[b-hebrew] one-to-one rendering of olam

fred burlingame tensorpath at gmail.com
Sat Dec 11 19:17:25 EST 2010

Hello Bryant:

Thanks for your nice explanation.

The vast theological license arrives exactly at the point עולם moves from
temporal to eternal ... in meanings assigned the usages of this little
hebrew word.

Temporal and eternal represent two mutually exclusive concepts. The one
always changes; the other never changes, by definition.
I agree that context rules. I am happy to proceed through each of the uses
of עולם in the masoretic text.

Perhaps we can begin with jonah. Jonah cannot possibly be praying for relief
(change) from "eternal" bonds; for eternity, by definition, cannot change,
does not change. jonah 2:6

And indeed, jonah refers to his visit in the fish as a brief, temporal
period of three days. jonah 1:17.

The reasonable conclusion for this particular usage resides in your nice
discussion of the root word, meaning "to hide." Jonah prayed for relief from
his subjective experience of an "unknown" or "hidden" period of time in the


fred burlingame

On Sat, Dec 11, 2010 at 5:30 PM, Bryant J. Williams III <bjwvmw at com-pair.net
> wrote:

>  Dear Fred,
> [Bryant]
> I think all the articles are based on how the word is used. I do not see
> that a theological bias is being applied to the word. It is possible, but
> not probable. Another thing is that the article states, "Probably derived
> from 'alam I, "to hide," thus pointing to what is hidden in the distant
> future or in the distant past. The Ugaritic cognate is 'lm, "eternity." The
> reasoning for this identification of the root is assuming that the initial
> letter is pronounced, ayin, and not ghayin (see #1629, 'lm, pp. 671-672.)
> The problem is that 'alam, 'almah and 'olam are from the same root. Thus, if
> the initial letter is an ayin then it is the parent of 'olam and means
> "hidden, concealed." Now, the initial letter is ghayin, then it is the
> parent of 'elem and 'almah meaning "young man and young woman, respectively.
> [Fred]
>  "Boosting the meaning of עולם into "eternal" orbit, seems to me a clear
> case of theological license, at least in so far as the leningrad codex uses
> the term."
> [Bryant]
> Each of the sources are quite consistent with regards the basic of meaning
> of 'olam. This does not mean that there has been eisegesis. Each is looking
> at the context that the word is being used. Just because that is what the
> tradition states does not mean that the tradition is inaccurate. It is quite
> clear from the amount of material that the word is found in that a different
> range of meanings are found.
> It is the context that determines meaning. Any time one takes a text out of
> context is creating a pretext and, thus, has no text at all. That is
> eisegesis.
> Rev. Bryant J. Williams III

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