Friday, September 30, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Qumran and the 6,000

You might think that at least Qumran would settle when the two Hebrew versions of Torah – the Samaritan, and the Jewish – existed and which is more accurate.
More statistics.
The canonical number of differences between Jewish Torah and Samaritan Pentateuch, which I’ve seen quoted in forums like Tabletmag, is 6000. In 6043 verses.
The question is, differences between what and what? The original count was done in the 1600s, based on Rev. Brian Walton’s Biblia Sacrorum or “London polyglot” which has both Samaritan Pentateuch and Samaritan Targum (in Neo-Babylonian).
In 1918, when Augustus Freiherr von Gall published his compendium, he compiled the texts of dozens of manuscripts, and they are not identical. He has a main compilation, but at the bottom there are footnotes showing variations and which of the manuscripts have them. 
Dr. Emanual Tov realized that the count done in the 1600s can no longer be considered accurate, although he doesn’t specify what was wrong with the first one, not in the book I read. He recommended using Zelig Metal’s 1979 work, which is now out of print but supposedly supported the count of 6,000. It is hard to see how Metal could enumerate them, because his work is a booklet of 80 pages and supposedly covers Talmud and midrash as well as Tannakh. Von Gall’s compendium is 436 pages long.
I have a project that compares Torah interlinearly with SP and other Samaritan material. There are 31 verses in the first chapter of Genesis. Out of that, 23 verses are identical between von Gall’s main compilation and Jewish Torah. But there are 13 textual differences that clump into 8 verses.
Von Gall’s footnotes show that 6 of the manuscripts he had access to, covering 7 of these 13 differences, do not agree with the main body in von Gall’s work. That’s more than half. I haven’t finished this project so I don’t know if this statistic holds up.
For 7 of the differences in Genesis 1, Qumran agrees with Jewish Torah. (It’s not all the same 7 on which the Samaritan manuscripts disagree with each other.) For the other 6, it does not provide any text.
The Qumran manuscripts are fragmented. The text that would come down on one side or another falls in the gaps.
I have been through the entire Torah and recorded what Qumran says about all the differences I found, and it’s a much worse situation than whether there are holes in the Qumran parchments. The Qumran text sometimes disagrees with BOTH Jewish Torah or Samaritan Pentateuch, even when these two modern versions agree. It may agree with one on one word in a verse and with the other on another word in the same verse.  There may be multiple fragments for a given verse, and each of the fragments may go a different way. 
And finally, there are parchments written in the “paleo” script, usually thought of as Samaritan, which agree with Jewish Torah in places where our two modern versions differ. There are also  parchments written in the “square” script still used in Jewish Torah scrolls, which agree with Samaritan Pentateuch in some places where our two modern versions differ.
If anybody ever makes up a grid to diagram all this, it will be as complicated as the fragments themselves.
Qumran is not going to settle anything There is too much variation in the texts, as well as too much fragmentation in the parchment.
So the 6,000 differences are a myth when you take all the Samaritan manuscripts into account. And Qumran isn’t going to settle anything because it doesn’t have text for everything. Another urban legend – or maybe two – bites the dust.

Or three.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- agentless, not passive

The agentless verb in Biblical Hebrew appears in both legal material and narratives. It lets us focus on the action and ignore the agent, in critical situations that may have deadly outcomes, and the type of verb tells us the role of the action in the law or the narrative.
Agentless verbs are rare and there’s a reason for that.
First, much of the material in Tannakh was transmitted orally for centuries or millennia. Up to the Babylonian Captivity, when it was put on record, Torah was transmitted orally in a population that was probably over 80% illiterate, so its narratives had to take a specific format that supports oral transmission.
When people transmit material orally, according to Axel Olrik, they tend to transmit action. The characters in the narratives reveal themselves through specific actions that delineate their natures and their roles in the narratives. So the majority of narrative material in Torah is going to use action-oriented verbs that relate to a specified agent – even if that agent’s name is not expressed in some of the verses.
Second, the situations in a legal code arise because of actions; it’s the purpose of the legal code to identify actions that society needs to deal with explicitly. The legal code prescribes actions that discourage or encourage whatever happened. Agentless structures capture definitions important to the legal code, and show that the law doesn’t care about the name of the individual performing the action or judging the case. But the actions that occur that invoke the law have to be performed by a specific entity – individual or collective – and that requires binyanim that take agents.
There’s an urban legend that “Hebrew was losing its passives over time”. You can now see that it’s not true.  What happened is that Hebrew transitioned from the Biblical form, which had the qual agentless binyan, to Mishnaic and Modern Hebrew which don’t.
The agentless binyanim in Biblical Hebrew had connotations that the passives in Mishnaic and Modern Hebrew don’t.
The agentless binyanim in Biblical Hebrew provide capsules of important issues both for narratives and legal material, something that passives don’t do in Mishnaic and Modern Hebrew.
Grammar is crucial to understanding a language because it encodes nuances that the bare words don’t convey, something I will soon go over in detail on the Fact-Checking page. The grammar of Biblical Hebrew is inseparably bound up with the culture in which it was used. While you try to understand Biblical Hebrew, you will keep coming up against places where you don’t understand why the grammar is what it is – unless you are deeply familiar with the culture.
The translation of a word is not its meaning, not just because no two languages have the same concepts, and can’t express alien concepts in one word, but also because no two languages have the same grammar.  Trying to pretend that grammar is universal by slapping labels from one language on a different language, is no way to understand the target language. The label is not the meaning of the grammar, and it does not necessarily relate to how the grammar functions.
If you’ve been having trouble learning Biblical Hebrew, it’s probably because you’ve been forced into a labeling system that doesn’t have anything to do with the nuances of meaning that the grammar embodies. 
Hopefully I’m giving you the key to really understand Biblical Hebrew.

And now to fill in a gap.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 25, 2016

DIY -- care for bleeding wounds

So a couple of weeks ago I wrote about using castile soap on a bleeding injury.
Some of you freaked because I didn't use an anti-bacterial soap.
Then I explained to you that the FDA has banned 19 ingredients in those soaps.
That's because the ingredients don't produce better results than plain soap.
They also are implicated in harm to the human body.

Meanwhile, using castile soap on the injury did not cause pain.
That's important because castile soap is a real lye-containing soap and you would think it would  hurt.

Later in the day when the bleeding had stopped, I applied an aloe-based ointment to it.
I have been using this same mixture of
aloe, lavender essential oil, and olive oil infused with comfrey,
on my skin for over a year now.

The new scrape is clearing up beautifully with the aloe treatment.
I think I might end up with not even a scar.
That's important because I still have 50-year-old scars on my knees from falling off my bike when I was a kid, and surgical scars more than 20 years old.

This is only anecdotal evidence, not a clinical study.
But  aloe has  been known for centuries to be good for skin.
And comfrey is the natural source of the allantoin you find in commercial skin care products.

The difference, however, is the other chemicals in the commercial products.
One is propylene glycol, an ingredient in anti-freeze for your car radiator.
Here is a list of products containing propylene glycol:

Ugh.  I don't use any of these.
The Crest that I use on my teeth is not on this list.
The Ivory soap (bar) that I use is not on this list.
The Aveeno calamine lotion that I have used (no longer, I have other treatments) is not on this list.
Haven't worn makeup in decades.
I use an herbal mix for hair cleaner.
I make my own ranch dressing.

Propylene glycol can make your pets sick.
My niece's dog once had severe -- um -- dirt problems and I suggested he had gotten hold of some cosmetics.  She  agreed.
So I don't see why you would use the pet products in this list.

Just one more step in telling manufacturers that we don't like being guinea pigs
just because their chemists have come up with something new
and they want to profit from the salaries that they paid the chemists.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Septuagint and Qumran

As you will see if you look at the bibliography, the DJD work was edited by Dr. Emanuel Tov.  He has also published his own studies of the scrolls and I want to call out one of them for a number of reasons.
The first reason is that when I was googling around for material on the Greek fragments found at Qumran – and it took several iterations of different searches – I came across Dr. Tov’s article.  A first reading seemed to show it was more detailed and so I read it carefully.
The article evaluates several Greek fragments from Qumran as “close” to Septuagint.  Both Dr. Tov and scholars to whom he refers were excited to find such material.   The article fails, however, to quantify some important information and that is the second reason.
One piece of information it does quantify is that 7 books of Torah have Greek fragments at Qumran.  It’s not clear whether that is in addition to the 225 scrolls I mentioned last week or among the 225, but it is not a large number.   It suggests that the Qumranists were not interested enough in Greek to collect Greek versions of all the books of the Tannakh.
The fragments are from Jeremiah, Psalms, Numbers, Samuel, Deuteronomy, Exodus and Leviticus.  That doesn’t allow a comprehensive conclusion even for Torah.
Tov reports that these 7 scrolls are not whole but fragmentary.  He does not quantify the amount of fragmentation.  Fragments of Qumran Greek cannot support the categorical urban legend that Qumran proves Septuagint is closer than the Masoretic text, to the Hebrew.   Too much material from Tannakh is  missing.  That’s the third reason this article was important.
Tov admits that in places the Qumran Greek texts disagree with Septuagint.  He doesn’t quantify this either, but it shows that the Septuagint was not the only Greek version around at the time.  It suggests that Septuagint did not eclipse all other Greek works about Jewish scripture from before 100 BCE.
Tov does say that the scholars who have worked on the issue give no objective definition for what they mean by “close” and neither does he say what he means by it.  Without that objective definition, and without quantification, we have no idea how close “close” is to the modern Septuagint, and so there’s no validity to the urban legend that Qumran shows that Septuagint is close to the Masoretic Hebrew we now have.
After I found Dr. Eugene Ulrich’s book on Qumran Hebrew texts online, I emailed him and asked if there was (or was going to be) something similar to his book for the Greek from Qumran.  He basically said that there would be no book, because the fragments of Greek are not large enough or numerous enough to justify an entire book.  Long journal articles, maybe.  People interested in the subject and issues are better off going to the Leon Levy archive website and studying the Greek fragments in the photos there, than waiting for those articles, let alone a book.
Qumran is never going to prove anything about Septuagint as a whole.  It won’t even prove anything about Septuagint in part, because there is too little Greek material and what relates to Jewish scripture does not all come from Septuagint.
But there is one thing you still might think Qumran would settle, since it contains a lot of material in Hebrew.  And that is for next week.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- are we there yet?

When Biblical Hebrew needs an agentless statement, it has several options, but each of them has a specific meaning.  Nifal reports legal decrees.  Qual reports unexpected or counter-intuitive legal situations, and narrative incidents with important consequences.  Hufal is used for legal definitions which imply that a court will rule a certain way or, in narratives, official or customary actions.
There’s one more agentless binyan I haven’t talked about, and I left it for last because it is the least common, and I didn’t get much of a clue to it until I had thoroughly worked over Leviticus.
When Yosef is talking to Paro, he says this:
כִּי־גֻנֹּב גֻּנַּבְתִּי מֵאֶרֶץ הָעִבְרִים וְגַם־פֹּה לֹא־עָשִׂיתִי מְאוּמָה כִּי־שָׂמוּ אֹתִי בַּבּוֹר:
That’s a duplicate unconditional using the pual. Yosef is telling a story. This is a climactic point in the story, but by no means the end; if the kidnapping had been the end of the whole narrative, Yosef would not be talking to Paro’s chief butler in jail now. But there’s more to it in two ways.
One is that the kidnapping is not the central issue of the narrative. It was crucial to the situation, but using the pual says “but wait, there’s more” that is required to get to the real point of the narrative.
Because it is used in a duplicate unconditional, it also cuts off a consequence in Jewish law. Yosef was 17 years old and legally an adult and nobody but him or a Jewish court has a right to take out an exclusive services contract on him. Yosef is saying that  he’s not working in the jail because he was contracted out by a court, which can happen if he committed a theft but couldn’t make restitution. He’s there because somebody else committed a crime – the capital crime of kidnapping for sale – BUT the pual also means he doesn’t have the evidence to convict. And anyway, that’s not what the narrative is about; it’s about saving Egypt from starving.
There’s another example in Genesis that shows what I mean even better.
 וַיְכֻלּוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ וְכָל־צְבָאָם:
You can see that the verb is in imperfect aspect, and in fact it’s the narrative past. The point of it being in pual is that while the material part of creation is finished, one more thing has to happen. What is it? Shabbat. The pual points out that while it feels like we’re finished, and the verb says “they were finished,” nothing is finished until Shabbat exists. (There’s a midrash for that.)
All the same, while the point of the story is establishing Shabbat, that wouldn’t mean much if there was no material creation including people, and so this verse is not a throw-away.
When it comes to laws, pual has a different role. Here’s one example, Leviticus 27:26.
אַךְ־בְּכוֹר אֲשֶׁר יְבֻכַּר לַיהוָֹה בִּבְהֵמָה לֹא־יַקְדִּישׁ אִישׁ אֹתוֹ אִם־שׁוֹר אִם־שֶׂה לַיהוָֹה הוּא:
“BUT a firstborn that y’vukar…” Now, if it’s a firstborn, why would it use pual?
The pual in laws is on the road to being a hufal. There’s a stopping point for a discussion about whether it really is a firstborn that qualifies for the consequences. Mishnah Bekhorot chapter 1 is all about the situations that disqualify it. If it falls into one of those classes, it isn’t treated as a firstborn no matter how much evidence exists that the dam never gave birth before.
And so everything works out. These forms don’t show up where they show up just for variety. They each have a special application. They make us stop and pay attention, in the legal sense all the more so as there are consequences to acting hastily with incomplete facts. Some of the consequences are deadly, as you saw with mot yumat. 

Just as aspectless verbs have a reason for being, so do agentless verbs.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Outdoors -- newbie

So there's a new kid in town.  The horizontal white thing in the middle of this shot is the sign for the court where my townhouse is.

Zoom in on it if you can, and you'll see my mockingbird sitting on it.  I got like 7 pictures which was surprising.
This is a shy bird and in past years I haven't noticed mockingbirds being shy.
It's also a quiet bird.
Maybe it's a female, or an adolescent who hasn't started vocalizing yet.

It's sitting here  because the tree on the right is a holly and mockingbirds tend to build their turfs around a holly tree.
Also because on the other side of the green fence under the sign, there are two ginormous pokeweed plants.
I've seen this bird getting berries off the pokeweed, and chasing away other birds.

As you can tell, I'm not good with a camera.  I'll try to get better at it.
One thing you won't get a lot of this season, though, is autumn color.
We haven't had a decent rain in 3-4 weeks so this year's color in my town is going to be pretty sad.
I'm not planning a drive out to the  Alleghenies just for shots of autumn leaves, you can find those anywhere online.
But nobody else is posting shots of my birds.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- why are we here?

It’s that “except for Esther” thing.  Reports on the finds at Qumran say that it contains basically the Tannakh, except Esther.  The urban legend that has been repeated to me is that Qumran confirms Septuagint.
Qumran was founded by ultra-conservative Jews.  They documented their reason for establishing themselves at the site.  They gave 20 specific ritual disagreements with mainstream Judaism of the time.  One of them is exactly the Sadducean position cited in Mishnah Yadaim 4:7.
The Tsadokites founded Qumran and then they wrote something called the Temple Scroll.  This scroll organizes Jewish law by subject.  The language in it reflects the time when the Hasmoneans were first consolidating their power, taking on the high priesthood as well as the kingship in the person of Jonathan, brother of Judah Maccabi, about 150 BCE.  The Tsadokites objected because this removed the priesthood from the descendants of Tsadok.  (Tsadok was high priest during King David’s reign and anointed Shlomo as David’s successor.)  The 150 BCE timing agrees with carbon-14 dating performed on material from Qumran and also with analysis of the lettering.
The urban legend is that the Septuagint found at Qumran is close to the Hebrew found at Qumran, closer than the Masoretic text is.
Let’s get some statistics, like I did with the Masoretic annotation.  There are some 981 scrolls known from Qumran.  225 of them are books found in the Tannakh, and there are multiple copies of 13 of the books of the Tannakh, including some of the “minor prophets” like Amos and Hoshea.  So lots of the scrolls at Qumran are not Jewish scripture.
Between 1950 and 1992, a limited number of people had access to the material in the scrolls, either curating the manuscripts or preparing the first publication, Discoveries in the Judean Desert.  It was completed about 2009.  Each volume costs hundreds of dollars, shutting out access for everybody except patrons of libraries with the right funding level.
Up to about 1990, the scholars who published claims about Qumran, based on access to the scrolls, could not be refuted except  by people who had access to the bare data, and that is not how science works.  Science relies on providing access to the data as well as the method.
All this has changed.  The millennium and the Internet provided new ways of dealing with the fragments for the masses to evaluate the scholarly work to that point.  And the evaluation has barely begun as I will discuss next week.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- it's not nifal

So Biblical Hebrew has several ways of forming agentless statements and when it deals  with a legal decree or ruling, it uses nifal.  In Modern Hebrew, nifal is the “passive” of the qal with no such connotation.   Biblical  Hebrew also has what I call qual and which some resources call qal internal passive.  If languages never create or maintain morphology without a reason, what does qual do that nifal can’t?
The qual points to consequences. L’shet yulad a son; the consequence is that human life goes on after the flood, because Noach is descended from Shet. Sarah tuqach to Paro’s house; the consequence is that his house is plagued and Sarah is given back so she can go on and give birth to Yitschaq. L’noami yulad a son; the consequence is the birth of King David.
By the way, I just gave you two of the cases where the logical subject is in a prepositional phrase.  The logical subject is not the agent of the verb.  Shet’s wife is the agent in one case, and Rut – not Naomi – is the agent in the other case.
In legal material, a qual notifies the audience that the law has an unexpected or counterintuitive consequence. To show what I mean, I’ll ring the changes on the agentless binyanim. See Exodus 21:29-31.
כט וְאִם שׁוֹר נַגָּח הוּא מִתְּמֹל שִׁלְשֹׁם וְהוּעַד בִּבְעָלָיו וְלֹא יִשְׁמְרֶנּוּ וְהֵמִית אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה הַשּׁוֹר יִסָּקֵל וְגַם־בְּעָלָיו יוּמָת:
ל אִם־כֹּפֶר יוּשַׁת עָלָיו וְנָתַן פִּדְיֹן נַפְשׁוֹ כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר־יוּשַׁת עָלָיו:
לא אוֹ־בֵן יִגָּח אוֹ־בַת יִגָּח כַּמִּשְׁפָּט הַזֶּה יֵעָשֶׂה לּוֹ:
In verse 29, a dangerous ox kills somebody; the term huad is a hufal in perfect aspect. It’s a legal definition of the ox’s status as “dangerous” (because it gored two days in a row) and uses the  perfect aspect because the conditions have been completely fulfilled. The owner has been given notice of this status (presumably by an official source authorized to do so).
The owner doesn’t guard it properly, and it kills somebody so the ox is stoned. This is nifal imperfect.   It’s the legal sentence imposed (presumably by an earthly court which is the only possible authority) to prevent the ox from killing again.  This is not a narrative past; it is a future use of the imperfect aspect.
The last word of the verse is yumat, another hufal definition. The owner is “a dead man” according to legal definition BUT this is not a capital crime so there’s no duplicate conditional.  This time the hufal is in the imperfect aspect.  I have a feeling this is there to get the audience’s attention because of its relationship to the death penalty, mot yumat.
In verse 30, we have yushat twice. This is qual and it is the imperfect aspect. Since the owner is now legally defined as a “dead man”, you might think he could be liable to the death penalty. In fact, counterintuitively, he is fined (presumably by an earthly court). The fine isn’t compensation for the death of whatever the ox gored. It’s redemption for the owner.
Verse 31 has the nifal yeaseh. This is another legal ruling. The fine is a dead end. The owner of the ox is not subject to capital punishment. The parents of the dead boy or girl cannot appeal to a court of 23 and get a death penalty, using the grounds that this was not an adult who was responsible for his or her own safety, but a child.
From what I just said, you can better understand the phrase mot yumat, the duplicate conditional. Yumat is a hufal legal definition: somebody is “a dead man”, he ought to die for what he has done. You also know that the aspectless mot functions as a command. You have to use it because in the situations where it applies, you are commanding somebody to look into using the death penalty. Verse 29 is not and never can be a command to investigate whether the death penalty applies.

One more agentless banyan to go.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 12, 2016

Garden -- September 2016

I know, I'm late.  I had other fish to fry.

Toward the  bottom of this article  is what you should be doing to your veggies now.

Make sure you have some paper bags and apples.
With  your green tomatoes, make picallily  or fried green tomatoes or chow chow.
When you're tired of those, bag the tomatoes with an apple in each bag.
As the apple wrinkles, the tomatoes will ripen.
Check every few days and take out the ripe ones.

AFAICT you shouldn't be pruning anything  now.
Unless you want to cut off tree branches that got fall webworm.
Like my mulberry.
When I saw the gauze,  I didn't freak.
I did some research on the  Internet.
I found out almost right away that gypsy moth don't like mulberry, so it wasn't that.
Mike McGrath told me gypsy moth spin  gauze in the spring and what I had was fall webworm.
I left it alone, and my blue jay was eying it, probably drooling over the possibility of some nice fat grubs.

We're in a drought and I'm leaving my grass alone.
It's all curled up to retain moisture and I want it to shade its roots so they don't burn.

I'm pulling out Korean dill (or mint, I'm not sure which it is any more) and chicory.
They are spent for the  year.

My morning glories, however, are gorgeous.

And the bees are  now showing  up in the morning before the glories close and gettin' some.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- {{who?}}

I am not alone in calling the Septuagint a bad translation. 
When Jerome did his Latin (Vulgate) translation starting in the late 300s CE, he started with the prophetical books in Septuagint.  By the time he finished, he realized that the Septuagint didn’t reflect the Hebrew well.  He did Psalms next; actually he did two translations of Psalms, one from Septuagint and one from Hebrew.  They are different.  So at the end, when Jerome translated Torah, he gave up on Septuagint as a source and translated directly from the Hebrew.
In the 1500s CE when Calvinists translated the Bible into French and English, they started with the Hebrew instead of the Greek, except for Christian scripture.
In the 1600s CE when James I of England commissioned a new translation of the Tannakh, he insisted that the translators ignore Septuagint and translate directly from Hebrew.
In 1994 when the American Catholic Bishops commissioned a new English Bible translation, one thing that happened was a change to Isaiah 7:14 that the King James scholars didn’t make.  Previously this verse was translated according to Septuagint, which uses parthene, “virgin” to translate Hebrew almah.  The Hebrew does not mean a technical virgin; that is betulah.  A priest must marry a betulah under Jewish law.  The fact that an almah might not be a virgin flows from Proverbs 30:19 where it gives a list of four things that leave no trace, including “the way of a man in an almah.”  For a man to have sex with a virgin does leave traces, eliminating her tokens of virginity, the subject of Deuteronomy 22 that I cited before.  But not when a man has sex with a non-virgin. 
The only excuse for Septuagint to use parthene in Isaiah 7:14 comes from a mistranslation in Genesis 34:1-5 where it calls Dinah a parthene after Shchem rapes her.  That’s a physical impossibility if parthene meant what we call “a technical virgin”, one who still has her “tokens of virginity.”  If it didn’t have that meaning in Septuagint times, two things fall out.  The translation of Isaiah 7:14 can be correct.  Also by 100 CE, three centuries later, the meaning had changed so that it did mean technical virgin. 
So when Matthew 1:18 copied the concept from Septuagint’s Isaiah, it ended up shaping Christian doctrine about the virgin birth but it didn’t represent the Hebrew of Isaiah 7:14 and it might have misunderstood what the Septuagint translators meant.
The change to the American English Catholic Bible eliminates the virgin birth except as a direct derivation from a translation.  And it admits that the translation does not accurately translate the Hebrew of Tannakh.
I think the Septuagint translators were people who didn’t consider Tannakh as holy but as a political tool, and they didn’t worry about perfect precision in their translation.
We know that Torah and most of Tannakh, existed in writing by the time Ptolemy I and II ordered the Greek translation, except possibly Esther.  And that leads to another urban legend.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- the passive Hebrew never got rid of

So if you haven’t given  up on me for messing with your head, you are here because you agree that Biblical Hebrew doesn’t  have “passive” verbs, it has binyanim that are used in agentless statements.
You are familiar with the names of three of them: nifal; pual; and hufal.  I have coined the name qual for the fourth agentless binyan.
Before I go on, I want to take care of those of you who are bouncing in your seats waving your hands in the air because I know what you want to tell me. The “passive” of qal is nifal.
That’s true in Modern Hebrew, but Modern Hebrew has dropped the qual and the connotations  that agentless verbs have in Biblical Hebrew. What you’re reading is a lesson about Biblical Hebrew, where the qual is alive and well, so to speak.
But since you are more familiar with the nifal, I’ll get it out of the way. Nifal has the connotation of something that happens because of a legal decision. See Genesis 17:14:
וְעָרֵל זָכָר אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יִמּוֹל אֶת־בְּשַׂר עָרְלָתוֹ וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מֵעַמֶּיהָ אֶת־בְּרִיתִי הֵפַר:
The term nikhr’tah ha-nefesh is a punishment at the Hands of Heaven called keret. It means all your descendants dying while you are still alive. The nifal in any context tells the audience that a legal decision applies in the given situation.  The agent in  a nifal can be understood as Gd or an earthly court, depending on the issue addressed by the ruling.  In the case of nikhr’tah ha-nefesh, it’s Gd.
The history of nifal is that every Semitic language has a comparable form with “n” in the prefix; in Arabic it’s Form VII and in Quranic Arabic it means submitting to a decree. Except Aramaic (Neo-Babylonian). It can make agentless statements, but it doesn’t have a form that takes “n” in the prefix or that only refers to legal rulings. I never looked into why that would be. There’s a doctoral dissertation in that for somebody, I’m sure.
My position is that languages don’t invent word forms for no reason, or preserve them when they have no use any more. So there has to be a reason why Biblical Hebrew has both nifal and qual, when Akkadian has no qual (as far as the fragments go) and Aramaic (Neo-Babylonian) has no nifal. Why do we find qual in Torah which also uses nifal?
That’s for  next week.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 4, 2016

DIY -- anti-bacterial nonsense

So Friday I tripped, fell on my concrete walk, scraped my knees, and bled some.
Did I pull out an anti-bacterial soap?
I did not.
I washed with castile soap and rinsed carefully.
The FDA agrees with me.

Anything you use on your hands gets into your body through the pores.
This has been known for years.
Doctors who use hand sanitizers have been testing positive for alcohol in the bloodstream.

I highly recommend that you go through everything in your house that you get on your hands when you use it.
Check the ingredients against the list in the first article.
Throw out everything that has one of those ingredients.

Do you have anything left to wash with?
Are you freaking out because you think bar soap has too much bacteria on it?
Child, how often do you throw out your toothbrush?
You think there aren't bacteria on that?

If you are worried about antibiotics in food causing problems with health care,
you now have to look into the mirror.
If you have fallen for the sales pitch about anti-bacterial ANY house or body product,
YOU are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Stop being hysterical.
Stop buying products that breed super bacteria that can't be killed.
And read this last article.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 2, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- understanding what you're saying

So the Septuagint could have been done by somebody reading the Hebrew from a written scroll – or rather scrolls, since the rest of Tannakh is not recorded on a Torah scroll and would have been written on separate scrolls. But there’s one more issue which complicates the question.
There are just over 6000 verses in Torah. Only 5% of them were marked up by the Masoretic scholars as having the wrong vowels, and the notes give the correct vowels. What does that mean?
The Masoretic scholars usually get credit for inventing the system of marks used to represent vowels in Biblical Hebrew. If they invented them, how did they get written versions that varied in how the vowels were used?
Go back to something I already said. There are four ways to represent an “a” sound in Biblical Hebrew vowels. Their use is not arbitrary. The grammar controls which one goes where. It has to do with the letter they are used with, the grammatical assignment of the word – such as noun or verb – the root class to which a verb belongs, the verb binyan, verb aspect (not tense, not in Biblical Hebrew), verb person number and gender.
That’s right. In Biblical Hebrew a verb is classified six ways from Sunday (sorry) and each of them plays a role in the vowel signs used when writing the verb out in context. The Masoretic scholars knew what vowels were required to record meaning correctly. They had various texts which differed from the rules, and noted the correct usage in footnotes of a text that had incorrect usage.
But the writing is only a representation of the spoken language, and it developed after  -- sometimes centuries after -- the spoken language.  People know what they're saying and what they mean as soon as they start talking. 

The Septuagint translators (or transcribers) could not have gotten the construct state 100% wrong if they understood Hebrew. 

A much-praised scholar named Deissmann did the initial work with papyri newly found in Egypt in the late 1800s (not the Nag Hammadi papyri, they weren’t found until 1945).    He helped bust the urban legend that koine was a dialect of Jews in Alexandria; the find he studied showed that koine was the language of the entire empire of Alexander and dealt with all kinds of humdrum issues  like business letters, wills, etc. 
He also addressed whether the Septuagint translators started with a Hebrew version that was much different from what the Masoretic scholars had. His conclusion, at the turn of the 20th century, was definitely NO, the version they used in the 200s BCE was not much different from the one handed to the Masoretic scholars in the 600s CE. He could show that the Septuagint translation catered to Greek usage at the time, and if it seems out of line with either the Masoretic text or the cultural interpretation, that’s because the translators weren’t trying so much to reproduce the Hebrew as to let Greek speakers understand the results.
Yeah, that went well. 
I am not alone in calling the Septuagint a bad translation. That’s for next week.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- "getting rid of passives"

Slight change but it’s a good thing.  If you want to review these lessons, I’ve made it a bit easier.  Go back  to the  first post about Dr. Cook’s dissertation.
At the bottom of each post there is now a  link to the next one.

About January 2015 I started chasing a verbal form called the internal passive. It started because a scholar named Schorch, who specializes in Samaritan literature, tried to claim that it involved what I had just learned was the narrative past.
This is another subject where learning Arabic exploded what all my sources on Hebrew were teaching me. So here we go for another roller coaster ride.
In Biblical Hebrew, there are seven binyanim.  The qal, piel, and hifil get labeled as “active”, while three binyanim with “oo” as the vowel in the first syllable get labeled “passive”. This is different from a past participle, which has “oo” in the second syllable.
Translations have shoehorned onto them the label “passive”, a form that appears in Greek, Latin, French and so on. And so most grammars of Hebrew, both Biblical and otherwise, call these “the passive of X” where X  is one of the “active” binyanim.
I need to change the dialogue here and I have good reasons to do so that will help you, not only with Biblical Hebrew, but also with Arabic if you ever decide to learn it.
What Biblical Hebrew and Quranic Arabic both need sometimes is “agentless” statements.  Sometimes the agent is understood.  The verb can’t happen if Gd doesn’t take action.  In other cases the verb is part of a narrative and the agent is named elsewhere in the narrative. In half a dozen cases, the logical subject is given in a prepositional phrase but he (in one case she) isn’t the actual agent.
In legal material, use of an “agentless” structure identifies that it doesn’t matter who the agent is, the verb applies  to him, her, them, etc. no matter who they are. The law applies  to everybody.  The  agentless binyanim let us ignore issues like age or nonage, male or female, individual or group. 
They also let us ignore who issued the decree or made the determination. The appropriate authority may be identified in another part of the legal code and once somebody is part of that authority, who they are doesn’t make a difference in whether the law has to be carried out or not. 

That’s important in a culture that lasts for decades, centuries, or millennia.
It's also more of that both-ways-looking thing I’ve been talking about.
The most important thing to understand, is that at least two of these binyanim show up in Biblical Hebrew as a direct inheritance from proto-Semitic, and they have cognate forms in all the other ancient Semitic languages (with sort of one exception that I might get around to and might not). 
If the others haven’t been detected in other ancient Semitic languages, it’s probably because  their grammar books are morphological and not functional in nature.
I want you to absorb all that and I’ll get into specifics next week.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved