[b-hebrew] The "Missing Link": Cuneiform Writing of Early Hebrew Words

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Dec 7 10:09:44 EST 2012


 
The “Missing Link”:  Cuneiform Writing of Early Hebrew  Words 
I believe that all previous  analysts have assumed that the first written 
form of the Patriarchal narratives  was in alphabetical Hebrew narrative 
prose.  On that assumption, scholars have toiled  for decades to try to 
determine the time period of the Hebrew language that  appears in the received text 
of the Patriarchal narratives.  For example, Prof. Yigal Levin made the  
following apt remark on my prior thread [which I will assume represents the  
middle of mainstream academic scholarship, and with which I do not 
significantly  disagree]: 
“Standard Biblical Hebrew  seems to be the dialect of late Iron Age Judah 
(called  ‘Yehudit’ in 2 Kings 18)….” 
However, the academic  community has erroneously deduced from that fact 
that the first time the  Patriarchal narratives were reduced to writing [as 
opposed to being an old oral  tradition] was therefore in late Iron Age Judah 
[8th - 7th  centuries BCE], with the very first written version of the 
Patriarchal  narratives allegedly being in alphabetical Hebrew narrative prose in 
that time  period:  the late Iron Age Judah  era.  Not! 
I believe I may have come up  with the “missing link”, which will enable 
us to square (i) a Late Bronze  Age  w-r-i-t-t-e-n  version of the 
Patriarchal narratives,  many centuries before late Iron Age Judah, with (ii) the fact 
that it appears  that the first alphabetical Hebrew narrative prose written 
version of the  Patriarchal narratives, per the received text, does not 
appear until the late  Iron Age Judah era -- the time period of the Books of 
Joshua, Judges, I  and II Samuel, and I and II Kings.  If, prior to late Iron 
Age Judah, the Patriarchal narratives had been  purely an  o-r-a-l  
tradition, then absent a written  document the storyline would have changed 
continuously over the centuries, by  being told and re-told around innumerable 
campfires;  as such, the text could not possibly have  pinpoint historical 
accuracy.  With  an ancient contemporary writing being the key to historical 
accuracy, what then  is the “missing link” to the Patriarchal narratives having 
been recorded in  w-r-i-t-i-n-g  in the Bronze Age by a  contemporary?   
The “missing link”, I suggest, is that in the Late Bronze Age a 
comprehensive outline of the  Patriarchal narratives was written down, using the 
medium of cuneiform writing  of west Semitic/pre-Hebrew words.  It was similar to 
the style of the Amarna Letters, except that instead of  using cuneiform to 
write Akkadian words, cuneiform was used to write west  Semitic pre-Hebrew 
words [such as the 9 west Semitic words written in cuneiform  by IR-Heba’s 
scribe at Jerusalem, which I set forth in my prior  thread]. 
For sake of  argument, I will now on this thread tentatively agree with 
Prof. Levin’s  assertion that the Canaanite of mid-14th century BCE Jerusalem 
was not “Hebrew”, but rather was a  Canaanite dialect of west Semitic that 
shares many, but by no means all, words  with early Biblical Hebrew.  On that 
 mainstream view of the case, the first written version of the Patriarchal  
narratives was not done in “Hebrew”, narrowly defined, but it was done in 
west  Semitic/Canaanite.  And it was done  using cuneiform [not alphabetical 
Hebrew] to write west Semitic  words. 
Now, for the first time, we  can understand the following apparent paradox: 
 (a) the substantive content of the  Patriarchal narratives has pinpoint 
historical accuracy regarding the  Patriarchal Age of Years 12-14 in the 
Amarna Age, yet (b) the spelling and  grammar conventions of the received text 
are, by sharp contrast, vintage late  Iron Age Judah [except for some poetical 
passages, especially Jacob’s Blessings  in chapter 49 of Genesis].  But you 
 see, there’s no real paradox there at all.  Rather, the sequence was as 
follows.  First, in the Late Bronze Age, a  comprehensive outline of the 
Patriarchal narratives was reduced to  w-r-i-t-i-n-g , using cuneiform [like  the 
Amarna Letters,  n-o-t  alphabetical Hebrew narrative prose] to  write west 
Semitic pre-Hebrew words.  [Per Amarna Letter EA 273, we know that tent 
dwellers in a valley in  south-central Canaan in Year 14 sometimes had  their 
thoughts recorded in cuneiform writing.]  Then many centuries later, in late 
Iron  Age Judah, this cuneiform text was, for  the very first time, changed 
over to being alphabetical Hebrew narrative  prose.  Although there are a 
few  notable archaic anomalies in the text of the Patriarchal narratives 
[especially  regarding poetical passages], nevertheless the vast bulk of the 
non-poetical  Hebrew common words in the received text [as opposed to proper 
names] seem  comfortable in the context of the time period that generated the 
so-called  ‘Deuteronomistic History’.  But  thankfully for mankind, the 
scribes in late Iron Age Judah did not  change the substantive content of the 
Patriarchal narratives when they were  changing over the truly ancient 
cuneiform pre-Hebrew words into alphabetical  Hebrew narrative prose. 
This changes  e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g !  Now we see that it’s not a “miracle”, 
 much less impossible, that the received text of the Patriarchal narratives 
 accurately recalls all the many historical details of Years 12-14.  That’s 
the case because it was only a  few years after those historical events 
occurred when the first Hebrews used a  scribe [such as IR-Heba’s former 
scribe] to do a formal  w-r-i-t-t-e-n  outline of the Patriarchal narratives,  
using cuneiform to write down west Semitic pre-Hebrew words.  The substantive 
content of the  Patriarchal narratives has, for the most part, never changed 
one whit from the  Patriarchal Age even unto this very day.  Rather, all 
that changed was that the cuneiform pre-Hebrew words that had  been written 
down in the Patriarchal Age/Late Bronze Age were changed over, in  late Iron 
Age Judah, to alphabetical Hebrew  narrative prose, using for the most part 
the style for Hebrew  non-poetical common words that was au courant in  
8th-7th century BCE Judah, but not changing the  original Amarna Age substantive 
content. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois
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