Friday, December 2, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Commentary Rules

Now that you have been warned about the weaknesses of both translations and commentaries, I get to the part I warned you about. I’m going to set some ground rules, most of which should not surprise you if you have read this page of the blog from the first post in it.
A commentary is only as good as its resemblance to the primary document.  That means if a commentary says something about a primary document, at a bare minimum it has to quote the primary document correctly.  It also has to fit in with the culture related to the primary document: the history of that culture, and how it uses the words of its language, not how the commentator translates those words.
Authorities are not to be relied on without firsthand comparison to their purported sources. That goes back to Descartes. Any “authority” making a claim that doesn’t match the primary document the claim relates to, cannot be relied on.  He also fails the test of Occam’s Razor  by not covering the facts accurately.
Extraordinary claims require extra footwork and more data that is reliable for backup, than a less spectacular claim, but all claims have to be compared to the data they supposedly relate to.
The more data you have matching a given situation, the better your analogy. Conversely, a weak analogy matches only part of the data, or only one data point. A false equation matches none of the data.
The simplest explanation that covers all the facts correctly is more likely to be correct than something based on a weak analogy, and it must not rely on a false equation.
Given two sources, both assumed to be true or valid, that disagree with each other on some objective facts, a claim that the two are equal must be false.
And now here is the statement of the urban legend I’m going to bust. The commentaries by the “four horsemen”, claiming that Talmud refers to Jesus, are wrong. All four of them. They mistranslate, misrepresent, draw weak analogies or false equations, provide non-existent citations, and take material out of verbal, historical, and cultural context.
If that raises your blood pressure, skip the next four weeks because you’re not going to be happy with what I post.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- for more practice

And that’s my version of how Biblical Hebrew grammar works.
I know I probably didn’t discuss everything you will see in classical Hebrew literature.  Email me when you find something I didn’t cover.
If you want to check up on whether I can support what I say for more material, you want to read my book Narrating the Torah.  When I started it, I was simply trying to show all the ways in which Axel Olrik’s Principles for Oral Narrative Research showed up in Torah, hence the title.
When I discovered Dr. Cook’s dissertation over 10 years after studying Olrik, I immediately realized that they dovetailed, with respect to the certainty/evidentiary epistemic and Olrik’s localization.  So I started rewriting Narrating.  I just finished the second draft of this rewrite.
Narrating gives the entire Torah.  Then it has an English translation which reflects the issues I’ve discussed on this blog.  It’s not your grandfather’s translation.  So if you need to replace an old translation of Torah, buy a reprint of the same thing. 
If you want practice reading Torah in Hebrew, go to one of the sites listed in the Fact-Checking Resources page, where you will find the Torah with vowels and chant markings.  This is probably what you should do before you buy Narrating so that you don’t get overwhelmed by detail.
Narrating can be overwhelming because there is so much to comment on from a language point of view, as you have seen on this blog over the last eleven months.  Plus it analyzes the material based on Olrik’s principles, which can also run fairly long.  Finally, it repeats and sometimes expands on archaeological issues I raise on the Fact-Checking page of this blog. 
So use the free versions of Torah online and work up to reading one parshah a week, which you can do by reading one aliyah a day.  (The material is sectioned by aliyah, with square brackets that show which aliyah starts where.)  Try going to the Jewish calendar on, to find out on which day next autumn a new Torah reading cycle starts, and keep up with it. 
When you’re done, you can buy a copy of Narrating, which is only available from me, and start over again.  And when you’re done reading that for the first time, you will have learned so much that you will have new questions about what you read at the start.  So go back and start over.  The rabbis say, “Turn it over and over, you will never get to the end of it.”
Which is what I discovered, all over again, after reading Dr. Cook’s dissertation and then studying Arabic.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, November 27, 2016

DYI -- New Year's

OK don't look at your scale like that.
And don't kick it either.
It wasn't your scale that put all that food in your mouth over the last five days.

And don't wait until New Year's to do something about it.
There are more foodie festivals coming and you know it.

So don't skip breakfast.
Beat up an egg.
Take some of those potatoes and mix them with the egg.
Cut up some turkey.
Get a couple of serving spoons of vegetables.
Put a little shortening in the frying pan.
Shape the potatoes into a hamburger and fry on one side.
Flip, put the turkey and veg in the pan.
Cover, turn the heat down, and let sit.
Start your coffee.
Pour your coffee, dish out your breakfast and eat.

Have a salad or other veggie dish for lunch, on a smallish plate.

Have a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts for afternoon snacks.
And one, count 'em, one cookie or piece of candy or scoop of ice cream or a small piece of cake or pie.

In between all these meals, you have things to do.
It was windy this weekend and I have leaves to rake.
Dishes to wash (I don't have a machine).
Clothes to wash, like hand-knit socks.
A new round of housecleaning to start.
Temps will be high enough for a walk to be comfortable, low enough for it to be refreshing.

Repeat every day to eat less and burn off what you do eat.
By New Year's, you will have made a habit of this.
By next New Year's, you will have lost a clothes size.
That's what I'm planning to do.
I did it last year and had to go looking through my closets for a new pair of reference pants.
I can get into them.
In twelve months I hope to be able to sit down in them without cutting off my circulation.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 25, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- bad commentaries

One urban legend about Philo, repeated in one Amazon review after another, is that his work about Torah is valuable for understanding Judaism of his period. 
OK, granted that not all the people reviewing books on Amazon are scholars of the Judaism of the period from 20 BCE to 50 CE when Philo lived.  And a sadly large number of reviewers on Amazon don’t know how to write a useful review.  But I digress.
The only thing that Philo’s work is good for is evaluating Philo.
Philo was a neo-Platonist.  He uses the catchphrases common to that group, theos logos and so on.  It would take an expert on the neo-Platonists, which I am not, to determine whether Philo goes with the flow of that stream of thought at all times.  It would take an expert on Plato, which I am not, to determine how far the neo-Platonists diverge from his ideas.
But the one thing Philo is not, is an expert on Judaism.  And the signs are the same as for Septuagint. 
He uses unsuitable words for concepts well understood in passages of Mishnah that date before his time.  He misinterprets phrases in Torah.  He lags behind rabbinical understanding of passages in Torah.  He over-specifies what Torah leaves vague. 
Philo contradicts Jewish law.  He misreports quantities of tithing.  He mis-describes sacrificial procedure.  He contradicts Torah on lending.  He misrepresents how Jewish law treats prostitutes.  He is one of the first, if not the first, to describe lo yirtsach as “thou shalt not kill,” which I discussed to death long ago.
Philo misrepresents historic context by claiming that the stones on the efod relate to the Zodiac.  First, Jews are prohibited by law from divining by the heavenly bodies.  Second, the Zodiac dates only a century before Philo’s own birth, to the work of Berosus the Astrologer (NOT Berosus the Historian, they were different people).  Philo must have known that the efod description is no younger than the time of Ezra.  Maybe he didn’t know the exact span of time, but he had the opportunity to know, if he studied Jewish history, that Ezra came before the Hasmoneans.  And in fact, tradition in Philo’s times said that the efod came from the time of the Exodus, long before Ezra.
I had a dustup on Twitter with somebody who objected to my rejection of Philo; he said that Judaism has to address contemporary issues.  I pointed out that “addressing” an issue is not the same as writing commentaries that pretend the primary document explicitly caters to an issue from an external culture that did not exist until centuries after Torah was put into writing.  The latter is what Philo did in his work, and he was wrong, and that’s why he’s irrelevant both with respect to Judaism, and with respect to the importance of Septuagint – which he disagrees with whenever it’s convenient for his program.
Which is a habit that will crop up again in the fourth part of this blog.

But that's not the only way a commentary can go wrong.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- through time

Now a lesson in diachronicity – the persistence (or not) of grammar over time. Unless you have read a large part of classical Jewish literature – or even if you have – you might not realize that one piece of Biblical Hebrew survived the Babylonian Captivity almost intact. The nun epistemic, in a slightly different format and meaning, persisted into Mishnah, Gemara, the middle ages, and later times.
I believe that’s because it was integral to the legal system, documented in over a millennium of material. The very first Mishnah has three examples. Each of them reflects some legal issue.
מֵאֵימָתַי קוֹרִין אֶת שְׁמַע בְּעַרְבִית. מִשָּׁעָה שֶׁהַכֹּהֲנִים נִכְנָסִים לֶאֱכֹל בִּתְרוּמָתָן, עַד סוֹף הָאַשְׁמוּרָה הָרִאשׁוֹנָה, דִּבְרֵי רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר. וַחֲכָמִים אוֹמְרִים, עַד חֲצוֹת. רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל אוֹמֵר, עַד שֶׁיַּעֲלֶה עַמּוּד הַשָּׁחַר. מַעֲשֶׂה שֶׁבָּאוּ בָנָיו מִבֵּית הַמִּשְׁתֶּה, אָמְרוּ לוֹ, לֹא קָרִינוּ אֶת שְׁמַע. אָמַר לָהֶם, אִם לֹא עָלָה עַמּוּד הַשָּׁחַר, חַיָּבִין אַתֶּם לִקְרוֹת. וְלֹא זוֹ בִּלְבַד, אֶלָּא כָּל מַה שֶּׁאָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים עַד חֲצוֹת, מִצְוָתָן עַד שֶׁיַּעֲלֶה עַמּוּד הַשָּׁחַר. הֶקְטֵר חֲלָבִים וְאֵבָרִים, מִצְוָתָן עַד שֶׁיַּעֲלֶה עַמּוּד הַשָּׁחַר. וְכָל הַנֶּאֱכָלִין לְיוֹם אֶחָד, מִצְוָתָן עַד שֶׁיַּעֲלֶה עַמּוּד הַשָּׁחַר. אִם כֵּן, לָמָּה אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים עַד חֲצוֹת, כְּדֵי לְהַרְחִיק אֶת הָאָדָם מִן הָעֲבֵירָה:
Qorin means that it’s halakhah to read the Shema. This mishnah is about the requirement to read it at night, not about an individual case that came before a Jewish court.
Chayavin means that the young men might be subject to the requirement for the nighttime reading. There’s a condition that applies – whether the dawn has begun – and the speaker (Rabban Gamliel, their father) can’t rule on the case. Why not?  There are no eligible witnesses.  He can’t do it, he’s a relative of the young  men so he couldn’t testify.  The young men can’t do it, they are parties to the case.  Also, the father can’t serve as a judge in the case, being a relative.  Supposing that dawn had not begun, the young men would be supposed to say the  Shema, but he can’t say chayavim.
Neechalin is nifal, meaning a legal ruling; a legal ruling exists that certain sacrifices have to be eaten in one day (it’s in Torah) but we’re not talking about an actual example of such a thing involved in the current case, we’re just talking about the class of things to which the legal ruling applies.
This grammar persists into the Kitsur Shulchan Arukh of the 1830s CE and appears in Midrash Halakhah (600-800 CE), Mishneh Torah (1100s CE), Caro’s Shulchan Arukh (1500s), and Shulchan Arukh ha-Rav (right about 1800).
Another example (this picks up on something I said a few weeks ago) is that, while there are ayin vav and ayin yod verb root classes in Biblical Hebrew, and peh yod, there is only one peh vav verb (viter, in only one binyan) and no lamed yod or lamed vav classes. Gelb’s grammar of Akkadian shows these forms.  Assyrian had all of these forms; Delitzsch, who wrote the basic grammar, shows that peh vav were dying out.  It’s easy to see why when you know that vav is the Hebrew version of a sound that was used at the start of verbs throughout the history of Semitic languages (whether it mean “and” or whatever). It’s easier to pronounce words if you change or suppress one of the vavs at the start.
Remember back when I discussed how some peh yod verbs drop the yod in part of their conjugation? If they drop it, they were originally peh vav verbs. You can tell by looking up their cognates in Akkadian or Assyrian (dictionaries  for these languages are available online). If they don’t drop it, they weren’t peh vav verbs (or they don’t have a cognate).
So yada, which drops the yod in imperfect, was a peh vav verb in Akkadian and Assyrian. So were yakhal, yaval, yalad, yashav, yarad, yaqar, yaraq, and yatsa. Not true of yatsar or yashar.
And no other Semitic language has the lamed heh verb root class, it’s only in Hebrew. Aramaic verbs that look like this have been adopted from Hebrew, as Jastrow’s dictionary shows, but non-borrowed verbs are lamed yod or lamed vav. In other Semitic languages, the cognate to a Hebrew lamed heh verb, is either lamed yod or lamed vav.
I let this post run on because it’s not crucial to understanding Torah, it’s just to expand your mind a little. Most of Hermann Strack’s Porta Linguarum Orientalium and Clavis Linguarum Semiticarum are available online for free and some are still useful. Use your search engine on the titles to find a list of them. Maybe you will discover your inner Assyriologist!

Almost there!
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Knitting -- pullover redux

After some searches on my own blog, I can't find the complete instructions.
This is for Wool of the Andes worsted.
Chest: 40 inches.
Arm length: 20 inches.
Wrist: 7 1/2 inches around.
Neck goes over a head which needs a 7 1/2 size hat.

Using US size 5 circular needles with 24 inch tether:
Put on a slip stitch with a 6-7 inch tail.
Cable on 200 stitches.
For 8 rows, k2/p2 rib.
Switch to US size 7 circular needles with 24 inch tether.
For 90 rows, knit in the round.
At each underarm, put 10 stitches on holders; I tend to use a doubled-over length of a thinner yarn and loop the free ends through.
I center the underarms on the starting slip stitch  on one side and then, of course, halfway around to the other side.
Replace those 10 stitches with 10 cast-ons (not cable ons).
For 55 rounds, knit the armholes BUT
For rounds 1-3
after the underarm, K1, K2TOG
knit to the other armhole minus 3 stitches
slip a stitch, knit 1, PSSO, knit 1
knit across the armhole

For rounds 4-55, knit and don't decrease at the armhole.
Turn inside out and knit together 23 stitches at one shoulder.
Turn right side out and knit to other shoulder.
Repeat the knitting together at the other  shoulder.
Turn right side out.
Change to US size 7 circular needle with 16 inch tether.
Start k2/2 rib for 4-6 rows.
Bind off in rib.
Cut a 6-7 inch tail and sew the neck edge even with a tapestry needle.
Sew the bottom hem even with a tapestry needle.
Use duplicate stitch to fill gaps  in where the shoulders join the neck ribbing.

Using US size 7 circular needles with a 16 inch tether, move stitches from the holder to one of the needles.
Put a slip stitch on the other  needle, knit the first stitch and pass the slip stitch over.
Now knit up the other 10 stitches of the under arm.
Cut up the middle of the armhole (the "steeking" to use a Fair Isle term).
Using a US size 4-6  crochet needle,
for every stitch around the armhole,
pick up yarn from the back to the front of the fabric and put it on your circular needle.
At the top of the shoulder pick one stitch through at the seam before continuing through the rest of the armhole.
Knit the first five stitches at the underarm.
Put a marker thread so you can do the decreases precisely in line.
Knit two rounds.
Knit 1, K2TOG, knit around to the underarm minus 3 stitches, slip stitch, K1, PSSO, K1.
Repeat the last two steps until you have knitted 84 rounds from the underarm.
Work your  marker thread in and out at the midpoint between the two K1s to keep track of where you put decreases.
Switch to US size 7 double point (sock) needles, at least 7 inches long, using 3 to hold stitches and knitting with  the 4th.
Knit 3 rounds and then decrease on the 4th round.
When you reach a total of 132 rounds from the underarm, count the stitches left on your needles.
You need 56 for your cuff.
If you have more than 59, do another 4 rounds and a decrease.
Then K2TOG as many times as needed for the 56 stitches of the cuff.
Do k2/p2 rib for 8 rounds on the cuff.
Bind off in rib.
Cut a 6-7 inch tail and sew the cuff edge even with a tapestry needle.

Wash, block and wear.
Working 6 hours a day, I can make a pullover in 2 weeks.

My back is about an inch shorter than normal, I learned that sewing tops for myself years ago.
The hem of this pullover sits a little below my hip bones when I stand and meets the back of my slacks when I sit.
I like  my sleeves a bit long; the cuffs get pushed over my wrists against my hands and I feel warmer.
YMMV; adjust the length accordingly.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 18, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- our first commentary

We still don’t know why it was important for Brenton to translate the Septuagint into English. You might think it was because Septuagint was important to Christianity – but Jerome realized in the 400s CE that the Septuagint was a bad translation from Hebrew.
Clement and Justin Martyr (100s CE) don’t quote from Septuagint. They say things that sound like Septuagint, but aren’t; as with Qumran, they are Greek versions of scriptural material, but they are not the version Brenton "translated".  Clement and Justin were trying to use Plato and other Greek writers to prove the value of Christianity to people who read classical Greek authors; the audience didn’t read Septuagint and quoting it would have meant nothing to them.
Then there’s Origen’s Hexapla. This collected six different Greek versions of Torah, with notes on the differences between them. Only the notes survive; in Field’s version (which is online), they are collated with the Septuagint to show what Origen was thinking about. Apparently the Hexapla wasn’t important enough to preserve intact.
Translators claimed to go back to Hebrew with both the English and French Geneva Bibles of the 1500s CE, and the King James Version, and so on. But since none of them had the faintest idea of modality or the other features of Biblical Hebrew known to 21st century linguistics, they actually translated in accordance with the received knowledge about Hebrew. That includes mistranslations like Ohozath in Genesis, as well as “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14, and “and.”
As long as people read translations – of ANY work – they are vulnerable to the carelessness, ignorance, and even willful errors of translators. As long as people claim to be experts when all they know are translations, so long will these people generate urban legends or cling to them. These incorrect translations play a role in almost every urban legend documented on this blog.
So if translations, which pretend to come straight from the primary document, cannot give good results, what chance do commentaries have, especially if they take their stand on translations? That’s what we’re about to find out when we look at Philo.
The first urban legend about Philo says that he used Septuagint. That’s a bad thing. However, his relationship to Septuagint is not one of unqualified faithfulness to the Greek. In particular, in his essay On Dreams I, lines 216-218, he discusses Lavan’s bargain with Yaaqov over the colors of sheep and goats. Philo uses some terms Septuagint doesn’t have and uses other terms the opposite of how Septuagint uses them. So when his commentators claim that such and such a phrase in Philo comes from the Septuagint, it better be exact in text and meaning, and somebody would do the world a real service by totting up how often that happens. Then they ought to compare it to how often the commentators cite to Septuagint when Philo doesn’t really quote from it. I would not be surprised if Philo says things that sound like Septuagint but aren’t.
But that doesn’t mean Philo’s commentary is useful for anything else but understanding Philo, as I am about to show.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved