Saturday, 7 June 2003

The second book in the Torah is exodus. Again, the word originally was not an English word but has come into our vocab today. We speak of an 'exodus' of refugees etc. So how did the early Greek-speaking Jews decide on this name for the second book when in Hebrew the book was called 'semot' (names -of)? Remember, in the earlier posting, i mentioned that the Jews had a simple way of calling their books - they took the first word that appeared in the book as the natural title of the book. In this case, they read through the contents of the book of Exodus. What was very clear was the story of the exodus or fleeing of the Jews from Egypt. God heard their cries under Pharoah's oppression and sent a deliverer called Moses. Moses, acting on behalf of God, confronted Pharoah with a series of signs and finally led his people out of Egypt into the Sinai desert to the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the Law. The Greek word 'exodus' is made up of 2 Greek words - 'ex' which is a preposition meaning 'out of' and 'hodos' which means 'way, path'. Taken together, the combined Greek word 'exodos' means 'the way or path out of (Egypt)'. Wow, that's a great name to sum up the contents of the book effectively. The Greek form 'exodos' came through the Latin translation of the Vulgate as 'exodus' and our English word is a transliteration of the Latin, retaining the 'u' at the end of the word. So the next time we read the book Exodus, we already know what the contents of the book are from its name!