[b-hebrew] Ayin and Ghayin

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Mon Oct 3 01:36:22 EDT 2005

On 9/30/05, Karl Randolph wrote:
> > The difference between my evidence and your evidence
> > is that your evidence requires accepting your beliefs.  My
> > evidence is hard facts.
> >
> Where are your cold, hard facts that prove that Torah was
> not written by Moses in about the 15th century BC? What
> documentation do you have?

I don't "base" my theory on whether or not Moses wrote the
Torah in the 15th century BCE or not.  Moses could have
written the Torah in the 15th century BCE, ...
1) ... in a different alphabet, which may or may not have used
some letters to represent more than one phoneme
2) ... in a 22 letter alphabet but using various letters to
represent multiple phonemes
3) ... in a different or earlier form of the language, and what we
have is a translation into later Hebrew

"Moses wrote the Torah in the 15th century BCE" is not
inconsistent with "the Hebrew alphabet includes more than
22 phonemes."  In fact, Jews have believed something
along those lines (mainly a different date) for at least
1400 years.  Most "traditionalist" schemes have also generally
believed something along those lines.  Perhaps you're aware
of one that hasn't traditionally held to that concept.  But I
can't think of one off hand.

The question deals with whether Hebrew could have more
than 22 phonemes or, roughly equivalently, whether one
letter of the 22 letter alphabet represents more than one
phoneme.  Because "Moses wrote the Torah in the 15th
century BCE" is insufficient to claim that only 22 phonemes
were involved, it is obvious there is another hidden claim
behind your argument.  That hidden claim appears to be
basically, "Hebrew by definition cannot have more than
22 phonemes."

I don't need evidence for whether Moses did or did not
write the Torah in the 15th century BCE for this discussion,
because that question is theological and does not pertain
to this discussion which is linguistic.  The fact that you
can believe either way on that issue and still hold different
opinions on this question, shows that it does not pertain
to this issue.  But you do need evidence to prove
your claim, that only 22 phonemes were involved.  And
even though you chose to state that claim in such a
fashion so that it depends on the existence of the Torah
in the 15th century BCE, I did not ask you for evidence to
show that the Torah existed in the 15th century BCE.
Instead, I asked you to show that 22 letters were used in
his 15th century copy, which seems unlikely given that the
22-letter version of the alphabet doesn't appear for several
centuries later.

> In other words, what evidence can you present that your
> disagreement with me is not based on purely theological
> beliefs, that your theology differs from mine?

Well, obviously, if your theology includes a statement to the
effect that Hebrew could only have 22 letters, then my
theology is evidently at issue because my theology simply
doesn't make this claim either in the positive or negative.
The fact that Jews for centuries who weren't suspected of
being radical or critical and were simply part of "Tradition"
had believed that Hebrew had used some letters for more
than one phoneme shows that traditional beliefs are
perfectly consistent with this claim.  What theological
beliefs do you think I have which affect my conclusions?

> As for Ugaritic, every history I have read on it says that it
> was written from 14th to 12th centuries BC,
> [...] according to its internal
> dates.

That is dating based on external evidence -- ie the
archaeological context in which it was found.  It would be
equivalent to saying the Aleppo codex dates from the Middle
Ages.  Because it does, but the text it contains is much
older.  None of these dates of from the 14th to 12th centuries
BCE are based on the text itself (at least as far as the
mythological texts are concerned).  And I've read
suggestions to the effect that the mythological texts are
actually older and more conservative and the Ugaritic
religion may have been slightly different than suggested
by those texts.

> What hard evidence can you present that Ugaritic
> predates Torah? I mean hard evidence, not mere beliefs.

My understanding is that Ugaritic is very close to Hebrew,
but is far more archaic.  This would be evidence, hard
evidence, in terms of the language of Ugaritic texts
against the language of Biblical texts.  Another type of
evidence would be the age of the texts as first
represented in the archaeological record -- Ugaritic
appears over 1000 years prior to Biblical documents
similarly appearing.  Both of these are hard evidence and
they point a certain way.  I am not saying they may
be not representative.  We can't immediately tell from
either the Ugaritic or Biblical religious texts how long prior
to their appearance in the archaeological record they were
composed.  Various opinions on this are speculation, but if
one speculates on this issue, they should at least form an
opinion based on reading both of the sources, and not just
one.  What hard evidence do you have that points the other

> So far, all I have seen from you are theological claims,
> where I need to accept your theological beliefs in order
> to see "evidence" your way.

Which theological claims?  I don't require you to see the
evidence my way.  I even explicitly delineated this in
the recent post.  What I want to know is how you see
the evidence in your scheme.  In my opinion, it is there,
in trying to fit the evidence to your scheme that you will
find it problematic.  But to know this, I first need you to
see the evidence.  It appears that even though I placed it
all before you, you refuse to open your eyes and see it.

Yitzhak Sapir

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