Is it Heaven or Heavens
This is about a debate that I had with a guy at the church I attend a while back. It is also why sometimes I am not always so pleased with how the King James Version of the Bible was translated. Genesis 1:1, according to the KJV, reads “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”. WRONG!!! Sorry, but coming from Jewish ancestry and being a religious studies scholar tells me otherwise. Today you get to learn why that is actually wrong and why the Catholics are probably on to something with that whole Seven Heavens thing they have got going on in their religion.
First off, I would like to remind everyone, especially Christians and Muslims, that these lovely Abrahamic religions have their roots in Judaism. Judaism itself has roots in Zoroastrianism and other Ancient Semitic/Arabian religions. The Old Testament in the Christian Bible is actually the Jewish Tanakh. *Gasp!* They are the same? Yes they are. As for the Muslim Qur’an, it does have many of the same narratives that are found in these books. Wait! Does that mean that Muslims do not hate Jews and Christians? Well, no. In fact, in the Qur’an the Jews, Christians, and certain Gnostic groups are listed as being called “People of the Book” and are to be respected. Yeah, I get kinda touchy on that subject. I do not particularly appreciate people getting all hateful towards all Muslims and lump them all together into the same group as the radicals. Every single Muslim person that I have met has been amazingly kind and wonderful to be around. Truth is, Islam has a lot more in common with the Jewish faith than Christianity has with the Jewish faith…yeah. Think about that for a moment. Back to the topic at hand though. Since Genesis comes from the Tanakh that means that it was originally written in Hebrew. Not Greek. Not Latin. Not Aramaic. Not Arabic. Certainly not English of any form. Since most of my readers do not know how to read Hebrew characters, here is what the transliterated Genesis 1:1 reads in the Hebrew. “Bereishit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’aretz”. The word we will be focusing on for today’s post is hashamayim. Let us take this word apart and find out exactly that it means!
The beginning of the word is ha. In Hebrew this is a definite article. It effectively means “the” in English. Nothing overly special about that. Notice that it also appears in the word ha’aretz. At the very end of the word hashamayim is the ending “-im”. *Gasp!* In Hebrew that is a plural ending! Wait! So, that means the Elohim is plural because it has the “-im” ending too? Well…That is a bit of a complicated theological issue that I will not go into right at this moment. We have the topic at hand to discuss. Since hashamayim has that wonderful ending that makes the correct translation of the verse “the heavens” NOT “the heaven”.
The odd thing is that, besides Catholics, Orthodox, and certain Gnostics, no other Christian denomination recognizes this plural seriously. Sorry fellow non-Catholics, non-Orthodox, and non-Gnostic Christians. It is actually plural. I feel like the original Hebrew trumps any and all translations in this case because it is directly from the Jewish faith. If you are going to have your religion rooted in Jewish beliefs then, damn it, translate the words correctly. Stop jacking the belief system all around and confusing people! The Talmud, which is Jewish, the Midrashim, also Jewish, and the Qur’an, Islamic, all say that there are several heavens. By this it means levels of Heaven. There are seven Heavens by the way in the religions mentioned above. Yes, even Islam says that there are Seven Heavens. In a lot of those it says that the Throne of God is above the Seventh Heaven. So, despite me being a Baptist, I am still sort of stuck on this belief. Sorry, I just cannot shake that Hebrew out of my belief system and it is something I have held since I was a kid. Not getting rid of that belief anytime soon.
The moral of today’s post: ask questions and do not just follow things blindly. Kudos to the church I attend though. Our pastor actually encourages people to ask questions so that you understand the religion. He does not want people blindly following along either. So, ask questions and if the head of the church does not want to answer your questions or just tells you that is how it is with no further explanation, it probably is not the best of places to be attending. While I am at that, time for a bit of a bonus fact. A Rabbi, the person that is the head of a Jewish synagogue, is actually a teacher. That word actually comes from the title “my master” which is used by students to address the teacher. Also, Jesus is listed as a Rabbi in the New Testament! Yeah, another point to remember fellow Christians, Jesus was a Jew. He lived and died a Jew. He was not a Christian. HE WAS A JEW!!! Sorry, that is another bit that I get a little peeved about.