[b-hebrew] God vs angels in Ps 8:5

Deborah Millier deborahmillier at yahoo.com
Thu Mar 31 18:55:11 EST 2005

I had written:

>> . . .is it possible to leave MT Psa 8:5 “as is”? 
>> Or even desirable? Then what have you got?   

To which John W. Leys responded:

> Then you have the plain literal meaning 
> of the text. And yes, it is both 
> possible and desirable.

I think you may be missing my point, John. Might I be
safe in assuming that none of us on this list is a
native speaker of *biblical* Hebrew? (Whatever that
means since “biblical Hebrew” spans several centuries
and a few recognizable dialects). Even if someone were
a native speaker of biblical Hebrew, he/she would
still be dependent upon “semantic domains” to
determine the meaning(s) of words, phrases,
expressions, titles, from texts written by others
beside him/herself. Such is the nature of any
language, I think.

If that be true for the native biblical Hebrew
speaker, how much more for those of us not native to
biblical Hebrew!

All of us have learned most of our biblical Hebrew
word/phrase/expression/title “definitions” via tools
such as dictionaries and lexicons, whose
authors/editors scoured through usages of each
word/phrase/expression/title within the same biblical
book, within other HB books, and within extra-biblical
texts (E.g. Hebrew inscriptions, cognate language
texts, rabbinic texts, ancient versions, NT texts
[extra-biblical only from a non-Christian
perspective], etc.). Thus this broad spectrum of
ancient witnesses helps establish semantic domain. .
.which give us moderns clues as to the meaning(s) of
HB writings such as Psa 8:5.

The HB authors are not around for us to ask help in
clarifying puzzling (to us) passages. We are therefore
receiving filtered meanings whether we use or avoid
the NT in helping determine semantic domain. All of

My point? We can implicitly trust BDB to tell us what
“the plain literal meaning of the text” truly is. (But
is that what the *biblical author* intended?. . . what
BDB says it might have meant a few millennia after the
fact?). Or we can trust them at some basic level (most
of us in the English speaking world I assume are
indebted to BDB; I know I am!), while eventually
gaining a feel for biblical Hebrew ourselves. Once
we’ve been weaned from the dictionary/lexicon, and on
our own we start to notice patterns of meaning and
nuance, then those so inclined often try branching out
into their own philological research. And
interpretation. This is a natural part of language
acquisition, I assume. 

At this stage, however, the history of interpretation
of biblical texts becomes important. And like it or
not, the NT, as an ancient witness, plays into this
stage of the game.

I am not saying that biblical exegesis the NT
renditions/interpretations of HB texts should be given
the final say. Period. Without other folks being able
to milk the same texts for additional meaning(s)
within reasonable semantic domains. As an evangelical
Christian, I don’t think that’s how the NT authors
understood God’s revelation for humanity to work, or
even how they thought their writings were to be taken.

But NT renditions/interpretations of HB passages
should be given some weight by those looking for
semantic domain of
words/phrases/expressions/titles--particularly if NT
renditions/interpretations are among a few other
converging lines of ancient evidence. That’s what I

I think the NT can sometimes shed philological light
on words/phrases/expressions/titles in the HB. And we
can all take advantage of that. In particular, we who
are Christians should be able to do so on this list
and elsewhere without apology.

Hope my answer suffices for Peter Kirk’s inquiry as

--Michael Millier
Manila, Philippines

Write to S?ren Holst about a PDF file of his

sh at teol.ku.dk

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