|From:||R A Brown <ray@...>|
|Date:||Friday, September 14, 2007, 7:48|
Dr. Peter E. Tarlow wrote:
> The modern Hebrew word for electricity (Chashmal) is derived from the
> Book of Jeremiah. Chashmal refers to an invisible force that can create
> great movement. Right after Rosh Ha'Shanah I can provide you with the
> exact Biblical citation. From chashmal (hard ch as in Scotish word
> "loch") we get chashmali (electrical), chashmalit (electric train)
> chashmalay (electrician) etc
Right - that's what I was half-remembering.
But _chashmal_ is surely from Ezekiel, not Jeremiah. It comes in
Ezekiel's vision of the Chariot, see chapter 1, verses 4 and 27. It also
comes in the second verse of chapter 8.
In the KJV version it is translated as "amber." This is clearly due to
the fact that the Septuagint translates _chashmal_ as ήλεκτρον
(e:lekton), which may mean "amber", but it may also mean "an alloy of
gold and silver."
The Vulgate translates it as _electrum_ which has the same two meanings
as the Greek word from which it is borrowed. In fact, "alloy of gold and
silver' is the more common meaning of _electrum_.
"And I looked, and, behold, a sweeping wind from the north, and a great
cloud on it, and a brightness round about it, and gleaming fire, and in
the midst of it as it were the appearance of _elektron_ [chashmal] in
the midst of the fire, and brightness in it." Ezekiel 1:4
"And I saw as it were the resemblance of _elektron_ [chashmal] from the
of the loins and upwards, and from the appearance of the of the loins
and under I saw the appearance of fire, and the brightness of it round
about." Ez. 1:27, describing the likeness of a human figure on a throne
seen in Ezekiel's vision.
"And I looked, and, behold, the likeness of a man: from his loins
downward fire, and from his loins upward the appearance of _elektron_
[chashmal]." Ez. 8:2
Translations above are literal translation of the Septuagint verses.
It will be noted in each case that _elektron_ [chashmal] refers to a an
appearance, i.e. to a color. The Jews of 3rd cent BCE Alexandria clearly
thought this was the amber color of 'electron' (i.e. gold and silver
alloy). I note several modern translations render _chashmal_ in these
passages as 'bronze' (not quite the same color IMO).
Now I am aware that there are various arguments about what _chashmal_
actually meant (in fact one reference I checked considered the word so
holy that it should not have been used for something as commonplace and
mundane as 'electricity'). But I find it very difficult to believe that
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (or whoever coined _chashmal_ as the modern Hebrew
for 'electricity') was unaware that Greek-speaking Jews of the ancient
Diaspora had rendered _chashmal_ as _elektron_.
Nid rhy hen neb i ddysgu.
There's none too old to learn.