Linguistic Origins of Hebrew: 1800 BCE?!

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at
Sat Sep 9 05:21:39 EDT 2000

Hi Brian.

>Here is a line of argument for the 1800 BCE for Hebrew:
>1. Abraham comes on the scene with some sort of East Semitic Background.

Oddyseus comes on the scene with some sort of Hellenic Background. 

It would in fact be strange if one's heroes didn't hit the scene with some
form of background related to the culture of the maintainers of the

Incidentally, the Abraham stories are probably later than the Jacob
stories: despite the idea that Abraham would be the father of a great
nation, the Hebrews are still the sons of Jacob.

>2. Enters a region where Canaanite NW Semitic is spoken.
>3. He had to communicate with those in the region, this could be the 
>beginning of a dialect of NW Semitic.

Would you attempt to build similar hypotheses around -- say -- Gilgamesh?

(And one doesn't build a dialect around one family. A dialect needs a
speech community.)

>4. If one dates 1800 BCE for Abraham...;)

If one dates the writing of the Abraham stories to say 350 BCE... ie I
think such datings are arbitrary.

>5. This dialect continues to develop.
>6. Joseph takes it to Egypt. (Don't scream, yet)

Why not? You are using material whose writing you have not dated and whose
relation to reality you haven't ascertained.

>7. When they return from Egypt (400 yrs.) they are speaking some sort of
NW Semitic.
>8. Side note, no Egyptian influence, why? Because Egyptian is not a
Semitic language.

I suppose then you want to forget the Persian influence on Hebrew. 

(History is actually laden with analogous examples to contradict your
statement. Just consider Arabic on Turkish, Turkish on Kurdish, Swedish on
Finnish. All one needs is a sizable period of cultural dominance such as
the one reported of the Egyptians over the Hebrews.)

>8.1 There may be some influence: The word for ark may be similiar to
>word for ark.
>8.2 The amount of names of people coming out of Egypt with non-Semitic names.
>8.3 When some things were written in 1447 BCE the language didn't appear
out of the
>air. now you can scream ;)
>Line of argument number 2
>1. What was the lingua franca of the Canaanites, Philistines and Hittites?

There wasn't one. The Hittites functionally stopped being around 1190 BCE
-- oddly enough about the time that the Philistines arrived. It would seem
that the Philistines first absorbed Phoenician and then went on to
communicate in Aramaic (Garbini: I Filistei).

>2. Waltke argues for 1400 BCE as start of Hebrew.

That's nice.

>Line of argument number 3 (archaeology)
>1. Ketef Hinnom discovery in 1985 that quotes Numbers 6.

Or does Numbers 6 quote the thing that was quoted by the Ketef Hinnom thingy?

>2. Tel Dan inscription referring to the House of David.

No, it was bytdwd, which if authentic could refer to a temple (or its
town), cf. Bethel.

>3. DSS evidence. Did Hebrew develop over night?

Nobody claims that it did, but the DSS date from about 100 BCE. They're too
late to be of any help.

>Line of argument number 4
>1. Isa. 36-39 referencing the language.



>A hike through the history of Hebrew: (The development of Hebrew)
>PH - Proto Hebrew
>BH - Biblical Hebrew
>QH - Qumran Heb CH - Classical Heb LBH -Late Biblical Heb SH -Samaritan Heb
>RH - Rabbinic Hebrew
>MH - Med. Hebrew
>IH - Israeli Hebrew

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