I love Google books

Google books are a wonderful thing. Several times during the past few months I have needed to check something in a book and found it on Google from the comfort of my desk in a matter of minutes (luckily the info I need has usually been part of the limited preview).

For instance, I was just reading the Sefire inscription on Accordance and came to the phrase ‏פקחו עיניכם לחציה עדי בר גאיה in line 13 – “Open your eyes to gaze upon the treaty of Bar-ga’yah”. What struck me from this verse is the infinitive construct לחציה which is translated as ‘to gaze’. Accordance gives the root חצי which is interesting since the normal root for ‘to see’ is חזי. Now, Old Aramaic has close to the full range of proto-Semitic consonants, but it has adopted the 22-letter Phoenician alphabet so some letters have to be polyphonus. Thus ז represents both /z/ and /ḏ/ while צ represents both /ṣ/ and /ẓ/. So if צ here stood for /ẓ/, then could this imply that ḥzy was originally ḥẓy, or perhaps that ḥẓy had split off as a secondary root meaning ‘to gaze’ rather than just ‘to see’? As you can guess I was getting quite intrigued.

But I also had a sneaking suspicion that some grad student had screwed up when he entered this text. So I first checked the CAL lemma search, but it knew no root חצי. Now I was really suspicious, if only I could find a picture or drawing of the inscription. Lo and behold, Google books had Fitzmeyer’s The Aramaic Inscriptions from Sefire and the plate for the first part of the inscription was included in the preview. And wouldn’t you know it, right there in line 13 is drawn a perfectly good ז (it looks like a Roman capital I) with no hint of damage, though the preceding ח looks a little rough. 

So the lesson is that technology is great but technology is dangerous. I love the convenience of having these databases, but be careful about blindly trusting your Bible programs to do all the work for you.

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One Comment on “I love Google books”

  1. ryan korstange Says:

    you should inform accordance, they are very interested in these embarrassing errors.

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