about the meanings of names, when they are given, is this. When the meaning given for a name is itself carried over from one language to another, the meaning is translated, even though the name itself, which is related to that meaning, is not.

Here are a few examples, using names we have already seen:
  • Abraham in Hebrew means "father of a multitude", from God's promise that many nations would come from him (Gen 17:1-6, Rom 4:17).
  • David's name is from the word "beloved" (which is also the word for "uncle"; both come 1 Chr 27:32); the word comes repeatedly, translated into English in that way, in the Song of Songs; it is how the woman describes the man. (Rom 12:19 uses a Greek word translated "beloved", and may well be a play on this, alluding to 1 Sam 25 and David being prevented from avenging himself through the wise words of Abigail, who would soon after become his wife.)
  • Isaac's name means "he shall laugh" (as in Gen 21:6), though Sarah's use of that name followed God's earlier instruction to Abraham as to what their son was to be called (Gen 17:19).
  • Joshua/Jesus: 'yashua' means "he will save" (or in the longer form Yehoshua, Num 13:16, "Yah will save"). This is directly applied to Jesus in Matt 1:21.

Edited by Mark Taunton, 01 August 2009 - 09:12 AM.


#6 Mark Taunton

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 08:31 AM

5. Names, meanings and language

Where does that get us? What's the point of all that, in relation to Hebrew and whether it is the original language, the one spoken in Eden?

Well, we now need to consider some other particular names. I start with three:
  • Eve
  • Seth
  • Noah
There are more that could be used, and I'll say something about those later, but I'll stick with these for the moment.

These three names also have meanings. And in each case, the meaning is explicitly mentioned in scripture, in association with the person's naming.

Eve:

Gen 3:20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

Seth:

Gen 4:25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.

Noah:

Gen 5:28 And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son:
29 And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.

Let me give more detail about each of those:
  • Eve's name in Hebrew is 'chavah' or 'chawah', formed from the three letters chet – waw – heh. It comes into Greek as ευα ('eua'), in 1 Tim 2:13 and 2 Cor 11:3. And the Hebrew word for "living" (as in Gen 1:21, every living creature) is 'chayah' chet-yod-heh. (The shift from yod to waw in Hebrew introduces a causal element into the meaning.) Adam gave her that name because Eve was not just alive, she was (to be) the mother of all living. Eve was the source or cause of all later mankind's life.
  • Seth's name in Hebrew is the word for to "put" or "set", just two letters: sin – taw. The Greek form is σηθ ('seth') in Luke 3:38. The Hebrew form is identical both as the name Seth and the word translated as "appointed" by the KJV, in Gen 4:25, where Eve says that God has "appointed" (or "set" or "put") her another seed, instead of Abel.
  • Noah's name means (to) "rest", as in Gen 8:4, the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat. Noah's name in Hebrew has just two letters: num - chet. It is directly related to the word for "comfort", which is formed from the same starting letters, but with a Hebrew letter mem ("m") appended. (In relation to this, the main word for "comfort" is itself also a name – that of the prophet Nahum or Nachum; the 'Nach' part is just the same as Noah.) In the NT the name Noah appears as νωε ('noe'), in Mat 24:37 and several other places. Lamech, Noah's father, gave him that name, and prophesied in relation to the name that his son would "comfort" them concerning the work and toil of their hands.


#7 Mark Taunton

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 08:38 AM

6. The logic of scriptural names and language

Why do I mention these things? How does it help prove my case?

Let me summarise the issues so far:
  • I have shown from several specific scriptural examples (and pointed out many more cases) that names are always transliterated from one language to another, they are never translated. Though some small differences occur because of differences in language and alphabet, names are still recognisable.
  • Hebrew names generally do have meanings. They are in general ordinary words which have been deliberately turned into names, because the meaning of the word was important in regard to the named person.
  • The meanings of names, and the reason for their being given, are sometimes recorded for us in scripture. But while the meanings of names are translated into other languages (e.g. Abraham as "father of many" nations, Seth as the son "appointed" by God as Eve's seed), the names themselves are not translated.
From the first and third points, we come to realise that the names of those three early Bible characters that we have just considered – Eve, Seth and Noah – must be at least somewhat related in sound to the original names that they were actually given, the words spoken by their respective spouse or parent. When Adam addressed his wife by name, or when Eve spoke to her son Seth and used his name, that one word in each case would probably be recognisable to us even today, thousands of years later, even though we are so far removed, in time, place and culture, from those who lived before the flood.

But from the second detail, as scripture itself shows in each case, we see that the names all have specific meanings. And here (at last!) we come towards my point. The original meanings of those names are meanings that are specific in Hebrew. This is very significant. Those names work as meanings of Hebrew names, names in the Hebrew language. But while in any translation the actual names carried over into the target language by transliteration, the meanings of those names, based on the same original Hebrew form which the name has, do not. Instead, the meanings are translated into the other language, separately.

Thus, crucially, a meaning in a different language would imply a different name in that other language. Hence:
  • If Eve had been named in Greek (had it existed as a language in the time of Eden), for the same reason Adam gives, her name would not have been "Eve" or 'chawah', it would probably have been a form of the word "Zoe" (the Greek word for life), or something obviously related.
  • If Seth had been named in Greek, but on the same basis and for the same reason, his mother would not have called him Seth, but a very different name something like "Tho" or "Theo". (That is a Greek word for put / make / appoint, used in Mt 22:44 to translate the word "put" (Hebrew 'seth') in Psa 110:1.)
  • If Noah had been born in a Greek-speaking culture, he would not have been called Noah, but "Katapausis" or something very similar. The word Lamech used, "comfort" or "rest", in Gen 5:28 when he names Noah, also comes in Isa 66:1 and Psa 95:11. Isaiah is quoted by Stephen in his speech in Acts 7:49, and Luke's record of what he said, written in Greek, renders it as 'katapausis'. The same Greek word comes repeatedly, rendered as "rest", in Hebrews 3 & 4, in which it is quoting the word from the psalm.
What does this show? It indicates that when Adam named Eve, when Eve named Seth, and when Lamech named Noah, each was giving a name whose meaning applies in the Hebrew language, but not in another language (such as Greek), for which the words used to explain the name's meaning are quite different.

That implies, strongly, that those three namers themselves spoke Hebrew. Otherwise, the names they gave would have no connection with the meaning they themselves spoke of, when they performed those respective namings.

Edited by Mark Taunton, 01 August 2009 - 09:18 AM.


#8 Mark Taunton

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 08:41 AM

7. A possible counter-argument, countered

Now it might be claimed that Eve's name is only coincidentally like the Hebrew word for "living". Maybe Adam spoke a very different language, and it's just happenchance that the name matches to some degree in Hebrew. After all, 'chawah' is not exactly just the Hebrew word for "living" – there's a letter different, isn't there?

But the likelihood of that explanation diminishes sharply when we add in the case of Seth. Seth's name is spelled identically with the Hebrew word for "set" or "appointed", which Eve uses explicitly in the account of why he was so named.

When we bring in Noah, the theory of coincidences gets another hard knock. The use of Noah's name, as the Hebrew word for "rest" in relation to the grounding of the ark he built, on a now refreshed, cleansed earth (connecting with the prophecy of Lamech), adds strength to the significance of that particular name, a significance which is clearly quite specific to Hebrew, and Hebrew usage of that name as an (ordinary) word.

And that's only three examples. To those we can add:
  • Adam – his name, which is also the word "man", a collective name for human beings (Gen 5:2) comes from the Hebrew 'adamah', for earth/ground – compare it with the word "earthy", juxtaposed with Adam's (transliterated) name in 1 Cor 15:45-49.
  • Cain – named from the Hebrew word for "to get"; Eve said "I have gotten a man from Yahweh".
  • Peleg – from the Hebrew word for "divide". To add a little detail to that. This name I believe comes from the dividing or separation of the families of men into different nations, in different parts of the world, because of what God did at Babel. Although the word does not come in the Genesis account (it is very rare in the OT), it is used in Psa 55:9. There David requests of God concerning his enemies, "Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues, for I have seen violence and strife in the city". This seems to allude to Babel and the confusion of language that God caused in it, against the unity of men's evil ways, and their stated intentions concerning that city. They were set contrary to God's stated will for them, as he had made it known to Noah, so God divided both their language, and in consequence their choice of where to live, as he required.
And there are plenty more cases too, though those above are the early (pre-Babel) names that have particular explicit meanings attached in the text, in relation to when they were given. Many of the names of descendents of Adam and Eve, both through Cain and through Seth, mentioned in Genesis up to chapter 5, have specific and easily identifiable meanings when understood as Hebrew words.

Beyond that, some of the names of early places mentioned in Genesis, up to and including Babel, also have definite and meaningful uses as Hebrew words. Gen 11:9 is explicit about the meaning of "Babel" as a Hebrew word meaning "confusion".

#9 Mark Taunton

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 08:47 AM

8. Main conclusion

If the language spoken before Babel was not Hebrew, why should any of those things be so? Why does it just so happen that all those people were given names that are meaningful in Hebrew, and (at least in several cases) explicitly and deliberately so? And why would so many early place names also make perfect sense (have meaning) in Hebrew?

We have seen how names are consistently not translated, even when other words around them are, when rendering a text from one language into another. (That goes for places as well as people: Jerusalem, Sodom, Babel, Damascus are four that come through from OT to NT.) So if Adam, Eve and the rest before Babel did in fact speak another language (not Hebrew), and the whole of the earliest Genesis record were in fact translated from, or based on, a text in some earlier and quite different language, the details of those names would make no sense when read in Hebrew.

Yet they do. As I see it, this is all too much of a coincidence, to be merely a coincidence!

The only reasonable conclusion I believe we can reach is this: the language God first gave to man and woman, which the angels spoke with Adam and Eve, and they spoke to each other, both in the garden of Eden, and also afterwards when their children were born and grew up around them, was in fact Hebrew. We have seen Adam and Eve's own words demonstrating that, in their acts of naming.

Further, I have shown scriptural evidence that Hebrew was the language of Lamech, in naming Noah. After the flood, it was used by Shem's descendent Eber, whose own name is now bound to the language. He used it to name his son Peleg, in the time when people and languages were themselves split up and spread over the earth.

But that first language, Hebrew, continued also even after Babel, through a line passing from Peleg and down to Abraham, who was himself called a Hebrew (Gen 14:13). It was certainly the language used by those of his descendants who remained faithful to God, as he was, and their families. And it was carried down through all subsequent generations, by one means or another. It is of course once more spoken, in our own day (albeit in a rather weakened and coarsened form), in the land of Abraham's sojournings.

Edited by Mark Taunton, 01 August 2009 - 08:50 AM.


#10 Mark Taunton

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 08:49 AM

9 ... and afterwards...

If I am right in all this, then it was Hebrew that God used as his first language to communicate with mankind. And that applied not just from the earliest days when there were just two people on earth, but also in what he has said to us in the majority of the Old Testament.

Our creator purposes to "turn to the people a pure language, to serve him with one consent" (Zeph 3:9). This will happen when he inverts and transforms the typology of the events in Babel, bringing all the nations of the earth together to one place, to serve and worship him in his holy mountain. I believe that in the kingdom age, Hebrew, in a once-more purified form, will be that language which ultimately all men will learn to speak, both one to another, and to God.

Every man will call to his neighbour, under the vine and under the fig tree. Eden will be restored. The tree of life will yield her fruits in due season, for the healing of the nations. And at the end of the age, that great and innumerable company of saints, those who are the redeemed, amongst whom we all desire to stand, will be truly God's people as he is our God. We seek for that time when, united under and with the Lord Jesus Christ our head, in service and worship and praise before his God and our God, we will fulfil God's purpose for man, established from the foundation of the world. I believe that the saints will use the same language, Hebrew, which God designed, gave to man, and used himself from the beginning, to do exactly that.

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 09:10 AM

Hi Mark, thanks for that. Very interesting stuff and I'm thoroughly convinced (although I haven't heard a different view yet). That was all well reasoned and easy to read. Good exhortation at the end as well. Great stuff thank you :siren:

#12 BDW

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 09:19 AM

I have to agree as well Mark, although I am mildly biased because I think Hebrew is a beautiful language :siren:

Edited by BDW, 01 August 2009 - 09:19 AM.

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#13 Gileade

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 09:34 AM

Mark, I am sorry to brake this wave of congratulations but you have still some issues to address from the last time this topic was debated:

From Fortigurn:

The earliest writing on record dates to just over 3,000 BC, and it is not Hebrew. Then there's the fact that there is no physical evidence for Hebrew prior to the 10th century BC, which is when 'Archaic Biblical Hebrew', or 'palaeo-Hebrew' is first found. Why would palaeo-Hebrew exist from the 10th century BC, if Hebrew already existed, and why would there be a clear development from palaeo-Hebrew to 'Biblical Heberw' (the Hebrew used from the 6th century BC onwards, and in which Old Testament manuscripts and fragments typically occur), if Biblical Hebrew already existed prior to the 10th century BC?

If Biblical Hebrew existed even from as early as the 10th century BC, then why is there no evidence of it until the 6th century BC, but plenty of evidence of palaeo-Hebrew? And why is palaeo-Hebrew so obviously related to earlier Semitic languages, including Ugarit, and written in a Canaanite alphabet? It's not as if we're lacking written records from these early eras. We have literally thousands of tablets in all kinds of languages from at least 3,100 BC onwards.


Then there's the fact that the Hebrew Bible went through several different language changes throughout its transmission history. There is no physical evidence for Hebrew prior to the 10th century BC, which is when 'Archaic Biblical Hebrew', or 'palaeo-Hebrew' is first found. So whatever Moses was using, it is unlikely to have been palaeo-Hebrew. He would have written something which was later translated into palaeo-Hebrew. Biblical texts written in this language ended up in 'Biblical Hebrew' (the Hebrew used from the 6th century BC onwards, and in which Old Testament manuscripts and fragments typically occur), in which some of the other Biblical books were first written. So that's another language development.


And from Davvers:

What Mark is saying is:

In PBL someone said: "blah blah blah [PBL name-word] blah blah because of [PBL derivative-word]"

When this is translated to another language you'd expect the name-word to remain the same but the derivative-word to be translated into something else and you would lose the phonic connection between the two. But this doesn't seem to have happened in the hebrew record we have.

So in hebrew someone said: "blah blah blah [Hebrew name-word] blah blah because of [Hebrew derivative-word]"

...and because there is still a phonic connection between the hebrew name-word and the hebrew derivative-word, Mark is concluding that the language the original words were said in must have been hebrew.


This is all good but the potential flaw in this is that the inspired hebrew record might have translated the name-word as well. For all we know Seth's name in PBL could have been "Bob" but when the hebrew was written the name was translated to the hebrew "Seth" in order to show the connection in the meaning of the words. So Eve actually said "I'll call this child Bob because..." but it's translated into hebrew as "I'll call this child Seth because...".

Problem is we have no idea what sounds actually came from Eve's mouth.

One example of this name translation might be Cephas/Peter. Cephas is Aramaic and Peter is Greek but they mean the same. Jesus presumably actually said "your name is Cephas", but in all the gospels apart from John it is recorded as "your name is Peter". It is translated to retain the meaning.


I think there is a difference between transferring a name from PBL to hebrew, and transferring it from hebrew to greek. Going from PBL to hebrew we have the confusion of languages event happening in between the words being uttered and the hebrew record being penned, with the probability that PBL was completely erased from peoples memories (if it wasn't then people would quickly have agreed to revert to PBL).

Because Babel miraculously interrupted the natural language development there would not necessarily be a link between PBL words and any of the languages spoken after Babel. Whereas using a greekised form of a hebrew name in the NT would easily be traceable, even over a long period of language development, back to its hebrew origin. Babel did for languages what the flood did for geology. Therefore, particularly when the meaning of the word is drawn to our attention, it may have been translated. I say 'may' because I can't prove it because I don't know what sounds came from people's mouths pre-Babel.

But there is enough evidence (Cephas / Moses) to suggest that sometimes names would be translated for the purpose of emphasising the meaning. There's also evidence (as you've indicated) that sometimes they are not translated - usually where the meaning is not relevant in the context e.g. the genealogy in Matt 1. So all we can say is that hebrew might have been the pre Babel language, but equally it might not - there is simply not a watertight body of evidence for either assertion. And to say that it wasn't is a long way from questioning the inspiration of the scriptures!


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#14 BDW

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 10:09 AM

Hmmm. There seems to be opinions going both ways when I did a quick google of the idea.

One reason I would suggest that names were left largely untranslated is simply the fact that the NT audience were either Jewish or would have come to some familiarity with the OT and therefore it presents a clearer picture of "who's who" if the names are kept the same in both Testaments. A reasonable suggestion?
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#15 Mark Taunton

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 10:58 AM

Hi Gileade,

I'm glad to see you have read my article. What do you think of my argument, in its own terms, referring to scripture as its basis?


On Fortigurn's comments, there are two points to make:

(a) "Paleo-Hebrew" is still actually Hebrew, it's just the identifying terminology that differs. The primary and most obvious difference is simply the script (form of letters) in which it was written. Later Hebrew, since the Babylonian exile, has commonly been written using the square-based Aramaic characters, not the older forms. But the set of letters is the same, and so are the words they are used to form. There are small variations in exact spelling and grammar, but these are no larger in scope than we find on comparing say, Exodus with Malachi.

The basic words remain common, the basic grammar is the same, names are basically the same, etc. Vocabulary varies a bit, but that is primarily controlled by context and character of each piece of text. For example (sticking within Biblical Hebrew and its particular time spread): the word "ark" (of Noah, not of the covenant) used throughout the Genesis record of the flood, last appears in Exo 2:5, dated sometime around the 16th Century BC. That it does not occur in any later text, down to the post-exilic books such as Ezra and Nehemiah, Zechariah and Haggai, is no proof the Hebrew language has changed over the 1800 or so years after Noah. The reason for that is simply that it's not a subject that gets mentioned explicitly by God in later OT times.

And the same can be true in reverse. Certain Hebrew words do not appear until late in the OT period. But that can be for many reasons, such as developments in the world of the nations around Israel, and in some cases the coming in of new terms adopted from their idol worship. God may choose to mention in scripture a word he has not used before, in order to counter its then-current significance in Israel, when his people where foolishly absorbing the thinking and language of the gentiles, rather than that of God's own ancient and true words.

(b) A fundamental principle needs to be stated, and applied. Absence of evidence (concerning anything from the past, or indeed generally) is not evidence of absence. That no inscriptions in old Hebrew are known, dating from before the 10th C BC, is not in any way proof that Hebrew was not spoken or written before that time, as Fortigurn seeks to imply. That is simply an argument from silence, of no real weight. Claims as to Hebrew's relative newness, based on the absence of early documentary examples, certainly emanate from those in the world who wish to deny the Bible as an accurate historical document. But we here believe it is true, knowing who its author is. We have no cause to be troubled by, or to accept, such weak arguments.


Davvers' argument is shown by my article not to have any force, at least not in relation to the weight of evidence scripture actually gives, which illustrates my case. He supposes that names could simply be translated between languages. But I have shown the consistent pattern, over many different instances, and between several different languages, including most importantly within and between the Bible's own languages, that names consistently are not translated, but instead transliterated. I know of no example that goes against that.

Davvers does mention two cases, which were discussed in more detail on the thread or elsewhere:

Firstly, the claim that Moses' name is Egyptian, that he alludes to. But that is far from proven. I pointed out (in a later thread, I think) that there are grounds in the text at that place to see that the name Moses is in fact Hebraic, and was given to him by his own mother in her ancestral tongue, not by his adoptive mother in the language of Egypt.

The other is the Peter/Cephas example (John 1:42). But this does not go in the relevant direction. Peter is itself a Greek name, from the word for "stone" or "pebble", and Jesus seems to rename him using what is possibly an (older?) Aramaic word, Cephas or Kephas, which the gospel record indicates has an equivalent interpretation. This is not Hebrew being brought into a later language. This is Greek, and a Greek name, being put back (I suggest for specific instructional reasons) into an older language. Jesus here (or John the inspired gospel writer, depending how you read the words) is not here simply giving us a translation of a name. Jesus is saying something specific, with reference to the name of his foremost disciple, and its significance of meaning, which uses two languages. This not in any way a normal example of cross-language rendering as a regular process in handling a written text: Jesus was speaking to Peter. Note too that Peter is still called Peter routinely in the NT. Only Paul ever calls him Cephas, in two of his letters, and that I believe must be for specific reasons. So Jesus was not showing us how to translate names, as a matter of course. If he were, the NT would follow his lead and do the same for all names. But it doesn't - not at all.

If Davvers' comment is to take us anywhere, he needs to show an indisputable example of a name actually being translated, and used in translated form, consistently, not transliterated. He would also need to explain why such an example (if there were any to be found - as I said, I know of none) should be held to take precedence for our understanding of the Biblical texts about mankind's early history, despite the many clear examples I have mentioned, throughout scripture, showing that names are consistently transliterated, not translated, between languages.

Edited by Mark Taunton, 01 August 2009 - 10:59 AM.


#16 BDW

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 11:30 AM

Any thoughts on my second comment there?
"Christ in you, the hope of glory"

#17 Mark Taunton

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 12:08 PM

Hmmm. There seems to be opinions going both ways when I did a quick google of the idea.

One reason I would suggest that names were left largely untranslated is simply the fact that the NT audience were either Jewish or would have come to some familiarity with the OT and therefore it presents a clearer picture of "who's who" if the names are kept the same in both Testaments. A reasonable suggestion?

The issue is, what evidence is there that names are ever translated, instead of being transliterated, at all? Certainly the point is valid that a Jew who knew the OT in Hebrew would still use a Hebrew name from it when speaking in Greek - it would of course be familiar to him and other Jews. But so far as I can see, that same pattern is true much more broadly.

Even today, the names we use for ourselves, and are called by, are often very ancient, and their meanings come from ancient languages. But we still don't translate and use them as English (or other modern language) words. I see no evidence in Scripture, or in anything else I have read, ancient or modern, for that actually being something that occurs, or has occurred in the past. E.g. Josephus writing in Greek about the history of Israel, and of other nations, uses the same names, as names, that we find in the OT and in other historical accounts and records in their original languages.

Equally, today, when simply translating between (say) European languages, the same principle still holds. You leave the names alone (or nearly so), and translate only the other words. Perhaps places names are re-spelled a bit (London vs Londres), or pronounced differently (consider "Paris" in English and French), but you don't translate. It's how human languages are always handled, in moving from one to another, seemingly quite generally...

Edited by Mark Taunton, 01 August 2009 - 12:09 PM.


#18 Huldah

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 01:34 PM

I dunno! The books I have read put Adam's language as Accadian - a different and older local language.

Languages change and develop over time, Hebrew is related to languages around it and there is cross fertilisation between languages, but we don't learn about a group of people known as the 'Hebrews' until after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I would think that even Abraham spoke quite a different language to Moses.
"Dear friends, if our conscience does not condemn us, we have confidence in the presence of God and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing to him. Now this is his commandment: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he gave us the commandment. And the person who keeps his commandments resides in God, and God in him. Now by this we know that God resides in us: by the Spirit he has given us"
1 John 3.21-24

#19 BDW

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 01:36 PM

I guess it really depends on how Hebrew is defined because, like any language, it has evolved.

I'm guessing that the Accadian idea is based on the fact that Abram came out of Ur which is in the area of ancient Accad (or thereabouts).

Edited by BDW, 01 August 2009 - 01:36 PM.

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#20 Huldah

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 02:27 PM

The fact that languages change over time begs the question about how Hebrew can be special. Hebrew from *which* age exactly?
"Dear friends, if our conscience does not condemn us, we have confidence in the presence of God and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing to him. Now this is his commandment: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he gave us the commandment. And the person who keeps his commandments resides in God, and God in him. Now by this we know that God resides in us: by the Spirit he has given us"
1 John 3.21-24

#21 BDW

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 02:31 PM

Whilst most languages have changed dramatically over the years Hebrew has remained relatively the same as it was a dead language for several centuries. This is illustrated well by a comparison between modern Greek and NT Koine Greek which are vastly different. When Ben Yehuda revived Hebrew he made it as similar to the old language as he could.

Notwithstanding I do see the point of your point.

And I guess the answer would probably be the oldest.

Edited by BDW, 01 August 2009 - 02:32 PM.

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#22 Mark Taunton

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 03:21 PM

Really, there's hardly much difference to be concerned about, from Genesis 1 to the end of Malachi. A very large proportion of words remain the same throughout that period. Just off the top of my head, the Hebrew words and grammar of
  • God
  • create
  • make
  • heaven
  • and
  • earth
  • said
  • become
  • light
  • evening
  • morning
  • one, two, second, three, third, ... seven, seventh
  • day
  • night
  • water
  • sea
  • tree
  • field
  • seed
  • fruit
  • ground
  • soul
  • living
  • male
  • female
  • name
  • good
  • very
  • in
  • from
  • to
and many more (indeed a very high proportion of the words in the first few chapters of Genesis), are represented pretty much throughout the OT, essentially unchanged.

I certainly don't deny all variation and shifts in the fine detail of Hebrew over time. There are clearly various cultural issues it reflects, in particular contexts (e.g. Job, set in "the east", uses quite a range of more unusual forms and words). But overall the divergence in the language is really remarkably small, and relatively insignificant. I suggest that English has changed probably at least as much, in less than 500 years since Tyndale's first English translation, than OT Hebrew did over several times that long.

Edited by Mark Taunton, 01 August 2009 - 03:24 PM.


#23 Jon D

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 04:28 PM

Thanks Mark, that was much appreciated, I imagine it took a jolly long time to prepare as well. It would seem to fit with the fact that God chose to reveal His name in Hebrew, and it will be His name that will be praised in the Kingdom (Psalm 148, Rev 19 etc). Perhaps I could add one or two things to your comments.

To further what Mark said, I think there is also a moral lesson that will be taught from the use of Hebrew in the kingdom.

This is something that I think is well worth considering whenever we have a detail regarding the kingdom. For example, in Isaiah 11 and 65 we are told that the animals will be at rest. Animals/beasts in Scripture are often used as types of nations (Exe 29 vs. 2, Daniel 7 etc). So the fact that the animals are at rest from one another is a symbol of the fact that the nations are at rest. Further lessons are learnt from the rejuvenation of plants etc.

Presumably then, we are to learn something from the language change spoken of in Zephaniah. A few facts establish an important principle:

The land of Israel will be from the Nile to the Euphrates and from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, the land covenanted to Abraham (Gen 15 vs. 18; Ps 72 vs. 8; Zech 9 vs. 10). Israel will be a blessed nation, with both Judah and Israel back in the land (Eze 37 vs. 22 – 28, Ps 72 vs. 8, Hos 6 vs. 1 – 2, Zech 8 vs. 23). Israelites will serve as Levites and priests (Isa 61 vs. 6, 66 vs. 21, Eze 44 vs. 11 – 14, 17 – 31). Israel will dwell in their tribes, ruled over by the twelve apostles (Eze 47 vs. 13; 48 vs. 1 – 29; Matt 19 vs. 28). The kingdom of God will be based in Israel (Acts 1 vs. 8; Zech 2 vs. 12).

The temple will be in Jerusalem, an elevated city, God’s chosen city, a city of joy (Ps 48 vs. 2; Isa 56 vs. 7 cp. Mark 11 vs. 17; 65 vs. 18; Eze 37 vs. 26; 40 – 48; Zech 2 vs. 12; 6 vs. 12 – 13; 8 vs. 20 – 22; Mal 3 vs. 2 – 3). Animal sacrifices will be in offered at the temple under a law similar to the Law of Moses (Mal 3 vs. 3 & 4; Eze 20 vs. 40; Heb 9 vs. 10; Zech 14 vs. 16 cp. Lev 23 vs. 34, Zech 14 vs. 31; Ps 51 vs. 18 – 19; Hosea 3 vs. 4 – 5; Jer 33 vs. 17 – 19; Gen 15 vs. 9). A river will flow from under the Temple (Joel 3 vs. 18; Zech 14 vs. 8) which will heal the nations (Eze 47 vs. 12).


The kingdom of God will be an Israelitish kingdom. The "hope of Israel" is what Paul was bound with, and it is equally what we are bound to. Hebrew is the language of the Jew. I think that the moral aspect of speaking Hebrew, the language of the Jew, is very powerful for the mortal population. A common language is something that unites a population and the mortal population will acknowledge that it is the language of the Jew. In Zephaniah (3 vs. 13) it says:
"The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid."

So here we see that in the Millennium, Israel will be a faithful example to the other nations both in their life and especially that their speech is holy and there is no deceit found in their mouth. Indeed Zeph 3 vs. 9 tells us why there will be one language, it is so that "all may call upon the name of Yahweh, to serve him with one consent". This is almost certainly an allusion to faithful men like Seth and Abraham who called on the name of Yahweh (exactly the same Hebrew phrase - Gen 4 vs. 26, 12 vs. 8). God desires that all of the world will worship him and give him glory and it is this unity in worship that God is laying down in the principle of the "pure language". Yahweh is teaching the Gentiles to look to the Abrahamic faith of turning to His name and worshipping Him from their idols. God is showing them in the choice of Hebrew, that it is only through Israel that Gentiles have a hope of salvation:

"Therefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh."



Indeed, salvation is of "the Jews", for we have been called to the "hope of Israel" by God's grace.

Edited by Elimelech, 01 August 2009 - 04:31 PM.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus


#24 Mark Taunton

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 05:33 PM

Elimelech, your very detailed and insightful further comments are most helpful. Thank you very much!

#25 Richie

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 06:11 PM

I think it matters not.
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#26 Davvers

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 03:33 PM

The other is the Peter/Cephas example (John 1:42). But this does not go in the relevant direction. Peter is itself a Greek name, from the word for "stone" or "pebble", and Jesus seems to rename him using what is possibly an (older?) Aramaic word, Cephas or Kephas, which the gospel record indicates has an equivalent interpretation. This is not Hebrew being brought into a later language. This is Greek, and a Greek name, being put back (I suggest for specific instructional reasons) into an older language. Jesus here (or John the inspired gospel writer, depending how you read the words) is not here simply giving us a translation of a name. Jesus is saying something specific, with reference to the name of his foremost disciple, and its significance of meaning, which uses two languages. This not in any way a normal example of cross-language rendering as a regular process in handling a written text: Jesus was speaking to Peter. Note too that Peter is still called Peter routinely in the NT. Only Paul ever calls him Cephas, in two of his letters, and that I believe must be for specific reasons. So Jesus was not showing us how to translate names, as a matter of course. If he were, the NT would follow his lead and do the same for all names. But it doesn't - not at all.


Hi Mark, this old chestnut again! I don't really have time this week for a proper discussion but just to say I think you may have misunderstood my point about Cephas/Peter.

My point was that when Jesus gave Peter that name he presumably was speaking in Aramaic and so would have said "your name is Cephas". However when the inspired gospel writers record the conversation in Greek they wrote "your name is Peter". In other words, they translated both the name and the meaning into greek in order to show the meaning. So the name Cephas is going from Aramaic to Greek and being translated along the way, not as you said above a Greek name being put back into an older language.

As to your main argument, perhaps I can explain why I think there is an inherent uncertainty in it. Consider a timeline:

A---------B--------C------------------D------------

A = time of Adam and Eve
B = confusion of language at Babel
C = Genesis account written in hebrew
D = time of Jesus

You are establishing a hypothesis about how names transfer from language to language based on evidence over the period from C to D, when languages were developing and behaving 'naturally'. Then you are applying that hypothesis to the period from A to C. The problem is there is a catastrophic miraculous event in the language development process at B. It therefore seems somewhat foolhardy to me to assume that what happened between C and D should also happen seamlessly over the period A to C. Event B just re-wrote so many of the rules of language that I'm not sure we can say with certainty that this particular rule remained intact.

I must admit I share Richie's thought on this to some extent - perhaps I can cheekily suggest that you could add an appendix to your paper to explain why it matters!

Thanks
D

#27 Jeremy

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 06:15 PM

But of course, all those names were originally Hebrew names, not Greek ones. And what we find, by looking at the Hebrew scriptures in which they first appear, is that the inspired text in Matthew 1 is doing exactly the same thing with those Hebrew names, that we do today in translation of that NT text into modern languages. While ordinary words, in any OT quotation into NT Greek, are translated, names are not; names are always transliterated.

(Aside: there are some (rare) exceptions to the rule about translating ordinary words: e.g. "sabaoth" in Rom 9:29 and Jas 5:4 is a transliteration of the Hebrew word 'tsabbaioth', meaning host or army. But I know of no exception to the rule about transliterating names.)

How about these?

John 1 v 42
"He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas [rock]" (which is translated Peter [rock])."

Acts 9 v 36
"Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha [gazelle] (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas [gazelle])..."

This one I'm not sure about:

Acts 13 v 8
"But Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated [from Bar-Jesus])..."

Here are at least two NT examples of proper names being translated (not transliterated) into another language so as to preserve the meaning of the name in the recipient language.
And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

#28 Jeremy

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 06:18 PM

6. The logic of scriptural names and language

Why do I mention these things? How does it help prove my case?

Let me summarise the issues so far:

  • I have shown from several specific scriptural examples (and pointed out many more cases) that names are always transliterated from one language to another, they are never translated. Though some small differences occur because of differences in language and alphabet, names are still recognisable.
  • Hebrew names generally do have meanings. They are in general ordinary words which have been deliberately turned into names, because the meaning of the word was important in regard to the named person.
  • The meanings of names, and the reason for their being given, are sometimes recorded for us in scripture. But while the meanings of names are translated into other languages (e.g. Abraham as "father of many" nations, Seth as the son "appointed" by God as Eve's seed), the names themselves are not translated.
From the first and third points, we come to realise that the names of those three early Bible characters that we have just considered – Eve, Seth and Noah – must be at least somewhat related in sound to the original names that they were actually given, the words spoken by their respective spouse or parent. When Adam addressed his wife by name, or when Eve spoke to her son Seth and used his name, that one word in each case would probably be recognisable to us even today, thousands of years later, even though we are so far removed, in time, place and culture, from those who lived before the flood.

But from the second detail, as scripture itself shows in each case, we see that the names all have specific meanings. And here (at last!) we come towards my point. The original meanings of those names are meanings that are specific in Hebrew. This is very significant. Those names work as meanings of Hebrew names, names in the Hebrew language. But while in any translation the actual names carried over into the target language by transliteration, the meanings of those names, based on the same original Hebrew form which the name has, do not. Instead, the meanings are translated into the other language, separately.

Thus, crucially, a meaning in a different language would imply a different name in that other language. Hence:
  • If Eve had been named in Greek (had it existed as a language in the time of Eden), for the same reason Adam gives, her name would not have been "Eve" or 'chawah', it would probably have been a form of the word "Zoe" (the Greek word for life), or something obviously related.
  • If Seth had been named in Greek, but on the same basis and for the same reason, his mother would not have called him Seth, but a very different name something like "Tho" or "Theo". (That is a Greek word for put / make / appoint, used in Mt 22:44 to translate the word "put" (Hebrew 'seth') in Psa 110:1.)
  • If Noah had been born in a Greek-speaking culture, he would not have been called Noah, but "Katapausis" or something very similar. The word Lamech used, "comfort" or "rest", in Gen 5:28 when he names Noah, also comes in Isa 66:1 and Psa 95:11. Isaiah is quoted by Stephen in his speech in Acts 7:49, and Luke's record of what he said, written in Greek, renders it as 'katapausis'. The same Greek word comes repeatedly, rendered as "rest", in Hebrews 3 & 4, in which it is quoting the word from the psalm.
What does this show? It indicates that when Adam named Eve, when Eve named Seth, and when Lamech named Noah, each was giving a name whose meaning applies in the Hebrew language, but not in another language (such as Greek), for which the words used to explain the name's meaning are quite different.

That implies, strongly, that those three namers themselves spoke Hebrew. Otherwise, the names they gave would have no connection with the meaning they themselves spoke of, when they performed those respective namings.

To be fair, I think all this proves is that the names had the meanings we're told in the original language whatever that was (Hebrew or not). There's nothing here, I don't think, to prove that this couldn't be the same in Hebrew and in another language too. How do we know that Hebrew didn't adopt these names at a later date because their meaning was already well established by that stage? I don't anything in this post to discount that possibility.

Edited by Jeremy, 04 August 2009 - 06:20 PM.

And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

#29 Hyperion

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 06:22 PM

How about these?

John 1 v 42

Acts 9 v 36

Not quite as good as the above examples, but also:

Rev 9:11
"They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon (destroyer), and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon (destroyer)."

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#30 Jeremy

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 06:23 PM

8. Main conclusion

If the language spoken before Babel was not Hebrew, why should any of those things be so? Why does it just so happen that all those people were given names that are meaningful in Hebrew, and (at least in several cases) explicitly and deliberately so? And why would so many early place names also make perfect sense (have meaning) in Hebrew?

We have seen how names are consistently not translated, even when other words around them are, when rendering a text from one language into another. (That goes for places as well as people: Jerusalem, Sodom, Babel, Damascus are four that come through from OT to NT.) So if Adam, Eve and the rest before Babel did in fact speak another language (not Hebrew), and the whole of the earliest Genesis record were in fact translated from, or based on, a text in some earlier and quite different language, the details of those names would make no sense when read in Hebrew.

Yet they do. As I see it, this is all too much of a coincidence, to be merely a coincidence!

The only reasonable conclusion I believe we can reach is this: the language God first gave to man and woman, which the angels spoke with Adam and Eve, and they spoke to each other, both in the garden of Eden, and also afterwards when their children were born and grew up around them, was in fact Hebrew. We have seen Adam and Eve's own words demonstrating that, in their acts of naming.

Further, I have shown scriptural evidence that Hebrew was the language of Lamech, in naming Noah. After the flood, it was used by Shem's descendent Eber, whose own name is now bound to the language. He used it to name his son Peleg, in the time when people and languages were themselves split up and spread over the earth.

But that first language, Hebrew, continued also even after Babel, through a line passing from Peleg and down to Abraham, who was himself called a Hebrew (Gen 14:13). It was certainly the language used by those of his descendants who remained faithful to God, as he was, and their families. And it was carried down through all subsequent generations, by one means or another. It is of course once more spoken, in our own day (albeit in a rather weakened and coarsened form), in the land of Abraham's sojournings.

If the original language was Hebrew, why does the text often have to explain what the meaning of the name is? If Hebrew was the mother tongue of both author and first readers, that habit sounds superfluous. It may suggest rather that author and readers spoke different languages.
And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.




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