If you read the Old Testament, but not in its original Hebrew, you had a translation, most likely a translation of one or more others. Over time, these accumulated errors. Whether these were genuine mistakes or deliberate slants toward outlooks not in the original, whether the King James Bible or “modern” versions, they contain many inaccuracies, so that Scripture’s true meaning and intent were distorted. Some of these editions claim to be based on the Hebrew but translations are only as good as their translators, whose expertise in biblical Hebrew, which differs from that used in Israel today and by scholars and rabbis over the centuries, may leave much to be desired, for nearly all translators in the post-biblical periods relied on older interpretations of difficult or obscure words rather than do the research to uncover correct meanings. Scripture is also literature, with elements like character and plot that must be seen in context, not retroactively molded to reflect later sensibilities. Our translation is based on Forensic Linguistics, which endeavors to look at Scripture the way its first readers did, with their intuitive grasp of its vocabulary, grammar, context and cultural framework. This may differ from conventional renditions, perhaps jarring the sensibilities of those used to the traditional, cherished versions, but those were shaped by interpolations and conjectures stemming from ideologies markedly different from those of the Old Testament.
Our Prologue shows how different biblical narratives can be from the way commonly perceived. These disparities do not just arise in lengthy stories but even short prophetic or poetic passages. We cite an example of each. The first is an oft-quoted passage in Isaiah whose correct translation significantly affects the tenor of his message; the second is an even more egregious mistranslation of a verse in Psalms. Since a full analysis and supporting arguments require a lengthy digression, we put these in an Appendix. But if texts can be studied and explained properly, why do inaccurate translations persist? In a word – inertia. Once a version becomes “authorized”, it ossifies, so students do not pursue serious examinations. Compounding this is that biblical Hebrew ceased to be the everyday language of Jews soon after the Old Testament was canonized (perhaps even earlier). Variant translations became central documents of communities spread over a diaspora, further distorting Scriptural content and doctrine.
The Hebrew alphabet has 22 consonants but no vowels [a handful of letters can be vowel indicators]. Words are generally formed from three-letter roots, making for a language with a meager vocabulary. Exhaustive Hebrew concordances have fewer than 8,500 entries, a paltry number compared to modern languages (English, even without the technical and esoteric, has over 200,000 words). But this paucity is mitigated by a resourceful use of vowels mentally inserted, allowing diverse modulations. To draw an analogy, the English “root” B-R-D can be bread, bride, broad, bared, bird and more. These English words are unrelated but Hebrew words sharing a root have a common thread [not always true of two-letter “radicals”; most Hebraists believe these derive from three-letter roots but we are unsure what the dropped letters were or their placement, so two-letter homonyms may be unrelated]; context determines meaning, so what precedes or follows is crucial. Biblical Hebrew does not use synonyms; when words whose import seems close or similar share a passage, the text is signaling different meanings for them.
Next to vowels in importance, prefixes and suffixes modify gender, number and tense, the latter complicated by two forms – complete (“perfect”) and incomplete (“imperfect”). Along with the absence of a present tense infinitive of “to be” (technically the incomplete), these features are daunting even to scholars. A girl can say “I was in the store” or “I will be in the store” but not “I am in the store”; her mother must infer that A-NEE BA-CHA-NOOTH (I IN THE STORE) means she is there now.
Words based on the same root can have varied meanings. BA-YITH (HOUSE – root “Beth-Yud-Taph”) is any container, real or conceptual - BEITH A-BHOTH (HOUSE OF FATHERS - a clan, NUMBERS 1:2); BEITH SHI-MOOSH (HOUSE OF USAGE) - “restroom” [a modern euphemism]; BEITH LA-PA-ROH-KHETH - within the veil, EXODUS 26:33; BEITH KOR - an area expected to yield a "kor" of grain (MISHNA KILAYIM 2:9); BEITH LEH-CHEM (BETHLEHEM – “House of Bread”) - a town known for its market (JUDGES 17:7); BEITH EL (HOUSE OF [THE] LORD – GENESIS 28:19) or BEITH Y-H-W-H (HOUSE OF Y-H-W-H - “Temple” [EXODUS 23:19]). Abstract forms include BEI-THOH (HIS HOUSE – LEVITICUS 16:6), meaning “his family”, while BEITH DA-VID (HOUSE OF DAVID – ZACHARIAH 12:7) designated the royal family long after David had passed (this phrase was found in a paleo-Hebrew inscription). Letters used as prefixes or suffixes retain these intrinsic meanings. The prefix “Beth” means “in”, based on BA-YITH (HOUSE - the letter’s archaic ideogram), hence, the “b” in B’REI-SHITH (the first word in GENESIS) shows demarcated time, B’MAQ-LEE (WITH MY STAFF – GENESIS 32:11) held “in” the hand and B’TZOH-NEE (FOR YOUR FLOCKS - GENESIS 31:41) a preposition marking transfer of ownership “into” another’s domain. The letter “beth” retains its essential meaning, unlike the Greek “beta” (also from the Phoenician “Beth”), which has no meaning.
The text in parchment scrolls is divided into PAR-SHAs (paragraphs – pl. PAR-SHEE-YOHTH), each containing related events or themes. One with a new narrative or topic begins at the right margin (no indenting) with a minor or major separation at its end. A minor one is a space normally taken up by nine letters (not a strict rule). These spaces are always in the middle of a line; scribes adjust the thickness of the letters near a PAR-SHA’s end to ensure the space appears this way. After a minor separation, the next PAR-SHA starts (on the same line), retaining one or more elements or themes of the previous one. A group of PAR-SHAs separated by minor spaces constitute a meta-PARSHA. (The only exceptions are lyric sections, like the Song of the Sea (EXODUS 15), whose individual phrases are separated.) A major separation before the left margin marks the end of a PAR-SHA or meta-PARSHA; the next one begins at the right margin of the next line. There are no empty lines except when four lines separate books, like the interval between GENESIS and EXODUS. As with minor separations, scribes adjust the width of letters to ensure proper spacing.
Standard translations have the “six days” of creation as the first chapter of Genesis but those 31 verses comprise six PAR-SHAs, each ending with a major separation, as does Chapter 2, verses 1-3. It is clear from this (and their content - see Exposition) that 1:1 to 2:3 is one narrative constituting seven independent PAR-SHAs, not stages in a sequence. Some scholars lumped verse 4 of Chapter 2 with the opening creation saga. Had they examined a Torah scroll, they would have seen their error at once. Chapter 2, verse 4 follows a major separation to begin a PAR-SHA that extends to 3:15, followed by a minor separation and a one-verse PAR-SHA (v. 16). Another minor separation is followed by a PAR-SHA containing verses 17-21 and only then is there a major separation. 2:4 through 3:21 is one meta-PARSHA. Verses 22-24 of Chapter 3 begin the next meta-PAR-SHA. An accurate translation of any passage is impossible without a perusal of the scroll or a printed copy of the Hebrew text which recreates the PAR-SHA separations.
Biblical phraseology is very precise. If the Hebrew of a translated passage should be different than its text (more suitable vocabulary, phrasing, or more accurate), that translation is incorrect. Translators must be intimately familiar with the subtleties in Hebrew lexis, grammar and morphology. While some Aramaic translations interspersed paraphrases, the Greek works, including those on which the Septuagint was based, were meant to be literal but already contained errors resulting from the incongruence between many Hebrew and Greek words and concepts. A few later scholars recognized this crucial defect. Origen knew his sources were riddled with mistakes; unfortunately, during his lifetime (3rd century), Hebrew was confined to synagogues and ritual, no longer the Jews’ everyday language. Mishnaic Hebrew used for writings in his time by rabbis and scholars differed significantly from the biblical. Add its adulteration by foreign words [even the high court and legislature in Palestine was called by the Greek “Sanhedrin”] and Origen was left with a tiny group from whom to learn the language and its principles. His second obstacle was the growing hostility that had been separating Jews and Christians, which made it impossible to get the cooperation of those who had the erudition he needed. By the time Jerome wrote his translation a century later, the rupture between the two communities was total. Though he postponed completion of his Vulgate for a decade, hoping to find reliable sources, Jerome finally settled for the few who would aid him but, as they were on the fringes of their communities, their knowledge of Hebrew was superficial, a failing that, to this day, affects scholars who spend a few years studying and mistakenly conclude their limited facility with biblical Hebrew qualifies them to discourse on Scripture.
A professor of Spanish literature using English translations because he has no knowledge of Spanish or 16th century Iberian history and culture would be a laughing-stock. Yet, this is what nearly all ecclesiastics with no qualifications do when they lecture on the “Bible”. We have therefore included extensive detail and support, so that anyone who feels lacking can present these to one with the credentials for an informed critique - in fact, we look forward to their responses. At the same time, we cannot attribute our ignorance to the ancients. For example, most of what we know about ancient Egypt was unearthed in the last two centuries. This does not mean early readers of Scripture were equally ignorant; they probably had a very good grasp of its history and culture. Because later generations interpolated facts and ideas into what was to them an historical void does not mean their manufactured lore, which acquired the legitimacy and sanctity of tradition, supersedes facts recently exposed. This is most pertinent when Forensic Linguistics reveals details and insights which confirm conclusions that derive from rigorous methods and techniques.
Scripture is not a science textbook. It delineates duties and obligations, not rules for mastering nature; man was to use his intellect to discover those himself. Many of the devout believe that some scientific theories contradict holy writ; they brand these as heresy and devised alternative “scientific models” to reconcile modern findings with their dogmas. These intellectual schizophrenics readily accept doctors’ prescriptions, get on a jet or use a GPS locator yet deny that the same principles underlying these support conclusions of experts in history, geology, paleontology, archaeology and cosmology. Had they sufficient background in biblical Hebrew and the milieu in which Scripture emerged, they would know these texts do not conflict with the tenets of science or sound academic disciplines. On the other side of the divide, many scientists and scholars reject the Bible as naive and antiquated. We do not attribute hostile motives to this camp or a desire to subvert biblical doctrine (there are a few misguided evolutionary biologists). Their exposure to Scripture was probably minimal and superficial; they might be surprised to learn there is astonishing consistency between their beliefs and biblical accounts, a harmony that extends even to the “days” of creation and man's “descent”.
We use the Masoretic text (M’SOH-RAH - “handed over”) that emerged in 6th century Palestine and spread to the Diaspora. Anyone consulting a TaNaKh (Old Testament) in a synagogue, school, library or home anywhere in the world will find absolute uniformity. The scroll writings predate the Masoretes by more than a millennium (as seen from those in the Qumran caves), the text already standardized. It was used by the Aramaic translators and the Greek speakers who compiled the Septuagint, the source of all subsequent translations. Scholars found variant readings and posited others based on divergences in some Greek translations originating in Alexandria and in the Samaritan Pentateuch. These are beyond our scope; suffice it that the Jewish religious authorities of that time zealously purged their texts of sectarian readings from which these came. We do not dispute scholarly findings but do not take them into account. We avoid doctrines and ideas that postdate the Old Testament. Claims that later discoveries or developments can be “found” in Scripture require retroactive attribution of knowledge, concepts or beliefs the ancients did not have.
Much religious and theological dogma associated with Genesis are not there nor part of the intellectual matrix pervading biblical societies. These were later projected into the text, attained widespread popularity and may be taken for granted by readers as being Scriptural doctrine. We do not take issue with these beliefs or the possibility they may be grounded in passages elsewhere in the text. Our expositions, however, are based on rigorous and comprehensive examination of the Hebrew writings and the application of forensic linguistics to determine how Genesis was understood by the ancient Israelites. As many may find the absence of these concepts disquieting, we have inserted short paragraphs in our Exposition sections at points readers may expect to find these subjects discussed. These are marked off by dotted lines before and after them, as this one is.
The text is laid out in 3-line layers, each line reading from right to left as in Hebrew; the top line is the Hebrew, the middle one an English transliteration. Dashes separate syllables in words. The third line is an English translation, occasionally modified to reflect the intended meaning. Divine names remain transliterated. The words, from right to left, are in the order they would be spoken, so they read smoothly. Verses are grouped by theme or subject matter, each section paraphrased in English parlance by a Decompressed Translation and, if necessary, by paragraphs with pertinent information not in the text. These are followed by Expositions, with analysis and arguments supporting our interpretations and translation. Proof texts or sources are cited in place. We did not infest these pages with footnotes; our age of unlimited electronic access enables quick, easy verification. Much of what we say flies in the face of accepted, conventional interpretations. We offer meticulous proofs and arguments and urge readers to examine them objectively and honestly. The great 19th century Hasidic master, Rabbi Menachem Morgenstern of Kock, Poland, declared that, if it is wrong to deceive one's fellow, how much greater a wrong is it to deceive oneself. So we invite your serious study, questions and suggestions. If you do not feel competent to do this, consult those you think are. We welcome, and look forward to, any challenge.