[b-hebrew] one-to-one rendering of olam (was: Song of Songs 1:12)

Steve Miller smille10 at sbcglobal.net
Sun Dec 12 18:59:22 EST 2010

> From: fred burlingame [mailto:tensorpath at gmail.com]
> Sent: Thursday, December 09, 2010 11:10 PM
> To: steve at voiceinwilderness.info
> Cc: B-Hebrew
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] one-to-one rendering of olam (was: Song of Songs 1:12)
> Hello Steve:
> Thanks for taking the time to respond and offer your comments.
> Please permit me to respond.
> 1. Interesting e-mail address you have.

[Steve Miller] thanks, Fred.
> 2. I am 1,000 years removed from the authors of the masoretic text. To say, I know
> for sure what they intended, would be presumptuous on my part.
> 3. Hence, you could be right in your conclusions.
> 4. I am however, left with the firm understanding of olam as follows; and after
> having examined all instances of it and its corresponding greek word aion.

[Steve Miller] In the NT, aion is paired sometimes with immortal. I don't think eternal life could possibly mean "life of an unknown duration". We already have that.  
> a. The parent hebrew verb appears defined and used as "concealed." Witness
> numbers 5:13, by way of example.
> b. The hebrew people described by the masoretic text generally appeared more
> concerned with immediate, daily, issues of survival (food, water, shelter, physical
> security, etc.) than we are today. Hence, what transpired in the next valley or the
> next decade (past or future) carried less import to them, than with us today.

[Steve Miller] They didn't have credit cards or welfare states so they had more tangible problems than our modern anxieties. This doesn't mean they thought of the future any less than us. I don't see that in Psalms.  
> c. Numerous time related facts therefore became identified in the masoretic text but
> not defined with precision, because such circumstances were "olam" or beyond the
> field of vision and immediate need for survival.

[Steve Miller] I don't agree with the speculation that human beings are more far-sighted today than were ancient Hebrews.  
> d. "a" - "c" leave me with the conclusion of "olam" = "hidden" or "concealed;" and as
> more specifically applied to matters of time, meaning an unknown period of time.

[Steve Miller] Are you or were you good in math? Do you know much math? I ask because you are using math notation, but your logic has no mathematical discipline nor foundation.  Your item "c" is speculation. Your item "a" could be a fact. But "a" + /- "c" doesn't give your "d".  
> 5. Many people see the necessity of "olam" graduating to eternal because of its use
> with יהוה . I don't see a problem retaining the "concealed" meaning of olam in this
> context. That description no more excludes the eternal, than does the
> statement אלהים  of abraham, isaac, and jacob preclude and exclude elohim of
> everyone else.

[Steve Miller] I agree that "concealed" does not exclude the possibility of being eternal, but it doesn't demand it. I take it as axiomatic that God is eternal. Therefore when olam is applied to God, I understand that olam there means eternal rather than a very long time. When we say "Joe is good" or "God is good", "good" applied to God means something infinitely more than "good" applied to Joe, and our human minds handle the abstraction without any difficulty.  
I don't think the meaning "an unknown amount of time" makes sense.  Ps 118, Let Israel say, For His mercy endures forever. What's the point of, His mercy endures for an unknown amount of time?  What's the point of prescribing that the slave who does not want to take his freedom after six years will serve his master for an unknown length of time?

> 6. The phrase you mentioned: "le-olam v-ad" or "olam ad olam" seems to me to
> mean simply and respectively, "to hidden and until" and "concealed until
> concealed" as a way of emphasizing time or even multiplying it; but not moving it to
> eternity; anymore than "kodesh hakodashim" graduates from temporal to eternal.
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodesh_Hakodashim

[Steve Miller] You can look all the instances of olam v-ad or olam ad olam, and come to a conclusion from those uses.  Kodesh is not a word about time, so I would not expect it to "graduate" to mean eternal.  You don't know enough to make up a rule that words cannot "graduate" to mean eternal. The words sound intelligent, but they stand on nothing.
> I keep returning to 19th century rabbi hirsch's guide post; which I paraphrase as
> follows: don't get esoteric with the hebrew language; look at the literal plain
> meaning of the words; and take your understanding of the language from those
> simple cues.

[Steve Miller] I agree with the rabbi. "Eternal" is not an esoteric concept.  I think "an unknown amount of time" used so often in the Bible, makes the Bible much more esoteric than "eternal" does.  

Steve Miller
> regards,
> fred burlingame
> On Thu, Dec 9, 2010 at 9:04 PM, Steve Miller <smille10 at sbcglobal.net> wrote:
> Fred,
> I think lolam or ad-olam means until the age or forever depending on the context. If
> you want to unambiguously say "forever" in Hebrew, then you say something like
> le-olam v-ad or olam ad olam, which KJV translates as for ever and ever. I think
> olam is less ambiguous than "a very long time" or "an unknown time".  In Jonah 2:6,
> Jonah thought he was dead for sure, and he would be there until the resurrection at
> the end of the age.  This is similar to Exo 21:6 where the slave will serve his master
> lolam.
> Sincerely,
> -Steve Miller
> Detroit
> www.voiceInWilderness.info
> Blessed is the man who walks not in
> the world's counsel of sin,
> nor standeth in the sinners' way,
> nor with the scornful stays,
> because he delights in the law
> of the Lord, and in awe
> he meditates both day and night.
> His mind is being made right. (Psalm 1:1-2)

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