elohim, the fire god

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by Deacon, Sep 14, 2009.

  1. Deacon

    Deacon
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    there are no capitals in biblical hebrew.
    this presents a problem with the word "elohim" because in english we translate our "god's" name with a capital letter.

    in the beginning <elohim> created…

    additionally “elohim” is a plural noun translated in a singular form.

    elohim can be translated as god, gods, or God;
    the context usually determines the form that is used.

    but in 1 kings 18:24 there is some ambiguity.
    where should we capitalize the word elohim?

    if elijah were to have written the verse in english, how would he have written it?

    And you call upon the name of <‘your’ elohim>,
    and I will call upon the name of YHWH,
    and <‘the’ elohim> who answers by fire,
    he is <[the] elohim>.”
    And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.”

    1 kings 18:24

    for your responses, call the first instance of its use in the verse #1
    the second instance #2
    and the third instance #3.

    along with your answers provide a reason for your response.

    rob
     
    #1 Deacon, Sep 14, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 14, 2009
  2. Deacon

    Deacon
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    correction
     
  3. Deacon

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    In the past John of Japan has written of the difficulties he has had translating the NT into Japanese because of its different forms of politeness, an aspect of language not found in Greek. What a predicament!

    Most modern languages have a similar but not quite so difficult problem.
    For even the capitalization of words is something that must be added to Scriptures by the necessity rules of modern grammar.

    Here are four different versions and how they attempt to translate 1 Kings 18:24.

    Then you call on the name of your god
    and I will call on the name of the LORD;
    the god who answers by fire is indeed God.”
    All the people answered, “Well spoken!”

    1 Kings 18:24 NRSV

    And you call upon the name of your god,
    and I will call upon the name of the LORD,
    and the God who answers by fire, he is God.”
    And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.”

    1 Kings 18:24 ESV

    Then you call on the name of your god,
    and I will call on the name of Yahweh.
    The God who answers with fire, He is God.”
    All the people answered, “That ⌊sounds⌋ good.”

    1 Kings 18:24 HCSB

    Then you pray to your gods
    and I’ll pray to GOD.
    The god who answers with fire will prove to be, in fact, God.”
    All the people agreed: “A good plan—do it!”

    1 Kings 18:24 The Message

    Is the difference important?
    Does the difference between versions change its meaning?

    Rob
     
  4. franklinmonroe

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    In the first instance of elohiym I could recommend "gods" (plural), since these pagans held to false polytheism. For the second and third instance I would suggest "God" (capitalzed, singular) because only a true active (living) deity can respond, and in context we know this deity can only be Yahweh. It might look something like this --
    Then you prophets of Baal will call out in the name of your gods,
    and I, Elijah, will call out in the name of Yahweh.
    He will be affirmed The God, the God who responds with flames.
    The onlookers testified, "[These are] acceptable terms!" ​
     
  5. Deacon

    Deacon
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    Thanks, here’s my take:

    1. “your god”1 Kings 18 is a struggle between Baal and Yahweh.

    2. “the god who answers by fire” – I like the second one uncapitalized because Elijah is taunting the prophets.

    3. “He is God” – The third instance is the God of power, the true God… be that who it may. Elijah had faith in Yahweh.

    You call on the name of your god and I’ll call on the name of Yahweh
    The god who answers by fire, He is the God.
    And all the people answered saying, “Good test.”

    Rob
     
  6. franklinmonroe

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    I undestand you, Deacon. The familiar contemporary interpretation seems to be that Elijah was taunting the false prophets. However, as I was looking at these verses it seemed possible to me that at this point Elijah was being quite serious.

    The Hebrew construction actually has your 'second' (as in many English translations) elohiym last. Therefore, in my rendering I kept the original order of the two phrases, although I moved the "He" forward) --
    He [Yahweh] will be affirmed The God, the God who responds with flames. ​
    I wonder if Elijah was denying the 'possibility' that their "god/s" could respond here, and that he was confirming his belief that Yahweh was "The God" and the only deity that could bring down fire. Maybe not? It was an interesting thought anyway.
     
    #6 franklinmonroe, Sep 24, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 24, 2009
  7. franklinmonroe

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    Of course, this issue of translating elohiym as "God", "god", or "gods" occurs in the Bible as early as Genesis 3:5 --
    For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (KJV)

    For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (NKJV)
    How would "and ye shall be as gods" be understood by Eve? What "gods" would she or Adam have identified with?
     
    #7 franklinmonroe, Sep 24, 2009
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