THE TIMES OF ISRAEL
2 December 2021
Rogers D. Isaacs
The article below has been recommended by Shri Varghese Pamplanil for the benefit of CCV readers.
If you are like many people, when it comes to the role of religion in their lives, you are becoming less and less interested in it. You may be questioning the existence of God or are among the growing group that rejects religion completely. Yet, if questioned, you might admit that you don’t know the fine points about your religion or much of anything about its history.
You are not alone.
A Pew Research Center survey tells of a decline in religious belief in the United States. When speaking of belief in God, it says, “There are strong signs that many are less certain about this belief than in years past. And a small but growing number of Americans say they do not believe in God at all.”
But, how are those wavering making decisions about believing or not believing? Just by feelings?
The fact is that, regardless of where you may have felt connected along the evolution of the beliefs of a particular denomination, the God and the religion that people of the Abrahamic faiths are accepting or rejecting stems from one source and one source only — the Five Books of Moses in the Hebrew Bible. To make an informed decision about falling away, one must understand this source.
I imagine that those conflicted enough may turn to religious leaders or the halls of academia for answers. In today’s environment, though, I suspect that many in those roles spend little or no time searching for the original meanings set forth in their religious texts. Instead, sermons and articles disseminate personal interpretations of this or that verse, which, I’ve often noticed, in no way relate to the intended biblical meanings. But, because these “religious” messages are promulgated by professionals, they are accepted as “the gospel truth,” cementing their faithful audiences in misunderstanding and making their questioning audiences strain to believe at all. At the very least, this irresponsible scholarship and leadership has resulted in messages that, if compared to the original text, would be unrecognizable.
Why do I make this dogmatic statement? A few years ago, I compiled my fifty plus years of research into a book titled Talking With God. In it, I explored several key Hebrew words from the Five Books of Moses, including the words translated as “sin,” “glory,” “guilt,” and “soul.” I compared them with their counterparts in neighboring ancient languages and found that in the other languages’ similar words had different meanings. For example, using the meanings found in the other languages, it turned out that in the Hebrew the words “sin” meant to contaminate; “glory” described a dangerous, naturally occurring substance; “guilt” meant susceptibility to contamination; and “soul” was probably a component found in the blood (what we would now term T-cells, an essential part of the immune system).
Those key Hebrew words that shape our understanding of the Bible, religion, and God have been so misinterpreted and thus mistranslated as to leave their true meanings incomprehensible. Properly translating any one of these words and watching them meld into its biblical context would challenge those questioning and disbelieving to hold off on any final decisions in this regard.
So that no one is operating out of abject ignorance, it’s going to take a revolution among scholars, independents and in academia, as well as educated religious leaders (whose main worry today is maintaining their congregations). It’s going to take those with courage and who are able to take up the radical task of studying the Bible’s individual words and then correctly translating them. My hope is that a resulting text, pristine in logic, will almost miraculously appear. When that day comes, thoughtful people will reconsider their beliefs and make their religious decisions from a knowledge of what the Bible is actually trying to tell them, rather than what today’s fallible teaching has proclaimed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Roger D. Isaacs is an independent researcher specializing in Hebrew Bible studies and the author of two books, "Talking With God" and "The Golden Ark". Isaacs' primary research site was the archives of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, where he is a member of the Advisory Council. He also conducted research at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Studies, as well as digs, museums, and libraries in many countries, including Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, and England.