Hebrew: Elohim, Eloheinu. Am I correct

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by skaught, Dec 22, 2010.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The Hebrew writing system is an abjad (consonants only) as is common in the Afro-Asiatic language family in which vowels are not phonemic. The name we customarily write as Yahweh is written in (transliterated) Hebrew as YHWH. An abbreviation could be YH--the first syllable by itself--but never YW.
    In the formation of Hebrew names it's common to take the first syllable of several words and combine them; sort of an acronymic process. El- is the first syllable of the two-syllable word eloh, "god," and shows up in myriad Hebrew names such as Daniel, "God is my judge," Israel, "wrestles with God," and Michael, "who is like God?" (Forgive my unscholarly translations.) The single syllable El is never used as a word or a name. Well at least not that word or name. Another word, El, is of course the first half of the name of Israel's airline El Al, "To the skies."
    Arabic and Hebrew are both members of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Arabic allah and Hebrew eloh are the same word, passed down from the ancestral language through centuries of phonetic shifts. Without the vowels--which as I pointed out are quite ephemeral in this language family and have no bearing on the meaning of a word--they appear to be virtually identical.
    Interesting. I have always seen the faith of Zarathushtra presented as the first monotheistic religion. Wikipedia, for example, says that in their mythology Ahura Mazda was the deity, who created the universe.
    What respected scholar disagrees with the assertion that, at the very least, the Torah (the first five books) were originally written in Hebrew? Later books in the Old Testament may have been written in Aramaic, which was well on its way to becoming the lingua franca of the entire Middle East, a status it held until quite recently despite the spread of Arabic.
    Of course not. In ancient times Hebrew was written in an abjad, without vowels, like all Afro-Asiatic languages. The diacritical marks beneath a consonant (occasionally elsewhere) to give the sound of the following vowel are only written for people learning Hebrew as a foreign language. This of course includes virtually all Jews during the Diaspora, who spoke the language of the host country (or eventually Yiddish, a frozen dialect of medieval German) and only used Hebrew in the liturgy. They needed the vowels because Hebrew was indeed a foreign language to them.
    And they do not wish to. To actually speak God's name out loud is said to be blasphemy. To do so would, presumably, result in fearsome punishment. I don't know who came up with the vowels in Yahweh but after noticing that the first person to speak it aloud was not turned into a pile of ash, everyone standardized on it because it was wrong--and safe.

    The Romans of course used different vowels and wrote it as IEHOUAH, which we now write as Jehovah. In Modern English spelling we distinguish between I and J, and between U and V. The Romans pronounced Iehouah/Jehovah as "Yehowah," with the correct Hebrew consonants. Apparently that's not the correct pronunciation either because we have all escaped the lightning bolt.
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  3. HeartlessCapitalist Ravager of Biotopes Registered Senior Member

    What's your point with pseudepigrapha and the Letter of Aristeas? We have extant copies of the books of the Hebrew Bible themselves in the original Hebrew from Qumran that predate any known Septuagint manuscripts by several centuries. Certainly, we know the Septuagint was around before the 5th-century manuscripts we do have (it's mentioned and quoted in the New Testament and by the patristics, among others), but nothing vaguely credible to say it was the original document. In every particular it appears as a translation into Greek from Hebrew (and/or Aramaic) originals.

    That the Septuagint was the original document is a fringe theory I hadn't even heard about before today. Can you quote any scholarly source that makes such a claim?

    How is this related to the Qumran findings? Are you using that one instance as an excuse to dismiss the entire Qumran literature offhand?

    It does not. There is no at all conclusive evidence that Yhwh is to be identified with Yam/Yaw of Ugarit. The attestation of the El construction (more properly 'il in Ugaritic) is older in the Ras Shamra tablets than in any extant copy of the Hebrew Bible, to be sure, but it's not original there, either. The stem 'l is common to the oldest variants we know of the Semitic languages, from the eastern branches (eg Akkadian) to the western (Ugaritic/Phoenician).
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    How about the other branches of the Afro-Asiatic family. Does it have a cognate in Egyptian or Ge-ez? That would push it back several thousand years further.
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  7. HeartlessCapitalist Ravager of Biotopes Registered Senior Member

    Yes, I am aware of this. The article quoted by S.A.M. made a claim to the contrary, identifying Yhwh with Ugaritic Yam/Yaw (Yw in the Ras Shamra writings). I questioned this identification.

    Are you sure about that? Hebrew אל ('l, "El" vocalized per the Massoretic tradition) is fairly often used as one of the titles of the Israelite god in the Hebrew portions of the Bible, AFAIK.

    While I agree with your general sentiment, I thought the "h" suffix on the 'l stem was a younger, secondary form? This is what I've seen in the commentaries I've read, at any rate. I'm not a Semiticist by profession, though -- my own knowledge of Hebrew as a language is rather limited.

    The original Zoroaster and the faith he founded was, from what we can gather, probably monotheist-ish. (Depending on when in history you place his life, still an uncertain issue, he might be roughly contemporary with Second Isaiah, though probably(?) some centuries earlier.) However, a rather strong case can be made that by the time of the Jewish captivity, the variant followed in Persia was more akin to what scholars today call Zervanism, with Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu as more or less equal, though opposing deities, both emanating from the impersonal Zervan. Though as I said, given the scarcity of sources it's difficult to say anything for certain.

    It was another claim from S.A.M.'s online sources that I used to illustrate why I don't find them particularly reliable. It invented the idea, from no evidence whatever, that the "Book of the Law of Moses" that Ezra read from in the book of Nehemiah would've been written in Avestan. Otherwise it is indeed as you say. It is a fairly mainstream scholarly opinion today to suggest that at least some of the Hebrew parts of Daniel may originally have been in Aramaic, and the same arguments have been made for Ecclesiastes and some of the other ketuvim, but not (AFAIK) for any of the Torah or Neviim (Prophets).

    From what I get it Hebrew was gradually dying out as a spoken language already in New Testament times, even in Palestine, to be replaced by Aramaic. Which was the reason both for the targums, and why the Massoretes eventually found it necessary to vowelize the Old Testament text as such. So there was some uncertainty over how some words should be pronounced even back then.

    Iehovah comes from the Massoretic vowelization. The mostly accepted theory today is that they used the diacritics for "adonai" to indicate that word should be read instead of the holy name. With some scribal corruption, a-o-a became e-o-a, which was how the Christians of later days understood it.
  8. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    Okay thats the first I've heard of it. Where is this older than the Septuagint Hebrew Bible? Who has tested it for age?

    It could be from an older Aramaic version, but what is the evidence that it may be from an older Hebrew one?
    No one is claiming that the Septuagint is the "original document", just that there is no evidence that the Hebrew Bible predates it.
    That depends on whether you have other independent non-Zionist verification of the facts.

    Possibly, but its as good a theory as any considering that the Judeans were polytheists and did worship the Ugaritic deities [see Revisiting The Tribes of Yahweh by Norman Gottwald] So at least we have both archaeological and textual evidence of polytheistic worship of Yhwh in pre-biblical times

    Which only goes to show that Hebrew need not necessarily have been the language of the Bible - much of modern Hebrew is freely borrowed from Arabic for instance.
  9. HeartlessCapitalist Ravager of Biotopes Registered Senior Member

    I don't think it goes farther back than the Semitic family, or at least I haven't heard of it if so. From what I understand it probably originated in the hypothetical proto-Semitic; the oldest records of it I'm aware of are Akkadian and Amorite, as part of theophoric names.
  10. HeartlessCapitalist Ravager of Biotopes Registered Senior Member

    The Qumran documents, which include fragments of all the books of the Old Testament save Esther, and most famously an almost complete copy of the Book of Isaiah. They have been published, and dated both by the radiocarbon method and paleographically, as noted. In each case, the copies are datable from the early 1st century BC to the early 1st century AD, within a range of variation of some 40-60 years.

    Linguistic details, such as the lack (with some few exceptions) of overt Aramaicisms in the presently available Hebrew manuscripts. What would indicate that they were NOT written in Hebrew in the first place? Since this goes against the entire scholarly consensus, there would be a rather heavy burden of proof on whoever claims such is the case.

    So what would be the "original document" then?

    This "Zionism" appeal to motive and poisoning the well fallacious argumentation is just tiresome. I suppose mainline protestant and catholic scholarship alike is "Zionist", too, since all seem to accept the Qumran scrolls as evidence? If you have issues with scholarship, attack the methods and results, not the people behind it.

    Early Israel and Judah were almost certainly polytheistic, and the Hebrew Bible itself acknowledges as much (though it of course considers that polytheism anti-Mosaic backsliding), but what has this got to do with the etymology of the name Yhwh? The linguistic evidence relating Yhwh to Ym/Yw is very much uncertain at best, and IMHO not at all convincing.

    There is utterly no evidence for or reason to think that the Hebrew Bible would have been originally written in any eastern Semitic dialect. This is yet more fanciful speculation on part of your sources.
  11. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    I don't consider an appeal to religious authority as a sign of academic scholarship. These are the same people who believe Jesus will perform an alien abduction of all believers and commit a genocide of all non-believers and then rule for a thousand years [over the agnostics and flora and fauna, one presumes]

    I prefer to go by what the science says. And the science says that there is only one evidence that the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek and it is the letter of Aristeas, which was proved to be a pseudoepigraph. And that the investigations regarding the DSS were performed by Yigael Yardin who has already falsified his data once to corroborate the Zionist narrative.

    As for the original bible, I don't believe it was written all at once. So its possible that it was written in many languages over a long period of time - all of it has been falsified by archaeological findings so its essentially just fables which have acquired a "sacred" hue due to later deification of what may originally have been moral stories. After meeting with Parsis, I realised how much similarity there is in Judaism and Zoroastrianism, especially in their ethnocentric laws and rules, so its clear that part of the Bible at least, was written after the Judeans came into contact with the Persians and their beliefs. It seems that the language of the Bible was determined by the language of the people in power so its quite possible that before it was in Greek, it went through several other languages. We can speculate but we have no evidence other than the inclusion of words ideas and themes which represent the changes in belief through exposure to other societies. There does not seem to have been a period when anyone spoke Hebrew, there is no evidence it was ever widely spoken [unless there is a reason that all the non-Jewish reporters of history simply chose collectively to ignore its presence] so its unlikely that the Hebrew preceded the Greek.
  12. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    A bit of elaboration on this aspect. I'm very interested in mythology, I grew up reading the Amar Chitra Katha, the Jataka Tales, the Panchatantra, stories from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagvad Gita...its easy to see how myths become a part of life and morality in a literary culture

    One of the things which strikes you when you read the Bible is that it is not like other myths, it is not a single story but a book of stories. And many of these stories have parallels in other cultures starting from the Sumerian, the Ugarit, Canaanite, Egyptian and so on and so forth. Its highly unlikely that any of these peoples wrote in Hebrew, though they might have written in languages which resembled Hebrew. If we assume that the Sumerians contributed the chapter on Genesis, the original Bible was probably written in Sumerian and was not called the Bible. From there on, I figure the myths travelled and evolved as they do - most biblical scholars tend to overlook the contribution of the fertile crescent to Indian mythology and hence miss out on our myths about the Asuras or Ahuras and what our impressions were of the Assyrians and Aryans - but we have our own Abraham and Sara [although we call them Brahma and Saraswati] and its easy to see parallels when you study all the contributions side by side.
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Jung discovered that many of mankind's best-known myths are universal or nearly so--and his most famous acolyte Joseph Campbell pushed this out to some surviving Stone Age cultures that Jung had not studied. He includes them in the category of archetypes: visual images, legends, rituals and other motifs that recur in nearly every culture in nearly every era. These are instincts hard-wired into our synapses by our DNA. We can see the reason for the inheritance of many archetypes: they are survival traits. But the origins of other instinctive beliefs and behaviors are not so easy to divine. Since our species has passed through two genetic bottlenecks they could just be accidental mutations we inherited from Mitochondrial Eve and Y-Chromosome Adam.
    There were several Semitic languages in the region at that time, including Canaanite, Akkadian, Ugaritic and proto-Arabic. It's a good guess that the Afro-Asiatic language family originated in Asia and was carried to North Africa by adventurous migrants who also brought the technology of agriculture, where it diverged into the Berber, Chadic, Cushitic, Egyptian and Omotic branches. But it's almost as reasonable to assume that the family originated in North Africa and was spread to Asia by a third wave of migration, after the original two that populated the entire planet 50-60KYA.

    But there were also tribes in the region whose languages were not Afro-Asiatic, including the Sumerians.
    The original story was surely passed on orally for centuries or millennia before the technology of writing was invented--if it is indeed an archetype.
    Or else Jung is correct and the two peoples had the same myths, modified by accretions over the generations. When they encountered each other and listened to each other's storytellers, the version that was told more engagingly might result in names and other details being picked up by the other people.

    Santa Claus is a modification by the Coca-Cola company's advertising department, of a religious figure popular in Eastern Europe, whose name was translated into "Saint Nicholas" and then modified by English phonetics, as his entire personality and behavior was modified to serve a surplus-driven economy rather than the scarcity-driven economies of the past.
  14. HeartlessCapitalist Ravager of Biotopes Registered Senior Member

    This stuff here is too incoherent and unrelated to any part of the post you're supposedly answering that I can't for the life of me make any sense of it. If I do make an attempt at interpreting it, which is marginally easier than doing the same with badly damaged ancient manuscripts: Are you widening your ridiculous ad hominem blanket dismissal of all scholarship and evidence that disagrees with the fringe theories you're promoting to encompass all professed Christian believers? In your mind, being a Christian, and/or Jew, does in and of itself constitute proof of scientific unreliability?

    Because ... That's quite an extreme opinion, to put it mildly.:bugeye:

    You are factually incorrect, promoting fringe views and conspiracy theories, and can't even spell the name of the guy you're invoking your ad hominem against correctly (it's "Yigael Yadin" in Roman letters). The Dead Sea Scrolls have been dated repeatedly by scholars wholly independent of Israel, both paleographically and (twice) by the C-14 method -- For the latter, the first time by the Technische Hochschule in Zurich, Switzerland in 1990, then again by the University of Arizona in 1994. (But maybe they were in on the conspiracy too, what do I know ...)

    You are further incorrect that there is no evidence of Hebrew being the original language of the Hebrew Bible. Linguistic evidence abounds in the text itself (the Septuagint) -- no reputable scholar would question that it is a translation from the Hebrew (or with some books, Aramaic). If you are aware of any who do, you may cite their works as evidence here, or concede the point.

    Please quote reputable sources that support that all the Hebrew Bible has been falsified by archaeology, if you're going to make such a sweeping claim. Yes, it is not considered a completely accurate document -- far from it, in fact, and secular scholarship has recognized this for the last century or so. Many details have been falsified (such as the Exodus itself), but others have been supported (such as there being a ruling bth-dwd, a "House of David", in Judah at the time -- this is accepted even by the leading "Biblical minimalists" like Yisrael Finkelstein; see the Tell Dan inscription).

    For the claim that it was written in "many languages," please provide evidence.

    It is, however, of course true that the Hebrew Bible was not all written at one time. This is also not controversial, but a fact long recognized by secular scholars and the religious worshipers themselves both. In fact, it is recognized by the Bible narrative itself.

    Similarity can indicate relation, but not necessarily so. Many religious ideas are in fact remarkably similar between cultures who have had no recorded contact at all (such as the figure of the "high god," which can be seen in religions from the Indo-Aryan to the Semitic, to African and American Indian cultures). "Ethnocentricism" in particular, whatever you're referring to here, is as old as the idea of the tribe itself. That Judaism, unlike, say, Christianity is such a national (rather than universal) religion is rather proof of its ancient roots.

    Additionally, correlation does not imply causation; since we have no contemporary documents from either earliest Zoroastrianism/Zervanism or earliest Judaism, but only later copies and elaborations of both, it's far from easy to say which was the first with a particular idea, even if they did influence each other. Many scholars today argue that much of Persian apocalypticism was in fact developed from Judaic ideas.

    And here you have it utterly backwards. We have written evidence of Hebrew dating back to the 6th and 7th centuries BC if not before (numerous inscriptions, sigils and ostraca -- google "Lachish Ostraca" for the most famous ones), on secular matters; there is no indication whatever that it was somehow a forged "ritual" language like your unscholarly online sources would have it. In the "Mesha Stele," we have further contemporary attestation of the Moabite dialect, which was essentially the same as the Hebrew. Ancient records in the Bible such as the Book of Judges witness dialectal differences in pre-10th century spoken Hebrew, and by following documents in it from older to younger (eg, from the Song of Deborah (Judges 5) to Daniel or Ecclesiastes), we can clearly follow the linguistic evolution of this language over the course of a thousand years. Moreover, from literary analysis we have every reason to suppose that much of the Hebrew Bible (certainly much of the Genesis narratives and the Prophets) is in fact based on oral tradition -- ie, spoken language. See, for an accessible introduction, eg G. von Rad's old but still eminently serviceable commentary on Genesis. And I could go on and on.


    In sum, none of your positions holds any water, and if I may be pardoned for saying so (not meaning to demean), you come across as woefully ignorant on the relevant subjects of Semitic languages, Ancient Near East archaeology, historical and literary criticism, and comparative mythology -- which is further evidenced by your trusting and endorsing sources promoting unsupported fringe theories that would never get printed even in popular science magazines, much less peer-reviewed journals. It seems more as though you trust in your "anti-Zionist" biases to determine what you should think -- your entire contribution to this thread has a rather heavy undertone (and sometimes overtone) of attempted demeaning of the Judaic/Israelite religion, and/or Jewish/Israeli historical and religious claims to the ancient Israelite areas of the Levant.

    Now, I'm not a Jew myself, and what I think of evangelical Christianity I have expressed in other threads. I have no particular reason to defend their religion and claims to land. I do, however, get irritated with pseudoscience and blatant lies in a field (the history of religion, with Biblical history as a focus area) with which I am somewhat familiar, and like to expose and debunk it as and when I'm able to. And that includes your bizarre claims and the sources you base them on.

    If you want to debate these matters with any credibility, I would advise that you read up on these. For starters, buy yourself a few college-level textbooks, perhaps a historical-critical Biblical commentary or two. (I could recommend New Jerome's as good for basic studies -- it's accessible, fairly comprehensive and generally scholarly in the historical bits, though it sometimes exhibits a Catholic bias.)

    Again, I stress that this is not intended to demean or offend, but simply as friendly advice. If you wish to drop out for now and read up on the topic, I won't mind in the slightest. If you do choose to continue our discussion here and now, however, I expect you to either address my arguments or clearly admit that you concede the relevant points. And with that, I mean with references to real scholarly sources and mainstream theories. As well, please drop the repeated ad hominem attacks on anything related to Israel. They contribute nothing of value to the discussion and constitute tediously fallacious argumentation.
  15. HeartlessCapitalist Ravager of Biotopes Registered Senior Member

    This one's something of an urban legend, I think. The name and general personality Santa Claus was around before Coca Cola adopted him for their commercial (for example, there was a children's book called "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" published in 1902). However, they contributed majorly towards popularizing the image in the interwar years.

    Otherwise, I'd generally agree with what you said above.
  16. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    I already did. Besides, all you have to do is look at all the lanaguages and all the variations present in the Bible today to recognise that it could never have been an "original" in the Hebrew. Not when the myths in it parallel civilisations that precede the language. My point was that the Hebrew Bible can never be the "source" for etymology of any biblical term because it references prior myths, names, deities and places. Which means that there is no such thing as an "original" Hebrew Bible. There has never been a time when the Bible was not translated into the language of the people who used it or believed in its myths. The Hebrews were not the first just one more people in a long line of believers.

    Maybe, but that does not apply to the myths in the Bible, since all the myths are between people who have had contact with each other.

    Sorry disagree there. I think its quite common for many of these "scholars" to pass off Aramaic as Hebrew, just as they pass of Judeans as Jews. They do this by coining terms like "PaleoHebrew" rather than say, some other language related to Aramaic.

    Its common knowledge. You can look up the PBS Nova program on it for details

    Out of curiosity, what part of the Bible do you consider to be true or rather not yet falsified by historical record?


    The reference to the Sumerian deity Tammuz in Ezekiel is not a Jungian archetype since Canaan was a Sumerian outpost. Nor is the reference to Yahwehs wife/mother Ashereth, a Ugaritic deity since the Judeans worshipped Ashereth in Canaan. I believe Solomon is said to have worshipped at the Temple of Ashereth. The fact that the Sadducees were polytheists and the Pharisees were monotheists is interesting in light of the fact that the Pharisees followed Ezra who was a Persian courtier and the Persians call themselves the Farsees. If we consider each myth separately, they do tell us details which indicate their origin.

    Or he was a real priest called St Nicholas from Turkey

    Who knows? :shrug: But is Santa Claus an archetype? Or is it just a myth that travelled between people through evangelism?

    When you live in a country like India, where people adopt new religions without letting go of older ones, so that you have everything from Vedic mantras which resemble bird songs and possibly the first immigrants to the Indian peninsula to Anglo-Indians who have Santa Claus popping in on Christmas Eve, its easy to see how the Bible developed in people whose major form of communication was oral history. Its funny to think that someone may have simply compiled the myths which evolved into scriptures over time. The simplest and most notable example of the compiled mythology of Christianity is the Christmas Tree. And its not even in a scripture. Just oral tradition.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    But not a Muslim. Members of the individual Abrahamist cults can perceive subtle and (to them) important differences that we outsiders cannot.
    The relationship can be in our DNA. Virtually all dogs tolerate or even enjoy the companionship of members of other species, something that wolves do not--in fact wolves are often hostile to other wolf packs. This is not something dogs have been taught by missionaries from more enlightened dog packs in Sardinia or Borneo. We've spent twenty thousand generations selecting for the DNA that programs those synapses.
    Of course. Like wolves, humans are a pack-social species. Our instinct is to care for and depend on our pack-mates and to regard other packs as hated competitors for scarce resources: the "economics" of the Paleolithic Era when there was no surplus of food or anything else. Of course we have reconstructed the nature of the world around us to make sure that there is now a surplus of practically everything. But unlike dogs, we have only had a few hundred generations since the Agricultural Revolution, and that's not enough to reconstruct our inner nature. Ironically, dogs are completely adapted to the civilization they helped us build (they started by simply recycling our trash, always a critical assignment wherever humans congregate in large groups), but for us every day in this new herd-social culture is a struggle between the upright citizen and the caveman who still lurks inside each of us.
    According to their own holy book and the accretions in the Talmud, God expected Judaism to be an evangelical religion. He even freed them from bondage in Egypt (an event recently discovered to be completely mythical; they were just the guest workers of their era) after securing their promise (the "Covenant") that they would go forth and spread Abrahamist monotheism throughout the world. Their failure to do so resulted in his eternal wrath, which he expressed through plagues, occupations, the destruction of the Temple twice, the Diaspora, the thousand years of antisemitism that vitually defines European Christendom, the Holocaust in which it culminated, and the final Divine Middle Finger: inspiring the British, in the last fuck-you from the dying British Empire to the entire world, to give them the homeland of a Muslim Arab people as a consolation prize for not being welcomed back to Warsaw, Vienna and Paris. This is the meaning of the term "Chosen People." It's not something to envy. And this is why Jews are skeptical of anyone who wants to become one of them. Who would wish that kind of grief upon their children and grandchildren for all eternity?

    Their original reluctance to evangelize, presumably out of laziness or fear of confronting other tribes, has, ironically, made them a people who are now reluctant to do it out of sympathy for the other tribes.
    You should hear her when she starts pretending to be an expert on Judaism, Jewry and judaica. For a lady who presents herself as a well-educated scholar who has even lived in the United States, the home of the largest Jewish population on earth, she knows so little about one of the most thoroughly studied peoples in history.
    Like many people, she has trouble distinguishing Zionism from the rest of the rather large and extremely heterogeneous body of Jewish culture.
    Nonetheless, it does come across that way. It's unavoidable: Sam turns into a knee-jerk troll when anything remotely related to the Jews comes up in a thread. If she goes too long without a chance to express her bias, she just starts a thread on a convenient inflammatory topic herself.
    Sorry, my comment was too brief. I didn't mean to say that Coke invented Santa Claus, but they did invent the modern image of the fat man with the red suit, the white beard, and the overflowing sack of toys. The earliest depictions of that person I have seen are all Coca-Cola ads. They needed a campaign to encourage people to buy cold soft drinks in winter! The gift-giving angle was the result of the turnover of the U.S. economy from scarcity-driven to surplus-driven in the 1890s. Rather than busting their butts to provide people with everything they wanted, they now had to convince people that they wanted stuff they had never thought of--and at Christmas they should all buy stuff for other people that they had never thought of!
    You're really starting to beg the question of what, exactly, is "the Bible?" The right to define the word does not belong to any professional community. The Jews themselves and the Christians (I'll let you speak for the Muslims since I hope you know a lot more about your own religion than you do about the two most popular ones in my country) regard "the Bible" as the book that accreted around the Torah, which they all date (without much precision) to the rise of Judaism (which is also defined without much precision). Scholars understand that the stories in Genesis were adopted from the Babylonians but no one uses the term "the Babylonian Bible."

    If you want to discuss "the Bible" on my board, which is not primarily devoted to scholarship about religion, please conform to the linguistic standards of the community. "The Bible" means what everybody uses the phrase to mean. Period.
    Huh? Jung has a rather long list of biblical stories that pop up all over the world, such as the person (or bird or some other creature) coming back from the dead or the flood that covers the entire world. The last time some of these people had "contact with each other" was 60KYA, when the ancestors of the Native Australians walked out of Africa to find food during an ice age drought.
    I can't imagine how much time you have to devote to this little crusade in order to find this weird shit. Linguists call the immediate ancestor of all the Hebrew dialects as well as Ammonite, Moabite, Ebonite, Phoenician and Punic "Canaanite." There were several dialects of Hebrew (and in more recent times new ones have sprung up such as Yemenite and Samaritan), but Aramaic is not in the Canaanite subgroup, so any language that is closely related to it is not so closely related to Hebrew. Anyone who muddles Canaanite with Aramaic is not a respectable linguist.
    Wikipedia's summary reflects the consensus of what I've read. From the 5th century onward (after the alleged exodus from the alleged exile in Egypt), the Bible is generally accepted as being based on historical fact, if not a perfect record. The 8th to 6th centuries are problematic, and the earlier stories are simply mythology with occasional convergence with reality.
    Of course he was. The historicity of most saints is not controversial. But his original Greek name was Agios Nikolaos. "Saint Nicholas" is a translation into English. The British always pronounce "saint" as "sint" or "sin" (their still-ubiquitous French influence) when speaking quickly so it would have come out something like "Sinniklus." In America we're more accustomed to Italian and Spanish (female) saint names beginning with Santa, so we easily mashed that into "Santa Claus."
    Mrs. Fraggle would be more likely to know that since she actually studied Jung, but even she would have to look it up. Legends often combine multiple archetypes.
    Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, the first (surviving) literature of Europe, are exactly that. Old legends that he wrote down.
    It only dates back a few hundred years to a tradition that arose in Livonia and Germany.
  18. bpathos Blind Pathos Registered Senior Member

    There is a site "Ask the Rabbi". It may help, it couldn't hurt.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011
  19. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    I merely googled Lachish ostraca as instructed by Heartless.

    Its written in the "PaleoHebrew" script

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    I'm assuming that all these ancient scribes did not call the language "PaleoHebrew" but thats retroactive history for you. So the script known as Hebrew was brought by Ezra from Babylon. As per the opinions of some scribes in the year <insert date> based on <insert evidence>

    1. Is there any independent verification of Ezra's existence? Some other Persian or non-Jewish sources which mentioned him?

    2. Does the opinion of the scribes who decided Ezra introduced or reintroduced the Assyrian alphabet hold water?

    3. What is PaleoHebrew?

    4. What was the language and script of the Persians during the time of Ezra? Did they speak/write in Aramaic?

    edit: okay I found the answer to question number 4 - it seems the Pahlavi writing system was derived from Aramaic

    Sure, I'll call it Pre-Bible. If thats alright

    I guess we could break it down to Old and New Testament so we reference the collation of myths according to different groups

    From a cursory glance in wikipedia regarding the Jewish canon:

    Sounds like a busy period of collation and editing. What were the languages of all the various source texts of the Jewish canon? What was the basis on which parts were excluded?
    I guess any descriptions of "sacred texts" before the canonisation of the Old and New Testaments could be referenced as pre-biblical.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2011
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Perhaps I misread your post but it seemed like "Paleo-Hebrew" described a language, not a writing system. Of course the abjads of the Middle East underwent extensive evolution and there were surely eras in which written language changed faster than spoken language. Particularly at a time when the script of one people's language was borrowed and adapted by another people.
    AFAIK Hebrew did not change drastically after it was first written down. This is a common phenomenon: written records are a powerful force for conserving old elements of a language. With a phonetic system, that can even slow phonetic change, although as the evolution of Middle English demonstrates (long A and I used to be AH and EE), it can be overwhelmed by other forces. With a non-phonetic system such as Chinese you get the interesting situation in which the pronunciation of the words changes so drastically that people in different regions can't understand each other's speech, but they still use the same words, grammar and syntax so they can read each other's writing (about 98% in the languages of China, which is good enough).
    Every reference that comes up on a Google search refers strictly to the writing system, an early rendition(s) of the Hebrew abjad. I would be skeptical of the scholarship of anyone who suggests that it is a spoken language.

    The Wikipedia article on Hebrew says that Archaic Biblical Hebrew has been called Paleo-Hebrew, but again, it's referring to the written language. In any case, that refers to Ancient Hebrew over its entire period of existence, as opposed to Liturgical Hebrew, a language of scholarship like Latin frozen during the Diaspora, and to Modern Israeli Hebrew, a language reconstructed by scholars. This use of the term does not even focus on the evolution of the writing system, much less of the spoken tongue!
    Farsi, or Persian as it was called by foreigners until a few decades ago, is the keystone language of the Iranic subgroup of the Indo-Iranian group of the Eastern or "Satem" branch of the Indo-European family. Many of the languages spoken by the Persian peoples of the region, such as Dari, one of the official languages of Afghanistan, could easily be called dialects of Farsi if not for political reasons--the same capricious force that defines Afrikaans and Flemish as distinct languages rather than dialects of Dutch. Others, such as Pashto, are not quite intercomprehensible but clearly diverged from the mainline quite recently.

    The reason this happened is that Persian/Farsi has been spoken steadily in Persia/Fars for millennia, evolving like any other language from ancient to modern form.

    Of course there was a time when Aramaic was the lingua franca of the entire region--right up into the early years of the last century. Businessmen, scholars, politicians, artists and anyone else whose work brought them in contact with foreigners would have been fluent in it as a matter of necessity. And the tiny fraction of the population who were literate in the era before the printing press would have been literate in Aramaic, perhaps in some cases without being literate in their native language--although the educated Jews would have also been able to read Hebrew, the Muslims Arabic, and the Christians Latin, Greek or Old Slavonic, which were not necessarily their native languages.

    But a lingua franca does not necessarily displace vernacular languages. French did not become the universal spoken language in Europe.

    Today barely half a million people in geographically separated communities speak Aramaic at home--although they are a proud group with word processors and a strong presence on the internet guaranteeing that their language will not die. But it was not always thus. The Jews have consistently abandoned Hebrew and adopted the language of their host community, and by the Roman Era they all spoke Aramaic, the language in which the later books of the Old Testament and most of the Talmud were written.

    In fact, back in pre-biblical days, although the Aramaeans were merely one of many tribes conquered by the Assyrian-Babylonian empire, for reasons that may never be understood their language came to be the language of the empire and indeed displaced the languages of the conquerors. This is how it was set up to become the region's lingua franca througout several turnovers of imperial masters--Macedonians, Persians, Mughals, Arabs, Ottomans, and I've forgotten half of them and probably put the ones I remembered in the wrong sequence.

    But this never happened in Persia. As far as I can tell, the Persians have always spoken Persian.

    From what I've read I gather that it's generally acknowledged that almost all alphabets (phonetic writing systems in which each phoneme has its own symbol), abjads (an alphabet with no vowels) and abugidas (an alphabet in which each symbol is a consonant with a rigorous standard addition of a small symbol for a vowel, as in many languages of India) are ultimately derived from Sumerian, which was arguably derived originally from non-phonetic Egyptian logograms. The only exception I know of is the Korean alphabet, created just a few centuries ago by scholars who thought that writing non-phonetically in Chinese was absurd.
    All of the writing systems of the Middle East were derived from Sumerian via one path or another. The Aramaic abjad is a later form of Phoenician script. In addition to Pahlavi, both the Hebrew and Arabic Abjads were derived from the Aramaic. The Greek alphabet was adapted directly from the Phoenician, a more complicated task since vowels are phonemic in the Indo-European family so symbols had to be established for them. And of course both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets are offshoots of Greek.

    The Persians eventually adopted the Arabic abjad (and with some creativity turned it into something resembling an alphabet) during the spread of Islam, just as Christianity spread the Roman alphabet--and to a lesser extent the Cyrillic--everywhere its monks traveled. Similarly, Buddhist monks from China spread the non-phonetic Chinese system of logograms throughout East Asia.

    Note that I have excluded syllabaries. Japanese kana were developed domestically, basically stylizations of some of the Chinese logograms. The Cherokee syllabary was created by Chief Sequoia in the middle of the 19th century, and within a few years literacy was higher among the Cherokees than the so-called "civilized" Euro-Americans who surrounded and persecuted them. Chief Sequoia had a whimsical streak and his symbols are rather entertaining. Your browser probably doesn't support Cherokee but you can see its 85 syllables in the Wikipedia article.
    If you really want to join in what is surely an international scholarly dialog on this subject, why don't you figure out what the respected scholars call it instead of making up your own terminology? If you are as serious about this field as you present yourself to be, surely your research must be taking you far beyond Wikipedia, much less SciForums!
    I'm not sure it breaks down that way. The last few pages of the Old Testament were not written that long before the first few pages of the New.
    I appreciate your respect for the scholarship on the Linguistics subforum. But even I, the Moderator, don't have a degree in any of these fields. It's in accounting, which makes me a disciplined and skeptical scholar, but of itself does not impart a lot of knowledge from outside the business office.

    If you ask a question on one of our hard science boards like physics or biology, you're going to be talking to a Moderator with a PhD who is a working professional in that discipline. Elsewhere on SciForums--which is, after all, primarily a place of science, you get pot luck.

    We look forward to the findings of your own research on this subject. Carry on and report back!

    And yes, I realize that I toss around my own terms "pack-social" and "herd-social" in discussions of biology and anthropology. I simply have not been able to find the proper biologists' or psychologists' words for these instincts. Even the zoologists I've asked were stumped.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2011
  21. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member


    Even Parsis in Mumbai reference Avestan as their liturgical language. There is also old Persian and the Median languages both of which are of Persian origins.



    According to wikipedia, PaleoHebrew was derived from the Phoenician alphabet [as was Aramaic]. If it is true that Ezra who preached monotheism to the Sadducees brought the Aramaic alphabet to the Judeans converting the Judean script to the then Persian one [the Aechemid empire was the Persian empire and used imperial Aramaic as its script], it would be interesting to know how much influence there was in the later development of Hebrew from the Persians. According to wikipedia, the Hebrew alphabet is the closest in form to imperial Aramaic. Parts of Ezra indicate that the people of Judea could not understand the language he spoke, which begs the information if the Judean language in the old script was similar to the Hebrew language in the imperial Aramaic script. All this is secondary to the fact that Ezra himself may be mythical

    nirakar gave me a reference for the history of the Aramaic language but I haven't been able to get the book yet [its copyrighted on google books so only parts of it are accessible]. I'll try to incorporate books on the languages of the source texts of the Jewish canon into my reading [any references which help are welcome, I prefer papers to books btw, more references, less opinions]. Without doubt, the collection of stories of the kings and prophets by different scribes through so many centuries will have cross references in other cultures which may give a hint of what those languages could be.

    Its like detective work and I adore research!
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2011
  22. quinnsong Valued Senior Member

    Fraggle Rock, Heartless Capitalist and S.A.M. great posts! Fraggle you do good work here! Iz learnin lotz! Thx
  23. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    I've been looking up source texts of the Bible online. Its quite a khichdi of diverse books for both the Old and the New Testaments.

    I found a list of New Testament source texts at islamicawareness.org which may or may not be complete

    Still unable to find much info on languages/scripts of source texts and auxiliary texts for the Jewish canon, but this article by Sundberg makes for interesting reading:

    Most importantly, he gives citations so We [i.e. me] can delve into the linguistic details of the texts


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