[b-hebrew] WHAT LANGUAGE DID ABRAHAM, FATHER OF ISHMAEL AND ISAAC, SPEAK?

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Tue Nov 10 11:34:48 EST 2009


Yigal:

While this is a discussion group for the Biblical Hebrew language, comments
concerning its history are tangentially appropriate. And for that, an
understanding of history in general is applied.

While I agree that we cannot connect the Biblical dates exactly to modern
history, i.e. to the exact year, it is possible to date it roughly, to
within a few decades (in the case of Abraham, did he live four or six
centuries before the Exodus?). While you and many other professors may
disagree with those dates does not negate that those dates are given.

What is the philosophic question, is whether or not one accepts the Biblical
dates as given as being accurate (accepting that scribal error may have
corrupted the timeline slightly)?

For example, the Biblical picture is that all of history postdates the world
wide flood mentioned in Genesis in that everyone who lived afterwards is a
descendant of Noah and his sons, which is given as being mid third
millennium BC. If that is true, then all the earlier dates given by modern
historians are wrong, as well as  many of the post flood dates.

To respond to your message, I looked up the dating for the bronze age
sub-ages, and found disagreement. Some say that the early bronze age ended
about 2100 BC, others as late as the 18th century BC. Going from the latter,
Abraham lived late in the early bronze age, from the former early in the mid
bronze age.

As for the time of Moses, that is given as 480 years before the building of
the temple in the mid 10th century BC, making Moses mid 15th century BC.
Further, the tradition of “Moses’ Torah” is recorded in the Bible as being
as early as during the bronze age. That, plus the notes in the Torah itself
that Moses wrote it, pretty much establish Mosaic authorship to the Torah,
according to Biblical sources. You can disagree with these claims, but not
deny that they are made.

For matter of argument, taking the Biblical picture as accurate, that means
that there was a body of literature that was taken as sacred dating from the
15th century BC. Seeing as it was sacred, care was taken to make copies
accurate to the original. Seeing as later copies all had a 22 letter
alphabet, that would indicate that the original also had a 22 letter
alphabet. However, that does not extend to font faces.

Taking the argument a step further, you admit that the Phoenicians adopted
the 22 letter alphabet during the iron age. But the Hebrews had a body of
sacred literature that dates from centuries before the iron age written in
that same 22 letter alphabet. Therefore, if we take the Biblical picture as
being accurate, then the Hebrews had the alphabet centuries before the
Phoenicians adopted it.

How long before Moses was the 22 letter alphabet used? How many prior
languages adopted it, some adding some extensions in the same way as many
modern languages using the “Latin” alphabet add extensions to fit their
usage? Here the picture gets rather murky because of the paucity of
surviving examples.

All of the above is based on the assumption that the Biblical dates are
accurate. If one doesn’t accept those dates, then all of it is moot. I give
them merely to say that they do exist in the text of Tanakh. Both the
decision to accept them as accurate, and the one to reject them, are
philosophical decisions outside the scope of this list. Further, there is no
evidence that can either corroborate or falsify the Biblical dates, nor the
scholarly dates. I personally accept the Biblical dates as accurate, whether
you do or not is your choice.

Karl W. Randolph.

On Mon, Nov 9, 2009 at 9:56 PM, Yigal Levin <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il> wrote:

> Karl,
>
> As you know, the Bible DOES NOT state that Abraham lived in the Early
> Bronze
> Age or that Moses lived in the 15th century. You may disagree with the
> commonly accepted dates, but your dates are just as conjectural. The Bible
> also does not state that Moses wrote Genesis. This is a long-standing
> tradition, but not stated specifically in the Bible.
> As far as the second part of your post below, even assuming that "Hebrews"
> were writing before "Phoenicians" were:
> 1. How do you know what alphabet they were using?
> 2. When you write "Phoenicians", do you mean Canaanites in general, or
> specifically the Iron-Age inhabitants of the Lebanese coast (the Bible's
> "Sidonians")? If the former, the Canaanites were developing their
> "proto-Canaanite" alphabet as far back as the 16th century if not earlier.
> If the latter, the Iron Age "Phoenicians" adopted the old Canaanite
> alphabet
> about the same time as the Iron Age "Hebrews" did.
>
> Yigal Levin
>



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