I read with interest Julian Jaynes' Bicamerlism book where he claims that lenabe was mistranslated as "to prophetise" in LXX which also influenced Jewish thought. Later on, I wrote out of instinct that the "Greek philosphers, and similar phenomena such as the Hebrew Nevi'im were essentially entertainers," and it hit me and I hypothesised that "lenabe" actually meant "to philosophise / to dramatise / to entertain".

"beney hanevi'im" were actually full time entertainers who lived off donations, and weren't rich or had a day job, and were often considered as parasites in a similar way that actors, writers, "bloggers", youtubers, or reality show contestants are held in contempt today. "ben" in ancient Hebrew also meant "having the property of", and similarly I suspect that "beney haelohim" is an echo for the "self-leading people" ("conscious/sentient"? who knows)

So is it a popular theory among Biblical researchers?

Also note that I suspect that the David vs Goliath story was as funny then as the famous Gun vs. Swordman scene from the Indiana Jones, which has a similar (missile vs melee) structure, is today, it's just that the mentality back then was different (and some of us have some technological misconceptions).

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    I haven't read the claim, but lenabe is not a tanach word. Navi appears in situations where "entertainer" would not make any sense. I'm looking for instances of נְבִיא to see if that's what was intended but I'm not sure how to search including vowels to get the distinction between nAvi and n'vi – rosends Dec 7 '20 at 12:37
  • so far, n'via appears 4 times in 3 verses, all in Ezra (Aramaic). I haven't found "n'vi" yet though strongs insists it exists. – rosends Dec 7 '20 at 12:45
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    @rosends If you check definitions I & II in Jastrow for the root (נבי-נבא—נסה) and the associated root (נבע), you will find that נביא is describing the effect on the individual. That are burning with the word of G-d, which is compared to fire in the Torah of Moshe. And that word gushes and bursts forth. The word in all forms appears extensively throughout the Talmud. – Yaacov Deane Dec 7 '20 at 13:04
  • @rosends: it is fairly known that many philosophers in Ancient Times were stand up philosophers a kind of entertainers who made a living out of donations collected during/at the end of their sessions. "Those who make a distinction between education and entertainment don't know the first thing about either." - Marshall McLuhan (unsourced). – Shlomi Fish Dec 7 '20 at 16:29
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    Motion to migrate to Biblical Hermeneutics – Double AA Dec 7 '20 at 18:40

Your question is:

So is it a popular theory among Biblical researchers?

No. Or, at least: not in the context in which you're asking. That context is Mi Yodeya, a Judaism Web site, so you must mean biblical researchers within the framework of Judaism, so the answer is No.

More specifically, in my years of studying biblical research written by Judaism scholars from various countries, cultures, schools of thought, and generations, I've never come across this.


There are plenty of counterexamples to this theory. The very first place where the root נבא is used in Tanach is when G-d tells the Philistine king Avimelech, "Now, return this man's wife, for he is a נביא" (Genesis 20:7). Neither "philosopher" nor "entertainer" nor "dramatizer" fits in that context at all; it means "prophet." (Rashi there makes the point still more forcefully: as a prophet, Avraham knows that in fact you didn't molest her.)

Another example is the dialogue (Amos 7:12-15) between Amatziah the priest of Bethel, and Amos:

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֲמַצְיָה֙ אֶל־עָמ֔וֹס חֹזֶ֕ה לֵ֥ךְ בְּרַח־לְךָ֖ אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ יְהוּדָ֑ה וֶאֱכָל־שָׁ֣ם לֶ֔חֶם וְשָׁ֖ם תִּנָּבֵֽא׃ וּבֵֽית־אֵ֔ל לֹֽא־תוֹסִ֥יף ע֖וֹד לְהִנָּבֵ֑א כִּ֤י מִקְדַּשׁ־מֶ֙לֶךְ֙ ה֔וּא וּבֵ֥ית מַמְלָכָ֖ה הֽוּא׃ וַיַּ֤עַן עָמוֹס֙ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֶל־אֲמַצְיָ֔ה לֹא־נָבִ֣יא אָנֹ֔כִי וְלֹ֥א בֶן־נָבִ֖יא אָנֹ֑כִי כִּֽי־בוֹקֵ֥ר אָנֹ֖כִי וּבוֹלֵ֥ס שִׁקְמִֽים׃ וַיִּקָּחֵ֣נִי יְהוָ֔ה מֵאַחֲרֵ֖י הַצֹּ֑אן וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלַי֙ יְהוָ֔ה לֵ֥ךְ הִנָּבֵ֖א אֶל־עַמִּ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

Amaziah also said to Amos, “Seer, off with you to the land of Judah! Earn your living there, and do your prophesying there. But don’t ever prophesy again at Bethel; for it is a king’s sanctuary and a royal palace.” Amos answered Amaziah: “I am not a prophet, and I am not a prophet’s disciple. I am a cattle breeder and a tender of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me away from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’”

In other words, as several of the commentaries there explain, Amatziah claims that Amos is exactly what your "some scholars" believe - someone who prophesies in order to earn a living. Whereas Amos counters that he's in no need of that, being independently wealthy (see Targum Yonasan on v. 14, cited in Rashi ad loc) - but is a נביא only because G-d sent him to do so. Not a "philosopher," an "entertainer" or a "dramatizer," but someone sent by G-d with a message to the people.

(To an extent, perhaps, your source is correct on one point: a נביא doesn't necessarily have to be foretelling the future. As the Rambam (Hil. Yesodei Hatorah 7:7) writes, a נביא may be given a message meant for him alone, to grant him a greater understanding of G-dliness.)

  • I don't see how these are counterexamples. All you've shown is Rashi (or whatever commentary that translation is based on) didn't take his position. – Double AA Dec 7 '20 at 18:39
  • @DoubleAA In the first one, even without Rashi, none of these "translations" of נביא make sense in the context at all. Rashi just buttresses the fact of why it's important to note that Avraham was a נביא. Same thing in the second one: even without the Targum and Rashi, what is לך הנבא אל עמי ישראל supposed to mean - "go philosophize/entertain/dramatize to My people Yisrael"? – Meir Dec 7 '20 at 19:00
  • Why don't these verses make any sense for the OP? I don't understand. If plato said to socrates "go philosophize to the greeks" would socrates really say "huh?" – Double AA Dec 7 '20 at 19:08
  • @DoubleAA Because what Amos is doing isn't philosophizing, it's delivering a message from G-d. More to the point, he's certainly not an "entertainer who lived off donations, and weren't rich or had a day job," as Amos himself makes it clear in those verses (again, just at the surface level, even without looking at the Targum or Rashi). – Meir Dec 7 '20 at 19:13
  • Dramatize educationaly fits in perfectly with what he did, and just because he was also a cowboy on the side doesn't really disqualify him – Double AA Dec 7 '20 at 19:15

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