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I saw Billy Graham say in a 1993 video that the Hebrew text says "No to God". Is that a possible translation he is described as a rebel against God's sovereignty/governance, or suggests the atheism faith -denial of God's existence?

Psa 14:1 : The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works; There is none that doeth good.

Greek Apostolic Polyglot:

είπεν [2 said άφρων 1 The fool] εν in καρδία αυτού his heart, ουκ έστι There is no θεός God. διεφθάρησαν They were corrupted και and εβδελύχθησαν abhorrent εν in επιτηδεύμασιν their practices. ουκ έστι There is not ποιών one doing χρηστότητα that which is good.

Hebrew -HiSB:

לַ·מְנַצֵּ֗חַ»lam·natz·Tze·ach,»To the chief Musician לְ·דָ֫וִ֥ד»le·Da·Vid»[A Psalm] of David אָ֘מַ֤ר»'a·Mar»hath said נָבָ֣ל»na·Val»The fool בְּ֭·לִבּ·וֹ»be·lib·bo»in his heart אֵ֣ין»'ein»There אֱלֹהִ֑ים»E·lo·Him;»[There is] no God הִֽשְׁחִ֗יתוּ»hish·Chi·tu,»They are corrupt הִֽתְעִ֥יבוּ»hit·'I·vu»they have done abominable עֲלִילָ֗ה»'a·li·Lah,»works אֵ֣ין»'ein»is no עֹֽשֵׂה־»'o·seh-»[there is] none that doeth טֽוֹב׃»Tov.»good

John Gill:

[there is] no God; though they do not express it with their mouths, yet they would fain persuade their hearts to deny the being of God; that so having no superior to whom they are accountable, they may go on in sin with impunity; however, to consider him as altogether such an one as themselves, and to remove such perfections from him, as may render him unworthy to be regarded by them; such as omniscience, omnipresence, c. and to conceive of him as entirely negligent of and unconcerned about affairs of this lower world, having nothing to do with the government of it: and thus to deny his perfections and providence, is all one as to deny his existence, or that there is a God: accordingly the Targum paraphrases it,

"there is no שולטנא, "government" of God in the earth''

so Kimchi interprets it,

"there is no governor, nor judge in the world, to render to man according to his works;''

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  • I added information from a Biblical Hebrew Grammar.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 1:18

3 Answers 3

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Please note: יש is how you say there is in Hebrew, and אין is how you say there is no/not. So, it is incorrect to say the translators supplied there is.

Old Testament usage

וְאִ֨ישׁ אֵ֤ין "and there is not a man" Genesis 19:31

אֵין־יִרְאַ֣ת אֱלֹהִ֔ים "there is no fear of God' Genesis 20:11

וּפֹתֵ֖ר אֵ֣ין אֹתוֹ֑ "and there is no one to interpret them" Genesis 40:8; 41:15

אֵין־נָב֥וֹן וְחָכָ֖ם כָּמֽוֹךָ "there is no one as discerning and wise as you" Genesis 41:39

אֵ֣ין מִרְעֶ֗ה "there is no pasture" Genesis 47:4

אֵ֖ין כַּיהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ "there is no one like the LORD our God" Exodus 8:6

אֵ֥ין כָּמֹ֖נִי בְּכָל־הָאָֽרֶץ "there is none like me in all the earth" Exodus 9:14

אֵֽין־בָּהּ֙ שֵׂעָ֣ר לָבָ֔ן "there is no white hair in it" Leviticus 13;21

I'll skip to the Psalms:

אֵ֤ין יְֽשׁוּעָ֓תָה לּוֹ֬ בֵֽאלֹהִ֬ים "there is no salvation for him in God" Psalm 3:3

אֵ֪ין בְּפִ֡יהוּ נְכוֹנָה֮ קִרְבָּ֪ם "there is no sincerity on their lips" Psalm 5:10

אֵ֣ין בַּמָּ֣וֶת זִכְרֶ֑ךָ "in death there is no remembrance of you" Psalm 6:6

אֵ֥ין אֱ֝לֹהִ֗ים "there is no God" Psalm 10:4

That should be enough, but I can keep going if you want until there is no more space.

Usage in Psalm 14:1

אֵ֣ין אֱלֹהִ֑ים is how you say "There is no God" in Hebrew. To say "No, God" would be לא אלוהים. There is is יש and There is no is אין.

Also in Psalm 14:1

אֵ֣ין עֹֽשֵׂה־טֽוֹב "there is none that does good"

References

אֵין, very freq. as particle of negation, is not, are not, was not, were not, etc. (corresp. to the affirm. יֵשׁ -- Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (1977). In Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (p. 34). Clarendon Press.

A. abs. אַיִן: non-existence (:: יֵשׁ); —1a) וָאַיִן and they were not there 1S 9:4, there is none Ezk 7:25 Is 41:17 Pr 25:14, אִם אָֽיִן, or is he not among us? Ex 17:7, אַיִן לְ with inf., there is none to Gn 2:5 Is 37:3 Nu 20:5 -- Koehler, L., Baumgartner, W., Richardson, M. E. J., & Stamm, J. J. (1994–2000). In The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 42). E.J. Brill.

To express “there is not” in present time, the particle אֵין is used. “There is not a boy in the house.” אֵין נַעַר בַּבַּיִת -- Futato, M. D. (2003). Beginning Biblical Hebrew (p. 142). Eisenbrauns.

To express “there was” in past time, the 3ms and 3cp forms of the verb הָיָה are used. “There was a boy in the house.” הָיָה נַעַר בַּבַּיִת -- Ibid.

To express “not have” in present time, the particle אֵין is used with the preposition לְ. “The father does not have a son.” אֵין לָאָב בֵּן “I do not have a son.” אֵין לִי בֵּן -- Ibid., p. 143.

To express “not have” in past time לֹא is added. “The father did not have a son.” לֹא הָיָה לָאָב בֵּן “I did not have a son.” לֹא הָיָה לִי בֵּן -- Ibid.

אֵין is used to negate sentences with predicate participles. “You (ms) are not walking.” אֵין אַתָּה הֹלֵךְ “You (fs) are not walking.” אֵין אַתְּ הֹלֶכֶת In such constructions, אֵין is usually used with pronoun suffixes, rather than independent personal pronouns. “You (ms) are not walking.” אֵינְךָ הֹלֵךְ “You (fs) are not walking.” אֵינֵךְ הֹלֶכֶת -- Ibid., p. 144.

Conclusion

Billy Graham's statement isn't based on Hebrew grammar. It is based on what to say in your heart means. A practical atheist is one who outwardly says there is a God, but inwardly says no to God as if God doesn't exist. Thus, "There is no God" is the proper translation, but internally acting as if there is no God is equivalent to saying no to God.

Same as modern Hebrew

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The Hebrew of Ps 14:1 is as stark as it is simple. The relevant phrase is just:

אֵ֣ין אֱלֹהִ֑ים = "no God".

The Cambridge commentary is quite correct when it observes:

There is no God Cp. Psalm 10:4. This is hardly to be understood of a speculative denial of the existence of God; but rather of a practical disbelief in His moral government. Cp. Psalm 73:11; Jeremiah 5:12; Zephaniah 1:12; Romans 1:28 ff.

As noted here, atheism was alive and flourishing in ancient times:

  • Ps 10:4 - In his pride the wicked man does not seek Him; in all his schemes there is no God.
  • Ps 73:11 - The wicked say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?”
  • Ps 5:12 - They have lied about the LORD and said: “He will not do anything; harm will not come to us; we will not see sword or famine.

In Hebrew, "no to God" would involve a preposition which is absent in Ps 14:1.

APPENDIX - More information

The statements in Ps 14:1 and 10:4 are rather bald assertion and are really the final conclusion of a longer road toward atheism that most must travel. Paul gives much more information in his comments in Rom 1:18-23 -

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. 19 For what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Thus, Billy Graham is probably correct, BUT NOT based on the text of Ps 14:1; his suggestion is more likely based on Rom 1:18-23 - but I am no spokesman nor defender of Graham.

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  • No to God is how it is explained by Cambridge and ancient commentaries, it essentially means no to God's authority by "no God". What's the Hebrew phrase in Psa 10.4 ?
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 4, 2023 at 11:17
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    Considering the context of all similar verses, the fools and wicked are those among the Jewish church itself, none of them are atheists or pagans whose god is not omniscient and almighty. The supposed "thoughts" of the wicked only describes their spiritual life of ignorance, self-deceit, sin; they obviously don't deny God's existence, they worship him from outside. Hence, the verses only depict their rebellion to God as "no [to] God" or even "there is no God" means if one translates it that way.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jun 4, 2023 at 12:21
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    @Dottard אֵ֥ין אֱ֝לֹהִ֗ים is literally "there is no God." "No God" is לא אלוהים.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Jun 4, 2023 at 20:22
  • 1
    @Dottard Hebrew sentences with the meaning of a being verb usually don't have a verb. If you are going to translate אֵ֤ין with a single word none is more accurate than no or not. In Hebrew "I don't have" is אין לי literally "there is none to me." "None to me" would be more accurate than "no to me."
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Jun 4, 2023 at 21:17
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    Here's an interesting one. Listen to the Hebrew background in this English song. They translate "There is none like you [Lord]' as אין כמוך אדוני. youtube.com/watch?v=Qk5KHyEbDFc&list=RDMM&index=28 Very similar to Exodus 9:14.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Jun 4, 2023 at 21:33
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לַמְנַצֵּ֗חַ לְדָ֫וִ֥ד אָ֘מַ֤ר נָבָ֣ל בְּ֭לִבֹּו אֵ֣ין אֱלֹהִ֑ים הִֽשְׁחִ֗יתוּ הִֽתְעִ֥יבוּ עֲלִילָ֗ה אֵ֣ין עֹֽשֵׂה־טֹֽוב׃ (Psalm 14:1, TR)

The words "there is" in the English translation of this verse have been supplied by translators. They do not exist in the Hebrew. The Hebrew of that bolded part might literally read:

"Said the fool in his heart no God."

However, that is not grammatically acceptable in English, which is why the "there is" was added.

Following this interpretation and going back to the verb "said," which is the only verb in that expression, it may be possible to argue that because it is not in a form more commonly associated with a jussive expression (command form, e.g. "No, God!"), that this is not simply saying no to God.

However, the word interpreted to mean "no" in this text is not the usual "לֹא/loh" (H3808), meaning "no" in Hebrew. It is "אִין/'ayin" (H369), which has broad usage, including meaning except, without, nothing, for lack of, not, etc. See more on this adverb HERE.

So, suppose we take it to mean "without" instead of "no". We will find that it can dramatically alter the interpretation of the verse. Consider the following possibility:

[Possible retranslation]

The fool hath said in his heart without God: "They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good."

Now, the Hebrew is quite ambiguous, and I do not wish to suggest that this is the correct interpretation. The translators may very well have had it right. The point is that the Hebrew meaning of a text, especially of the more poetic passages of the Bible, is often rather more open to interpretation than many would be comfortable accepting.

My Jewish rabbi professor would probably say it is not a matter of which interpretation is right: perhaps they are both right, and God will choose the one to impress upon the mind of each reader according to his or her need.

The Hebrew mindset accepts much more ambiguity and vaguery than others might prefer.

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  • 1
    +1 I like your emphasis on ambiguity. Sometimes it's better to just admit that there's no certain right answer. Commented Jun 4, 2023 at 15:09

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