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"Christian" in Hebrew

 

 

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A vast distance separates between English and Hebrew. Translations are difficult; being faithful to Hebrew subtexts and undercurrents in English demands lengthy footnotes. This article could be written in Hebrew in a paragraph or less. However, to achieve clarity in English it demands a substantially larger text.

Roots

 

Notzri, Christian in Hebrew

"Notzri" means Christian in Hebrew

While talking of “roots” in Indo-European languages (as English is) people often refer to words that can be traced back to an older language. In Hebrew, the “root” is an integral part of most words and refers to a different concept. Around four thousand roots are the basis of the language; most of them include three consonants (though variants exist). A “root” has a basic meaning – though it’s not yet a proper word – and can be conjugated into verbs. Seven structures of verbs allow giving different meanings (achieved in English by auxiliary verbs, reflexive forms and other means. Some of the Hebrew forms have no parallels at all in English). Moreover, verbs in present tense are also nouns; nouns can be conjugated. These mean every Hebrew verb and noun are related in ways English can’t parallel. I want to give an example that despite being a bit complex throws light into a fascinating issue.

Nazareth

The city of Nazareth is known in Hebrew as Natzeret; Natzrat is the possessive form of the name used for example in Natzrat Illit (“Upper Nazareth”), a nearby Jewish settlement. “Tz” is the agreed transliteration for the letter “Tzadik.” it sounds like a “ts” pronounced together – with no syllable break between the “t” and the “s.” To avoid making this error, the inexistent “tz” (in English) was chosen, so that foreigners are not tempted to make a pause between the two letters. I must emphasize that the word “Nazir” is not related, it is derived from a different root meaning “monk.”

As said, the word has a three letters root, in this case N.Tz.R. This root has a double meaning (that’s one of the main things contributing to the Hebrew richness and compactness): “Branch” – mainly in a hereditary meaning – and also “Guard.” “Natzeret” is a feminine noun related to Netzer – a “branch.” The term is used usually for hereditary topics, thus the following verse gets a prophetic meaning:

Isaiah 11:1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

“Branch” appears as “Netzer” in the original, and not as the more botanical term “anaf.” The text goes one describing a Man of God, fitting very much Jesus. Jesus family was from Nazareth and thus the text is interpreted as prophetic and the word “Netzer” is used as a way of referring to Him. Similarly, He was born in “Bethlehem” (meaning “House of Bread”) another prophetic name since:

Matthew 26:26 As they did ate, Jesus took bread and gave thanks, brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said: Take, eat, this is my body.

Until now everything is simple. Making a possessive in Hebrew is also a human fit task: add “i” at the end of the noun. However, a small contraction of the vowels and a fix of the last vowel into a “t” occur here leading to “Natzrati,” meaning “of Nazareth.”

Christians

Until now, this seems trivial, but is very important. Seldom is Jesus referred to - in Hebrew - as being “of Nazareth;” instead another term is kept for Him and His followers. The word for “Christian” in Hebrew is “Notzri.” It is widely used even by the most traditional rabbis/Pharisees. This noun is conjugated from the noun “notzer” and not from “Natzrat.” It is the same root, but its other meaning is used (I skip the linguistic analysis of how nouns are conjugated). It makes reference not to the prophetic place, but to the prophetic role. Not to Nazareth, but to the “Keeper” who is also related to a hereditary branch (descended from David). In Hebrew, a Christian is a “keeper.” A keeper of what? Of the True Faith. Even the Pharisees/rabbis know their interpretation of the Scriptures is partial and false, as was taught by the Netzer, and recognized us – Christians – as the Keepers.

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