[b-hebrew] Job & Sumer

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Fri Jun 11 06:46:46 EDT 2004

On 10/06/2004 20:06, david.kimbrough at charter.net wrote:

>I would point out that according to traditional 
>chronologies the Isrealites were in captivity in Egypt at 
>this time.  An unlikely place and population to influce 
>Sumerian poetry.

I'm not sure what "this time" you think anyone else is talking about, 
but from what I have read others have suggested dating Job in the 
"patriarchal period", which on any traditional chronology predates 
captivity in Egypt, and also predates your first Sumerian examples of 
the Job story.

>We can only go on the evidence at hand.  There is no 
>evidence of any kind for the existence of the Hebrew 
>language or Hebrew versions of Job-like poems around 1700 
>BC. If new evidence arises, it can be considered.  Without 
>evidence of some sort, it is just speculation.
I see a variety of misunderstandings here, of which the most significant 
may be the assumption that the book of Job as we have it has an 
Israelite source or is even in Hebrew. Its language is certainly very 
strange by the regular standards of biblical Hebrew, and may well have 
been more strange before being tidied up by later copyists. Meanwhile, 
there certainly is evidence that languages like Hebrew were in existence 
in this period. There may be gaps in our knowledge (there certainly are 
in mine), but there was certainly a progression from something like 
Eblaite to Ugaritic as well as to early Hebrew. Indeed we can be sure 
that someone somewhere was speaking a direct ancestor of Hebrew in 1700 
BC, even if it is entirely speculative who or where they were. And there 
is no way to disprove a hypotheses that they already carried with them 
the story of Job, whether written or as oral tradition. This much we can 
say, although more than this is indeed speculation.

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

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