When Believers Prefer Spiritual Fantasy to Biblical Truth

By Michael Brown Published on December 3, 2018

Earlier this year, I spent a considerable amount of time with my team producing a video titled, “The Real Truth About the Paleo Hebrew Script.” The video, using lots of illustrations and quotes, makes one simple point: The ancient Hebrew script (called Paleo Hebrew) which was used in writing the earliest books of the Bible is simply an alphabet and has no pictographic meaning.

That was it.

Yet the reaction to this video from critics — and I mean professing Bible-believers — has been almost hysterical. They are wedded to the notion that the letters of the Hebrew Bible still retain a pictographic meaning, hence allowing them to read all kinds of extravagant (and totally unwarranted) meanings into the biblical text.

No Longer Pictographical

From a scholarly viewpoint, our video says absolutely nothing controversial or debatable. Any linguist familiar with the material knows that by the time a written language develops into an alphabet, it is no longer pictographical. In other words, the letters no longer stand for pictures. They only stand for sounds. Simple.

We all know that the ancient Hebrew script (which was most likely borrowed from the ancient Phoenicians), derived its initial forms from pictures. So, for example, the letter Beth (pronounced beyt), which represents the sound b, came from a picture looking like a house. But as a letter, it doesn’t represent a “house” but rather a sound.

Again, it’s that simple.

Genius of the Alphabet

That’s why written scripts using pictographs (like the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs or classical Chinese) require thousands of symbols. After all, if you want to convey the idea that a man walked into town to buy a chicken to cook for his family, you need pictures for each of these concepts: Man; walk; town; buy; chicken; cook; family. (For an example of Egyptian pictographs, see here.)

The genius of the alphabet was to isolate the most basic sounds used in a language (normally, between 20-30) and to find single symbols (the letters of the alphabet) to convey these sounds.

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Interestingly, the ancient Greeks also borrowed the ancient Phoenician alphabet, which was subsequently borrowed by the Romans, ultimately used in our English alphabet. So, the ancient Phoenician-Hebrew letter “Beth” is actually our English letter B, and its rounded form resembles its ancient form depicting a house.

But, just as the ancient Hebrew letter Beth stood for b rather than “house,” it’s the same with our English letter B. It doesn’t mean “house”; it means the sound b.  

Spiritual Treasures

The reality is that the words of the Bible, as written, are filled with spiritual treasures and glorious mysteries, enough to keep us learning and thinking and wondering and worshiping for our entire lifetimes (and beyond).

But this is not enough for those who hold to secret pictographic meanings. Each letter, they believe, also stands for a picture, and so, beneath the plain sense of the Hebrew text, there is an alleged hidden meaning, based on just 22(!) pictures (equaling the number of Hebrew letters), which then can be interpreted in various mystical ways.

Talk about reading whatever you want into the Bible. Talk about the sky is the limit.

Negative Responses

What kind of responses have we received to this video (which, again, from a scholarly viewpoint says absolutely nothing debatable)?

Here’s a sampling of the negative responses:

“Dr. Brown is an Obnoxious idiot!”

“Duuude, u are keeping people in the old wine according to the fleshy keeping of the carnal torah.”

“You’re one crazy man. You’re the new Joseph Smith of this era. All of your understanding comes from the dunkeld [???] gate.”

“What I am seeing is you are making language dry and dead. You may have a degree but just because someone has a degree doesn’t mean they know it all.”

“i could tell he was lying in the first 10 seconds.”

“Watch out people’s he’s being used by gadreel [???] to try to get us to drop the truth. I call fake on this man.”

“Everything he explained here were not from his understanding. They were all hearsay and someone else understanding. no truth from him at all.” (This was obviously a response to me quoting other scholars to support the facts.)

“The only one that is bogus is you. :)”

“You’re a gentile. How would I know what you’re saying is true?” (So, I’m a Gentile now, too!)

“Another paid liar.”

“Your opinion is genocide to people.”

“YaHuWaH [a mistaken version of God’s name] obviously confounds the wise with the simple things of the Earth.”

“Wow….jealousy needs to be addressed! Repent from your pride.”

“You should really think about making some more apologies sir….to Yahweh first for bashing on something He absolutely ordained. You obviously have no idea what you are talking about and you say in your own words that YOU want to EXPLAIN your own views as truth.”

“Well, all I can say is that crap do comes [sic] out of the mouth of those who have degrees too.”

Truth Always Triumphs

And on and on it goes.

Of course, we know that, eventually, truth always triumphs and error is exposed (see 2 Corinthians 13:8). But it’s a bit frustrating (and painful) to see so many people preferring fantasy to facts and made-up meanings to Bible basics.  

Unfortunately, there will always be an audience for deception. For my part, I’ll continue to sound the alarm.

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  • GLT

    The critics of Dr. Brown’s video are the same people who believe the government blew up the twin towers, the Earth is flat, chemtrails are being used to control our minds and a boatload of other conspiracy theories. They revel in the idea they have discovered some hidden truth which the rest of us are too dull to comprehend. They thrive on the sense of superiority it gives them. It’s really quite sad to watch.

    • kenneth20754

      Gnosticism all over again–there are the privileged few who are “in the know” and there are the great unwashed ignorant masses.

    • VesaLocalBus

      It’s a way of trying to find the truth ( a pseudo-truth to support an agenda) rather then actually going to the Truth to hear it. Jesus said to the Pharisees (paraphrased) “You search the Scriptures looking for the truth but you won’t come to me that you may have life.” It’s about trying to find the truth without Jesus.

    • Royce E. Van Blaricome

      LOL. Ironically, I just brought up the same things.

  • porcupineman1454

    I usually enjoy the content on this website – heck, I even enjoy Dr. Brown’s posts sometimes. But I’m getting a little tired of him using his articles to air his social media dirty laundry. Someone disagrees with Dr. Brown on social media, and on conservatives sites he frequents, readers will never hear the end of it. It is becoming somewhat annoying and, in my view, it is an unprofessional way of airing grievances.

    • kenneth20754

      I dunno. I learned something with this post. I’m familiar with the discredited idea of Bible codes, but was unaware the concept had taken this particular turn, converting Hebrew letters into some kind of cipher.

    • VesaLocalBus

      I found his comments enlightening. Shows me the levels of deception infiltrating Christianity. I didn’t see it as a defense of his video so much as a defense of the truth.

  • Billandmichelle de LaChaumette

    Dr. Brown you are a good man who is knowledgeable and one whose opinion I trust. Many of us have run into many people that think they are teachers and have been given special knowledge. Let’s hope they can find their way to the bathroom. Happy Hanukkah!

  • Arby Ansiel

    I completely agree with you, Dr. Brown. I got those EXACT SAME snarky comments when I mentioned that kaneh bosm, the Hebrew word for cannabis, was in the Bible when you posted about the legalization of marijuana in Canada. If they’re going to live in a fantasy land in regards to Yeshua, they’re going to realize they’re goats come the rapture.

  • Thunder Street

    I am so sorry they react that way to you. Ridiculous. While I must preface this by saying I am fascinated with the potential meanings in the pictographic Hebrew, there is no reason to be placing them above the scriptures in plain view. No one eats a burger with the wrapper still on it, but that’s exactly what these critics are doing.

  • Royce E. Van Blaricome

    Well written article, Dr. Brown. What you report is sad but not surprising. I am at a total loss as to what to think about or do with such people. I attend an Apologetics Forum and I once saw someone literally state they believe the Earth is flat! Then there are the 9-11ers, the Moon Landing Deniers, Chem Trailers, Preppers, and probably others that don’t come to mind now.

    It’s bad enough but understandable when the spiritually-dead are so deceived but what is one to do with those who profess to be Christian and hold to such? Theologically speaking. Obviously they’re deceived. But they’re promoting a lie. What does that make them? What does Rev. 21:8 say about Liars?

    It seems to me there is good reason to believe they’re not saved and need to be told so.

    • Woobiefuntime

      I agree with that there is a lot of misinformation being spread by some of Christianity’s more well known teachers.

      • We call this heresy, and you yourself spout quite a lot of it.

        • Royce E. Van Blaricome

          I can’t speak to what Woobie does or does not spout off to but your calling Misinformation heresy is not only wrong but it shows you either are Biblically ignorant or don’t have discernment or both to know what is heresy and what is just Biblically wrong. it’s like knowing the difference between a False Teacher and one who has a false teaching.

          Take the Catholics, like yourself, for example. The RCC has some flat out heretical doctrines. They also have several false teachings. One heresy is their false gospel which God proclaims is anathema in Gal. 1:8-9. Which is really Matt. 7:2 ironic given that the RCC at the Council of Trent in 1563 proclaimed Protestants anathema. Then there are other false teachings like Limbo, Purgatory, Infant Baptism, various Mariologies, etc.

  • John Ronning

    The invention of the alphabet was one of the greatest achievement s in history. Wierd that people want to go back to pictographs. I recall reading an ancient letter from one Egyptian scribe to another – the gist of which was we have such a great racket going – we don’t have to work because everyone depends on us to write documents. With the allhabal, anyone can learn to write.

    • Trilemma

      People do like their pictographs, except they’re called emojis now.

  • Andrew Mason

    Since when has Hebrew ever been pictographic? And why would people take issue with something so basic? I really don’t get this controversy!

  • Breitbart InOhio

    While we should NOT use paleo Hebrew as a sole source for deciphering biblical words, there is some relevance to the ancient language and the connections of words throughout the ‘Bible’ today. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater is not necessarily wise.

  • Allen

    Their will come a time when they won’t know who they are worshiping.

  • Kevin Quillen

    “But it’s a bit frustrating (and painful) to see so many people preferring fantasy to facts and made-up meanings to Bible basics.”
    Kinda like a preterist talking to a dispensationalist.

    • Revelations is about Marriage, the Mass, and the end of days. There are four senses of Scripture and each of them are related to things that have already happened and will happen and are happening.

      • Jim

        Nigel. There was no Catholic church, thus no mass, thus your interpretation of Revelation is absurdly and patently wrong. Go peddle your Roman Catholic mythology on a Catholic site since they are the only ones who will buy it.

        • The Mass has been going on officially since Holy Thursday, a good 1500 years before your heresy was ever an attempt by the German government to gain power. It is how one takes the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

          • Jim

            You are an idiot preaching revisionist history. Go peddle your deception elsewhere.

          • Revision to what? The Church began at Pentecost. The Mass has been going on since before then.

      • Royce E. Van Blaricome

        Oh, NIgel. How blinded you are by your RCC idol. Btw, it’s “Revelation”. No “s”.

  • Jim

    This is one of those ideas (like prophetic layer interpretation) that is very popular because it lets you look like a spiritual big shot. All of those nobodies who refuse to learn hermeneutics are back to being nobodies if they accept this teaching.

  • Nathan Andrew Shearer

    Remember the Bible code? That made quite a few preachers rich. As long as there are ignorant people there will be those seeking to exploit them (making merchandise of them). The vast majority of people are “ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the Truth”. Why? Because the Truth shows us who we really are. It demands we change. Most prefer to change the truth than face themselves.

  • Juan Garcia

    Look at the emojis between the article and the comment section. We are devolving back to pictographic communications. Why? Because it’s a comfortable fit with a dumbed down emotive reactive society. Why learn to spell or write when you can express your feelings with just a click? We all know that in postmodern interaction emotions are more valid than intellect, right?

  • Kelly B

    The negative comments Dr Brown cites sounds like just another day in the Charisma comments section by leftists who take out their disapproval of God’s word on Dr Brown personally using ad hominem attacks.

  • Nanita Staley

    Possibly the ones who made such rude and uninformed statements are staunch Democrats…. Sorry, couldn’t help myself! I do know that the education system in this country is absolutely deplorable so perhaps those comments are merely showing the huge gap between the education system in the 50’s and early 60’s and what is called education in this day. Perhaps these comments are a cross section of the thinking that has come out of America’s school system. I am hopeful that that is changing with America’s wake up call that revealed an army arising (election 2016), an army unwilling to continue in the status quo.

    Don’t be discouraged, God has promised Great Change and a Great Awakening. I believe that with all my heart. Patience people, Jesus is coming and He is releasing the new things that have been set aside for this day. America is going to be a hotbed of radical change that will awe and stun the world. Not just another revival but complete reformation!

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