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32 minutes ago, indagator said:

On the topic of an acrostic divine name in Esther, have you read this?

Yes. I read it soon after GA once asked a question here about that view of Esther and YHWH. I also have the following saved to my drive that I hadn't completed yet, but I have skimmed most of it and read the conclusions. It covers much of the same material as Turner, about the same length, but in slightly more depth, I think. So far, it seemed to answer the question in the same way, not definitively, but as definitive as necessary in a scholarly paper. 

  • Accident or Acronymy: The Tetragrammaton in the Masoretic Text of Esther
  • John M. Manguno Jr.
  • From Bibliotheca Sacra 171 (October - December 2014): 440-451

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8 hours ago, JW Insider said:

John M. Manguno Jr

Interesting discussion. Two statements stood out to me:

The first "there is no reason to “encode” the divine name." Obvious response to this one is "From whose standpoint?"

The second, (presumably from the author's standpoint):   "it is hoped that the evidence presented here will allow the reader to make an informed decision that results in dismissing belief that the author intentionally hid God’s name within the Hebrew text of Esther."  Now this is an obvious conclusion. if it is  believed that the author was solely human and, at most, whose inspiration was arising from some external creative impulse related to the subject matter and not in the sense conveyed by  the apostles Paul and Peter at 2 Tim3:16 and 2 Pet.1:21.

If we are to accept, however, the principle of divine inspiration in the sense (for example) of Paul's words at 2 Tim 3:16, then it is quite possible that the hiding of God's name within the Hebrew text of Esther took place without the awareness of the human author. One of those matters in which the reader is at liberty to use their own discernment it would seem.

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5 hours ago, Gone Away said:

The first "there is no reason to “encode” the divine name." Obvious response to this one is "From whose standpoint?"

So you are saying that God wanted to hide his name? For what reason would God want his name hidden?

Of course, in context, the author is saying that for code believers, there is a reason given for God to encode the divine name in Esther. Otherwise the book wouldn't contain any reference at all to YHWH. But for other books that already have YHWH in it the author says there is no reason [ever given, or even considered] to encode the divine name. No one thinks of explaining why 15 OTHER Bible books contain the YHWH acrostic, not just Esther.

For example, Esther has 10 chapters, and you could claim there are four of these are acrostics in 10 chapters, assuming you look in both directions using both initial letters and final letters. Yet, 1 Chronicles apparently has nine of these, more than twice as many. And 1 Chronicles also has a string of 10 chapters, like Esther, with 6 of these in those ten chapters alone. No one makes a big deal about these ones in 1 Chronicles, because there is no reason to.

To me this is like trying to find pictures of demons in Watchtower illustrations. The people who see them are sometimes people who desparately need to see them (apparently). Which also reminds me of a discussion I had with someone who truly believed in the "Bible Code." This is where people were running computer programs on the Bible text to show especially that if you lined up all the letters of the OT in a kind of 2D matrix of different line lengths, you could play a word search game like these ( 

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). The biggest thing for fundamentalists to find of course were the Hebrew letters for "Yeshua is God, Yehoshua is the Messiah, etc., to prove that Christ Jesus had been prophesied. Some people were also 'going nuts' finding "Rabin Assassination," and dozens of other things.

It was easy to prove mathematically (statistically) by letter frequency and distribution that one should also be able to find a certain number of times where the letters would also align to say "Satan is God" or "Paul is Dead" (backwards of course). Proving all these things meant nothing to the person I was talking to, until her pastor told her it was wrong. Similarly, the article on Esther shows that "SATAN" is also found in Esther's acrostics, not just YHWH.

Of course, I'm not claiming the "acrostics" aren't there, but I'm in the camp that believes they don't mean anything. They are just as coincidental in Esther as they are in 1 Chronicles. If they are not coincidental, I also would not have put it past the Masoretes to play with the word order to get a few extra acrostics in Esther that weren't there in the natural text. After all, the Masoretes were willing to change God's curses to God's blessings. Even a much earlier translator/reviser who worked on replacements for the LXX changed wording to make God's "human-sounding" traits disappear. 

There are a few other problems, the most important to me is that it would make the wisdom of God more accessible to the wise and clever. A class of scribes who were more privileged and literate would have a distinct advantage over the masses of people who came to listen to the Bible being read to them. If a scribe or priest made a claim to the unlettered classes about this wonderful, surprising, happifying find (as FWFwould  refer to a numerical coincidence) they would just have to take their word for it.

And of course, the apparent randomness and mundane nature of the places where these acrostics are found creates another level of cleverness to try to explain them. "Esther asked a couple of bad people to come here." Why would that be a place on which to place God's name?

Here are the places in Esther, as described in the NWT footnotes. I will highlight the words from the text where YHWH is supposedly applicable:

*** Rbi8 Esther 1:20 ***

  • "It . . . and all the wives themselves will give.” Hiʼ Wekhol-Han·na·shimʹ Yit·tenuʹ (Heb.) appears to be a reverse acrostic of the Tetragrammaton, יהוה (YHWH). Three ancient Heb. mss are known that give the letters of the divine name here in acrostic in majuscule letters, as follows: היא וכל־הנשים יתנו. This is the first of four such acrostics of the name “Jehovah,” and the Masorah in a rubric, or in red letters, calls attention to this.

*** Rbi8 Esther 5:4 ***

  • “Let the king with Haman come today.” This appears to be the second acrostic of the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, in Esther. Ya·vohʼʹ Ham·meʹlekh Weha·manʹ Hai·yohmʹ, in Heb. Three ancient Heb. mss are known that give the Heb. letters of the divine name, יהוה (YHWH), in acrostic in majuscule letters, as follows: יבוא המלך והמן היום. The Masorah in a rubric, or in red letters, calls attention to this. See 1:20 ftn.

*** Rbi8 Esther 5:13 ***

  • “But all this—none of it suits me.” Heb., wekhol-zeHʹ ʼeh·nenʹnU sho·weHʹ lI. Here U corresponds to W and I corresponds to Y. This appears to be the third acrostic of the Tetragrammaton, יהוה (YHWH), in Esther. Three ancient Heb. mss are known that give the Heb. letters of the divine name, יהוה, here spelled backward, in acrostic in majuscule letters, as follows: וכל־זה איננו שוה לי. The Masorah in a rubric, or in red letters, calls attention to this. See vs 4 and 1:20 ftns.

*** Rbi8 Esther 7:7 ***

  • “That bad had been determined against him.” In this acrostic kI-khol·thaHʹ ʼe·laVʹ ha·ra·ʽaHʹ (Heb.), the I corresponds to Y and the V corresponds to W. This appears to be the fourth acrostic of the divine name, יהוה (YHWH), in Esther. It is formed by the final letters of the four words, read from right to left in Heb., as follows: כי־כלתה אליו הרעה.

None of these phrases are especially upbuilding or "godly" in any way.

Not only that, but it gives what seems to be undue importance to the Hebrew language. If it were so important, why does the Bible itself seem to transition over to Aramaic in those books written closer to the time when Aramaic was becoming more ubiquitous. And evidently some additions to older books, too: Genesis, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra.

It's also just playing with Hebrew usage that had changed over time with the utilization of some of these letters as vowels in certain places, as consonants in other places, and prefixes in others. Note that "VAV" can be the U sound, or the O sound, or the V/W sound. When a "VAV" is placed in front of the word "all" in one place, it's attached as a kind of prefix to mean "and." So it's not even the more important word "all" but a Hebrew construct that is written as AND-ALL where the word "all" doesn't even count as a word in these acrostics. Similar things could be said for the "H" when used as a "prefix" it just means "THE" ["Ha"].

So a sentence that says "Let the King with Haman come today" is literally really just "LET-COME THE-KING AND-HAMAN THE-DAY. In the acrostic, the only words that count are LET[come], THE, AND, THE. Yet the most significant words are effectively skipped and worthless. The words KING, HAMAN and DAY are insignificant and not part of the acrostic due to the common way "AND" and "THE" are prefixed to a word. [HA can also mean "THIS" as the 'definite article' so that "this day" is TO-DAY.]  "YOD" is a common verb modifier prefix, too. In large part, it's because the word "THE" and "AND" are so common that there are so many of these acrostics.

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Ivan Panin)

16 hours ago, JW Insider said:

So you are saying that God wanted to hide his name?

Obviously not, because it isn't. The suggestion regarding these "acrostics" found in the book of Esther has been around a lot longer than any of us, and any associated with modern day Bible Students and the like as is thoroughly documented in the linked .pdfs.

Previous discussion on the extremes gone to by some on Bible "coding" (Ivan Panin), or God's name searching (the notion that the Tetragrammaton appears in the DNA code), has shown that the basic "crankiness" exemplified in beliefs such as "pyramidology" is alive and well. Meeting these ideas whilst engaging in field ministry recently underscores this.

My suggestion is based on an objection to what I consider to be an academic smugness I find in many similarly detailed discussions. Whilst the research is admirable, as is the painstaking reasoning demonstrated in these documents, there is a tendency to draw conclusions that  are really a reflection of opinion.

The latter statement I quoted regarding the intention of the human author of the book of Esther is an example of this.

We can only guess at the author's  intention, (a very well educated guess perhaps, but nevertheless, a guess). The author of Esther may well have had no idea at all that the acrostics in question appeared in the writings. This idea is lost in the discussion on (limited despite detailed) use of language at the time of writing. And there is no mention at all of any suggestion that Jehovah Himself (the real author of the work) is quite capable of using acrostics of His own name wherever He chooses to do in His word, an observation I am afraid not subject to contradiction as it rests in the mind of the beholder. As stated, it remains that this matter is one of those  in which the reader is at liberty to use their own discernment.

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Is it really so important that God's name be or not be a certain biblical book so that one must go ahunting for its supposed presence in acrostics? It's nowhere in Ecclesiastes. Or Philippians, 1 Timothy, or the epistles of John. In the end isn't its presence or absence in any book all part of Jehovah's will?

All sorts of unexpected things occur when it comes to the divine name. For example, its only supposed appearance in the Song of Sol. is Jah (8:6), and that is textually problematic. It's common in the prologue or introductory material of Job and then relatively common at the end, but extremely skimpy in the bulk of the book, the middle section, the poetic dialogue among the book's major players. In Daniel it's limited to chapter 9, save one place in the book's beginning, which again is textually problematic. On the other hand, many OT books contain the name quite commonly throughout.

When Fred Franz had to decide which passages in the NT likely had the name originally in them, he wound up being quite conservative, with only 237 places, far less than any "average number" in a comparable size of material that one could obtain by looking at its occurrence in the Hebrew Bible. We find NT writers like Luke using one of several established surrogates for the name, "Heaven," at Luke 15:18 and 21. Most likely the written source he employed for the prodigal son parable had that use of the surrogate, and Luke had no qualms about reproducing what he found in his source. Elsewhere in his gospel Luke uses heaven as a place, not as a divine name surrogate like the writers of 1 and 2 Maccabees, for example, did, and as we see in the prodigal son parable.

I am reminded of a video that has appeared several times in organizational "history segments" since the Society has switched over so heavily to the video format. I'm not sure, but I think it is Bro. George Couch. In it he continually speaks of "the Lord" doing this and wanting that. Obviously he is referring to Jehovah, yet he does not use his name often, preferring "the Lord," not all that dissimilar to Christendom’s usage. Just as obvious is the fact that Bro. Couch (if my ID is correct) was a faithful servant of the almighty Jehovah in modern times. He simply had a preference for one particular title when referring to him. Since that can be the case in modern times, why not in antiquity?

If we take the, again, relatively conservative usage of Jehovah in the NT books as represented by the NWT, we would have to admit that use of the name had gone down in frequency when compared to how, for example, David, Ezekiel, or Isaiah used it.

Given all this, I ask again, is it really necessary to enter into acrostics or "encoding" or "decoding" supposed instances of the name? Wouldn't it be wiser to gain a full knowledge of the sources that are definite and available, like Shaw's book relates? I realize that mastery of that volume requires real effort, but the reward is far greater than—no offense to anyone—dabbling in the dubious question of divine name acrostics.

If you want something substantial to think about, try this:


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8 hours ago, indagator said:

If you want something substantial to think about, try this:

It's all Greek onomastica to me.

The discussion about Esther should have been done in a different thread so as not to divert from the Shaw topic. There is a relationship to the questions about the Divine Name, of course. Esther was one of the later books to be added to the canon, and it should be looked at as a potential book that's on the cusp of those that might include/withhold the Divine Name.

I once heard that the Qumram texts might have been a depository for old scrolls that needed either safekeeping or even replacing after being overused or worn out. We have evidence from a nearby time period that there was a question about destroying scrolls by fire, and some Jewish thought at the time was that, even if the scrolls were from "apostates" that the divine name should be cut out first. All the books of the Hebrew Bible were partially represented at Qumram except Esther.

So there! Definitive proof that Esther did not contain the Divine Name. [Just kidding.]

What is true, of course, is that the importance and care taken with respect to the Divine Name would mean that any Jewish scribe or Jewish reader would quickly notice its presence and absence. Those looking to decide about canonicity would notice. Should note, too, that the rabbis and scribes of old (pre-Masorete) played several other word and letter games with the text. Not all of them caught on. There are people today who still waste their time counting the letters of the English Bibles to find the middle verse of the NT or OT, or OT+NT, or the middle letter, or the 666th verse. If you read through old rabbinical commentaries, you see it's NOT just numerologists and cabalistic gematriasts, but well-known and well-respected rabbis doing things like this. I just looked up "cabalistic" in Google and this [below] came up next to the top. But even without gematria, you will still see discussions of the meaning of each letter, and attempts to find significance in alternate spellings of names, etc:

    Hello guest!

    Hello guest!
    Hello guest!
    Hello guest!
 - 1994 - ?
    Hello guest!
 - ?
    Hello guest!
the cabalistic method of explaining the Hebrew Scriptures by means of the cryptographic significance of the words. Thus, the first word of Genesis in Hebrew, meaning "in the beginning," has the numerical value 913, which is the same as that ...

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5 hours ago, indagator said:

Is it really so important that God's name be or not be a certain biblical book so that one must go ahunting for its supposed presence in acrostics?

For some, maybe, but as pointed out, the suggestions made by Masoretes are ancient. Others today may want to dispute and search further, but for me it is not a reasonable quest. In fact is has a resemblance to Holy Grailism to my mind.

The Shaw book sounds interesting but I can't access it anywhere so will observe from the sidelines. ?


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JWI, such tangents are common and expected in forums like this one. It's all part of the forum experience. Your humor is appreciated. Yes, plenty of people have historically been sidetracked by numbers, gematria, etc.

GA, "The Shaw book sounds interesting but I can't access it anywhere." It's available from the publisher for $81 US:

    Hello guest!

or cheaper from Amazon, $57.55:

    Hello guest!

It's money well spent. Happy reading.

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On 8/6/2018 at 12:18 PM, indagator said:

Happy reading.

It's exciting to see so much detail that turns out to be important. I had skimmed some of this before, but missed its relevance, because I had purposely dismissed it as unimportant. To me this info on

    Hello guest!
was like those books on the DSS (Qumram texts) that pushed so hard to make them relevant to early Christianity, John the Baptist, etc. I took the lot with a grain of salt. (Yes, pun intended, sorry!) But I realize that there really is a lot to learn even from those books if we can separate the wheat from the chaff.

Also, I was on a trek last year to get some well-respected references on early Christian physical artifacts and had a museum contact give me some good leads. Turns out Shaw's book was among the recommendations, although I was looking into several other points too. While just last week getting a copy of Shaw's book I ended up picking up some other books that I had delayed looking at due to price. But some of these are available only at libraries, and I am trying to work through a few things at once here, as I only visit the library once a week for two hours max.

So I hope you will stick around and be patient with me. I'm only about 25% through Shaw, but I'll definitely keep at it. I'm guessing you've also taken an interest in some of the other issues I'm looking into. So I hope you'll stick around for some other topics too.

I have just read pages 105 - 130 of this paper linked below and found its organized approach valuable. The main point in earlier pages and in the conclusion deal with the skepticism over the traditional/Biblical etymology, but the study leads to some good evidence about various possibilities of pronunciation and spelling. I know that Shaw already covers some of this, too. But I like the organized tables and charts. I found it by reading some more of Didier Fontaine's blog. I had seen areopage links in many places before but hadn't realized it was all him.

    Hello guest!

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That dissertation has been revised as a book now with improvements made and more refs. to Shaw's work:

    Hello guest!

Probably best to stick with the updated edition. I've read it. It's good on certain points but does not have the scope or time frame of Shaw's book. The latter is far more on-topic for Jehovah's servants today.


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      Closing Video: Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Hebrew Congregations, Israel

      Full Length 1:05:37 mins

      *Full length time includes intermediary comments

    • By The Librarian
      Examining the rules of pronunciation and grammar as it applies to the name יהוה.

      Addendum #1: Another passage that is frequently used in the discussion of the name YHWH is "call upon his name" as can be seen in Psalm 105:1. The Hebrew word translated as "call" is קרא (QRA), which can mean "call," but is the same word meaning "meet." And as discussed in the video, the word "name" can mean "character," so the phrase "call upon his name," can also mean "meet with his character." Also note that the phrase following this in Psalm 105:1 is "make known his deeds among the people." This is a parallel (a common form of Hebrew poetry found throughout Psalms) with "meet with his character," much more so than "call upon his name."

      Addendum #2: DasWORTanDICH called me on my claim that the character of YHWH can be summed up with the word "unity" (Good job DasWORTanDICH) In Zech 14:9, the end of the verse literally reads "and his name/character is one." The Hebrew for "one" more literally means "unit" or "unity." Throughout the Bible we see God working in unity with himself, even when his actions are in opposition to each other. For instance, in Genesis 1 we see God "creating," but in Genesis 6 we see God "destroying." Two opposites, but working together in unity to bring about order. In the desert God is seen as a cloud by day (bringing coolness and shade), but at night a cloud by fire (bringing heat and light). These two manifestations are in opposition to each other, but work together to protect the people.
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