Archive for November 2008

I have SBL envy.

November 21, 2008

Everyone is blogging about their trip to SBL, and here I sit at home with two sick kids (well, one is teething so not technically sick). I have attended SBL the past two years (BTW I don’t like it when people call it the SBL, it sounds funny to me for some reason, perhaps because it reminds me of these jerks up here who insist upon saying the Ohio State University, as in, ‘remember when THE Ohio State University got creamed by Florida a couple of years ago? That was great.’). I don’t recall a single paper that was ‘life-changing’, but I always enjoyed the camaraderie and the feeling that you were a part of something much bigger.

So this year I sit at home, Zincirli translation in hand, living vicariously through all of you.


Samalian Inscription News

November 18, 2008

After being bumped from the news by that ostracon deal, the Samalian inscription is back. Chip Hardy at Daily Hebrew has the photo of the Zincirli inscription along with a link to a NY Times Science article. The angle in the article is that it is a funeral stele which calls people to remember the deceased’s soul (apparently נבש) which now resides in the stele. This would imply that the culture believed in the separation of the soul from the body at death. It also gives the beginning of Dr Pardee’s translation: 

 “I, Kuttamuwa, servant of Panamuwa, am the one who oversaw the production of this stele for myself while still living. I placed it in an eternal chamber(?) and established a feast at this chamber(?): a bull for [the storm-god] Hadad, … a ram for [the sun-god] Shamash, … and a ram for my soul that is in this stele. …”

Jim Davila also has a separate press release about the stele.

UPDATE: Chuck Jones has provided a link to a hi-res image that you can actually read from.

UPDATE 2: Reading the hi-res picture, the NYTimes article left out some ellipses in their excerpt from Dr. Pardee’s translation. I have adjusted it above following the press release Jim Davila quoted.

Moran, William L. “The Hebrew language in its Northwest Semitic background.” Pages 53-72 in The Bible and the Ancient Near East. Essays in Honor of William Foxwell Albright, ed. G. Ernest Wright. New York: Garden City, 1961.

November 17, 2008

In this classic article, Moran summarizes some of the contributions of other West Semitic languages to our understanding of the history and development of Hebrew before the biblical period. He primarily concentrates on Ugaritic and the Amarna letters from Byblos, as well as West Semitic personal names.

1. Sources for pre-Biblical Hebrew

1.1. Personal Names.  For the period 1900-1700 BCE, most evidence comes from personal names.  Theo Bauer collected all West Semitic personal and geographic names found in Old Babylonian documents. From various Egyptian documents, we also have around 150 names from Syria and Palestine during the period. 

Until its destruction by Hammurapi, Mari was ruled by a dynasty with a West Semitic dialect. There are some 500 personal and geographic names in the Mari texts which are relevant to reconstruction of early Northwest Semitic. Alalakh supplies about 100 names from the period contemporary with the First Dynasty of Babylon. There are also names from this period at Chagar Bazar. 

1.2. Peripheral Akkadian. The Amarna letters (14th Century BCE) were written in Akkadian by Canaanite scribes. They include many Canaanite glosses to Akkadian words as well as forms and idioms which betray the speech of their authors. To a lesser extent, the Mari tablets also contain reflections of the local West Semitic dialect. However, scholars must be careful since not every non-Babylonian feature is necessarily Canaanite or West Semitic.

1.3. Ugaritic. The discovery of alphabetic texts at Ugarit on the northern Syrian coast has affected all areas of Biblical Studies. These texts are in a Northwest Semitic dialect, though there was (and continues to be) disagreement over whether it should be deemed a “Canaanite” language. 

2. Phonology. 

2.1. Consonants. Proto-Hebrew and other early Northwest Semitic dialects possessed about 25 to 27 consonants. It seems that c. 1400 is the terminus post quem for the developments which led to the 22 consonant Hebrew alphabet, following the Ugaritic ABC tablet which reflects a 27 consonant alphabet (presumably borrowed from Canaanite speakers to the south as it follows the same order as the later Phoenician and Hebrew alphabets, with three uniquely Ugaritic graphemes added to the end).  

2.2. Vowels. In most Canaanite groups to the south of Ugarit, /ā/ became /ō/ during the period 1700-1375 BCE. After the Amarna period, short final vowels were generally lost, including the case endings of the noun (-u, -i, -a). Diphthongs were contracted before the Amarna period (au > ō, ai > ē) from Ugarit up to Jerusalem, which retained the diphthongs. This reflects a divergence from the northern dialect. 

3. Morphology and Syntax

3.1. Remnants of Case Endings. The existence of forms such as šmmh “heavenward’ in Ugaritic suggests that the so-called he-locale is not a remnant of the earlier accusative ending -a, but represents an adverbial particle -h. Similarly, the hireq compaginis which occurs chiefly in poetry (as in Ex 15:6a, יְמִֽינְךָ֣ יְהוָ֔ה נֶאְדָּרִ֖י בַּכֹּ֑חַ “your right hand, O Lord, is fearful (ne’dārî) in strength”) was thought to be a remnant of the genitive case -i. However, it may be better seen as an archaic infinitive absolute with an -i ending (ne’dōrî), a form found in both the Jerusalem and Byblos Amarna letters.

3.2. Particles. Ugaritic, along with Amarna and Amorite, has clarified several Hebrew particles. Most important is enclitic mem. Compare Dt 33:11 מָתְנַ֧יִם קָמָ֛יו “the loins of his adversaries” to Ugaritic ṯkmm hmt “the top of the wall” where enclitic mem interrupts the construct chain. Other particles are asseverative l-, as “indeed”, and hm(h) as a deictic rather than conditional particle.

3.3. Pronouns. Ugaritic has demonstrated an indefinite interrogative mn, the use of אשר as a relative pronoun, and the archaic use of the demonstrative as a relative pronoun similar to the Biblical Hebrew  expression ze Sînai “the one of Sinai”, paralleled by the Ugaritic d p’id “the one of Mercy” as an epithet of El. 

3.4. Verb. The verb is one of the most debated areas in Hebrew grammar. There are several areas where comparative studies have helped clarify the debate.

3.4.1. Infinitive Absolute. As mentioned above, Moran argues that in Ex 15:6 the so-called hireq compaginis should probably rather be taken as an infinitive absolute which is being used in place of a finite verb, the -i being an archaic ending of the infinitive which is found in both Ugaritic and Amarna. This use of the infinitive in place of a finite verb is also paralleled by the Phoenician inscriptions where the infinitive absolute is used as a narrative tense.

The more common paronomastic use of the infinitive absolute is found also in Amarna. Combined with the -i ending, this may explain Genesis 30:8,  נַפְתּוּלֵ֨י אֱלֹהִ֧ים ׀ נִפְתַּ֛לְתִּי. The first word is pointed as a noun, but a naqtûl noun pattern is otherwise unknown in Biblical Hebrew. Re-pointing the first word not as a plural noun, but an infinitive absolute, niptôlî, may make more sense, “Greatly, O God, have I contended…” 

3.4.2. Prefixes of Piel and Causative. In Ugaritic the prefix is ya– for both the Piel and causative, in contrast to yu– for the Piel in Arabic and Akkadian. The Amorite names also reflect a ya– prefix, for example Ia-ki-in and Ia-ri-im. Amorite also shows evidence of the antiquity of the mē- prefix for causative participles of hollow verbs, for example Me-ki-in from Alalakh and Me-ki-nu-um from Mari, compare Hebrew mēkîn

3.4.3. taqtulû(na) 3mp form. Alongside yaqtulû(na), a 3mp form taqtulû(na) is found in 14th century Canaanite. It is difficult to tell if the form is used in Biblical Hebrew, as most instances could also be explained as a 3fs form with plural subject taken as a collective. However, Moran suggests that it is highly probable that the form occurs in archaizing texts. 

3.4.4. Indicative yaqtulu. In the Amarna texts from Byblos, two primary uses of the indicative yaqtulu can be discerned: a present-future and a past iterative. There is no reason why Byblian usage should not be comparable to the Hebrew of the time. Thus, by the 14th century this usage was already well established in the verbal system.

3.4.5. Cohortative. The Amarna letters contain a subjunctive yaqtula, corresponding to the Arabic subjunctive form, which seems to explain the origin of the Hebrew cohortative ending in .  

3.4.6. weqatal. In the Byblos letters, there are 33 occasions where the perfect is used with future time reference. In 24 of these cases it is preceded by the conjunction u, and is therefore comparable to the Hebrew so-called ‘waw-conversive’ with the perfect. Of the remaining cases, eight occur in the protasis of a conditional clause, and the ninth is a temporal clause. On the other hand, there are also cases where the perfect preceded by the conjunction u refers to past time and is therefore “unconverted”. Moran concludes that the data from Byblos reflects an early period of development for the Hebrew waw-conversive. The use of perfects in conditional sentences also seems to corroborate Ginsberg’s insight that the weqatal developed out of the earlier optative or precative function of the perfect.

Back from vacation…

November 13, 2008
Double Diamond Extreme Sledding

Double Diamond Extreme Sledding

Well, we’re back from Colorado. I went the past three days without any internet or TV, so I have no idea what has happened and I’m sorting through about 100 e-mails and 50 blog posts this morning.

Henry, Jack, and I bummed around Denver for a couple days while my wife was speaking at a conference. Then we headed out to Breckenridge where we were offered the use of a vacation house for a few days. We didn’t get any skiing in with the little kids, but here’s a picture of Henry and I sledding at 9600′. Now back to Gilgamesh…

Logos for mac

November 7, 2008

John Hobbins and Charles Halton have pointed out that it looks like Logos is finally close to releasing the mac version. I mentioned a while ago that I was interested in the syntactical databases included with Logos (and not in Accordance). It looks like the cheapest “Scholarly” version is on sale for $472.46. With this you get your basic tagged Hebrew and Greek Bible texts (including the aforementioned database), some Greek lexicons including Liddell & Scott, BDB, the tagged Targum texts from the CAL, and a crapload of fluff. And I mean a crapload. Upgrade to the silver package and you add HALOT, Gesenius, the Peshitta and a Lexicon, and more fluff. On sale for only $749.96.

I guess by “scholar” these packages are targeting pastors and Bible College/Seminary professors so they may be interested in some stuff I count as fluff, like Hodge’s  Systematic Theology. Or the title listed as “Difficulties in the Bible: Alleged Errors and Contradictions”.

Keep your devotionals, sermon outlines, and lite commentaries, how about a true “scholars” package (yeah, yeah, I’m grumpy and I’m in Denver, Colorado, and neither of my kids understands what a time change is so I’ve been up at 4:00 the past two days…). I would like the Hebrew and Greek Biblical texts, the Targums, the NWS Inscriptions, the DSS, CoS, ABD, HALOT, Gesenius, KTU, every Akkadian text ever written, Linear A and B (deciphered), the Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon, that Samalian inscription that has been pushed out of the limelight…

UPDATE: Brian Gault e-mailed me to let me know that while the Hebrew text of Anderson-Forbes and WIVU are included, the actual databases are not. They are designed for Logos 3.0, while the mac team started with 2.0, so you will not be able to do any fancy syntactic searches on the mac version. So looks like I’m sticking with Accordance for a while.

Weird News

November 2, 2008

My wife found the AP release of the Khirbet Qeiyafa story on the website of our local NBC station, WLWT 5, with the headline of “Teen Volunteer Finds Ancient Hebrew Writing” – under their “Weird News” section. She enjoyed this immensely. “It’s always so hard to tell people at work what you do, now I know. Weird stuff.”

I looked it up this morning, and it seems to me like it is under the “Education” heading, so I am not sure if they had it cross-listed or if my wife misread. This seems more like what I do though – Education. Albeit weird education…