[b-hebrew] Ayin and Ghayin

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Wed Oct 5 16:29:41 EDT 2005

On 10/3/05, Karl Randolph wrote:
> > > 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?
> >
> In other words, you have no "cold, hard facts", just beliefs,
> as the following attests to:

The question simply does not pertain to the discussion.  I used to
think that it would pertain to this list, as the list is technically listed
as "Hebrew Bible" list.  But after the recent discussions I started
viewing this list as "Biblical Hebrew" list.  So, while you keep trying
to veer the discussion towards this issue, it does not pertain to
the question at hand.  The question at hand, as far as I see it, is:
were there more phonemes originally in Hebrew than are preserved
in the consonantal text of the Torah.  This question would be
answered by a definite "yes" by two groups of people (which

1) People who believe Moses received the Massoretic text on Mt.
2) Scholars who study Semitic languages, and scholars as well
as non scholars who accept their findings.

The above two groups of people pretty much includes all people who
study the Hebrew Bible in one form or another.  These groups do
not include you.  You feel you can doubt the claim of group (1)
as far as Massoretic pointing is concerned based on some findings
of group (2) as you read in what appears to be summaries, without
accepting other findings of group (2).

> > 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.
> The way I read this statement, you claim that "My
> understanding" = "hard evidence". In other words, your
> beliefs, your theological position, is the basis of your
> claims. You need to have something more substantial.

Then you are wrong.  "My understanding" is equivalent to your
"What I read of Ugaritic is ..."  Except that so long as I don't have
a direct immediate source on hand which I can quote or to which I
can refer, I refer to it as my own understanding so as not to
misrepresent the position of scholarship.

> The Bible makes certain history claims, which you so airily
> dismiss, that puts the Torah in 15th century BC. Ugaritic,
> according to the oldest dating which is contested, was first
> written a century later if not three centuries.

No, Ugaritic was first written in the archaeological record some
century to three centuries later than the 15th century.
Considerations such as the assessment of the development of the
Ugaritic cuneiform (which appears developed but which probably
developed out of more primitive forms of the alphabet) as well as
various assessments of the age of the mythological texts
suggests that the written record is not representative of the times
during which Ugaritic was used as a written language, but only
illuminates the more later end of that time period, until the end
of Ugarit.  You are basing yourself here on "What if" as far as
Ugaritic is concerned "What if Ugaritic was only written during
the period in which it is archaeologically attested."  On the
other hand, you are basing yourself also on "What if" as far
as Biblical Hebrew, "What if Hebrew as known from the Hebrew
Bible was only written during the period in which it is
archaeologically attested."  The assessments of Ugaritic tend to
point that the first assertion is false.  The second assertion is
probably also "false" but not in the length of period you accept.
Hebrew was probably written in the spelling and vocabulary that
appears in the Hebrew Bible only starting from the Persian
period.  There is very little evidence prior to the 7th century as
far as Hebrew texts, but while you would claim that 8 centuries
earlier, Biblical Hebrew was written in the same alphabet and
vocabulary as appears in the archaeological record of the 7th
century and onwards, you do not allow even a century for
Ugaritic, even though the assessment of the evidence points
to at least some one or two centuries of development prior
to the appearance in the archaeological record.

> While there is
> no question that it is a cognate language, how can it be
> more archaic when its oldest examples date from one to
> three centuries later?

It is more archaic because of the features of the language
itself, such as the presence of a dual form, or the case
endings for nominative, objective, and genitive (Hebrew
preserves only a "locative").  Perhaps the -t ending of
feminine nouns also counts.  Again, "the oldest examples"
is a misrepresentation because what you're really saying
"the oldest archaeologically attested examples of Ugaritic
date from one to three centuries later than the date I believe
the Torah to have been originally written, which is 1000
years earlier than its earliest archaeological attestation, and
which differs from other traditional evaluations of the date of
the Torah."

> Yes I admit that I am basing much of my understanding on
> "what if?" arguments, what if the historical claims are
> accurate? What if the text was accurately copied?

And to add some more what if's that you make:
What if the Massoretic text was not accurately transmitted?
What if the Torah was written during the time of Moses?
What if my dating of Moses is accurate?
(I don't want to deal with the above questions, but I am just
pointing out these other ones)
A question I would like you to answer, though is:
What if the Torah was written originally in Hebrew?  -- How
do you know that it wasn't originally written in Aramaic and
then translated to Hebrew?  What in Targum Onkelos, for
example, tells you that the Torah was originally written in

> You base your arguments equally on "what if?" arguments,
> what if the text was not accurately copied? What if the
> history claims are mythological? What if the accounts they
> relate are myths? What if ancient Hebrews learned the
> alphabet from the Phoenicians instead of the other way
> around? What if ...? What if ...?

I am not sure what of the above relates to the primary
claim of this discussion.  This claim was "There were more
phonemes originally in Hebrew than is transmitted by the
consonantal text."  This claim would be pretty simple to
convince anyone who accepts the Massoretic text, using
the Shin/Sin example that is preserved.  It is only your beliefs
regarding the phonology of Hebrew during the 15th century
that is at issue, not anything relating to the history that the
language transmits in the Bible.  I don't claim the Hebrews
learned the alphabet from the Phoenicians, although the
Greeks probably did.

> If you had some documentary evidence ...

Perhaps you should first read the evidence before making
claims that there is no evidence.

> but as it is, with your faith claim countering my faith claim
> with no universally recognized hard evidence, why do you
> keep arguing?

Why not?  The more this discussion goes on, the more it is
clear just how little you are basing yourself on any kind of
evidence whatsoever, while obstinately refusing to read the
Ugaritic texts and Aramaic translation of the Torah that I
suggested you read.

> It does pertain to this discussion. You have made certain
> claims concerning the development of the language,
> based on "hard facts". But if Moses wrote the consonantal
> Torah in the 15th century BC basically as we have it
> today, then the evidence from Hebrew contradicts your
> claimed "hard facts".

Ever since the development of the Massorah, which is
generally dated to the 6th century CE by scholars, Jews
accepted that Moses received the Torah along with the
Massorah on Mt. Sinai.  It is quite clear that Jews always
believed that additional vocalization information was
transmitted with the Torah by Moses.  Even though the
vocalization as it appears from the DSS slightly differs
from the MT, in many cases it is possible to trace the
development of the Massoretic forms of the words from
the DSS forms of the words.  So for at least 1400 years
and probably many more, Jews believed that "Moses
wrote the consonantal text of the Torah" not as you
believe it.  Rather, "Moses received the Torah and
transmitted it both in its written form and oral form (ie,
vocalized form, to differentiate from the Mishna)."  Your
claim is more along the lines of "Moses wrote the
consonantal text of the Torah in the 15th century BCE
but did not transmit any vocalized information of the
Torah that was properly preserved, but that is ok,
because even though the vowels are problematic to
reconstruct, Moses used only 22 letters because that
is all the phonemes that were present in the consonantal

> > ... 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."
> >
> Since you can read my mind better than I myself, what
> else is there that I don't recognize? As usual, you have
> mangled my argument.

Your claims to that argument are based on rather vague and
inexact comparisons with other non-Semitic languages.  All
the while, you refuse to read and evaluate evidence (the
Ugaritic and Aramaic) that directly relates to the issue at hand.

> In summary, since it is merely your faith claims against my
> faith claims, your attempts to change mine is nothing less
> than proselytism.

Mine is not faith claims.  I don't need to proselytize you to get
you to look at the evidence.

> Let's get back to a study of the language.

But study is only possible when you agree to look and evaluate

The original article is now publicly available at:

Yitzhak Sapir

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