by Dan WallaceAugust 14th, 2009 129 Comments
More than one Christian friend has suggested to me, in all seriousness, that President Obama is the Antichrist. I haven’t taken such suggestions too seriously, but recently a video has shown up on Youtube that seems to claim that Jesus identified Obama as the Antichrist. Some Christians have been startled by this (and the video is wildly popular) and believe that the evidence is compelling. The video is found here.
The anonymous narrator introduces his provocative four-minute video by asking if Jesus identified the name of the Antichrist, then says, “I will report the facts; you can decide” (reminiscent of Greta Van Susteren’s tagline on her show on Fox News). The narrator then notes that in Luke 10.18, Jesus says, “And he said unto them, I beheld Satan falling from the heavens.”
He then begins to link several hypotheses together. First, he claims that Luke 10.18 was written originally in Greek, but that Jesus spoke these words in Aramaic, “which is the most ancient form of Hebrew.” Second, he observes that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and claims that the Aramaic that Jesus spoke would have been quite similar to the Hebrew that is spoken today and, presumably, similar to the Hebrew of the Old Testament. Third, he then says that Jesus spoke these words in Hebrew, and retranslates the text as follows: “I saw Satan falling as lightning from the heights, or from the heavens.” Fourth, he discusses the Hebrew words for ‘lightning’ and ‘heights.’ He notes that the word for ‘lightning’ is baraq. Fifth, he claims that Isaiah is the source of the Christian understanding of Satan or ‘Lucifer’ (Isa 14.12 in the KJV). Sixth, Isa 14.14 has Satan say, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.” Seventh, the Hebrew word in Isa 14.14 for ‘heights’ is bamaw, and this is surely what ‘heavens’ means in Luke 10.18. Eighth, the Hebrew letter waw is sometimes transliterated as a u or o. Ninth, the waw is used in Hebrew as a conjunction. Tenth, in Hebrew poetry baraq obamah literally is translated “lightning and the heights” or “lightning from the heights.” Eleventh, if Jesus’ words in Luke 10.18 were spoken in Hebrew by a Jewish Rabbi today he would say, “And I saw Satan as baraq ubamah.” He concludes his narration by asking, “Did Jesus reveal the name of the Antichrist? I report; you decide.” There is a disclaimer at the end of the video that simply says the correlation is striking, but not that the narrator is claiming that the President is the Antichrist.
This video was followed up by another by the same narrator. You can see it here.
It essentially argues the same point, but changes a couple of points (without warrant).
What can we say about these videos and the linguistic argument used? Of the eleven points noted above, the fourth and eighth are the only ones that are indisputable: the Hebrew word for lightning is baraq; and the waw is sometimes transliterated as a u or o. The seventh point comes close to being correct: the Hebrew word for height is bamah, but the plural is used in Isa 14.14, bamot (pronounced baw-moat). As for the rest of the points, some are debatable, while others are factually wrong. Taking them in order: (1) It is debatable whether Jesus spoke most of the time in Aramaic; he may have done much of his teaching in Greek. It is also not true that Aramaic is the oldest form of Hebrew. (2) and (3) A sleight of hand has occurred here: First, it is claimed that Jesus spoke in Aramaic, but then it is claimed that he spoke in Hebrew. Which is it? Although the characters for both languages are the same, the vocabulary has some key differences, especially in vowel points but also often in the very consonants used. (5) and (6) Is Isaiah really the source for the Christian view of Satan? It may contribute to our understanding, but even that is disputed. The one passage that may speak about Satan is indeed Isa 14. But part of the reason for this being so interpreted is due to the influence of the KJV. At v. 12 the King James says, “O Lucifer, son of the morning!” The word lucifer, however, is simply a transliteration of the Latin Vulgate at this point. It is not another name for Satan. The Hebrew word, helel means ‘morning star’ or ‘shining one.’ Most modern translations (the NKJV is the only exception I found of the translations I checked) do not translate helel as Lucifer; rather they have ‘shining one,’ ‘day star,’ ‘morning star,’ etc. (cf., e.g., NET, ASV, RSV, NRSV, ESV, TEV, REB, NIV, TNIV, NAB, NJB, HCSB). Of course, there are still excellent scholars who believe that Isa 14 is ultimately a reference to Satan, though in the historical context it was directed at the Babylonian king. (9) This is true, but irrelevant. To have the idea of ‘lightning from the heights’ would normally require a preposition, not a conjunction (see next point). (10) It seems to be an illegitimate leap to say ‘lightning and the heights’ means the same thing as ‘lightning from the heights.’ Indeed, there is a perfectly good Hebrew word that means ‘from’: min. But that would produce baraq min-bamot. It’s getting more difficult to see the validity of the narrator’s linguistic points. (11) When all is said and done, the evidence is simply bogus. Jesus didn’t speak in Hebrew, and the Hebrew that is given here does not mean ‘lightning from the heights.’ Baraq ubamah means ‘lightning and height.’ But that can hardly be the underlying Aramaic (which is not Hebrew) for the Greek text of Luke 10.18. Thus, a linguistic leap from Greek to Aramaic to Hebrew, with the grammar and vocabulary changing along the way, is required to make Luke 10.18 mean what the narrator wants it to mean. This is hardly a case of “I report; you decide.” It is rather a case of “I’ll tell you only part of the evidence, and will use some fancy exegetical gymnastics to make everything fit; and based on the skewered evidence, you decide.”
Now, to be sure, the President did say at one public meeting that the rumors that he was born in a manger are not true (!). I didn’t care for that comment (though it was in reaction to what many pundits, conservative politicians, and comedians had sarcastically said), nor do I care for many, if not most, of his policies. Perhaps he’s a little full of himself. And certainly there has been hype about him that goes beyond reason, some that is even blasphemous (e.g., Evan Thomas, of Newsweek, who said that Obama was ‘sort of God’ on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, to which Matthews replied, ‘yeah.’ It’s that kind of rhetoric that is more persuasive than the video, since it reflects the opinions of so many Americans and even the global community). But is he the Antichrist? In the least, the linguistic torturing required to make the biblical evidence say this is beyond the pale of reason and, perhaps, sanity.
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