But it was on the 'net!

A missionary movie with a WTFic interpretation of the names of God
ד"ר תמר עילם גינדין

ד"ר תמר עילם גינדין

ד"ר לבלשנות איראנית ומרצה בנושאים שונים

Tal Ofer sent me a link to this viral video and asked for my scholarly opinion on minutes 10-12. They basically say that elohim (Hebrew "God", but literally "gods") as well as the name of the Lord, i.e. Jehovah, are both masculine and feminine in Hebrew.

Direct link, in case the embedding doesn't work.

Tal, just as you thought, it's – well – crap. And you don't even have to be a linguist to know that. Just to be the Hebrew speaker you are. But when given a task – I excavate (that's a literal translation of Hebrew slang "to go on and on about something").

So this is my scholarly opinion:

The common literal translation of בראשית ברא אלוהים (Gen 1:1) is "In the beginning God creates.

NO!!!!!!! It's "created", and although I know it, I've checked both King James and the two New Revised Standard Versions (NRSV) – both the American one and the Anglicized edition. Thank you Oremus.

And thanks for quoting "the Hebraic translation, found in the Zohar" (penultimate stress, by the way: Zohar, not Zohar). According to the video, it is "with wisdom, Elohim creates". I've had the Zohar since 2004 and so far it only served for protection – against all sorts of evil forces, I guess, but also against falling bookshelves: 23 Zohar volumes on the lower shelves stabilize them. And whaddaya know – the English translation of the Zohar (vol. I p. 155) also says "In the Beginning Elohim created". ED. Past tense. And "in the beginning". Not "in wisdom". This is from the English translation of the Zohar, because the Aramaic quotes the Hebrew.

I've googled up "in wisdom Elohim creates" and found 6 occurences, the most credible of which was in gnosticteachings.org, which, as its name tells, is not exactly subjective nor scholarly.

This interpretation (to be distinguished from translation!) of בראשית ברא אלוהים Berešit bara elohim is based on Prov. 3:19 יְהוָה–בְּחָכְמָה יָסַד-אָרֶץ;    כּוֹנֵן שָׁמַיִם, בִּתְבוּנָה – The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens. The present tense is not justified in any way.

00:10:07 "The Feminine form of el (אל) is eloah (אלה), and means "Goddess". Elohim is plural, thus means Gods and Goddesses".

OMG, where do I start?
El is certainly "a god". The feminine is indeed written אלה, but pronounced ela. The he (ה) at the end of ela is a mater lectionis, i.e. it serves to mark the vowel a at the end of the word. It originates from ancient Semitic t, and goes back to t when not in final position, e.g. elat-hamazal "the goddess of fortune". It's also t in ancient Semitic languages such as Ugaritic and Akkadian. That's the feminine marker.
In Eloah the he is consonantal, i.e. it represents the consonant h. That's why its plural is elohim. The a before the h is not etymological, but rather a "stolen" vowel that facilitates the pronunciation of a vowelless laryngeal consonant (that is, it was supposed to be *eloh, but Hebrew can't pronounce that, so the a was added before the h). That's why it "disappears" before suffixes beginning with a vowel, such as the (masculine) plural –im.
I'm sorry, but there's no feminine marker there. Eloah is definitely masculine, and the consonantal h is also found in Arabic ilah and allah (as in la ilah illa 'llah – there is no god but allah).

The etymologies of el and eloah are subject to long debate, so with your permission, I'll omit them here.

Conclusion (10:30): God is established in the first words of the Bible as androgenous, containing both male and female.

How do you reach a (well, sort of) plausible conclusion with an argument that is long, wrong and not-so-strong? Here's how: The masculine in Hebrew is the unmarked gender. It means that if we don't know who we're talking about we use the masculine, e.g. "whoever forgot" in Hebrew would be מי ששכח, the verb in the 3rd sg. masc. When referring to a plural of unknown or mixed gender, we use the masculine. Thus when we say elim in Hebrew, the literal translation is "Gods", but it also includes Goddesses (surprise! it also happens in English! When referring to the Greek Gods or the Hindu Gods, the Goddesses are included. It's magic!). However, Hebrew Elohim is always referred to as masculine singular – we can know this by verb and adjective agreement (verbs and adjectives referring to the Lord are always masc. sg.), but it's no doubt a morphological plural.

ca. 10:50-11:00 The word Elohim referes to angels – the governors of creation, which are both masculine and feminine –

I know it's not an academic response, but — WTF?

Even in Zoroastrianism, that had much influence on Judaism and esoteric teachings in the West, the elements are identified with deities, but one supreme god created them all.

11:20 ff. In the Bible, the angel who oversaw the creation of Humanity is called Ja-hovah – Elohim (the narrator says Ja-hovah, the writing says Jehovah)

I hope our religious people don't hear you. Angels appeared in the Jewish faith much later, only after the contact with the Zoroastrian religion in the first-temple exile. Nowhere in the Bible will you find Elohim or Jehovah as the name of an angel (Angel, by the way, both the Greek word and the pre-exilic meaning of the Hebrew word it translates – מלאך – mal'akh, is originally "a messenger, an envoy").

11:40 Jehovah is another important name of God, not to be confused with Jahveh.


12:00 Yod, or ya, can be translated as "male" or "phallus" – Adam.  (WTF?)

The name of the letter yod comes from Hebrew (Semitic) yad, meaning hand, and that was the form of the letter in ancient times. The connection between yad and phallus is – well, you're adults. You know. But girls do it too. The only connection I see between the letter yod and masculinity is that the Y chromosome is tiny, like the letter yod. But I don't think the ancients knew that, and the letter yod was not this small when the name YHWH came into being.

Hava or Heve, is female, mother, uterus – Eve. (double WTF).

Oh, I get it. English accent. You can't distinguish ḥet (ח) from he (ה). Well: Eve's name in Hebrew is חוה, transcribed in English as Hava, but actually pronounced in Modern Hebrew khava (Kh like German ch when it doesn't follow i or e) and in Ancient Hebrew probably ḥawa ( is the laryngeal h, that is deeper in the throat, as in Arabic Muhammad). It comes from the root חוה/חיה ḥwh/ḥyh from which also comes "life". And yes, women give life, that's why in so many languages "woman" comes from the same root as "creation" (Latin genesis, genetics – Greek gynaecology).

But the name YHWH comes from the root הוה/היה hwh/hyh, with the letter he (like good old English h), which means "to be". YHWH thus means something like "he exists" (Modern Hebrew "he will be"). It is sometimes pronounced Yahweh, and no one can really know how it's supposed to be pronounced, because vocalization is much later than the ancient inscriptions. In the Massoretic Bible it usually receives the same vocalization as the word that's supposed to be pronounced instead of it: Jehovah like Adonay, Jehovih like Elohim. Yahveh may be closer to the original pronunciation of the verb.

Even the name Jahovah contains both masculine and feminine forces.

Ummmm… no. It's a 3rd sg. masculine verb. Sorry.

Bottom lines, people:

1. The fact that something was on the net doesn't make it true. The Hebrew readers among you can read this article by Avishai Ivri on Latma website (this is what Latma makes for English speakers).

2. I don't know what it is that you were trying to prove, and I didn't watch further or before. But if you want to convince, use facts that are correct, or at least such that not many people would identify as complete BS.

Alt-tab: Six months ago an expert on spinal problems said that if I don't get surgery for my two lower vertebrae, hemiplegia will be mine (being cripple waist down, no control or sensation including sex and excretions). L5-S1 disc rupture is something I was completely ignorant about, but I do have some body-mind background. His speech about the non-existence of body-mind connection and lack of possibility to influence bodily processes by the mind, actually saved me from surgery:  I didn't believe anything else he said and got all sorts of alternative treatment + second and third opinions from his peers that said I'm not candidate for operation, and need not worry more than the next person. Shift-Alt-Tab.

I'm a linguist, but you only have to know basic Hebrew to understand your Hebrew arguments are, well, wrong, and once I know the part I understand is wrong, I won't listen to anything else you have to say.

Wanna hear more? I give enrichment lectures wherever they pay well. This is my Contact form.

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לפוסט הזה יש 6 תגובות

  1. דנה

    היי תמר,

    טל שלח לי הבוקר את הסרטון המדובר. לא היה לי ספק שהוא צודק. תודה על הבלוג המפורט והמרתק שחידד בצורה מופלאה את מה שחשבתי והדגיש עוד כמה דברים בדרך (וכן, זה כולל גם את את כל ה-WTF שחלפו לי בראש כשראיתי את הקטע המדובר…)

    כעורכת לשון חשבתי שעברית היא לא שפת האם של מי שתרגם את הטקסט המקראי מעברית לאנגלית במקרה הזה. .
    אני מפנה אותך לשני המשפטים הראשונים של ספר בראשית:
    "בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ. ב וְהָאָרֶץ, הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ, וְחֹשֶׁךְ, עַל-פְּנֵי תְהוֹם; וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם"

    האם יכול להיות שהשימוש בשני פעלים ממינים שונים, ברא ומרחפת, בסמיכות זה לזה גרם לבלבול? יכול להיות שהמתרגם לא הבחין בין אלוהים לרוח אלוהים ומכאן מקור הטעות?

    שוב, תודה על הבלוג המרתק ותודה לטל שחשף את המחדל…

  2. תמר

    זה אולי היה יכול להיות טיעון פחות-או-יותר הגיוני, אבל לא, הטיעון שלהם הוא שהמילה אלוהים היא זכר ונקבה ביחד, כי יש בה גם אל וגם אלה (eloah), ושיהוה הוא זכר בגלל ה-י ונקבה בגלל ה-הוה.
    WTFי לגמרי.

  3. צביקה א'

    Indeed, you have really dug 🙂
    עם זאת, זהו מאמר מעניין מאוד. למדתי.

  4. ארנון

    אני תמיד משועשע מ"גילוי סודות" שהם בעצם גלויים אם אתה רק מוכן להקשיב, אגב יש מלאכים בתורה, אבל כולם שליחים משניים שנותנים נבואות גרנדיוזיות ומבטיחים כל מיני הבטחות אקראיות כמו פריון אינסופי ושליטה בלתי מעורערת על הארץ ברגע שמאיימים עליהם (אברם שהופך לאברהם אחרי שהוא מפוצץ מלאך במכות), אבל כשעוזרים להם הם מפוצצים את העיר ולא משאירים אבן על אבן (סדום)…

    בפסוק הם מדברים על "רוח אלהים" ואנחנו יודעים שרוח היא נקבה, "בראשית ברא אלהים" מתיחס ליישות עצמה… אנחנו אגב קוראים אלוהים, אבל צריך לזכור שבמקור לא היו רווחים בכתיבה וכשזה נוח אפשר תמיד לחבר מלים כדי לתת להן משמעות חדשה, אל הים הופך לאל היחיד, אני אגב מאמין אדוק, אבל חושב שאמונה צריכה ביקורת כמו שאלהים אמר לנח כשהוא נתן לאנושות את החופש לבחור באיזה אל שבא לנו והוא לא ישמיד אותנו שוב.

    יום שמח, ארנון.

  5. נדב

    לגבי משמעות המילה א-לוהים: יש כמה מקומות בתנ"ך שבהם המילה יכולה להתפרש לא כשמו של הבורא, אלא כתיאור של באי כוחו (שופט ואולי גם מלאך).
    כל זה בלי קשר לעובדה שמה שנאמר בהקשר הזה בסרט הוא שטויות והבלים.

  6. מתן

    ארנון, אברם הפך לאברם בעקבות ציוויו של אלוהים (יהוה) עצמו, היה זה יעקב שהפך לישראל בעקבות כך שהלך מכות עם איש (לא כתוב שהוא מלאך! רק שהוא אומר לו "לא יעקב יאמר עד שמך כי אם ישראל כי שרית עם אלוהים ועם אנשים ותוכל")

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