Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bethlehem is the "House of Bread"?

It is Sunday and, as some of you may have noticed, one of my wannabe personalities is a closet preacher. It may be a bunch of crapola I'm going to lay on you now, but the positive is that I don't take up collections or try to get old widows to put me in their wills...

On a whim, many years ago, I enrolled in Semitic Philology at the University of Copenhagen. I'm a terrible student and had to drop out after some years in order to make money to pay the rent.

However, I did manage to learn a little smattering of something along the way would like to share some of the modest insights I garnered.

Several things make the semitic stand out from the romance languages. Of particular interest is the way words are constructed from roots. Although there are a few exceptions of two and four, the word root usually consists of three consonants. The root has a basic meaning which underlies all the various forms as verb, name, adjective and so on.

For example, the word we know as "shalom" or "salam" comes from the root "SLM" and the basic meaning could be described as "completeness".

Therefore, as a verb, it can be what you do with the waiter when you pay your bill, that is settle accounts with the restaurant. It also is the root for the word naming one of the major world religions, Islam, and its practitioners, Muslims.

Another characteristic is the use of basic words like "father", "son", "mother", "daughter", "house" and the like to form word constructs which can sound a bit off in our ear when they are for one reason or another translated literally. For example, when Saddam Hussein refers to the coming invasion of Iraq as the "Mother of all Battles" or when Jesus refers to himself as the "Son of Man".

Not many are aware that Bethlehem is such a word construct, formed from "Bait", "house", and "LeHeM", "bread". Bethlehem therefore has the literal meaning "House of Bread".

The interesting is that the root meaning of bread refers to the kneading of the dough. As a verb, LHM can refer to battle, in particular the hand-to-hand combat one saw in olden times. Therefore, the word basically means "struggle", "strife", "confrontation".

A small thing, but interesting that the place where the Christian savior is born is, the "House of Bread" or "House of Struggle".

Interesting also, is that the given name of the Christian savior also has a meaning more subtle than that usually given as well as the place where he was executed by the authorities.

The Christian Bible goes to some effort to tell us that "Golgatha" means "place of the skull" in Hebrew. This is puzzling because that certainly is not what one would think the word meant. It looks to me like the word root is GLGL, which has the meaning sense of "turning", "waves", "changing" -- or even, at a stretch, "reincarnation".

Preachers, priests and ministers will tell you that the meaning of "Jesus" is something like "Salvation is the Lord's" -- the "J" being the first letter of the Explicit Name (JHVH) and "shua", correctly, is "redemption". However, it could also be seen as a form of "shia", which is a crying out, as for help, release, succor.

To me, that sort of thing gives more sense and meaning to his final words in Aramaic, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani" (My God! My God! Why do you forsake me!").

Okay, I put my preacher back in his closet now -- maybe I'll let him out next Sunday...
The logo I used today I borrowed from these people, their web bread sure looks yummy!

No comments: