Biblical Poetry by Janet MaiKa’i Rudolph

This blogpost is about biblical verses and uncovering the magic and spirit behind its words. Why, you might ask, is this a project that belongs on a blog dedicated to feminism?

I believe it does because it helps us to strip away the many layers of patriarchy with its attempts to hide and/or change original teachings. Remember; these stories were originally oral wisdom teachings of the “folk.” They weren’t written down until the Babylonian exile, hundreds if not thousands of years removed from their origins. And who was doing the writing? Priests, scribes, and prophets, all with their own agenda. Even the earliest writings we have, the Dead Sea Scrolls, were still written in patriarchal times.

And then there is the issue of translation. Many translations are based on work that had already been translated into Greek before finding its way into the English language adding another layer of patriarchal meaning. The King James Bible from 1611 is arguably the most influential to our understanding of the verses. It was based on other bibles that had been translated from Greek (another layer to penetrate) and earlier translations that were all male-centric. The King James Bible took 47 men (yes, men) 7 years to complete their work. As far as I know, they didn’t even consult any Jewish sources for interpretation.

There was a clear agenda to their work – political power. King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England in 1603 in the midst of deep division between Catholics and Protestants. In fact, his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, had been executed by his predecessor, Queen Elizabeth I irritating the religious conflicts all the more. Further tension was increased by the then-popular Geneva Bible which had problematic passages regarding the powers of bishops versus kings. The solution was this new and expansive translation project with an eye to legitimizing King James’s powers.

For many years I have played with translating Biblical verses by working to understand original meanings. One great resource for this is the scholarly work of Jeff Benner and his Ancient Hebrew Research Center. He does a masterful job of working to understand Ancient Hebrew in its oldest forms. The written language was made of pictographs creating rebuses or picture puzzles. The rebus format gives clues for differing layers of meaning. For example, the word most often translated as God in the Bible is El or Elohim – made up of two root letters; lam or lamed (L) and aleph (A).

Ancient lam was the image of a shepherd’s staff indicating a guide or leader (as the shepherd would lead the sheep) and the aleph was a bull’s head. The two letters together are a remnant of the Canaanite Bull God – EL. I would argue that it is also reminiscent of Great Cow Goddesses found in Egypt. Their names are familiar – Isis, Hathor and Sekhmet among others and they, too, would be represented by bovine horns. Elohim and its shorthand El are plural and non-gender based, so we can obviously throw out “he” as a pronoun for “god.” Benner translates El as “Powers” reflecting the power of a bull. I have started translating it as “All-Potential Powers” in recognition of the life that is formed when the male bull and the female cow come together. 

Lately I find myself doing a different sort of translation. I am not sure what to call it. Biblical spirituality? Biblical interpretation? For now, I’m settling on “poetry based on biblical verses.”

Here are the first 4 verses of Genesis in 3 different interpretations. The first is the King James Version (KJV) for its familiar reference, the second is Benner’s Revised Mechanical translation[i] (Benner) which I believe uncovers beautiful and original meanings and the third is my own biblical poetry (Mystic Pagan Version or MPV). 

Genesis 1:1-2

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
The earth was without form, and void;
and darkness was on the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

In the summit “Elohiym [Powers]”
Fattened the sky and the land,
and the land had existed in confusion
and was unfilled and darkness was
upon the face of the deep sea
and the wind of “Elohiym [Powers]”
was much fluttering upon the face of the water.

At the headwaters of creation, All-Potential Powers
Birthed fire/water and earth
All was unformed chaos, deep water earth cauldron
All-Potential Powers, Deep.Sea[ii] created much fluttering[iii]
Drawing forth breath

Genesis 1:3

God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light

And he will say Elohim [Powers] he will exist
Light and he will exist Light.

All-Potential Powers danced waves of vibrations
BEING LIGHT and being light

[i] Benner does fascinating work analyzing the ancient words and using a literal translation of each word. He calls this is Mechanical translation. The Revised Mechanical translation makes the verses more English-friendly. Both can be found on his website (link above).

[ii] Benner uses the form of a period within a word to denote two words which form one concept. I think it works very well and I use it here.

[iii] I love this concept of “much fluttering.” It reminds me of the story where Isis finds Osiris in the wood column of the king’s palace and she flaps her wings like a bellows in order to bring him back to life.

Janet Maika’i Rudolph. “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QUEST.” I have walked the spirit path for over 25 years traveling to sacred sites around the world including Israel to do an Ulpan (Hebrew language studies while working on a Kibbutz), Eleusis and Delphi in Greece, Avebury and Glastonbury in England, Brodgar in Scotland, Machu Picchu in Peru, Teotihuacan in Mexico, and Giza in Egypt. Within these travels, I have participated in numerous shamanic rites and rituals, attended a mystery school based on the ancient Greek model, and studied with shamans around the world. I am twice initiated. The first as a shaman practitioner of a pathway known as Divine Humanity. The second ordination in 2016 was as an Alaka’i (a Hawaiian spiritual guide with Aloha International). I have written three books: When Moses Was a ShamanWhen Eve Was a Goddess, (now available in Spanish, Cuando Eva era una Diosa), and One Gods. In Ardor and Adventure, available in Spanish. Cuando Eva era una Diosa

Categories: Bible, Divine Feminine, Earth-based spirituality, Feminism and Religion, Feminist Theology, General, Goddess, Goddess feminism, Paganism, Shamanism, Symbols

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

21 replies

  1. The MVP version! I love it. Thank you for this thoughtful excavation and reclamation! And it is Poetry Month!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Poetry month – outstanding! I didn’t realize. Thanks for your support Elizabeth. It means so much.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The MVP version is beautiful, and so resonant with our 21st century understanding of the universe as awash in vibrations!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Very interesting! Back in the early 1980s, I studied with Rocco Errico, whose mentor was George Lamsa, who had produced (in the 1930s) a Bible translated from the ancient Aramaic manuscripts. Aramaic was the language Jesus and his contemporaries and earlier Biblical writers actually spoke. Not Greek. Lamsa and Errico also wrote books that explained Aramaic idioms like “turn the other cheek” and lots more than I can remember right now.

    I admire the work you’re doing. Your MPV verses are eye-opening. Many thanks for your good work!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Very interesting, Janet. One of my teachers, Neil Douglas-Klotz, an American Sufi, also translated the first verses of the Bible in an expanded version, which ends “In Principle/In Beginningness/Oneness envisioned the wave and the particle.” He also translated the Lord’s Prayer from what probably was the original Aramaic, and it begins, “Oh Birther, Father-Mother God.”

    Also when Hebrew was being developed as a written language, all cows had horns, and cows were much more important than bulls, because they gave milk and had calves. So I doubt that the aleph pictogram represented a bull. Therefore, I think that Elohim could very well have been originally a cow goddess who became El. Another thing that I find interesting is our Western mythic passion for beginnings (also endings, which I think has everything to do with the apocalypse, but that’s a different response). In indigenous cultures, myths begin in media res, in the middle of everything, and life is created from other life or other parts of nature.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh and to add to your fan club of Neil Douglas-Klotz, I am far less familiar with him than you are but I do love his work. And I particularly love that he put his works to music (vibration) and they are done in the Dances of Universal Peace (more vibration). He has so beautifully put together the words, the music, the singing so we can feel these aspects in our bodies. He is remarkable. Have you studied with him personally? If so, aren’t you lucky.

      By the way, in the Lord’s prayer – heaven is the word shamayam. Sha comes from the word for fire and mayam is water (the supernal mother as well). So heaven is the combination of opposites fire and water which, to my mind, does reflects back on the EL as cow/bull diety, also a combination of opposites.


      • I’ve been lucky to participate in several weekend workshops with him over the years. Now that he lives in England that hasn’t happened for quite a while. I agree with you about how remarkable his work is. Dancing to the Lord’s Prayer with him even moved me to bring Jesus back into my own personal pagan pantheon.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wow Nancy, that’s a hefty endorsement of his work. I have his Sufi Book of Life. I love how he has a meditation for each vibrational sacred name.

          Perhaps we’ll meet each other at a DUP sometime in the future!


  6. Interesting comment, Nancy about the horns being far more important on the cows than the bulls. I’ve never taken it in that direction with El. I am torn though, the erasing of the goddess has been tragic all round. But I am really personally drawn to the interweaving, the combinations of opposites which give rise to transitions, transformations and of course, life.

    Also interesting about myths focusing on the middle. Hmmmmm Something to consider in that. Thanks for adding so much context to the mythos.


  7. Thanks for that link Barbara, What an interesting book. I think I will order it although I am going to look for it on a site other than Amazon as I’d like to stay away from them as much as possible (which isn’t all that much in reality). Deep sigh! Thanks again.


  8. I absolutely loved this. I studied Biblical Hebrew for several years (I have a masters degree in Semitic Languages), and like you I kept looking for traces of pre-patriarchal ideas in the Biblical texts. Thank you so very much for your contribution. I would be delighted to read more of your translation!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Hennes Hus (Her House?). You cheered my day. Perhaps we can share notes on this process when appropriate. I think it is so important because it is so foundational to our culture. And unless we do something to change the dialog, it will remain as dysfunctional as it has been.

      I have more translations coming up in my next blogpost (officially the 3rd Thursday of the month but it could be posted earlier.). Again thanks.


  9. Oh this is fascinating! Thank you so much for this post and for your interpretations. You sure have done a lot of research.

    Liked by 1 person


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