On the elusiveness and malleability of “Israel”

Silvio Sergio Scatolini Apóstolo


Words not only reproduce reality, they produce it to us.
Wittgenstein has suggested that the meaning ("Bedeutung") of words is
established in and through use. Moreover, he compared language (as parole) to a
game that can be fully understood only by those who know its rules (language as
langue). These rules are radically linked to the actual practice of the game.
This article focuses on the term "Israel" in the Hebrew Bible, because it offers
us an excellent example of the broad range of references that a term may develop
overtime. The article concludes with a reminder to exegetes and theologians that
they should refrain from assuming beforehand that if a term is repeatedly read
in, read (out) or recited in a text, it must always mean the same within the
text itself or, for that matter, in the plane of interaction between text and
the exegete or theologian.

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