In the spirit of lexical curiosity, which originally drove me to write Talking With God, I did a bit of Google research to see how people are accessing information about the same ancient words I studied. What I discovered was almost as surprising as what turned up in my primary research, namely that public discourse tends away from the words’ original, technical meanings and shifts to mystical/theological concepts.
Take Moses’ ark for example. In the Hebrew Bible, “ark of the testimony” (edut), found in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, shifts to “ark of the Covenant” (b’rith) in Deuteronomy and the following books. (See two exceptions in my Appendix A.)
Central to my book is the fact that the word edut, meaning the stones Moses received from the Lord on Mount Sinai and kept in the ark, has the sense of communication, not testimony. My retranslated terminology is “ark of communication.” Thus, my subtitle is Communication Through it.
Why does the same box have two totally different words relating to it?
Now the surprising facts:
- In Deuteronomy and the following books, edut is no longer connected to the ark and there are no instances of edut meaning stones.
- For the first time, (Deuteronomy 4:45) the meaning “testimony” is closely related to edut, shifting from a technological component to the theological concept, e.g. Because you…have not obeyed the voice of the Lord in His law, in His statues and did not walk in His testimonies (edut).” (Jer.44:23). This meaning doesn’t exist in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers!
- The concept of the ark containing stones is replaced by “ark of the covenant” (b’rith) in Deuteronomy and the following books.
What’s happening here? I believe the eventual substitution of b’rith for edut signifies the end of the Israelites’ use of the ark as a communication device. Then, not understanding its technical nature, later writers supplanted it with theology.
How does this impact our understanding today? Google etymology reveals that only 320 people around the globe search for the more ancient “ark of the testimony” on a monthly basis, but 60,500 search for “ark of the covenant!” In other words the theological has taken root in exactly the same way it did thousands of years ago!
Question: In the book you mention that your father, a hematologist and researcher, launched your study. From the discussions with your father to the publishing of your book, how many years did the journey take? How did your father’s ideas evolve, and how did you fine tune them?
RDI: In the early 1950’s my father was deeply involved with his hematological research at a leading Chicago medical center, as well as his practice. At the same time my late partner and I were rapidly expanding our young public relations company, and my wife and I were building a family. It was during this period that my father, a true scientist and biblical scholar, and I began to have conversations about a thought he had concerning the possibility that the Ark of the Testimony (also called the Ark of the Covenant) could have been an electrical apparatus that was used to communicate with God. Then, in spite of our heavy schedules, we began to plumb the Bible for any evidence to substantiate this thought.
The first result was an unpublished article on the topic in the mid 1950’s. Then we wrote a 24 page monograph published by Bloch Publishing Company in 1965. It was titled Puzzling Biblical Laws Interpreted in Terms of ModernPhysics. In that same year my father died.
After a time I began thinking of the theory behind the monograph, and realized that there were more possibilities to be considered. My thought was to work in my spare time for a year or so and get them on paper. It turned out it would take more than 40 years until the book was published.
The reason for all those years (other than having the daily work of running a company) was that it had become apparent that, while the general approach we were taking was a start, it left great gaps in what the Bible was trying to convey about the Ark and its “care and feeding.” That’s when I started my research in earnest. The result took me into other paths that we hadn’t followed before, and the final result was different in many ways from our original thinking. So while the seed was planted, the tree (of knowledge?) that grew from it was something I never expected. I’m only sorry that my father didn’t live to see the tree as it looks today.
Excerpted from an interview by Donna Williams of The Celebrity Editor