The words for God in Jewish scriptures

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
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rgprice
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The words for God in Jewish scriptures

Post by rgprice »

I've never been able to get a fully straight understanding of this. My understanding is that in the Septuagint the Hebrew name El Elyon was typically translated as Theos Hypsistos, "God Most High". The name Elohim was typically translated as Theos, "God", by itself. The Hebrew name YHWH was generally translated into Kyrios, which means "Lord".

Is that really the case, or is that what only true in the "Old Testament"?

How were the names of God handled in Hebrew and Aramaic? Do Hebrew scriptures still read El Elyon, YHWH , etc. today?

Did Jews in the first century distinguish between El and YHWH ? Was YHWH considered an offspring of El Elyon?

What changes were made in the MT vs prior scriptures, and to what degree was the MT harmonized with the Christian Old Testament?
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Ben C. Smith
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Re: The words for God in Jewish scriptures

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rgprice wrote: Thu Mar 04, 2021 8:11 am I've never been able to get a fully straight understanding of this. My understanding is that in the Septuagint the Hebrew name El Elyon was typically translated as Theos Hypsistos, "God Most High".
Yes, I think this is true. It was not always El Elyon, either. It could be Elohim Elyon.
The name Elohim was typically translated as Theos, "God", by itself.
Correct.
The Hebrew name YHWH was generally translated into Kyrios, which means "Lord".
In the OG/LXX, correct.
Is that really the case, or is that what only true in the "Old Testament"?
Not sure what you are asking here.
How were the names of God handled in Hebrew and Aramaic? Do Hebrew scriptures still read El Elyon, YHWH , etc. today?
Not 100% sure about modern Hebrew Bibles, but in antiquity the Hebrew scriptures could contain all of those terms. The Tetragrammaton (YHWH), however, was often (not always) accorded special treatment. For example, it might be written with a different pen and/or in a different script. (At Qumran there are manuscripts written in the square Hebrew script which switch to paleo-Hebrew for the Tetragrammaton alone.) Sometimes it was not written at all, but had dots instead of letters.

There is evidence that the very earliest OG/LXX manuscripts used Ἰάω (Iao) for Yahweh, but pretty soon it was almost all κύριος instead.
Did Jews in the first century distinguish between El and YHWH ? Was YHWH considered an offspring of El Elyon?
That is a great question, and Margaret Barker's answer to it is controversial.

You may be interested in this thread of mine: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=5670.
andrewcriddle
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Re: The words for God in Jewish scriptures

Post by andrewcriddle »

One should note that the LXX is sometimes inconsistent in how it renders the Hebrew names of God e.g. occasionally rendering YHWH in the MT by theos. It is unclear if the Hebrew text used for the LXX differed from the MT in its use of divine names.

Andrew Criddle
rgprice
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Re: The words for God in Jewish scriptures

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Is Elohim plural for El or Elyon?
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Ben C. Smith
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Re: The words for God in Jewish scriptures

Post by Ben C. Smith »

rgprice wrote: Tue Mar 09, 2021 6:49 am Is Elohim plural for El or Elyon?
Neither. Elohim (אֱלֹהִים) is the plural of Eloah (אֱלוֹהַּ), which is used both of the Jewish deity (though not nearly as often as Elohim is) and of pagan gods in the Hebrew scriptures.

Eloah/Elohim is, however, etymologically related to El (אֵל), the plural of which is Elim (אֵלִם). Pretty sure El/Elim is more ancient a form than Eloah/Elohim, but I could use more education on that particular topic.

Elyon (עֶלְיוֹן) is unrelated, and it does not even begin with the same consonant. Elyon starts with an ayin, El/Elohim with an aleph: two different roots, and etymologically unconnected. Elyon means "high" or "upper," and it is used of things other than God, too (such as "Upper Beth Horon" in 2 Chronicles 8.5); it derives from a Hebrew verb meaning "to ascend."
Last edited by Ben C. Smith on Tue Mar 09, 2021 7:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
ConfusedEnoch
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Re: The words for God in Jewish scriptures

Post by ConfusedEnoch »

andrewcriddle wrote: Thu Mar 04, 2021 10:24 am One should note that the LXX is sometimes inconsistent in how it renders the Hebrew names of God e.g. occasionally rendering YHWH in the MT by theos. It is unclear if the Hebrew text used for the LXX differed from the MT in its use of divine names.

Andrew Criddle
Agreed, and I think this is where many scholars disagree vis-a-vis the authority and importance of the Septuagint. Many differences between the Masoretic and LXX cannot be chalked up to "mistranslation" and "scribal errors", as those two aren't the only complete copies of OT to compare anymore. I think it's fairly obvious that the LXX was not translated from the MT. Other forms of the Hebrew Scriptures did exist, as attested by the finds at Qumran, and were often used as Vorlagen for translation into Greek. We should probably start giving more credence to the Septuagint, even in the most obscure and unintelligible texts (Isaiah, I'm looking at you).

I also think it's interesting that the most glaring differences are found in the more ancient texts, like proto-Isaiah, Amos, Judges and Psalms.
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Ben C. Smith
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Re: The words for God in Jewish scriptures

Post by Ben C. Smith »

rgprice wrote: Thu Mar 04, 2021 8:11 am I've never been able to get a fully straight understanding of this.
Have you ever read The Invention of God, by Thomas Römer?
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