Barney the Dinosaur is the Antichrist, not President Obama

Many readers will recall my debunking of the ridiculous and hopelessly uninformed evangelical YouTube mythology about the Bible revealing how President Obama is the Antichrist. Now I have irrefutable proof that I was right – using math! (I’ll wait a second while you become mesmerized . . . okay).

Here it is — proof that Barney the purple dinosaur is the Antichrist, Satan incarnated, not President Obama.

barneysatan

No word yet on whether or not World Net Daily will carry this.

Hey, it’s the same logic — and method — that is behind Bible codes.

Thanks to Scotteriology for this valuable research.

 

 

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Pulpit PaleoBabble of 2009 Rises Again: Biblical Ignorance, President Obama, and the Antichrist

Another term, another round of biblical ignorance.

I was treated this morning to an email that asked my opinion of this link. Another pseudo-Bible “student” passing around the idea that the Bible names Barack Obama as the Antichrist. This monument to interpretive incoherence was the result of a viral YouTube video (and where else would we look for sound biblical scholarship than YouTube?) that first surfaced back in 2009. I blogged about it here on PaleoBabble. I’d invite new readers to have a look and then decide if they should laugh or cry.

Let me add one footnote to this tale of biblical illiteracy. Back in 2009 this “story” was birthed by World Net Daily (WND). Here is where that story lives. To their credit, WND published my rebuttal. However, that can only be found with Google or some other search engine. That is, WND buried it. Check out the original WND story link above — you won’t find my rebuttal linked on the story page (at least at the time of this post!), so WND readers would never know the whole idea is hermeneutical garbage. But there are plenty of other links surrounding the original article selling prophecy books of equal value. I’ve complained about the pseudo-archaeology pimps in the popular media on this blog plenty of times, but you all need to know that journalistic prostitution of the Bible for page views is alive and well, too.

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666 PaleoBabble

Someone kindly brought this piece of paleobabble to my attention recently.  The site argues that certain Arabic letters/symbols visually resemble the Greek text of “666″ in the book of Revelation. More accurately, the Arabic allegedly resembles the common Greek New Testament manuscript abbreviation for “666″ (the number is abbreviated to correspond to the numbers “six hundred” – “sixty” – and “six”).  Here’s a picture that explains the claim (Maybe it’s just me, but I only see a visual similarity for ONE (the blue line) of the three letters):

Some observations:

1. Arabic as we know it (and as this claim presents it) wasn’t a language until somewhere around the 4th century A.D. — 300 years after Revelation was written.

2. Literary Arabic of the kind this visual represents was even later – around the 7th century A.D.

3. The third letter (the numeral “6″) in the “Codex Vaticanus” manuscript image would likely not have been written that way originally. In earlier manuscripts, such as the papyri, the shape is different. Below is a picture of one of the few papyri of a portion of the book of Revelation that has survived.  It is P115 and dates to 225-275 A.D.  It has the passage that gives the number of the beast — except this is the famous example that has “616″ instead of “666″ (the red arrow points to the number).  That difference doesn’t matter for us, since the last number/letter is “6″:

Below is also a closeup with the Vaticanus “6″ inserted for comparison:

Sorry boys and girls. Just more nonsense . . . er, paleobabble. Believing that the number of the beast points to a Muslim antichrist because of these Arabic letter/symbol shapes requires (among other things) believing that the writer of Revelation, writing in Greek, to be thinking the meaning of his Greek letters was to be found in letter shapes of a literary language that didn’t yet exist. Ridiculous. But fun.

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Pulpit PaleoBabble Follow-Up

My thanks to Mark Goodacre for both the link and this follow-up to the nutty “666 in the NIV.”  Turns out that there’s not even 666 verses in the NIV if you actually look at the certain versification items — the NIV doesn’t include other verses in Mark, so it cannot have 666.  Bummer.

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Now Here’s a Rare Discovery

Believe it or not, sometimes the media gets something about ancient texts right. My friend Mark Goodacre (New Testament professor at Duke) posted this note (with video) about a good (!) BBC treatment of the number 666/616 in the book of Revelation. Thanks to Mark for this one!

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More Pulpit PaleoBabble: President Obama is the Antichrist!

A recent World Net Daily Exclusive brought attention to a viral video that attempts to persuade viewers that there is a cryptic reference to President Barack Obama’s name in Luke 10:18 and Isaiah 14:12. The creator of the video understands these passages to refer to the antichrist, and so viewers are left to connect the dots between Barack Obama and the great satanic enemy of the biblical end times. Do the arguments of the video have any merit? The short answer is no, and anyone with an interest in handling the biblical text responsibly should dismiss the video’s claims without hesitation. The arguments of this video would be laughed aside by anyone with competence in the ancient biblical languages. Anyone with a solid grasp of the English Bible would see other logical problems pretty quickly.

Because the subject matter is sensitive and my dismissal so categorical, readers need to know where I’m coming from. I work as the Academic Editor for Bible Study Magazine and Logos Bible Software, the leader in producing databases for the study of the Bible in its original languages, as well as digital tools and books for studying the Bible. Before coming to Logos, I devoted nearly 20 years to the formal study of biblical Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, and a half dozen more ancient languages on the way to my PhD in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Studies. I’m therefore sympathetic to people who want to read the Bible with more discernment and comprehension, and for those who are in vocational ministry. I’m also no fan of Barack Obama. While President Obama has made it clear in one of his biographical memoirs, Dreams of My Father, that he is an African colonialist Marxist, that doesn’t make him the antichrist. Neither does the Bible.

The first error on the part of the video’s speaker is trivial, but it shows the propensity of the speaker to inject details into the biblical text that are actually not there. The speaker presumes that Jesus originally spoke Luke 10:18 in Aramaic. We don’t actually know that. Yes, Aramaic was the common language among Jews of first century Palestine, but Jesus and the disciples were at least bilingual (speaking Greek as well, the common tongue of the eastern Mediterranean at the time, much like English is today.  Jesus was also trilingual (he knew Hebrew well enough to quote the Hebrew Masoretic text on occasion). But this mistaken assumption is the least of the speaker’s problems. The arguments that follow demonstrate that the speaker has no knowledge of the biblical languages at even a beginner’s level.

Amazingly, the speaker doesn’t realize that Hebrew and Aramaic are not the same language. In a textbook example of why YouTube enthusiasts should never assume it to be a source of academically reliable content, the speaker says Aramaic is “the most ancient form of Hebrew.” Aramaic is not Hebrew. It’s, well, Aramaic. Perhaps the speaker was thinking of the fact that Aramaic and Hebrew use the same script (letter style). If so, it should be self evident that just because two (or more) languages might use the same script (font, in our modern parlance) does not mean they are the same language! For example, Spanish and English use the same letters or script, but they are not the same language. Hebrew adopted the Aramaic script (the so-called “block” letter script still used today) after it went into exile in Babylon in the sixth century BC (after Aramaic had earlier displaced Akkadian / Assyrian as the dominant language of Mesopotamia). Aramaic and Hebrew are part of the same language class and sub-class. A quick use of Wikipedia (no graduate degree is required for this sort of fact-checking) would have informed the speaker of that.

Some readers might be thinking that this oversight is forgivable, and that perhaps the speaker still knows his Hebrew well enough to support his claims. That isn’t the case. In what follows he shows that he doesn’t have a capable grasp of even the Hebrew alphabet.

Using Strong’s Concordance and its dictionary, familiar tools for many readers, the speaker asserts that Jesus would have uttered the words of Luke 10:18 “in Hebrew” and then goes on to focus on the words for “lightning” and “heights”/”heavens”. The word for “lightning” in Hebrew, we are told, is “barawk,” sounding suspiciously like the president’s name (Barack). Here’s where knowledge of the alphabet and what Strong’s English letter spelling is for would have kept the speaker from embarrassment. The English spelling of Barack Obama’s first name ends with “ck”. This is the way English letters account for the foreign Semitic letter “k” (kaph in Hebrew; kaf in Arabic). This means that the consonants in “Barack” are b-r-k. Unfortunately, the word for “lightning” in Hebrew isn’t spelled with the consonants b-r-k (Hebrew originally had no vowels, so it’s the consonants that matter here). Rather, it is spelled b-r-q. In Hebrew (and Arabic) “k” and “q” are two entirely different letters, thought they sort of sound the same, just as in English. The root consonants b-r-k mean “blessing” as a noun, “blessed” as an adjective, and “to bless” when a verb form is in view. “Barack” in Arabic (or Hebrew) means “blessing,” not “lightning.”  This alone severs the connection the speaker in the video seeks to make.

By way of illustration, here are the two words and their respective dictionary entries from William Holladay’s Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon: It is crucial to take note that these words have different final letters (Hebrew is read right-to-left). I’ve noted the confused letters in respective colors, along with the meanings of the words to show that the speaker is giving his listeners misinformed nonsense. “Lightning” in Hebrew is b-r-q. The letter “q” is not the letter “k”, in English or Hebrew. They must not be treated as though they are.

That Barack Obama’s first name means “blessing” (and not “lightning”) in Arabic has been noted many times. Here’s one example. But why, then, is the Hebrew word for “lightning” spelled out in Strong’s dictionary as “barawk” with a “k” at the end? The reason is that Strong’s dictionary was not aiming to give users a correct transliteration of the word. Transliteration is the practice of matching letter-for-letter equivalents between a language that uses English letters and a language that uses characters, like Hebrew, Arabic, Sanskrit, or Chinese.  Strong was not giving a transliteration, but was instead aiming to give a rough approximation of what a Hebrew word sounds like, regardless of whether it reproduces the letter characters with precise accuracy (note that in “barawk” there is no “w” consonant; it’s just there for pronunciation help). Unfortunately, the speaker was using an old, outdated online version of Strong’s. In the new revised edition, the editors added correct transliteration of all the consonants alongside the older pronunciation help. Below is an image of the entry for b-r-q (“lightning”; Strong’s number 1299 as in the video) from the digital version of Strong’s we produce at Logos.

Some readers may still wonder if it is permissible to take the letters b-r-k from “Barack” and treat them as though they can still match b-r-q (“lightning”). After all, “k” and “q” do sound alike. They may sound alike to us, but native speakers of Hebrew and Arabic distinguish them with ease, mainly because they know their own vocabulary. For those who don’t have this kind of native facility in Hebrew or Arabic, there are lexicons, specialized dictionaries of a given collection of literature.  The industry-standard tool for all biblical Hebrew scholarship is the multi-volume Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT). Resources like HALOT, unlike English-based resources like Strong’s dictionary typically provide the user with the equivalent term in a range of Semitic languages. HALOT gives us the Arabic word that corresponds to Hebrew b-r-q (“lightning”), along with other languages like Old South Arabian, Egyptian Aramaic, Ugaritic, Jewish Aramaic, etc. Below are images from my electronic version of HALOT to show that the “q” and “k” distinction is secure and unimpeachable. There are entries for both the Hebrew word b-r-q (“lightning”) and b-r-k (“blessing”/”bless”). Arabic and Hebrew are consistent here:

According to the video, the antichrist’s last name can be derived from Isaiah 14:12-19. Isaiah 14 is a mocking taunt against the king of Babylon. The prophet uses an ancient story of cosmic rebellion to cast the king as unspeakably proud. The villain in that ancient story is considered by many to be Satan (though the word “satan” does not appear in Isaiah 14). This rebel sought to attain a status higher than God, desiring to ascend above the “heights” of the clouds and be like the Most High. The speaker on the video informs us that the word for “heights” here is bamah. The hearer is naturally supposed to think “Obama” at the sound of that word.

The speaker’s ignorance of Hebrew is again apparent in Isaiah 14 with respect to the Hebrew word bamah. He anticipates that viewers will want to know what happened to the “O” in “Obama” if bamah is part of the antichrist’s name. The speaker tells us that the conjunction “w” (the Hebrew consonant waw) is sometimes pronounced like our letter “o”. There are two problems here. First, the conjunction waw never gets the “o” sound at the beginning of a noun in Hebrew—not even once in the 23,213 verses of the Hebrew Bible. Second, when the “w” consonant in Hebrew serves to mark the vowel sound “o” it is never a conjunction; it only marks the “o” sound the end or in the middle of a word. Therefore the sound combination “O-bamah” never occurs in the Hebrew Bible. The same is true for the “o” sound following baraq. The “u” sound is possible at the beginning of a word. There is one occurrence in the entire Hebrew Bible of this conjunction before bamah in the Hebrew Bible, Ezekiel 36:2, but that verse has nothing to do with the devil or antichrist.

This kind of thinking is a textbook example of a notorious language fallacy: if a combination of sounds is the same between two languages, the words created by those sounds must mean the same thing. A couple of examples will show how ridiculous this is. Is the Greek word gune (pronounced “goonay”) the same as English “goony”? You’d better not say that around your wife or girlfriend, since gune means “woman”!  Or maybe the Hebrew word kar (“pasture”; Isa 30:23) is equivalent to English “car”! I wonder what make and model was the most popular in David’s time. There are literally hundreds of these sorts of false equivalences between any two languages. A sound or group of sounds in Hebrew (or any other language) does not have the same meaning as the same combination of sounds in English. This ought to be self-evident, but I guess it’s not.

I could list a number of other flaws in the argumentation, but the discussion would quickly morph into a conclave of language nerds. Consequently I’ll mention only that the speaker fundamentally misunderstands Luke 10:18.

Luke 10:18 actually points to an event in Jesus’ own lifetime, not an event in the distant future. When Jesus says that he saw Satan expelled from heaven like lightning, he is announcing that the kingdom of God has been inaugurated on earth now that his own ministry has begun; he is announcing Satan’s defeat, not the coming of the antichrist. Parallel passages in the gospels show this is the case (John 12:31; 16:11). This telegraphs the speaker’s most obvious blunder. It is difficult to see the coherence of linking a passage where Satan is cast down to the rise of the antichrist. The Bible clearly has the antichrist and Satan as distinct personalities. Revelation 20:10 makes this explicitly clear: “And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The beast, of course, is the antichrist in the Bible, the one whose number is 666 (cf. Rev. 13:18). In Rev. 10:10 Satan and the antichrist are separate figures thrown into the lake of fire. This means that Luke 10:18 (and Isaiah 14 for that matter) have nothing to do with the antichrist. It is nonsense to have Jesus meaning something like “I saw the devil cast out like the antichrist (lightning/baraq)” in Luke 10:18. The result is simply incoherent.

Lest I be misunderstood, the last thing in the world I want to do is to discourage Bible study. It’s not just for scholars! In fact, my career is directed toward enabling the non-specialist to dig into the Bible in ways that, to this point in time, only scholars could. But that goal is no excuse for such a poor handling of the biblical text and its original languages.

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616 or 666?

This is sort of on the periphery of PaleoBabble, but the 666 / antichrist thing fits just about every discussion of the old and strange.  A reader asked the “616″ reading in one of the Greek Oxyrhyncus papyri in place of the famous “666″ that occurs in Revelation 13:18.

Here’s a picture of the papyri in question, with the 616 underlined in red:

Basically, the issue is that in this papyrus, thenumber (which is abbreviated as ΧΙC (chi, iota, sigma), which are the letters used for the numerical total of 616. If we wrote out 616 longhand, the Greek would be hexakosiai deka hex (six hundred, ten, six). So is the number of the beast 666 or 616?

The short answer is that “666″ has far greater manuscript support, and so it should be regarded as the better reading.

The longer answer is from Metzger’s textual commentary, where he notes a number of very early manuscripts that have 666 (my notes in brackets). 616 is also early, since Irenaeus knew of it, but 666 by far has the better textual argument. And besides, 616 and 666 are related, as Metzger notes.

Instead of ἑξήκοντα [60], which is strongly supported by P א A P 046 051 all extant minuscules (it vg syr, cop, arm al), δέκα [10] is read by C and some manuscripts known to Irenaeus (who, however, says that 666 is found “in all good and ancient copies,” and is “attested by those who had themselves seen John face to face”) and Tyconius. According to Tischendorf’s 8th ed., the numeral 616 was also read by two minuscule manuscripts that unfortunately are no longer extant (nos. 5 and 11; cf. C. R. Gregory, Prolegomena, p. 676). When Greek letters are used as numerals the difference between 666 and 616 is merely a change from ξ to ι (666 = χξς and 616 = χις). Perhaps the change was intentional, seeing that the Greek form Nero Caesar written in Hebrew characters (‮נרון קסר‬) is equivalent to 666, whereas the Latin form Nero Caesar (‮נרו קסר‬) is equivalent to 616.

Bruce Manning Metzger and United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 676.

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