[b-hebrew] linguistics, was Re: Prov. 30:19

Charles David Isbell cisbell at cox.net
Sat Oct 11 23:59:44 EDT 2003

Peter writes: "I'm not sure that Karl needs evidence for what he believes
about this. But I can offer some. Since you are appealing to the text of
Exodus, presumably you are accepting that as evidence. In that narrative
there is the story of Moses living with Jethro for many years and marrying
his daughter Zipporah - good Semitic names. Very likely these people were
Semites speaking a language close to early Hebrew. Also the text has him
 addressing crowds of Israelites and it is unlikely that he would have
spoken to them in Egyptian.

 There is good evidence that Semitic was spoken widely and written in Egypt
in this general period. Walter Mattfeld just posted some of it. It cannot be
proved, perhaps, that Moses knew it, but there is no reason to consider it
Thanks, Peter. But is this not a circular argument? Exodus as "evidence" is
not a problem for me. But the exact nature of its evidentiary value is the
question, non? Only by the presumption that Moses authored the book can the
Exodus text serve as evidence of his skill in Hebrew.

I note the use of "very likely," "unlikely," "cannot be proved,"
"improbable." That is my point. Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is not
proven or provable. Its acceptance is a postulate of faith for some, and
that is out of my depth as well as out of bounds for the list. But the only
evidence we do have takes for granted more of an Egyptian character for
Moses than a "Hebrew" [language] one, as I read it. I would also note that
it seems just as likely to me that people who had been in a country for 400
[or 430] years would have been speakers of that country's tongue. So if
Moses had addressed them in except in Egyptian, my guess is that few would
have understood him, especially since many in the crowd were probably
Egyptians themselves, again according to the text we have [see 12.38].

My only point is that I fail to see any connection between a backwards
argument that the 22 consonants of Hebrew were original and the Mosaic
authorship of the Pentateuch. In addition, reference to ante-diluvian
literature seems more than a little strained to me. What evidence, for
example, could possibly be adduced for the argument that narratives in
Genesis 1-11, were originally composed in "Hebrew" before the time of


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