by Dr. Hector Avalos, Debunking Christianity
An appalling ignorance of Hebrew is being used to perpetrate an absurd theory.
This is one of the most sordid uses of Hebrew linguistics to support the claim that Barack Obama is the Antichrist. I would not spend much time on it, except that even some recognized "news" organizations are giving it coverage. In any case, this ridiculous argument comes from a YouTube video:
It is also commented upon at World Net Daily:
According to a man calling himself PPSimmons (the presumed narrator of the YouTube video), Barack Obama is mentioned in Luke 10:18, where Jesus is recorded as saying: “And he said to them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from Heaven.” The narrator tells us to focus on two words:
He then tells us that Strong’s Concordance (words 1299 and 1300) records the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word ASTRAPE (“lightning”) to be BARAQ. This equivalence seems sound enough.
But PPSimmons has more trouble establishing the Hebrew for the second Greek word, OURANOS (“heaven”), which normally would be SHAMAYIM in Hebrew. Yet, PPSimmons wants to convince us that the word really should not be “heaven” (SHAMAYIM) in the sense of where God lives, but more like the “heights,” which he claims would be closer to the Hebrew BAMAH.
To achieve such a Hebrew equivalent, the narrator refers us to Luke 8:5, where we find the phrase “birds of the air,” which is a rendition of the Greek PETEINA TOU OURANOU. The narrator says that this proves that the Greek OURANOS, normally translated as “heaven” does not refer to the heaven of God (birds don’t live there) but to the parts of our own atmosphere where birds fly, and which is also the realm of Satan.
Thus, PPSimmons now has found BARAQ + BAMAH in a hypothetical Hebrew or Aramaic version of Luke 10:18.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
There are so many things wrong with this argument that one wonders where to begin. But here are some brief responses:
1. The narrator has the WRONG Hebrew root for the name Barack if we accept President Obama's explanation for his name. President Obama’s explanation of his name may be found in, among other places, the 2004 National Democratic Convention speech: “They would give me an African name, Barack, or ‘blessed,’ believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success.” See
What Obama meant by “African” is simply an African language version of a well-known Semitic root (BRK) for “blessed” that can be found in Arabic and Hebrew.
Since his name means “blessed,” then this name is related to the Hebrew word BARAK, spelled with Hebrew Kaph, not a Qoph. These are two entirely different consonants and phonemes in Hebrew. The Hebrew BARAK and BARAQ are from two entirely different roots, with ONLY the latter meaning “lightning.”
2. It is most suspect to use Luke 8:5 to argue that “OURANOS” (heaven) in Luke 10:18 should be associated with the Hebrew BAMAH (“high places”). Just because OURANOS in Luke 8:5 can refer to the normal part of the world where birds fly does not mean that the same applies to Luke 10:18.
Other texts describe Satan as living or visiting the Heaven where God lives (e.g., Job 1:6). Revelation 12:9 tells us that Satan is thrown down from Heaven. The latter text, in particular, would be much more thematically related to what is happening in Luke 10:18 than what is described in Luke 8:5 or in Isaiah 14:14, which the narrator admits has to be given a Christian interpretation to even be speaking of Satan.
PPSimmons also overlooks the fact that Jesus may have been in Heaven when he beheld Satan fall from it. Why assume that Jesus is on earth when he beheld this event (which Jesus places in the past)? Even by PPSimmons' Christian theology, one would presume that Jesus was in Heaven at the time of Isaiah 14, which PPSimmons says is speaking of Satan.
3. To achieve the “heights” (BAMAH) reading of Luke 10:18, PPSimmons simply uses an undocumented consensus argument that can be summarized as: “Most scholars think that birds in Luke 8:5 are demonic, and so we should see the area where birds fly as the domain of the demonic.” But, the narrator provides no evidence that most biblical scholars have a demonic interpretation of birds in Luke 8:5, and certainly most academic biblical scholars do not. In any case, consensus arguments are not admissible unless the narrator can explain why the consensus is correct.
4. The phrase “birds of heaven/birds of the air” is a very well-known phrase in Hebrew that is first encountered in Genesis 1:26, where the Hebrew has “OPH HA-SHAMAYIM.” One can find the same phrase in Genesis 1:30, 2:19, 6:7, 7:3, and in 1 Kings 14:11. Thus, the fact that some English translations have “birds of the air” does not mean that the original Hebrew substituted some other word (e.g., BAMAH) for SHAMAYIM. We usually DO FIND the word SHAMAYIM when speaking of "birds of the air."
5. To the best of my knowledge, one NEVER finds OPH HA-BAMAH when speaking of "birds of the air" in the Hebrew Bible.
6. With few exceptions (e.g., Isaiah 14:14), the Hebrew BAMAH refers not to something in mid-air (where birds fly) but to high places that are part of the solid earth. That is to say, hills or altars built on hills rather than in mid-air. These places can be built (e.g., 1 Kings 14:23) and can be destroyed (2 Kings 23:8).
7. Contrary to the YouTube narrator’s statement that a Hebrew Rabbi today would translate the words of Luke 10:18 with BAMAH, the modern Hebrew translation of the New Testament published by the Society for Distributing the Holy Scriptures to the Jews translates “like lightning from the heaven” close to what I have noted: KA-BARAQ MIN-HA-SHAMAYIM. In other words, if you follow a more correct Hebrew translation THERE IS NO BARACK + BAMAH in Luke 10:18.
8. Of course, the YouTube narrator was unable to find Hussein, the president’s middle name, in the text, which at least would be consistent with the president’s full name. PPSimmons cannot easily transform BAMAH into O-BAMAH without further violence to the Hebrew.
9. The narrator does not explain why we should see the words in Luke 10:18 as of any more significance for a link with Barack Obama than any other text we can choose. In overwhelming number, the word root BARAK (“bless”) and its variants, are positive, and so why not say that those instances prophesy a good God-given outcome for Barack Obama?
10. We can follow similar rationales to show that "PPSimmons,” in fact, was prophesied in Acts 8:9. There you will find the a corrupt magician named “Simon,” which can be related to the name “Simmons.”
But note also that the letter of his initials has an equivalent in the Greek letter, PI, and that letter is repeated exactly TWICE in the Greek word (PROUPERCHEN/"he previously [practiced magic]) that follows SIMON. That is a clue (once magically reversed and "properly understood") that, one day, PPSimmons, a false magician of YouTube interpretations, would put forth absurd arguments. Try out your own combination with any good concordance.
In sum, this is another of those very pathetic attempts at pseudo-scholarship. By using similar methods we can prove that president Obama is God’s great “blessing” for the world.
NOTE: My transcriptions of Hebrew and Greek are approximate.
P.S. This week, Keith Olbermann of MSNBC, attempted to refute the YouTube video. Unfortunately, Olbermann reflects a misunderstanding of his own. PPSimmons uses definitions 1299 and 1300 of Strong’s Concordance to establish that BARAQ means “lightning.” Olbermann used Strong’s Concordance word 1301 to say that BARAQ really means “an Israelite.” However, Olbermann did not give the rest of Strong’s definition which, in complete form, is: “The same as 1300; Barak; an Isr.:Barak.” In other words, Strong is still saying that the name of the Israelite named Barak (Judges 4:6-22) is related to the word for “lightning.”