Jimmy was born in Texas, grew up nominally Protestant, but at age 20 experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, he started an intensive study of the Bible. But the more he immersed himself in Scripture the more he found to support the Catholic faith. Eventually, he entered the Catholic Church. His conversion story, “A Triumph and a Tragedy,” is published in Surprised by Truth. Besides being an author, Jimmy is the Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to Catholic Answers Magazine, and a weekly guest on “Catholic Answers Live.”
Just, y’know, not good evidence.
Consider the following video, which has been going around the Internet, with over a million hits on YouTube between different versions.
Okay. So that kind of settles it.
I don’t know who is behind the video, but whoever it is clearly has only the most rudimentary understanding of the things he’s talking about, and he makes mistakes left and right. (Put another way: He’s totally out of his depth.) This is made clear by the annotations that start popping up in the video (you can shut them off with the controller in the lower right hand corner) that, among other things, advertise an updated version of the video, in which he tries to eliminate some of the most blatant errors that critics have pointed out.
The new one doesn’t work any better. It’s just got a few of the worst mistakes cut out.
Like this one: The claim that Jesus spoke Aramaic, which is the most ancient form of Hebrew.
While Jesus did speak Aramaic, Aramaic is not an ancient form of Hebrew. It’s a related language, but neither is an ancestor of the other.
What he’s done is the equivalent of saying that English is the most ancient form of Dutch.
It reveals how utterly devoid of basic competence in the biblical languages this person is.
His overall strategy then becomes clear: He knows that the New Testament is recorded in Greek, but he wants to get back behind that to Aramaic so he can jump (quickly!) back to Hebrew. This is where his real interest is: Talking about Hebrew, because he’s got access to a rudimentary Hebrew dictionary. He doesn’t really know or care about Aramaic. It’s just a way of getting quickly to the Hebrew dictionary he’s discovered.
And by the way, it is evident that this man has no training in biblical Hebrew or he never would have made the mistake of saying that Aramaic was a form of it. You can’t take a class (or even read a whole book) on biblical Hebrew without learning how the two languages are related, since they’re both used in the Old Testament. He’s just some guy (possibly a minister, possibly not) who has access to a Hebrew dictionary.
A particularly, old, problematic Hebrew dictionary.
In fact, what he really has is a copy of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. As its name suggests, it’s not really a dictionary; it’s a concordance—a book that allows you to look up where words occur in the Bible. For example, if you looked up “faith,” you’d find a list of all the verses in which the word “faith” occurs in the King James Bible.
Strong’s happened to assign numbers to the words, and it offers a numbered word list to give a basic idea of what the original Greek or Hebrew word meant.
The problem is that Strong’s definitions are (a) more than a hundred years old, (b) extremely brief and lacking in detail, and (c) very, very prone to misuse.
Whenever I hear anyone starting to use Strong’s numbers when making an argument, I cringe because I know that misuse of the original languages is almost certain to occur.
The problem is so common that the Wikipedia entry on Strong’s Concordance devotes two paragraphs to warning people not to misuse the numbers:
Strong’s Concordance is not a translation of the Bible nor is it intended as a translation tool. The use of Strong’s numbers is not a substitute for professional translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English by those with formal training in ancient languages and the literature of the cultures in which the Bible was written.
Since Strong’s Concordance identifies the original words in Hebrew and Greek, Strong’s Numbers are sometimes misinterpreted by those without adequate training to change the Bible from its accurate meaning simply by taking the words out of cultural context. The use of Strong’s numbers does not consider figures of speech, metaphors, idioms, common phrases, cultural references, references to historical events, or alternate meanings used by those of the time period to express their thoughts in their own language at the time. As such, professionals and amateurs alike must consult a number of contextual tools to reconstruct these cultural backgrounds.
I don’t know who wrote that in Wikipedia, but whoever it was, God bless him (or them)!
So let’s see how the video manages to botch things with Strong’s numbers.
First, it cites Hebrew words number 1299 and 1300, which Strong’s lists respectively as meaning “to lighten (lightning)—cast forth” and “lightning; by analogy, a gleam; concretely, a flashing sword—bright, glitter(-ing sword), lightning.”
Okay, fine. Fair enough. But here is where not knowing what you’re doing comes in. It’s true that the Hebrew word(s) for lightning come from the root BRQ, but that is not where Barack Obama’s name comes from. It comes from a different root: BRK.
We don’t distinguish the sounds of K and Q in English very well, but in the Semitic languages, they do. K is pronounced towards the front or the middle of the mouth, while Q is pronounced toward the back of the mouth, on the soft palette. In other words, these are two different sounds in Hebrew and Aramaic, and you can’t count on a word derived from BRQ to have the same meaning as a word derived from BRK any more than you can count on the meaning of the word “cab” to have a meaning similar to the word “cap” (B and P being similar sounds that English speakers use and distinguish but that some, such as Arabic-speakers, don’t).
(There are also other variants on the K sound in these languages, but we won’t go into them for simplicity’s sake.)
So what is the real meaning of Barack Obama’s first name?
It has nothing to do with lightning. But if Mr. Video Maker hadn’t been so fascinated by Strong’s numbers 1299 and 1300, he might have looked up at 1288 which is the real source of the name: barak, which can mean a variety of things, but the relevant one is this: blessing. People see their children as blessings, and they want them to be blessed by God, and so variants on the root BRK have been used in Semitic and Semitic-influenced languages for thousands of years. Which is why lots of people from Bible days down to ours have had names based on this root, even in other languages than Hebrew.
So much for the Barack = baraq business. President Obama’s first name has nothing to do with lightning, and a native speaker of Aramaic or Hebrew would have distinguished the two words as easily as we distinguish “cab” from “cap.”
We already have plenty of evidence that the vid is a load of hooey, but let’s keep going.
To get the word “Obama” into the picture, Mr. Video Maker seems to reason like this: Jesus said something about the devil falling light lightning from a high place, so let’s find somewhere in the Old Testament (so it’ll be in Hebrew) where the devil falls in connection with a high place.
He settles on Isaiah, which he says is the source of the Christian concept of Satan (???), and specifically on Isaiah 14.
Now the thing is, Isaiah 14 is not about the devil. Certainly not in the literal sense of the text. It involves a series of prophesies against neighboring kingdoms that have been persecuting Israel: the Babylonians, the Assyrians, and the Philistines—all of whom the text explicitly names, so we don’t have to be confused about it. The verses that Mr. Video Maker applies to the devil are, in fact, part of a taunt song directed toward the king of Babylon, telling him that although he is high and might now, he’s going to die and end up rotting, with all his pomp and glory coming to nothing.
Over time, Christians have lifted some of the imagery from this passage and applied it to the devil, but that is not what the text is literally talking about. It’s talking about the death of a Babylonian king.
So: More problems for Mr. Video’s thesis.
Now, it’s true that the word bamah can mean height or high place. It’s also a term referring to pagan shrines, which were built on elevated platforms (that’s the kind of high place the prophets often rail against). But it’s not the normal word for “heaven,” in Hebrew, which is shamayim. If you took Jesus statement that he saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven (Greek, ouranos) and you translated this back into Aramaic or Hebrew, the word you’d use for “heaven” would be shmaya (Aramaic) or shamayim (Hebrew). Bamah would not be the expected word.
So: Another problem.
Then there is the bizarre things that Mr. Video Maker does with the conjunction waw- (or vav-). This functions as the equivalent of the word “and,” and it is prefixed to words in Hebrew and Aramaic.
Video Guy tells us that this is often transliterated “U” or “O” by some scholars.
Uh . . . no. Not when it’s used as a conjunction. (The same letter can be used as an O in the middle of a word, when it’s functioning as a vowel, but not when it’s on the front of a word functioning as a conjunction.)
When it’s used as a conjunction, it’s pronounced “veh-” in modern Hebrew, and it’s pronounced “u-” (as in “tube”) in Aramaic (and Arabic).
So this is just wrong. waw as a conjunction is not pronounced O.
Mr. Video then strings it all together: baraq + o- + bamah and suggests that this would be used “in Hebrew poetry” to mean “lighting from heaven” or “lightning from the heights.”
Okay: Here is something Mr. Video should understand just from his days in grammar school. Just from English. Conjunctions are words like “and,” “but,” and “or.” “From” is not a conjunction. It is a preposition.
So in Hebrew and Aramaic, U- is a conjunction. It means “and,” not “from.”
What you want for “from” is min. “Lightning *from* heaven” would be something like baraq min ha-shamayim (Hebrew) or barqa min shmaya (Aramaic) or similar variants.
So things aren’t going well for this thesis.
But now let’s pull the rug out from under it entirely.
Consider the context. Read Luke 10, where the quotation in the video comes from. Jesus has sent out the Seventy-Two on an evangelization mission and when they come back . . .
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
So what is the context of “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”? Is it a prophecy referring to the 21st century? No! It’s a remark about the evangelization mission that the Seventy-Two have just completed!
The disciples went out, preached, worked miracles, and struck a blow against the kingdom of Satan. So Jesus congratulates them telling them that before their evangelistic effort, King Satan fell from his throne like lightning from the sky (which is where lighting falls from; “sky,” “heaven,” same word in all these languages).
He’s not prophesying the future. He’s congratulating them on the past and how effective they were by God’s grace.
So, Mr. Video Maker is just wrong on all kinds of fronts. There is no prophecy of the Antichrist here. His video is all bunkum.
What do you think?