raqia encore

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at sil.org
Sun Jul 28 08:45:42 EDT 2002

Thank you, Rolf. I am glad of the confirmation that the view of this
issue which we share is not a sectarian position of evangelical
Christians or of the group which you are associated with (at least in my
mind!), but is the position of the author of one of the most respected
scholarly commentaries on Genesis.

I was using the word "cognate" slightly differently from you. What I
accept is that the two words are from a common root. But that does not
make them equivalents even etymologically, as your point about the
feminine ending makes clear.

Peter Kirk

-----Original Message-----
From: Rolf Furuli [mailto:furuli at online.no] 
Sent: 28 July 2002 09:21
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: Re: raqia encore

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

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
>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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