[b-hebrew] Language, migration and Jewish identity

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Thu Nov 8 19:39:02 EST 2007


On 11/8/07, Yitzhak Sapir <yitzhaksapir at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Nov 8, 2007 5:52 PM, K Randolph wrote:
> > On 11/5/07, Yitzhak Sapir <yitzhaksapir at gmail.com> wrote:
> > >
> > > In the scholarly community, ....
> >
> > The question here is: who is a scholar and what defines scholarship?
> I quoted all the above to make it clear what is going on.  A scholar
> is a rather
> general term.  But a scholarly community is a specific phrase that refers to a
> specific institution.  And in that institution, scholars are a defined group of
> people -- what you appear to call "a very tiny subset."  Nevertheless, the
> question by Jason was regarding the "scholarly community."  Breaking it up
> into "scholar" (or even "scholarly") and "community" seems like the
> etymological
> fallacy again.  It's perfectly fine to offer other points, and Jason may want to
> hear them out -- and I tried to be general in my post about different
> viewpoints.
> But his primary question related to the scholarly community and I needed to
> explain why the answers cannot be found there.
Here let's not get our panties tied in a bunch—all I mentioned is that
different people understand "scholar" and "scholarly community"
differently. You can't take for granted that everyone uses those terms
the same way as you do.

> > If we include anyone who has done extensive study of the Hebrew
> > language to the point that he/she can make material advances to the
> > study of Biblical Hebrew, then the number of "scholars" is much
> > larger, including many teaching in small private schools, yeshivot and
> > seminaries. It could even include some who are largely self-taught
> > with little formal training. While this is still a small subset of
> > those who have studied Biblical Hebrew, it can be a few times larger
> > than the very restrictive definition above.
> Already in the Mishnah, we have, "Who is wise?  He who learns from
> everyone else."  (Modern Hebrew has the much more wittier "Mikol
> melamdai hiskalti" which can mean either "I learned from everyone who
> taught me" or "I was smarter than all those who tried to teach me.")
> In a way I view all my interactions as learning, and I think even those
> who posit (for examples, on list) some positions that are simply asking
> about those things that have been dealt with and explained a long time
> ago, and hold hard-headed positions on those issues, -- even they
> cause me to learn, because I end up looking up those basic resources
> that normally don't get looked up.  However, this applies also to back
> to the scholar.  For me, for a person to be a scholar, he has to learn
> from everyone else.  A person is not a scholar if he limits himself to
> only reading and reviewing a select group of positions.  He must
> actively search all out the positions on the subjects he studies, and
> most importantly, the current positions (which, if written by scholars
> as I see scholars, would also have actively searched out all positions
> on those subjects).

> > > .... the great majority of scholars understand the
> > > evidence to suggest that the Exodus or Patriarchal narratives do not represent
> > > anything more than possible and if so, garbled, historical memories.
> >
> > First of all, this is not a linguistic determination.
> This list is not just linguistics.  It is also literature.  Also, although you
> sort of broke up the phrase here, the phrase said that "In the scholarly
> community, the great majority of scholars ..." Indeed, in what is defined
> as the scholarly community (when not broken up into "scholar" and
> "community"), this is the position of the great majority of scholars.  I
> didn't even say unanimous.  This is a true objective statement of the
> current reality.  You may disagree with their position -- it appears you
> do.  But Jason asked about their position, and therefore it is reasonable
> to state that for him.  (In fact, it would be reasonable to state that for
> him in any case, of course, but more so when he asked for just that!)
It's neither linguistics nor ancient literature. In so far as it deals
with ancient literature, the "scholarly" position which is predominant
in modern universities eisegetes its own ideology (religious belief)
into the text. After studying it, it is that eisegesis that is one of
the fatal flaws that make me reject it.

As far as Jason is concerned, I thought my comments only strengthened
your position that he should not expect to find any support for his
position among the published literature. I did not disagree with you.

> > Secondly,
> > according to historical research, it is based primarily on ideological
> > presuppositions (religious faith). Thirdly, there is no historical
> > documentation to back it up.
> Let's not get into that again.  From the point of view of the scholarly
> community, and the definitions of "evidence", "ideological", and
> "religious" as accepted by the scholarly community, the above
> "secondly" and "thirdly" are wrong.  You have your own opinions
> about research, theories, science, etc. that are inconsistent with
> what is commonly held by the scholarly community.  But you
> should recognize that these definitions you hold are not all out
> objective definitions, but are definitions that you hold and are
> consistent with the rest of your conclusions, just like the
> definitions that those in the scholarly community hold are
> consistent with their conclusions, and specifically here, that their
> conclusions about the Patriarchs etc, are the results of a view to
> the evidence, historical documentation, etc, according to the way
> they understand these definitions.
The problem we are dealing with here is that much of the terminology
we deal with has different definitions depending on who we deal with,
and sometimes when we deal with the same individuals. The scientist
working in the lab may work with "science" defined according to modern
science, while the philosopher of science defines "science" according
to a post-modern definition; what makes it worse is that sometimes
those two people are the same individual, once in the lab, the second
time dealing with the public. Confused? You have a right to be,
because many people are.

The same with the rest of the terms: I use them in a way that they are
widely understood, just not widely used in post-modern academia,
especially liberal arts academia.

> > > The general
> > > consensus would be that later Judeans and Israelites represent descendants of
> > > Canaanites and their language is consequently an evolved form of one of the
> > > Canaanite dialects.
> >
> > What historical evidence is there to back this up?
> I believe this is the position of Dever based on an archaeological study of the
> Canaanite periods and the following periods that show continuity.  There are
> also Biblical verses that may be construed in that sense -- for example,
> Ezekiel 16:3.
In other words, none.

> > > If the assumption of the Exodus and the Egyptian slavery is taken to be
> > > historical, however, one may suppose that Hebrew would have borrowed
> > > many words from Egyptian.  This hardly appears to be the case.  This
> > > would suggest that after any adoption of Hebrew (or Canaanite) by the
> > > ancestors of later Judeans took place, no Egyptian exile took place
> > > either.
> > >
> > If we take the records as they were written, there would have been
> > little communication between the Egyptians and the Hebrews. The
> > Egyptian pharaoh had the Hebrews do a job that was an abomination for
> > the Egyptians to do, namely that of herding. In other words, they were
> > the "untouchables" (to use an Indian caste word) of Egyptian society.
> This position by both you and Bryant somewhat surprised me.  In general,
> because I widely understood such verses as Ex 11:2-3 as implying a close
> connection which requires mutual understanding between the Israelites and
> the Egyptians, according to the Biblical account.  It is more reasonable to
> assume that the slave would adopt the language of his master in such a
> case, even if only for intercommunication.  Anyway, this is how I understood
> the Biblical view of Egyptian-Hebrew level of communication.
That's assuming that they were native Egyptians. But what if they were Hyksos?

> > Secondly, if we take the records as written, most of the communication
> > between "Egyptians" and Hebrews would have taken place between a new
> > set of "Egyptians", namely the Hyksos, and the Hebrews. Seeing as the
> > Hyksos spoke a Semitic language, would that have left any noticeable
> > traces in the Hebrew language?
> I don't know what the Hyksos spoke.  My guess is they spoke Egyptian.

Every article I have read says that the Hyksos most likely were
Semites from Canaan. If so, they would most likely have spoken a
language very similar to Hebrew. The reason we can't be 100% sure is
because the records of the Hyksos were deliberately destroyed by the
Egyptians. However, some of the surviving names were definitely

> We have archaeological remains from their period -- and I don't think any
> Egyptologist suggests they spoke Semitic or Canaanite.  In contrast,
> the lingua franca of the Amarna scribes appears to have been Canaanite!
> But we are talking about Egyptian slaves in earlier centuries, not between
> Canaanite governors in Canaanite provinces under Egyptian rule. The view
> that it was the Hyksos is your view, and perhaps held by a few others, but
> I don't think it is even the more commonly held view amongst conservatives.
> It definitely contrasts with the traditional Jewish chronology.  (I note that
> most of those who accept the Exodus as historical in light of archaeology,
> believe it took place around the time of the Amarna correspondence.

I have heard several different dates and pharaohs posited as the date
of the Exodus, should it have occurred. All have their reasons.

A more accurate description is that I think the literary evidence
points to the Hyksos more than others that I know. That will explain,
among many other things, why Moses was given a Semitic name by a
princess going down to bathe by the river, which is something an
Egyptian princess would not have done. But because of the paucity of
evidence, we cannot be 100% sure. And I will not argue the case.

> ...  Of
> course, Jim Stinehart here views the Amarna correspondence as dating
> to the time of the Patriarchs -- this would also generally rule out Hyksos
> periods as the time of the Exodus).
I haven't read his posts, I don't know what he says.

> Yitzhak Sapir

Karl W. Randolph.

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