Archive for 'biblical history'

A Famous 20th Century Hassidic Rebbe Endorses Ptolemaic Science!

Why did the early rabbis of Late Antiquity believe that the sun revolves around the earth?

On the surface, the Sages wanted to uphold the belief that the earth is still the center of God’s universe.  However, in all honesty, one cannot blame the ancient rabbis for thinking that way; the majority of them were unacquainted with the science of the Greeks, many of whom (like Aristotle)  believed that the earth revolves around the sun. One would be hard pressed to ...

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Genesis 1:2: Which rendering is more correct, “Spirit of God” or “Mighty Wind of God” ?qqqqqqqqq

What is the meaning of  וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים of Genesis 1:2?  Older translations[1] read, “Spirit of God”  (rûah °élöhîm) while newer translations seem to prefer “a wind of God,” or a “mighty wind . . . “

Both readings are plausible.[2] The term רוּח (rûah) connotes a moving power that is both mysteriously intangible and unseen; hence, “mighty wind” is an apt metaphor. When read in this context, °élöhîm is used not as a noun but ...

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Augustine and the “Mark of Cain”

What is the significance of the “mark of Cain” (Gen. 4:15)?

The text does not identify exactly what the sign was. Historically, this passage has often served as a scriptural support for Christian persecution of the Jews. For Cain, this was a mark of God’s special loving care and protection. For Jerome’s contemporary, Augustine, this idea proved to be a fertile concept for his comparison of Cain to the Jews. Curiously, Augustine, said nothing about this mark serving as a protective ...

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The Halitzah Ceremony– And Its Modern Ethical Challenges

As mentioned earlier the levirate marriage takes place between a widow who’s husband died childless and his brother (known as the levir); halitzah (“removal”) is a ceremony that releases the woman from the obligation of Levirate marriage, allowing her to marry someone else.

Although Levirate marriage itself no longer is practiced, traditional Jews still require halitzah, formally releasing the widow from the biblically required union with her brother-in-law. The widow appears before a tribunal of five people–three of whom happen to ...

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Understanding the Purpose of the Levirate Marriage and Its Symbolism

One of the ancient institutions that have persisted since archaic times is the levirate marriage. Here is a brief synopsis of the institution and its underlying rational.

Life of a widow in the ancient world was precarious at best. Having no inheritance rights, she was easily exploited and was frequently reduced to abject poverty and/or prostitution. Many ancient civilizations from India, Africa, to the Ancient Near East utilized the levirate marriage (from the Latin  levir, a “brother-in-law”) as a means of ...

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