“Olam” as “the Future”

In my many years of Hebrew study, I have often come across the sneaky practice of scholars which takes a simple objective word and interprets (more like morphs) it into a more subjective concept for the purpose of avoiding readings that seem too crazy for common sense to endure.

In studying the “progress” of translations over history, one can easily notice the increasingly subjective translation methods employed in the more modern ones. Why? The modern sentiment has far less tolerance for fantastical ideas. Thomas Jefferson stripped the Gospels of the miracles, for example, and that was quite a long time ago.

The Hebrew word “olam” עוֹלָם is noted by the master Gesenius as being far more often used in the context of the future than anything else (cf. Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon), but is never translated as such. Why? Because it would create contexts and readings that might be a little too radical for the modern sentiment. But guess what? The Hebrew Scriptures are mostly about revealing “the future”. In my mind there is little or no difference between such an idea and time travel. Visions from the future are exactly that–time travel. The future through a prophetic channel somehow “travels” into the past and then gets written down by the prophet. This is hands-down fantastic and radical, is it not? Otherwise they are not real visions but subjective promises given by a higher power, or as some doctrines might put it, immutable decisions of what will happen because the Higher Power will make it happen. This is the endless hodge-podging practice of Bible interpretation that changes with every wind of every era in order to make it “relevant”.

Taking a look at the word Olam we find that it can easily be defined objectively to some extent by its root alam (#5956) which means to conceal or hide. The literal meaning is vanishing point/horizon. It must refer therefore to that which is hidden, or out of sight.

What does the typical translation “everlasting” or “eternity” have to do with “out of sight”? Nothing really, because the point of those words is to be abstract. Eternity or “long duration of time” are about as obscure and subjective as it gets ladies and gentlemen. “A long duration of time” can mean anything. Which is why it doesn’t mean anything.

There is another element to consider. Olam is a Hebrew word that appears around 15 or 16 times with a definite article, i.e. the Olam. It also often appears with the preposition “to” לְעֹלָֽם “to Olam”. There is no definiteness to “eternity” or “everlasting” and hence no such thing as “the eternity” or the “everlasting”. But there is such thing as “the Past”, “the Present”, and “the Future”. And since Olam refers to that which is hidden and out of sight, it can’t logically refer to “the past” or “the present”…

But here’s what we end up with in an objective translation:

He-who-is-kneeled is Yahweh Elohe of El-Strives [Israel], from-out the Future and until the Future…

1 Chron. 16:36 literal

…and he has taken also of the Tree of the Living ones, and he has eaten, and he has lived to the future…

Gen. 3:22 literal