You’ve heard of fake news? (Who hasn’t?) How about some fake exegesis?
Some time ago I blogged about the nonsensical idea that the Hebrew particle את has an amazing hidden meaning in Gen 1:1 (that’s an aleph and taw, read right-to-left, for those who don’t read Hebrew). In the original paleobabble post on this, the “secret” was that these two letters (the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet) point to Jesus, the alpha and omega per Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13 — and so Gen 1:1 encrypts Jesus as creator. This argument is entirely bogus for a simple reason: This particle *known in other Semitic languages that aren’t “sanctified” like biblical Hebrew* is an untranslated marker for the direct object of a clause (i.e., the accusative marker). It’s not a mystery. Any first-year Hebrew grammar will note this, and reference grammars and works on comparative Northwest Semitic languages will discuss it. (Note that in biblical Hebrew there are two other את words — one is a preposition, the other a noun — see below on that).
Well, the א-ת BS has re-surfaced, this time with a new twist. Now the particle isn’t an encrypted Jesus. This time it “teaches” us that God created everything “from A to Z” (first and last letter of the English alphabet … see what’s going on here?).
While I believe God created the material world in its entirety, that idea is not being “taught” by this particle. This is fake exegesis of the text. I’d say that you can’t possibly know anything about Hebrew grammar and make this point, but here’s the way the above post starts:
Together these two letters spell a little word, “et” (את), that cannot be translated into any language. It’s basically a way to link verbs and specific nouns, in a way unique to Hebrew. But this tiny word has a special purpose.
Maybe the author knows some Hebrew. I’m not sure. Why? Because the particle here doesn’t function “to link verbs and specific nouns.” That’s grammatically incoherent due to the ambiguity of “link”. This particle doesn’t create a “link” between anything. In Gen 1:1 it is, as noted above, the direct object marker. This particular את has two homographs in biblical Hebrew. Homographs are distinct words spelled in exactly the same way. As HALOT notes (the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the OT), there are three את’s in biblical Hebrew (direct object marker, preposition, and a noun, respectively). Consequently, in Gen 1:1 is wrong to say the particle “cannot be translated into any language.” As the Hebrew direct object marker, the particle ISN’T SUPPOSED TO BE TRANSLATED. It just marks the direct object. That’s its purpose — by design.
Why care about this? Because it’s the biblical text. It should be handled with respect — that means we shouldn’t make up bunk about what it is saying or conveying, no matter if the teaching intention is a good one. Don’t bother emailing me or posting a comment about how I shouldn’t take this author and web page to task. The alternative is letting someone lie to you. You may want that, but you’ll have to go somewhere else to get it.
Sound it out Mike. Next you’ll be telling us the Shemitah didn’t cause the Great Camel Rampage of Alice Springs in 1998.
Excellent Dr. Heiser! Thank you for the reverence and honesty with which you handle the bliblical text. It is refreshing.
Eisegesis much? You have to give ’em credit for creativity, or at least tenacity, to keep dredging stuff up like this.
Barnum was right.
what’s worse is that people can’t evaluate it.