The opinions listed herein are those of the author. TOTALLY! The links I show are so that that reader may more easily do his own research. In NO WAY, is it to be assumed that the linked sites are in agreement with me. I suspect that more than one of them would disagree with my opinions, though I would hope that some would agree. I merely give the links to websites so that they reader may be encouraged to do his own research, in the same way as a scholarly paper gives footnotes. Also colors and quotation marks will be used where necessary for clarity.
Cogito Ergo Sum
(I think, therefore I AM)
- René Descartes
Ask yourself, now: What is the most fundamental statement in Western Philosophy? Anybody who has graduated high school would tell you, maybe even in the Latin in which it was first stated:
"Cogito, Ergo Sum!"
I think, therefore I am!
Now, René Descartes' (1596 -1650) statement thunders across Western Civilization and his statement of being is the greatest statement in Western Philosophy, establishing identity and being. Not merely a philosopher, Descartes was one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. He invented analytical geometry and the Cartesian coordinate system (obviously named after him). He used philosophy to prove his own existence (a major problem in Philosophy, though most people take their own existence as being self-evident), and to show that God existed and that God could NOT be a deceiver.
Most Westerners would consider that a masterpiece of philosophy, absolutely true. But is it?
First: Let us look at the Hebrew name for God. In the Old Testament, God told Moses that His name was I AM. And the scripture where this comes across is:
And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. Exod 3:14
God's name is Hebrew is a state of being. In Exod 3:14, the Hebrew word is Hayah. But first let's look at Hebrew's rendition of a state of perfect being, which is their name for God.
This state of perfect being in Hebrew is often transliterated into English as Yahweh, which also carries a sense of past, present, and future - though no one is sure exactly of the vowels and it is often spelled as YHWH or Y-HW-H. Early Hebrew did not write the vowels down as modern languages do. The vowels were understood, but not written down. V can be used instead of W. YHWH can be reverentially referred to as "the tetragram," literally Greek for "the four [implied: sacred] letters." Or even indirectly in Hebrew as "HaShem," meaning "the [implied: sacred] Name." Someone took the understood vowels of Adonai (A,O,E) which is Hebrew for "Lord" and added them to -HW-H to arrive at YAHOWEH,which was further mangled to Jehoveh or Jehovah in the translation from German to English. But whether pronounced as Yahweh, or pronounced as Jehovah, even the most elementary of Christians should know that this is a reference to the Hebrew verb "to be," I AM. (For another derivation of Jehovah, read on.)
Now, let us look at Exod 3:14 again, only this time, let's use a Concordance. An excellent on-line Concordance can be found at <http://www.blueletterbible.org/search.html#verse>. It is above the bottom. Now, find the Verse Retrieval Tool. Plug in Exodus - 3 - 14 - 14 for Book, Chapter, Beginning Verse, End Verse. (We only want one verse in this case.) Then click on the Get Verses option. (Do not click on Show Strong's Numbers at this point) Scroll down to Exd 3:14 and click on C. (This will take a while. You may think your computer locked up. But a full Hebrew text will appear with numbers, and with English translations and Strong's Accordance Numbers underneath the Hebrew text. Underneath that is a Greek Septuagint Version.) You can click on the numbers to see the etymological origin of each word.
Again, we notice that I AM is the name of God. As stated above, here in Exod 3:14, it is written Hayah, which is the present tense of I AM. Ha is "the". Yah is I AM. We notice that the article is appended to the name, hence Hayah.
The Strong's Concordance explanation of I AM is worth looking at too. It is Strong's number 01961. It is actually a bit more complicated as the Concordance shows. Hayah has many understandings. It can mean "to be." But also "to become." Also "to be finished." And many others.
So, how do we go from Yah (Y) to YHWH?
This article, <http://www.vbs.org/rabbi/rabfeins/spirit.htm>Jewish Spirituality, written by Rabbi Edward Feinstein, notes:
The Hebrew name of God is spelled Yod Hey Vav Hey [my note: YHVH], which is the starting point of all Jewish theology. YHVH is an impossible construction of the verb, "to be". Hayah, that which was; HoVeh, that which is; Yihiyeh, that which will be -- all forced together in a grammatically impossible conflation. All that is, all that was, all that will be. All of substance and all of thought. All of being and all of becoming. All of matter and all of energy. The All.
Now, the Rabbi says Hayah means "that which was;" which does seem to differ from what the Strong's Concordance which says Hayah means "the I AM." But, Hebrew is full of nuance, and I am not an expert. What is important is that it is a fundamental statement of being, so I will not fret over what may be a misunderstanding on my part. What the Rabbi is saying is that the Hebrew is approximately contracting what in English is often rendered "Who was, is and will be." Yah (Y) + HoVeh (HV) + Yihiyeh (H). Well, as I said, I am no expert on Hebrew; but the contraction from adding all three together is YWVH.
[Note: While I believe the origin of Jehovah come from the extraction I cited above, where the vowels of Adonai were mixed with YHWH, it could also be argued that it comes for Yah +HoVeh = YahHoVeh. No one is exactly sure of what the vowels were originally. The Hebrews were terrified of pronouncing the sacred name in vain. They danced around it and still do, preferring to use HaShem (The Name) or Adonai (Lord) instead. This can be seen in Orthodox Jewish articles written in English where they will not even write God, preferring to write G-d instead. They take the third commandment very seriously.]
One story I heard, probably apocryphal, was that it was only uttered once a year during the Yom Kippur ceremonies in Jerusalem and was drowned out by a singing sacred chorus - being audible only to the priest who uttered it and the nearby attendants; but probably inaudible to the congregation. The pronunciation was lost during the diaspora and there is disagreement on how it was really pronounced.
What is clear is that in Israel, even today, to avoid desecrating the NAME, they do NOT use the present tense of the verb "to be," I AM.
This site called <http://www.revelations.org.za/NotesS-Name.htm>Sacred Name of God YHVH YHWH Yahweh Yahveh Yeshuah, Yashuah, <http://www.revelations.org.za/NotesS-Name.htm>Yahshuah Yahushuah Yahoshuah makes this note [BTW note how Yah appears in all the sacred names. Yah is I AM in the present tense according to Strong's]:
In modern Hebrew grammar this matter is so serious and important, that the verb to be, (I am,) is not used in the present tense at all! An Israeli will therefore state in Hebrew: "I teacher ... I clever, omitting the verb 'to be' (I am) in the present tense. Usage of the Hebrew verb HOVEH, (I am) would imply referring to oneself as being the Almighty!
Well, he agrees with the Rabbi, not Strong's Concordance, making HoVeh to be 'I am.' However, what is important here is that the verb "to be" has sacred ramifications in Hebrew. I will not fret about the tense, which may be driven by context.
The same site goes on to note:
This gives reason for serious contemplation. The Almighty "is everything good, without question. The human being, being exactly the opposite, is so easily inclined to self exaltation and self praise (often hidden under a false pretense of humility, love, care, etc.). The indwelling Spirit of the Almighty in the heart and soul of the believer, changes this selfish, haughty, deceiving attitude to an attitude of genuine humility, recreated in His Image, as the Almighty requires of us to possess. Volumes could be written on this subject.
Indeed volumes have been written on YHWH alone.
Indo-European languages use the verb "to be" very sloppily. For example: We in English say: I am hungry, as if the very essence of hunger is equated to our being. I am the very essence of hunger, so to speak. Spanish avoids some of these problems and says "Yo tengo hambre." lit.: I have hunger. Yo tengo triente años, lit.: I have thirty years.
Spanish also softens this state of being error further by having two verbs "to be."
Ser (to be, a state of being) and Estar (to be - a temporary state).
(1st person Ser) Yo soy americano - I am American.
(Ist person Estar) Yo estoy enfermo - I am sick.
But Spanish, while not as glaringly bad as English, still has the problem with the verb "to be": Ser. Permanent conditions of being require an I AM statement. This is an Indo-European language problem.
This is NOT some grammatical nuance but a major philosophical point as we shall see, and as this paper will demonstrate. This problem is critical. It is, when one ponders it properly, an incredible total difference in worldview. We are literally trapped in our mindset. The Western Indo-European worldview is predicated on a very subtle linguistic sleight of hand. A worldview that utterly debilitates us, even the most Christian of us; yet we are not usually aware of it.
Whether we admit it or not, we consciously, or unconsciously, embrace uncritically René Descartes' triumphant declaration of ontological being, of individuality. In fact, I will use this amazing property to show something that most Christians are completely unaware of: How thoroughly secularized our mode of thinking is.
The Fundamental Statement of Being in Western Civilization, to which almost everyone gives assent, even the most godly of Christians would, if translated literally into Hebrew, read:
I think, therefore I AM [God]
Could this be true? Is that what we are asserting? If so:
THE FUNDAMENTAL PREDICATE PRESUPPOSITIONS OF WESTERN LANGUAGES, WESTERN THOUGHT, AND WESTERN CIVILIZATION ARE TOTALLY FOREIGN TO THE HEBREW MIND. OUR VERY LANGUAGES, EVERY TIME WE SPEAK, DECLARE OUR DEITY. WESTERN EUROPEAN LANGUAGES ARE SO CONSTRUCTED AS TO ASSERT THAT WE ARE GODS.
Is our very way of thinking so corrupted that we mindlessly declare that we are God without even thinking of what we are saying?
"Cogito Ergo Sum" is the first thing taught in any Western philosophy class and it may be wrong - if one takes the bible seriously. Western Civilization may be literally constructed on a philosophical rock of self deceit. Have we built our whole way of thinking, our philosophy, our society on a false idea of self?
Now, Descartes did believe in God. He worked his philosophy up from Cogito Ergo Sum to prove there was a God. He probably was aware of the ontological problems in such a statement; though I am not sure. But that is not how most people consider the statement, nor how it is taught.
[Note: I am not suggesting that we all go out and learn Hebrew. But what I am asking is: Do we carelessly assume fundamental things which are not true.]
From what little I know of Hebrew, their grammar stresses this philosophical problem very gingerly whilst the Indo-European grammars seem to loudly boast, we are Gods. Whether one takes the story of Genesis literally or metaphorically, this is the lie of the serpent.
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods... Gen 3:5
In fact, in the Hebrew, the serpent's lie is more shocking: It says you shall be God. The Hebrew words used for "God" and "gods" is the same word, elohiym, in Gen 3:5 as this any Concordance would show (Strong's #430).
How fundamental is this problem?
Let's see what Scripture says about our state of being:
"For me to live is Christ...." Phil 1:21 If we think about it, that statement is a grammatical nightmare in Indo-European languages. My existence is Christ?! No, Paul was not saying that I [am] Christ. He was merely trying to convey a truth, that we cannot truly exist apart from Christ. A body can exist apart from the foot; but a foot separated from the body will soon cease to exist. A foot is NOT the body; but its continued existed is predicated on the body, or rather on being connected to the body. The body supports the continued existence of the foot. Even though the body is distinct from the foot. Now, keeping that in mind, reread <http://www.khouse.org/blueletter/1Cr/1Cr012.html>1 Corinthians Chapter 12:12-27 again. Read with an understanding of the Hebrew concept of being. Remind yourself that Paul was a "Hebrew of the Hebrews" Phil 3:5 and he surely understood the concept.
There are serious consequences to this linguistic problem: Basic doctrines rise and fall on this I AM.
The doctrine of Jesus Christ's deity is easily provable once you understand that when Jesus said,
"Before Abraham, I AM.". John 8:58
he was actually saying, "Before Abraham, YHWH (I AM)." YHWH is the name of God. Only the awesome YHWH would have conveyed this sense so powerfully and would have made him liable to stoning which is what they tried to do.
Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. John 8:59
Similarly, when Jesus said,
"I AM the Way the Truth and the Life" John 14:6
He probably was saying, "YHWH (I AM) the Way, the Truth and the Life....".
Now read the New Testament again, and notice how many times Jesus says "I AM ..." Understand the Hebrew grammar where the verb "to be" is only fully used with the deity, and is either implied or contracted when used elsewhere, and you begin to see that Jesus was declaring his deity quite often.
How often do we see Jehovah's Witnesses say Jesus never claimed to be God, and yet they get away with this only because they have no sense of the Hebrew and are teaching to others who know even less than they do. Had they a sense of the Hebrew, they would know that I AM thunders in Hebrew and is a declaration of deity.
Failure to get a grasp of this can cause horrors in interpretation.
The Catholic concept of communion is often predicated on HOC CORPUS EST. (Latin for "This is my body" lit: THIS MY BODY IS) Notice, how the Latin, like English, or Spanish, or Indo-European languages in general, require a strong use of the verb "to be." Yet, we have just noticed that in Hebrew, the verb "to be" is used very carefully. With caution! For the very name of God is a statement of perfect being. In saying HOC CORPUS EST, we literally elevate the bread to deity. Of course, this is what the Catholic doctrine says; but is the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation getting a free ride based on a fundamental flaw in Indo-European grammars. That statement would get one stoned for blasphemy in Hebrew.
Am I denying the deity of Christ? NO! But I am denying the deity of the communion bread.
[Note: There is some disagreement over the etymological origins of the term Hocus Pocus; but there seems to be some consensus that the Germans misheard the Latin "Hoc Corpus Est" when the priest offered the Mass in Latin. And so they called the transactions of the priest's power of transubstantiation, "Hocus Pocus." "Did the priest do anything different today, Hans?" "No, just the usual old Hocus Pocus." Hence the German misapprehension of "Hoc Corpus Est" has come down to us as hocus pocus which is ironic for it equates transubstantiation with magic which, if one thinks about it, is the very definition of magic: the ability to will changes in reality. The priest wills the bread to become God.]
The Hebrew sense of this is incredible. Only God can independently exist above and apart from all else. Only God can truly and independently be. No, this is not to assert pantheism; that we, by our existence, are Gods. Rather it is to assert that our state of being is not self being, or perfect, or unconditional. We are, so to speak, supported. Our existence is predicated on God. His existence is NOT predicated on us. Therefore, we cannot say truthfully I AM . God can declare that truthfully; but we cannot declare it without condition.
Hebrew grammar reflects this problem; but Western grammars do NOT!
Have you ever pondered that before? That when we declare a state of being we may inadvertently be declaring deity, if we are NOT careful with our use of the verb "to be." There is no way around this in English. No way at all. Our grammar will not permit otherwise. Yet, we must be on guard that the grammar does NOT introduce false assumptions into our way of thinking.
We merely have to remember that Jesus conversed in Semitic languages. Our New Testament is a rendition in Greek which loses this sense, but an understanding of Hebrew grammar would clarify this.
Indeed, we are reminded of Jesus' warning:
"....if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." Matt 15:14
Or the Old Testament warnings:
My people perish for lack of knowledge Hosea 4:6
So, if we read the Bible and Paul correctly, neither I nor anyone else, can live [exist, be] apart from Christ. Reconsider, the most famous statement in Western Philosophy again:
I THINK, THEREFORE [I AM]
The statement of being is totally fundamental to understanding and this flaw in European languages has even been noticed in such non-theistic endeavors as science.
Modern physics has abandoned any hope of describing physical reality in terms of regular language. Neils Bohr, one of the founders of Quantum Mechanics, began to realize that language, particularly European languages, are totally inappropriate for describing the subatomic world. He began to realize that our concepts of time, space, location, even existence itself, do not apply in the realm of the subatomic. Yet, it is the subatomic from which the world, as we know it, is made. Apparently, our concepts only describe the appearances of reality, not the underlying reality itself.
It has gotten so bizarre that a later Quantum Physicist, Richard Feynman, had to introduce negative (reverse) time to explain some events on the subatomic level. You mean the Future can affect the Past? Apparently so! And they can reproduce it in the laboratory.
You never understand quantum theory, you just get used to it - Neils Bohr.
In other words, when it comes to describing fundamental reality, Indo-European languages fall short. Oddly enough, some non-Indo-European languages do a better job of describing Quantum states.
OUR MENTAL UNIVERSE
Unlike English, or other Indo-European languages, Hebrew frames the thought processes of the speaker differently. Take for instance, a simple sentence: Bill is going from Chicago to New York. There is no sense of God in the sentence. Indeed, the sentence is a-theistic. Now, take a simple sentence in a Hebrew mindset. Elijah is going from Bethel to Jerusalem. To the Indo-European, whether Spanish, German, British, or American, etc. that read like a simple statement of movement.
But Elijah, as well as being a man's name, also means "My God is Yah" or "Yah(u) is God." Go back and read Rabbi Feinstein's comments again and notice how Yah is a part of YHWH. Elijah is the English version. In Hebrew, it would be Al-lee-yaw, Eliyah. Notice, the -yah which is the abbreviated form of Yahweh, (YAH-weh), the I AM. So we see that God, or the concept of God is embedded in a simple name as Yah as a Concordance would show (Strong's # 452 ).
Likewise, Bethel, (Strong's #1008), as well as being the name of a city, also means: "house of God.". "Beth" means "house" while "-el" means literally "THE ONE," implying God.
And Jerusalem, (Strong's # 3389), as well as being the name of the city, also means "[the] teaching of Peace."
Hence as well as saying, "Elijah is going from Bethel to Jerusalem," the sentence also says "My Name is God (-yah) is going from the House of God to the teaching of Peace."
Is this a linguistic sleight of hand?
The Hebrew language literally forces the speaker to be aware of God in his very speech.
Go back and read your Bible now. Know that -jah and -iah is really YAH in Hebrew, an abbreviated form of YAHWEH (YHWH) of the tetragram, the I AM. Know that "-el" means "THE ONE," implying God.
Jeremiah means "whom Jehovah(YWVH - this case the Jehovah pronunciation) has appointed." HoVeh is a form of the verb to "be."
Daniel (Strong's # 01840) means God is my judge.
Many Hebrew words, names, places should now jump off the page at you. Hebrew can be understood on many levels. The Ancient Hebrew spoke a language which did NOT permit atheism. Nouns, phrases, simple declarations, about some of the most simple things, called the speaker to remember God.
A simple statement in English There IS NO GOD! cannot be simply stated in Hebrew, at least not in the usual sense that it is stated in English. The perfect state of being is the name of God: I AM. And in Hebrew to say there is NO GOD is essentially to say there is no being anywhere. And our very existence contradicts that, hence, for us to be therefore implies that GOD IS (YHWH). To say: THERE IS NO GOD is roughly equivalent to saying: THERE IS NO IS!
....The fool hath said in his heart, [There is] no God. Psalms 14:1
As is evident, the "there is" is in brackets, "[There is]" - which means implied. A concordance would show that there is no "there is" in the original Hebrew. A good bible might have the "there is" in italics: "there is." You cannot logically say "There is no I AM " in Hebrew. How can non-being be?!
Or more succinctly, "Cogito Ergo Sum" (I think, therefore I am) is replaced, logically, in a Hebrew mindset with: Since I [am - implied], therefore I AM [GOD IS]. Roughly:
Since I [am, exist], therefore [GOD] IS (YHWH)!
A completely different mindset, grammar, and worldview. The verb "to be" which reflects on man, in Indo-European tongues, actually redounds to God in Hebrew. We now may understand why Chasidic Jews often prefer to speak plainly in Yiddish (probably a cognate of German - though some now assert otherwise), and preserve the Hebrew for sacred discourses.
Again, I do NOT speak Hebrew; but more than one Jewish friend of mine who spoke Hebrew has confirmed this with me. Hebrew does NOT admit of atheism. Indeed this even more clearly comes across on the Hebrew concept of God.
God, in Western European tongues, had devolved to an abstract concept where both "Jesus is God," and "Zeus is God," are grammatically correct. NOT SO! in Hebrew. Yeshua (Jesus) would be conjoined with YHWH; but Zeus would be conjoined with Ba'al, roughly equivalent to saying Jesus is YHWH; but Zeus is Ba'al [a false god, a demon]. Ba'al is a lord, lesser lord. But GOD (YHWH) is a personal name, which conveys the sense of a perfect state of Being. It is not, as we Indo-Europeans think, an abstract concept. Hebrew does NOT admit of other Gods.
Is this a minor thing?! Go back to your Bible, if it is a good one, which shows the implied words, and notice how often the "is" is written in italics: is.
We are running into not merely grammatical problems; but genuine conceptual problems. Let those who defend the KJV as the received text in English cease and desist in their hubris. The KJV may be the best translation, but it is far from perfect, and any other translation which can add understanding to a verse is to be respected, provided that it is made from reliable sources. But a proper understanding is not possible apart from Hebrew and Greek Concordances, with a full appreciation for the Semitic mindset.
Here, now is the core of my statement.
With the exception of the most aware of Christians, those who walk continuously in the Spirit, most Christians are not fully aware of God's continual presence: of his perfect being, ever extant, and involved. This may be as much as linguistic problem as a problem of will. Our languages here inhibit our awareness. We act and declare ourselves as if we were truly independent beings, [gods, as it were]. No such condition exists in the Hebrew mindset.
"I AM, I cried. I AM, said I" - Neil Diamond
A popular song! Actually one of Neil Diamond's better songs. A defiant declaration of being! Of individuality! Of uniqueness. A wonderful statement of American, English, German, French, Spanish, Western, Indo-European individuality..........AND TOTALLY BLASPHEMOUS in Hebrew!
Am I denying individuality? No! But it is a conditional individuality and the Western mindset does NOT admit of this condition.
We must be aware of the limits of our language. Our very thought structure is corrupt.
The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Psa 58:3
Could it be that part of the problem is the very language we speak? Look at this prophetic restoration of a pure language in Zephaniah:
For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent. Zep 3:9
Hebrew, while probably the least impure of languages, will have to be purified as even it was corrupted.
In those days also saw I Jews [that] had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, [and] of Moab: And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews' language, but according to the language of each people. Neh 13:23-24
Now maybe only the languages spoken in intermarriages were corrupted. Maybe God providentially preserved Hebrew. But a case was made by Matthew Henry that even Hebrew was corrupted - through probably not nearly so badly.
So corrupted was humanity by the fall that not merely was the use of language corrupted but our very languages and thought processes themselves. The fall was total.
The only way to correct this is by the Spirit. We need the Spirit to give us the proper interpretation of Scripture so that our fallen minds may interpret the words correctly; and even then sometimes the Spirit has to groan on our behalf as we are incapable of consciously understanding, saying, and praying purely what we ought.
We are enjoined to be lead by the Spirit since the Scripture indicates that every facet of our being fell, even our thinking processes, going so far as to say the Spirit sometimes has to pray on our behalf since our corrupted minds knows not what to pray.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Rom 8:26
A little understanding of Hebrew would not hurt either!
I have no idea if Descartes fully appreciated the irony of his statement. He used it to prove God, but whether he appreciated its blasphemous irony I do not know.
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The author took courses in technical subjects, but likes to dabble in history, and philosophy as a hobby. If any corrections are necessary, a note would be appreciated. Please remove my email if you copy it; I wish to maintain a low profile. Lambert Dolphin's website, being where I submitted it originally, will be the only place to have the email address.
Further Reading: This site of Skeptics makes note that "hocus pocus" derives from the Latin Mass. (http://www.csicop.org/articles/april_fools_1998/index.html) Don't Be Fooled: Strange Hoaxes That Endure where we see this quote:
The word hoax is thought to be a shortening of "hocus-pocus""a synonym for trickery that in turn came from hoc corpus est, a Latin phrase from the Catholic mass spoken when the bread is supposedly transformed into the body of Christ.
The etymology of "hocus pocus" is indeed ironic.
This site is a small discussion of YHWH from a Talmudic viewpoint: (http://www.nazark.org/name.html)
Indeed, volumes upon volumes could be written about this.
December 5, 2000
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