“Elohim is Plural, Do Not Translate It with God”: An Interview with Bible Expert Mauro Biglino

“Elohim is a plural, do not translate it with God,” says Mauro Biglino, a prolific and controversial author who has spent the last decades of his life translating ancient Biblical Hebrew for the Edizioni San Paolo, one of the leading publishing houses in Italy and Europe in religious subjects.

Mauro Biglino is a passionate and friendly scholar, although he cannot show off any academic credentials. It is his personal passion and interest for the ancient texts that led him to become one of the most renowned translators of the Bible in Italy. San Paolo Edizioni published seventeen books of the Old Testament literally translated by Mauro Biglino from the Masoretic text, which have been included in their edition of the Hebrew Interlinear Bible. Everything went fine until Mauro started publishing his books to explain what he was really reading in the ancient text. If you speak some Italian he explains his relationship with Edizioni San Paolo in this video. In sum, what Mauro was reading in the Bible was completely different from what 2,000+ years of theological elaboration have been producing.

“We can be certain of one thing about the Bible, — Biglino says — that what we read today is not the text that was written originally”. Biglino argues that the Bible does not talk about God. It sounds like a very harsh provocation just conceived to make the followers of the Three Religions of the Book jump from the chair, but the Bible “simply tell the history of one Semitic family, the family of Jacob, and its relationship with Jahvè, their commander-in-chief”. Ok, but isn’t Jahvè God?

Photo by Tanner Mardis 

Our idea of God — argues the Italian scholar — came to us after 2,000 years of theological elaboration and was forged through the filter of Greek-Hellenistic thought and philosophy. It is because of 2,000+ years of theological exegesis that we describe God as immortal, transcendental, omniscient, omnipotent, and so forth and so on… but the stories we read in the Bible tell us something different. Jahvè doesn’t seem to possess any of these idealistic features. He gets tired, he gets dirty, he gets upset, he gets thirsty, he gets jealous, he gets fierce, he gets cruel — really cruel. Most importantly, “he is not the only one”.

In fact, “Jahvè is just one individual belonging to the group of the Elohim”. The Hebrew term Elohim is the one that has been traditionally translated with “God” in the Bible, despite the fact of being plural, while God is obviously singular. Why? This is just one obvious sign of millennia of monotheistic misrepresentation of the beautiful ancient text that is the Bible.

“Since we don’t know what Elohim means exactly, I would suggest to leave it as it is. Let us not translate the word Elohim,” the Italian Biblist recommends. It is hard not to see a reasonable suggestion in this, especially when you think that not always in the Bible the same term “Elohim” is translated with God. It is also translated with “kings” when they seduce women (Genesis 6) or “judges” when they gather together and their boss would tell them they would die (Psalm 82).

Photo by Kiwihug

Mauro Biglino has become very popular on the web, and his hours-long talks are followed by thousands of people — and for the whole time of the talk, you would not see one person playing with the smartphone or get half-sleepy, which is what you usually get at any other conference of dusty scholars about the Bible. You sit at the edge of the chair and you would not one miss a word coming out of this charismatic little man.

A scholar of the Pontifical Biblical Institute I spoke to, told me that a public dialogue with Mauro Biglino could be difficult to organize because Biglino’s ideas about the Bible are “nothing more than science fiction”. And yet, some interesting questions he poses remain unanswered. If Elohim is plural, why do we translate it with God, which is singular? Why we keep overlapping our Western idea of God with stories coming from the ancient Semitic culture? Why does Adam, Seth and Enosh live more than 900 years (Genesis 5), while Abraham and Moses live less than 200 years? And so forth and so.

Considering Mauro Biglino a charlatan is an understandable thing to do for anyone who has devoted his/her life studying the Bible on the assumption it is a book about a spiritual, omniscient Being. Yet, it is just too easy to dismiss his objections about the Bible with ad personam arguments. Truth is, I smell fear in this attitude — not just fear of Mauro Biglino, not that —, I smell the ancient existential fear to actually have to admit there are cracks, however small, in the monotheistic dam built in 2,000 years of theological restless work.

Photo by Aaron Burden 

What would just happen, I wonder, if the academic world stopped for a second taking for granted that the term “Elohim” is singular for God when, in fact, there is substantial evidence, grammatically and diegetically speaking, that “Elohim” is a plural term to describe a group of individuals with diverse and different roles, characters and motivations? The Bible goes as far as mentioning the names of many other Elohim, other than Jahvè.

If anything Mauro Biglino has the merit of posing legitimate questions. On the other hand, the attitude of orthodox scholars deployed in order in anxious and alerted defense of a theological fortress seems to be a bit suspicious, if not plainly narrow-minded. It is a fun scene to watch: one single unarmed man sieging the gigantic city walls of monotheism — and all those inside terrified. Why can’t they just let him, what do they fear, I wonder, if God is on their side?

Luckily enough some scholars, like famous Princeton Theological Seminar professor Mark Smith, are coming to acknowledge that polytheism was common practice at the beginning of the history of Israel. “Monotheism emerged only midway through Israel’s history. It was a reaction to a long tradition of Israelite polytheism” (M. S. Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism, Oxford University Press 2001). According to professor Smith, a lay catholic, the Deuteronomists have rewritten the polytheistic origins of Israel so as to make them appear monotheistic (these concepts are to be found in Smith’s work The Early History of God).

After all, theology is the only academic discipline whose object of study — God — is a sheer act of faith. It’s a discourse nobody can ever silence, no matter how many questions you ask about a book written 2,500+ years ago. The Bible has been written by men. And like all human things, inspired or not, it came to us through the centuries not without flaws and gaps. The stories of the Bible are so ancient and also rooted in other cultures like Sumerian and Akkadian literature, that nobody can claim to know the truth of it. Because one thing is to believe in God, one thing is to know. Nobody knows anything when it comes to a spiritual, transcendental, omniscient Being. Isn’t it so?

https://youtu.be/VEAO4uUzDYk

 

 

About Davide

Davide is a Columbia University alumnus and a member of the Columbia Alumni Association of Italy. He received a Ph.D. in Italian Literature from the Department of Italian at Columbia University in 2012. Davide was born in Correggio, Reggio Emilia in 1978 in a loosely catholic environment. At the age of 1.6 he gets involved with the Reggio Children lobby. Later, moved by idealistic hope for a better world, he starts a liturgical organ class, as if it made an impact. He also plays soccer. He quits both. He surprises everybody devoting himself to writing — well, rewriting — placing and removing commas on every page, to exhaustion. In 2005 db2296 moves to New York, where he makes a living by writing subtitles for B-movies. After many brilliant accomplishments in the field, he gets fired for ruining a pun in Fandango, that which upset Kevin Costner. Hopeless, db2296 obtains a PhD in Italian Literature from Columbia University with a dissertation on Ubertino da Casale and some obscure 13th-century friars obsessed with the Apocalypse and the coming of the Antichrist — thanks to the generous interest of the Whiting Foundation Fellowship. According to Colorado College, where he had the pleasure of teaching Italian, db2296 is “sincere advocate for inter-cultural and experiential learning”. Not everybody knows that his favourite author is Sir Laurence Sterne, followed by Czar Vladimir Nabokov. As for his private life he has no secrets.
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28 Responses to “Elohim is Plural, Do Not Translate It with God”: An Interview with Bible Expert Mauro Biglino

  1. Jared says:

    Elohim is plural because God is three Persons – Father, Son, Spirit

    • db2296 says:

      Well, it doesn’t seem philologically correct to me explaining ancient texts with what comes much later in history. No?

      • Raffaella Costi says:

        Infatti è privo di senso parlare di Trinità, in relazione al plurale, quando sappiamo che essa viene “affermata” solo nel Concilio di Costantinopoli, nel 381. Bisogna semplicemente aggiungere l’articolo “gli” davanti alla parola Elohim.

        • db2296 says:

          Esattamente, non si può spiegare il passato con quello che viene dopo; è una logica invertita

          • Cùscito, ergo sum says:

            Esatto, ed è esattamente uno degli errori principali che commette l’ipotesi paleoastronautica che si sta avallando in questo post.

          • db2296 says:

            Come fai a dire che Elohim è stato scritto al plurale perché i redattori indicavano in senso letterale la Trinità, un concetto nato nel IV secolo DC? Dopodiché, è legittimo dire che Elohim significa qualcosa o qualcos’altro. Ma deve essere qualcosa che che esisteva o si presupponeva che esistesse al tempo della redazione, non dopo. Segui?

          • Cùscito, ergo sum says:

            Dov’è che avrei detto che indica la Trinità? È ovvio che è sbagliato filologicamente!

            Ho detto che è ALTRETTANTO ovvio proiettare concetti come “ingegneria genetica”, “dischi volanti” in un testo che non li contiene.

            Ho letteralmente detto che la paleoastronautica fa lo stesso errore di certa teologia più fondamentalista, come ho mostrato sul mio blog.

            Entrambe sono lontane anni luce dall’approccio filologico e storico-critico. Anzi, la teologia riconosce la validità di questi ultimi, la paleoastronautica li ignora bellamente.

          • db2296 says:

            Non è lei che l’ha detto. Lei ha solo risposto ad un mio precedentemente commento, in risposta ad un commento che spiegava Elohim con la trinità. Quindi, senza aver letto quello che c’era prima (peraltro un commento brevissimo), lei ha estrapolato un’affermazione dal contesto, usandola come pretesto per parlare di paleoastronautica che non c’entra nulla con quello che si diceva. Questo dimostra l’attenzione che lei presta nel giudicare testi anche molto semplici. Tuttavia se vogliamo allargare il discorso, visto che lei è un attento lettore, vedrà che l’articolo non cita mai la parola alieni, né astronauti, mentre il focus è tutto sulla questione del politesimo/monotesimo che è più complessa di come lei vorrebbe liquidarla dicendo “lo dicono i dizionari” (a proposito di Elohim) come se i dizionari non fossero anch’essi un prodotto culturale di una società fondata di millenni di elaborazione teologica monoteista: è proprio questa idea che si vuole non cancellare, ma discutere con mente aperta e senza pregiudizi. Le copio qui un paragrafo che forse le è sfuggito: “Monotheism emerged only midway through Israel’s history. It was a reaction to a long tradition of Israelite polytheism” (M. S. Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism, Oxford University Press 2001). According to professor Smith, a catholic, the Deuteronomists have rewritten the polytheistic origins of Israel so as to make them appear monotheistic (these concepts are to be found in Smith’s work The Early History of God)” Per quanto riguardo l’ingegneria genetica e i dischi volanti, di nuovo, sono ipotesi intorno a cui si ragione per cercare di capire o spiegare dei testi antichi con molte difficoltà interpretative, dalla vocalizzazione alla tradizione manoscritta, dal rapporto con le fonti sumero-accadiche alle sovrastrutture monotesiste posteriori. Queste non sono cose che dice Biglino, solo uno negherebbe la complessità e le lacune di quel testo. Dunque, l’ipotesi aliena è implausibile, così come è implausibile quella divina. Per questo Biglino dice, tra le altre cose perché poi c’è anche la necessità di sintesi, lasciamo Elohim senza tradurlo. Lei dice invece, no lasciamo Dio perché lo dicono i dizionari. Benissimo, mi pare che la discussione sia interessante. E credo legittima, quindi per favore, se ci tiene a dire qualcosa faccia la gentilezza di argomentare le sue affermazioni senza rimandi infestanti ai suoi precedenti interventi (che ad una prima occhiata mi sembrano abbastanza deboli, ma approfondirò, glielo prometto). Buona giornata

    • Aya says:

      Sorry Jared but you are deeply wrong: Elohim is a -simple- plural: El is a singular male gender, Eloha is for the female gender. Basically is like saying “humankind” (Elohim), man (El) and woman (Eloha). It has literally nothing to do with father, son or spirit.
      Elohim is often translated as “judges, kings, lords” but no one really know what it the real meaning, some translates elohim as “Those other” impliying maybe some “alien” origin, but the matter of fact remains:” elohim” is a word that represent a group of individuals, not simply a triumvirate.
      Sorry for my english, but I’m italian too and so it si not my native language.

      • Cùscito, ergo sum says:

        That nobody knows what “Elohim” means is “deeply wrong”, to quote your own words.

        Its meanings are clearly attested in every single Hebrew dictionary, even those used by the “scholar”.

        He claims that nobody knows the meaning of the word in order to try to justify his interpretation that is incorrectly presented as “literal”.

        • db2296 says:

          Biglino suggests to leave Elohim as it is, why does this sound so scary? In fact this is what the interlinear Bible of San Paolo edizion has done for the first books. It sounds a good suggestion to me since there is debate on its meaning. Every serious philologist who is not worry for his faith or his academic reputation can see that. Elohim is a plural form translated with a singular, found in stories put on “paper” hundreds of years after they have been told orally. Then copied and copied and copied before our scholars could get their hands on the first manuscript. How could you not see the problem that lies there? But the grammatical point is less important than the fact that the meaning we attach to the word God — I think we can agree on this — which is completely different now from what it was 3000 years ago to anyone using the word Elohim. It’s quite incredible scholars don’t take this seriously. The problem is that they cannot do it. It would mean to undermine hundreds of years of theological elaboration on which they built they careers — better to follow the safe path, then allow anyone raise doubt about the foundation of our society and for many of their lives. They say Biglino is not in good faith, say those who have built religions on an ancient book, and benefitted from them for centuries.

          • Cùscito, ergo sum says:

            Who said that it’s scary? The claim that there is debate on its meaning is not scary, it simply is factually wrong. He even goes further by saying that nobody knows its meaning, which, again, is a blatant lie that shows either ignorance or contempt towards philology.

            “Every serious philologist” (to quote your own words) agrees that it has the meaning of “deity” and that it has ALSO been used to refer to a singular deity, not only in Hebrew, but in other Semitic languages as well. It’s easy to tell because in these cases the verbs have been conjugate in the singular form.

            The carreer of philologists is not based on the idea of God. This is ridiculous, how can you say that? Philologists have no interest in keeping the religious status quo.

            On the contrary, it’s thanks to philologists CENTURIES AGO, that we know that the God as it is described in the Bible is different from the one that they teach us in Church. I even wrote my Master’s thesis on it before Biglino published his first book on ancient aliens.

            Also, in my research, I deal with Jewish medieval astronomical texts. I would like to know how you think that having to change the idea of God in the Bible affects my research.

            This is an “ad hominem” argument and can be reversed: someone could be in bad faith and build his own carreer by selling books that spread non-peer-reviewed pseudoscience and pseudohistory.

            So, what he does is to “shock” people with facts that are well known among philologists but less known in the general public and to mix them with his own unfounded opinions and build a career on it.

            Who really has their own personal gain?

    • Thoth al Khem says:

      BS. There was never a MENTION of any Christian Trinity till the 3rd Century.

      I am just like Biglino.

    • In this case, it refers to a group of incarnated beings who were extraterrestrials.

  2. Cùscito, ergo sum says:

    The ideas presented by the “scolar” have no philological basis. I am not talking about theology, but simple grammar. There are several attestations of plurals in Hebrew that indicate singular entities, especial abstract names such as “youth”. Moreover, there are several attestations in other Semitic languages of an honorific plural attributed to single deities, as Joel Burnett has thoroughly demonstrated in his “A Reassessment of Biblical Elohim”.

    So, this alleged plural is a non-issue and it has been presented in a tendentious way. It can be used as a plural, but most of all it is used in Hebrew like its equivalents (e.g. “ilanu”) have been used in other languages when clearly referring to one single entity.

    Stating that “Elohim” is a “simple” plural shows either ignorance or contempt towards philological studies. Then again, in an interview, the alleged “scholar” has declared to have studied Hebrew in 20-25 lessons, plus a few months of self-teaching. I challenge anyone to have a solid competence of any language and philology with such a “scholarly” background.

    In my blog (for which I provide the link) I show that he has written words such as “Genesis” and “Exodus” wrong, that he has mixed up Hebrew letters – all of this while COPYING verses from the Bible – and, most of all, his methodology is heavily flawed by petitio principii and other biases.

    I can understand the infatuation towards certain hypotheses – I, too, have believed to some pseudohistorical theories – but they do not hold ground when faced with contextualization and thorough methodology.

  3. Luca Vitale says:

    Davide, io sto provando a darti un po’ di beneficio del dubbio, ma davvero stai avendo un comportamento scorrettissimo con il dr. Cùscito.
    Stai cancellando sistematicamente TUTTI i messaggi dove confuta le tue affermazioni.
    Inutile dirti che stiamo screennando tutto. Credo che a questo punto è necessario che a livello pubblico sia denunciato questo atteggiamento vergognoso, e non solo, mi adopererò in prima persona per segnalare proprio alla Columbia l’uso improprio del loro nome per dare credito a tesi pseudoscientifiche.

    • db2296 says:

      Gentile Luca, grazie per le sue osservazioni. Su undici commenti di questo articolo, tre sono del dott. Cùscito, quindi non mi pare di avergli tolto spazio. Altri commenti sono ancora in review perché più lunghi, cosa c’è di strano?
      PS. Anzi, ora sono tutti sono stati pubblicati

  4. archimede says:

    Trovo singolare che ci si accapigli su testi rimaneggiati piu’ volte nel corso dei secoli in cui personaggi sconosciuti hanno scritto quello che volevano usando termini sul cui significato nessuno puo’ oggi dare un responso definitivo. Andrebbe inoltre chiarito il metodo con cui ricavare le informazioni storiche nei testi biblici e in quelli ad essi affini (ammesso che ce ne siano realmente) che non puo’ essere quello semplicistico del ‘ facciamo finta che…’ ma che vuol dire? se faccio finta che esiste babbo natale devo veramente attendermi dei regali la notte del 24 dicembre! e per quanto riguarda la clonazione antidiluviana dove sono le prove? nessuno scavo archeologico ha portato alla luce laboratori, strumenti, documenti. Al contrario trovo interessante e coraggioso il lavoro di Biglino per smontare l’ impalcatura che la teologia (ossia la scienza del nulla) ha fatto nei secoli per fornire ai detentori del potere religioso uno strumento di persuasione manifesta e/o occulta per dominare le masse popolari.

    • db2296 says:

      I agree with most of the ideas of your comment. Only note, I would say that “fare finta che”, ‘pretending’, does not apply to life in general. Neither it means that every event or fairytale in life is “true”. We cannot pretend Santa is true, because we know it’s not true. This approach of “pretending” just applies to this text in particular, precisely for the reason that it’s a text, as you explain very well, that has been amended many times through the centuries. So it is unreliable. Being unreliable we cannot interpret it “spiritually”. Only in this respect we can “pretend”, that is in other words, to take the text seriously. If the Bible says Adam lives 930 years, and generates Seth when is 130 years old, we have no ground for allegorical or symbolic interpretation. But one thing we can do is to read the text and take it seriously. Which does not mean it’s a true fact. But, we cannot change the text either, pretending to know that they said “years” but they meant “moon cycles”, because nobody knows. So we pretend if they wrote “years” they meant “years”. Grazie a presto!

  5. Sam says:

    So maybe there are cracks. But despite all the cracks or redactions and interpretations, God became known. And He made Himself known. And people have tested Him, and have come to know Him, not just of Him. So if you want to see if He exists, and if there really is a God, you will see when you have believed and have stopped putting God into question. That’s when you can see the things that would shake and rattle. I was fortunate to see a surgery through mere prayer, the opening of the flesh, the removal of what didn’t belong, the closing of the flesh and the rising of child alive to this day, all within minutes in the presence of a village of humble-living people. This is just one of many ways God may present Himself. These people never doubted or limited God. They loved a God they had never seen. But despite all interpretations, they loved and accepted Him. Hopefully one day, you will know Him too and will see that HE meant to be known and found. God Bless you.

  6. Jeremy says:

    Or I can I am Jeremiah returned as Jeremy proclaimed once and three times over before I was born known and proclaimed three times over by the perfect one can give you amnesty from law won’t taste death as Adam did won’t be martyred he proclaimed me proved me I trusted in God to returned Jeremiah returned as Jeremy one whole in one whole in one many out womb and man born again in life living room out womb whole of 3 in one a Trinity 1.24.75 add move right repeat return to one 3 in one whole known self reborn known to the father two became one Jeremiah Married God Mary became a man squashed seeds head of snake eating tail returned a child . Jeremy Michael my middle name and out womb 369 in balance in the son born again in life in the son 18.1.24 judgement multiply once known to the true mother creator cause and effect mother father true and just born . Born in the purple and gold state in the north on international inland lake . I see to shining sea inlaw above and below admiralty see law maritime law sea . The international stamp treaty UPU universal postal union switzerland pope unslaved the world threw the post office switzerland queen 8 families ensalved the world . The day you born you became two made a legal copy of you a strawman flag wooden floor state name doomed roofs milking many you John doe exept on dock slip ship gives berth certificate capital letters property on slave ship 12 mayflowers cash cows milking many why blessed be the breast doesn’t give milk womb doesn’t give berth . Certificate capital letters property on slave and manifest cargo list property on ship I got plenty more

  7. Jeremy says:

    The living aren’t alive and the dead aren’t dead at 7 days old live 8 walking dead lost at sea until declared dead . Parents signed birth certificate capital letters gave away your God given rights and inheritance why you must be reborn in the son to get back in the fathers will . I mathematically can show my mother father PROCLAIMED me three times over before I was born and knew me before I was born two in 10000 in one mom in labor 3.5 days I watched the big bang Jehovah’s witness I the spark Michael nobody superman will set you free . Educated guess idiot guess know deceiving self exactly void in know . Pretend to know defend lies as truth became two .5 just . 5 true unknown to even self . Know self knocking on door shown Way walking Path probation 1.5 if walked threw door 3/4 each direction on Path if walked threw door 3 in one whole known self reborn returned to one known to the father healed in the Holy Spirit to one true and just known self reborn returned to one . Two became one three returned in one whole in one whole in many n369 and 1911 in balance out womb in life walked to the son he knew me before I was born before he was born out womb and in man born again the living one won’t taste death 18.1.24 in Balance and harmony with all in laws above and below I got more

  8. Jeremy says:

    Two where coming as says Jeremiah returned as Jeremy PROCLAIMED once blessed Is he proclaimed three times over Jeremy . Jeremiah walked to the father before Jesus was born he was gnostic and walked to the father married God as Adam did before me . I won’t taste death and not martyred . Mary became a man squashed seeds head of snake eating tail returned a child . In the Holy Spirit is in me and the hope for the man of understanding . I watched the big bang Jehovah’s witness I the spark Michael nobody superman truth will set you free

  9. Jeremy says:

    Many Pretend to know and educated guess know deceiving self exactly void in know lie tell self became two unknown to even self

  10. Patrick McShea says:

    Dismiss him and read Mike Heiser. He bloviates less and actually knows what he’s talking about.

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