New Terminology and Biblical Events

There are many relatively ‘new’ terminologies which cover events, which took place millennia ago. Some scholars claim that labeling them as such is anachronistic. This is a mistaken concept. There is more truth in saying that the appropriate semantics have been developed belatedly.

For several modern expressions one can find examples of underlying cases that appear in Tenach, the Hebrew Bible. One of these is ‘identity.’ It occurs already in the first chapters of the Torah. Adam gives animals a name.1 By doing this the cow and the sheep get different identities. Before that, they both were ‘cattle.’

German-born Jewish psychologist Erich Fromm, claimed that the identity of humanity started with Adam and Eve disobeying a Divine order. By eating from the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil they gained their human identity.2

Adam naming the animals
(Etching by G. Scotin and J. Cole after H. Gravelot and J.B. Chatelain, 1743)

Jewish identity today has three aspects: How does a Jew see himself, how do other Jews see him, and how do non-Jews view him? Moses is a good ancient illustration. He is a Hebrew by birth and an Egyptian by education.3 When Moses saw that an Egyptian was beating a Hebrew, he killed the Egyptian. From his double identity, he opted for the Hebrew one.4 The next day he saw two Hebrews fighting. He tried to intervene but the reaction of the stronger one made it clear that he viewed Moses as just another Hebrew.5 Yet in Midian, when Moses waters the flock of the daughters of the priest Reuel, these tell their father that an Egyptian has helped them.6

The legislation of nations reflects their culture and identity. The Divine legislation the Jews receive in the desert after the exodus from Egypt is yet another expression of Hebrew – and later Jewish – identity. So is the earlier commandment of circumcision.7

There are other expressions of identity in later books of Tenach. The prophet Jonah flees God on a boat. During a storm he tells the sailors that he is a Hebrew. He also informs them that he worships the God of Heaven who made both sea and land. The God he prays to is yet an- other expression of his identity.8

Stereotyping is another modern expression of which an example can be found in the Tenach. When Mordechai the Jew refuses to kneel before Haman, the latter considers him not just a hostile individual. Haman wants all Jews murdered.9

A major debate in our day concerns nature versus nurture. Is human behavior determined by a person’s genes or by his environment? We can read Tenach to investigate how this issue is dealt with there. It becomes clear that for some people an additional factor is at play, which is not commonly included in the term ‘environment.’ There is divine interference in the fate of some individuals.

Jeremiah is told that God had pre-destined him already in his mother’s womb as a prophet.10 Yet another ex ample among several is that of the Prophet Hosea who is told that he has to marry a prostitute.11 This must have had a major impact on his life. A Biblical example where the environment (nurture) dominates the DNA (nature) of a person, concerns Absalom, the favorite son of King David. He declared himself king while David was alive. Ultimately, he was killed in the battle between David’s troops and his.

These are some examples of how semantics coined much later cover specific experiences in Tenach. These can be expanded by many other illustrations of later terminology. Among these are psychological insights, the application of political science to Biblical situations, for instance in the developing field of Jewish political studies, and various examples of economic analyses on cases in Tenach. My doctorate deals with the environmental views and policies of Judaism throughout history.

Published on April 15, 2020 Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR) Israfax, p.14,


1 Genesis, Chapter 2, Verse 20

2 om-adam-and-eve-to-gandhi-erich-fromm-argues-for-disobedience/ target=”new”>

3  Exodus, Chapter 2, Verses 1-10

 Exodus, Chapter 2,Verses 11 -12

 Exodus, Chapter 2, Verses 13 – 14

 Exodus, Chapter 2, Verse 19

7 Genesis, Chapter 17, Verse 10-12, Gen- esis, Chapter 34, Verses 13-17, Exodus, Chapter 4, Verses 25-26

8 Jonah; Chapter 1, Verse 9

9 The Book of Esther; Chapter 3, Verse13

10 Jeremiah; Chapter 1, Verses 4-5

11 Hosea, Chapter One, Verse2


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