In what has to be a new low for the New York Times, the Gray Lady (or should we now say the Bearded Lady?) has published an op-ed piece titled “Is God Transgender?” by a New York rabbi named Mark Sameth. Cousin to a man who “transitioned to a woman” in the 1970s, Sameth contends that “the Hebrew Bible, when read in its original language, offers a highly elastic view of gender.” He marshals many purported examples of gender fluidity in the Hebrew scriptures, in order to argue that religion should not be put in service of “social prejudices” against transgendering. But his treatment of the Bible amounts to propaganda, not scholarship.
Proposing that the God of Israel was worshipped originally as “a dual-gendered deity,” the rabbi asserts, untenably, that the etymological derivation of Yahweh is “He/She” (HUHI). His argument requires that the Tetragrammaton be read, not from right to left (as Hebrew always is), but from left to right:
The four-Hebrew-letter name of God, which scholars refer to as the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, was probably not pronounced “Jehovah” or “Yahweh,” as some have guessed. The Israelite priests would have read the letters in reverse as Hu/Hi—in other words, the hidden name of God was Hebrew for “He/She.”
But biblical scholars are in general agreement that “Yahweh” is derived from the third-person singular of the verb “to be” (hayah), whether a qal imperfect (“he is” or “he will be”) or the causative hiphil imperfect (“he causes to come into being, he creates”). This view is confirmed by numerous lines of evidence: the interpretation given in Exod 3:14 (“Say to the sons of Israel, ‘ehyeh [‘I am’ or ‘I will be’ (who I am/will be)] sent me to you”); the use of shortened forms of Yahweh at the end (“Yah” or “Yahu”) or beginning (“Yeho” or “Yo”) of Hebrew names; the spelling “Yabe” known to the Samaritans; and transliterations “Yao,” “Ya-ou-e,” and “Ya-ou-ai” in some Greek texts. No historical evidence supports Sameth’s reading—only his own sex ideology. […]