[b-hebrew] Hebrew language and thought forms, was: "Desire of Women" in Heb. Text of Dan. 11:37

Peter Kirk peter at qaya.org
Mon Nov 20 04:50:04 EST 2006

On 20/11/2006 01:38, davidfentonism at aim.com wrote:
> I think the notion that thought bears no direct relationship to language is inaccurate. Hebrew thoughtforms are directly linked to its language units. This is not always the case with greek because of its propensity for abstractions. However, in Hebrew, thoughtforms/language is tied to instances or things existing in reality (e.g., the idea of stiffneckedness like an ox).
I will try to stick to matters of Hebrew language in replying here, and 
avoid being distracted into comparative philosophy.

I agree that "the notion that thought bears NO direct relationship to 
language is inaccurate", with the emphasis which I have added. But the 
strength and directness of that relationship has often been greatly 

Of course all languages, including Greek, use words derived from 
metaphors like "stiff-necked". But at this point we need to consider in 
what sense this kind of metaphorical language "is tied to instances or 
things existing in reality". In general this kind of language starts 
with metaphors or poetic imagery, and at that point there is a real tie 
to real things. An example of this, similar to your "stiff-necked" one, 
might be Psalm 32:9. But these kinds of metaphors can and do become 
fixed expressions or idioms, dead metaphors, which then lose their tie 
to real things. Thus in English at least people today can speak of 
unbridled passions without even knowing what a literal bridle is. There 
are similar idioms in English based on obsolete items and customs which 
are understood literally only by specialists, but are in everyday use as 
idioms. And the same is true in every language.

In biblical Hebrew, we don't always know which metaphors are alive and 
which are dead, but it is highly improbable that every metaphor is fully 
alive and so "tied to instances or things existing in reality" as you 
suggest. Certainly there are so many idioms with "son of" and "daughter 
of" that expressions like "daughter of Zion" cannot be taken as live 
metaphors. Another clear example of a probably dead metaphors is the use 
of 'APPAYIM and HARON 'AP for "anger". Now this clearly started at some 
stage as a metaphor, snorting from the nose representing anger. But over 
centuries, probably, these words simply became normal ways of talking 
about "anger". It would be quite wrong to imply from the use of these 
words that Hebrew thinking about anger was tied to the existence of or 
conscious thinking about noses.

Peter Kirk
E-mail:  peter at qaya.org
Blog:    http://speakertruth.blogspot.com/
Website: http://www.qaya.org/

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