Has a pictoral interpretation been made in the past of the Tetragrammaton's letters to form another meaning?

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PakoBckuu
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Has a pictoral interpretation been made in the past of the Tetragrammaton's letters to form another meaning?

Post by PakoBckuu »

A. The ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Babylonians, and Sumerians wrote their inscription for the word God/deity with pictures that themselves denoted meanings they associated with him. For example, the Egyptians used a mix of phonetic and logographic script, their word for God/deity was NTR, and one of the ways they drew their hieroglyphic for this word was as a sitting man with a long chin beard. The chin beards were associated with pharaonic ruler, and so their image for God/deity associated God/deity/divinity with the concept of a ruling man.

B. Of course, Hebrew is basically a phonetic script, but Hebrew began or evolved out of one where the letters themselves were drawn as pictures and carried associated meanings. And so my first question is what do you think of the theory that sometimes Hebrew retained meanings of the letters when the letters were used in words?

The Hebrew 4 Christians webpage says:
Proto-Canaanite Pictographs

Like other ancient writing systems, the Hebrew alphabet originally was written using a pictographic script:
Image
...
The Proto-Hebrew Script

This is also called early Aramaic Script. The key extant example is the Moabite Stone. This was the Hebrew (ketav Ivri) used by the Jewish nation up to the Babylonian Exile

Image
http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Gramma ... story.html
The numeric values (and ancient pictographs) are sometimes used to infer "deeper" meanings from certain Hebrew words found in the Scriptures. While this technique may occasionally offer some interesting insights, it is to be avoided as an exegetical principle since it can lead to speculations and doubtful interpretations. ... the rule of thumb is to first master the p'shat (plain historical meaning) before moving on to other "levels" of the Scriptures.

The schema above is sometimes used to infer hidden meanings of Biblical terms. Generally, the process is one of simple substitution, where the ancient pictographic symbol is substituted for some Ashri text (modern book text). For example:

Pictographic Substitutions

El: [LAMED-ALEPH] Meaning: Strong Leader. Name for God; "Strength".
Ab: [BETH ALEPH]: Meaning Strength of the House. Father
http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Gramma ... rsion.html

What this author is saying is that sometimes Hebrew words have deeper root meanings based on the meanings of the letters, but that we can't as a general rule use this strategy of looking at each letter to find the meaning.

An analogy that comes to mind is in English there are root words, but as a general rule, you can't assume that every time you see the combination of letters used in root words in longer words that the longer words include the root meaning. For example, a man is a male person and man- can also be a prefix referring to the hand, but there are words that include man- and don't have associations with male humans or hands: mantle, manna, mane, manatee.

C. Jewish writers sometimes gave mystical or inner importance to their letters. A common example of this is the use in Jewish mysticism of an idea called gematria, where each letter carries a numerical value. In this thread though, I am especially interested in the approach of interpretation where each letter bears with it its pictoral value. For example, the aleph was originally written as an ox's head.

The Hebrew 4 Christians website says about the letter yod:
The [pre-Ashurite] pictograph for Yod looks like an arm or hand,

The Mystery of Yod
[Based on Ashurite script:] In the Jewish mystical tradition, Yod represents a mere dot, a divine point of energy. Since Yod is used to form all the other letters, and since God uses the letters as the building blocks of creation, Yod indicates God's omnipresence.

Yod and Humility
The letter Yod, being the smallest of the letters, is also a picture of humility. For example, when Jacob was renamed from Ya'akov to Yisrael, all that remained of his former name was the letter Yod.
[Ya'akov to Yisrael]

Yod can also be seen as a mark of humility in the text that says Moses was "the most humble man" upon the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3):
Image
The Jewish scribes say that an extra Yod is inserted in the word ana (meaning humble or meek) to emphasize the humility of Moses.

The "Kots of a Yod"
Because of its humility, Yod is adorned with a small ascending prong (tag) that points to God. The "kotz of a Yod" is the small serif at the bottom of the "face" of the Yod's head and is the smallest of all markings made in the Hebrew text. ... In the Jewish scribal arts known as Soferut, a Torah Scroll is invalid (possul) if it lacks even this serif of the Yod (Menachot 29a):

Image
http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Gramma ... d/yod.html

Jeff A. Benner writes in his book "The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible":
Hebrew was originally written with a pictographic script similar to Egyptian Hieroglyphs but, when Israel was taken into captivity in Babylon they adopted the Aramaic script of the region. ... The Early Semitic script was pictographic where each letter represented an object. In Figure 1, the top left corner letter is a picture of water representing the soun M. .... The Middle Semitic script is an evolved form of the original pictographic script into a simmpler form and used by the different Semitic groups including the Hebrews...

Figures:
Semitic pictographic inscription on stone boulder c. 1500 BC;
Hebrew inscription on potsherd c. 900 BC,
Moabite inscription on stone c. 900 BC,
Ammonite inscription on stone c. 900 BC

The Ancient Hebrew alphabet has four characteristics: form, sound, name and meaning.

Form
The original letter is pictographic, meaning it represents a picture of something, such as the letter [horizontal oval] o representing a mouth.

Name
Each pictograph is associated with a single syllable of two consonants. This syllable is also the name of the letter. The name of the letter o is peh and is also the Hebrew word for mouth. The name is determined by comparisong the various names of this letter as used in Semitic languages...

Meaning
The mnemonic meaning of a pictograph is the extended meanings related to the pictograph. These mnemonic meanings most often are related to the pictograph by their function rather than appearance. For example, the letter o has the extended meanings speak, blow, and open, functions of the mouth.
D. Judaism and Jewish tradition gave special importance to the written name for God, the Tetragrammaton.

One website claims:
  • The Absolute Name as originally given to Moses on Sinai (Exodus 3:14) is AHYH ASR AHYH: "I Will Be Who I Will Be." Image
  • The Tetragrammaton, spelled vertically, is the pictogram Image .
  • "God" is a noun. It is a type of Being. "God" is not a name. "Human" is what you are....but you also have a name.
  • the 3rd Commandment [says], "Thou shall not take the Name of YHWH your God in vain..."
http://www.yhwh.com/asimple.htm

E. So my main question for this thread is whether in history an interpretation has been given to the tetragrammaton based on the meaning of its letters.
Based on the ancient Hebrew letters chart (http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/files/alphabet_chart.gif), their meanings would be arm/hand (yod), behold (heh), and nail (waw).

Are there passages in the Tanakh or Jewish tradition associating an arm/hand with beholding and with a nail? (Ecclesiastes 12:11? Psalm 22:6-18?)

Glynda-Lee Hoffmann writes in: The Secret Dowry of Eve: Woman's Role in the Development of Consciousness:
In Genesis the Qabalists presented the pattern of wholeness in several ingenious ways throughout the text. The pattern can be recognized only (initially) if the text is studied letter by letter, because it is revealed through the code that positions the letters. The code is quite simple. All the words of text are actually acronyms. For instance, "the Lord" is the acronym YHWH, derived from the first letters of the names of the Autiot, Yod-Hay-Waw-Hawy. Yod is a physical container, the body. Waw or Vav is the sixth Aut..., a fertilizing agent. Hay, fifth Aut in the Qabalic system, is the archetype of life. YHWH has two Hays - one for inner life and the other for outher life.

Therefore, YHWH is not a deity, but rather a reference to the continual process of inner life fertilizing outer life and outer life fertilizing inner life. It is the self-awareness and transformation that unfold as we process data from both our inner and outer worlds, naturally producing changes and alterations in behavior. YHWH is a process that can occur only in human beings, the simple process of recognizing when our actions fail to result in what we intended, producing a change in our behavior so that the desired intentions can then be realized. When YHWH is read linguistically, it becomes the clumsy Yahweh and irrevocably loses its original sacred meaning. Its interpretation as the Lord, or Jehovah, is equally misleading.
It sounds like she is saying that YHWH is an acronym for those four letters, and she uses Qabalistic concepts. But her conclusion that YHWH is a process and "not a deity" sounds in conflict with the teachings in the Torah. Is that just her own conclusion and not that of Qabalah?

Hal Smith
Hal Smith
kwrandolph
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Re: Has a pictoral interpretation been made in the past of the Tetragrammaton's letters to form another meaning?

Post by kwrandolph »

By all the previous answers, and by how long it took for me to answer your question, the brief answer to your question is “No.”

Furthermore, most of us on this forum are here to discuss the nuts and bolts of Biblical Hebrew language, and sometimes historical events that may have shaped the language, and for the most part avoid philosophic interpretations. What you quoted from sites like hebrew4christians and ancient-hebrew are what many of us consider not even worth discussing. The same is true also for mystical Jewish interpretations.

As a result, I would be surprised if you get another response.

I don’t mean to be rude or short, but that’s my 2¢.

Karl W. Randolph.
PakoBckuu
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Re: Has a pictoral interpretation been made in the past of the Tetragrammaton's letters to form another meaning?

Post by PakoBckuu »

OK, Thanks Karl.
Some writers are proposing that the sounds and letters individually played a role in the language's formation, so that a word starting with a yod, meaning "arm", could easily have some meaning associated with an arm.

But that theory, if it has anything to it, does not seem to go far at all to me, because Hebrew writing is phonetic, rather than pictoral. Wouldn't you agree with me about that?
Hal Smith
kwrandolph
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Re: Has a pictoral interpretation been made in the past of the Tetragrammaton's letters to form another meaning?

Post by kwrandolph »

PakoBckuu wrote:OK, Thanks Karl.
Some writers are proposing that the sounds and letters individually played a role in the language's formation, so that a word starting with a yod, meaning "arm", could easily have some meaning associated with an arm.

But that theory, if it has anything to it, does not seem to go far at all to me, because Hebrew writing is phonetic, rather than pictoral. Wouldn't you agree with me about that?
Early Hebrew writing was pictorial, but to represent sounds. If we in English hadn’t adopted a modified form of Hebrew letters, but instead used pictures for our letters—an ant for “A”, a bee for “B”, a cat for “C”, a dog for “D”, and so forth—we wouldn’t think of a cat, ant and bee when we wanted to write about a “cab”, rather we’d think of a conveyance. So likewise, ancient Hebrews didn’t think of the pictures, rather of the leading sounds that the objects pictured had, and combined them into words.

The theory that you mention above is utter nonsense.

Just my 2¢.

Karl W. Randolph.
PakoBckuu
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Re: Has a pictoral interpretation been made in the past of the Tetragrammaton's letters to form another meaning?

Post by PakoBckuu »

kwrandolph wrote:
PakoBckuu wrote:OK, Thanks Karl.
Some writers are proposing that the sounds and letters individually played a role in the language's formation, so that a word starting with a yod, meaning "arm", could easily have some meaning associated with an arm.

But that theory, if it has anything to it, does not seem to go far at all to me, because Hebrew writing is phonetic, rather than pictoral. Wouldn't you agree with me about that?
Early Hebrew writing was pictorial, but to represent sounds. If we in English hadn’t adopted a modified form of Hebrew letters, but instead used pictures for our letters—an ant for “A”, a bee for “B”, a cat for “C”, a dog for “D”, and so forth—we wouldn’t think of a cat, ant and bee when we wanted to write about a “cab”, rather we’d think of a conveyance. So likewise, ancient Hebrews didn’t think of the pictures, rather of the leading sounds that the objects pictured had, and combined them into words.

The theory that you mention above is utter nonsense.

Just my 2¢.

Karl W. Randolph.
Karl,
That's more than 2 c! I generally agree with you.

It's not utter nonsense. $ came from medieval coinage that had a snake on a staff. The dollar comes from the Thaler and the German coin had this. Do some people ascribe an occult or religious meaning to money? I believe so, just as the pyramid on the dollar bill has an occult or religious meaning to some. Now, what the full implications of that are, I don't know.

The English A ultimately comes from the Phoenician one and is a bull's head with horns. The bull is associated with strength, and in Mediteranean religions was a leading religious symbol (eg. Apis in Egypt, the Minotaur in Crete). When people look at "A" in English, they see it as a symbol of primariness and power, as in "I gave you an A." A comes at the beginning of the Alphabet. I had a World Book Encyclopedia that started every volume with the meaning of each letter and the picture it reflected. Now, how many English speakers commonly think of the pictoral meanings of the English letters and symbols? Probably few do. It's not five people, but it's not 500 million either.

The possible worth and relevance of this discussion that I see is that the Bible writers, prophets, Jewish traditions, Jesus, the early Christians really were religious and did see inner meanings in words and signs.

Take for instance the Tanakh's narratives of the yearly Temple sacrifice, or the serpeant on a staff, or Jonah. The accounts have been interpreted as Messianic prophecies, but I would not normally have seen them this way just reading them. I mean, OK, Moses put a serpeant on a stick in the desert, people looked at it and got healed from their serpeant bites. I have no idea how or why that medicinal treatment could actually work, other than through some kind of placebo effect. And even if it did work, I don't know why that story shows that Moshiach definitely would be crucified, unless there is some kind of psychological triumph and placebo effect that this concept gives believers.

Jewish mysticism has looked at the names of the letters of words to find an inner meaning in them. Two examples are Passover and Pharaoh:
In the Book of Exodus, Pharaoh, whose name also begins with a pei, said, “Let us [confine the Jews to slavery] lest they multiply.” The word for “lest” in Hebrew is פן, pen: pei-nun. G‑d was displeased with Pharaoh’s declaration, so He “knocked out his tooth” by knocking out the tooth of the pei in Pharaoh’s “pen,” which made it a kaf. Now the word was no longer pen (“lest”) but כן, ken: kaf-nun, meaning “surely.” Surely the Jews will multiply.
...
There is a famous teaching of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev11 which explains the meaning of the Passover holiday (Pesach). “Pesach” literally means peh-sach, “the mouth (peh) talks (sach).”On Pesach, the mouth talks about the wonders and miracles of G‑d. Pesach represents the antithesis of Pharaoh, who, as the Megaleh Amukos12 explains, signifies peh-ra, a “bad mouth.” Pharaoh was someone who denied G‑d’s providence in every act of nature. Our mouths were not given to us to slander or denigrate others, but to speak of G‑d’s greatness and wonders.
http://www.chabad.org/library/article_c ... cation.htm

I am posting below an excerpt from a book's discussion on the question:
Wrestling with God: Jewish Theological Responses
https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0195300149
Steven T. Katz, ‎Shlomo Biderman, ‎Gershon Greenberg - 2007
the wise son asks, "What are the testimonies, etc." "...And you also tell him about the laws of Passover." That is, according to the order and according to the matter of the PeSaH. Just as when the mouth speaks, the hidden is greater than what is revealed...
...
Let this be understood.
Turning to YHWH, Jewish Encyclopedia says that ', Y, is named yod, meaning arm/hand, and that l, W, is named waw, meaning nail/hook.

What do you think Heh/Hey/Hei mean or refer to?


Image

Common meanings I have seen are a man with his arms upraised (the Egyptian hillul looks like that and means Jubilant), "behold" (The Phoencian He, according to Wikipedia, refers to a window), and "breath". One observation I noticed is that the Hebrew letters are named after nouns, and one suggestion was that this means Heh should refer to a noun too, rather than a verb (like "beholding"). I don't know.

The Hebrew Today website says:
The original meaning of the letter Hei is shrouded in mystery as it has been interpreted as everything from “thread” to “fence” to “window” in ancient Semitic languages.

In the Modern Hebrew language, the letter Hei can be used for a variety of purposes. Most commonly, the letter means “the” when attached to the beginning of a word. Thus, for example, “yeled” (ילד) simply means “boy”, but when we place a Hei in front of the noun, we get “hayeled” (הילד), which means “the boy”. The Hei can also change the meaning of a sentence into a question when attached to the beginning of certain words. For example, “yadata” (ידעת) means “you knew”, but when we place a Hei in front, we get “hayadata” (הידעת), meaning “did you know?” At the end of a word, Hei often indicates that the word is feminine (although not always) and it can also indicate movement towards something, such that “tzafon” (צפון) means “North”, while we get “tzafona” (צפונה) by adding a Hei to end of the word and we subtly change its meaning to “towards the North”.

Spiritually, the letter Hei has many different aspects. It has a numerical value of five and thus represents the five fingers, the five senses and the five dimensions, in addition to the five levels of the soul
http://www.hebrewtoday.com/content/hebr ... hei-%D7%94
By being related to the "soul", maybe this is somehow related to spirit/wind/breath. Spirit is a feminine word in Hebrew, and Hei shows something is feminine.

The Bible Land Studies website says it refers to praise or behold:
Image

The Hebrew word picture for the “hey” is raised arms showing praise. In ancient Hebrew the “hey” indicated “behold.” The “hey” in Hebrew serves in several ways, one of which can be the definite article “the” when it is the first letter of the word. Another way is when the “hey” is the last letter of a word it can indicate direction, i.e. toward or to something. The “hey” at the end of a word following certain vowels can indicate the feminine gender of the word. They hey, with a certain vowel structure under it, at the beginning of a word can also indicate the posing of a question.

http://www.biblelandstudies.com/Hey.html
But it doesn't explain the basis for this conclusion.

The Chabad website also mentions "Behold" as a meaning:
The word hei has three meanings: The first is “here is,” as in the verse, “Here is seed for you”16 (hei lachem zera).17 The next is “to be disturbed,” as it states in Daniel18 “And I Daniel was disturbed....(nih’yeisi)” And the third is “behold”[19] as in “Behold, this is our G‑d...,” (hinei Elokeinu...) which refers to beholding a revelation. These three definitions converge. When we’re born and come into this world, G‑d gives us seeds (i.e., the potential to be productive and make good of our lives). Many times, however, we become disturbed and confused and lose sight of our objectives. Eventually, though, every Jew will come to do teshuvah and acknowledge his Creator. He will then behold the revelation of G‑d.

By elevating one’s thought and speech and translating them into action, one reveals the yechidah, the fifth level and spark of Mashiach within his soul,[20] and this will bring us to the ulti­mate Redemption.

19. Isaiah 25:9.
20. Maor Einayim, end of parshas Pinchas. Also see Sefer HaSichos 5751, vol. 2, p. 590 and additional references there.
This is referring to Isaiah 25, which discusses a praise to the Lord's "name", uses the word "Behold", and mentions the Lord's hands/arms twice. Those singing the praise say that something "is our God", although I am not exactly sure what they are referring to:
O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name
...
He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.

And it shall be said in that day,
  • Behold, this is our God;
  • we have waited for him, and he will save us:
  • this is the Lord;
  • we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
For in this mountain shall the hand of the Lord rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill.

And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim: and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands.
In the context of the reference to the Lord's "name", the hand(s)/arm(s) of the Lord, "Behold", praise, and being glad bring to mind concepts related to the meaning of YHWH I have came across.
The reference to the "salvation" of the Lord also brings to mind the name "Yeshua".

The Hebrew word here for Behold is hinneh, הִנֵּה
This is a prolongation of Hen, הֵן, which also means Behold.

The word "Behold" is also the opening of the Suffering Servant Song in Isaiah 52-53:
Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
( הִנֵּה יַשְׂכִּיל עַבְדִּי)
So Behold (hinneh, הִנֵּה) looks like one option, but the downside I see is that it is not a noun.

"Praise", though, can be a noun Hallel, starting with H in Hebrew, and it's interesting because it's also used as a contraction with Yah, the beginning of Yahweh, in Halleluyah (the command Praise Yah). Is Hallel's etymology Hal(praise)+El(God)
הַלְּלוּיָהּ is found 24 times in the Book of Psalms
...
In the Hebrew Bible hallelujah is actually a two-word phrase, not one word. The first part, hallelu, is the second-person imperative masculine plural form of the Hebrew verb hallal.[1] However, "hallelujah" means more than simply "praise Jah" or "praise Yah", as the word hallel in Hebrew means a joyous praise in song, to boast in God.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallelujah

Maybe Halleluyah includes an inner reference to YHWH itself, as it contains those letters?:
הַ לְּ ל וּ יָ הּ
Hallel U YaH ?

Halal in Hebrew means "shine" and also praise.

Hal Smith
Hal Smith
PakoBckuu
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Re: Has a pictoral interpretation been made in the past of the Tetragrammaton's letters to form another meaning?

Post by PakoBckuu »

Earlier, I cited the Hebrew Today website as saying: "The original meaning of the letter Hei is shrouded in mystery as it has been interpreted as everything from “thread” to “fence” to “window” in ancient Semitic languages."

Let me clarify that Thread and Fence definitely refer to two other Egyptian or Phoenician letters with different sounds, and that window is the only of those three that some scholars have associated with the heh/hey/hei letter.
Hal Smith
kwrandolph
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Re: Has a pictoral interpretation been made in the past of the Tetragrammaton's letters to form another meaning?

Post by kwrandolph »

Hal:
PakoBckuu wrote:The English A ultimately comes from the Phoenician one and is a bull's head with horns.
There’s reason to think that the Hebrews had the alphabet before the Phoenicians. And that the Phoenicians learned the alphabet from the Hebrews.
PakoBckuu wrote:The bull is associated with strength, and in Mediteranean religions was a leading religious symbol (eg. Apis in Egypt, the Minotaur in Crete).
There’s no evidence in Tanakh that ancient Hebrews ever thought of the first letter as anything other than a symbol representing a sound.
PakoBckuu wrote:When people look at "A" in English, they see it as a symbol of primariness and power, as in "I gave you an A." A comes at the beginning of the Alphabet.
Our use in English is different from ancient Hebrew.

As far as I know, the use of letters to represent numbers is post-Biblical.
PakoBckuu wrote:The possible worth and relevance of this discussion that I see is that the Bible writers, prophets, Jewish traditions, Jesus, the early Christians really were religious and did see inner meanings in words and signs.
There’s no evidence of that in Tanakh, nor καινη διαθηκη.
PakoBckuu wrote:Take for instance the Tanakh's narratives of the yearly Temple sacrifice, or the serpeant on a staff, or Jonah. The accounts have been interpreted as Messianic prophecies, but I would not normally have seen them this way just reading them.
Exactly! They were not seen as Messianic at the time. Strictly speaking, even the New Testament doesn’t treat them as prophecies.
PakoBckuu wrote:I mean, OK, Moses put a serpeant on a stick in the desert, people looked at it and got healed from their serpeant bites. I have no idea how or why that medicinal treatment could actually work, other than through some kind of placebo effect.
According to the historical record, this was not a medicinal treatment, rather a supernatural event.
PakoBckuu wrote:Jewish mysticism …
Many of us don’t accept Jewish mysticism as having any validity.

According to Jewish tradition, there are three levels of study—pshat, darosh and sod. Darosh and sod are both connected with mysticism. There’s no evidence in Tanakh or New Testament of any mysticism. Many very religious people give no validity to mysticism.

On this forum, the biggest problem with mysticism is that it doesn’t follow clear linguistic rules, rather is often a way to get around the clear meaning of the language.
PakoBckuu wrote:The Hebrew word picture for the “hey” is raised arms showing praise.
It can just as easily be understood as the shout “Hey!” calling for attention. I, for one, take that understanding.
PakoBckuu wrote:The Chabad website…
Chabad is very deep into mysticism.
PakoBckuu wrote:"Praise", though, can be a noun Hallel, starting with H in Hebrew,
Actually, the verb הלל comes from the idea of boasting, used also for boasting about one’s self.
PakoBckuu wrote:Hal Smith
I question the meaning of the word יה—is it a contraction of the name יהוה? Tradition has assigned that understanding to the word, but is it accurate? I haven’t made a detailed study yet, but I’ve seen some uses that make me question tradition of this word.

Karl W. Randolph.
PakoBckuu
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Re: Has a pictoral interpretation been made in the past of the Tetragrammaton's letters to form another meaning?

Post by PakoBckuu »

kwrandolph wrote:
As far as I know, the use of letters to represent numbers is post-Biblical.
Interesting issue. The ancient Egyptians had numerals or else used certain letters for them, but we don't find that directly in the Tanakh, do we?
That there were no numerical signs at all is hardly possible. The necessities of daily life require such signs, and the example of surrounding nations could not but have suggested their introduction. For an assumption that there were special signs there is no basis. It must, therefore, be assumed that the numerical value of the alphabet was known in earlier times. The fact that figures are not found in the Bible nor in the Siloam inscription, nor on the Moabite Stone, would not militate against such an assumption. In monumental inscriptions the use of figures might have been avoided for various reasons, while the earlier use of figures in the Bible is rather probable, since the discrepancies in numbers which now exist can thus be best explained. Other considerations strengthen such a hypothesis (comp. Gemaṭria).
...
At an early time in the history of man certain numbers were regarded as having a sacred significance or were used with symbolical force, the origin of their symbolism lying in their connection with primitive ideas about nature and God.
...
Three: The sacredness of this number is probably due to the fact that primitive man divided the universe into three regions—heaven, earth, and water, respectively represented in Babylonian mythology by the divinities Anu, Bel, and Ea. Its sacred or symbolical use may be illustrated by such passages as I Kings xvii. 21; I Chron. xxi. 12; Dan. vi. 10. Its rhetorical use for a small total is illustrated in Gen. xxx. 36; xl. 10, 12; xlii. 17; Ex. ii. 2, iii. 18
http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/artic ... d-numerals
PakoBckuu wrote:The possible worth and relevance of this discussion that I see is that the Bible writers, prophets, Jewish traditions, Jesus, the early Christians really were religious and did see inner meanings in words and signs.
There’s no evidence of that in Tanakh, nor καινη διαθηκη.
One piece of evidence is the interpretation of dreams. Joseph and Daniel both interpret dreams as predictions of the future.
Just a person going to sleep and having certain imaginings that tell some story in their heard does not mean that whatever they dream is going to happen in the future, right? At least, there is typically no explicit introduction that humans are given before they sleep or even when they dream that what they dream will happen. In one dream Joseph interprets, there is a reference to wine. OK, so what? Did anywhere in that dream did the person hear the words"This will happen"? No. So taking the dream by itself, what is there to say it will actually relate specifically to some future event?

The whole theory of future dream prediction relies on a premise that the dream elements are "signs" that are not explicitly about the future.

Another example is the use of names in the Tanakh. Abram's name is switched to Abraham in the Torah, same thing with Sarai to Sarah. Probably there was some inner mystical reason in the early writers' minds, or at least they might tell it to their audience.
Also I heard there are different explanations for some different peoples' names in the Bible. Example: Yehoshua. Is it really "Salvation of Yahu"? I have heard a different one on Wikipedia:
Yeshua

It is often translated as "He saves," to conform with Matthew 1:21: "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins"

The name Yehoshua has the form of a compound of "Yeho-" and "shua": Yeho- יְהוֹ is another form of יָהו Yahu, a theophoric element standing for the name of God יהוה (the tetragrammaton YHWH, sometimes transcribed into English as Yahweh or Jehovah), and שׁוּעַ shua‘ is a noun meaning "a cry for help", "a saving cry",[11][12][13] that is to say, a shout given when in need of rescue. Together, the name would then literally mean, "YHWH (Yahu) is a saving-cry," that is to say, shout to YHWH [God] when in need of help.

Another explanation for the name Yehoshua is that it comes from the root ישע yod-shin-‘ayin, meaning "to deliver, save, or rescue". According to the Book of Numbers verse 13:16, the name of Joshua son of Nun was originally Hoshea` הוֹשֵעַ, and the name "Yehoshua`" יְהוֹשֻׁעַ is usually spelled the same but with a yod added at the beginning. "Hoshea`" certainly comes from the root ישע, "yasha", yod-shin-`ayin (in the Hif'il form the yod becomes a waw), and not from the word שוע shua` (Jewish Encyclopedia[14]) although ultimately both roots appear to be related.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeshua#Etymology

So they seem to have been playing around with ancient names beyond their normal etymologies.
PakoBckuu wrote:Take for instance the Tanakh's narratives of the yearly Temple sacrifice, or the serpeant on a staff, or Jonah. The accounts have been interpreted as Messianic prophecies, but I would not normally have seen them this way just reading them.
Exactly! They were not seen as Messianic at the time. Strictly speaking, even the New Testament doesn’t treat them as prophecies.
I think the NT treats them as prophetic when it says things like "So shall the Son of Man be raised up", using that as a motif.

Anyway, that is a style of prediction the NT uses. Where does the Tanakh say of Messiah "He shall be called a Nazarene"? (Matthew 2:23). It looks like they are using a Tanakh passage that refers to somebody else and seeing it as predicting Messiah.

Same thing with Luke 24:
" Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then to enter His glory?”
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was written in all the Scriptures about Himself.
Where does Moses talk about Messiah ben David in particular, especially about Messiah suffering crucifixion and then entering into glory? How was Moses writing about Messiah or Jesus and not just about righteous Jews in general?

It seems this kind of thinking relies on seeing signs in the Tanakh as implicit prophecies.
PakoBckuu wrote:I mean, OK, Moses put a serpeant on a stick in the desert, people looked at it and got healed from their serpeant bites. I have no idea how or why that medicinal treatment could actually work, other than through some kind of placebo effect.
According to the historical record, this was not a medicinal treatment, rather a supernatural event.
What I mean is that it was a supernatural event that served as a treatment for physical health.

It can just as easily be understood as the shout “Hey!” calling for attention. I, for one, take that understanding.
I heard that Semitic in ancient times used a word basically sounding like Hey! to mean the same thing, and this was a source for one theory of the meaning of the letter.
What is your basis, the same?
Actually, the verb הלל comes from the idea of boasting, used also for boasting about one’s self.
I heard on Wikipedia that Hillul was an Egyptian or Semitic term meaning jubilation.
I question the meaning of the word יה—is it a contraction of the name יהוה? Tradition has assigned that understanding to the word, but is it accurate? I haven’t made a detailed study yet, but I’ve seen some uses that make me question tradition of this word.
[/quote]
Me too. There are different possibilities. Ea the Sumerian deity could be related; there was a Semitic Yah deity outside the Bible; The ancient Shasu of Sinai worshiped Yahu in the ancient Egyptian period, and that is sometimes considered by scholars as referring to Yahweh.

Hal Smith
Hal Smith
kwrandolph
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Re: Has a pictoral interpretation been made in the past of the Tetragrammaton's letters to form another meaning?

Post by kwrandolph »

PakoBckuu wrote:
PakoBckuu wrote:The possible worth and relevance of this discussion that I see is that the Bible writers, prophets, Jewish traditions, Jesus, the early Christians really were religious and did see inner meanings in words and signs.
There’s no evidence of that in Tanakh, nor καινη διαθηκη.
One piece of evidence is the interpretation of dreams. Joseph and Daniel both interpret dreams as predictions of the future.
In the examples of both Joseph and Daniel, the dreams involved were specifically sent by God to give a message, and the interpretations were specifically given to Joseph and Daniel (in the case of Daniel 2, the description of the dream too). In these cases, the events were supernatural, not mystical.
PakoBckuu wrote:Another example is the use of names in the Tanakh. Abram's name is switched to Abraham in the Torah, same thing with Sarai to Sarah. Probably there was some inner mystical reason in the early writers' minds, or at least they might tell it to their audience.
Also I heard there are different explanations for some different peoples' names in the Bible. Example: Yehoshua. Is it really "Salvation of Yahu"? I have heard a different one on Wikipedia:
Many of the names in the Bible had meanings, but only rarely did the name have anything to do with the person’s life and activities.
PakoBckuu wrote:Yeshua
That pronunciation is “modern”, i.e. a post-Biblical invention. I don’t know the history of that pronunciation, but I suspect it was invented in the last couple of centuries. I could be wrong as to the exact timing.
PakoBckuu wrote:It is often translated as "He saves," to conform with Matthew 1:21: "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins"
“Jesus” is one of the rare cases where the name had reference to his life.
PakoBckuu wrote:
PakoBckuu wrote:Take for instance the Tanakh's narratives of the yearly Temple sacrifice, or the serpeant on a staff, or Jonah. The accounts have been interpreted as Messianic prophecies, but I would not normally have seen them this way just reading them.
Exactly! They were not seen as Messianic at the time. Strictly speaking, even the New Testament doesn’t treat them as prophecies.
I think the NT treats them as prophetic
No, examples, not prophetic.
PakoBckuu wrote:Anyway, that is a style of prediction the NT uses. Where does the Tanakh say of Messiah "He shall be called a Nazarene"? (Matthew 2:23). It looks like they are using a Tanakh passage that refers to somebody else and seeing it as predicting Messiah.
I don’t know the specific prophesy here. I suspect that Matthew may have made a pun, a play of words here.
PakoBckuu wrote:Same thing with Luke 24:
" Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then to enter His glory?”
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was written in all the Scriptures about Himself.
Where does Moses talk about Messiah ben David in particular, especially about Messiah suffering crucifixion and then entering into glory? How was Moses writing about Messiah or Jesus and not just about righteous Jews in general?

It seems this kind of thinking relies on seeing signs in the Tanakh as implicit prophecies.
Off the top of the head, Genesis 3:15, Deuteronomy 18:15–18, and there are others, these are prophesies about a particular individual. None of the prophets fulfilled these prophesies. Jesus did.
PakoBckuu wrote:
It can just as easily be understood as the shout “Hey!” calling for attention. I, for one, take that understanding.
I heard that Semitic in ancient times used a word basically sounding like Hey! to mean the same thing, and this was a source for one theory of the meaning of the letter.
What is your basis, the same?
I haven’t made a careful investigation of the word meanings, but have noticed several sources, which I no longer remember their URLs, that gave this meaning.
PakoBckuu wrote:
Actually, the verb הלל comes from the idea of boasting, used also for boasting about one’s self.
I heard on Wikipedia that Hillul was an Egyptian or Semitic term meaning jubilation.
WikiPedia is not considered an authoritative source, and for good reason.

However, boasting can be a type of praise, e.g. 2 Corinthians 10:17.
PakoBckuu wrote:Hal Smith
Hal:

As far as I can tell, there’s no evidence for a mystical reading of Tanakh. All my answers above are based on a simple reading of the text.

For those of us who accept the reality of the supernatural and its ability to act into space-time history, we have no problem accepting Tanakh as an accurate history. Those who don’t consider the supernatural as real, have their own interpretations.

This forum was set up so that people of all religions can get together to discuss Biblical Hebrew language. History and philosophy may be referenced to help in that discussion, But that doesn’t mean that everyone on this forum will agree to those references.

If you can find a clear reference to a mystical understanding of a text, go for it. But so far, I don’t see it.

Just my 2¢.

Karl W. Randolph.
PakoBckuu
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Re: Has a pictoral interpretation been made in the past of the Tetragrammaton's letters to form another meaning?

Post by PakoBckuu »

kwrandolph wrote:
In the examples of both Joseph and Daniel, the dreams involved were specifically sent by God to give a message, and the interpretations were specifically given to Joseph and Daniel (in the case of Daniel 2, the description of the dream too). In these cases, the events were supernatural, not mystical.
Karl,

Let me clarify terms like mystical, supernatural, prophetic, predictive. It's helpful.
A prophecy technically means just inspired speech. But here when you and I have been using it, we meant it as explicit direct prediction openly foretelling the future. eg. "In 40 years you will have a wonderful day and a friend named Jane will give you a car as a present".

Supernatural means above nature, something not normally part of the normal scientific understanding of the world. So if someone's head falls off their body, and someone else puts it back on using some magical words and no medical equipment, and the victim lives for another 50 years with no help, that would be supernatural.
Now, if someone has a dream of a nice man in a white car driving up to his house and giving him 400$, and then the next day it literally occurs, was that supernatural, or just a coincidence? Most people would consider it at least "paranormal" (like ESP), but not a normal natural happening. Of course, maybe it was intervention by the Lord and it was supernatural.

Something that is mystical just means that it's related to these kinds of paranormal, spiritual, and supernatural ideas. In the example of the dream I gave, the experience was mystical if someone sees it as having some kind of value for their "spirit", interprets it paranormally, etc.

An inner meaning does not have to be mystical or supernatural either. It's only some secondary meaning that the person gave it. Someone can call himself Bart because he works at an apiary and likes to draw bees. That would be an inner meaning ("Bee art").

This is helpful.

So when YHWH uses those four letters, it could have an inner meaning of Arm Behold Nail Behold. But did it 1. actually carry such a meaning in the eyes of any writer of the Tanakh, or did it 2. carry that meaning for the Lord? The latter could only be established relying on a concept of the supernatural - ie. that God exists and used it to create the name even if people in the time of the Tanakh didn't see such a meaning.

Technically the first could be established without reference to the paranormal. If Tanakh authors like David, Isaiah, and Zechariah repeatedly made reference to those concepts in passages that also referred to YHWH, one could make a reasonable guess that one of those writers saw such an inner meaning. But the conclusion would have to be only circumstantial.

What I see you doing is making the argument that #1 there is extremely unlikely, because you don't see the Tanakh writers as including "inner meanings" in their writing beyond the plain meaning explicated directly in the Tanakh, especially not any implicit inner meanings that were taken mystically as if the meanings had some kind of spiritual value.

One reason I don't agree that the Tanakh lacked the concept of mystical inner meanings is because of the issue of dreams. You wrote:
In the examples of both Joseph and Daniel, the dreams involved were specifically sent by God to give a message, and the interpretations were specifically given to Joseph and Daniel (in the case of Daniel 2, the description of the dream too). In these cases, the events were supernatural, not mystical.
First of all, the dreams of pharaoh's servants were not explicitly said to be given by God. What happened was that Joseph heard the servants tell their dreams and then Joseph told them back that these dreams were referring to future events. There was no statement mentioned in the Bible in the dreams themselves or immediately before the dreams that they were a message from God or that they were about the future. That was only Joseph's interpretation of those dreams and their events and items' "inner meanings". Joseph's method of interpretation absolutely had to rely on a method of interpreting the events and stories as if they were secretly depicting something else, in that case future events.

On another note, I liked how you gave the Two examples from Torah as referring to Messiah directly. It's an interesting issue.
Genesis 3 says God puts enmity between "the woman's" "seed" (maybe a virgin birth?) and the snake's "seed", and the snake's seed bites the woman's seed's heel. First you would have to prove that a woman's seed could never refer to a woman bearing a child naturally in the Tanakh. Then you would need to show that no other child could be born from a virgin besides Messiah. Otherwise, the link is not clear in the text and can only be read tentatively, circumstantially, or indirectly.

In any case, the New Testament for one has plenty of usages of this style of literature with inner meanings. A good example is Jesus' parables. The images in them referred often to something else symbolically. Think about the story of the fig tree or the vine and the tenants taking care of it. In the story and its preface, nowhere did Jesus begin by saying that the story was about the pharisees. But they correctly understood it that way and were offended. They were part of the intended inner meaning of the story.

You also mentioned the part in Matthew "He shall be called a Nazarene". The thing is, it nowhere says in the Tanakh actually that Messiah would be called a Nazarene. It's said about someone else, and Matthew therefore must be taking it as having an inner mystical reference to Jesus in that Tanakh verse.

When Matthew writes
Matthew 2:23 King James Version (KJV)

23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
The fulfillment could only be implicit, as there was no explicit reference to Messiah in the Tanakh verse.

The only place it says anything like Jesus or Messiah would be called a Nazarene is in Judges 13, where it says "the child shall be a Nazirite", although the child in that case was Samson.
The difficulty with the brief quote "he will be called a Nazarene" is that it occurs nowhere in the Old Testament prophets, or any other extant source. A number of theories have been advanced to explain this. At the time the canon was not firmly established and it is possible that Matthew is quoting some lost source. However all the other quotations in Matthew are from well known works, and if a quotation so closely linking Jesus’ hometown and the messiah existed it would likely have been preserved.

There is much debate, and many theories among scholars as to what the quote could mean. Scholars have searched through the Old Testament for passages that are similar. One popular suggestion is Judges 13:5 where of Samson it says "the child shall be a Nazirite." A nazirite was a member of a sect who practiced asceticism.... Other scholars reject this explanation. Jesus was not a nazirite and is never described as one. Matthew 11:19 shows Jesus specifically rejecting such teachings.[7] In both Hebrew and Greek the words nazarene and nazirite are quite distinct and are less likely to be conflated than in English...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_2:23
Another example is when David says:
Psalm 69:21
Instead, they gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink
Is that an explicit prediction by David that Messiah will get to drink actual vinegar?
The connection would be that David describes himself that way, and then other verses use David as a prophecy of Messiah in the Tanakh, like Isaiah 55, and so by extension this applies to Messiah.

Compare with
John 19:28
After this, knowing that everything had now been accomplished, and to fulfill the Scripture, Jesus said, "I am thirsty."
whereupon he was given vinegar to drink.

If Psalm 69 and some other Davidic verses about David are spoken of Messiah directly, then this still could require an added step of linkage (that Isaiah 55 provides).
Hal Smith
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