Stuff, Vessel, Witness

It took me about five lessons to realise Hebrew language studies were not for me. The lecturer finally asked a question I could answer. It had to do with the first seven words of Genesis:

bereshit bara Elokim et hashamaim v’et haarets

He asked what the fourth word signified.

At last! Something I actually knew. I stuck up my hand.

The two-letter combination alef-tav in Genesis 1:1 is invariably untranslated. It occurs often throughout Scripture without any remark but nevertheless it has a profound meaning. The word is comprised of the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, alef, and the last, tav. It’s the equivalent to the Greek combination of alpha and omega.

However, in Hebrew it’s more than ‘the first and the last’: alef-tav encompasses all 20 letters between these two and every combination of letter. In other words: every word that has ever existed or could possibly exist.

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By Any Other Name 1

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

One of my favourite websites for exploring the meaning of names offers this definition of what a name is: ‘Generally a name is a label for a noun – a person, place or thing. More specifically a name is a label for a specific person, place or thing.’

Oh, really? Just a label?  Surely not!

It seems this very popular site would agree with Shakespeare’s famous assessment about the rose and the sweetness of its perfume: That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet. Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Now I disagree with both the Bard and the website.

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