Sunday, March 8, 2009

דור (DOR)

דור (DOR)
This Hebrew word is used 167 times in the Hebrew Bible and usually translated as "generation". While the Hebrew word דור and the English word "generation" are similar in meaning, it is important to understand the differences in order to have a clearer picture of the authors understanding of the word which may impact how the passage is understood.

A generation is time from one birth to the birth of the next generation. While the word דור has the same meaning, there are differences. In our Greco-Roman culture we see time as a line with a beginning and an end while the Eastern mind sees time as a continuous circle. While we may see a generation as a time line with a beginning and an end, the Hebrews saw a generation as one circle with the next generation as a continuation of the circle. There is no beginning and no end.

The word דור is a child root derived from the parent root דר (meaning generation in Aramaic). In the ancient pictographic script this word is written as daletresh. The dalet is a picture of a tent door and has the meaning of an in and out or back and forth movement. The resh is the head of a man meaning man. When combined these mean "the movement of man", a generation is the movement through the circle of one man while the next generation is the movement of man through the following circle.

In the ancient Hebrew mind the circle is the symbol for "order". Note the possibility of the ancient Semitic word DOR in the word orDER. This circular order can also be seen in the creation/destruction of the world. In our Greco-Roman mind we see the creation as the beginning of a time line and its destruction as the end of that timeline. But remember the ancient Hebrews see time as a circle. Genesis 1:1 says "in a beginning" (bereshiyt means in "a" beginning, not "the" beginning). This world was destroyed at the fall of man (a full circle). The world begins a-new with the new order of things and is destroyed again at the flood, another circle. The world begins a-new and will be destroyed again (as prophesied by the prophets). Were there circles of time prior to Genesis 1:1 and circles of time after the destruction to come?

There are three Hebrew roots (each are adopted roots) that have the meaning of order. Within each of these is the DR parent root meaning "order" or "circle". In the following issues we will examine each of these words.

Inspiration: In order to read the text correctly we must be willing to learn the unique styles of writing employed by the original authors, learn how the authors thought and percieved their world and the words of the text must be interpreted according to the authors understanding. Our own beliefs, prejudices and preconcieved theologies can cause a biaseness when reading the text eliminating the discovery of truth.

Preservation: Whenever a text is copied by hand, letters, words and even whole sentences can accidently be forgotten, repeated or even altered. When later copies are made these mistakes are found and corrected. Knowing that mistakes exist, the copier may come across a passage which he assumes to be incorrect as the stated passage does not make sense, and therefore, he alters the text in order to correct it. But, unknown to him the text no longer makes sense because he does not understand the context in which it was originally written in.

Translation: There are many factors that go into a translation of the Bible which are invisible and unknown to the reader of a translation. Many people read a translation of the Bible believing that they are reading a perfect translation of the original Hebrew words as originally recorded. There are many problems with this assumption. One Hebrew word can mean many different things in English and the translator will use a word that he believes the author was attempting to convey. This of course allows for personal biaseness on the part of the translator. At other times the Hebrew is very ambiguous or completely unknown at which point the translator attempts to fill the holes in, again allowing for personal biaseness.

Interpretation: Over the years I have heard that the Bible will always interpret itself and no outside source is necessary to understand it and that the Bible was written to stand on its own. If this were true, we would have no need for Bible dictionaries and commentaries to aid us with explaining the culture in which the authors of the Bible livied in. Yet, every student of the Bible uses books outside of the Bible to help explain the various tools, people, animals and customs within the Bible. When we read that Lot offered his virgin daughters to the crowd rather than the strangers, we are shocked at this behavior. We are not aware that eastern customs regarding strangers is very different from our western view. If modern Bible dictionaries and commentaries can help us to better understand the Bible, why not more ancient books such as Josephus' writings, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the book of Enoch and others. These books often reveal more truths about ancient culture aiding us with better Biblical understanding.

This book is meant to give a brief overview of the transmission process from the original writer to you, the reader. An entire lifetime could be devoted to the study of one part of this process and I encourage you to find one area that interests you and begin your own search.