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Month 10:26, Week 4:4 (Revee/Shavu'ot), Year:Day 5937:292 AM
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 26 January 2014
Stavrakopoulou's Word
The Controversy over Exodus 6:2-3

    Discrediting Monotheism With a Bad Translation

    British Bible scholar and atheist, Dr. Franscesca Stavrakopoulou, and senior lecturer in Hebrew Bible studies at the University of Exeter, sets out in a recent BBC TV documentary [1] to discredit the monotheistic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Her thesis is quite simple: the Bible admits that before the Name Yahweh was revealed to Moses, He had only previously been known as the Canaanite deity l (pronounced 'ayle' or 'ail'), head of the pantheon of pagan deities of whom the imfamous Ba'al was of his subordinates. Translating directly from the Hebrew Masoretic text, with usual British reserve, she quotes from a much abused and twisted passage of Scripture:

      "I revealed myself to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as l of the Wilderness but was not known to them by My Name, Yahweh" (Ex.6:2-3, Stavrakopoulou trans.)

    Who or What is l?

    There are two errors in this translation. But before I point them out, Stavrakopoulou does acknowledge that most of the time in the Bible l (which we commonly translate as 'God' in the singular form [2]) is just a title that is common to many Middle Eastern religions just as our English word 'God' can be used generally of any religion, be it the Muslim 'Allah' or the Judeo-Christian 'Yahweh'.

    l-Shaddai and l-Elyon are Not Names

    The problem is that Stavrakopoulou insists that the words l shaddai represent a name rather than a title. Her colourful rendition of 'shaddai' as 'Wilderness', as though l were the name of some local tribal deity in Sinai, is bad enough. 'Shaddai' is rightly translated as 'Almighty' by nearly all Bible translators, l Shaddai clearly being a title like l Elyon, also used throughout the Middle East anciently, which is rendered 'l (God) Most High' or 'the Most High l (God). So, no l Shaddai is not some local pagan tribal deity from the Sinai peninsular but a title for the Supreme l (God).

    Is It True That the Name 'Yahweh' Was Unknown Before Moses?

    The second error is the claim that the Name Yahweh was not known prior to Exodus 6:2-4 even though you will find it used in Genesis and the first five chapters of Exodus 233 times [3] - it would seem that the 'god of the translators' has Alzheimer's. All sorts of bizzare, silly and sometimes dangerous theologies have evolved from this bad translation, including one which I debunked recently, which claims that l Elyon was the Name of 'God' before the Patriarchs and of the New Covenant whereas 'Yahweh' was only His Old Covenant Name from Moses to Christ [4].

    A Rhetorical Question

    Far from being an introduction to the Divine Name, the Hebrew is in fact in the form of a rhetorical question showing that 'Yahweh' was indeed an established Name amongst the children of Israel and before, as is proved by its use 233 times in Genesis and up to Exodus 6:1 [5]. The correct translation should be:

      "And I appeared to Abraham, to Yitshaq (Isaac), and to Ya'aqob (Jacob), as l Shaddai. And by My Name YHWH (Yahweh), was I not known to them?" (Shemoth/Exodus 6:3, ISRV).

      "And I appeared to Avraham (Abraham), to Yitzchak (Isaac), and to Yaakov (Jacob), as El-shaddai, but by My Name YHWH was I not known to them?" (RSTNE)

      "And I appeared unto Avraham (Abraham), unto Yitzchak (Isaac), and unto Ya'akov (Jacob), in El Shaddai, and by My name YHWH was I not known to them?" (HRV).

    Hebrew Grammar

    The translator of the HRV rendition explains his choice of words:

      "I have chosen this as a rhetorical question due to the context (Earlier in the Torah Avraham, Yitzach (sic.) and Ya'akov often used the term YHWH). In Hebrew there is no required interrogative clause as we know it in English. In Hebrew questions often appear as statements made in a questioning manner" [6].

    The Only Reasonable Position

    In fact, this is the only reasonable position to take because if the traditional non-interrogative form is taken, then 233 prior verses using the Name YHWH have to be discarded or you have to adopt a liberal position and posit that there is no revelation and that the Torah was assembled by different authors essentially writing fiction or semi-fiction. So the choice is between accepting the minority position of the ISRV, RSTNE and HRV or becoming a liberal/atheist like Dr. Franscesca Stavrakopoulou.

    Conclusion

    Stavrakopoulou offers the usual liberal, atheistic 'explanations' to descredit the historicity of Yahweh, and she will not be the last. That the BBC, traditionally a bastion of biased left-wing liberalism, agnosticism, and atheism, should produce this shoddy scholarship at British tax-payers' expense, comes as no real surprise. Proper reporting should at the very least include all points-of-view and not just the 'concensus' of a biased, ruling academic clique. The selection religious statements made by conservative scholars to give apparent 'balance' was deceptive, being framed in such a way as to make the choice between 'religion' and 'scholarship'. So the documentary was purposefully loaded from the start, like so many liberal school textbooks these days that include highly selective points-of-view. The BBC does make some really excellent documentaries for which is has earned a deserved reputation but sadly it has today merely become the mouthpiece and media stooge of the political establishment. Believers can relax provided they learn to do sound theological exegesis and need never give carte blanche or kowtow to the men and women of secular letters who give off an air of authority they don't deserve.

    Endnotes

    [1] Bible's Burried Secrets - Did God Have a Wife? (Season 1 Episode 2 of 3)
    [2] As opposed to 'Elohim in its plural form
    [3] Genesis 2:4,5,7,8,9,15,16,18,19,21,22; 3:1,8,9,13,14,21,22,23; 4:1,3,4,6,9,13,15,16,26,29; 5:29; 6:3,5,6,7,8; 7:1,5,16; 8:20,21; 9:26; 10:9; 11:5,6,8,9,; 12:1,4,7,8,17; 13:4,10,13,14,18,22; 15:1,2,4,6,7,8,18; 16:2,5,7,9,10,11,13; 17:1; 18:1,3,12,13,14,17,19,20,22,26,27,30,31,32,33; 19:19:13,14,16,24,27; 20:4,18; 21:1; 22:11,14,15,16; 23:6,11,15; 24:1,3,7,12,18,21,26,27,31,25,40,42,44,48,50,51,52,56; 25:21,22,23; 26:2,12,24,25,28,29; 27:7,20,27; 28:16,21,31,32,33,35; 29:31,32,33,35: 30:24,27,30; 31:3,35,49; 32:4,5,9,18; 33:8,13,14,15; 38:7,10; 39:2,3,5,21,23; 40:1; 42:10,30,33; 44:5,7,16,18,19,22,22,24,33; 45:8,9; 47:18,25; 49:18; Exodus 3:2,4,7,15,16,18; 4:1,2,4,5,6,10,11,13,14,19,21,22,24,27,28,30,31; 5:1,2,3,17,21,22; 6:1
    [4] El Elyon: Is it the Name of the Father?
    [5] Though in nearly all translations incorrectly rendering the Hebrew 'YHWH' as 'LORD' instead of 'Yahweh' (or its corrupt and blasphemous form, 'Jehovah'
    [6] James Scott Trimm, The Hebraic-Roots Version Scriptures (SANJ, Hurst, TX: 2004), p.83, footnote #53

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