Good and Evil, Towb and Ra

Hebrew is not extinct at all. The modern state of Israel brought Hebrew back from the dead.

  • Now you’re an authority on Hebrew and you’re going to set a Biblical Hebrew Scholar straight?
  • “Google is your friend.”

The difference between Biblical Hebrew and Modern Hebrew


I said that Hebrew is not extinct at all.

Who said it was extinct?

Do I need to make this simpler?

Inquiring minds want know. Try quoting what you want to correct.

Thank you very much for your input regarding the importance of context.

It is very “good” (tov) to be driving down the freeway with one foot on the gas and the other on the floor.
It is very “bad” (ra) to be driving down the freeway with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake.

I think God was more interested that we do tov because it will result in a better practical outcome for people, the people whom He created and loves. I don’t think He wants us to do tov just because it will somehow validate His judgments, giving Him the opportunity and justification to punish when we miss the mark. He’s much bigger than having to cater to His own ego.

1 Like

Hi Terry,

When I wrote that biblical Hebrew was extinct, I meant it was no longer used for oral or written communication – the fundamental purpose of languages. Indeed, my attempt to be precise was missed completely by Beagle Lady. When I used the adverb “largely” I meant “for all intents and purposes.” My claim is that apart from speaking with God (usually in synagogue, but sometimes in Christian settings) no one uses biblical Hebrew in conversation or writing, formally or casually. Insofar as its use as a language, It’s dead. It’s kicked the bucket. It’s pushing up daisies. It’s met its demise. It sleeps with its cousin, Latin. It’s crossed over and sleeps with the fishes…

The fact that it is extinct is relevant to the conversation in that what we know about the vocabulary of biblical Hebrew comes not from a dictionary. It comes from how scholars evaluate words in context. Here’s an interesting example of what I mean.

In Genesis 2:18, Yahweh reveals that He has one more step to accomplish before the man’s creation can be completed. He needs something called an ezer k’negdo. Oceans of ink have been spilled in arguing about what this phrase means but no consensus exists and most Bible translators simply punt. On the other hand, the context tells us exactly what Yahweh meant by ezer k’negdo in that He assembles one from the flesh and bone of the man. So, what is the definition of ezer k’negdo? We still don’t know, but quite apart from its actual definition, Yahweh satisfied the requirement with a wife for Adam.

Context in ancient, largely extinct languages is like location in real estate. It’s everything.


1 Like
  • Thanks, Michael, for your response and your explanation. Personally, I am slightly familar with ancient, pre-Masoretic Hebrew and Modern Hebrew. As an analogy, I approach understanding, I think, by comparing Chaucerian and “The King’s English” of the 1500s. English certainly isn’t “extinct”, but Chaucerian English kinda is; although “The King’s English” still has a bit of a grip among the KJV-only crowd.


I said that Hebrew is not extinct. I agree that ancient Hebrew is extinct and never said otherwise.

I think I may have liked having you as my Hebrew professor!

1 Like

Maybe I’ll find out when I get old. Only 73 now! :slightly_smiling_face:


Those are good analogies and I’ve used them myself … that is until I was corrected. It seems that modern English and King James are very similar but for vocabulary and idiom. The differences between modern Hebrew and biblical Hebrew are somewhat more significant:

  1. Modern Hebrew’s grammar is significantly changed vis verbs and verb forms. Moreover, modern Hebrew grammar has evolved to be more like English. For example, like English and unlike biblical Hebrew, modern Hebrew a subject-first language.

  2. While modern Hebrew doesn’t preclude the use nikkud (vowel points), one almost never finds modern Hebrew written with nikkud.

  3. Of course modern Hebrew has a vastly expanded vocabulary. I know. I have looked and there is no word for telephone in Holy Scripture.

  4. Here’s a true story apropos nothing: I was on a flight and diligently studying my Hebrew lessons. I noticed that a flight steward was looking at me more that would be normal. Finally, he came over to me, asked me if I wanted a drink. I declined and then he said, and I’m paraphrasing, “How do you understand that stuff? I grew up in Israel and even the Orthodox don’t used pointed text.”

I explained that my understanding (at that point) was pretty limited, but that when I started I had no knowledge of either modern or biblical Hebrew and so had no preconceptions to get in the way.



I originally got my idea about tov = functional and ra = dysfunctional from Jeff Brenner’s dictionary, “Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible.”

Are you familiar with Jeff Brenner? If so, what do you think about his work?

That which I put in bold is totally false: when John says “and the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us” he is referring directly to Jesus.

Basically you’re trashing the text, mangling the grammar, to try to make it say something you want it to.

And just BTW, what earlier people say about something cannot negate what later people say because they were not aware of what the later people were going to say – you’re trying to make causation work backwards.

Anyway – John doubles down on the Logos being a Person in his first epistle, where he picks up that theme and eloquently makes plain that the Logos became materiel:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the Logos of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us…

The Apostle is stating that they heard and saw and touched the Logos Who is Life, Who “was made manifest” and they saw, the Logos Who was with the Father. That’s a description of the Incarnation, a repetition of his assertion in his Gospel that the Word was made flesh.

To be blunt, then, what you believe “logos” refers to is irrelevant, because you are contradicting the text, butchering the grammar and violating simple logic to sustain your claim.

Actually if you do a web search it becomes obvious that there are hardly any scholars who say “Genesis was not talking about the creation of a physical universe at all”; in fact scholar after scholar calls out John Walton for saying that very thing.
What you won’t find is scholars saying that Genesis is only about physical creation, and not many who say it is primarily about physical creation. As a chronicle of a mighty accomplishment of a great king (one of the genres it fits) it is definitely talking about physical things, but its point is not on those things but on the power and might of the King; as a temple inauguration account it is still talking about physical things, but its focus is not on those things but on their function and use by YHWH-Elohim Whose temple is being established; as a polemic against the general ANE creation story it is also talking about material things, but only as its way of declaring that all the gods of the Egyptians and the other nations aren’t deities at all, they’re things made by YHWH-Elohim to serve His purposes.
All of which sums together to show that without the material creation the account collapses to nothing, but that they are the tools or props and not the point.

Though to a certain extent saying that they “cared little about [creation’s] physical composition” has a point, just not one that’s clear from that assertion in English: they cared, but to them there wasn’t really any “physical composition” because everything important – Earth, sky, sea, stars, moon, sun – were regarded as deities. We tend to think they had a “deity of the Earth”, but that is only true if the genitive case in that phrase is interpreted correctly as a “deity who is the Earth”, and so on for all the rest.

I chuckle here because I had a professor from New England who grew up in and got his academic degrees in Britain, who once pronounced that “ra” ought often to be translated “inconvenient”.

My first Hebrew instructor wrote love letters to his wife-to-be in biblical Hebrew, including a lot of poetry. And his mentor before him could carry on conversation in it.

The “at all” was a bit of unwarranted hyperbole. Thanks for the heads up. But it was my mistake. Walton never put it that way. Walton actually did say, “Would they have believed that their gods also manufactured the material? Absolutely,

I think he said that the ANE understood that the world is made up of material things created by God, but that was not the focus of Genesis, which I think is in line with what the other scholars you mentioned say.

The ANE cared little about water being composed of hydrogen and oxygen or of the role of chlorophyll in photosynthesis. They were more interested in the gods providing water for crops (but not too much) and the fact that trees produced food. I would consider that a functional ontology as opposed to a material ontology.

I understand Genesis 1:1 to 2:4 to be saying that God prepared a place for Him to dwell with His people. I think that is the main point of the 7th day, which I believe is the most important day of all, notwithstanding it’s lack of much thought in today’s modern West. That was the day when the chaos was finally tamed to the point where God and man could exist in the garden in perfect harmony. God just wanted to live with people on the earth. Of course Adam blew it, so God immediately set about rectifying the problem by putting plan “B” into effect. That included the ark, the temple and, in this day and age, every born again Christian in whom God dwells. The end of the Bible (Rev 20-22) tells us that God is finally dwelling in peace and safety with all of His people (Christians as well as righteous Jews and Gentiles).

Thus making this entire conversation irrelevant.

There is a different interpretation of what was going on throughout the time of creation. It strikes me as not very believable to think that God would create this earth including the Garden of Eden with the real intent of having all humans live there in peace and harmony for all time, and then let anyone ruin that plan. I believe that God is much more intelligent and capable than that. What I mean is that Jesus was always plan A, always what God knew would go on. I also believe that this world, as it is today, does meet exactly what God says it is doing: “All things work together for good for those who love God.”
One of the most loving things I see God doing is coming to us where we are, coming in a way so that we are not driven to be afraid of Him, coming in many different ways described by various people and ending up as different denominations; I really have just recently come to think that at least a part of the reason that God allows these differences to occur is so that He can come to different people where they are. Yes, we humans all too often emphasize the differences, and argue about things that don’t really matter, to the extent of carrying out religious wars. Yet somehow, God is making those bad things combine with all the good things that are also going on in the right way for His purposes for everyone. No, I can’t see how, except to understand that God’s purposes are not what I would guess!