[b-hebrew] elohim versus aggelous, Psalm 8:6[5] MT verses LXX

furuli at online.no furuli at online.no
Mon Sep 29 10:56:58 EDT 2003

Dear Karl,

See my comments below:

>Dear Rolf:
>I wonder if words have changed meaning, or our understanding thereof has.

The notion "worship"  is for the most part construed on the basis of 
the context. Take for instance the verb XWH which often is translated 
by "worship".  The word indicates to be prostrate before someone. 
When you bow down before YHWH, the only reason for that is to worship 
him. When you bow down before a king, you are in the most cases doing 
obeisance. Thus "worship" is not a semantic part of the word, it is 
pragmatically construed (exactly the same is true with the Greek word 

>Where in Tanakh is )LHYM used for something other than an object to 
>be worshipped? My understanding is that that never happens, though 
>the term is used for false gods worshipped ineffectually. Could this 
>be a post-exilic understanding of the term?

On the basis of what is said above, I would say that "worship" is no 
part of )LHYM, even though, as you imply, worship is the rule in 
connection with )LHYM.  In Psalm 82:1,6 human judges are referred to 
as )LHYM (note how Jesus applies these words, John 10:34) and  in 
Exodus 4:16 and 7:1 Moses is said to be "God" for Aaron and Pharao 
respectively.  The word )LHYM is a generic count-noun, and the 
context must tell us its reference, and whether worship is connected 
with it or not.  The angels are called "gods" and "sons of God," but 
there is no indication in the Tanakh that they should be worshiped.

>Or is it that aggelos had a broader meaning than our present fairly 
>restricted understanding? Or is this something peculiar to Jewish 
>understanding of the term?

The same thing/person can be referred to by different words; "angels" 
and "gods" are two different ways of referring to the same creatures. 
The first word indicates that these creatures are sent from YHWH, and 
the second indicates that the have the same nature as their father.

>An example of a different word whose meaning has changed since 
>ancient times is from ancient Greek religions: there were two main 
>types that I was taught about, those whose truths were logically 
>parsed and those where the truths were recieved as a result of a 
>revelation. The latter were called “revelation” religions, however 
>most people translate them as “mystery” religions because our modern 
>understanding of “musterion” is almost opposite to the ancient 
>meaning (maybe because to those who did not know the revelation, it 
>was a mystery).

The concepts signalled by words do change over time. We therefore 
have to study a word both diachronically and synchronically.

>Likewise, I wonder if modern understanding of aggelos causes us to 
>misunderstand the translator’s intent? Or did he have a different 
>understanding of )LHYM?

The real problem in connection with )LHYM/AGGELOS in my view, is the 
influence of Christian dogma. When studying the MT/LXX, we should try 
to look at the text apart from traditional religious views regarding 
God.  This applies to textual criticism as well; we should only 
consider variants in the text when there is textual evidence or 
strong philological reasons for such, not when it is required by 
religious dogma.

>Any clues?
>Karl W. Randolph.

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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