Hebrew Beginnings: Kumi Ori

For your listening pleasure, here is a version of Kumi Ori.  One of the biggest steps in learning a new language is training the ear.  Listen to as much as you can, as often as you can.  The lyrics to the song are Isaiah 60:1-2.  You can find the lyrics here.
א  קוּמִי אוֹרִי, כִּי בָא אוֹרֵךְ; וּכְבוֹד יְהוָה, עָלַיִךְ זָרָח.

1 Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.
ב  כִּי-הִנֵּה הַחֹשֶׁךְ יְכַסֶּה-אֶרֶץ, וַעֲרָפֶל לְאֻמִּים; וְעָלַיִךְ יִזְרַח יְהוָה, וּכְבוֹדוֹ עָלַיִךְ יֵרָאֶה.

2 For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples; but upon thee the LORD will arise, and His glory shall be seen upon thee.
Keep in mind that a basic meaning of the word זרח is “shone” or “shined.”  It can also have to do with the rising of the sun.
‎זרח
‎האיר, נתן אור
‎השמש זורחת בשמים
‎לזרוח / ז.ר.ח. / פעל / זרחתי, זורח, אזרח, יזרח, זרח

zarach
he’ir, natan ‘or
hashemesh zorachat bashamayim
lizro’ach / (shoresh) / pa’al (stem) / zarachti, zore’ach, ezrach, yizrach, zrach!

it shined
lit up, gave light
The sun is shining in the sky.
to shine / (shoresh) / pa’al (stem) / I shined, is shining, I will shine, it will shine, Shine!

‎ערפל is the word for fog.  Deep darkness is associated with it here, probably in connection to the ערפל on Sinai.

‎ערפל
‎1. אוויר מלא במים
‎בבוקר היה ערפל כבד, אי אפשר היה לראות שום דבר
‎2. מצב לא ברור
‎העתיד מכוסה בערפל

arafel
avir male bemayim
baboker hayah arafel kaved, ee efshar hayah lir’ot shum davar
matzav lo barur
he’atid mekhuseh ba’arafel

fog
air filled with water
In the morning there was a heavy fog, it was impossible to see anything.
an unclear situation, obscurity
The future is covered with obscurity.

Here’s the song.

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Hebrew Beginnings: Habrit Hachadashah

In case you are unaware of it, UBS has for decades been publishing Habrit Hachadashah (The New Covenant) in Hebrew.  In 1959, their copy of the scriptures was the first Hebrew bible to be published in HaAretz.  Read the story here.

Recently, they have released a dramatized reading of the Hebrew New Testament.  I have yet to acquire a copy, but my guess is that it is top notch.

Click here.

The point of this is that if you consider yourself a “New Testament” scholar, or an “Old Testament” scholar, or just someone who enjoys both, either way, this is a great way to study Hebrew while at the same time studying the scriptures you love.  A win-win situation if you ask me.

Here’s a free online version of the Hebrew New Testament for your perusing pleasure!

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Hebrew Beginnings: Mechon Mamre

Barukh Haba (welcome) to the world of Hebrew language. Ideally, you would have the funding and privilege to move to Israel for five to ten years and live in an environment in which the Israelis only spoke to you in Hebrew.  They would be kind enough to work with you and help you with mistakes in your speaking in nothing but a loving manner.  Unfortunately, we do not live in such a utopia.  You are probably much like me, lacking the funding for such an endeavor.  For the time I spent in Israel, I was forced to scrimp and save for several years.  Even if the finances were not an issue, once you arrived, you would be thrust into Israeli society.  Just to give you a heads up, Israelis are very kind hearted, sensitive people, but if you are not family or a close friend, it is likely that they will come across as course and blunt.  Between the mixture of Israeli politics and the straight forwardness of Hebrew, there is little to no patience.  Fear not, and do not be dismayed.  There still remains hope for you to learn the language of the prophets.

Today’s resource is great for those who find themselves infatuated with the deep, mystifying, kabbalistic concept of FREE.  That’s right, F-R-E-E.  Mechon Mamre offers the biblical text coupled with the JPS translation.  Audio files accompany the text and are available to be streamed or downloaded to your computer for easy listening on the go.  When it comes to readings of the entire Hebrew bible, this is the best, and again, it’s free.  The only readings that I have found that are of higher quality are Randall Buth’s “500 Friends.”  Unfortunately, his only covers select readings, and not the entire bible.  More on his products later.

Until next time, have fun listening!
Click here to visit Mechon Mamre!

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Hebrew Beginnings: Animated Hebrew

If you don’t have Adobe Shockwave on your computer, you’ll need to download it in order to check out AnimatedHebrew.com.  For beginners, especially those in Seminary Hebrew 1 & 2, this site is a MUST.  Charles Grebe has adapted Philip Williams’ Jonah carton to include the written and audio text of Sepher Yonah.

On a positive side, the comic features a slow paced reading available in manual and autoplay, so you can go at your own pace.  The text is available in unpointed formats of the Aramaic, Cursive, and Paleo-Hebrew scripts.  Below the comic, Grebe has included translations in pointed Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Greek, Latin, Arabic, German, French, KJV, ESV, and NET bible.

On a negative side, not much can be said.  The comic helps keep your attention while you read and the reading is at an excellent pace for beginners.  After ten minutes, Micheal Johnson from Criswell College was able to read the first two verses.  Previously, it took him 30 seconds to a minute to sound out one word.  Impressive.  Well done Michael!  Keep up the good work.

Thanks Charles for the excellent resource and to Dr. Kevin Warstler, Associate Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Criswell College, for showing it to me.  I look forward to Charles Grebe and Philip Williams partnering up for more biblical cartoons with audio.

WWW.ANIMATEDHEBREW.COM

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Hebrew Beginnings: Dialects, Pronunciations, and Intonations

In this, and future blog posts, I invite you to come along with me as we enter the world of the Hebrew language.  Over the course of these blogs I hope to introduce you to useful resources for learning the language and some it would behoove you to stay away from.  Additionally, I hope to write to you and illuminate your eyes to points of intrigue within the Hebrew bible that you would only be able to see if you were familiar with the language.  Along the way, it is highly probable that we will rabbit trail into the domains of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the rabbis, as well as Sesame Street and Curious George.

Wait, wait.  Relax.  I know you’re thinking, “But Eric, my Hebrew’s not good enough to read Curious George.  Can’t you just stick to the biblical material so that I can cross reference with my bible software and appear to be scholarly and knowledgeable of the languages?”  Frankly, I cannot.  To miss out on the profundity of Sesame Street and its correlation to the biblical text would be to do you a great disfavor.

Yet that will need to wait for a future date.  Today, we are starting with dialect, pronunciation, and one of the greatest resources for learning Hebrew since the advent of the ulpan.  That being none other than the “Youtube(s).”

First, let’s check out dialect options.  In the world of Hebrew speakers there are three primary dialects; Ashkenaz, Sephardi/Mizrachi, and Temani.  From these three come various subcategories involving mild idiosyncrasies in pronunciation.  In the realm of the Ashkenazim (Jews whose descendancy is from Northern Europe), the greatest differences will be noticed.  This is primarily due to the impact of Yiddish.  As a result, the accent is moved back towards the beginning of the word, both the kametz and kametz chatuf are pronounced with an “o” or “oy” sound, and the tav without a mappik is said like a samekh.  Therefore the word “Shabbat” is many times pronounced as “Shobbos” or “Shabbas.”  This dialect can be found most prominently on the streets of Crown Heights or Me’ah She’arim.  While this dialect is not the best choice for finding your way around the streets of Tel Aviv, as a result of its modified accent and “S” sounding Tav, it does have the benefit of making it easier to intersperse Hebrew words into your English speech.  Which comes in handy if you are teaching Torah in English, yet need to mention key Hebrew terms in the text.  To hear a sample check out this lesson on Ha’azinu.

The second dialect is the Sephardi/Mizrachi.  Most Israelis speak in one of the subcategories of this dialect.  As a result, this is the dialect I prefer for everyday conversation in Hebrew and for reading Modern Hebrew literature.  It is also the easiest for people to start with when trying to learn to read the bible.  When listening to people speaking in Sephardi Hebrew, you will notice that the accent is towards the end of the word.  The multitude of vowel sounds that you learned in your seminary courses are reduced to five sounds; aw, ey, ee, o, and oo.  In regards to the BeGaD KePhaT letters, the Beit, Kaf, and Peh retain their distinguishing characteristics of hard and soft sounds depending on whether or not there is a mappik.  The Gimmel, Dalet, and Tav only have a hard sound, whether or not there is a mappik.  To hear a sample, check out this reading from 1 Samuel 15.

The third dialect is the Temani.  This is my favorite dialect of the three, probably because of its exotic nature, and is what I use for reading Torah and praying from the Siddur.  The Temani (Yemenite) Jews are a very unique group.  As a result of their geographical region, for much of the time since the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, they have been cut off from the rest of the Jewish world.  Their tradition is that they descend from the tribe of Dan and did not return at all during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.  As a result, their Hebrew lines up most closely to what scholars think the Hebrew of biblical times sounded like.  First, every vowel has a different sound.  Additionally, the BeGaD KePhaT letters all retain a hard and soft sound.  Therefore you will hear differences between a Gimmel and Jimmel, Daleth and Dhaleth, and Taw and Thaw.  The Vav, unlike in Ashkenazi and Sephardi, is pronounced with a “W” sound.  Hince a Waw instead of a Vav.  Much like some subcategories of Sephardi, Alef and Ayin are distinguished in their sounds as well as Chet and Khaf.  To hear a sample check out this version of “Yigdal.”

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Monotheism and the Bible: Origins, Issues, and the Status Quaestionis – Hebrew Bible/OT Part 1

FIrst Interview of two in the “Monotheism and the Hebrew Bible” Series

Interviewee: Dr. Nathan MacDonald

- Reader in Old Testament at University of St. Andrews and Sofja-Kovalevskaja-Preis Team Leader, Georg-August Universität Göttingen


- Author of Deuteronomy and the Meaning of ‘Monotheism’

1. How do we define “monotheism”?

The dictionary definition of monotheism is “the belief that there is only one God”. So far so good, but this is where the difficulties begin, as we can see if we examine the different parts of the definition.

First, “the belief”. The focus on beliefs rather than practices is striking and suggests that the conceptuality of monotheism may better capture intellectual paradigms than the larger religious framework, which consists of more than beliefs. Practices and beliefs are linked in a complex manner, of course, but some of the evidence we have about ancient Israel is much more readily related to practice rather than belief.

Second, “there is”. The issue becomes primarily, if not entirely, one of ontology. Issues of response are marginalized, if not excluded entirely. These issues of response are of much greater weight for the ancient authors and editors of the Old Testament.

Third, “one God”. What do we mean by a God, especially if we are going to deny that others exist? Is belief in other supernatural beings, such as angels or demons, not monotheistic? (Supernatural is itself a problematic category, of course).

Fourth, “only”. The “only” in such a definition is usually taken to mean the denial of the existence of other gods. Where this is not present, do we still have monotheism? (And if no, have we narrowed down our texts with what is merely a formal category?) How do we judge if such denials are rhetorical?

All of this suggests that monotheism is a remarkably difficult concept. That doesn’t mean barring its use as some have suggested – such strictures would be readily ignored anyhow! But in describing the beliefs and practices in the ancient Near East, including the Levant, we need to ensure we know what we are doing when we employ such categories, and most particularly ensure we don’t smuggle things into our description of ancient religions. In other words, the hermeneutical issues that circle around the monotheism debate are rather complex.

2. In the text of the Hebrew Bible, do you see a progression or development to monotheism? If so, is that progression a development in kind or a development of degree (or both)?

The question of progression or development is more naturally suited to a discussion of Israelite religious history, rather than the ‘text of the Hebrew Bible’ per se. The texts of the Hebrew Bible evidence an insistent monolatry, or call it monotheism if you wish. These take a variety of different forms, such that I have occasionally spoken of early Jewish monotheisms, a coinage that is meant to parallel the use of Judaisms in recent scholarship on the Second Temple period. Thus, the monotheism of Deutero-Isaiah and the priestly document look very different from one another, even if they stem from the late neo-Babylonian or early Persian period. This diversity only increases if we consider Jewish wisdom literature or Jewish apocalyptic. These are also arguably monotheistic, but quite different from Deutero-Isaiah and P. In this sense, I would like to speak of the variety of monotheism in the Hebrew Bible, rather than its progression or development.

3. (If yes to the previous question) Are there distinct periods in which you see these developments (a timeline of sorts) and how would you characterize or describe the shifts in thinking or praxis?

This sounds to my ears like a different issue: one relating to religious history. The biblical texts are some of the evidence one might utilize, but sits alongside archaeological finds, inscriptions, finds from Mesopotamia etc. The biblical text can provide some evidence of earlier beliefs and practices – this is perhaps what you were looking for in the previous question. By critical analysis earlier perceptions and ideas may be discernible behind the final monolatrous or, if you prefer, monotheistic perspective of the Hebrew Bible.

I do think there are noticeable shifts at certain periods, but these should not be over-exaggerated. In particular, there may be more continuity between practice and belief before and after the neo-Babylonian period (the “exile”). I also think that the kind of diversity that I see in the Persian period makes it difficult to construct timelines of the sort you request. 

It makes most sense to work back from latest to earliest. I am persuaded by Larry Hurtado that the Maccabean revolt marks an important step in the consciousness of Jewish uniqueness vis-à-vis Greek and other Levantine religions. That is, there is a strong sense amongst Jews and non-Jews that Judaism is other, particularly in its aniconic practice and cultic devotion to one God. Earlier in the Second Temple period there is more willingness to relate YHWH to other chief deities, although programmatic aniconism and insistence on YHWH-alone devotion are already strong. The significant changes in this period probably relate to a growing scripturalization – including the move towards harmonization as consistent with the revelation of one deity – and the emphasis on YHWH as Torah giver. In the neo-Babylonian period and earlier there are monolatrous tendencies, but these do not result in the exclusion of other deities in the religious practice of some. For earlier periods we are more and more reliant on archaeological and comparative evidence. It seems likely that worship of YHWH and El predominated, though it is uncertain when they were seen as the same deity. There was probably a pantheon, though on a far small scale than could be found in Mesopotamia.

4. Is the distinction between “polytheism” and “henotheism” necessary or helpful?

Henotheism is a difficult term precisely because it has been used by a variety of people in a variety of ways. I would need to know what idea of henotheism was being deployed before determining if this could be helpfully distinguished from polytheism. It should be said, of course, that many issues have been raised about the application of the term polytheism. Not least of these, is that polytheism is an inner-monotheistic way of characterizing other religions and does not accord that well to what “polytheists” hold to be important about their practices and beliefs. Max Müller’s coinage of henotheism (“there is a god”, rather than “there is one god”) was a partial attempt to address this issue, though I think its success was decidedly limited.

5. What major texts are central to your view and why?

My own interests are in describing the religious practices and beliefs of biblical writers in the round. In that sense there is no text that is not important. In particular, I’d want to say that there may be dangers in focusing on only the classic texts, such as Deut 6.4; Isa 40-48; Deut 32.8-9; Judg 11; Ps 82. These are much discussed because they are complex and interesting texts with a fascinating history of research. Nevertheless, it is here that our definition of monotheism may have overly determined the material for analysis. Our definition focuses on particular issues, and so narrows down the texts we examine.

6. What major texts are the most problematic to your view and why?

Sorry, I don’t understand the question.

More seriously, one tries to work with models that integrate all the material. When other scholars raise problematic texts it is necessary to go back and see how they might fit, or how the models need to change. My speaking of early Jewish monotheisms is at least partially an attempt to recognize the complexity of the evidence with which we are presented. It seeks to offer a comprehensive model, without being reduced to a linear development.

7. What would be the top 3 books you would recommend to students interested in the study of characterizing the kind of theism in the Hebrew bible/OT and ancient Israelite religion?

Mark Smith – The Origins of Biblical Monotheism. Smith’s work is very widely informed, but also depends upon careful, close reading of biblical and non-biblical texts. The first few chapters of Origins I think are particularly important for the penetrating questions they ask. I’m a little hard pressed here to choose between it and God in Translation, which I think breaks significant new ground. For orientating students to the debate about monotheism Origins gets the vote with the encouragement to go on and read God in Translation.

Fritz Stolz – Einführung in den biblischen Monotheismus. Like Smith has a broad canvas which is especially helpful for those orientating themselves to this debate. I think his reflections on post-exilic monotheism at the end of the book point out where new work needs to be done. It would also be a good introduction to the world of German scholarship where so much important scholarship is to be found: I think of the early work in the 1980s that brought the subject of monotheism into the centre of academic discussion, as well as the work of the Fribourg School on iconography.

Benjamin Sommer – The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel. A lengthy appendix provides a synthetic overview of monotheism in ancient Israel. Sommer reflects the influence of Yehezkel Kaufmann and so views the discussion rather differently from many other scholars. This would give students a sense of the different flavors of scholarship, which would be no bad thing. It might also encourage them to read Kaufmann who puts his finger on significant issues, even if his proposals were so often implausible.

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New Upcoming Interview Series: “Monotheism and the Bible: Origins, Issues, and the Status Quaestionis”

Questions on the origins of monotheism, the nature of ancient Israelite religion(s), and debates over early christology in relation to monotheism have been the topic of much of biblical scholarship as of late. There has been much ink spilled over inquiries and proposals attempting to best characterize or understand the type of theism the earliest Israelites and the earliest Christians actually had. There are a great deal of incredibly interesting and paradigm-shifting studies out there but where do we begin? Those who are interested in looking into these questions from a historical-critical perspective may find themselves overwhelmed and possibly discouraged, especially when attempting to find what is worth reading and what isn’t. We are beginning a new interview series here at The Time Has Been Shortened to deal with precisely this problem.

The series is entitled “Monotheism and the Bible: Origins, Issues, and the Status Quaestionis“. We will be interviewing scholars who have written extensively and are considered authorities in their respective fields who will be giving us the status quaestionis (or the state of the investigation) regarding monotheism and the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and in the complex relationship between Christology and Monotheism in the New Testament. The series will consist of four interviews: two interviews on Monotheism and the Hebrew Bible and two interviews on Christology and Monotheism in the New Testament. The interviews will be most likely split up into two parts each due to breadth of a few of the questions.

First two interviewees in the Hebrew Bible section are as follows:

Nathan MacDonald

- PhD in Theology, University of Durham; MA, University of Cambridge (Honorary); MPhil in Classical Hebrew Studies, University of Cambridge; BA (honors, 1st class), University of Cambridge

- Sofja-Kovalevskaja-Preis Team Leader, Georg-August Universität Göttingen

- Reader in Old Testament, St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews

- Author of “Deuteronomy and the Meaning of ‘Monotheism’” and “Not Bread Alone: The Uses of Food in the Old Testament

______________________________

Michael S. Heiser

- PhD in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison; MA in Hebrew and Semitics, University of Wisconsin-Madison; MA in Ancient History – Ancient Egypt and Syria-Palestine, University of Pennsylvania

- Academic Editor, Logos Bible Software, Bellingham, WA

- Dissertation entitled “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Canonical Second Temple Jewish Literature

- Authors the blog entitled: “The Naked Bible: Biblical Theology, Stripped Bare of Denominational Confessions and Theological Systems

 

Second two interviewees in the New Testament Section are as follows:

James F. McGrath

- PhD in Theology, University of Durham; BDiv (honors), University of London; Diploma in Religious Studies, University of Cambridge.

- Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature, Butler University

- Author of “The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context” and “John’s Apologetic Christology: Legitimation and Development in Johannine Christology

- Authors the blog entitled: “Exploring Our Matrix

______________________________

Larry W. Hurtado

- PhD in New Testament, Case Western Reserve University; MA in New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; BA in Biblical Studies, Central Bible College

- Professor Emeritus of New Testament Language, Literature, and Theology, University of Edinburgh

- Director of the Center for the Study of Christian Origins, University of Edinburgh

- Author of “Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity“, “How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus“, and “One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism

- Authors the blog entitled “Larry Hurtado’s Blog: Comments on the New Testament and Early Christianity

 

We are excited about the interview series. Be sure to subscribe to follow the conversation.

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Thom Stark on Heiser’s reading of Deuteronomy 32 and Psalm 82

Over at the blog Religion at the Margins, there is an appealing discussion of an article from Michael Heiser, Academic Editor for Logos and friend, on whether YHWH and Elyon are distinct deities in Deuteronomy 32 and Psalm 82. The post is by Thom Stark, cleverly titled “The Most Heiser: Yahweh and Elyon in Psalm 82 and Deuteronomy 32” and you can find it here. You may want to read Heiser’s article first (you can download it here: Heiser on Deut 32 & Ps 82). The main contention is over the differing exegesis of the passages in question. For Deuteronomy 32:8-9 the question is whether עליוו (Most High) and יהוה (YHWH) are distinct deities alluding to a similar view of a divine council to that of the Canaanite pantheon of El. A similar quandary remains in Psalm 82 between the use of אלהים (god, God, or YHWH) and the use of עדת-אל (the council/assembly of El, the divine council, or YHWH’s own council) and their original meaning. Heiser maintains that in the Deuteronomy text Elyon and YHWH are the same deity and that in Psalm 82 the adat-el is YHWH’s own council. I have been dialoguing with Stark regarding his critique of Heiser and have had some good responses (you can read them here). I have some disagreements with Starks critique but overall it is a very thorough and engaging read that would be very helpful for those new to the question of the existence of a divine council in the Hebrew scriptures and the contours of the ancient Israelites’ brand of theism. For those more well versed in Hebrew and ANE backgrounds, this will provide a stimulating conversation and further reflection on these intriguing texts. Enjoy.

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On a further note, Heiser was asked on his blog (in the bottom of the comment area of the post here) if he had seen the critique of his exegesis of Deut 32 and Ps 82. You will see his response there immediately after the question. After Stark saw the response Heiser gave, he in turn wrote a whole other post responding to Heiser’s disinterest back at Religion in the Margins which can be found here.

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