Earlier this year, I spent a considerable amount of time with my team producing a video titled, “The Real Truth About the Paleo Hebrew Script.” The video, using lots of illustrations and quotes, makes one simple point: The ancient Hebrew script (called Paleo Hebrew) which was used in writing the earliest books of the Bible is simply an alphabet and has no pictographic meaning.
That was it.
Yet the reaction to this video from critics – and I mean professing Bible-believers – has been almost hysterical. They are wedded to the notion that the letters of the Hebrew Bible still retain a pictographic meaning, hence allowing them to read all kinds of extravagant (and totally unwarranted) meanings into the biblical text.
From a scholarly viewpoint, our video says absolutely nothing controversial or debatable. Any linguist familiar with the material knows that by the time a written language develops into an alphabet, it is no longer pictographical. In other words, the letters no longer stand for pictures. They only stand for sounds. Simple.
We all know that the ancient Hebrew script (which was most likely borrowed from the ancient Phoenicians), derived its initial forms from pictures. So, for example, the letter Beth (pronounced beyt), which represents the sound b, came from a picture looking like a house. But as a letter, it no represents a “house” but rather a sound.
Again, it’s that simple.
That’s why written scripts using pictographs (like the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs or classical Chinese) require thousands of symbols. After all, if you want to convey the idea that a man walked into town to buy a chicken to cook for his family, you need pictures for each of these concepts: Man; walk; town; buy; chicken; cook; family. (For an example of Egyptian pictographs, see here.)
The genius of the alphabet was to isolate the most basic sounds used in a language (normally, between 20-30) and to find single symbols (the letters of the alphabet) to convey these sounds.
Interestingly, the ancient Greeks also borrowed the ancient Phoenician alphabet, which was subsequently borrowed by the Romans, ultimately used in our English alphabet. So, the ancient Phoenician-Hebrew letter “Beth” is actually our English letter B, and its rounded form resembles its ancient form depicting a house.
But, just as the ancient Hebrew letter Beth stood for b rather than “house,” it’s the same with our English letter B. It doesn’t mean “house”; it means the sound b.
The reality is that the words of the Bible, as written, are filled with spiritual treasures and glorious mysteries, enough to keep us learning and thinking and wondering and worshiping for our entire lifetimes (and beyond).
But this is not enough for those who hold to secret pictographic meanings. Each letter, they believe, also stands for a picture, and so, beneath the plain sense of the Hebrew text, there is an alleged hidden meaning, based on just 22 (!) pictures (equaling the number of Hebrew letters), which then can be interpreted in various mystical ways.
Talk about reading whatever you want into the Bible. Talk about the sky is the limit.
What kind of responses have we received to this video (which, again, from a scholarly viewpoint that absolutely nothing debatable)?
Here’s a sampling of the negative responses:
“Dr. Brown is an Obnoxious idiot!”
“Duuude, u are keeping people in the old wine according to the fleshy keeping of the carnal torah.”
“You’re one crazy man. You’re the new Joseph Smith of this era. All of your understanding comes from the dunkeld [???] gate.”
“What I am seeing is you are making language dry and dead. You may have a degree but just because someone has a degree doesn’t mean they know it all.”
“i could tell he was lying in the first 10 seconds.”
“Watch out people’s he’s being used by gadreel [???] to try to get us to drop the truth. I call fake on this man.”
“Everything he explained here were not from his understanding. They were all hearsay and someone else understanding. no truth from him at all.” (This was obviously a response to me quoting other scholars to support the facts.)
“The only one that is bogus is you. :)”
“You’re a gentile. How would I know what you’re saying is true?” (So, I’m a Gentile now, too!)
“Another paid liar.”
“Your opinion is genocide to people.”
“YaHuWaH [a mistaken version of God’s name] obviously confounds the wise with the simple things of the Earth.”
“Wow….jealousy needs to be addressed! Repent frim your pride.”
“You should really think about making some more apologies sir….to Yahweh first for bashing on something He absolutely ordained. You obviously have no idea what you are talking about and you say in your own words that YOU want to EXPLAIN your own views as truth.”
“Well, all I can say is that crap do comes [sic] out of the mouth of those who have degrees too.”
And on and on it goes.
Of course, we know that, eventually, truth always triumphs and error is exposed (see 2 Corinthians 13:8). But it’s a bit frustrating (and painful) to see so many people preferring fantasy to facts and made-up meanings to Bible basics.
Unfortunately, there will always be an audience for deception. For my part, I’ll continue to sound the alarm.