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

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Sun Oct 12 11:24:40 EDT 2003

On 11/10/2003 20:59, Charles David Isbell wrote:

>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.
Understood. I was not making any assumptions that Moses wrote Exodus. I 
see no good reason why he should not have done, but that's a different 

>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. ...
Not necessarily. The descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers have been in 
America for nearly 400 years but don't speak any language of 
Massachusetts. Not comparable? Maybe. Conquerors don't learn the 
language of the people they conquer - or not quickly. Immigrants 
usually, but not always, learn the language of the people they settle 
amongst within a few generations. But there are some exceptions among 
groups which resist assimilation e.g. low German speaking Mennonites who 
still speak their own language after many centuries among English 
speaking Americans. And don't forget that the Hyksos were Semitic 
conquerors of Egypt and their descendants had not long become slaves.

>... 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
Totally agreed.


Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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