I have been fighting this method called the Secrets of the Hebrew Alephbet/Hebrew Word pictures on Facebook and elsewhere. There is a lot of this teaching going round in the messianic movement. What exactly is this method? Well it goes like this. Hebrew was a pictorial language in the beginning. Each hebrew letter represented an idea, not just a sound. These meanings are evident from the paleo hebrew letters, as shown above. So the hebrew letter Aleph for example, is a picture of an ox, Bet is a tent, Gimmel is a camel and Dalet is a door. They say these are obvious from the paleo hebrew pictographs. Well to me they seem just like scribbles that could mean absolutely anything. But some are convinced. What this method then does, is it says that every time a hebrew letter appears in a word it carries with it it’s original meaning. So the letter Aleph, everytime it appears in a word it means an ox, or strength or first or God etc. Somewhere along the line each letter gets more meanings than just the symbolic meaning of the original paleo hebrew character. So Bet has the meaning of not just house or tent, but also beginning, inside, family, blessing etc. Nobody in this movement has stopped to ask, where are these meanings from? I am now asking just that. Who invented these meanings and where are they from? Nobody knows. No ancient jewish source has anything to say about them and the Bible does not say one word about it. According to Dr. Michael Brown this method is a complete myth. This coming from someone who has a Ph.D in Near Eastern Languages and Literature. One would think he would know.
The biggest flaw with this method is that nobody knows where the meanings of each letter are from. Some claim that by a careful study of hebrew words in the Bible we can deduce the meaning of each letter, but this is certainly arguing in circles, you define the letters by looking at the words and the words by looking at the letters. There is no reliable source for the meanings of the letters, they are not defined in the Bible and the Bible says absolutely nothing about them. Jesus did not teach this method to his disciples, neither did any of the apostles. So who invented it?
This is a serious question. Who invented this method? No ancient source attests to it and the sages for millenia knew nothing about it. Unless anyone can point me to an earlier source, I am led to believe that it was invented by Gesenius in the 19th century. So it is a very recent method indeed. This should raise some questions. Are we to believe that a Lutheran academic from the 19th century knew hebrew better than the jews?
It always takes a stretch of imagination and a good amount of creativity to come up with the meanings with this method. For example, the hebrew word for mother is Em, spelled Aleph-Mem. They’ll say it is “strong water” as per the paleo hebrew pictographs. What does that mean? Well, you see strong water means glue, so the word Em means the mother who is the glue that keeps the family together. Sounds great, but it could just as well mean “ox chaos”, “God, water”, “beginning huge” or any number of things. So you just pick and choose and then invent a story that goes with the chosen meanings. Since there are a number of different meanings for each word, there is an endless number of possible definitions to choose from. So if there are ten meanings for each letter, then a three letter hebrew word will have 10³ = 1000 different meanings to choose from. This is the biggest flaw with this method, you can come up with anything with it and people have.
When I started studying hebrew, I was introduced to this method by my teacher. I took it at face value and believed it, since it was a credible expert (or so I thought) who was telling me about it. So I believed each hebrew letter represented not just a sound, but also a meaning. The examples given were convinving, so I had no reason to doubt it. But as a learned more hebrew, every time I looked at a new hebrew word, there pictographial meanings just didn’t make any sense. At the same time I was into Bible codes, gematria and kabbalah, and found all of them interesting and convincing. But my eyes were opened as I started to think about it critically and started to ask important questions, such as who invented it and how do we know this? People claim the Hebrew Word Pictures method can enlighten us and give us a deeper understanding of scriptures. But I questioned this too, what does it really tell us about the Messiah? And the answer I came to find was, absolutely nothing. So it is of no good to anyone.
To higlight the problems with this method, I wrote this small script to generate random meanings for hebrew words according to this method. The script shows that there are an endless number of meanings for each word to choose from. Try the familiar words Yeshua, Amen, Mashiach or Shalom. You’ll be surprised what a load of nonsense you’ll get. Well, just give it a try. That’s all I’m asking. Judge for yourself. Does this method work or does it produce a load of rubbish most of the time?