Report by John-Peter Gernaat
This was of course offered over the period of St. John's-tide in 2023 and those people who attended the course paid for it. The course may be offered again in the future, therefore this report will not be a full report of the course, but a bit of an overview.
Languages first develop as spoken languages and in time when the speakers of the language develop a need to write, an alphabet is developed. The Israelites were a family. Jacob was the grandson of Abraham. He had twelve sons and from each of his sons a tribe developed. Jacob changed his name and took the name of Israel, and his sons are known as the sons of Israel. YHWH (Yahweh of the Elohim) recognised in Abraham a new development in humankind, the development of brain-based thinking. YHWH separated Abraham from his family and instructed him to take a long journey. Abraham encountered many different peoples and different languages, spend time in Egypt, and settled in a land that was far from his home. Israel and his sons moved to Egypt after his youngest son was held captive, and only when they arrived in Egypt did they realise that the captor was his second youngest son who had been taken into slavery. The Israelites remained connected with the Egyptian culture until it no longer served them, and Moses led them out of this culture into ‘the promised land’. This land was inhabited by the Canaanite peoples, and we read from scripture that it seems to have been the intention that the Canaanite people welcomed the Israelites and that the two cultures became assimilated. This did not happen, but the language of the two peoples was similar enough that when the Israelites were looking for an alphabet in which to write their spoken language, they turned to the Canaanite alphabet. Early languages were much simpler than modern languages. The entire meaning of a concept was carried in a single sound. Where is today we have a word such as water, consisting of two syllables it carries a single concept, in the ancient Hebrew the sound “M-a” carried the concept of water, but not only water; water carries within it the concept of birth, and the concept of birth carries within it the concept of bringing forth. Therefore this single letter “M-a”, consisting of the sound “m” ending in a short a-sound, carries a multitude of concepts that only become clear in the context in which the sound is used. When this letter then is used in combination with other letters to form a word, the word carries the concepts of each of the letters, and the translation of such a word cannot simply be another word, it becomes a sentence.
During this three Sunday programme, we began by looking at the languages in their written form. Hebrew today is a modern language that has little bearing on the ancient Hebrew, although it can trace its origins. Modern Hebrew is written in what is called Assyrian Square script. The script of the Canaanite people used by the ancient Israelites was later inherited by the Phoenicians giving rise to what we call the Phoenician Inherited script. There are great similarities between the two scripts. It is of interest to know about the Phoenician Inherited script because this was the script that the ancient Greeks turned to when choosing their written language and they inverted many of the letters in the Phoenician Inherited script when forming their own letters. For this reason, the ancient Greek script is referred to as the Greek Inverted script.
These ancient languages are viewed as consonantal languages, formed as they were under the strong influence of the Elohim, beings of form. Consonants give structure to a language. Vowels, on the other hand, add feeling to a language, and vowels have only come into use as the Archai, the beings of personality, have begun to exert an influence on the development of humanity. The ancient Canaanite language consisted of 22 consonants. A vowel sound was implied within these consonants, and three of the consonants could produce vowel sounds under very specific circumstances. This meant that the ancient Hebrew language essentially had four vowel sounds, a short “a” sound, a full “a” sound, a “i” sound and an “o” sound. We wrote out the a-b-c, the alphabets, of the ancient Hebrew language, the Phoenician Inherited, and the Assyrian Square. With each letter, or sound, we learned the meaning that was ascribed.
Finally, we looked at scripture texts from the beginning of Genesis and some prominent names to ascertain what these words were in the ancient Hebrew and how we can understand the meaning of these words when we translate them by translating each of the letters or sounds individually. Here is a brief example: the first letter of the alphabet is the aleph. In ancient Hebrew this pronounced as a short “a” sound, but implied in it was a consonantal “l” sound at the end. This “al” (which later changed to be being pronounced as “el”) had the meaning of “the Divine”, “the Almighty Infinite One”, it implied “first”, and when the Phoenicians inherited the script, under the influence of Taurus, it meant an ox head and therefore denoted strength. Were one to find two of these letters forming a word the meaning could be “God is first”, “God is strong”, “the first is strong”, “the strength of God”, “first of the Almighty”. This simple example shows how difficult it is to translate the ancient Hebrew language when it comes to translating the scriptures. We experimented for ourselves with a translation of the first seven words of genesis and discovered how many different sentences we could make up from the first word that today is pronounced as “Bereshit” and is translated as “in the beginning”, but could more correctly be translated as “in first breath of a beginning”. This process of translation opened for us a new understanding of what a single word like this holds hidden.
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