Has Jewish tradition mentioned an interpretation for YHWH as an acronym based on its pictographs?

Discussion in 'Abrahamic Religions' started by Rak, Jan 6, 2017.

  1. Rak

    Rak Member

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    In ancient civilizations like the Chinese, Sumerians, Babylonians, and Egyptians, the name for God has been written with pictograms, where the pictures not only meant God, but had a certain secondary meaning. Have Jews over the centuries seen a similar meaning in the letters making up God's name, Yahweh?

    To give an example, the Babylonians used the Sumerian cuneiform for the word "deity", which they wrote in the form of a single eight pointed star:
    [​IMG]
    Scholars say that this Sumerian symbol has a secondary meaning of brightness, shining, height (eg. the stars being high up), and the heavens.

    Of course, the ancient Israelites used a phonetic alphabet like Greek, rather than a simple pictoral script, like Chinese. However, the Hebrews developed their script out of an originally pictoral one. For example, the letter aleph was drawn like the head of an ox.

    Here is a chart showing the development of Hebrew letters:
    http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/files/alphabet_chart.gif

    Joel Hoffman in his book "In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Alphabet" notes that Hebrew was unique among ancient alphabets of its time in that included vowels like Y,H, and W. He claims that due to the invention of these letters the Hebrews chose to give them special treatment, like adding the H in Abram (Abraham), Sarai (changed to Sarah) and Elym (changed to Elohim, meaning God). He quotes the schema from Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God (elhym), the Lord is One", and he comments:
    According to Deuteronomy, the way they are to make sure they do not forget this statement is both by repeating it but also significantly by writing it down. ... A picture thus emerges that ties monotheism to writing. ... the vowel letters may have been invented by scribes for the purpose of making it easier for the masses to write. Perhaps what the scribes wanted the masses to write was nothing less than the central creeds of the emerging Judaism. A religious leader... may have realized that writing was central to spreading the word of God. And vowels were central to letting people read and write. In one short paragraph we find the name of the one member of the Hebrew god-set as marked by the letter heh, and the instruction to write down the creed that the Lord is in fact one.

    [The word YHWH is] amazing in its connection to the vowel letters invented by the Hebrews, for it contains nothing but those letters... While many modern names for God have come from trying to pronounce these letters... traditional Judaism teaches that the original pronunciation of this name for God has been forgotten.

    ... there is in fact a traditional pronunciation associated with that word; but it seems not to come from the letters in the word. In Jewish tradition, yhwh is pronounced adonai... But clearly, yhwh does not spell adonai.

    He proposes on this basis that the reason why YHWH was chosen for God's name
    Is it true that the Hebrew letters like Heh were not part of any other alphabet of its time, like Egyptian hieroglyphics? It seems likely to me that such sounds would exist in ancient Egyptian letters too.


    In any case, my next point is that the Hebrews gave their drawn letters secondary meanings beyond their simple phonetic value. "Shin" is sometimes drawn with four prongs instead of three, one such case being its use on the Tefilim.

    God's name has special mystical and spiritual significance in Judaism too. This is shown by how the divine name was considered so sacred that there was a Jewish tradition of writing Adonai (The Lord) instead of the divine name, called the Tetragrammaton (meaning "the four letters"). The literal meaning of the spoken name, Yahweh, is considered commonly to be "The existing one". Another name found given to Moses in the Torah is "Am I who I am".

    Yitzhaq Hayut-man comments about the meaning of YHWH:
    The meaning of this name has to do with Existence, Being and Becoming. It is the summation of the expression HaYaH HoWeH WeYiHiYeH – “Was-Is&Will Be”.
    ...
    We may mention here that these three letters [Y H W] are the softest and most subtle Hebrew letters and are more vowels than consonants (in Hebrew there are no vowel letters as such). This Name is thus a wonderful medium for subtle meditations. ... Jews avoid uttering this name and substitute it with ADoNaY (“my Master”). At most, some intersperse in prayer the 4 letters of YHWH with the four letters of ADoNaY... The Name of YHWH is used, however, by Hebrew mystics in contemplation, using the scores of permutations of letters of this Name with different vowels.
    ...
    The changing of the Hebrew fonts to the square “Assyrian” script (Ketav Ashuri) has added a visual-geometric meaning to the letters of the Name. The letter Y’od ? is seen as a point, the letter W’aw ? as a line, and the letter H’e ? as surface – or a volume. This geometrical view can serve to contemplate the Name of YHWH as the key for moving in five-dimensional space.

    Footnote: This letter [I think Yitzhaq means the Hebrew Heh] is made of two lines as an angle (forming a surface) and one line that is separate from them. It may be regarded as perpendicular to that surface, thus denoting a 3D volume

    http://israelseen.com/2011/10/22/semantic-insights-for-genesis-1-bereshith/
    What do you think about the underlined idea about how YHWH in Assyrian script points to multidimensional space?

    There was also a tradition that the written name itself had spiritual or mystical significance. In one of the Jewish traditions dated at least to the Middle Ages Solomon or David had a seal or amulet with supernatural powers that in some versions of the tale included the Tetragrammaton inscribed on it.

    As I understand it, the four letters are:
    Yod, H, Waw, H
    Yod = Nail / Hook, was originally drawn as one, and still looks like one.
    H = Behold / Look / Window and was drawn like a man with his arms raised
    Waw = Arm and was originally drawn like one

    After the Assyrian conquest, the Hebrew alphabet switched to the modern one, called the Assyrian or Ashurite script, so the letters' appearance in the modern alphabet changed.

    A website on the Phoenician alphabet says that ancient Hebrew letters corresponded to ancient Phoenician ones, and that the ancient Jews found it important to write Yahweh as YHWH. Due to their reverence for it, there was even a practice of writing Yahweh's name in the original ancient "Middle Hebrew"/Phoenician script, rather than in the modern "Assyrian" alphabet:
    The Phoenician website above points to this text from Qumran that retained the Middle Hebrew (what it calls "Phoenician") spelling:
    [​IMG]
    So this original spelling in the earlier letters remained important.


    This leads to my main question is whether in Jewish tradition there have been proposals to the meaning for the Tetragrammaton's letters when written out like an acronym.

    Yitzhaq Hayut-Man drew this combination of the letters of YHWH in modern Assyrian script and finds secret meaning in them:
    [​IMG]

    He comments:
    The Name of YHWH as a Multidimensional Ladder

    According to the Book of Proverbs (18:10) "The Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runs into it, and is exalted". This means that the very name of YHWH is a kind of a tower or a ladder that stands between heaven and earth and lifts whoever contemplates it up to spiritual situation of the righteous and exalted, one who sojourns in the higher worlds. Indeed, the Name (HaShem) of YHWH serves in the Qabbalah as a map of the worlds – where the lower H (He ה) is the bottom edge and the top tip point of the first letter Y (Yod י) is the point of contact with the highest world.
    http://www.global-report.com/thehope/a82-1-b-worlds-multidimensions-of-genesis
    OK, I can see that someone can line the letters up like that, because the yod, as the first letter, can be put on top as the top letter, the heh right under it, etc.

    So you can make this graphical rearrangement of the Assyrian letters tomake them look like a person, although that does not show what the acronym is. To find or use the potential acronym, you would need to look at what each letter by itself stands for.

    In any case, he makes the case for a graphical geometric meaning based on the letters' shapes and arrangements:
    Yet the three Hebrew letters that comprise the Tetragrammaton (the four-lettered Shem YHWH) can be conceived (for example, as done by Qabbalah teacher Yitshaq Ginsburg) as representing the geometrical concepts of Point (י), Line (ו) and surface (ה). IF so, it is possible to regard the "tower" of the Name (haShem) of YHWH as constituting the geometrical representations of the letters, which combine together into the following geometrical structure:

    The lower H (ה) is the surface upon earth, upon which the tower of haShem is situated. The W (ו) is conceived as the line that is perpendicular to that base surface. The upper H (ה) would be regarded as a surface – namely two dimensions – that is perpendicular to the three-dimensional cubic space, and with these there forms a five-dimensional space, as is presented also in Sefer Yeẓirah. The Y (י) is, as noted, a point of contact for additional dimension(s), especially by means of its top tip, that represents the trend towards innumerable dimensions, or a point of contact with still higher worlds. While this geometrical understanding is based on the form of the Hebrew letters in the square (Ashuri) script, it is also valid to the original, round, form of the Hebrew letters. The letter H of the round letters represents a circle (or a ring between concentric circles). In this way, the tower would be in a form of a cylinder, whose top is surrounded by a dome that represents the two higher hyper-dimensions.
    I don't know what Yitzhak means with the part I underlined, since when I look at the chart for the original Hebrew letters I have trouble finding the circle for the Heh he is referring to. Here is the chart of the letters:
    http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/files/alphabet_chart.gif

    One of my challenges is that I don't see much in the Torah that would match a concept combining the three images in what looks to be the acronym Nail, Behold, Hand/Arm, Behold.


    Serpents have nail-like teeth and in the story of the Israelites in the desert, Moses made a brass serpeant and when the Israelites looked at it, they were healed. (Num. 21) But serpents' arms are shriveled up. Some snakelike creatures have arms.



    [​IMG]
    ^This animal is a skink, not a snake. Skinks lack fangs. Click here for a skink skull: http://31.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mcg9ptcLTH1rjeer3o1_1280.jpg


    [​IMG]
    Not sure what animal this is.

    The only other references that come to mind about combined concepts of God, beholding, nails, and hands are in:
    The Torah mention about building the temple and tents with nails.
    • Ecclesiastes 12:11 (the words of the wise from a shepherd - probably God - are like nails)
    • Judges 5 (about gouging nails into a person's skull temples)
    • Psalm 40 (about God gouging - in Hebrew "karah" - ears into the narrator, presumably so he can hear God's words. This could tie in to Judges 5)
    • Psalm 22:15-17 (the narrator's enemies gouge - maybe karah again - his arms/hands with sharp instruments and stare and gaze at him, while the narrator prays for salvation)
    • Zechariah 12:10 (God says:
      י וְשָׁפַכְתִּי עַל-בֵּית דָּוִיד וְעַל יוֹשֵׁב יְרוּשָׁלִַם, רוּחַ חֵן וְתַחֲנוּנִים, וְהִבִּיטוּ אֵלַי, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-דָּקָרוּ; וְסָפְדוּ עָלָיו, כְּמִסְפֵּד עַל-הַיָּחִיד) But there is no specific mention of hands/arms in Zech 12, unless you want to relate the piercing to the wounds between the hands in Zech 13:6. (And why else does Zech 13 mention the hands except as some cryptic reference?)
    • At the end of Isaiah 52, the nations seem to look in amazement at the suffering, physically abused, atoning Servant who is disfigured beyond recognition as a man, and Isaiah asks rhetorically "To whom has the hand/arm of God been revealed?" This could tie in to Psalm 22 where the narrator says he is not a man. There is no specific mention of nails in Is.52 though.
     
  2. Dan0813

    Dan0813 Member

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    This has nothing to do with Judaism. The author, Jeff A. Benner, of the site ancient-hebrew.org is a Christian studying Hebrew to further his own agenda.

    That can be verified here: http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/holyassembly/intro.html#_Toc88004640:

    I suggest that this thread be moved to the Christianity forum.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2017
  3. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    I don't have issues with Christians studying Judaism....I think they should... It is the first step to Christianity...it is what Jesus and all the disciples studied...it is the foundation..

    I've attended many a synagogue and Bible study with Jews and never been asked to leave or not attend...

    But I do have issues with Jews for Jesus and Messaniac Jews posing as Jews to proselytize their beliefs...
     
  4. Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine Junior Moderator, Intro

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    Remember what His Curmudgeonness (bananabrain) used to say about Jews for Jesus/Messianic Jews? I wonder if he's changed any concerning the subject...

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine
     
  5. Rak

    Rak Member

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    Hello, Dan0813
    Thank you for mentioning about the website owner's religion, of which I was not aware.
     
  6. Rak

    Rak Member

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    Let me please add that my main thread question rests on three premises:

    1. Ancient Hebrew writing in the time of the Torah and Psalms was based on a pictographic script or developed out of one. This means that the script letters had names and meanings. So for example, yod is a Hebrew word meaning arm and it is also the name of the letter ' and it was originally drawn to look like an arm in the time of the Torah's writing. I think scholars are mostly in agreement about this premise.

    2. That Jews in history were aware of these meanings and commented on them or saw them as used in some words to help give associations of those words. This is something I am putting in question, and am writing in the Judaism section to get some independent opinions on this. I am citing J.Benner's website to get your own opinions on this question, and am not treating him as a rabbinical authority. This is the reason why I am posting in the Jewish section - I want to learn opinions from Jewish tradition or any writers at all from Jewish history or scholarship.

    I understand that root words and root syllables are key building blocks of languages. Short syllables, made of a single consonant and vowels (the vowels being unwritten in Hebrew) can be combined to give associations to words. Some languages are even monosyllabic or made of few syllables. Others like Greek or German can have long words. To give an analogy, Babylonian writing, for example, I think was composed of syllables, each syllable using a different letter. The letter "An" looked like a + with two arrows on the left end and one on the top, formed a phonetic "An" sound and also meant heavens, God, shining/bright, high. English generally writes all its vowels, unlike Hebrew, but English has root syllables ("pre-") and single letter syllables ("a-").

    So I understand the concept that Benner is proposing and need to get some independent opinions.

    3. That Jewish writers have seen inner meanings in the letters of some words, even apart from the issue of the Paleo-Hebrew Pictographic chart wherein yod=arm. I think that this is a provable fact, because for instance of the practice in Jewish mysticism of Gematria and assigning numerical values to letters and then reaching mystical conclusions based on them.

    As to my main question about the meaning of YHWH and the meaning's usage of letters:

    Joel Hoffman is a professor at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and he proposes that Paleo-Hebrew writing was unique in that it had vowel letters, particularly including Y,H, and W. He sees this as a trait recognized by the Hebrews setting them apart from other alphabets, and proposes that this is the main reason "h" was added in the Torah to other names lacking it: Abram (to Abraham), Saray (to Sarah), Elym (to Elohim). He also proposes that this explains the construction of the name YHWH itself, since it is formed from the unique Palelo/Middle-Hebrew vowel letters.

    Hoffman writes in his book In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language:
    The solution proposed [by Hoffman] that the letters in yhwh were chosen not for their phonetic value but because they were the Hebrews' magic letters, accounts for everything we have seen, and even solves another problem: "in addition to a lack of clear pronunciation, yhwh seems to defy any clear etymology. That is, even in form, regardless of its pronunciation or lack thereof - the word seems anomalous in Hebrew.

    The Bible itself contains one potential etymology, in Exodus 3:13-14. Moses asks what God's name is, and there the reply is the cryptic "I will be that which I will be". The connection the tetragrammaton is that the word for "I will be" is aleph heh yud heh that is, roughly the letters yud heh vav heh. The root "to be" in Hebrew like the tetragrammaton, consists only of vowel letters. Exodus 3:14 even quotes God as telling Moses to tell the Israelites: "I will be [aleph yud heh] sent me." At first glance, that passage in Exodus seems to derive God's name from the verb "to be."

    But etymologies in the Bible tend to be symbolic, not scientific, often taking advantage of coincidences for rhetorical purposes. Van der Toorn, in analyzing this and other potential sources for the name yhwh, correctly points out that "the significance of the name yahweh has been the subject of a staggering amount of publications," including the one from Exodus. He then spends several pages demonstrating that none of the theories presented in those publications is free of significant conjecture and difficulty. The magic letter theory put forth here accounts for the apparent lack of etymological derivation for yheh by specifically claiming that the word was created by the Hebrews and not borrowed from any more ancient source.
    [CLICK ABOVE FOR THE QUOTE FROM HOFFMAN'S BOOK]
    What do you think of his claims in his pasage about the word Yahweh, its derivation, whether it is actually related to "I will be", and whether "etymologies in the Bible tend to be symbolic, not scientific, often taking advantage of coincidences for rhetorical purposes"?

    I find Hoffman's claims about the importance of the letters in the Tetragrammaton relevant, even if this passage doesn't get into the letters' names (eg. yod = arm/hand).
     
  7. Rak

    Rak Member

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    To give an example of what I mean about the importance of the divine name in Judaism, the Judaism 101 website says:
     
  8. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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  9. Rak

    Rak Member

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    Paul considered Christians to be Jews in an "inner" way. (Romans 2:29)
    But that is not what you mean here when you talk about posing as Jews (I think).
     
  10. Rak

    Rak Member

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    Thanks for writing.
    I am looking for cases when they used the meanings of the letters themselves to see inner meaning in YHWH.
    It seems like over the last 4000+ years some Jewish mystics would have done that, considering some of their practices of seeing inner meanings in letters of words (eg. Gematria).
     
  11. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    It seems if there were inner meanings to be derived from the letters it would apply to other words as well?
     
  12. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Saul should know...
     
  13. Rak

    Rak Member

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    I was not setting out the views in order to definitely advocate for one position or another, as my mind is not made up and I would like real insight into the topic. This is why I quoted from the Hebrew Resource Center page, not knowing the writer was Christian. I have not been trying to advocate for one particular view on the thread question, or trying to debate against people with an opposite view, but rather to learn their own viewpoint.

    In the thread, I repeatedly quoted from a Jewish professor, J.Hoffman on his views on the topic, as well as from another religiously neutral source, the Phoenician script website. So I am not quoting J.Benner's passages as if he were an authority for teaching Judaism, but rather because I want to put his views in question and get people's answers.
    Can the moderator please move my thread to the Abrahamic DIR?
     
  14. Rak

    Rak Member

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    Wil,
    That could depend on the word that the inner meaning was found in.

    In normal poetry one tactic is sometimes to use words with certain connotations. Like a poem that talks about waves could use words that "swoosh", based on the poet's intentional use.
    She sells seashells by the seashore. Sssssshhhhhhhhhhh.....

    [​IMG]

    It doesn't mean all times the poet will write about the ocean or use swoosh words he will include that inner meaning.

    Here is another one:
    Moving waves washed water over very wet weeds.

    I intentionally used these words in my sentence because of their visual form:
    Mvwvwvvww
    There is an inner meaning about water that explains why I used the letters I did. The letters in the words carry an inner meaning of "waves" vvvvwwww.
    But some other times in other places I use the letters w, v, M, the water meanings aren't there.
     
  15. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Perfect example of how hard authors intent is from today... Even more than a thousand years ago...

    And then there is the added issue of coincidence, correlation and causation...

    Even worse when it comes to agendas in religious interp where folks try to back into things...
     
  16. Rak

    Rak Member

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    This is actually a good question. I came across Jewish writings seeing inner meanings in other words too as derived from the letters. Two examples were Passover and Pharaoh, which both use the pictoral meaning of the letters.

    Here is one mention about Passover this way:
    ^The text has a discourse about "the mouth speaks" in relation to Passover.
    Click here for the link:
    https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0195300149

    Here is the one on Pharaoh:
    In the Book of Exodus,2 Pharaoh, whose name also begins with a pei, said, “Let us [confine the Jews to slavery] lest they multiply.” The word for “lest” in Hebrew is פן, pen: pei-nun. G‑d was displeased with Pharaoh’s declaration, so He “knocked out his tooth” by knocking out the tooth of the pei in Pharaoh’s “pen,” which made it a kaf. Now the word was no longer pen (“lest”) but כן, ken: kaf-nun, meaning “surely.” Surely the Jews will multiply.3
    ...
    The letter pei actually means “mouth”—peh.
    ...

    Pesach represents the antithesis of Pharaoh, who, as the Megaleh Amukos12 explains, signifies peh-ra, a “bad mouth.” Pharaoh was someone who denied G‑d’s providence in every act of nature. Our mouths were not given to us to slander or denigrate others, but to speak of G‑d’s greatness and wonders.
    http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/137089/jewish/Pei-Communication.htm

    Two other examples that come to mind of seeing the letters in an inner way are how Shin was written with four prongs on the Tefilim instead of three, and sometimes it was drawn with little crowns (tagin). Another was the note that B begins Genesis ("Bereshit") and how the B is drawn in Hebrew a bit like a "C" with one end open and another closed, bookending the Torah's beginning, in a way.

    A fourth example is how the name of the Maccabees was an acronym based on its letters:
    I can give many other cases of Jewish tradition deciphering words' innr means using letters and acronyms. But actually Passover and Pharaoh are the only two I know that do it by using the pictoral names of the letters (eg. p = mouth or y = arm). It's true that yod and waw according to Jewish Encyclopedia are arm and nail, but I didn't come across Jewish writings using them to decipher YHWH. Since Jewish mysticism has looked at YHWH so intently, including the meaning of letters, I would be interested to see if they ever did the same thing with YHWH as with Pesah and Pharaoh.
     
  17. Rak

    Rak Member

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    David Cole makes a neat point in his book Understanding God's Message:
    He adds that
    https://books.google.com/books?id=B...q=hebrew yhwh behold nail arm OR hand&f=false

    Habakkuk 3:4 says of God:
    And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand/arm (miyadow): and there was the hiding of his power.

    One writer asked if this could be a cryptic reference to the nails piercing Jesus' hands/arms (yod).
     
  18. calmlovedink

    calmlovedink New Member

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    .
    I have studied the Bible for many years and I noticed that this Hebrew word

    Hebrew 7160 קרן qâran / kaw-ran'
    Meaning To push or gore or to shoot out horns Also the word is used three times to demonstrate Light Rays: or Shining light that was on the face of Moses.

    .
    Notice that in Exo 34:29 - Moses came down from the mountain He did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. T
    his word shone or shine is the word { Horns } referring to the rays of light coming from His face.
    Also, the same eXact occurrence happens again in two more instances here to Moses in Exo 34:30 The skin of his face shone.

    .
    And in Exo 34:35 And the children of Israel saw ......that the skin of Moses' face shone: and Moses put a veil upon his face.

    .
    This particular Hebrew word 7160 קרן qâran / kaw-ran' meaning Horns, is only used four times total in the Hebrew Manuscripts.

    However, there is another word that is related to this word as You mentioned in Habakkuk 3:4 Mentioning - The brightness of Gods { Holy One } - was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand - And .......................
    The sun and moon stood still in their habitation:

    .
    I did some deeper research and found that The Roman Catholic Douay Rheims Translation Actually uses the word Horns in all times four times in The Roman Catholic translation.
    Here in Exo 34:29 ...Moses knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord.
    And - Exo 34:30 The face of Moses horned.
    And also - Exo 34:35 The face of Moses was horned.
    And even in the Hab 3:4 verse - His brightness shall be as the light: horns.

    .
    I think that the translators should have at least placed the word Light in parentheses next to the words horns to give the reader an understanding.
    There are many other instances where the Authors use symbolic typed words to eXpress things in the bible.
     
  19. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    I think your issue is that sometimes when the translators translated they were aware of the meanings of the idioms or slang and thought that others would be as well....and at other times they were unaware of the idioms or slang so they translated directly... But based on the plethora of images of moses with horns and the use of placing horns on images of Jews amongst antisemitic folks is from these very passages.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=mos...yq_ZAhViplkKHSIIANwQ_AUICigB&biw=1301&bih=678
     
  20. StevePame

    StevePame Administrator Staff Member

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    @calmlovedink, please refrain from posts all in bold or in multiple colors. Thank you.
     

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