Lost in Translation: The True Meaning of ‘El Shaddai’ and Its Implications on the Concept of God Almighty
“I have undertaken to translate the Bible into German. This was good for me; otherwise I might have died in the mistaken notion that I was a learned fellow.” – Martin Luther
Content in a flash
1. Is God Almighty? – Weather a God exists who is “almighty” we are not allowed to know, but surely the god described in the Bible is not; – what is the real meaning of ‘El Shaddai’?
3. God of the mountain – The likely translation of “El Shaddai”;
4. What do scholars say? – Meaning of El Shaddai: The meaning of the Hebrew term “Shaddai” is difficult to establish but the philological investigation leads far away from “Almighty”;
5. Meaning of El Shaddai: Yahweh, the God of the mountain – The El known as Yahweh roamed and dominated a region full of steppes, thus making the literal translation logical;
6. The malicious manipulation – Meaning of El Shaddai: Brief explanation of why and how “El Shaddai” started to be translated with “Almighty”;
7. Meaning of El Shaddai – Word in context: El Shaddai in Genesis 17:1 – the Church pays little attention: two mistakes in one verse only.
1. Is God Almighty?
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the lord appeared to him and said: “I am God the Almighty. Walk in my presence and be blameless”
We find this biblical verse very beautiful, poetic and bearer of higher meanings. Biblical verses like this have always been used to support one religious thesis or another, one faith or another. On the presumed almightiness of God and on the basis of this biblical verse, everything and the opposite of everything has been said (and done) over the centuries.
For centuries philosophers, theologians, academics, churchmen, heretics, priests, writers and exegetes have indulged in more or less imaginative elaborations on the “Almightiness” of the “God” who introduces himself to Abraham in Genesis 17: 1.
2. Meaning of El Shaddai (אל שדי)
Too bad that all that incredible amount of work is wasted and that all those erudite discussions are baseless, because the Hebrew term translated as “almighty” (El Shaddài (אל שדי)) does NOT mean “almighty”.
Yes, exactly: El Shaddài – אל שדי – does not mean “almighty”, but it is always translated as such in the bibles.
Be mindful though: current translators are very well aware of it, the issue is settled and everyone agrees. Why do they keep on translating it as “almighty” then?
3. God of the mountain
The meaning of “El Shaddài”(אל שדי) is subject of debate. The most valid proposals include:
– “Self sufficient”, a very old proposal without modern adherents;
– “The god of the mountain (our favorite)
– “The god of fertility”,
– “The destroyer god”.
The opinion of most modern scholars is summarized in the note to Genesis 17: 1 in the Bible of Jerusalem, which says:
“the common translation ‘almighty’ is inaccurate. The meaning is uncertain; It has been proposed ‘god of the mountain’, according to the Akkadian shadû; it would be preferable to interpret ‘god of the steppe’, according to the Hebrew sadeh and another meaning of the Akkadian word”
Yes, ladies and gentlemen; the most correct translation of (“El Shaddài” (אל שדי)) would be “god of the mountain” or “god of the steppe“.
And this information – which potentially makes the monotheistic doctrine tremble at its foundations – is contained in the same note that refers to the verse.
We wonder how many of the believers of the “almighty” God have read it.
In the note, they say that the translation ‘almighty’ is “inaccurate” because saying that it is false looks too bad. But of course, we understand that if the Cristian believers read “god of the mountain” instead of “Almighty God”, they may start to raise some eyebrows, and that’s better not to happen.
4. What do scholars say? – Meaning of El Shaddai
With a touch of color the Abarim Publications explain:
“Etymology of the name Shaddai: The meaning of Shaddai is difficult to establish. The authors of the Septuagint and the Vulgate translated it with Almighty (pantokrator and omnipotence) but that’s more out of enthusiasm than out of sound etymology. It really doesn’t mean that.”
“The name Shaddai, Meaning: My Destroyer, My Protective Spirit, My Rainmaker, Self-Sufficient, Who Is Abundantly.”
“Those of the latter camp suggest that Shaddai comes from sadu, a word meaning mountain in the Babylonian (Akkadian) language that Abram spoke, and so El Shaddai would be El Of The Mountain.”
God of the mountain makes much more sense to us. In fact, many of the ancient chronicles that tell us about the ancient “gods”, namely the ancient astronauts, tell that they preferred to live high up in the mountains, probably not to be too close to humans.
Emblematic is the case of the Greek chronicles which speak in this regard of Mount Olympus, official residence of the Greek “gods” who lived there.
5. Meaning of El Shaddai: Yahweh, the God of the mountain
The Old Testament narrates a series of events linked to the relationship between a family of Jews – Jacob‘s family – and a “god”, one individual belonging to the group of the Elohim, that is to say, one of the ancient astronauts: Yahweh (יַהְוֶה). (See article Elohim: those who from heaven to earth came.)
The Bible is quite explicit about the geographical roots of Yahweh, repeatedly linking his presence to the mountainous wilderness and the deserts of the southern Levant. Judges 5:4 says that Yahweh “went forth from Seir” and “marched out of the field of Edom.” Habbakuk 3:3 tells that “God came from Teman,” specifically from Mount Paran.
Support for the theory that Yahweh was ruling the deserts of Israel and Arabia can be found in Egyptian texts from the late second millennium, which list different tribes of nomads collectively called “Shasu” that populated this vast desert region. ( reading suggestion on haaretz.com: How the Jews Invented God, and Made Him Great )
If, as it seems to be the case, Yahweh ruled those territories he was probably acting as local governor responsible for the control over that patch of land that ranges from the Sinai and Negev to northern Arabia.
He would therefore have had every reason to present himself as he did, El Shaddai. Since he was ruling the mountains and the steppe, he rightly presented himself as the “Lord of the steppe” or “Lord of the mountain”.
6. The malicious manipulation – Meaning of El Shaddai
So what happened? Why was “El Shaddai” translated with “Almighty” and this translation was kept over the centuries?
Because from a certain point onward (presumably after the Babylonian Captivity) the plan to forcibly identify Yahweh with the Universal God began, and the translations of the biblical codices began to change with it.
The Bible was essentially modified so as to pass from a polytheistic story to a monotheistic one. Interventions on the biblical text were thousands and occurred over several centuries. They were aimed at altering the original meaning of the text and forcibly align it with the new emerging monotheistic religions.
The church, for its part, has always had and still has many reasons to endorse – if not encourage – this false translation.
The main one has to do with the doctrine. In fact, after Christian theologians – making a sensational own goal – worked out the dogma of the Trinity by identifying Jesus with the God-Father of the Old Testament (Yahweh) and the Holy spirit, they can obviously no longer state that God is not Almighty.
7. Meaning of El Shaddai – Word in context: El Shaddai in Genesis 17:1
Let’s read once more Genesis 17: 1, free from monotheistic bias and aware of the true meaning of each word. The Vatican version translates:
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said: “I am God the Almighty. Walk in my presence and be blameless.”
In just one sentence we have (at least) two mistakes:
1) “Lord”. In the original Hebrew verse there is no “Lord”, which in Hebrew is mainly Adonai (אֲדֹנָי-Strong’s #136).
There is “Yahweh”.
Why is the Church translating with “Lord”? Because Yahweh was artificially made to become the Neoplatonist universal God, and therefore he must be “the Lord”.
2) Almighty: ‘Shaddai ” does not mean “almighty ” as seen above.
The Masoretic text, that is the original Hebrew text tat defines the Jewish canon, maintains the translation “The El who Suffices”, as we saw before, a very old proposal without modern adherents. But that’s not important. As we know, during the centuries there were several proposals for the translation of this term (El Shaddai), but all of them led to conclusions that nothing had to do with “Almighty”.
What really matters, is that “El Shaddai” does not mean almighty.
The correct translation of Genesis 17:1 would therefore be:
“And he, Abraham, became ninety-nine years old and Yahweh appeared to Abraham and said to him: “I am the god of the Mountain”
In conclusion, we cannot fail to consider the position of those who, as a believers, can without any doubt continue to believe in an almighty God of course, but for the bitter irony of fate, they will necessarily need to base their faith on some other book, since of the presumed almightiness of God, in the Bible, there is no trace.
“Tyndale once told a Catholic antagonist: “I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life, before many years I will make sure that a boy who drives the plough knows more of the Scriptures than you do.” – Ron Rhodes