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יהוה : three perspectives on the gender(s) of G-d

March 9, 2015

one

NOTES ON THE TRANSLATION

8. The gender of God: Even though, like most people, I do not conceive of a deity who is male or female, there is no way around the fact that the Torah does in fact present God in consistently masculine terms. Even the name of God is masculine. (The feminine would be THWH.) I have therefore conveyed the masculine Hebrew conception in the translation as well. My point is that in each case I am translating an original work that someone else wrote, and I do not seek to impose my theological conceptions on that person’s work, nor do I want to hide that person’s views by means of a translator’s power.

Professor Richard Elliott Friedman, (2012-09-18). Commentary on the Torah (Kindle Locations 37324-37328). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. (ht EricW via fb)

two

Yet… Judaism long ago acknowledged the validity of [the] feminine dimension of the Deity. The two names of God differ grammatically with regard to sexual connotation…

The Tetragrammaton (YHVH)…is…feminine;

it refers to God as if “He” were in fact “She.” Yet, as we have frequently noted, the Lord is also called ELoHiYM. That name ends with…masculine plural…. If human beings are created in God’s image, and the single most important thing we know about God is that He is One – why did God create two kinds of people, male and female, after His likeness? …God chose to create two different kinds of people on this earth, not in spite of the fact that He is One, but precisely because God in the deepest sense of the word is really two. Of course we do not suggest any kind of dualism implying separate identities. Rather, as the very names of God imply, there are two distinct aspects to the Deity. God is both masculine and feminine. This gender difference is not one of physical attributes but one of emotion and typology.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech, (September 1992) Understanding Judaism: The Basics of Deed and Creed page 273. (qtd on wikipedia)

three

Eve = Ava = Havah

Y H V H

is

Yah & HaVaH

The Tetragrammaton is YHVH.  It is a four-lettered name translated as Yahweh or Jehovah.  Well Eve is right there.  She’s the HVH havah part. So the Yah-Havah –YHVH — is yet another plural god-name containing masculine and feminine deities.  We have a compound deity, God-and-Goddess for Elohim and for Yahweh, the most popular names for God in the Bible.  Used thousands of times.  In Samaria, what is now Tel Aviv and parts of modern Israel, the two names of the Tetragrammaton, both feminine and masculine were intertwined in Samaritan phylacteries –  the prayer ribbons Hebrews wrap around their forearms and put on their foreheads in little boxes.

This YHVH combination of four letters reminds me of the male female chromosome thing.  Males are XY and females are XX.  So you combine an XY with an XX and you get XYXX.  The result is a Y and the other three letters where the Y happens to be the lone masculine element while the other three letters are feminine.  Just like Yah and Havah.

Bishop Katia Romanoff (n.d.) God Has a Wife! Unveiling Goddess in Judeo-Christianity, Islam and around the world (Slide 93)

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2015 11:54 am

    The bishop is playing fast and loose with the aitches of ‘Ebrew. He also anticipates my usage of X as a convenient Latin transcription for ח, chet. But the game won’t play that easily since the guttural chet, ח, differs from ה, heh. Nice try though. If the letter for life (חיה) were there in the tetragrammeton, it would be a good play. Instead we have the letter of ‘to be’ (היה).

  2. March 9, 2015 12:06 pm

    You make me laugh with your fast and quick-witted reply, Bob. 🙂

    The good Bishop plays as Carl G. Jung and Frank Moore Cross, Jr., Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University do, I believe. Both men held this view of an etymological relationship between the names YHWH and Havva (or Eve, Life).

    But the earliest I’ve been able to trace the theory is in a citation of Guillaume Postel (by Robert J Wilkinson in Tetragrammaton: From the Beginnings to the Seventeenth Century):

  3. March 9, 2015 12:11 pm

    Bob, Do you choose between either Professor Friedman’s or Rabbi Blech’s views?

    And what do you think of what Postel finds in 1 Kings 17:15?

  4. March 9, 2015 2:27 pm

    Yes – one must choose and I am quite stymied on the issue.

    To say “nor do I want to hide that person’s views” is almost impossible to determine, yet it is exactly the searching out of the view of the ancient writer that motivates me to go to the original language.

    I expect I might be appalled by that person’s views on male and female if I met them in the flesh. The phrase זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה comes out of nowhere in Genesis. Who is this ‘memory’ and ‘socket’ combo? Memory raises for me the Name – this is ‘how I will be remembered’, and the Eucharist, and the feasts (making the past present), and the repentance of Psalms 6 and 38 with its inscription לזכר, the trope of shame in Psalm 70 also inscribed with ‘as a memorial’ and the three voices of Psalm 137, each remembering tragedy. What is this word doing as part of a merism for male and female? And whatever one thinks of נקב (from pierce, bore etc), I guess it is an accident that it matches the Arabic veil.

    I am happy to hear yet another voice from Rabbi Blech and it is my inclination of course to recognize and encourage the gifts of another human whatever the gender. I’ve never thought of the Name as being feminine, but I suppose it is. And I do take ‘male and female’ as being in parallel with ‘in his image’. Also image is singular but them is plural. (That doesn’t sound like good grammar!) I have had a nearly 50 partnership years with my wife, and she lived through all the fundamental questions that I went through in my late 20s about how to read (funny – you would have thought I had been better taught than that – but that’s a long story).

    The verb ‘to be’ needs detailed study – there are 14 pages – roughly 3000 occurrences of this verb in my Hebrew Latin concordance glossed by them as: accidere, evenire, fiere, oriri, cum ל obtingere, allicui, esse, versari, existere; Ni, languescere, esse dessinere. (Whew!). The friend who gave me this precious list of every occurrence of every word in the Hebrew Bible sorted by root just died 2 weeks ago. He was my teacher at the synagogue though I had much more to learn from him.

    Now for 1 Kings 17:15 – that needs a post and some time to translate around it so I can look at the music and hear the verse more clearly in its context… The Aleppo code is hard to read at this point in the text, but the word הִוא is quite clear and yes the next word is וַה֛יא with a tevir under the heh. That would make putting the hiriq where it belongs quite difficult, so perhaps the hireq looks more like a shuruq than it should under the yod. (which I am told should always be spelled iod – O well!). I can’t get a dagesh into that spot with my Hebrew keyboard – pointed Hebrew is very difficult to type at the best of times.

    It should be noted that I am a child of my time and my times are trouble enough. Who know if my opinion on these things is good or evil! I hope of course that tenderness, love, mutual support, can be achieved in what remains of my time, but God knows that this is a difficult and vulnerable desire. I am confident of course that it cannot be achieved by fear, prejudice, or exploitation of the wrong sorts. The hope of Psalm 18 comes to mind:
    with one who is kind you show yourself kind
    with one who prevails complete you show yourself complete
    with the pure you show yourself pure
    and with the devious you show yourself tortuous

    And this God be with you and yours in the difficulties of our common hope.

  5. March 10, 2015 1:36 am

    Looking at 1 Kings 17:15, it just seems to me like a scribal error and we should probably read הִֽיא־וָה֛וּא. It is common to confuse short and long strokes. I would not have qualified to be a scribe – too many typos. But I live in a correctable universe (usually). Sweeney 2007 I found online via a preview reads hi wahu as qere, and hu vahi as ketiv. He makes no comment that I can find. Notoriously hard sometimes to find a comment.Ria Kloppenborg 1995 draws attention to the household that the widow was in charge of, suggesting she was at home in the middle class. See footnote 16 for her status. Hopefully that link opens right at the actual page.

  6. March 10, 2015 6:49 pm

    Bob, I’m thinking lots about your thoughtful and studied replies here. Thank you. I’m still thinking about the truth about God, and now as Anne Carson thinks about it too:

    https://bltnotjustasandwich.com/2015/03/10/anne-carson-withness/

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  1. Anne Carson: withness | BLT

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