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Shofar

A Glossary of Unfamiliar Terms
Compiled from numerous source documents
by
Ari Levitt
ThM, ThD, DMin, MA, MBA, ND, CNHP

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Abbreviations Used In This Glossary

abbr. = abbreviated

alt. = alternate

Ar. = Aramaic

esp. = especially

Gr. = Greek

Heb. = Hebrew

lit. = literally

n. = noun

pl. = plural

pron. = pronounced

prop. = properly

sg. = singular

usu. = usually

v. = verb

Yid. = Yiddish

Transliteration/Pronunciation GuideBooks of the Bible
Proper NamesTribes of IsraelThe Mishnah

For more Hebrew words and phrases, you might
enjoy John Parsons’ Hebrew4Christians.com

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This document is “a work in progress” and will probably be so for quite some time. I have included words and phrases from Hebrew, Aramaic (Ar.), Yiddish (Yid.), and even some Greek (Gk.), and English terms that are common to Jewish writing. I have also included some terms that are familiar to those within Messianic Judaism, but which might be unfamiliar to others.

Some Interesting Thoughts About the Hebrew Language

Spelling Variations

You will doubtless note that there are sometimes several different English spellings (transliterations) for the same Hebrew word. That is because there is no one-to-one relationship between the Hebrew and English alphabets. The transliterator is therefore free to use whatever spelling best represents the way that he/she hears the Hebrew word in his/her primary language. The letters “b” and “v” are often used interchangeably for the Hebrew letter beit [b], as are the letters “w” and “v” for the Hebrew letter “vav” or “waw” [w].

Plurals

All Hebrew nouns are either masculine or feminine. Hebrew plurals are usually formed by adding a “t” or “ot” [tw] (or sometimes “os” or “osh”) sound to feminine nouns, and by ending an “im” sound [~y] to masculine nouns. The difference in pronunciation and transliteration results from the fact there are two main groups of European ethnic Jews — the Sephardic Jews from south-western Europe (primarily Spain and Portugal, and the Ashkenazi (from northern and eastern Europe—and each group approaches the transliteration from the starting point of their own national language. Yiddish is an ethnic language with a very strong German influence.

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Capitalization

Although important in most Western languages, capitalization is unimportant in Hebrew because Hebrew has no capital letters. Interestingly enough, there are no vowels in early Hebrew (though there are “vowel points” in Masoretic and Modern Hebrew), and all Hebrew verbs have a three-consonant root. At this particular point in the evolution of this document, I have not “standardized” capitalization of terms. Though most proper names are capitalized, not all capitalized terms are proper names. I will take care of this later as the document progresses.

Verb Tenses

Hebrew thought, and therefore the Hebrew language, is significantly different from Western thought. Hebrew thought is very “picture oriented” as demonstrated by the rich visual images presented in the Psalms. Additionally, for all practical purposes there are no “tenses” in Hebrew to correspond to the tenses of Western languages. One must determine from the context whether the events being described are past, present, or future. Therefore, the Hebrew language presents the hearer (or reader) with a series of images much like watching a slide show presentation, as compared to the “motion picture” images presented by Western languages. My personal opinion is that Hebrew was the original language that HaShem taught Adam and Eve in Eden. Since HaShem is timeless, it seems appropriate that the language he gave to man should reflect that timelessness. (Note: The Hebrew language does actually have “tenses” but there is no clear equivalent to the English “tenses” of past, present, and future. That topic is far beyond the scope of this website.)

The Sacred Name

To say that the Creator has a “given” name diminishes His deity. To be able to name a thing is to be able to control that thing, and there is nothing or nobody that can control HaShem.

In Hebrew thought, a person’s name is not just the series of sounds used to refer to the individual, it is that individual’s character and reputation as well. So when we talk about “the Name” of God or of Yeshua, we are talking about all that the name represents: the Person, His character, and His reputation.

This is what happened when Moshe asked God His name.

Moshe said to God, "Look, when I appear before the people of Isra'el and say to them, 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you'; and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what am I to tell them?" God said to Moshe, "Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh [I am/will be what I am/will be]," and added, "Here is what to say to the people of Isra'el: Ehyeh [I Am or I Will Be] has sent me to you.'" God said further to Moshe, "Say this to the people of Isra'el: 'Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh [hwhy, ADONAI], the God of your fathers, the God of Avraham, the God of Yitz'chak and the God of Ya'akov, has sent me to you.' This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered generation after generation.” (Exodus 3:13-15)

To my mind, that was a nice way of HaShem telling Moshe that His Name was none of Moshe’s business. It’s almost as if God said, “Don’t you worry about My Name. All you need to know is that I Am the Self-Existing Eternal One. I Am What I Am and I Will Be What I Will Be. If you need a special designation, use these four letters: hwhy.”

The most common Jewish tradition of representing the Sacred Name [hwhy] is to write the Name and its various forms and representations such as “G-d” and “L-rd” with a dash instead of spelling the word. Some Jewish writers claim to follow this tradition to indicate that the God to whom they are referring is the God of Israel, the God of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’acov (as if there were some other God to whom one could be referring), or to otherwise show proper respect for the Sacred Name. Some claim that to use the Sacred Name at all shows disrespect. The tradition actually seems to stem from the Rabbinical prohibition of erasing the Name, once having been written, or of destroying any document on which the Sacred Name has been written. The Rabbis have recently lifted this prohibition when the Sacred Name is written on a computer or displayed on a computer screen (because it is “destroyed” or “erased” whenever it scrolls off the screen), but many Jewish websites continue to follow the practice because the screen images may be printed onto paper and then that printed copy may be destroyed.

Others claim that it is appropriate to use the Sacred Name when speaking about God, but not when speaking to Him (because, for example, we seldom call our human father by his proper name when speaking to him).

There are still others, both Jews and non-Jews (who frequently refer to themselves as Sacred Namers), who insist that the Sacred Name must always be spoken, or written out, or transliterated as YHWH, YHVH, Yahweh, Yahovah, Yahowah, or some other variant, to the extent that they insert it where it really doesn’t really belong: for example the name of Yeshua must, they insist (as a condition of one’s salvation), be spelled Yahshua, because He is Yahweh come in the flesh. But they can’t seem to agree on the appropriate spelling, and each group insists that their own spelling is the only proper spelling, and all other spellings are heresy. Instead of honoring the Name, they have effectively gone so far as to reduce the Name to a “magic word” or idol to be worshipped in place of Him Who is represented by the Name.

For a long time I attempted to follow the practice of using the forms “G-d” and “L-rd” on this site, not out of any personal conviction, but rather as a concession to any reader who might be offended by what he/she may consider an “inappropriate” use of The Name. However, I have received enough communications from a number of parties on each side of the issue to assure me that I am never going to be able to please everyone, so I have simply given up trying.

Additionally, I have found that practice to be both cumbersome and at times confusing. It also introduces a certain level of inaccuracy and ambiguity into my teaching. If we believe that Ruach HaKodesh actually inspired the Sacred Scriptures and guided the Nevhi’im (Prophets) And Shliachim (Apostles) in their choice of words and the spelling of those words, then we must assume that Ruach HaKodesh had a specific purpose in mind when He chose the word hwhy, or the word Adonai, or the word El, or the word Eloha, or the word Elohim when referring to the Creator. If Ruach HaKodesh deemed it appropriate to make a distinction between those terms, then it should also be appropriate for us to likewise distinguish between them.

I have therefore (finally) decided that it is more important for me to accurately teach the Word of God than it to be “politically correct” or to bow to what may actually be a form of idolatry where the Name is concerned. I have therefore determined that I will follow this policy concerning the use of the Name:

Where the Scriptures use the tetragrammaton [hwhy] I so indicate by using one of these forms: hwhy, YHWH, ADONAI, LORD, LORD, or very rarely Yahweh. Where the Hebrew text has “Adonai hwhy,” I use the form “Lord GOD.” When the Hebrew text has “hwhy Elohm” I use LORD God.”

Otherwise, I use the transliteration of whatever term Ruach HaKodesh uses in the Scriptures, as I assume that He had a particular reason in mind when He chose the specific word.

I also sometimes use the form “LORD” (with small capital letters) or ADONAI Yeshua when referring to Yeshua HaMashiach when it is important to emphasize His deity. When referring to the Creator when hwhy is not clearly indicated in the text, I use either “the Lord” or “God” or “HaShem” or “Adonai” interchangeably. I will also occasionally refer to Him as “Abba” (Hebrew for “Daddy” or “Papa”) as Yeshua taught us. Out of respect, I also capitalize the pronouns He, Him, and His when referring either to God or to Yeshua (even when quoting from Scripture translations that do not follow that convention). When quoting the works of other authors, I use those authors’ forms without modification (except for capitalization, as indicated above). Since we have a loving, not a legalistic, relationship with our Abba, I don’t really believe He minds when we lovingly write His Name in any of its representations.


Why is it important for a Believer in Yeshua to learn to use Hebraic terms?

Because Hebrew is the set-apart [holy] language of our God. We, as His children, need to learn the language of Yeshua. You will often notice some variation in spelling of these terms. This is because the Hebrew language has no direct equivalent of English vowels (though it does have a system of vowel points), and so when the writer transliterates Hebrew words into the English alphabet, there is the freedom to use the vowels which produce the sound most appropriate to the writer’s own ear.

The same is true of the English letters “W” and “V”. They are used to transliterate the Hebrew letter which is pronounced somewhere between the English “W” and “V”. Thus, some writers transliterate the Hebrew letter a “W” because they pronounce the Hebrew letter “waw”; others will use a “V” because they pronounce the Hebrew letter as “vav”; both forms are correct.

A brief note concerning the English letter “J”, as in “Jehovah” and “Jesus.” There is no letter “J” in the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek languages, nor do those languages contain the “jay” sound in any form. Therefore, it is grammatically impossible to say either the word “Jehovah” or the word “Jesus” in the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek languages. So the question must be asked, why does the Gentile Church insist on clinging so tenaciously to these two words, when they could not possibly be spoken in the original languages of Scripture?

See also Why Study Hebrew?

Use this “Jump Bar” to directly to any letter of the AlephBet
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Appendix   Liturgy & Worship   Pronunciation   [More]

Page last updated on Saturday, 09 January 2021 02:22 PM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes are identified as "Revisions”)