[b-hebrew] Karnaim

MarianneLuban at aol.com MarianneLuban at aol.com
Sun Nov 7 23:57:00 EST 2004

In a message dated 11/7/2004 2:59:08 PM Pacific Standard Time, 
peterkirk at qaya.org writes:

> I assume that "baHr" is not a rather crude attempt at phonetic spelling 
> of Aramaic "bar" = "son", but rather the H is a het and this is Hebrew 
> "baHur" (or perhaps "baHir") = "chosen one" or "young man". I note that 
> the Samaritan pronunciation given has a U sound, but maybe this is not 
> represented in the spelling.

The ketubah is written in Hebrew.  It is dated to the 19th Century of our own 
era and may retain an Aramaic term here and there but the Samaritans ceased 
to use Aramaic regularly long ago, of course.  It was translated by J. Wilson 
and I found it in John Bowman's "Samaritan Documents".  Bowman takes issue with 
some of Wilson's translations and even suggests that Wilson may have misread 
some of the letters involved and finds the phrase "Bahur ha-karnaim" unlikely 
and would emend it to "Bahur-ha-kohanim".   Bowman makes the point that 
Samaritan ketubot have not apparently changed since the format that was seen in the 
Elephantine documents.  That is a hallmark of the Samaritans--an aversion to 
change.  I would just have accepted Bowman's theory about what Wilson did with 
"karnaim" except for there is the problem of what the karnaim of Moses was all 
about--and this is also far from clear.  Since, at the time of the writing of 
this ketubah, the Samaritan community resided at Nablus, I doubt another 
toponym would be involved.  Wilson translated the phrase as "an eminent youth".  
The context is (with Bowman's amendment to "the choicest of the priests") "the 
bridegroom, the good, honorable, scholarly, and devout, and master of 
calculation, all of whose acts are worthy; and he is the choicest of the priests and 
the most handsome of bridegrooms, who does all good things..."

Bowman indicates that he has not translated this ketubah, himself, but has 
taken Wilson's rendering--so Bowman can only guess at what Wilson did or saw.  I 
have the feeling that this has nothing to do with actual "horns" or "priests" 
but has a meaning obscured by time.  


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