[b-hebrew] Coat of sleeves, or many colors?
Christopher.Heard at pepperdine.edu
Mon Aug 8 23:02:47 EDT 2005
Dora Smith wrote:
>What do you make of the fact that the people in the drawings are wearing
>coats of many colors?
First, I'm "Chris" or "Christopher," please. Right now I am consigned
to using my University's web-based e-mailer, which stamps on my legal
first name, "Robert." But all my friends call me "Chris" or
Second, to answer your question directly, I make _nothing_ of the
"fact" that the people in the drawings are wearing "coats of many
colors," for at least the following reasons:
(1) Most importantly, I haven't seen the referenced drawing with my own
eyes (at least not recently), and I therefore cannot make any
inferences from it whatsoever until that changes (right now I am away
from home and away from my library).
(2) An Egyptian drawing has no bearing on the semantics of Hebrew
words, and _as far as I can tell_ the best case can be made for
translating KTNT PSYM as "long-sleeved tunic." The Hebrew word itself
appears only in that construction, so if we can't determine what it
means from the context--and we can't--then we have go looking somewhere
else for help. I think looking to biblical Aramaic PS "palm/sole" is
better than relying on the LXX here, because PS is at least (a) in a
cognate Semitic language, Aramaic, and (b) in the Tanakh, so we're not
going too far afield.
(3) The phrase "coats of many colors" is provided by someone _viewing
and interpreting_ the drawing in question. I'm quite sure that the
drawing does not have a caption like "(BRYM BKTNWT PSYM"! I am
guessing, but it is a pretty safe bet that whoever characterized the
Semites in the drawing as wearing "coats of many colors" was conciously
reflecting the LXX and traditional European translations of KTNT PSYM.
To then say that this somehow illuminates the biblical KTNT PSYM would
be circular, since it was the biblical phrase that led to the label in
the first place. I don't know for sure if that description was Ben's or
W. F. Albright's, though I wouldn't put it past Albright.
(4) Even if we were to ignore (3), if Semites _customarily_ dressed in
"coats of many colors," then why on earth would Joseph's brothers be
angry or jealous? The KTNT PSYM must be something special, something
rare. In 1 Sam 13 is the dress of the king's daughters. It's clearly
intended in Gen 37 and 1 Sam 13 to be something rather _extraordinary_,
certainly _not_ the average laborer's garb.
I suspect that resolving (1) above will by no means change the other
three, especially (2) and (4).
R. Christopher Heard
Assistant Professor of Religion
Malibu, CA 90263-4352
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