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In Daniel 3:25, both Young's Literal and Green's Literal give :

... a son of the gods

whereas the KJV gives :

... the son of God.

Young lists the word Elah, as being the Chaldee word which Nebuchadnezzar uttered and I presume that he uttered it in the plural.

But if that were transferred into Hebrew, would he not have said 'Elohim' the plural version, or 'composite' version of the singular 'El' ?

And therefore should it not be translated 'God' as the KJV ?

Is it interpretation to try to figure out what he, himself, at that time in his life, actually knew or believed of God ?

If he uttered a pluralised form, or it might be called a composite form, should it not be translated (despite being Chaldee) in the way in which Elohim is translated into English ?

Also, is the definite article in front of 'son' missing ? If so, why would the KJV have translated it as 'the' ?

I do not wish to wander into interpretations, I am simply trying (despite not being an Hebrew scholar) to understand for myself, what exactly the King said at the time.

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  • 1
    Being a Hebrew scholar won't do you a lot of good for this verse anyway. The whole verse is written in Aramaic.
    – colboynik
    Jan 27 '19 at 20:31
  • I am not an Aramaic expert, but I cant find a definite article anywhere in the Aramaic part of Daniel. I can't find a ה used as "the" (that is what I would expect in Hebrew), but moreso I cannot find anything that is consistently translated as "the". Does Aramaic not have a definite article? Someone correct me if I just can't find it.
    – colboynik
    Jan 27 '19 at 20:55
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    @Jack Aramaic has an emphatic state (next to absolute and construct) which serves this function (and develops into a marker of all important nouns). It is for the masculine (see e.g. ṣalmā in 3:2 vs. ṣəlēm in 3:1; the first is definite; the second not), and -tā for the feminine. (See also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aramaic_language#Nouns_and_adjectives.)
    – user2672
    Jan 27 '19 at 21:16
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    In 3:25, bar "son" is not in the emphatic state, but it is in construct with a noun which is in either the emphatic or the absolute state (they are the same in the masculine plural). Hence it can literally be translated both "a son of gods" (if elāhīn "gods" is in the absolute state) or "the son of the gods" (if it is in the emphatic state). But as in Hebrew the whole construct chain is either definite or indefinite, you cannot mix and match (so no "a son of the gods" or "the son of (some, unspecified) gods").
    – user2672
    Jan 27 '19 at 21:21
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In Aramaic, אלה 'elāh is the general word for "(a) god". When a particular god is meant, the noun is in the emphatic state, אלהא 'elāhā' "the god". The plural אלהין 'elāhīn "(the/some) gods" is used only for groups of gods, as Niehr wrote in his lemma of אלה in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (vol. XVI, pp. 33, 37):

For the use of 'elāh in Biblical Aramaic, one must emphasize fundamentally that the plural 'elāhîn or 'elāhayyā' always means "(the) gods" and is not comparable to Hebrew 'elōhîm "God." — p. 37

To explain why: Aramaic was a thriving language at the time that Biblical Aramaic came forth from so-called "Imperial Aramaic", and Biblical Aramaic came into existence in a highly pluralistic context where אלהין (the Aramaic plural) could be used for e.g. the Persian pantheon. Furthermore, Hebrew אלהים had become almost like a personal name. It is therefore not odd that אלהים was not translated into Biblical Aramaic (because names are rarely translated, and because this would suggest a polytheistic perspective which the biblical authors wanted to avoid).

According to Rosenthal (A Grammar of Biblical Aramaic7, §47) a construct chain (which בר־אלהין in 3:25 is) is either fully determined ("the son of the gods") or fully undetermined ("a son of some gods"). He argues that "a X of the Y" would be expressed with X in the absolute state followed by the preposition ל and Y, as in מלך לישראל "a king of Israel" in Ezra 5:11. However, he suggests to read בר־אלהין in Daniel 3:25 as "a divine being", because בר "son" may also be used to indicate class membership (just as בני־ישראל "the sons of Israel" means "the Israelites").

I agree with Rosenthal and would also read Daniel 3:25 as "a divine being". This is similar to the translation Niehr gives (p. 37): "a divine one" with (3:25); "(holy) divine spirit" with רוח in 4:5f.,15; 5:11,14; "divine wisdom" with חכמה in 5:11. This is in contrast to the Babylonian gods (2:11; 3:12,14,18; 5:4,23).

The conversion of Nebuchadnezzar takes place after 3:25, namely between that verse and the following, in which he addresses Daniel's companions as servants of אלהא עליא "the Most High God". Here, אלהא is in singular and emphatic, i.e., "the god". This is the moment where Nebuchadnezzar exchanges his previous polytheistic point of view for a monotheistic one.

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  • Yet the construct emphatic plural forms found in verses 28-29, show that the notion that Nebuchadnezzar ceased to use the plural form after his 'conversion to monotheism' is not supported, which fact may influence such a figurative translation of verse 25, or at least according to the seeming implication of your conclusion.
    – user21676
    Jan 29 '19 at 7:48
  • @user21676 do you mean אֶלָהַהוֹן? That is not a plural emphatic form (which ends in -ayyā'), but a singular form with a 3mp pronominal suffix, i.e. "their god". It is a common Aramaic construction where the pronominal suffix is actually redundant, literally: "their (־הוֹן) god, the god of (דִי) X".
    – user2672
    Jan 29 '19 at 8:21
  • Ok I suppose I agree that there is a good chance it's a genitive pronoun; but what about the post 'conversion' verses where it's apparently plural in form(plural adjective), like 4:8-9(4:5f, 15?)? You are translating it figuratively but in the process of trying to prove this you are saying these other verses should be translated figuratively, a paradox.
    – user21676
    Jan 29 '19 at 10:36
  • @user21676 this "good chance" is the only correct parsing. (You can read this language, right?) I'm not translating anything figuratively. "X of Ys" ("X of gods") is a normal expression for "Y-ly X" ("godly/divine X") in at least North-West Semitic (i.e., Aramaic, Hebrew, and some related languages).
    – user2672
    Jan 29 '19 at 10:48
  • You have misrepresented what Rosenthal says. Look at it again. בר־אלהין must mean "a son of (some) gods", and cannot mean "the son of the gods". For the latter you need to use the determined state
    – fdb
    Jan 29 '19 at 14:52
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I wanted to make some remarks in the comment section but given they are misconstrued as answers I’ll give longer answer here.

There are at least three parties involved

  • Hebrew author/scribes
  • Babylonian Chaldeans
  • Old English translators

And by that I want to point out that a different language, culture, religious paradigm and cosmology is invoked by the three even if there is overlap.

This “verse” falls in the portion of the book that is written in Aramaic. It would seem appropriate to read this portion in light of the Chaldean paradigm. By that I would argue that what the king says should be understood from his paradigm and not the Hebrew/Jewish mindset, even if his paradigm is not consistent with the Biblical paradigm.

Taking into account Chaldean cosmology and the pantheon of the gods, if we are to read the text in the original, as either

fully determined ("the son of the gods") or fully undetermined ("a son of some gods")

It wouldn’t make much of a difference. Whatever, the king saw physically (equally important what he did not see) and whatever form this fourth entity took convinced the king that he was looking at a divine being in the class of the gods. Something definitely prompted him to label him as a son and not a god. But that’s going into another subject and speculative based on their iconography and religious views.

I understand you would like to know was he one among many sons or The son of the gods. I’d say it’s irrelevant in the sense that Chaldean understanding of the gods is not Scripturally accurate and does not align to Scripture, though it overlaps. It’s as if the king was being quoted verbatim for the sake of transcript accuracy and not meant to be taken as an a inspired understanding of the gods.

It would be very interesting if this were not a quotation in Aramaic, what the Hebrew scribes would have used to describe the same passage. The LXX being in Greek and an interpretation doesn’t convey the elohim and son/s of Elohim distinctions that the Hebrew may have used.

KJV

Why the KJV used the translation “The Son of God” is because like the LXX writers the KJV engages in the interpretation of the text from the original language to the language of translation. Translations have limitations. Sometimes transliteration is used but that often defeats the purpose of translation. My personal view is that only the original language in which the text is written is inspired. Translations have tremendous value and importance but much can be lost in translation, so translators attempt to mitigate this loss by not merely translating but also adding interpretation.

The KJV writers being Christians had the incentive to clarify to their Christian audience that this was a Christophany. Because they would be unable to include a hermeneutical commentary on each word and text, they opted to give the “bottom line”.

Granted the king had no way of knowing this was Jesus the Son of God, but the Christian scholars looking at this passage in the course of time and having many Scriptures to cross reference saw this to be self evident. It’s not a son of the gods, that would only confuse the English reader who doesn’t have the broader context, its The Son of The God.

Again I was only going to make a short remark but since I answered here I took the liberty to expand. If this is not acceptable either then I will accept correction and desist in future.

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