raqia encore

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Sun Jul 28 04:20:45 EDT 2002

Dear Ian,

If you use the word "cognates" regarding Tiamat and THWM in its 
normal sense,you stand on a shaky foundation. C. Westermann wrote in 
his monumental work on Genesis (Genesis 1-11 (1974), Minneapolis: 
Augsburg Publishing House, p. 107):

"Tiamat in Babylonian is almost always a proper name and is only 
rarely used for the ocean or the sea, which are regularly called 
tamtu. Tiamat is a mythical being, and THWM never has this meaning in 
the Old Testament. the phrase "upon the face of the deep" shows that 
it is not a case of a mythological being but of a flood of water. It 
is impossible  phonetically and grammatically to derive THWM from the 
Babylonian Tiamat; THWM has a masculine ending, Tiamat a feminine; 
the H of the hebrew THWM cannot be explained as deriving from Tiamat."

Westermann points out that there is agreement that both words go back 
to a common Semitic root (No traces of "Proto-Semitic" has ever been 
found. so it is just hypothetical), and then he concludes:

"There is widespread agreement that Tiamat and THWM go back to a 
common Semitic root; but the occurrence of THWM in Gen 1:2 is not an 
argument for the direct dependence of the creation account of Gen 1 
on Enuma Elish."

I have noted that nobody has pointed to any extra-biblical source 
from the first part of the first millennium B.C.E., or even later (as 
I asked for), indicating a world view of the earth fixed on pillars 
in a cosmic ocean with a solid vault above. This may suggest that the 
Semites never had such a world view, but that views from the Middle 
Ages have been projected backwards.



Rolf Furuli

University of Oslo

>  >Ian, I remember you saying something recently about the etymological
>>fallacy. That is the fallacy that just because two words (in the same or
>>in cognate languages) have the same etymology, there is a relation
>>between their meaning. That fallacy potentially applies here.
>The situations are not comparable. I showed what
>was wrong in the specific case. The similarities
>only worked in isolation and not with the
>diachronic changes observed.
>The relationship between Tiamat and tehom is
>systematic in that the differences between them
>can be seen on a language-wide scale. he in
>Hebrew is null in Akkadian. Vocalic waw seems
>consistently an /a/ in Akkadian. Thematic
>feminine taw is lost in the simple form of the
>feminine noun in Hebrew. How would you say
>"his deep" in Hebrew? thwmtw perhaps?
>>may not dispute that tehom and tiamat are etymologically related.
>I didn't say "etymologically related". I said that
>they are cognates, ie they come from the same
>source (just as "caput" and "head" do).
>>does not imply that there is any relation between their meanings or
>>referents, especially in two quite remote languages with (as far as we
>>can tell) many centuries of time difference. I accept that they may be
>  >related in meaning or referent. But a common etymology and a similar
>  >form does not prove that.
>As they are plainly cognates, the important question
>should be what is the relationship between their
>meanings? We do this by looking at the way the terms
>are used.
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