Prior to this blog, I created a website devoted to exposing the flawed teachings and research of Zecharia Sitchin. Next to Erik von DÃ¤niken, Sitchin is easily the most well-known articulator of the ancient astronaut theory–the idea that the gods of ancient texts and religions were extraterrestrials, and those ETs came to earth long ago and either created humankind via genetic experiments with hominids (Sitchin’s view), or at least kick-started human civilization. Sitchin is different from von DÃ¤niken in one important respect: he claims to be a scholar of ancient languages, and his followers cast him as such. He isn’t a scholar of ancient languages, and has no credentials to demonstrate that he is. I’m someone who can hold him accountable, since I’ve got the degrees and coursework to show I know what I’m talking about. I don’t bother with von DÃ¤niken since he doesn’t pretend to be a scholar in my field.
My website is still online, but it’s outdated and pretty ugly (I’ve learned a few things about website design since 2001–at least enough to do a less ugly job). I’ll be updating my Sitchin critiques on PaleoBabble, and expanding them as well. My goal is to give out as much primary data as I can to readers. This is the first such effort. I want readers to be able to check the data, and I’ll do all I can to put it in YOUR hands. I want people to know I’m not making it up. Anyone who has read Sitchin knows he doesn’t do this–you have to depend on his (odd, to say the least) translations of texts, as well as his claims that certain readings in texts exist. Finding the source of his quotations is unbelievably frustrating most of the time.
With that intro, let’s get started.
One of my earliest PDF files regarding Sitchin’s work dealt with the word elohim in the Hebrew Bible. Sitchin and his followers claim that the word elohim (commonly translated “God”) is plural, and so it must be translated “gods” where it occurs. These gods are of course the aliens (the Anunnaki in Sitchin’s work), and so it is argued that the Bible actually says the extraterrestrial gods created humankind.
Here’s the truth. The word elohim is morphologically plural. Morphology refers to the “shape” or construction of a word – its form. The question, though, is that while elohim is plural in form, is it plural in meaning ? By itself, elohim can be either singular or plural in meaning. How can you tell? Two ways:
A. Grammar – Words have no meaning apart from sentences, and word relationships in sentences are determined by grammar. The grammar of Hebrew (like English) will tell you if elohim is singular or plural. Let me illustrate with English:
In English we have words that can be singular or plural: “deer”, “sheep”, “fish”. In these examples, you need other words to help you tell if one or more than one of these animals is meant. Sometimes these other words are verbs that help you tell. Compare the two examples::
1) “The sheep is lost” – the word “is” is a singular verb (It goes with a singular subject; one wouldn’t say, for example, “I are lost” – you would use a verb that goes with the singular subject (“I am lost”).
2) “The sheep are lost” – the word “are” is a plural verb (again, another word next to our noun “sheep” tells us in this case that plural sheep are meant.
All of this is just basic grammar – and every language has grammar. Biblical Hebrew has its own ways of telling us if elohim means one God or plural gods. And in EVERY passage in the Hebrew Bible where elohim creates humankind (or anything else), elohim is singular in meaning because all the verbs that go with it grammatically are singular. Sitchin is flat out, dead wrong. His view is DOA.
My original PDF is here if you want to read it. It was pretty basic, with an example or two. I even made a PDF that showed my view worked the same way in AKKADIAN, a language in which Sitchin is supposedly proficient. He isn’t. Here’s that file. On to the second way to tell singular vs. plural…
B. Context – I could call this “logic” as well, but we’ll go with context. Sometimes, the grammar doesn’t help. Sure, if elohim is the subject of a sentence and the verb it goes with is singular, then grammar tells you right away you have ONE deity. But what if elohim is another part of speech, like the direct object? Verbs won’t help at all then. Here’s where context becomes the determiner. Appealing to context may sound subjective, but it really isn’t; it’s usually VERY clear.
For example, consider the following sentence: “The Israelites sang songs of joy to Yahweh, praising elohim for delivering them through the Red Sea.” Is elohim singular or plural? It’s the direct object here, so we can’t depend on subject-verb agreement (grammar) to help us. But the context tells us that the songs of praise were to Yahweh–and Yahweh is not a plural! Yahweh was Israel’s God, and so the following elohim is obviously singular in context.
But enough of my examples. I don’t want to just tell you about this, since you have to take my word for it to some extent if you don’t know Hebrew, or if you have no experience with a foreign language. Instead, I want to SHOW you Sitchin’s view is bogus and give you the data to check up on me (and him!) at your leisure. I’m not afraid of giving you the data with the kind of tools real scholars use since the data are on my side and are a firm rebuttal to Sitchin’s view. To that end, I’ve made a few videos and have posted a few files for you.
First, I’ve made a video of me searching the Hebrew Bible with the LOGOS Bible software for (1) all occurrences of elohim in the Hebrew Bible; (2) all the places where elohim is demonstrated as singular through the grammar of subject-verb agreement; and (3) all the places where elohim could legitimately be translated as a plural because of the verb. The video is large (18.2 MB; 11:27 time), so you need high speed–and turn up your speakers.
- I’ve posted PDF files of the search results of the computer searches described in the video above (you might want to watch the video first, since it explains the results in these files). You can download all the PDFs for free:
- All occurrences of elohim in the Hebrew Bible (results in Hebrew); 251 pages; 2.5 MB; 2,601 occurrences, 99%+ are singular by grammar or context.
- Elohim as the subject of a singular predicator (results in Hebrew and English)
- Elohim as the subject of a plural verb form (results in Hebrew and English)
Second, on the same video above I also search for all the places in the Hebrew Bible where the word elohim is identified as Yahweh–the singular God of Israel–showing that elohim is singular for context reasons. You can download the PDF file of these results as well – over 1,400 occurrences of Yahweh being match with elohim! It’s 2.7 MB and 201 pages.
One last thing. Followers of Sitchin are bound to come across this post. If you’re one of those, feel free to register and comment. Don’t send me emails, since I won’t read them. Use the comment space. I want the world to see your response. However, if you can’t express yourself without foul language, I won’t approve it. After years of dealing with fundamentalist Sitchinites, I know the kind of screed they typically offer in their rage. It’ll be ignored, since it’s worthless. But if you can disagree without becoming hysterical, I’d love to post your response. It’s often a lot of fun. But be warned, I’ll demand data and coherence from you, and if you can’t supply it in exchanges, you’ll look very stupid. And I won’t stop you.