[b-hebrew] Language, migration and Jewish identity

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Fri Nov 9 05:08:44 EST 2007

On Nov 9, 2007 12:39 AM, K Randolph wrote:

> 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.

Some terms must have meanings that are recognized by all.  Otherwise,
we would be speaking to each other in different languages, literally!  Now,
let us suppose for a moment that "scholarly community" has two different
definitions used by different social spheres.  Which one did Jason mean?
How do you know if Jason meant your definition or mine? You can't take
that for granted either -- and you'd have to ask him what he meant by the
term before you can respond.  In any case, I believe this term to be
unambiguous.  You yourself never seem to use the term "scholarly
community" to refer to what you suggest here (you don't seem to use
the term at all), and in the past you used terms like "scholarly opinion"
or "scholarly consensus" in a way that suggests "scholarly" =
"academic."  This discussion touches on the issue of what the terms
"spoken language" and "dead language" mean.  In general, I think in that
case, I can accept that you and Dave may have had different definitions
of what "spoken language" means (perhaps a mistaken one -- again,
based on an etymological fallacy), because the initial exchange with Dave
seemed to produce a genuine misunderstanding on both sides.  Here,
though, I think if you used the term "scholarly community" in the sense
that you suggest, you'd only be confusing others, because (as far as I
can see) practically everyone does use that term in the same way that I

> > > > .... 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.

> 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.

That just means you reject it and disagree with it.  Not that it is
not literature.

> 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.

I realize that, but even if you agree on the main point, but produce areas of
disagreement on secondary points, that is still no reason not to point these

> 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.

Again, this is according to your definitions of science and evidence and
post-modern, etc.  The scientist you describe, that same individual,
has different definitions than yours and surprisingly, he's not confused in
the end of the day.

> > > 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
> Semitic.

I don't know what you read.  A lot online about the Hyksos seems to
derive from old scholarship and unwarranted analysis.  Here is an article
that in the main seems ok (but this is not a complete endorsement):
There are several points here:
1) The Hyksos worshipped Baal and identified him with Seth
2) The Hyksos names were not "definitely Semitic."  One name --
Mer-woser-ra Jacob-her -- appears to contain "Jacob" as part of the
name.  What else is Semitic about this name?  I don't know to
what degree the names can be said to be "definitely Semitic."
They are definitely not just Semitic, but also contain Egyptian
3) The Asiatics adopted Egyptian writing, they adopted religion.
They seem to have tried to assimilate.  What did they speak?
I don't know!  I don't see here any evidence that shows that they
spoke Semitic, and there is definite evidence that they could
understand Egyptian writing and language.

> 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.

Actually, the best bet for Moses' name is that his name is Egyptian (ms'(w)
= child).  Various Egyptian names contain this element -- Harama$$i
= Horus is born, for example, from the Amarna archive.  The Hebrew
etymology appears to be a folk etymology attached to an Egyptian name.
Other priestly names that appear to be Egyptian include Aaron and

Yitzhak Sapir

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