Thursday, January 13, 2022

Whose house?

The case of whose house in Judges 19:18.

The 1984 Reference NWT had:
We are passing along from Bethlehem in Judah to the remotest parts of the mountainous region of Ephraim. That is where I am from, but I went to Bethlehem in Judah; and it is to my own house that I am going, and there is nobody taking me on into the house.
The footnote for “my own house” said: “To my own house,” LXX (compare vs 29); MSy, “to Jehovah’s house”; Vg, “to God’s house.” But KB, p. 369, states that in this case “Jehovah” may be a misunderstanding of the first-person sing. pronoun “my.”

KB is the Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, by L. Koehler and W. Baumgartner, Leiden, Netherlands, 1953. This is what it says:

Figure 1

In other words, this transformation of the Hebrew text is proposed:

Figure 2[1]

Since the LXX also had only “my house,” it could be that the Greek translators were looking at a Hebrew text that lacked the Tetragrammaton there.

Moving on, the current 2013 NWT has:
We are traveling from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area of the mountainous region of Ephraim, where I am from. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to the house of Jehovah, but nobody is taking me into his house.
So now the input of KB was not followed. Additionally, this explanation was provided for the inclusion of the Tetragrammaton here: “one occurrence [of the Tetragrammaton] at Judges 19:18 was restored as a result of further study of ancient manuscripts.”[2] No ancient manuscript was identified, but the Aleppo Codex has it there.

Lastly, the NET Bible has:
I had business in Bethlehem in Judah, but now I’m heading home.
Its footnote says:
Heb “I went to Bethlehem in Judah, but [to] the house of the LORD I am going.” The Hebrew text has “house of the LORD,” which might refer to the shrine at Shiloh. The LXX reads “to my house.”
As noted above with the Reference NWT footnote, complicating this text of Judges 19:18 is Judges 19:28-29, where the man simply went home. So, the situation in Judges 19:18 is ultimately a judgment call. It’s not something to be dogmatic over.

Notes from Study Bibles
Jewish Study Bible: This has “House of the LORD,” but has this note: “Meaning of Heb. uncertain; emendation yields “to my home”; cf. v. 29.”

Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible: This has the same as above, and notes: “It is unclear why the Levite would reference visiting Shiloh (or Bethel), where it seems the ark of the covenant was kept (18:31; 20:18). This may be why the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the OT, reads “my house” instead (compare 19:29).”

Robert Alter Translation: He too retains the Tetragrammaton, yet notes: “This is a little odd because there is no indication that he lives in a sanctuary back in the far reaches of the high country of Ephraim.” He adds: “Many, following the Septuagint, emend the two Hebrew words here to read, “to my house.””

So these refer to two things: the oddity of going to the holy shrine, and him going to his home in Judges 19:29.

[1] Courtesy of Bruno Neuckermans.
[2] The Watchtower, December 2015. A Living Translation of God’s Word, 10.


Tuesday, January 04, 2022

The habitation of nonsense

That’s how yours truly summed up the infamous book The Two Babylons[1] in a recent video.[2] When researching for the script, I was surprised to learn that inspiration behind a main point in The Two Babylons came from the Pseudo-Clementine literature, spurious writings from around the 4th century CE. That point being that Ninus is Nimrod. Indeed, when perusing the two volumes of the Clementine literature, named Recognitions and Homilies, I was struck by how similar they were to The Two Babylons. Lastly, I reviewed the origin of Ninus and his wife Semiramis as coming from the Greek physician Ctesias. However, since the discovery of Assyrian records and the resulting rise of the science of Assyriology, we can now fact-check Ctesias—and he failed to be a reliable historian on this point. Unfortunately for Hislop, he wrote before Ninus was shown to be unhistorical. Semiramis was found to have a historical counterpart, but she lived much later than Ninus was presumed to have lived, and she was not his wife.

Anyway, watch the video! (And don’t forget to like and subscribe!)

[1] Seventh edition, 1871. Published by Loizeaux Brothers, 1959.

The complete book in a single webpage, with some added commentary interspersed:

Monday, December 06, 2021

Who’s the talking donkey?

An easy way to mock something is by using a sweeping generalization that fails to include details, qualifications, and nuances. An example of this is seen with a popular atheist mockery of the Bible, saying it has a talking snake and talking donkey and magic trees.

First of all, no one believes the snake and donkey actually spoke of their own accord (like the donkey did in Shrek). Thus, claiming that they do is nothing more than a disparaging straw man fallacy. That’s like saying atheists believe that DNA came from rocks smashing together. This is an unfair claim just like the atheist claim.

The Garden of Eden narrative with its special trees and the serpent is in its own literary genre apart from the donkey narrative. Each event is in its own unique set of circumstances and context. The later is more recent in time, being in Numbers, and will be examined here alone by considering what a number of commentators have to say in a handful of study Bibles.

The account is in Numbers 22:21-33, with Peter summarizing in 2 Peter 2:16. The account is specifically about the prophet Balaam riding his donkey with a message in opposition to Jehovah the God of the Israelites:
21 So Balaam got up in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.
22 But God’s anger blazed because he was going, and Jehovah’s angel stationed himself in the road to resist him. Now Balaam was riding on his donkey, and two of his attendants were with him.
23 And when the donkey saw Jehovah’s angel standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it tried to turn off the road into the field. But Balaam began to beat the donkey to make it return to the road.
24 Then Jehovah’s angel stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with stone walls on both sides.
25 When the donkey saw Jehovah’s angel, it began to squeeze itself against the wall and it jammed Balaam’s foot against the wall, and Balaam began beating it again.
26 Jehovah’s angel now passed by again and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right or to the left.
27 When the donkey saw Jehovah’s angel, it lay down under Balaam, so Balaam became furious and kept beating the donkey with his staff.
28 Finally Jehovah caused the donkey to speak, and it said to Balaam: “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”
29 Balaam replied to the donkey: “It is because you have made a fool of me. If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you!”
30 Then the donkey said to Balaam: “Am I not your donkey that you have ridden on all your life until today? Have I ever treated you this way before?” He replied: “No!”
31 Then Jehovah uncovered Balaam’s eyes and he saw Jehovah’s angel standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand. At once he bowed low and prostrated himself on his face.
32 Then Jehovah’s angel said to him: “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Look! I myself came out to offer resistance, because your way is in defiance of my will.
33 The donkey saw me and tried to turn away from me these three times. Supposing it had not turned away from me! By now I would have killed you and let the donkey live.”
Notice the donkey is not conveying any information that Balaam didn’t already know.

Any human words being heard derives from divine intervention on the donkey.

Balaam is not portrayed as being startled that his donkey spoke. This could imply that the “speech” was implied from the donkey’s frantic braying. We talk to our animals, even our cars, in response to their sounds all the time.

Peter summarized this event as follows: “A voiceless beast of burden speaking with a human voice (ἀνθρώπου φωνῇ) hindered the prophet’s mad course.” In his summary he is merely reporting on what the Hebrew text conveyed.

Study Bible commentary
Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
opened the donkey’s mouth.
Tales of talking animals in the ancient world often contain warning, irony or saltire. In the Egyptian Story of Two Brothers, a cow advises one of the brothers to flee because his brother was seeking to kill him with a lance. From the Aramaic Words of Ahiqar (seventh century BC) comes a conversation between a lion, a leopard, a bear and a goat, each representing a human characteristic in facing the struggles of life before the gods.

Interpretation of this Biblical event has given rise to two general options: (1) God gave the animal the power of speech similar to how he empowered Ezekiel to speak after a prolonged period of silence (Eze 3:27; 33:22); (2) the donkey’s normal braying was heightened such that it was perceived and interpreted by Balaam in a human manner. The scene is replete with irony in that the donkey is more perceptive of God and is able to speak God’s word in a manner superior to the internationally renowned expert. Balaam is reminded that he will only be allowed to speak what Yahweh, God of Israel, permits him to speak.

The Jewish Study Bible
This episode of Balaam and the she-ass derives from a different tradition that contradicts the favorable view of Balaam expressed by the main story (contrast esp. v. 20). In this version God is angry with the prophet (v. 22) and in turn depicts the donkey as the actual visionary. Balaam becomes the object of mockery: He is portrayed as being blind to divine will; it is the ass that sees what the seer cannot.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible
second request. 22-35: These verses come from a tradition different from the foregoing, as indicated by God’s anger at Balaam (v. 22) after having given permission to go (v. 20), by the seer’s apparent blindness to divine will which was not the case in vv. 7-21, and the redundancy in vv. 20 and 35. In this version of the story, his donkey is smarter than he (cf. Isa 1.3). This version, which is only partly incorporated in the larger context of ch 22-24, may have first recounted that Balaam went without consulting the deity. Except for 22.22-35, chs 22-24 present Balaam in a positive light (cf. Mic 6.5). Other biblical passages portray him negatively (31.8,16; Deut 23.5; Josh 13.22; 24.10; Neh 13.2).

NASB Study Bible
22:23 the donkey saw the angel of the LORD. The internationally known seer is blind to spiritual reality, but his proverbially dumb beast is able to see the angel of the Lord on the path. As a pagan prophet, Balaam was a specialist in animal divination, but his animal saw what he was blind to observe.
22:29 If there had been a sword in my hand. A ridiculous picture of the hapless Balaam. A sword was nearby (see vv. 23, 31-33), but its victim was not going to be the donkey.
22:31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam. The language follows the same structure as the opening words of v. 28. In some ways, the opening of the eyes of the pagan prophet to see the reality of the angel was the greater miracle.

ESV Study Bible
22:22-35 The Donkey and the Angel. This is a hilarious put-down of Balaam’s pretensions. The international expert on magic cannot see the angel, but his donkey can. And the angel upbraids him for his temper and cruelty. The whole episode reinforces the message that Balaam must speak only the word that I tell you (v. 35).

HCSB Apologetics Study Bible
22:22-40 The story takes an ironic turn, as God is displeased with Balaam on the journey to Moab. Critics question why God would be angry with Balaam for listening to Him. This story type fits into the category of faith-challenges similar to Jacob’s wrestling with the angel at Peniel on his return to the promised land (Gn 32:24-32) or Moses’ encounter with the Lord upon his return to Egypt (Ex 4:24-26). These accounts are reminders that a holy God demands complete obedience of His servants; on the journey to Moab Balaam’s female donkey was more sensitive to God’s moving than was this renowned prophet.

Critics call the communication by the donkey fanciful story telling. But, as with Balaam himself, God will use whatever means necessary to accomplish His purpose. The donkey could see what the seer could not, and she brayed in such a manner as to convey to Balaam a distinct message of anger and resentment. She communicated in such a way that only her owner could understand the meaning of her intonation. Similarly, in Jn 12:28-30, what some thought was thunder or the voice of an angel was God speaking. When Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, only Saul could understand his words, while those around him “stood speechless” (Ac 9:7), i.e. unable to make out the meaning of what they heard.

With this insight, it’s no longer as funny as the talking donkey of Shrek fame, is it? The Balaam donkey narrative is now seen as more down-to-earth. With that said, the irony was that the donkey, instead of being “without understanding” (Psalm 32:9), was more spiritually perceptive than the prophet, who was now “without understanding” in role-reversal.

Thus, ones wanting to generalize this narrative as a silly Shrek-like talking donkey are acting “without understanding” like donkeys themselves. As humans, we have to do better.



Friday, October 15, 2021

Who committed fraud?

The Discovery Institute is a thinktank for the Intelligent Design movement, which teaches that life is best explained as originating with an intelligence and not originating through evolution. This opposition to evolution is especially seen in how it tackled the subject of human origins in a video it released on October 13, 2021: “Human Evolution: The Monkey Bias — Science Uprising, Episode 8.”[1]

This video refers to the PBS documentary “In Search of Human Origins, part one.”[2]

In their “Monkey Bias” video, the following accusation was made by the narrator: “This PBS documentary shows Anthropologist Owen Lovejoy manipulating the fossils to make Lucy walk upright.” The video then shows Owen using a power tool to grind away at what is presumably the actual pelvis, with one audience member in “Monkey Bias” viewing this in obvious shock. This is an accusation of academic fraud, and one that was made publicly in a PBS documentary for all his colleagues to witness on TV. That accusation thus struck me as strange. Why would he commit academic fraud so brazenly and openly in a documentary? It did not add up in my mind. So, I tracked down the transcript of “In Search of Human Origins, part one,” and I saw obvious academic fraud, but not from Owen Lovejoy.

The relevant portion of the transcript presents this, with my comments interspersed:
DON JOHANSON: My suspicions were confirmed. As Lovejoy pointed out, the joint had all the hallmarks of a creature that moved around on two legs, not on all fours. Walking upright is something that only humans can do. And it needs a special kind of knee joint, one that can be locked straight. A chimp gets around on all fours. If it tries to walk upright, it's knee joint doesn’t lock. It’s forced to walk with a bent leg and that’s tiring. This mysterious fossil really perplexed us. What was a modern-looking human knee doing among fossils that were millions of years old. …
[So Lucy had a lockable knee joint for walking upright.]
The ape that stood up, it was a revolutionary idea. We needed Owen Lovejoy’s expertise again, because the evidence wasn’t quite adding up. The knee looked human, but the shape of her hip didn’t. Superficially, her hip resembled a chimpanzee’s, which meant that Lucy couldn’t possibly have walked like a modern human. But Lovejoy noticed something odd about the way the bones had been fossilized.

OWEN LOVEJOY: When I put the two parts of the pelvis together that we had, this part of the pelvis has pressed so hard and so completely into this one, that it caused it to be broken into a series of individual pieces, which were then fused together in later fossilization.

DON JOHANSON: After Lucy died, some of her bones lying in the mud must have been crushed or broken, perhaps by animals browsing at the lake shore.

OWEN LOVEJOY: This has caused the two bones in fact to fit together so well that they’re in an anatomically impossible position.
[So the hip bone was shattered and fused into an unnatural geometry.]
DON JOHANSON: The perfect fit was an allusion that made Lucy’s hip bones seem to flair out like a chimp’s. But all was not lost. Lovejoy decided he could restore the pelvis to its natural shape. He didn’t want to tamper with the original, so he made a copy in plaster. He cut the damaged pieces out and put them back together the way they were before Lucy died. It was a tricky job, but after taking the kink out of the pelvis, it all fit together perfectly, like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. As a result, the angle of the hip looks nothing like a chimp’s, but a lot like ours. Anatomically at least, Lucy could stand like a human.[3]
Accusation: “Anthropologist Owen Lovejoy manipulating the fossils.”
Reality: “He didn’t want to tamper with the original, so he made a copy in plaster.”

Lovejoy working on the plaster copy is also seen in a video snippet of the PBS documentary.[4]

This also shows that “Monkey Bias” carefully removed the context of Lovejoy operating on the plaster copy, and presented the PBS documentary narration with the following underlined part removed:
The perfect fit was an allusion that made Lucy’s hip bones seem to flair out like a chimp’s. But all was not lost. ✂️Lovejoy decided he could restore the pelvis to its natural shape. He didn’t want to tamper with the original, so he made a copy in plaster. He cut the damaged pieces out and put them back together the way they were before Lucy died. It was a tricky job, but after taking the kink out of the pelvis, it all fit together perfectly, like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle.✂️As a result, the angle of the hip looks nothing like a chimp’s, but a lot like ours.
“Monkey Bias” then had Discovery Institute senior fellow Casey Luskin comment: “And so Lucy’s pelvis had to be reconstructed using a quite a bit of evolutionary interpretation and imagination.” Thus, not only did “Monkey Bias” purposefully misportray Owen as damaging the original fossil, it also removed the original narration in the PBS documentary explaining that there was an anatomical problem with the pelvis, as it was shattered and fused differently than in life, as well as a paradox of a locking knee joint. Omitting reference to the knee joint is particularly problematic, as that explains why Owen was suspicious of the pelvis to begin with. So it was not “evolutionary interpretation and imagination,” but detailed knowledge of comparative anatomy.

The conclusion from this is pretty troubling. Since it was the Discovery Institute and Casey Luskin who removed the relevant context to make Owen Lovejoy look like a biased vandal in committing academic fraud, it is actually the Discovery Institute and Casey Luskin who lied publicly and misrepresented Owen Lovejoy and the fossil evidence for their own biases, committing academic fraud. Opposing human evolution is one thing, but lying about it and slandering someone is unacceptable.

I am only reporting this incidence as it is what I personally discovered based on my suspicion that there was some monkey-business a foot.

Lastly, speaking of feet, “Monkey Bias” made a point about Lucy’s feet never being recovered but being human-like in restorations,[5] but completely left out any discussion of human-like footprints (the Laetoli Footprints) dated to her kind, the Australopithecines. It also ignored any discussion of the foreman magnum. (It has a more central position in the underside of the cranium, positioning the vertebral column directly under it, demanding an upright posture.)

Casey Luskin then referred to a Nature magazine article “From forelimbs to two legs” which he claimed called Lucy a knuckle-walker.
Screenshot from “Monkey Bias.” Click to enlarge.
He said: “In fact, an article in the journal Nature studied the hand bones of Lucy, and found that she had the hand bones of a knuckle-walker.” (A video of a knuckle-walking gorilla was then displayed.) He said this while showing the actual text of the article, which he highlighted as saying: “These features are thought to be associated with knuckle-walking…” Does that match his claim of what it said? And why did he not point out the publication year: 2000, or share qualifying information published at the same time in the same journal that negates his claim? For instance, he showcased text from a preliminary article “From forelimbs to two legs” in “news and views” that was introducing the main paper “Evidence that humans evolved from a knuckle-walking ancestor” by Richmond and Strait. This main paper was summarized by Henry Gee in his supplement “These fists were made for walking,” where he said: “Richmond and Strait have looked at the wrist bones of two extinct members of the human family, Australopithecus anamensis from Kenya and Australopithecus afarensis (the famous ‘Lucy’ skeleton) from Ethiopia, as they report in Nature. … Both, for example, were bipeds—they walked as upright as you or I, and probably not on their knuckles.”[6] Why did Casey Luskin not quote that? Was he being incompetent or dishonest? This is absolutely appalling.[7]

The moral of the story is, do not look for a “quick win.” Do competent research and fact-checking. Above all, be honest. There is no love or joy in doing anything less.[8]

Sadly, the Discovery Institute is celebrating “Monkey Bias” and a video airing after it which merely repeated the same sensationalized and slanderous claims from the attorney Casey Luskin. For an organized body of public servants to act this way is reprehensibly careless and reveals a very slipshod view of truth. The need to fact-check news outlets now includes their website Evolution News and Views. This is very dissapointing. See: Human Origins — The Scientific Imagination at Play and Luskin: The “Big Bang” of Human Origins by David Klinghoffer.

[2] At this mark: This was first aired on June 3, 1997.
[5] Start of Lucy part:
[6] “From forelimbs to two legs” by Mark Collard and Leslie C. Aiello (or free PDF)
“Evidence that humans evolved from a knuckle-walking ancestor” (or free PDF)
“These fists were made for walking”
[7] I asked the co-author of the Nature article, Dr. Richmond, if Casey Luskin was correct in his summary of it, that: “an article in the journal Nature studied the hand bones of Lucy, and found that she had the hand bones of a knuckle-walker.” He replied:
Wow, yes, Luskin’s comment is a flagrant mischaracterization of our scientific results. Lucy did not have the hands of an active knuckle-walker. Rather, there is evidence from her anatomy that her ancestors seemed to have had knuckle-walking adaptations. (Personal correspondence dated November 22, 2021.)
This is what I gathered from his article too. Why didn’t Casey Luskin draw a more responsible and professional conclusion? Could his vision be clouded with the lenses of confirmation bias?
[8] Owen Lovejoy is alive and is a professor at Kent State University.
He was kind enough to share with me his response to “Monkey Bias”:
Hi Jim: Thanks for the notification and of your interest in our work. I did watch the video and I have rarely seen such colossal dishonesty in any film or video that I have ever seen. It’s amazing but terribly disheartening for the future of science that there are organized groups dispensing such trash. Sincerely, Owen (October 17, 2021)
He is correct. What they produced is nothing more than a hit piece!

Additional reading:
Baboon Bone Found In Famous Lucy Skeleton


Friday, September 24, 2021

Fixing misstated arguments for Trinitarianism

When presenting an argument for something, it’s always good to use the right one and not a misstated version of it.

This became very relevant when a Trinitarian presented a case for the Trinity for my evaluation. When analyzing it, I noticed some misstated arguments that I had to first fix for him before proceeding. I could have just rightly dismissed them as nonsensical; but wanting to produce a thoughtful reply, I had to take the extra time to get this right.

So, here is what went down:

When I wrote before about Jehovah’s Witnesses, it was to confirm that they do not hold to the vocalization of “Jehovah” for salvation, but allow for Yahweh too.

But I see you want to talk about the Trinity with me, is that correct? Let me first say that I agree with Jesus’ preexistence, that he lived before in heaven before being born from his virgin mother. (I use “Jesus” as that is the common Anglicized form of his Hebrew name.) I will also use the NET Bible, as it has an impressive arsenal of footnotes that anyone can view for free on its website.

While I do not agree with Trinitarianism, I appreciate you taking the time to persuade me otherwise (or to accept a preliminary step towards embracing Trinitarian theology).

I will now review your message to me point by point:
Regarding some of the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses, we have compiled some information from the scriptures. We hope you find it interesting:

Below are some reasons from the O.T. for believing that Messiah is Elohim, and that Elohim is not just one person, and also an explanation of the Hebrew meaning of "one":
This should be interesting indeed as Jesus said that the Father person is the “only true God [Elohim]” in John 17:1-5 in accords with divine revelation seen in Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 63:16, 64:8, Jeremiah 31:9, Psalm 89:26 and Malachi 2:10, which all in one way or another identify God or Yahweh as the Father.
Ps. 45:6-7 speaks of the throne of Elohim. Throne is the first key word showing that we are reading about the Messiah who was to sit on David's throne.
I agree. The NET Bible footnote here is very insightful: “The king is clearly the addressee here, as in vv. 2-5 and 7-9.” It adds that “this statement as another instance of the royal hyperbole that permeates the royal psalms. Because the Davidic king is God’s vice-regent on earth, the psalmist addresses him as if he were God incarnate. God energizes the king for battle and accomplishes justice through him. A similar use of hyperbole appears in Isa 9:6, where the ideal Davidic king of the eschaton is given the title “Mighty God” (see the note on this phrase there). Ancient Near Eastern art and literature picture gods training kings for battle, bestowing special weapons, and intervening in battle. According to Egyptian propaganda, the Hittites described Rameses II as follows: “No man is he who is among us, It is Seth great-of-strength, Baal in person; Not deeds of man are these his doings, They are of one who is unique” (see Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 2:67). Ps 45:6 and Isa 9:6 probably envision a similar kind of response when friends and foes alike look at the Davidic king in full battle regalia. When the king’s enemies oppose him on the battlefield, they are, as it were, fighting against God himself.”

So the Davidic king is not Elohim but sits on God’s throne as his representative.
In verse 7 it says "therefore O Elohim, your Elohim anointed you" - 'anointed' is yet another key word in Hebrew (Mashach) from which the word Mashiach is formed!
With all due respect, where do you get a vocative Elohim? All other translations I checked have it as nominative, as in “therefore God, your God.” For instance, The Jewish Study Bible has “rightly has God, your God, chosen to anoint you.” The NET Bible concurs, and has this explanation in a footnote: “For other examples of the repetition of Elohim, “God,” see Pss 43:4; 48:8, 14; 50:7; 51:14; 67: [6,] 7.” In each of these cases there is one Elohim being referred to. Psalms 50:7 (“I am God, your God!”) and 67:6 (“May God, our God, bless us!”) come the closest to 45:7.
So here we see that the Messiah is Elohim, and his Elohim anointed him!
I think you are mistaken here. The narrator is saying “God, your God” as a repetitive clarification as seen in the other Psalms. But perhaps you meant to say that Elohim in verse 6, not 7, is vocative. I’m fine with that, and refer to the NET Bible’s explanation on how it is representational, not ontological, for the Davidic king.
This passage is quoted in Hebrews 1:8-9.
Yes, and this demonstrates that Jesus is the Davidic king which in Psalm 45:6 “is God’s vice-regent on earth,” “as if he were God incarnate.” He is Elohim representationally and not ontologically.
See also Mat. 1:23, which is quoted from Is.7:14; Is.9:6-7; John 10:30 where Yeshua says in allusion to Is.9:6 and Deu. 6:4 that "I and the father are one".
You refer to Immanuel which was an Isaianic title for a Davidic king. This is stated in the NET Bible footnote for Matthew 1:23. Again, as the Davidic king was not ontologically Elohim then neither is Jesus, but is his chief representative on earth. Isaiah 9:6-7 referred to the Davidic king representing God, as good as God himself. Jesus then fulfilling that was also representing God. When citing John 10:30, it is appropriate to also cite the clarifying scripture John 17:11 where the same word for “one” is used in regards to his disciples. It is not a compound one of his disciples in one human, but one signifying unity. Same with Jesus and his God and Father: not two in one body but united in thought and purpose. Lastly, the NET Bible discussed the interpretations of “one” in Deuteronomy 6:4 and never mentioned plurality within YHWH.
here are some clear examples in the O.T. of Elohim being plural:

Gen 1:26 - Elohim refers to himself as being plural
Gen 11:6-9 - YHWH refers to himself as being plural
Gen 20:13 - Abraham uses plural verb referring to the true Elohim
Gen 35:7 - Jacob uses plural verb referring to the true Elohim
Josh 14:19 Joshua uses plural adjective referring to the true Elohim
Genesis 1:26 and 11:6-9 is not about collaboration within a Godhead, but is God talking to someone (the pre-human Jesus) in heaven in his court. Michael Heiser has said this too regarding Genesis 1:26, as does the NET Bible footnote at Genesis 1:26: “Many Christian theologians interpret it as an early hint of plurality within the Godhead, but this view imposes later trinitarian concepts on the ancient text. … In its ancient Israelite context the plural is most naturally understood as referring to God and his heavenly court (see 1 Kgs 22:19-22; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Isa 6:1-8).”

The NET Bible has this footnote for “wander” at Genesis 20:13, which states in part: “The Hebrew verb is plural. This may be a case of grammatical agreement with the name for God, which is plural in form. However, when this plural name refers to the one true God, accompanying predicates are usually singular in form. Perhaps Abraham is accommodating his speech to Abimelech’s polytheistic perspective.” So, it does not necessarily mean plurality within Elohim.

Similarly, the NET Bible has this footnote for “themselves” at Genesis 35:7, which states in part that perhaps Elohim “is here a numerical plural, referring both to God and the angelic beings that appeared to Jacob.”

You said “Josh 14:19” but probably meant Joshua 24:19. [It took some effort to find the scripture he really meant to use.] The NET Bible footnote for “holy God” says: “Normally the divine name, when referring to the one true God, takes singular modifiers, but this is a rare exception where the adjective agrees grammatically with the honorific plural noun.”

So, I’m afraid that none of those scriptures can be used to demand plurality within Elohim. It is not the only option. And, as I show below, we can be very thankful for that.
Now, what about the "YHWH is One" verse?? Good question, this is probably the no.1 argument of Jews against believers in Yeshua. I see that the answer is extremely clear from the Hebrew use of the word 'echad' (one) in the O.T. in fact we don't have to look any further than Genesis to get the answer:

In Gen. 2:24 it says that "they (plural, a man and a woman) will be one flesh." Two distinct persons can be one flesh. So, you have seen my Dad on the videos, but you have never seen my Mom, right? Yet Biblically speaking, they are one.
This is rather confusing as “one flesh” is figurative, as it refers to unity, not plurality within flesh.
This explains how humans can see Elohim without dying, they can see Yeshua who is the mediator and who is one with the Father.
I think you are referring to Exodus 33:22-23; 34:24. More on this below. Suffice to say, you told me at the outset that Jesus is also Elohim, but now you are comparing that to figurative language.
The second example is from Gen. 41:22-26: It clearly says that pharaoh had TWO dreams, that he woke up in-between, that the two dreams were different, and here comes Joseph and says to pharaoh, "Pharaoh's dream is one"!! It doesn't even say "are" but "is". So, is Joseph making Pharo a liar by saying that his dream (singular) is (singular) one (singular)?? No, this is the Hebrew way of saying 'united'. Joseph is not denying that Pharaoh had two dreams, or that they were different, he is saying that the two dreams are united, and that they give the same message.
Genesis 41:21 says Pharoah woke up after the cows dream, then had the grain dream. Verses 25 and 26 literally say one dream, but the NET Bible sees this as an idiom for “same meaning.” So I follow you here.
The same is true with YHWH. "YHWH is one" does not deny that there is more than one person.
This is not the only way to understand the Shema. This comparison with the dreams was clever, but in all due respect, I do not find it as conclusive as you do. [It is too dreamy as the two dreams have a common, singular meaning.]
This rather means (among many other things) that Yeshua will not teach differently than the Father, and that YHWH's spirit will not teach differently either.
But united is not the same as plurality within Elohim.
In fact, in Ex 34 it first says that Moses spoke to YHWH face to face, and then later in the same chapter it says "You can not see my face, for no flesh shall see me and live". - In the same chapter! NO ONE can see him and live? What is the solution to this seeming contradiction?
Exodus 33:22-23 says Moses cannot see God’s face and live, whereas 34:24 (in the next chapter) says Moses was to “appear before” God using the plural of “face.” The NET Bible passes over this without comment. It is seen as an idiom for appearing before God, not as a contradiction with Exodus 33:22-23.
YHWH appeared to Adam and Eve, walking with them in the garden, he appeared to Abraham Issac and Jacob, to Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu together with 70 elders of Israel on Mount Sinai.
He appeared to them in different ways, yes. Moses’ theophany was the most dynamic and the closest to reality as opposed to a vision or a torch.
Yeshua said, "Before Abraham was, I am" clearly claiming that he was there at the time of Abraham!
I agree John 8:58 supports Jesus’ prehuman existence in Abraham’s day.
It is also fascinating to see in the Hebrew gospel of John (that we are finalising), how much emphasis is placed on Yeshua being Elohim in the first few lines of Chapter 1, much more than in the Greek tradition! And that he created everything!
I see you just released your Gospel of John. The conclusions drawn about it will certainly lead to valuable discussion. I will have to see how experts in the field analyze your text and conclusions. In your preface you state: “There is currently a lot of foolish debate about Yeshua and whether he is Elohim or not.” I have no problem with him being the representative of Elohim, and refer to your translation of John 20:17 where Jesus said “my Father and unto your Father—my Eloah and your Eloah.” His Father is Eloah. This is seen also in Revelation 3:12, where the resurrected Lord Jesus says he has a God four times.

A final point: for Jesus’ ransom sacrifice to have any meaning, he had to be a man who was completely dead, no divine nature surviving. Jesus was very emphatic about this, as seen in the account at Matthew 16:21-23. He was to be dead, then resurrected.—John 10:11, 19:30 and Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46 and Isaiah 53:12.

Thus, two points in conclusion: Jesus represents his God and Father but is not his God and Father, and Jesus was emphatic that he had to be dead (not still alive as a divine nature). If he was still alive as God, then his ransom sacrifice is a sham for he never died.
  1. Jesus represents his God and Father but is not his God and Father.
  2. Jesus was emphatic that he had to be dead (not still alive as a divine nature). If he was still alive as God, then his ransom sacrifice is a sham for he never died.
Months went by, and my Trinitarian interlocutor never bothered to reply.

See also:


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Use these scriptures with care

Pondering over the scriptures.

Job 26:7 is used a lot to prove the divine inspiration of the Bible.
“He stretches out the northern sky over empty space,
Suspending the earth upon nothing.”
Some respectful questions are in order: What if the “empty space” of the first part (7a) is in parallel with the “nothing” of the second part (7b), as a synonym?

If we take 7b literally (in isolation from 7a), should we take Job 26:11 literally too, which presents “the very pillars of heaven”?

However, while the first part of the verse is never commented on (and is hard to make sense of today), the last part of the verse still makes sense today! And I think that’s where the brilliance of the verse stands out, as being timeless!

Another observation is that no contemporary of Job or later Israelite recorded the earth as hanging in space orbiting the sun. These astronomical facts were only discovered centuries after Job, thus “suspending the earth upon nothing” still made sense to those people ignorant of the reality we take for granted today.

Thus, while Job 26:7b made sense to the astronomically-ignorant readers back then, it still makes sense today, and even more so. (But Job 26:7a and 11 do not make sense today, even though they did back then.)

Does Job 26:7 prove the divine inspiration of the Bible then? Only if used as a laser beam, not as a bazooka. As such, we have to aim the laser so that it does not reflect back at us, being careful to illuminate the timeless nature of the statement in 7b.

Isaiah 40:22 is used a lot to prove the divine inspiration of the Bible.
“There is One who dwells above the circle of the earth.
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.
He is stretching out the heavens like a fine gauze,
And he spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.”
A respectful observation: Here we are hit with a semantic range in 22a, where the word translated as “circle” can mean “compass.” Thus, the NET Bible has “He is the one who sits on the earth’s horizon.” And what about the rest of the verse? The NET Bible has:
“He is the one who stretches out the sky like a thin curtain,
and spreads it out like a pitched tent.”
This made sense in Isaiah’s day, and no one needed a crash-course in astrophysics to comprehend it. With that observation, even if they didn’t think earth was a sphere, “the circle of the earth” still made sense to them. Today, we read that with the advantage of centuries of scientific discovery on our side and see an unmistakable sphere centuries before it was widely known.

Does Isaiah 40:22 prove the divine inspiration of the Bible then? Only if used as a laser beam, not as a bazooka. As such, we have to aim the laser so that it does not reflect back at us, being careful to illuminate the timeless nature of the ambiguity of 22a that can allow for the idea of “sphere.”

Ecclesiastes 12:10 is used to describe the whole Bible.
“The congregator sought to find delightful words and to record accurate words of truth.”
A respectful observation: The “congregator” is King Solomon who was writing, as the NET Bible heading has it, a “Concluding Epilogue” to Ecclesiastes, teaching that “The Teacher’s Advice is Wise.”

While “all Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight,” and while Jesus’ summary of scripture thus far as “your word is truth” is true, technically Ecclesiastes 12:10 is describing Ecclesiastes.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17; John 17:17.

Does Ecclesiastes 12:10 describe the whole Bible then? Only if used as a laser beam, not as a bazooka. As such, we have to aim the laser so that it does not reflect back at us, being careful to illuminate the point that “accurate words of truth” are used elsewhere in the Bible.

Please be thoughtful when using the Bible, and strive to apply 2 Timothy 2:15:
“Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.”
As one journal explained:
A soldier can wield his weapons effectively in warfare only if he has practiced and has learned to use them well. It is the same with the use of “the sword of the spirit” in our spiritual warfare. … We should be careful that we do not use the Bible to intimidate people. Though we can use the Scriptures to defend the truth, as Jesus did when he was tempted by the Devil, the Bible is not a club with which to browbeat our listeners.”—The Watchtower, February 15, 2010. Skillfully Wield “the Sword of the Spirit,” under Handle It Aright

The Greek word rendered “handling aright” literally means “straightly cutting” or “to cut a path in a straight direction.”—The Watchtower, November 15, 2003. ‘Handle God’s Word Aright’

Taking words out of context can distort their meaning, just as Satan distorted the meaning of Scripture when he tried to mislead Jesus. (Matthew 4:1-11) On the other hand, taking the context of a statement into account helps us to get a more accurate understanding of its meaning. For this reason, when we study a Bible verse, it is always wise to look at the context and see the verse in its setting in order to understand better what the writer was talking about. … In order to handle God’s Word aright, we need to understand it properly and then explain it honestly and accurately to others. Respect for Jehovah, the Bible’s Author, will move us to try to do that, and considering the context will be an important help.—The Watchtower, January 1, 2003. What Can Help Us to Handle the Word of the Truth Aright?
Being a scriptural workman then is hard work, but also rewarding and respectful.

Just a friendly reminder I felt the desire to share.

Related blog entry: Credits:


Thursday, September 02, 2021

Jupiter and the real Father

The head of the ancient Roman pantheon, Jupiter, means “Father Jove.” Thus, moons of the planet Jupiter are called Jovian. In the past, I wondered if the god Jupiter had any origin with Jehovah after reading that Jove was involved in the confusion of languages, as Jehovah was in Genesis 11:1-9, as reported by Gaius Julius Hyginus (64 BCE-17 CE). He wrote: “Men for many centuries before lived without town or laws, speaking one tongue under the rule of Jove. But after Mercury had explained the languages of men … then discord arose among mortals, which was not pleasing to Jove.”[1] I reasoned that the name “Jehovah” could have been transmitted by their forefather Japheth.

See: However, there is a native etymology for Jove that explains Jupiter without having to go to the name Jehovah. Jupiter derives from Proto-Italic djous “day, sky” + patēr “father,” thus meaning “sky father.” Any similarity between Jove and Jehovah then is purely and amazingly coincidental!

See: What is ironic though is that enemies of Jehovah twice tried to turn Jehovah’s Temple in Jerusalem into a temple of Jupiter, and both attempts failed. Therefore, Jehovah emerged victorious as the real Father and God.—Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16, 64:8; Jeremiah 31:9; Psalm 89:26; Malachi 2:10 and John 17:1-5.


[1] I initially read this quote from the infamous book The Two Babylons, on page 26. This book has a dangerous mixture of truth, fantasy, and wild speculation. It is to be read with great skepticism and caution. For instance, after “Jove,” it adds this interpretation in brackets: “evidently not the Roman Jupiter, but the Jehovah of the Hebrews.” This perfectly proves my point about wild speculation.

Additional reading:


Monday, August 23, 2021

Who is “Beelzebul the Prince of Demons”?

By Dr. Nicholas J. Schaser

When Jesus casts out demons, the Pharisees claim that his exorcisms come through the power of “Beelzebul the Prince of Demons.” So why would the Pharisees accuse Jesus of being in league with Beelzebul? Who is this mysterious figure? Is he the same as Satan? And what did the accusation mean in its original Jewish context?

When Jesus performs exorcisms, he is accused of doing so with the help of “Beelzebul, the prince of demons” (Matt 12:24; Lk 11:15; cf. Matt 10:25; 12:27; Mk 3:22; Lk 11:18-19). While Yeshua’s response associates this figure with “Satan” (Σατανᾶς; cf. Matt 12:26; Mk 3:24-26; Lk 11:18), Beelzebul’s identity is not limited to the Satan, or “the accuser” (השׂטן; ha’satan), that we encounter in the Hebrew Bible (cf. Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7; Zech 3:1-2; 1 Chron 21:1). According to Scripture, Beelzebul was a Philistine god with whom the Israelites came into contact through their neighbors in the land of Canaan.

“Beelzebul” (בעל זבול; Βεελζεβοὺλ) is made up of two Hebrew words that have equivalents in related languages: “Baal” (בעל) means “lord” or “master,” and “zebul” (זבול) means “high” or “exalted.” Thus, the name for this deity would mean something like, “Exalted Master,” or “Lord of the Heights.” Israel’s Scriptures contain an episode involving Ahaziah, a king of Israel, who becomes sick and asks his messengers, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub (בעל זבוב), the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this illness” (2 Kings 1:2). In response, the prophet Elijah asks Ahaziah, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub (בעל זבוב) the god of Ekron?” (1:3). Elijah tells the king that because he has chosen the help of Baal-zebub over the God of Israel, the monarch shall not recover (1:4).

You may have noticed a slight difference between the names in the New Testament and the Tanakh: in the Gospels, the latter half of the name is “zebul,” but the Hebrew Bible has “zebub.” [And English translations have “zebub.”] Whereas the New Testament Greek preserves this deity’s proper name, the Hebrew makes it into a derisive wordplay: by changing the final “l” (ל) to a “b” (ב), the Hebrew author makes Baalzebul (Exalted Lord) into Baalzebub: “Lord of the Flies.” One reason for this change may have been the tendency for flies to congregate on ancient sacrifices that were not properly consumed as burnt offerings. Israel was told to burn the uneaten parts of the offering so that the smoke would ascend to God as a “sweet-smelling savor” (ריח ניחח; reach nichoach; e.g., Lev 1-8), but the Israelites could mock the sacrifices of other nations when they saw flies covering the leftovers. In this way, the Hebrews highlight the superiority of their God over Baalzebul: with the switch of a single letter, the Israelites could say to their neighbors, “You think that your Baal is the ‘exalted lord,’ but we know that he’s really just the lord of the flies!”

Source: (all emphasis original)

I liked this explanation for clearly presenting the possible reason for the disparaging alteration to “flies.” What is more interesting is why the Pharisees chose to use this false god, and its proper name at that. In other words, why did their demonology include this name?

In any case, the prestigious Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (DDD) confirms: “The view that Βεελζεβοὺλ is the original form of the name of the deity in 2 Kgs 1 is further suggested by the titles zbl b’l and more frequently zbl b’l ‘ars appearing in Ugaritic texts.” (Baal Zebub, 154)

So to answer the question in the title, Beelzebul was the original name of the native deity that was mocked as Beelzebub in Hebrew, but was retained in Greek with the Pharisees’ accusation against Jesus that was used as weird circumlocution for Satan.


Friday, August 20, 2021

Concordism and consequences

Concordism … is a hermeneutical approach to scripture. It is a hermeneutic which advocates interpreting scripture in light of modern science. One attempts to read modern science into the text. Concordism is a hermeneutic which may be adopted by Young Earthers or Old Earthers.

—Dr. William Lane Craig
Concordism | Reasonable Faith

With this definition, he also says:
Now I reject the hermeneutic of concordism. Instead we should adopt the hermeneutical approach of trying to determine how the original author and audience would have understood the text. Rather than trying to impose modern science onto the Genesis account of creation or to read it in light of modern science, we want to read the account as it would have been understood by the original people who read it. That requires us to bracket our knowledge of modern science and put ourselves in the shoes of these ancient Hebrews.

(By the way, concordism is not a heresy. It’s just bad hermeneutics which will obscure rather than illuminate the text.)
Thus, concordism is identified as “eisegesis,” the interpretation of a text (as of the Bible) by reading into it one’s own ideas.

While I respect this, I note that the sequence of events in Genesis 1 does nevertheless generally match the history of life on earth. But it was not written by us, or for us, it was written in the ancient past in the Near East, with a divine stamp of approval for teaching divine sovereignty over the creation.

But this also, consequently, produces a problem for Trinitarian theology. If reading modern science into Genesis 1 is concordism and eisegesis, then reading the post-biblically developed and formulized Trinitarian theology into the Bible would also be concordism and eisegesis. While Creation Concordism is rightly not heresy, Theological Concordism is not so fortunate. Thus, I will point out that the good doctor of philosophy has unintentionally categorized his theology as concordism and eisegesis.

See also:

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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

If errors start with S

The Scutum Fidei in the background.

When asked “What would be your proper definition of how we should define the Trinity?” one Trinitarian pastor answered:

“Yeah, so there’s three errors, and to alliterate, I just like to use the three S’s here that I use as sort of umbrella terms, they cover a number of different views.” These being Sabellianism (or Modalism), Subordinationism (or Arianism) and Socinianism. He proceeds with some preconceived bias though with all three of these being “errors” and his theology being correct, which has the advantage in his mind of not starting with an S. He then defines the Trinity, in typical Scutum Fidei terms as: 

Three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one true eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. And so, while these persons are one as to their essence or Godhood, they are distinguished according to their personal properties, namely the properties of paternity, affiliation and spiration; that is, the Father begat the Son, the Son is begotten of the Father and the Spirit is breathed or spirated. And so, that’s the doctrine of the Trinity in a nutshell.

He then elaborated:

And, one thing I would say about this, by the way, is if you’re thinking fundamentally about God and what we mean by “God,” one of the things you’re saying is that God is the underived and independently existing one. Right? He is the one who exists in and of himself and doesn’t depend on anything outside of himself, and who caused all other things to exist and depend on him. And so, any doctrine of God that’s going to be consistent with that fundamental presupposition is going to have to, you know, it can’t undermine that fundamental sense of independence. I mean that’s what it means to call God “God.” And in my mind, it’s only the doctrine of the Trinity that can actually preserve what we mean when we say God is independent. God has all life and glory and communion and blessedness and everything that, you know, we might say of a superlative being. He has all of that in and of himself and doesn’t have to look outside of himself to realize these things. There are no hidden potentialities in God. And so, it’s only in the doctrine of the Trinity that you actually have this sort of thing. In every other version of God, you know, God has to look outside of himself in order to realize his hidden potential for love or communion or communication or fellowship or whatever else it may be.

Responses I have to this detailed presentation are:

  • God can still be complete as a solitary person, the Father. He created not out of need but out of love.
  • His presentation failed to include how Jesus could have died and be resurrected by his Father.
  • His presentation failed to include how the Holy Spirit as a person was involved with Mary becoming pregnant with Jesus.

Thus, it is not “only the doctrine of the Trinity that can actually preserve what we mean when we say God is independent,” but God being the Father alone also preserves it. The doctrine of the Trinity then, as stated, appears to be opposed to Christianity, and is not something any Christian would want to believe in, either.

Thus, in closing, if errors start with S, then Trinitarianism is Scutum-Fidei-ism.

See also the entry “Trinitarian Samples” for a more detailed explanation:


Thursday, July 08, 2021

Michael Heiser on Trinitarianism

Michael S. Heiser is an American biblical Old Testament scholar and popular author, with an interest in the spiritual realm, namely the Divine Council in the Bible.

In a recent talk he gave entitled “Was the Trinity Made Up By The Council of Nicea?”,[1] he responded to New Testament scholar and popular author Bart Ehrman, who wrote the blog article “Nope. Jesus is Not Yahweh.”[2] What follows is a transcript of what Heiser said. I take this subject of theology and divine identity extremely seriously. I closely and objectively scrutinize all arguments for Trinitarianism that I encounter. Gullibility has no place here. Thus, if Heiser can present a compelling case for a three-in-one God that respects the ransom sacrifice and the purity of the virgin birth, then I will gladly join forces with him. If he fails at this, however, I will show where his arguments collapse.

Heiser is very loquacious here, so I will underline where he gets to main points worthy of close, sober and objective scrutiny. I wanted to include the entire context of what he said. It appears that this starts somewhere near the end of his talk:
We want to loop the Holy Spirit into this, from the Old Testament. This is Isaiah 63. This is a little encapsulation of the wandering of the Jews to the promised land. And in verse 10, Isaiah makes the comment about his people that “they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit.” I mean, we know the story of Israel going through the desert, the wilderness, I mean, they complain all the time, you’ve got all these episodes where God wants to judge them. And Moses intercedes, and God says, you know, okay, I’m going to be long-suffering again, and, you know, so on and so forth. But there’s this one particular incident where this language is used; “they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit.” If you look up the parallel, which is longer in Psalm 78, where you get sort of a whole litany of things that happen. Look at the language here; there’s a reference to the Most High God in verse 35. And you keep reading down here, and you get the same language. The reason I have these colorized [in his slide] is that “rebelled” is the same word [Psalm 78:40, 41]. In both passages, the same Hebrew word. “Grieved” is the same Hebrew word in both passages. But the object is different. In Isaiah 63, they rebel and grieve against the Holy Spirit. And here they rebel and grieve. And the object [in Psalm 78:35] is God, the Holy One of Israel.
The NET Bible has this footnote for “his Holy Spirit”: “The phrase ‘holy Spirit’ occurs in the OT only here (in v. 11 as well) and in Ps 51:11 (51:13 HT), where it is associated with the divine presence.” The “divine presence” is not a person but the presence of God. Psalm 51:11 NET Bible has “your Holy Spirit” with a footnote noting “The personal Spirit of God is mentioned frequently in the OT, but only here and in Isa 63:10-11 is he called ‘your/his holy Spirit.’” Thus, the holy spirit is a projection of God. By rebelling within it, they grieve Him and by extension can be said to grieve His projection. It does not mean it is another person.
Now we could read elsewhere in this passage, the angel actually shows up in Psalm 78. The point is that God and the Spirit are interchanged. Both things are God, just as God and the angel were interchanged in other passages. They’re both God.
The angel being interchanged for God is easily explained as the angel representing God as His ambassador. But Heiser likely has in mind Genesis 48:15-16 (NWT) which parallels “true God” with “angel.” However, this is moot as the NET Bible notes for “angel”:
Jacob closely associates God with an angelic protective presence. This does not mean that Jacob viewed his God as a mere angel, but it does suggest that he was aware of an angelic presence sent by God to protect him. Here he so closely associates the two that they become virtually indistinguishable. In this culture messengers typically carried the authority of the one who sent them and could even be addressed as such. Perhaps Jacob thought that the divine blessing would be mediated through this angelic messenger. (underscore added)
Thus, if anything, the angel could be called “true God” (NWT) representationally and not ontologically, as Jesus confirmed in John 17:3 with his Father being the “only true God.”
Different ways of saying and referring to God. Now, this is important for when you get to the New Testament. And here’s where I really wanted angle for today. If you think about what’s going on in the Old Testament, you have two Yahweh figures that are prominent.
You have Yahweh the Father and God (in accords with divine revelation seen in Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 63:16, 64:8, Jeremiah 31:9, Psalm 89:26 and Malachi 2:10, which all in one way or another identify God or Yahweh as the Father), and you have his personified divine presence as well as his angelic ambassador.
Yes, the Holy Spirit is also referred to as God, we just saw that, but I want to focus on the two. You have Yahweh invisible and transcendent, then you have Yahweh as a man, okay. And you have the Spirit in here too. They’re all connected, they’re all referred to as God, they’re all identified with God in someplace.

The two are more prominent than the Spirit is, at least in terms of an explicit sense. But just as the angel, think about this, the middle circle here [in his slide], just as the angel was God, but also wasn’t the same person. I mean, he’s not, he is, but isn’t God, He is God. But yet God’s still up there in heaven and transcendent. He’s not like when the angel who is God is on Earth, that doesn’t mean God is only there. God’s still everywhere, you know, you get this sort of language, again, the same difficulty that we have talking about the Trinity. But just as the angel was, but wasn’t Yahweh. So, if we put Jesus here, it’s the same struggle, the same language, Jesus was, but wasn’t God.
It seems to me that he is adding Jesus to his confusion of OT theology. If Jesus is still God, then he never died for our sins and his ransom sacrifice is a sham. It is a shame the celebrated and Einstein-like Dr. Heiser never addressed this glaring problem of astronomical magnitude, for the ransom sacrifice is what defines Christianity.
But Jesus also is connected to and identified with the Spirit. So you have an analogy here, just look where the bubbles [in his slide] are. Yahweh God, the Father, same person. The embodied God as man in the Old Testament aligns with Jesus and then the Spirit. Because we don’t realize, and here are the list of passages. [Acts 16:6-7 HS=“Spirit of Jesus” (Phil 1:19); Rom 8:9 Spirit of God=“Spirit of Christ” (1 Pet 1:11); Gal 4:6—God sent “Spirit of his Son” into our hearts]
Or, Jesus is now privileged upon his resurrection by God to use God’s holy projection of the divine presence. This would actually support the utilitarian nature of the holy spirit.
There are several places where the Spirit of Jesus or the Spirit of Christ is in the text parallel to the Spirit of God. There are a couple of places where in 2 Corinthians 3:18, for instance, where Paul refers to Jesus, he says “The Lord Who is the Spirit,” but we know that Jesus wasn’t the Spirit, but is the spirit but he’s not. The Spirit is Jesus, but he isn’t. They’re independent, but the same. Again, this is where the Trinitarian struggle really comes from. And its antecedent is the Old Testament.
2 Corinthians 3:18 may actually be referring to the Father there, as the NWT has: “by Jehovah the Spirit.” It has a footnote offering the alternate less-likely “by the spirit of Jehovah.” Heiser possibly also had in mind the previous verse, which has “Now the Lord [or Jehovah, NWT] is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (WEB) This is more easily and naturally explained as the divine presence being from God, where there is freedom. It’s not a person, but a domain to dwell in. That it must be the divine presence is the fact that Mary became pregnant by the holy spirit. (Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:35) If it was a person, then her status of a virgin becomes contentious. It is amazing that the erudite Dr. Heiser missed this crucial detail that defines the Christian faith!
Jesus is the central figure linking both Testaments and linking with both the Father and the Spirit. This is where Trinitarian theology comes from. Not from proof texts like the Great Commission, even though those are important, they echo the point. But the theology of it comes from the Old Testament. Two Yahwehs, actually three because the Spirit again is identified with God who is also the angel. Again, you get this three-in-one language in the Old Testament, and you get it in the New Testament. So this is the antecedent.

And the payoffs for us today are the Godhead concepts are rooted in the Old Testament. They’re applied to Jesus in the New Testament.

The Payoff
  • Godhead concepts—specifically, a second Yahweh figure—are rooted in the Old Testament
  • Old Testament Godhead conceptions (the “second Yahweh”) are applied to Jesus in the NT.
  • The applications of these conceptions to Jesus provide the basis and strategy to articulate Trinitarianism.
This is where Trinitarianism comes from.
It comes from overcomplicating simple things and unwittingly denying the virgin birth and ransom sacrifice?
And this makes certain passages coherent. (John 8:58 and Gal 3:8) “Before Abraham was I am”, Jesus says, yeah. If you know your Old Testament, you know how the visible Yahweh in human form connects to Jesus. Yeah, Jesus can say that.
Actually, Trinitarianism makes John 8:58 exceedingly incoherent for demanding that Jesus was uncouth before the authorities. For his preferred translation of John 8:58 to make sense, more Greek words are needed, as in “Before Abraham was, I existed as the I am.” This is clearly seen if we replace “I am” with another designation, like “Lord”: “Before Abraham was Lord.” This clearly makes no sense at all, and placing this uncouth response on the lips of Jesus is absolutely absurd and disrespectful. Instead, by dispensing with the Trinitarian mindset, a much better translation would be: “I have been in existence since before Abraham was born.” (McKay)
The Gospel that was preached before unto Abraham (Galatians). Yeah, it’s the Abrahamic covenant. Okay. I mean, we understand this.
Heiser never explained why he thinks Trinitarianism is required for Galatians 3:8 to be coherent. The scripture explains how the “good news” or “gospel” was declared to Abraham in the last sentence. No Trinitarianism required. What a disaster for Heiser!
You know, you have people like Bart Ehrman, and these other Jesus mythers, and Ehrman is not a Jesus myther. But I’m using Ehrman because of his criticism of Christology. And Jesus mythers are just sort of ultra-ignorant at this point, claiming that this theology of Christianity was invented by later church councils basically out of thin air, and that New Testament attestations to Jesus’s deity were written late, just added arbitrarily. Both of those ideas show a deep profound ignorance of the Old Testament. The antecedent for all of this.
So, everyone who denies the Trinity are ultra-ignorant agnostic skeptics or Jesus mythers. And he says this after forgetting about the ransom sacrifice and the virgin birth, two historical and defining doctrines of Christianity, and after dishonoring himself over John 8:58 and Galatians 3:8. This is really embarrassing for him! Can the Trinity be true then? After listening to and examining Heiser’s lecture, the resounding answer is an emphatic No! This is a horrible disaster that exposes Trinitarianism as a deeply confused misrepresentation of Biblical theology that must have arisen during a dark age in Christianity—as seen in the Council of Nicea.

Two other things I noted:
  • Heiser switched from “his Holy Spirit” to “the Holy Spirit,” probably due to his preconceived belief that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinitarian Godhead.
  • In Trinitarianism, the three persons are not each other (ie., Jesus is not the Holy Spirit), yet Heiser said “Jesus also is connected to and identified with the Spirit.” “The Spirit … is also the angel.” This contradiction is absolutely devastating to his presentation.

[1] From Facebook:, February 15, 2021. Slides referred to are seen here.
[2] The Bart Ehrman Blog, April 17, 2021.

See also:

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Wednesday, June 02, 2021

The reason for the name

Why have Jehovah’s Witnesses chosen the name “Jehovah” when that is known to derive from a hybrid of the vowels for Adonai on the Tetragrammaton YHWH?

“Because that form of the divine name has a long history in the English language.”[1] This is shown in two examples:
[1] Explaining why he used “Jehovah” instead of “Yahweh” in his 1911 work Studies in the Psalms, respected Bible scholar Joseph Bryant Rotherham said that he wanted to employ a “form of the name more familiar (while perfectly acceptable) to the general Bible-reading public.” [2] In 1930 scholar A. F. Kirkpatrick made a similar point regarding the use of the form “Jehovah.” He said: “Modern grammarians argue that it ought to be read Yahveh … but JEHOVAH seems firmly rooted in the English language, and the really important point is not the exact pronunciation, but the recognition that it is a Proper Name, not merely an appellative title like ‘Lord.’” (brackets, ellipsis and underscore added)[2]
Thus, the fact that “Jehovah” was not the original pronunciation is irrelevant. (By way of comparison, “Jesus” is also not the original pronunciation.) Additionally, the indication that YHWH was originally disyllabic is relevant on a historical level, but it does not inform the reason for choosing the name Jehovah. The reason for choosing “Jehovah” was stated succinctly above, because of its “long history in the English language.”

In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses have even made known the origins of “Jehovah” and the likely disyllabic pronunciation of YHWH. This is seen in the Insight books under “Jehovah.” Under “Correct Pronunciation of the Divine Name,” it states:
“Jehovah” is the best known English pronunciation of the divine name, although “Yahweh” is favored by most Hebrew scholars.
Then, after asking “What is the proper pronunciation of God’s name?,” it states:
In the second half of the first millennium C.E., Jewish scholars introduced a system of points to represent the missing vowels in the consonantal Hebrew text. When it came to God’s name, instead of inserting the proper vowel signs for it, they put other vowel signs to remind the reader that he should say ʼAdho·naiʹ (meaning “Sovereign Lord”) or ʼElo·himʹ (meaning “God”). … Hebrew scholars generally favor “Yahweh” as the most likely pronunciation. They point out that the abbreviated form of the name is Yah (Jah in the Latinized form), as at Psalm 89:8 and in the expression Ha·lelu-Yahʹ (meaning “Praise Jah, you people!”). (Ps 104:35; 150:1, 6) Also, the forms Yehohʹ, Yoh, Yah, and Yaʹhu, found in the Hebrew spelling of the names Jehoshaphat, Joshaphat, Shephatiah, and others, can all be derived from Yahweh.[3]
Thus, when the scribes confronted YHWH, they would place the vowels of Adonai on it. (See below.) If read with those vowels, you get the hybrid trisyllabic vocalization of “Yehowah.” When the scribes confronted Adonai YHWH however, they then placed the vowels of Elohim on YHWH, producing a different hybrid trisyllabic vocalization.

Now, when the scribes placed the vowels of Adonai on YHWH, they ran into a grammatical conflict and had to alter the first vowel point: the compound shewa on the aleph (A) of Adonai became a simple shewa because of the yodh (Y) of YHWH. See Figure 1[4]:

Figure 1

I think it’s kind of funny that the scribes ran into a grammatical problem when they tampered with the sacred Tetragrammaton, don’t you?

Additional Information
For additional reading and information, please see:
A Word of Advice
Some insist that YHWH was originally trisyllabic in an effort to defend “Jehovah.” This is unnecessary. We can accept the explanations above. As Geoffrey Jackson warned, we could get “side-tracked” over the original pronunciation of YHWH, even turning this into a toxic issue.[5] There is even a meme in circulation on social media where YHW, the first three letters of YHWH, are in a box labeled “Yeho,” with the final W labeled as “wah” to support “Yehowah.” The problem with this is “Yeho” is an assumption, for the first syllable is more appropriately “Yah” (YH), with WH forming the last syllable. Thus, for that meme to work, there would have to be another W, YHWWH!

Lastly, it is notable that YHWH is abbreviated as Yah or Jah, YH. We know this pronunciation without any controversy or question. Jah is also notably connected to YHWH in Isaiah 12:2 and 26:4, making the first syllable YH of YHWH naturally follow.

This emphasizes that we do not demand one pronunciation over another, and we do not oppose Yahweh either. Doing any of these is a mistake.

Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses use “Jehovah”? Due to its long, established popularity in ENGLISH.

The end.

[1] New World Translation, 2013. Appendix A4: The Divine Name in the Hebrew Scriptures
See also the June 2015 JW Broadcast
[2] ibid.
[4] From “The Yehovah Deception” by the Yahweh’s Restoration Ministry, a Sacred Name movement.
[5] June 2015 JW Broadcast at the 9:36 and 15:25 minute marks.

  1. The Feb. 1 1999 Watchtower article “Jehovah” or “Yahweh”?
  2. The Reference Bible explanation
  3. As pronounced in Akkadian
  4. How to respond to this common objection
  5. Tetragrammania

The Feb. 1 1999 Watchtower article “Jehovah” or “Yahweh”?
In this blog post “Jehovah” or “Yahweh”? I presented the text of that Feb. 1 1999 Watchtower article, and respectfully closed with the following disclaimer:
Please note that this is considered to be out-of-date, as expressed in the 2013 NWT Appendix A4 under the subheading Why does the New World Translation use the form “Jehovah”? and in the June 2015 JW Broadcast. Supporting Appendix A4 is this article The Tetragrammaton by Jason Hare: (currently a work in progress). Preview:
He also wrote this article with the above 1999 Watchtower article in mind: How Could Yahweh Have Become Yeho- in Theophoric Names?

See also the video series on the Tetragrammaton by Hebrew Gospels: (YouTube channel).

The information presented in these two sources is more technical than what appeared in the above 1982 and 1999 Watchtowers, correcting the quoted scholars, as well as correcting scholar Nehemia Gordon and the scholars that agree with him.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are not opposed to the technical reconstruction of Yahweh.
That w99 article is an outlier, being incongruent with what appeared before and after it. It has inadvertently caused a lot of confusion, and should be ignored.

The Reference Bible explanation
The New World Translation with References Appendix 1A The Divine Name in the Hebrew Scriptures presents the following:
[The] Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol. 1, Chicago (1980), p. 13, says: “To avoid the risk of taking God’s name (YHWH) in vain, devout Jews began to substitute the word ʼǎdōnā(y) for the proper name itself. Although the Masoretes left the four original consonants in the text, they added the vowels ē (in place of ǎ for other reasons) and ā to remind the reader to pronounce ʼǎdōnā(y) regardless of the consonants. This feature occurs more than six thousand times in the Hebrew Bible. Most translations use all capital letters to make the title ‘LORD.’ Exceptions are the ASV [American Standard Version] and New World Translation which use ‘Jehovah,’ Amplified [Bible] which uses ‘Lord,’ and JB [The Jerusalem Bible] which uses ‘Yahweh.’ . . . In those places where ʼǎdōnā(y) yhwh occurs the latter word is pointed with the vowels from ʼēlōhim, and the English renderings such as ‘Lord GOD’ arose (e.g. Amos 7:1).”
This appendix left this quote as the final word without any further explanation. Its first point was that two vowels were added, the first and the last of ʼǎdōnā(y). A complication is that the middle vowel ō from ʼǎdōnā(y) was not ubiquitously vowel-pointed to include it, the cholem. This explains why the Insight book under “Jehovah” says:
The Codex Leningrad B 19⁠A, of the 11th century C.E., vowel points the Tetragrammaton to read Yehwahʹ, Yehwihʹ, [for Elohim also lacking ō ] and Yeho·wahʹ. Ginsburg’s edition of the Masoretic text vowel points the divine name to read Yeho·wahʹ.
Thus, the vowel point cholem, which is a dot over the letter, was not consistently added, but it was still implicit as it was not consistently added for ʼǎdōnā(y) either.

The second point is that ē was added “in place of ǎ.” The “other reasons” for this is due to the aleph of ʼǎdōnā(y) being a guttural which prefers the compound shewa vowel-point. This would revert to the simple shewa when applied to the yodh of YHWH. (See Figure 1 above.)

The third point is that when confronted with ʼǎdōnā(y) yhwh, the scribes would avoid saying “ʼǎdōnā(y)” twice, and would apply the vowels of the trisyllabic ʼēlōhim on the Tetragrammaton instead.

Thus, as the same Insight book article says:
when in reading the Hebrew Scriptures in the original language, the Jewish reader substituted either ʼAdho·naiʹ (Sovereign Lord) or ʼElo·himʹ (God) rather than pronounce the divine name represented by the Tetragrammaton. This is seen from the fact that when vowel pointing came into use in the second half of the first millennium C.E., the Jewish copyists inserted the vowel points for either ʼAdho·naiʹ or ʼElo·himʹ into the Tetragrammaton, evidently to warn the reader to say those words in place of pronouncing the divine name. … When it came to God’s name, instead of inserting the proper vowel signs for it, they put other vowel signs to remind the reader that he should say ʼAdho·naiʹ (meaning “Sovereign Lord”) or ʼElo·himʹ (meaning “God”).
If someone did read the Tetragrammaton with the “dummy vowels” of ʼAdho·naiʹ, they would read Yeho·wahʹ, which would be an artificial and unintended pronunciation. The Aid to Bible Understanding book added:
By combining the vowel signs of ʼAdho·nayʹ and ʼElo·himʹ with the four consonants of the Tetragrammaton the pronunciations Yeho·wahʹ and Yeho·wihʹ were formed. The first of these provided the basis for the Latinized form “Jehova(h).” The first recorded use of this form dates from the thirteenth century C.E. Raymundus Martini, a Spanish monk of the Dominican Order, used it in his book Pugeo Fidei of the year 1270.
Thus, “Jehovah” derives from misreading the Tetragrammaton with the vowels of ʼAdho·nayʹ . It then became a very popular English pronunciation. In other words, Moses did not call his God “Jehovah.” We only do it due to its established familiarity in English.

As pronounced in Akkadian
As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Rolf Furuli stated: “The [Akkadian] cuneiform evidence shows the theophoric syllables ye-hō at the beginning of a name and the syllables ya-hū at the end of a name. This confirms the Masoretic pointing in the Hebrew Scriptures.” (The Tetragram—its history, its use in the New Testament, and its pronunciation. 213) He then used this evidence to support a trisyllabic name. However, notice the following presentation by the YRM (see footnote 4), which has published the following research in its Restoration Study Bible, 4th edition, page 924:
Ancient Akkadian Tablets Testify to “Yah”
Between 1888 and 1900 a collection of tablets, known as the Murashu Archive, was discovered at Nippur, a site in ancient Mesopotamia. Today, it’s located in southern Iraq near the town of Ad-Dīwānīyah. In all, the excavation team unearthed 330 whole tablets and approximately 400 more that were fragmented. The tablets were written in Akkadian cuneiform, a language cognate to Hebrew.

The term Murashu comes from the chief member of a single family. The actual tablets provide mostly legal business records pertaining to the occupants of the land, including Judean exiles that came out of Babylon, dating to the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods, 572-477 BCE.

One of the most significant finds is Judean names with the prefix “Yah” and “Yahu.” Examples of such names include: Yahadil, Yahitu, Yahmuzu, Yahuazar, Yahuazza, and Yahuhin. Interestingly, based on Professors Laurie E. Pierce and Cornelia Wunsch’s reference work, Documents of Judean Exiles and West Semites in Babylonia in the Collection of David Sofer, there is no evidence in this period of names beginning with “ye,” as often seen in Masoretic and modern Hebrew, suggesting a linguistic shift from “Yah” to “Ye” within the prefixes of Jewish names between these periods.

Yahweh’s Restoration Ministry contacted several professors specializing in ancient Akkadian. Not only did they confirm the prefix “Yah,” but also that this rendering was the consensus among scholars. Professor Ran Zadok from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who specializes in Mesopotamia, Iranian and Judaic Studies, verified, “It seems to me that the cuneiform spellings render approximately *Ya(h)w.”

Professor Martin Worthington from Cambridge, who specializes in Mesopotamian languages and literature, states, “…scholarly consensus has it that Yahwistic names are well attested in first-millennium Babylonia. As several scholars have observed, there is a strong tendency (though not an absolute rule) for the form to be yahu at the beginning of the name.”
The online booklet The Yehovah Deception (see footnote 4) makes the same points.

This contradicts “the theophoric syllables ye-hō at the beginning of a name.” In any case, the Insight book quoted above says: “the forms Yehohʹ, Yoh, Yah, and Yaʹhu, found in the Hebrew spelling of the names Jehoshaphat, Joshaphat, Shephatiah, and others, can all be derived from Yahweh.” It appears then that looking to Akkadian to support a trisyllabic pronunciation is not that accommodating.

How to respond to this common objection
This is how to respond to the following common objection:

“God’s name was not Jehovah.”

“Yes, we know that Jehovah derives from the vowels of Adonai on the Tetragrammaton. We use Jehovah due to its established popularity and familiarity in English.” Then perhaps add: “We acknowledge the scholarly reconstruction of Yahweh as preserved in theophoric names.”

A concern I have, and share with others, is becoming obsessed with the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton. This goes beyond being “side-tracked.” This obsession turns into an elaborate conspiracy theory that rejects the solid explanation of vowel displacement and rejects Yahweh as a valid reconstruction from the contracted theophoric elements in theophoric names. By rejecting Hebrew scholarship and rejecting the explanation of the Jewish scribal practice of vowel displacement, one enters into a “mania” of trying to go through a different route to “Jehovah.” Hence my neologism of “Tetragrammania.” This results in the ailments of cognitive dissonance and delusion. If one of Jehovah’s Witnesses falls for this, he will also reject the New World Translation appendices, the Aid and Insight books, as well as the ones responsible for these, not to mention mainstream solid Hebrew scholarship. This is not the path to go down. “Ponder the path of your feet,” says Proverbs 4:26 AKJV, “and let all your ways be established.” The NET Bible footnote explains that this applies to the “ways for the moral sense in life.” A moral sense in life is needed here. Our fight is not against Yahweh, but against false doctrines that alienate people from Jehovah. Tetragrammania may also alienate you from Jehovah.

  • Opening graphic from with colors reversed.
  • Discussion graphic from

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