Tuesday, August 04, 2009


The Dangers of Dictionaries


It's time to review the definition of "petard" again.

Ed Brayton links to WingNutDaily's publicizing of an anonymous YouTuber who claims Biblical evidence that Barack Obama is the Antichrist:

His 4-minute video focuses on the direct quote: "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." (Luke 10:18)

"When I started doing a little research, I found the Greek word for 'lightning' is 'astrape', and the Hebrew equivalent is 'Baraq,'" said YouTube contributor "ppsimmons," a self-described Christian with a theological education and many years in the ministry, who spoke to WND under condition of anonymity out of concern for members of his local church. "I thought that was fascinating."

As he continued looking into the rest of the words in the phrase, he focused on "heaven," and found that it can refer not just to God's dwelling place, but also "the heights" or "high places."

He then recalled Isaiah 14:14, where Lucifer, another name for Satan, is quoted as saying, "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High."

"I wondered what the word 'heights' is," said ppsimmons, "and I looked it up in the dictionary, and it's 'Bamah.'"

Thus, on the video, the announcer notes, "If spoken by a Jewish rabbi today, influenced by the poetry of Isaiah, He (Jesus) would say these words in Hebrew ... 'I saw Satan as Baraq Ubamah.'"

"Gosh, was Jesus giving us a clue or was this just a freak coincidence?" thought the filmmaker at the time of his research.
But as James McGrath, who we know is a Biblical scholar, points out:

... Jesus compared himself to Barack Obama when he said that "For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning (baraq), which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other" (Luke 17:24). And in Luke 9:29 we are told that Jesus' clothes shone like lightning - i.e. his clothes in the transfiguration were as fine as Barack Obama's.

If Jesus compared himself to Barack Obama, then we can be sure that Barack Obama is not the antichrist. But if you are not convinced, note as well that Revelation 4:5 says lightning (presumably still Barack Obama) came from God's throne, while both Jeremiah 10:13 and Jeremiah 51:16 say that God himself sent Barack, and Psalm 148:8 says Barack does God's bidding. You can't just pick and choose, people!

Do note as well that the person claiming that Jesus said "lightning and high place" (baraq ubamah) is claiming that the Greek New Testament, the "original texts" from which English translations are made, were wrong, that they mistranslated what Jesus said. And so it would be absolutely incoherent for anyone who believes in the Bible's inerrancy to buy into this sort of claim.
It also goes to show that anyone who claims to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible probably doesn't know the meaning of that word either.

According to Wikipedia, in the article "Mubarak":

"Mubarak (Arabic: مبارك‎ Mubārak) is an Arabic given name, translating to "blessed one". A variant form is Barak (Arabic: بارك ‎ Bārak, not to be confused with the unrelated Hebrew name Baraq; also anglicized as Barack, most notably in the case of US president Barack Obama) Mubarak and Barak are thus the Arabic equivalent in meaning of the Latinate "Benedict" (from Latin Benedictus "blessed")."

Tom S.
Although I can't comment on the nature of the antichrist, there is another level of danger here. In Hebrew and Arabic the words for "blessed" and "lightning" sound the same--and would look more or less the same in English transliteration--but emerge from completely different root words. President Obama's name comes from the "blessed" root. Umberto Eco's book Serendipities: Language and Lunacy demonstrates some of these bizarre stretches of linguistic logic. But unfortunately, I'm not sure if that level of detail would be all that persuasive....
Another example of the charming naivete of the true believer?
Which true believer? The one who worships a god or the one who worships erudition?
Unfortunately erudition has nothing to do with genius but rather with mediocrity trying to disguise itself.
... erudition has nothing to do with genius but rather with mediocrity trying to disguise itself.

Surely that's an overstatement. It's true that there is faux erudition but to conclude that there is no true erudition is to claim erudition about erudition ... if you see my point.
One of the signs of mediocrity pretending to erudition that I have seen is the use of the glossary in Strong's Concordance as an authority on Hebrew. Strong's is a helpful work for its intended purpose - finding Biblical quotations. But if someone wants a real dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, there are reference works like the old standard "BDB": Brown, Driver, and Briggs.

I am reminded of a friend of mine who was supposed to take a written language translation test in a language that he had no knowledge of. He told me that that was no problem, under the rules, he could just use a dictionary to look up all of the words. He was angry when he failed the test - and showed me his "translation" with lots of red marks on the first few lines, but then nothing. "Look at this, they didn't even look at the whole thing." I noticed that the red marks stopped at the point where he had translated a form of the word "to be" with the word "hoot owl". I asked how he came up with that. "I couldn't find the exact word in the dictionary, so I used the word that was closest to it."

Sort of like "barack" is closest to "baraq".

Tom S.
Thanks for sharing this!

I fixed a place where some words had disappeared in the original, probably as a result of a typing error in the HTML code, in case you want to update it.

And thanks for taking the trouble to debunk this from a Biblical perspective.
John Pieret: you're playing with words. I am aware to be part of the general mediocrity, which I neither disguise nor emphasize. After all, I have to eat.
While I'm always playful, the point is serious enough. Erudition means scholarly learning. How could you know that all scholarly learning has nothing to do with genius but rather with mediocrity without a certain scholarly learning yourself? Otherwise you are just pontificating about that which you do not know.
Smart remark. I've spent in academia all my adult life and plan to stay until I retire (or die) (pray that this doesn't happen too soon).
It's like living in Magic Kingdom.
May said...
Which true believer? The one who worships a god or the one who worships erudition?

The one who believes all the answers they will ever need are to be found in one text. The path to knowledge starts with questions not answers.

Unfortunately erudition has nothing to do with genius but rather with mediocrity trying to disguise itself.

Unfortunately, geniuses are few and far between. It falls to the rest of us to do the best we can with our mediocrity.
Ian: true, geniuses are few.
As regards me, I don't even do my best to escape mediocrity, the sluggard that I am. I know people who work 12 hours a day and sometimes during the weekend.

What does FCD stand for?
... true, geniuses are few.

Fortunately, we have the means to share in their genius.

FDC = Friend of Charles Darwin.
I see. Thank you for the clarification.
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