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Hebrew Words in Masonry

"Ahiman Rezon," the name given by Laurence Dermott to his edition of the Book of Constitutions for the Ancient Grand Lodge, was intended to be Hebrew but to date Hebraists are not certain of its meaning; it is believed to mean "Worthy Brother Secretary," or "Help to a Scribe," but the earliest editions carried on the title page the sub-title "Help to a Brother," and that may have been Grand Secretary Dermott's own translation. But why use a Hebrew title? No answer to this question has ever been found. Dermott himself had some Hebrew. There must have been a special interest in Hebrew by members of the Grand Lodge of Ireland at about the time of the writing of the Constitution of the Ancient Grand Lodge, which was Irish Masonry transplanted to England, because Irish Grand Lodge medals of the period occasionally carried Hebrew words. A Side Order or High Degree (it is impossible to tell which) was practiced in Ireland, England, and Scotland under the Hebrew name of Herodim (or Harodim, or Highrodim, or Highrodian); Preston called a little society for the study of Masonry which he organized, "Order of Herodim." This word was lifted bodily from I Kings, Ch. 5, of the Hebrew Old Testament, where it meant provosts, or "officers which were over the work." Giblim, another word in Masonic usage, was taken from the same chapter. It is possible that a certain word in the Third Degree which cannot be spoken or written is an altered form of a third Hebrew word from that same chapter.

The whole subject of a Hebrew influence at work in the Seventeenth and early Eighteenth Century Freemasonry is a still-virgin field for Masonic research. There were professors and specialists in Hebrew at Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of Dublin; the making of the Authorized Version under King James in 1611 was much discussed everywhere among educated men, and inspired many amateurs to study the language of the Old Testament. Public exhibition at two different times in English cities of models of Solomon's Temple aroused a popular interest in the Book of Kings. The Allegory of the Temple in the Second Degree may have been added to the Ritual in that period; at least an amplification of it. The Raising, which bears the Hebrew name of HA.-. may have originated in the same period (the oldest known Lodge of Master Masons is dated at 1725); this is doubtful because the rite bears internal evidence of having originated much earlier, but it is possible that its general popularity may have been owing to the current of Hebrew interests. The Holy Royal Arch, which in some forms was probably known in Ireland in Time Immemorial Lodges, is Old Testament in spirit and reference; also, if "Arch" meant "chief" or "overseer" the Rite may at one time have been called Herodim. Thus far no historian has discovered any connection between the origin of Speculative Freemasonry and the Jews. Such Hebraic elements as are found in the Craft Degrees and the High Grades are derived from Hebrew sources at second or at third hand, from the English Bible, from Old Testament traditions and stories, and also, perhaps, and over a roundabout route, from the Kabbala (or Cabala, or Kabbalah). There was much interest in the Kabbala during the early period of the Reformation; Reuchlin, one of Luther's forerunners, was familiar with it; Luther and Melanchton both studied it; there was even a Christian Kabbala. If Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Masons took a lively interest in Hebrew matters it is not to be wondered at the Hebrew Old Testament comprises two-thirds of the English Bible; and British and European culture, as Matthew Arnold was to remind everybody in the Nineteenth Century, was in origin a blend of Hellenism (Greek, and to some extent, Roman) and of Hebraism.

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