Discussion on the website Academia.edu about Bettina Morello's article 'Torah Thought & Torus : The Mind which can comprehend the plan of the Universe Is Itself a miniature Universe' .
Peter van 't Riet - December the 13th 2020
Thanks for your invitation to read your paper and to give my comments. With all due respect for your opinions, unfortunately I’m little interested in mystical speculation. My general approach of the Bible is basically cultural-historical, explaining its contents from what we know about the time the stories and prescripts were written down. Only the later rabbinical literature from the Talmudic period can help us to understand what the original authors or editors could have meant with the texts. The apocalyptic literature including the book of Revelations I see as a sideway of Judaism which functioned as hope and consolation for their readers and listeners in those dark Hellenistic days, but which has little significance for modern believers.
My view on the Torah I’ve set out in my book ‘The Philosophy of the Creation Story’, alas only readable in Dutch (see: https://www.petervantriet.nl/article.php?articleID=28). To give you an impression about its contents I’ll shortly explain my view of the first word of the Torah: Bereshit. It’s indeed not an expression of time. The best translation is ‘in principal’, of ‘by a principal’. The first translation refers to the unfinishedness of God’s creation. At the end of the first week He creates man in His image, i.e. the image of the Creator of heaven and earth. From that moment man is His co-creator collaborating with Him in developing the earth to completeness. In Judaism one calls this tikun olam, improvement of the world.
The second translation ‘by a principal’ refers – in the Jewish tradition – to the Torah as the textbook for learning how to live striving for the tikun olam. Torah was written not as a source of mystical speculations, but as a collection of principals for behaviour in daily life. The danger of mysticism is that it distracts us from the main point: bringing personal and common practice in line with the principals of the Tora. Therefore many rabbis (I know, not all of them) have always been cautious with mystical speculation. That’s an attitude I share with them. For my further approach of the Bible and especially the New Testament you can read my five into English translated books available on Amazon.com.
Bettina Morello - December the 14th 2020
Thank you for your comment.
This is an open discussion on Apocalyptic literature from 300 BC to 300 AD, and an examination of astronomical data in the Books of Enoch. I can see how this would not be of interest to you. I understand your viewpoint and respect your contribution.
Thanks for stopping by,
Allen Donow - December the 14th 2020
I noticed your interest in the word בראשית and rabbinical literature. I also have the same. As I have written on academia and www.brasyt.net there is another way of understanding Genesis 1:1. The word בראשית can be assumed to be the name of God and the word אלהים assumed to represent "powers". Thus בראשית would not only have created ( ברא ) the heaven and the earth but the principalities and powers. Accordingly John 1:1 would be referencing the word בראשית as the Word.
Rashi in his commentary on Genesis 1:1's syntax, located in the "Bavli Talmud Section Moed Tract Megillah Chapter 1 Page 9a ( מסכת מגילה פרק א דף ט,א גמרא ) writes that the Word בראשית could be the name of the supreme creator, but rejects the Word as a name with only a one sentence denial. Tosafot (ref. Dafyomi. 4th item on webpage.) believed a reader, not restricted to Jewish tradition, would have understood Beresheet to be a name, from the plain reading of Genesis 1:1. They understood a reader should know that the creator would have His name as the opening word of the Bible. But they likewise rejected the Word as the name of the supreme creator because they all assumed (tragically) that the word אלהים in Gen 1:1 was the pseudonym for יהוה (Yahweh). Based on that false assumption they had to reject בראשית as a name since יהוה (Yahweh) is not a created being.
However, they and all translators know אלהים (elohym) is a generic word, defined by context, and though most often assumed to be a pseudonym for יהוה (Yahweh), many times, as if in lower case, also representing created beings or things believed to be powerful. Instead of letting אלהים (elohym) in Gen 1:1 represent other powers, created ones, yet undefined, including angels, seraphim, and cherubim, they falsely teach it must be יהוה (Yahweh).
There has been no published grammatical review of Genesis 1:1 with the word בראשית as a name but through emails with multiple scholars the issues they raise plus my responses are provided on website www.brasyt.net.
I hope you take a look. Any feedback would be most appreciated.
Peter van 't Riet - December the 16th 2020
Thanks for your suggestions about the meaning of the Hebrew words ‘bereshit’ and ‘elohim’ in Genesis 1:1. In your view ‘bereshit’ would be a name of God, especially of the Trinity (as I’ve read on the website you referred to), and ‘elohim’ would mean ‘general powers’. Unfortunately, I can’t agree with you because of the following reasons.
First, nowhere else in Scripture ‘bereshit’ occurs as a name of God. For that reason alone it’s already very improbable that it would have that meaning in Genesis 1:1.
Second, ‘elohim’ is indeed a word with different meanings like ‘judges’, ‘mighty ones’, ‘powers’ etc. However, in the overwhelming majority of its occurrences in the Tanakh it’s a term referring to God, like in the rest of the first creation story (Genesis 1:1-2:3). It would be very strange if it was different in the opening verse of that story and of the Torah. Moreover, ‘elohim’ is the only title used for God in the first creation story because it expresses His superiority over de universe. In the rabbinic tradition ‘Elohim’ is a title of God as ruler and judge of the world, and it’s connected with distance and respect. The exclusive use of this title in this creation story is very functional, because for more than five days there isn’t even a man. The four letter name JHWH is introduced in the second creation story in which man plays a central part. This name expresses Gods presence with men and His involvement in their lives. It’s connected with proximity and loving kindness. Later in the Bible it’s His name as a God wrestling with His people Israel on the way through history. Consequently, in Genesis 1 ‘Elohim’ should be translated – in my view – by ‘God’ only.
Third, there is a strong connection between the word ‘bereshit’ and the word ‘reshit’ in Proverbs 8:22, where it’s a term for the Wisdom. In the post-biblical Jewish tradition that word in that text is interpreted as an indication of the Torah which obtained the position of ‘Head of the Wisdom’ in the post-exilic time. I recall that the first creation story was also written in the post-exilic era, at a moment that Proverbs could have been in existence, albeit in elementary form. Furthermore, the ‘editor in chief’ of the Torah (probably Ezra) put the first creation story at its beginning as an introduction to the whole Torah. Against this background it’s very probable that the first word of the opening story is a reference to the Torah itself. And that is just how the word is read in the Jewish tradition.
Fourth, your decomposition of the word ‘bereshit’ into ‘bar resh sheet’ as a denomination of the Trinity is rather artificial, if only because of the doubling of the characters resh and shin you need to make your point. Besides, the Trinity is a later invention of the Church fathers. A clever one, indeed (one Being with three ‘masks’), bridging the gap between the New Testament and the then heathen-Christian believers, but it has never belonged to the original Hebrew thought of the Tanakh. Not even in the seven authentic letters of Paul the Trinity is to be found.
So I prefer to stay with the rabbinic reading of Genesis 1:1 which is probably the closest to the original meaning.
With all due respect.
Bettina Morello - December the 17th 2020
if you can consider that each person has a consciousness emanated, created and formed by Elohim, then it might be easier to accept that every soul has its own personal connection to the Tree like a root that bears its own seeds. Bereshit/Genesis is about the propagation of our spiritual inner world, through studying the Books of Moses, Prophets, Psalms and the Biography and Epistles of the New Testament. The kinds of interpretations and experiences that each one has must be separated from the actual historical commentaries on the books, that is another aspect of it that comes much later. At first people are just trying to engage in the text to find meaning in their lives, but eventually those text will open up and allow the person to experience its mystery and its revelations. This is the beauty of the Kingdom it comes from within and is not observed in this world of time and space, unless you consciously and purposefully allow it to be so.
I appreciate all your comments and willingness to share on this discussion, without you there would be motion!
Peter van 't Riet - December the 28th 2020
Thanks for explaining your view on the human soul and its relation to God. However it isn’t the way I think about these matters. The image of a tree with roots, branches and seeds to understand the relation between God and man is problematic, for I don’t see how we could understand the Creator of the world by comparing Him with one of His non-intelligent creatures. The Bible only compares Him with one creature and that’s man.
Furthermore, reading Bereshit as an unfolding of our spiritual inner world – like Philo of Alexandria did – leads to an allegorical reading of the Bible with all the arbitrariness that entails. In my eyes we could better read Genesis as a view of the world as the place where God and men meet each other to make it the best place to live. The Torah as I know it, is about human life on earth, not in heaven nor in the mind. Torah is a large collection of principals for daily life. Translating these principals into personal and social behaviour is the big challenge our discussions should be about.
I wish you a happy New Year.
Bettina Morello - December the 28th 2020
I agree with everything you said basically, but there is a way to see things through anything and everything, because there is no place where the Light of Elohim is not on this earth or within us. That is exactly the point of these papers, to share more details regarding how it all comes together. There will be another discussion post where all of this is explored in a more tangible and realistic way. There are as many realities as there are minds in this world, He created the Tree of Life to feed everyone! Wherever they are in their understanding and experience.
Have a safe holiday and New Year too