Biblical Hebrew: Lessons 1, 2, and 3 Now Available

podcast_cover_art - CopyLessons 1, 2, and 3 covering the definite article, the conjunction vav, the direct object marker, prepositions and a beginning set of nouns are all available for testing.

Suggestions and comments are always appreciated. Click on the Syllabus tab above when ready.

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My Five Most Interesting Words in the Bible

In response to a request from a facebook friend (who is also a RL friend), I give you my five favorite words in the [Hebrew] Bible.

The first two warrant an explanation. They are at the top of my list of interesting words because I am currently researching the ethics of provocation. Unlike most responses to the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack (and like Bill Donohue’s reading), I strongly believe that the editors and staff of Charlie Hebdo are not innocent. As a matter of justice, they did not deserve to die, but they certainly do not deserve the accolades they have heretofore been awarded.

Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo.

So, here are my five favorite words (today)

  1. הֶחֱטִיא – a verb meaning to cause someone to sin, transgress
  2. הֱסִיתְךָ – a verb meaning to cause someone to be provoked.
  3. אֱלֹהִ֑ים – commonly translated as  both the singular God and the plural gods. Sadly, the distinction is all but lost in the English.
  4. בָּרָא – a verb meaning “he created” where the only antecedent of “he” is God. Get it? Only God can create this way.
  5. תַחְמֹד – a verb meaning to use without asking. This word is interesting to me because it is badly mistranslated (as covet) in the ten commandments. Everywhere else it is translated according to what it really means – to borrow/use without asking.
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The Role of Women – Genesis 2:18

FormationOfEveGenesis 2:18

 וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים לֹא־טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּ֑וֹ אֶעֱשֶׂהּ־לּוֹ עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ

And the LORD God said, “For the man to be by himself is not good. I will make for him a counterpart to complement him

The detailed commentary for this verse can be found here.

However, in its broader context, the role of women as revealed by this and other narratives is manifestly not one of servitude or a divine afterthought. If you have 9 minutes or so, sit back, listen, and reflect on what the Bible really says about the importance of women.

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The Story of Cain and Abel

This National Geographic video presents the familiar story of Cain and Abel. The content seems straightforward to those who have heard the story as taught in various religious venues including Sunday school, pastoral homilies, seminary, BSF, CSF, and so forth.


The problem with this video, like so much of contemporary religious education, is not so much in the telling of the story, but in its trivialization. Because we 21st century humans read stories like that of Cain and Abel from a Western, contemporary point-of-view, we truly miss much of the meaning(s) of the biblical narratives. This particular story, at least when read in the Hebrew in the ancient biblical context, is much different if only because it is much more profound than what we’ve learned in its popular renderings. Here, for example, are just a few of the problems with the narration that accompanies the video.

  • The sacrifices were not motivated by gratitude.
  • The claim that Cain’s offering is rejected “for no apparent reason” is simply not true. The text of the Bible reveals clearly why Cain’s offering was spurned and Abel’s accepted.
  • The narrative does not describe Cain as “angry and jealous”, as claimed by the narrator in the video.
  • The question posed in the video, “How did Cain know how to kill?” assumed incorrectly that this was the first homicide.
  • It is not his brother’s blood that cries out to God from the ground.
  • There is no textual (or grammatical) evidence that God is angry with Cain.
  • The “mark” put upon Cain is not a visible mark like a stigmata or tattoo.

By way of background I’ve begun a new project – to translate the story of Cain and Abel, paying special attention to the underlying Hebrew and the ancient Semitic context in which the story was first heard. Unlike my previous two translations you’ll be able to follow along as I complete each verse (about one per week), the first of which is now complete and can be accessed from here.

Now, go and study

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