Monday, August 06, 2012

On the primacy of Hebrew:  Dabar (דָּבָר) vs. Logos (λόγος)

My Hebrew professors are adamant:  Hebrew is the official language of heaven.  Purgatory is for those reprobates who refused to learn Hebrew during this life or did try to learn Hebrew but can't properly roll their tongue when pronouncing a resh.  Having not been to heaven myself, I will primarily serve as a neutral reporter on this opinion and the resulting disputes.  One of the Hebrew professors asserted that he has argued extensively with the leader of the opposing camp, pastor John MacArthur.  The MacArthurite position is that for thousands of years, Christian theology developed using Greek derived theological vocabulary.  In fact, God had arranged for the Greeks to develop much of the philosophical framework in the Greek language in order to provide the necessary language precision for the Gospel to be presented.  Furthermore, as anyone who bothers to search the origin of the New Testament can see, Jesus himself spoke to us in Greek, except that he included some Aramaic words now and then.

The Hebrew professors immediately retort that the Greeks learned their letters from the Phoenicians, who were closely related to the Hebrews.  In the process of gaining literacy, the Greeks had seen over and over the phrase, "The Word (dabar) of the Lord".  This they took back with them back to Greece and translated it, but deleted "the Lord" and ended up with the defective term 'logos' after they had translated what they learned into Greek.  "Heresy!", the Greekoids answer back.  Don't you know that Hebrew is the language of the Old Covenant, but Greek is the language of the New Covenant?  Now Hebrew is the language that God used on Mount Sinai, which is in Arabia.  It is the language of slavery and slaves are not the heirs.  Greek is the language that was used in Jerusalem, which is the language of freedom and of the legitimate heirs.

And so it continues.  The charismatics would certainly have a thing or two to say about this based on the "tongues of ... angels" - 1 Corinthians 1:13.  The reason to take seminary classes is so that we can insert ourselves into these discussions without being laughed at.  Thus, I will add my two cents from the Apostle John's vision of heaven:

"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.  They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands." - Revelation 7:9


Inklings said...

I suspect that Heaven will have a language all its own, and that we will remember it when/if we go there. :0)

Max Coutinho said...

Hey Looney,

Does your Hebrew teacher say "Dabar" instead of "Davar" (word)?
Well, he is right - as he should - when he says that Greek derives from Phoenician, which is closely related to the Hebrew (shown by some similarities in the Alphabet: Aleph/Alpha, Bet/Beta, Gimel/Gamma, Dalet/Delta, Zain/Zeta, iod/iota, caph/kappa, lamed/lambda, mem/mu, nun/nu).

As for the discussion: it is healthy to debate but I agree that Hebrew is the language of Heaven (although I am not as radical as many Hebrew professors seem to be). Jesus spoke Aramaic (the language of his people) but certainly he knew Greek and Latin, as the Rabbi he was.

I love this passage of Revelation.


Looney said...

@Inklings, I will note that you are a "charismatic"! ;-)

But I am leaning towards this too!

Looney said...

@Max, the teacher says "davar". He is quite fussy on us getting the pronunciation correct depending on whether or not the dagesh is present. I should be restarting this class shortly and continuing until next May.

How much time did you invest in learning Hebrew?

Max Coutinho said...


His being fussy is a sign that he is an excellent teacher.
It is almost like going back to college, eh?

"How much time did you invest in learning Hebrew?"

Two years (for grammar). I am not where I want to be yet but I'll get there.

Have a blessed weekend!

Looney said...

@Max, I may have, um, embellished the arguments of the profs a wee bit. College was 30 years ago, so it is becoming distant in my memory, but the pressure to meet a deadline is certainly there.

Are you studying ancient or modern Hebrew?

Max Coutinho said...


Pressure to meet deadlines walk with us throughout life...

"Are you studying ancient or modern Hebrew?"

Started by ancient (a few years ago) and, this year, I started studying modern Hebrew - easier (specially the verbs).