Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Lost in Translation

And one more early post since this is the time of year when FiOS traditionally craps out on me
If you have been reading this blog since I started posting to this page, I am awed because you  have invested that time in me.  The easy stuff is probably all behind us. The next part is pretty hard.
And I’m going to start with the preface you never read. What I say from now on is probably not going to be what you thought I would say. I am not writing this blog to say what people expect to be said. If you want to read a repeat of your own ideas, you have two choices: find a website that has those ideas (I know they exist); or write your own blog. This blog right here is about busting urban legends, not repeating them.
And the source of the urban legends was questions posted on an Internet discussion group about 20 years ago – and reposted by different people over a space of about 5 years – which shows you that I’m not making things up.  There are plenty of other sites where you can ask questions and get answers, too.  If you or somebody you know, has a question and wants my answer, check the Fact-Checking page listing to see if I already covered their issue;  email me to see if I’m going to cover it.  If I get a bunch of emails on a specific question, and I know I haven’t written a post for that (I’ve written all the posts that cover the old issues), I can always write a new one to post when I’m done.
I have a good reason for calling this section LOST IN TRANSLATION.
If you read a translation or commentary, you still don’t know what the primary (untranslated) document means.  Translation is not meaning.  Commentary is even farther from meaning.
Everybody has trouble getting this through their heads. Some people who can read and write more than one language don’t understand it. The vast majority of people in the world think that translating from one language to another means that the target (translated) document matches the meaning of the source document. The rest are language geeks.
Me, I’ve been a language geek since I was so high. All right, I’ve been so high for more than 40 years, keyn ahora, but I studied two non-English languages in high school, two more in college, and I use Hebrew and Aramaic every day due to prayers and the Daf Yomi Talmud study cycle. My first job involved the Russian which was my college major (for my first bachelor’s degree) and I still use it, as you can see if you read my Mendel Beilis page. Anyway, I’m a language geek.
Four issues allow room for error: the meaning of words; the nuances of grammar; the context of the wording; and the setting of the material. That’s aside from the translator’s or commentator’s knowledge or beliefs that affect their results.
This third section includes information about a debate that will either leave you cold or make you mad. That’s because what you think you know about it probably comes from incorrect translations, or commentaries incorporating fallacies or urban legends. One of the parties involved got laughed out of court and helped the Russian government lose a court case because of his ignorance of languages and subject material he pretended to know. I’ll warn you when we get there so you can skip it if you don’t want to suffer from high blood pressure.
I will also teach you some things you probably don’t know about Biblical Hebrew. They build on a 2002 doctoral dissertation. The author is so well-respected for just this one paper that when A reviewed B’s book which referred to the dissertation, A criticized B for not basing the book on the dissertation.  In other words, B included information from the dissertation but it was not fundamental to B’s thesis, which left B with less than solid support in A’s opinion.
Finally, this section introduces a subject you probably don’t know much about, one that is still developing, about the differences between material transmitted by mouth and the same information transmitted in writing, other than as a record of the oral version. I’m still learning about it myself, so I will try to stick with practical and hopefully obvious examples of the various facets. It has consequences that play out in the fourth part of this blog.
This section should help you understand why I keep telling you, you have to read it, and you have to read the source document not a translation. If you have spent the last three years working on that, what I say here should make sense, even if it isn’t clear as day.

We'll start with the Septuagint.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- modal morphology summary

Yes, this went up Wednesday night instead of Thursday morning. 
My computer has decided to test my patience and I wanted you to get your fix if it went the limit.

Time for a summary on modal morphologies.  Go back and learn this material thoroughly so that when you come across one, you can think back to what I said. 
1.               They are restricted to material transmitted in the vernacular that was used before the  Babylonian Captivity, in the meanings that I discuss here.  The surviving modals changed in meaning.
2.               Uncertainty epistemics frequently involve legal issues that hinge on ignorance, so even if they are used in a commandment, they may let the subject off from being punished.
3.               Certainty epistemics always involve something palpable or visible to the audience or familiar from its cultural practices or historical knowledge and that is why they relate to the truth of the material.
4.               Deontics always evidence that the world isn’t the way the speaker wants it, even as they express what he does want. 
5.               Oblique modality requires a main clause expressing something accepted as true by both speaker and listener; the subordinate clause expresses something the speaker wants to be accepted as true, given the truth of the main clause. 
We’re not done yet.  I have to cover an important structure in Biblical  Hebrew; that’s next.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 27, 2016

DIY -- clothesline

I realize that in this day and age, some  of you  may not have space to put up a clothesline.
Or if you do it, people might complain.

I have a tiny yard -- although it is bigger than my brother's --
and my HOA has rules on where things can go.

I had one choice for location: the south side of my house, where the mail and trash service comes.
There was only one other thing to decide.
I could have concrete installed in the sloping lawn and put up a permanent umbrella clothesline.
Or I could get a portable umbrella clothesline and put it on the sidewalk, and remember to take it in every time I use it, before nightfall, so it wouldn't rust from dew.

Yeah, I got the portable.

1.   The weather doesn't have to be hot for this to work.  Sunny March and November days are acceptable in the DC region.  So are cloudy hot summer days but you have to be there if there's rain in the forecast, so you can take in the damp clothes and the hardware.
2.   The WIND matters.  Winds above 30 can blow a portable umbrella clothesline over.  Keep an eye out for it so you can set it back up if it falls over, or wait for a calmer day.
3.   You still need to use a mechanical dryer for big heavy things like towels and bedding.  The support for the umbrella isn't strong enough.
4.   Make sure and stabilize the bottom of the bottom tripod.  I forgot to turn the thumbscrew far enough one day and the base started to collapse.
5.   It's true.    Whites will come out whiter.  I've had old turmeric stains bleach out in five hours of sunshine.  To keep other things from fading, make sure that their insides are turned to the sun.
6.   You won't get the softening or fragrance you get with dryer sheets or dryer balls.  You also won't get the chemicals.
7.   If you didn't get a bad stain out, the newly washed garment should not be put in a dryer.  The dryer will bake the stain into the fibers.  You don't have to worry about that with things dried on the clothesline.

I never put the clothesline up on trash day until the trash has been picked up.  The trash gets put into wheeled barrels that get rolled along the sidewalk. 
Mail carriers I figure can go around the clothesline.  Haven't had a complaint from them so far...

This is one of those reasons our foremothers were always on the hop.  They had no weather forecasts unless they had a barometer in the house or could tell by the clouds, the sky, the behavior of birds. 
Blue jays really do scream a lot in the couple of days before a storm, for example.
If our foremothers thought they were going to have a sunny day, they had to get their wash done early so it was ready to hang out. 
They had to boil water on the stove before they could wash or they had to use cold water. 
They had to have coal in the house or dry firing on the porch to boil the water.
And if they guessed the weather wrong, they had to bring the things inside and string their clothesline up in the kitchen, which was probably the only room in a house warm enough to dry the things.

I was watching a PBS "reality" show on people trying to live like wilderness days in Idaho or Montana. 
They arrived in April and one of the women decided to wash ALL the clothes the same day.  Which would have conserved firing.
Unfortunately, there was a late snow that day and she had to dry everything inside.  What's worse, her kids had to walk miles to another homestead to milk their cows for the time being.  With no dry clothes to wear, they had to wrap themselves in blankets to go to the other homestead. In the snow.
But at least she didn't have her clothesline fall onto muddy ground and have to do the laundry all over again.

My clothesline will pay for itself by the end of 2017 in lower power bills.
I need the exercise.
Getting out in the sun a couple of times a day is nice, and it gives me an excuse to suck down some iced tea in the summer.
I have lots of clothes and don't need to do laundry every day.  Not even every week, really.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, June 24, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- wrapping up the digs

When you read archaeological material – from the original report not the mass media or a fringe website – and it claims to relate to the Bible, you have to be skeptical.
First, you have to make sure it’s not a weak analogy.  It has to deal with all of the Biblical words and details, not just pick out useful parts.  In the next two parts of this blog, I’ll show why it has to deal with the Biblical words in Biblical Hebrew, not in translation.
Second, you have to make sure that the writer doesn’t deny something happened just because the data don’t say it did.  The dig has to be at the right place and go down to the right level, look for culturally relevant material and evaluate it accurately compared to the situations cultures normally find themselves in.
Third, you have to make sure the material evaluates the provenance reasonably.  A report that doesn’t go through the provenance of a find but tries to claim that it relates to something in Bible cannot be relied on.  The week this post goes up, there was a follow-on to the story about the papyrus that supposedly talked about “Jesus’ wives”.  In fact, the original study did not have that phrase; it was an invention of mass media to gain attention.  Second, there was absolutely no information about the provenance from archaeology; it came from the possessor and his story keeps shifting.  The next thing that has to happen is a radiocarbon test, just like the one that proved the fabric of the Turin shroud was made in the 1400s CE.  I’m sure the possessor of the “Jesus” papyrus doesn’t want that but if he refuses, there’s no there there.   Without  provenance information from archaeology, you don’t  really have an archaeological “find” and you may not have an antiquity.  At best, you might have a curiosity, but it could also be a forgery.
The chronology of the Torah goes something like this:
Noach’s wine grapes come from about 4000 BCE in a location later known as Urartu; we don’t know what it was called in 4000 BCE, its oldest known name is Urashtu.  This is in Anatolia, where and when proto-Semitic first developed, and also near where meteoric iron was in use, and where smelted iron and carbon steel show up over the next 2000 years.
Gan Eden relates to the 3000s BCE, the Jemdet Nasr period of Mesopotamia, somewhere to the east of where the Euphrates flows now, and where it joined up with the Tigris and two minor rivers, one of which vanished from human memory and one of which is permanently dry now.
The destruction of the Cities of the Plain had to be observed by the ancestors of the Jewish people when they were near Numeira, Jordan, about 2350 BCE.  This places them far from Mesopotamia prior to the time of the Sumerian Kings List, Gilgamesh, Atra-Hasis, and Enuma Elish in the written forms we know of.  It coordinates with the end of Ebla, which traded with the Cities.  All writing in Mesopotamia was in Sumerian or Akkadian cuneiform at this time; reading and writing cuneiform had to do with royal decrees and religious material; archives were royal property, not freely open to anybody who chose to browse in them.
The Israelites migrated to Egypt in the 1800s BCE and were familiar with the conditions there at the end of the reign of Amenemhet III, the end of the Middle Kingdom.
The Israelites left Egypt about 1630 BCE, heading southeast.  The Hyksos rulers of the delta were trying to recover from the effects of the Thera explosion.  Before they had completely recovered, Ahmose I attacked and took back the north.  He chased the remains of the Hyksos rulers of the Delta northeast to Sharuhen.  Torah has the only written record currently known, relative to the Thera explosion, except for the Tempest Papyrus from the start of Ahmose’s reign.
This leaves 400 years for the period of the Judges and the cult at Shiloh.  About 1100 BCE, the Israelites established settlements throughout the Holy Land, more than 200 feet above sea level, and refused to trade pottery with the lowlands, showing that they had to be self-supporting.
They remained self-supporting, engaging in mixed agriculture, to about 900 BCE, the time of Shlomo.
The Israelites were not descended solely from the Hapiru; the two groups were not identical.
The Israelites did not copy their monotheism from Akhenaten.  Even his son didn’t copy it; Tutankhamen changed back to the original Egyptian polytheism.
The Israelites did not invent the Exodus after their culture had been up and running for centuries; it was so well known that 100 years after the hilltop settlements dissolved, Amos could talk about it to the southerners and Hoshea could reference it to the northerners, without going into a song and dance about what they meant.
Cultures like the Celts and Sea Peoples began developing 300 to 400 years before they first appeared in text from another culture.  It is no stretch to accept that the culture of the Israelite hilltop settlements goes back to at least 1500 BCE, but the geological evidence in Torah is that their ancestors originated nearly a millennium before that.
Those assigning a late date to every characteristic of Jewish culture, religion and law, are almost certainly wrong.  I’ll give more evidence for this in the next two sections.  Starting with evidence from the language itself – Biblical Hebrew.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- historical diagnostic

Deuteronomy 4:10 is also an example of something about the uncertainty epistemic that relates to the certainty epistemic.
יוֹם אֲשֶׁר עָמַדְתָּ לִפְנֵי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּחֹרֵב בֶּאֱמֹר יְהֹוָה אֵלַי הַקְהֶל־לִי אֶת־הָעָם וְאַשְׁמִעֵם אֶת־דְּבָרָי אֲשֶׁר יִלְמְדוּן לְיִרְאָה אֹתִי כָּל־הַיָּמִים אֲשֶׁר הֵם חַיִּים עַל־הָאֲדָמָה וְאֶת־בְּנֵיהֶם יְלַמֵּדוּן:
Epistemics look in two directions at the same time.   Since the people who didn’t learn fear of Heaven think they will get off, what about the people who were supposed to teach fear of Heaven?
We are only human. We are not omniscient. We have no hard and fast rules for how to teach fear of Heaven; our best approximation is to obey the law ourselves. But we are also not perfect. A person who wants to go wrong, will pick on any imperfection as an excuse for his own imperfection, and then go farther. (This is the lesson behind Lemekh’s 77-fold.)
Using the uncertainty epistemic lets off both the subject and the object of the verb, the way Avraham’s use of the uncertainty epistemic in Genesis excused him on the basis of his own ignorance, and also let Gd off from a vow that could not be carried out. 
Notice that this looks both ways, just like the certainty epistemic and narrative past do.
Modal morphologies existed in Biblical Hebrew as a vernacular, the street language, and people learned about it as they learned to talk.  They didn’t learn it in school.  That requires an analytical grammar teaching the functionality of morphology.  There was no analytic grammar of Biblical Hebrew until David Kimchi about 1000 CE, and his work was dedicated to talking about the triliteral root system.  People learned the material with the grammar as it existed at the time they learned it.  They understood it because they heard people using the same grammar on the  street.
During the Babylonian Captivity, the Jews learned to speak Aramaic – which  modern  linguists call Neo-Babylonian. It was a hybrid of Aramaic and Akkadian, and its modals came from Akkadian, an eastern Semitic language. They used particles and auxiliary verbs (periphrasis), not morphology.  The generation that returned to the Holy Land and built the Second Temple had no vernacular training in using modal morphologies or a grammar to learn it from.  They recited modal morphologies in a text they had memorized, but they couldn’t produce them spontaneously (with an exception I’ll talk about soon.)
That’s the diagnostic for when the books of the Tannakh were created. The ones in Aramaic actually are Neo-Babylonian. The ones in Hebrew that use modal morphologies came into being before those forms disappeared from the vernacular. Anybody who tells you differently shows that they don’t understand Biblical Hebrew as well as you do now.

Let's summarize before I go on to mess with your head some more.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Garden -- grass 2016

The easy days of summer are here!
You're saying what?  It's lawn-mowing time!
Well, not quite.
Your lawn service is going to want you to pay them to do a bunch of things right now.
And it's bad for your grass.
See Mike:

Test your lawn service.
If they have been trying to get you to seed before July, fire them.
If they try to get you to fertilize now, fire them.
Ask what height their blade is set to.  If it's less than 3 inches, fire them.
If you come home after they've been there and the grass is swirled around but not cut,
THAT is a sign of a dull blade.  Fire them.
If you are home when you mow and you see dirt kicking up or hear the blade scrape on dirt, fire them.
If it hasn't rained for three weeks and they still want you to pay them to mow,  fire them.

Mike hasn't gotten around to this last one yet because while parts of the DC area are dry, others just suffered big storms.

Also, you have about three weeks left to prune your azaleas. 
Prune after that and you will destroy next year's flower buds.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, June 17, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Numbers 22:2 to 24:25

For this week you were supposed to read Numbers 22:2-24:25.  The other end of the spectrum on the Exodus says it didn’t happen but was invented in the 800s BCE.
First, elementary school math will show you that this puts the Exodus after the Israelite settlements in the highlands have dissipated, in other words, after the time when we know an Israelite culture existed.  Second, elementary math will show you that if the Exodus was invented at this time, it took less than 100 years to become so familiar to the Israelites that Amos could refer to it and know that his audience knew what he meant.  I’ll discuss that in more detail at the end of the blog.
This weak analogy rests on an archaeological find at Deir ’Alla in Jordan, which was the Sukkot referred to in the Biblical story of Gideon, about 250 km away from the Sukkot at the edge of the Sinai that the Israelites left from in beginning the Exodus.
The archaeological find was a damaged wall inscription about a man named Balaam, and the weak analogy says that he was the same Balaam referred to in Numbers.  The Balaam referred to in this inscription of the 800s BCE is supposed to be the same one who suggested the activities leading to the sin of Baal Peor in Numbers 25.
However, the northern audience of the prophet Hoshea knows about the sin of Baal Peor and his reference also comes less than a century after the inscription.
The third historical problem with this is that the Passover story was as familiar to people in the pagan northern kingdom of Israel, as to those in the monotheistic southern kingdom of Judea.  Hezekiah, who ruled after Amos and Hoshea, issued a Passover invitation to people in the north, and some of them came to Jerusalem to celebrate it.  This had to happen before the Assyrian conquest of the north, because archaeologists find that Assyria established a sort of iron curtain around the territories they controlled. (This will be important in Part IV of this blog.)  There has to be some reason the northerners would respond to Hezekiah’s invitation.  It can’t be the mere references to Passover in Amos and Hoshea, because that involves a hidden assumption that the northerners had read those two books.  The Samaritans, the modern remainder of the northern population, have a book called Joshua/Chronicle by some; it has no material from either Amos or Hoshea.  The Samaritan Pentateuch does have the Exodus story, almost word for word the same as in Jewish Torah (more about that in the next section). 
That’s the historical evidence against the Deir ’Alla claim.  The logical problem that makes this a weak analogy is the contents of the inscription.  You can find a description on the web and what it says is that Balaam stood before the council of gods and was told about a goddess who had to be punished.
This is so different from the Balaam in Numbers that I don’t see any reason to equate the two on any level.  The names aren’t enough and at the end of this blog I will show why, as well as giving a broadly applicable reason that the two Balaams aren’t the same.
But what it does resemble is Marduk standing before the council of gods and being told that Tiamat has to be punished.  And that is in Enuma Elish.  Which has consequences of its own that I will discuss later.
The inscription has undergone considerable study and that’s all to the good because the more we know about local cultures, the more we know about the Israelites and their being a distinct culture in the eyes of Merneptah.  At a distance, distinctions blur.  That’s why it’s important that Merneptah did distinguish between Israel and Canaan.  Four centuries before the Balaam inscription.
I’ll sum up next week because I’ve already gone on too long with this post.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- Deuteronomy 4:10

So I said that uncertainty epistemics are crucial because of Jewish law.
They’re crucial because they reflect some feature of the law. Avraham’s uncertainty epistemics let Gd off His vow. The uncertainty epistemics in Deuteronomy 5:7 underline how Jewish law might let somebody off for not destroying something that might be pagan.
My last example is Deuteronomy 4:10.
יוֹם אֲשֶׁר עָמַדְתָּ לִפְנֵי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּחֹרֵב בֶּאֱמֹר יְהֹוָה אֵלַי הַקְהֶל־לִי אֶת־הָעָם וְאַשְׁמִעֵם אֶת־דְּבָרָי אֲשֶׁר יִלְמְדוּן לְיִרְאָה אֹתִי כָּל־הַיָּמִים אֲשֶׁר הֵם חַיִּים עַל־הָאֲדָמָה וְאֶת־בְּנֵיהֶם יְלַמֵּדוּן:
This verse is all about “fear of Heaven,” meaning what it is that makes somebody obey the law even if there’s no immediate reaction one way or the other. It’s the same thing as the fact that 94% of the US population is not behind bars. Why does it use an uncertainty epistemic?
Because you can impose punishment on your underage kid for violating the law, but that won’t keep him straight once he becomes legally responsible for his own actions.
When the Israelites were at Mt. Sinai, they signed up to obeying the law voluntarily (not under duress as some people will tell you – you can tell by the binyan of the verb) in awe of the miracles they had been through as well as the smoking mountain.
Moshe is now talking to their children or grandchildren. These people may have been raised with the law, but a midrash says that all the strife between Gd and the Israelites happened between years 2 and 19 of the Exodus, and then the generation of the Exodus were sent wandering in the wilderness. The people Moshe is speaking to are at most 40 years old, and a lot of them are younger. They didn’t see the punishments with their own eyes. If they’re going to obey the law, they have to do it through fear of Heaven.
But what if they didn’t learn it from their parents, who only died because they didn’t have fear of Heaven? Or what if, becoming parents, they didn’t teach it to their children?
There are four situations under which an earthly court will let somebody off without punishment: mistake of the law or the facts; inattention; ignorance; and forgetting the law or the facts of the situation.
The fifth possibility is failure of due process. If the human court can’t convict via due process, they can’t punish the accused even if the disobedience was willful.
I believe Deuteronomy 4:10 uses uncertainty epistemics because there is one more way the accused might think he could get off, and that is, if he was not taught fear of Heaven. You can’t beat that into a kid; you have to set the example. You can make your kid letter-perfect in Torah and Talmud, but if you don’t obey the law, you can’t teach fear of Heaven, and your kid will try to skirt the law. It’s a form of willful transgression, but it’s not identical. Babylonian Talmud admits that Gd controls everything except Fear of Heaven.
Sounds like a recipe for chaos, right? Well, people have free will, and that free will is absolute. But there are consequences for everything people do, and with the Torah, they know what is prohibited and what can lead to the death penalty. So choose life. Deuteronomy 30:19.

Next week: uncertain or not, epistemics share one feature.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Outdoors -- the agitator

With all the rain we had early in the month, I had the chance to see a funny thing.

So within half an hour of an absolute downpour, a bird that had been flying through it to feed nestlings, plunked down in my bird bath and splashed around.

The rain had been sluicing off its feathers whenever it took a break, sitting on my fence.

Some of you might know the reason.

All I can figure is that the rain sluices OFF the feathers, it doesn't penetrate to where the pests are.
To get rid of the pests, the bird has to get into some water about halfway up to its back,
and then thrash around to get the water up under its feathers.

It's the difference between soaking clothes and putting them in a machine with an agitator.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, June 10, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- weak analogy

Why look at 17th dynasty depths for evidence of the Exodus at all? Why isn’t the 19th dynasty good enough?
There are two reasons. One is something the archaeologists have said and the other is a fallacy.
Some of the archaeologists who have worked at Tell el-Maskhuta say they’re pretty sure something happened that produced the story of the Exodus. They have support from a different field of study, but that comes at the end of this blog and they might not have known about it when the statement was made. At any rate, they are not accepting the false argument from silence because they know that without a complete dataset – which they know they will never have – they cannot absolutely rule it out. And they are the people who give a low probability that the 26th dynasty site of Pi-Tum historically hosted a city of similar population in the 19th dynasty.
The fallacy that goes with this is something called weak analogy.
The more like the facts your analogy looks, the more likely your analogy will help you with your proof. The converse is true for the period of Ramses II as the time of the Exodus.
·         The absence of a treasure city where Pi-Tum was known to have existed in the 26th dynasty;
·         The absence of reports of natural disturbances and mass emigrations;
·         The fact that Hapiru either doesn’t mean Hebrews, or the fact that the Hapiru were still living in Egypt all during the reign of Ramses II.
Now, you’re going to say that’s a false argument from silence and you’re right, but things stack up positively for the 17th dynasty.
·         The volcanic eruption and its geologic evidence in the capital of the Hyksos explaining some of the plagues;
·         The explanation of “the Pharaoh who knew not Joseph” when the Hyksos took over, ignoring previous history;
·         The fixed residential nature of part of Tell el-Maskhuta in the 17th dynasty;
·         The mass movement of the Hyksos out of Egypt;
·         The explanation of why the Israelites went southeast instead of northeast where they would have experienced war;
The end of Hyksos rule allows 5 centuries for development of a culture in the Holy Land that would produce the pigless hilltop settlements. The 19th dynasty barely gives Merneptah time to realize that there are Israelites living in the Holy Land.
Now you’re going to point me to Bronk, Ramsay, et al. who provided radiocarbon dates about some 37 pharaohs which buck the conventional dates. GOOD FOR YOU!!!
The radiocarbon dating pushes almost all pharaonic reigns earlier than the conventional dates; Ramses II began his reign about 20 years earlier than we thought. The start date for Ahmose I is 50 years before the conventional date, but 1570 is still 50 years after the pumice fell on Avaris due to the Thera explosion.
Nevertheless, the Tempest Papyrus produced in Ahmose’s reign records abnormal weather which might be associated with atmospheric disturbances relating to the explosion. Either Ahmose knew about this firsthand before he took the throne, or it’s a record of a tradition.
The Egyptians had no reliable history of their own pharaohs, except possibly the Turin king list of which Column 10, which covered the Hyksos period, is damaged. The Abydos inscription lists pharaohs up to Amenemhat IV, and then it skips from the 12th dynasty, completely over the Hyksos, to Ahmose I, founder of the 18th dynasty. It skips Akhenaten, Tutankhamen, and Ay. In other words the Abydos inscription says “these are the only legitimate pharaohs.”
We might find data that will close that 50-year gap.  I’m not going to wait for that miracle.  I’m going to point out that we don’t know how old Ahmose was when he re-united Egypt, we just know the best-established date of his first regnal year.  I suggest that the north experienced an interregnum while they tried to pick up the pieces of a shattered economy and deal with the usual outcomes: famine; epidemic; loss of trade and inability to import enough food to make up for the crop disasters. It might have just started to work when Ahmose decided not to allow the north any more time to recover; he attacked, and took it back, and saved himself tons of grief because some of the repairs had already been made and the workforce had already been re-stocked through  enslavement and reproduction.  (The Israelites were already in the Holy Land.)
Nevertheless, this all happened over a century before the dates that Bietak reported, and his extremely late dates cannot be accepted because he didn’t provide radiocarbon dating.  There is also evidence that the stratigraphy he relied on was badly done and attempts to reproduce his stratigraphic results have failed.
Next week I’ll give another example of a weak analogy that produced an urban legend about the Exodus. First I want you to read Numbers 22:2-24:25.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- the end of Deuteronomy 5:7

So we were looking at Deuteronomy 5:7 and I said that you have two uses of the imperfect because they represent pagan worship, no ifs ands buts or maybes.
כִּי אִם־כֹּה תַעֲשׂוּ לָהֶם מִזְבְּחֹתֵיהֶם תִּתֹּצוּ וּמַצֵּבֹתָם תְּשַׁבֵּרוּ וַאֲשֵׁירֵהֶם תְּגַדֵּעוּן וּפְסִילֵיהֶם תִּשְׂרְפוּן בָּאֵשׁ
The other two subjects are an asherah and a pesel.
An asherah is a live tree that was the target of pagan worship. But not every live tree was the object of pagan worship. What’s more, there’s a commandment NOT to cut down fruit trees that you didn’t plant because you can eat from them and they aren’t people to fight against you.
That’s why there’s an uncertainty epistemic. It might not be an asherah. If you don’t cut it down, and it turns out later that it was an asherah, you might not be in trouble because you might successfully plead ignorance, and ignorance is always an excuse under Jewish law.
A pesel is something man-made used in worship. You might remember the story in Judges 17 where Mikayahu gave some silver back to his mother and she had a pesel made. But the verse here says “their pesels.”
That’s why there’s an uncertainty epistemic. It might not be a pagan pesel. It might be a Jew’s pesel, and then you’re into a whole other can of worms because now you have to investigate whether this Jew is subject to the death penalty for pagan worship. But you can’t prove that without the pesel, so the person who finds the pesel might not be in trouble with the law for not destroying it.
(Does that remind you of a Danny Kaye routine?)
Now let’s go back to Avraham pleading for the cities of the plain. I want you to notice that what Gd says each time is a neder vow, a promise to perform or not to perform an act. Everybody has to keep their neder vows, with certain exceptions. One exception is that if the vow is wreaking havoc in the home or in society, the rabbis can get involved.  They question the guy who made the vow. If they can get him to a point where he says “If I had known that, I would never have made the vow,” then they can annul it and he doesn’t have to keep it.  Ignorance is an excuse in Jewish law.
Avraham using the uncertainty epistemic not only allows as how he doesn’t know how many righteous men are in the cities, it also lets Gd out of His vow if there aren’t that many people. Avraham trusts Gd to keep the vow, no matter what, but he’s letting Gd off because he, Avraham, is the one who is ignorant and he might have asked Gd to do something that shouldn’t be done.
And one more verse that shows how important the uncertainty epistemic is in Jewish  law.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Knitting -- leftovers

I haven't posted anything about this topic for a long time.

I've been using up the remains of old projects.
I had enough Perly Perle for sleeveless boleros in every color.

Don't throw leftovers out right away.
Especially if you overbought.
If the leftovers aren't enough for a pair of socks or gloves,
it might be enough for a spare sock or glove.

Another thing I did was granny squares, also known as American squares.
There are patterns on the web.
Multiple shades for a big shaded square.
Multiple colors for a multicolor square
or a patchwork of small squares.

They make nice splashes of color in a room.
They make nice foot warmers on a cold winter night.

I hear that warming your feet at night will help you get to sleep in winter.
I have trouble sleeping sometimes, so I'm all over that.
That's what I use my granny patchworks for.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, June 3, 2016

Fact-checking the Torah -- realistic expectations

The problem with the false argument from silence and the Exodus rests on a basic truth of archaeology.
Archaeologists cannot dig everywhere on the surface of the earth or for an unlimited distance below it.
They don’t have the time.  They don’t have the funding.  They can’t hold up agriculture or construction indefinitely so they can do their work.
So I believe it was William Albright who stated that archaeologists can only look where they think they’ll find something.
Since the finding of the Merneptah stele, the looking has only gone down to the 19th dynasty of Egypt.
But now that we know that Tell el-Maskhuta was not a treasure city in the 19th dynasty, and was inhabited in Hyksos times, we have to figure out should we look down to 17th dynasty levels in Goshen?
And here we run into the same problem as with Umm al-Bini.  We can’t get in there.  Egypt is very violent just now.  What’s more, it has sort of a dual personality.  While it realizes that most of its tourism comes from Pharaonic material, as a Muslim state it has severe scruples about hanging onto those remains and may ignore the economic benefit of the people working at archaeological digs due to the same scruples.  They’re a sovereign nation and they have every right to run their country that way.  The result is that it’s going to be a while before an archaeological expedition can get to Goshen and dig.  And no way am I going to recommend that some Indiana Jones wannabe go in and rob heritage sites in a sovereign nation. That’s bad archaeology as well as insulting on an international basis, and dangerously stupid.
And again, what are you going to look for?  It would be wonderful if the pigless trash dumps also exist in Goshen – but Goshen supposedly was about 2300 square kilometers in size and so where do you dig?
Or it would be nice to dig at Mt. Sinai where the Israelites lived for about 2 years while creating the tabernacle.  The location currently associated with Mt. Sinai is 37 kilometers around at the base.  And then what would you look for?
There’s a report from an archaeologist who went through Tell el-Maskhuta a few months after one season of digging ended, and the fresh wood used to block off the sand had already been consumed by insects.
So with the fragility of pottery and the edibility of wood, we’re left with stone and metal.  In spite of what I wrote some weeks ago about iron, the metal most likely to be found is bronze or brass.  Numbers 31:22 says that the Israelites were going to get other metals from the spoil of the Midianites, including iron and tin. 
Metal detectors don’t pick up brass or bronze so well, especially at 17th dynasty depths, and they have more trouble picking metal up in hot dry conditions like the ones the Sinai has now.
In other words, we’d love to do the work, but it’s going to be expensive and difficult both in terms of the work itself and in terms of the political and military situation.
But that’s no reason for accepting a false argument from silence.

Next week I'll demonstrate the other fallacy that makes trouble for archaeological claims.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Bit at at Time Bible Hebrew -- are you sure?

What’s the other epistemic?
Well, it’s an uncertainty epistemic. The speaker is allowing as how his statement might not work out due to missing information.
The format is imperfect verb ending in i for feminine, and u for masculine, followed by nun.  (OK, nun sofit.  There, are you happy?)
The best example is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Gd tells Avraham what’s about to happen and why, and Avraham feels like it’s not fair that everybody should die, good and bad.  So he starts off, what if there are 50 people who are good, will You destroy the cities then?  Gd says “No.”  “And what if five of the fifty are lacking?”  And the form he uses is yach’srun.  It starts in Genesis 18:28.
אוּלַי יַחְסְרוּן חֲמִשִּׁים הַצַּדִּיקִם חֲמִשָּׁה הֲתַשְׁחִית בַּחֲמִשָּׁה אֶת־כָּל־הָעִיר וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא אַשְׁחִית אִם־אֶמְצָא שָׁם אַרְבָּעִים וַחֲמִשָּׁה:
Avraham doesn’t know for sure there are 45 good people in the cities; he doesn’t know if there are any.  He’s using “lacks five” as an opening wedge to reduce the number.  He stops at 10.  (There’s a midrash for that.)  And then when he gets up the next morning, he sees that the cities have been destroyed.  He can see the smoke from where he is, miles to the west of where the cities were.  Well, he tried.
Another good example is in the “tree” story, see lesson 74 on Genesis 3:3-4.  The woman says “lest we die,” and uses this form.  She’s not sure she’ll die, or whether Adam will die at the same time she eats or what.  She’s never seen it happen.  The serpent also uses t’mutun, but he’s not sure he’s right about them not dying.  He too has never seen it happen. 
ג וּמִפְּרִי הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר בְּתוֹךְ־הַגָּן אָמַר אֱלֹהִים לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ וְלֹא תִגְּעוּ בּוֹ פֶּן תְּמֻתוּן:
ד וַיֹּאמֶר הַנָּחָשׁ אֶל־הָאִשָּׁה לֹא־מוֹת תְּמֻתוּן:
The speaker doesn’t know enough to be sure he’s right or that things will come out his way, so the nun epistemic has to be based on an imperfect verb.
Now let’s look at Deuteronomy 5:7 because it has a slam-bang impact on the understanding of the uncertainty epistemic that I need two posts to explain.
כִּי אִם־כֹּה תַעֲשׂוּ לָהֶם מִזְבְּחֹתֵיהֶם תִּתֹּצוּ וּמַצֵּבֹתָם תְּשַׁבֵּרוּ וַאֲשֵׁירֵהֶם תְּגַדֵּעוּן וּפְסִילֵיהֶם תִּשְׂרְפוּן בָּאֵשׁ
Read this several times and notice that it has two verbs in imperfect aspect in a future sense as well as the two uncertainty epistemics.  Now read it again and notice that there’s a different object for each verb.
The reason that’s important is that Jewish law treats each of the four situations differently. 
When you get to the Holy Land and see an altar, you know that it’s a pagan altar.   How?  Because you know from Genesis that in his own lifetime, Avraham had to rebuild an altar which he was the first to build.   Altars don’t necessarily last long.   People steal the stones for building.  So if you find an altar, it’s pagan, and you have to tear it down.
When you get to the Holy Land and see a matsevah, you know it’s a pagan matsevah.  How?  Because Yaaqov set up two on the east bank of the Yarden and the Holy Land is on the west bank.  Moshe set up twelve but that was at Mt. Sinai.  So if you find a matsevah, it’s pagan and you have to overthrow  it.
Next week I’ll get into the rest of the verse and then go on to the thing about epistemics that will really give you a headache.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Garden -- June 2016

NOW prune your azaleas.
OK, well, as soon as the blooms drop.
Finish by mid-July or you'll cut wood that would produce blooms next year.

NOT hydrangea.
They are getting ready to bloom -- if they survived the late frosts.

NOT sweet privet.
Mine is starting to bloom, the heavy sweet scent was everywhere yesterday.
That's going to be some good food for the bees over the next few weeks.
And we all want to feed our bees.
If you prune now, the bees already going after those blooms might sting you.
We don't want that.
So leave the privet alone.

You should be eating green peas and snow peas.
Your dark leafy greens are about to bolt.
So is your cilantro; ask me how I know.
Let them.
If you used open-pollinated seeds, you will get more greens next year from these.
Hybrids not so much.
Hybrids do not breed true.
The seeds for them have to be produced every year from the root stock.
If you are serious about sustainable gardening, you have to go back to open-pollinated seeds.
Luckily there are at least a couple of dozen sites that sell them.

Your warm veggies could have gone in the ground a week or two ago.
If you planted them before that in the DC region, you probably lost them to some of those late frosty nights.

Cut that grass -- three inches.
I still have ground ivy, in  shady areas. 
I am taking revenge by pulling it out and composting  it.
Next year or so, that will go right back on the garden.
Along with your shredded composted leaves from your trees.
I'm planning to ask a neighbor with oaks to let me have his leaves this autumn.
I'll do the raking.
Maybe he'll buy a clue and then I'll have to rake somewhere else.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved