[b-hebrew] The Qeiyafa Ostracon was [amarna] Old West Semitic Words

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Sun Dec 16 20:48:00 EST 2012

Ishinan Ishibashi:
In response to my statement that we should “ask whether alphabeticalwriting was a reasonable alternative to using cuneiform, if the first writtenversion of the Patriarchal narratives was recorded in writing in the mid-14thcentury BCE”, you wrote:
“Unfortunately, this a dead-end path for your suggestion above. As I recall, ChristopherRollston* disputes the claim that the language is Hebrew, arguing that thewords alleged to be indicative of Hebrew either appear in other languages ordon't actually appear in the inscription.”
In fact, that’s the very point that I  w-a-n-t to make.   Theoldest written parts of the Torah could have been recorded in writing in one ofonly two basic ways:  (i) in cuneiform,presumably using west Semitic words, or (ii) using the alphabet (to writeeither Hebrew or a forerunner of Hebrew). The problem with everyone’s preference and dream of an old sacredwriting using the alphabet is that even on the eve of King David’s reign,centuries after the events related in the Torah, the alphabet was in suchrudimentary form regarding Hebrew or a forerunner of Hebrew that it could notpossibly have been used to record any grand work of literature such as aportion of the Torah.
The Qeiyafa Ostracondemonstrates why no part of the Torah could have been recorded in alphabeticalHebrew writing in the Bronze Age.  TheQeiyafa Ostracon is the only writing from 1,000 BCE [well into the Iron Age, justbefore King David’s time] or earlier that might be claimed to be Hebrew.
Note first that the QeiyafaOstracon is indecipherable.  Moreover,it’s likely not Hebrew, and it’s definitely not the Hebrew alphabetical script. Here’s the site for Christopher Rollston’sexcellent article, “The Khirbet Qeiyafa Ostracon:  Methodological Musings and Caveats”: 
It’s clear that the QeiyafaOstracon is not written right to left, though it’s not clear how it is written. And the direction of most of the lettersvaries.  This is Early Alphabetic, whichwas followed by Phoenician, and only later by Old Hebrew script.
As to the Qeiyafa Ostracon,scholars cannot agree as to what words are there, what direction the writingis, whether it’s merely a list of names, and what the meaning may be.  By sharp contrast, every west Semitic wordwritten in cuneiform in the Amarna Letters is clearly known.  Yes, in part that’s because in most cases wehave an Akkadian synonym, which makes things easy.  But even if these west Semitic words writtenin cuneiform were extracted from the Amarna texts and shown out of context, wehave seen that in many cases their Biblical Hebrew equivalents would be readilydiscernible.  As a British Museumofficial breathlessly exuded in 1892 as to the west Semitic words in the AmarnaLetters:  “They closely resemble the Hebrew of the OldTestament.”  Yes! 
The point is thatalphabetical Hebrew could not have been used to record the Patriarchalnarratives in the Late Bronze Age, because even as of 1000 BCE, long after theend of the Late Bronze Age, alphabetical Hebrew was in such a rudimentary stagethat it could not possibly have been used to record such a grand, complexcomposition.  Rather, the effective wayto write west Semitic words in the Late Bronze Age was by using cuneiform, theAmarna Letters way.  It’s child’s play tomatch mid-14th century BCE west Semitic words in the Amarna Lettersto classic Biblical Hebrew words from 7th century BCE Jerusalem,whereas by sharp contrast, scholars cannot agree as to much of anything as tothe rudimentary alphabetical script of the Qeiyafa Ostracon from about 1000BCE.  Thus the  o-n-l-y  way that the oldest part of the Torah could becoming directly from a Late Bronze Age writing is by means of cuneiform beingused to write down west Semitic words, à la the Amarna Letters.  That is to say, any claim for historicalaccuracy as to the oldest part of the Torah can only be premised on AmarnaLetters-style cuneiform being used to record west Semitic words in writing. 
The Patriarchal narrativesmust have been written on about 50 clay tablets, weighing a total of only 15pounds or so, and these tablets must have been carried with the early Hebrewsin a sacred chest wherever the early Hebrews went.  Rather than being a pleasant myth, that’sthe  o-n-l-y  way the received text can begin with MLK  -Y-  )Lin Year 13 and end with G$N, contain dozens of Hurrian proper names with accuratespellings, and feature semi-monotheistic religious leader Abraham dying at age17½ tenfold shanah while Jacob is asemi-monotheistic religious leader of his people in Egypt for 17 shanah. The numbers, the proper names, and the substantive content are allutterly redolent of the Amarna Age, all the way in every way, and cannotpossibly, under any circumstances, be Iron Age fiction.  Rather, this accurate information in thereceived unpointed Hebrew text of the Patriarchal narratives was recorded on cuneiformtablets, using west Semitic words, at the end of the Amarna Age, and to thisvery day there have been very few changes to the numbers, proper names, or substantivecontent.  If you’re looking for pinpoint historicalaccuracy in the Bible that is fully verifiable based on non-biblical sources,then look no farther than the Patriarchal narratives, which were originally recordedon cuneiform tablets in the mid-14th century BCE using west Semiticwords.
Forget the alphabet.  Think cuneiform! 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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