Friday, March 24, 2017

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Orality of Torah

There’s another reason why I believe Torah originated orally, or rather there are two interconnecting reasons.
First, we know that Hebrew didn’t have a writing system until some centuries before 800 BCE, the date of the oldest confirmed Hebrew writing.  I said long ago that cultura non facit saltus, so there had to be generations or centuries of development before 800 BCE and the first recognizably Hebrew written text.
But as I said a long time ago, the northwest Semitic languages began to break away from Akkadian by 2000 BCE.   That’s at least a 1000-year gap from speaking a Semitic language that was incomprehensible in Sumero-Akkad, to a Hebrew language that also had a writing system.
In the interim, we have two mileposts.  We know that Hebrew writing developed out of one form of the Ugaritic syllabary, itself an adaptation of Akkadian cuneiform to a western Semitic language.  Ugarit was destroyed not long after 1200 BCE by the Sea Peoples.  The generations of adaptation that produced the Hebrew syllabary had to precede that.  Luckily we know that the Israelites spent centuries in the Holy Land before then, providing the time for development.
By 1100 BCE we have evidence in the hilltop settlements that there was indeed a separate Israelite culture that not only differed from the lowland K’naani culture, but deliberately held itself aloof, and that culture had at least one common feature throughout its settlements.  That implies a system of laws.
The Israelites might have had a syllabary for writing those laws down, but archaeology has not found samples of them yet.  Because the hilltop settlements were built on bare ground and not tells, and because of the evidence of isolation represented by the pottery, there’s no chance of confusing such samples with other cultures of the time.  They would be a marvelous find – but we haven’t found them as far as I know (March 2017).
Humans have had language for dozens of thousands of years and writing only for thousands.  In the interim, they had to communicate their laws somehow.  Before the Jews had a writing system, their ancestors had to transmit laws orally, not in writing.  And they had to do it in their own language because by rules 1 and 2 of SWLT, no other language could catch the nuances of their culture.
And I just hinted at the other reason why Israelites had to transmit their laws orally.  That’s for next week.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Thursday, March 23, 2017

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- Construct State

Genesis 1:2.
 
ב וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחשֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵי תְהוֹם וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם:
 
Translation:     The earth was empty and chaotic and dark above the depths; a spirit of Gd was wafting back and forth above the water.
 
Vocabulary in this lesson:
 
הָיְתָה
was (f.s.)
תֹהוּ
empty
בֹהוּ
chaotic
חשֶׁךְ
dark, darkness
עַל
on, over, above
תְהוֹם
depths
רוּחַ
spirit, wind
מְרַחֶפֶת
waft, 3rd f. s., piel form (repetitive)
עַל־פְּנֵי
above
פְּנֵי
face, construct state, masculine plural
 
All right, here’s the table for the construct state. Masculine and feminine nouns work differently and I’m going to give you both.
 
indefinite
construct
Person/gender
בֵּן
בֵּן
Masculine singular
בָּנים
בְּנֵי
Masculine plural
 
 
 
פָּרָה
פָּרַת
Feminine singular
פָּרוֹת
פָּרוֹת
Feminine plural
 
Notice the change in the feminine singular and the masculine plural construct.
 
I’m going to stop here so that you have a week to memorize this table. You will see forms like this over and over again and I refuse to rush you.
 
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Saturday, March 18, 2017

LOUD, PROUD AND 60!

(keyn ahora as we say in the Tribe)

Yes, that is a six not a five, six zero, sixty!

WOOOOHOOOOO!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Oral tradition of Jewish literature

The reason that Talmud is known as Torah she-b’al-peh meaning Oral Torah, is because up until the time of Rabbi Judah the Prince, it was transmitted orally.  Individual students might make written notes; that was permitted as a reminder.  (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 6b, including Rashi’s note.)  But study and usage were oral, either in class or in action in the courtroom.

The components of Talmud are two: Mishnah, the post-Torah records of information needed to run Jewish culture; and Gemara, supplemental material from oral discussions and courtroom decisions.  There are two sets of Gemara, one developed in Babylonia and the other developed in the Holy Land.
The Mishnah plus Gemara from the Holy Land is called Jerusalem Talmud.  There  are 1700 numbered pages in the classic edition.
The Mishnah plus Gemara from Babylonia is called Babylonian Talmud.  There are 2700 numbered pages in the classic edition.
You’re going to object that Talmud breaks the rule as an oral communication because it is lengthy.  But don’t forget the fact that written material tends to be linearly organized, such as by subject.  Talmud is hard for most people to understand because its organization is associative.  The rule of association is personal to the people who transmitted it and relates to the particular subject under discussion, how the discussion got started, and the purpose for discussing it. 
Everybody who tries to understand Talmud has to put in a lot of work.  None of them were there when the discussion got started, some of them don’t live in a subculture which applies Talmud, and some people take up the study without a solid grasp on the underpinnings of Talmud in Torah and Mishnah.  Plus there’s a habit of trying to relate to it through translations instead of primary documents.
Now you’re going to object that Gemara is a commentary.  The answer is, it’s an in-culture commentary, developed specifically to clarify Mishnah, which is a commentary itself. 
Mishnah developed specifically to clarify the law in Torah, and to supplement it since experience in the courtroom showed that the Torah had gaps of information needed to decide court cases and teach courtroom procedure.
Those gaps occurred because Torah itself was an oral communication.  Oral communications suffer from problems with human memory; we easily forget what we don’t use on a regular basis.  Gd, being omniscient, would have known better than to try and tell the Israelites everything they would need to know in future millennia, because they would have forgotten what they didn’t use and didn’t understand, and they would have to recreate it anyway once they did need it.  Telling them that it was illegal to start a car on Shabbat would never have survived the millennia between establishment of Shabbat and invention of the car.  Even in writing – remember those lost Greek works? – it might have disappeared or – remember the Bamian statues? – been destroyed.
Torah law is much shorter and simpler than Talmud, but it has the gaps of information typical of orally transmitted material, and it also has an associative organization, the rule for which we do not know because the rule was not recorded at the time or passed along.  (I’ll take a guess at it at the end of this blog based on the statement of a rabbi which he made in audio lectures on Talmud.)
There are two reasons why things don’t get recorded.  One is that nobody records great secrets because they can get into unauthorized hands through carelessness or deliberate stealing.  The other reason is that nobody records things that are common knowledge.  Nobody imagines that they might be forgotten.
Things that were common knowledge, when the ancestors of the Jews began using Torah, dropped out of communications because they need not be said.  Once they dropped out of communications, it was a matter of time until they dropped out of memory.  When a case came into court where such information would have been useful, it was gone.  Then the court had to create a ruling that supplemented whatever they knew.  Torah explicitly permits this in Deuteronomy 17:8-12. 
Torah has gaps and an associative structure.  Because it is like Talmud in this way, I believe that its origin is oral, not written.  But wait, there's more.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Thursday, March 16, 2017

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- Construct State intro

Genesis 1:2.
 
ב וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחשֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵי תְהוֹם וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם:
 
Transliteration: V’ha-arets haitah tohu va-vohu v’choshekh al-p’nei t’hom v’ruach elohim m’rachefet al-p’nei ha-maim.
Translation:     The earth was empty and chaotic and dark above the depths and a spirit of Gd was wafting back and forth above the water.
 
Vocabulary in this lesson:
 
הָיְתָה
was (f.s.)
תֹהוּ
empty
בֹהוּ
chaotic
חשֶׁךְ
dark, darkness
עַל
on, over, above
תְהוֹם
depths
רוּחַ
spirit, wind
מְרַחֶפֶת
waft, 3rd f. s., piel form (repetitive)
עַל־פְּנֵי
above
פְּנֵי
face, construct state, masculine plural
 
The next thing to notice in this verse is the phrase tohu va-vohu. You can use “and” here because of the clear conjunctive relationship between the nouns.
 
The only other time this phrase occurs in the Jewish Bible is Jeremiah 4:23. The material in Jeremiah is from just before the Babylonian Captivity of the middle 500s BCE.
 
And the grammar point: p’ney t’hom and p’ney ha-maim.  You have to get this absolutely straight because  you will see it over and over in the  Jewish Bible.  The term for it is “construct phrase”, and the first word is in a form called  “construct state”. 
 
There are three states a noun can be in; memorize this and I’ll wait until the next post to give you a table to memorize.
 
A noun can be termed “indefinite” when it has no definite article and is not in the construct state or in a construct phrase.
 
A noun can be termed in the construct state when it is associated with another noun and the one noun modifies or limits the meaning of the other noun.  More about that next post.  Construct state is by definition definite and both nouns in a construct phrase are definite.
 
A noun that has ha- in front of it, is definite.  There are definite nouns that are not construct that don’t use ha for purposes of “euphony” and I’ll point it out when we get there.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Friday, March 10, 2017

Fact-Checking the Torah -- SWLT zero

Now we’re up to the zeroth rule of SWLT, which has a similar function to the zeroth law of thermodynamics.

There are two systems of communication, one recorded on some medium other than the human brain, and the other recorded only in the human brain. The first I am calling “written” for convenience and the second I’m calling “oral.”
Written communications can survive for some time without human intervention.
Oral communications come to an end when humans stop relaying them by word of mouth.
Written material tends to be organized by subject matter or some other linear feature with the exception of written communications that replace speech, such as personal letters or diaries and journals, and the speech put into the mouths of characters in fiction or history.
Oral communications tend to be associatively organized, but there’s no rule for how oral communications perceive information to be associated. It depends on culture and subculture and the purpose of the communication, and also on factors inherent in the communicators.
Written communications preserve symbols of the language in which they are expressed. When the meaning of those symbols is forgotten, the written material becomes incomprehensible without a lot of work to figure out what the symbols mean.
Oral communications are comprehensible at the time they are made, to those who understand the language. They alter during transmission due to changes made by the transmitters, for reasons such as the frailty of human memory. At each step in transmission, the material becomes a little different from the previous step and may wind up completely different from the original expression. The contents are preserved best when all parties are part of the same culture or subculture, all attentive to and interested in the material, all speak the same language and all have good memories.
Transfers of material happen between these two forms of communication, but it works better in one direction than the other, from oral to written. There are written communications which it is impossible to transmit orally beyond one or two hops. After that the details drop out rapidly until nothing is left.
Transfer is harder from written to oral due to the nature of written material, which has a format and usually a content diametrically opposed to what transmits well orally.  I’ll have much more to say about this in the last part of the blog.
A Danish professor and his mentor studied this transfer phenomenon.  I will explain their work in detail in the last part of the blog instead of here, so as not to interrupt the points I need you to understand about translations and commentaries. Besides, only in the fourth part of the blog will I discuss the alternatives to understanding the work of Axel Olrik.
The attested oral origin of a major Jewish classic had consequences both for its structure and content and I’m going to have to spend a couple of weeks on that because unless you already know about this, I will have to explain some details.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Thursday, March 9, 2017

21st century Bible Hebrew -- Genesis 1:2; "to be"

Genesis 1:2.
 
ב וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחשֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵי תְהוֹם וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם:
 
Transliteration: V’ha-arets haitah tohu va-vohu v’choshekh al-p’nei t’hom v’ruach elohim m’rachefet al-p’nei ha-maim.
Translation:     The earth was empty and chaotic and dark above the depths and a spirit of Gd was wafting back and forth above the water.
Letters in this lesson: (“oo”) ח, ך, ע, פּ, נ, וּ
 
Vocabulary in this lesson:
 
הָיְתָה
was (f.s.)
תֹהוּ
empty
בֹהוּ
chaotic
חשֶׁךְ
dark, darkness
עַל
on, over, above
תְהוֹם
depths
רוּחַ
spirit, wind
מְרַחֶפֶת
waft, 3rd f. s., piel form (repetitive)
עַל־פְּנֵי
above
פְּנֵי
face, construct state, masculine plural
 
All right. It won’t take 7 weeks to explain every verse, I promise.
 
The first word in this verse is vav plus ha-arets. We can translate this “and the earth” but let me get you started on a concept that will show up again in Genesis 2. We just said that Gd created earth and the first assumption somebody might make is that how it was created is the same as how it is now. Verse 2 says something quite different and in English, when that happens, we say “but”, not “and”. So here is your first example that a vav prefix doesn’t necessarily mean “and”.
 
Second, here is a crucial verb in every language, “be”, in perfect aspect.
 
Singular
Plural
Person/gender
הָיִיתִי
הָיִינוּ
First
הָיִיתָ
הֱיִיתֶם
Second/masculine
הָיִית
הֱיִיתֶם
Second/feminine
הָיָה
הָיוּ
Third/masculine
הָיְתָה
 
Third/feminine
 
Notice the vowel under the first letter in 2nd person plural, both masculine and feminine, and remember that in bara, there was a shva here.
 
Because heh is a guttural (what are the other three, do you remember?), it can’t do that. It needs a vowel. Why the vowel has to be “e”, is beyond the scope of this course.
 
Also notice that the second vowel is “i", not “a” as in bara.
 
Probably the most important thing in “be” in BH is that it’s not like “be” in other languages. In Western languages, “be” is usually classed as “irregular” meaning that compared to other verbs that look like it, it doesn’t conjugate the same.
 
The conjugation rules in BH partly depend on the root letters. In hayah, we have heh at the start and end, and heh is a guttural which works by different rules than other letters. Also, the middle letter is yod and that puts hayah in a verb root class called ayin yod. Once all the rules are adjusted, the conjugation of hayah falls out so it’s not an irregular verb.

Next: something on nouns.
 
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Knitting -- Completed project

So here it is, my Fair Isle sweater.


Seen "in person" there's a hint of blue behind the geometrics and of green behind the trees. That's due to the weaving in (see below).  Feitelson shows pictures of what it looks like with the traditional way of carrying the yarns.  I found that too difficult; the weaving-in is simple and effective.  The "bleed through" with weaving-in is no worse and I think better than with the traditional method.

There's a round of pink sparkles under the neck.  The ribbing has shades of brown in the  purling.


This shows the yarn woven in on the reverse side.  It prevents "floaties" which can snag on buttons if you layer Fair Isle over an Oxford or other classic shirt.


This shows the feathering of the underarm to decrease it from top to bottom.  See how the pink sparkles angle out and some of the green stitches look half made? Those are where motifs disappeared as the number of stitches decreased.



The motifs are from the 1920s; Ann Feitelson published them in her book.

The sizing is similar to my pullover pattern.

The yarn is Wool of the Andes. I used the worsted weight, which is not usual; Palette is a lighter weight and has more colors.  But I was able to use up some leftover yarn from other projects, which  is kind of how Fair Isle got its start as well as re-imagining old Norwegian patterns.

Lessons learned:
Spreadsheets are a big help in planning your pattern.  I found some electronic graph paper that works in Word, but replicating pieces of the pattern was a mess.  I was able to copy and paste to a spreadsheet, although it didn't show all the colors the same.  What I lost in reproducing the colors, I made up in easy copying and pasting, cutting and inserting.  I was able to mark where the centers were and make sure the centers of the motifs lined up with the center of the front.  I'm working on doing the same thing with an argyle pattern which I may do by weaving in yarn instead of using bobbins to hold the yarn.

You might find you can't make your chosen motifs work out exactly with your stitch count. Don't worry about having to increase or decrease a couple of stitches for some rounds. Feitelson specifically tells you to do that in some of her patterns.  I had to decrease a couple of stitches in the rounds with the trees.  You can't tell, can you?  That's because once you finish that part, you reverse whatever you did and go on.  It should only be 2-4 stitches; if it's more, maybe you should rethink your design.

Don't be afraid to backtrack.  Normally I can knit a pullover in a couple of weeks.  This took a month mostly because I gave up trying to do the yellow sections at night. The shades were too close and I would lose track of where I was and mess it up.   So I would backtrack to a row I knew was right and then start over in daylight.

The weaving in of the yarn takes some of the elasticity out of your knitting.  To get the motifs to work out evenly, you may have to make your pullover wider than usual in the first place.  But in the second place you need to start with a larger stitch count because the weaving-in produces less stretchability.  You can compensate while blocking but you'll never get it all back. I started with 216 stitches instead of 200 like with a normal pullover. 

The sweater dried faster than I expected.  I let it drip in the bathroom for about 6 hours. Then I brought it downstairs where I mostly work and keep the temps higher.  It only took about 48 hours to dry. It's a good thing, but include it when you're trying to meet a deadline. Feitelson tells a story of a woman in the Fair Isles who did an entire special-order sweater in 48 hours. Just imagine what she had to do to get everything done in time!

Because of the weaving in, this will be warmer than your average pullover because essentially you have two layers of knitting.  That made it even more surprising that it dried so fast.

The loft in Wool of the Andes means that this sweater isn't as heavy as it would be with some worsted yarns. I read comments on the website where I buy it, about respinning it tighter. That turns it into a DK or sport gauge and also removes the loft. The same company sells a sport gauge in this fiber but again, spinning it tighter would make it more like fingering weight.  I like the loft and how fast this yarn knits up so I would never respin it. YMMV

I'm going to get some Palette and work out stitch counts for the argyle and also for this next project.

If you haven't found the garnstudio website do it. There are free patterns on it and photos of the finished work. The patterns with men in the photos also have stitch counts for sizes that will fit women. Many of them have children's versions.  I marked a huge number of Norwegian patterns to drool over; I plan to make at least two, in different weights. If you don't want to have to work out how much of each color to buy, you can buy kits from them.  My fingers are still itching but I have old projects to finish up so those will have to wait for autumn.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Coming to the USA: third world weather forecasting?

Use the buttons at the bottom to forward this to Congress and your governor.

Trump has told Congress to cut the NOAA satellite budget by 22%.

 
We all know that severe weather is occurring in places it didn’t happen before. This February there were tornadoes in Maryland, the southeast, and Illinois, very unusual happenings. The 2012 derecho that started in the heartland and took out power to nearly a million people in the DC region was another one. It could be tracked along its entire path due to NOAA satellites.

This affects boaters as well as landlubbers. The fishing industry is going to take a hit when its boats can’t get a solid forecast about whether it’s safe to go out. To say nothing of pleasure boaters.
It affects the military. We have over 400 navy vessels, 170 merchant marine, 200 Coast Guard aircraft and dozens of kinds of Coast Guard water vessels. They cannot navigate safely in home waters without accurate forecasting.

We have fighter planes assigned to hassle possible terrorist planes in no-fly zones. Sending them up without a forecast kills badly needed pilots.

Let’s talk about commercial flying. Everybody knows how much they hate hearing that their flight might be grounded, worse yet getting to the airport and finding out a flight has been canceled for bad weather at either end or at any hub. It’s going to get worse without weather satellites for good forecasting.
Internet sales? What if they can’t get here from there due to bad weather? Fedex regularly posts on its tracking site about known hazards. The unknown hazards are about to bite all the shippers because they may have to retrieve packages rerouted from one airport to another due to bad weather – that they didn’t expect because the satellites couldn’t feed data to the FAA or the radar is broken.

Some companies are hoping to use drones to ship. This is a forlorn hope without NOAA satellites. Drones smaller than airplanes are more vulnerable to bad weather.
And ground shipping? Where there are expressways there are overpasses. Overpasses are vulnerable to high winds. In the DC region radio stations report when overpasses and bridges are closed to empty trucks or big rigs due to wind.

Eastern Shore Maryland, this means you! Stock up now and prepare to become more self-sufficient, because the goods and tourists you are used to, won’t be able to get there. The bridges will be unsafe at any speed without good weather forecasting and the tourists will keep away, fearing to waste their bucks.
Now here’s one issue that didn’t occur to me until somebody brought it up on Twitter. All construction will hurt from this cut. Schedules will stretch because people reporting to the building site will have to just go home when the weather turns out bad.

We can’t fix our highway infrastructure under these conditions. Those of us in metropolitan regions are familiar with traffic reports saying that the work on Highway X is closed today due to the weather.
As schedules creep out, costs mount up. Every budget for construction will blow out.

The roads that already exist will be treacherous more often. Municipalities rely on good weather forecasting to know when to brine their roads and when to gear up the snow plows.
Which will kill people on the roads when it doesn’t simply make it impossible to get to work.

The power companies will not have forecasts that let them pre-position repair trucks. For the safety of their crews, they cannot start restoring power until the bad weather has completely passed. You do not put a guy up in a bucket truck until you are sure no more tornadoes will be spawned or the other side of the hurricane or derecho has passed.

And without power company crews to clear live wires, fire and police will not be able to rescue people from destroyed houses.
But first, you have to be able to call the power company to report the outage or 911 for emergency assistance. If you are still on landlines and the wires are down, you are, as we say in the business, SOL.

This budget cut makes it impossible to maintain weather radar at its current level. It reduces U.S. weather forecasting capabilities to something more like Brazil, a third-world nation despite its hosting of the Olympics -- in polluted water venues (wait, it’s coming now that Pruitt has swung his pen) and with such a high risk of Zika infection that some athletes pulled out.

Contact Congress and  your governor; tell them NOAA satellites have to be fully funded to maintain state and national economies.  Our lives as well as our way of life depend on it.

This post has no copyright info on it so you can send the whole  thing.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Fact-Checking the Torah -- clueless on steroids

Now here’s another take on how Lancelot Brenton, Rev. Fitzgerald, and everybody who has commented on Samaritan Pentateuch to date can’t possibly know what they’re talking about, and it relies on Rule 2, grammar.

Dr. Cook’s dissertation shows how everybody has tried to fit the usage of verbs in Biblical Hebrew into a tense-verb system and wound up contradicting themselves or other writers.
The answer is to realize that ancient Semitic languages, including Akkadian and Ugaritic, were aspect-verb systems. They had a perfect aspect which expressed completed actions. They had an imperfect aspect for incomplete actions, including the fact that as far as the characters in a narrative are concerned, the action isn’t over yet. Hebrew also had a progressive which could function as an adjective and as a present tense verb, being a kind of gerundive.
This system continues in Modern Standard Arabic, except that there is no explicit progressive aspect; Arabic has other grammatical ways of putting that concept across.
Because most commentaries on the Bible were published before 2002, those that examine grammar are going to talk tense and be wrong, instead of aspect which is correct for Biblical Hebrew.
What about the 80% identity between Samaritan Pentateuch andTorah? That turns out to be a complicated issue.
We don’t know what the Samaritans understand SP to say as far as grammar. We know how their tradition explains itself, if we read Mr. Benny Tsedaka’s English translation of their interpretation.
But in studying Samaritan scripture, I smacked up against Ze’ev ben Hayyim’s book which is an English translation of Volume V of his Literary and Oral Traditions of the Samaritans.
As soon as I say translation, you know you’re in trouble.  In fact, for one example, there are places where it talks about the “time” of verbs. Turns out that this word corkscrews through bad translations. In Arabic, the word used to mean “tense” is zaman. There’s a similar Hebrew word, z’man, but it means “time”. In Hebrew, the word for “tense” is something quite different. But if SP’s language represents a version of Biblical Hebrew, then it doesn’t have tenses in the first place.
In the second place, ben Hayyim constantly uses the terms “perfect” and “imperfect”. At the time he wrote (an issue of historical context), Hebrew was consistently described as a tense language.
What apparently happened was that some of ben Hayyim’s sources analyzed Hebrew in terms of Arabic. They would have used the terms perfect and imperfect because it was common in Arabic studies by the late 1800s, as shown in William Wright’s two-volume grammar.
While studying ben Hayyim’s work, I tried to figure out why it apparently had no relationship to the contemporary understanding of Hebrew. I thought it might have something to do with Assyrian, and found FriedrichDelitzsch’s grammar of Assyrian on Internet Archive. This was the book on Assyrian in Hermann Strack’s Porta Linguarum Orientalium series published in the 1800s. It didn’t work out.
To find what I think is the  answer, I had to learn some Arabic.  James Price’s very useful book from late in the 20th century was one source; I also found help in books and websites on Quranic Arabic. Many of the discussions in ben Hayyim’s book are more or less fractured representations of issues in Arabic grammar, and have nothing at all to do with Hebrew. Why they are so garbled might have to do with translation – or with ben Hayyim using sources that didn’t understand how Arabic grammar works – or how Hebrew grammar works.
In my Samaritan project, The Real Difference, I show that some of the differences between Torah and SP make sense when viewed through the prism of Arabic grammar.
So we don’t know what Samaritans understand about the grammar of SP, and paraphrases (cringe) of interpretations (shudder) of what may have been translations (fuhgeddaboudit) from grammarians who wrote in Arabic, don’t tell us. Even if Fitzgerald or Brenton had read his work, they would have been as clueless as they were in the first place.

One more rule and we're done with the scientific material in this part of the blog.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Thursday, March 2, 2017

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- aspect and structure

The real end of Genesis 1:1.
 
א בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ:
 
Translation:     At the beginning Gd created the heaven and the earth
 
So bara is a lamed alef verb in the qal binyan, a transitive verb in perfect aspect, 3rd person masculine singular.
 
Why is it in perfect aspect?
 
“Why” is a dangerous question in grammar because a lot of times there’s no answer.  But here, the answer is Rule 2 of Sapir-Whorf Linguistic Theory, which I discuss on the Fact-Checking blog. It’s there because it shows the meaning given to this verse by the culture that passed it along.
 
The context of this verse is Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3. This is a narrative, in an oral tradition, with specific concerns and addressing specific aspects of the culture that spoke Biblical Hebrew (I’m just going to say BH from now on) on the street (“as a vernacular”).
 
In oral traditions, episodes and narratives have an opening and a closing. “Once upon a time” and “they lived happily ever after” are examples.
 
In Torah, a number of episodes open and close with a perfect aspect verb and that’s what we have here.  We also have a perfect aspect verb in Genesis 2:3, in fact, we have the same verb as here, bara.
 
This is an example of using a perfect aspect verb to mean completion. The episode is completely closed off by the perfect aspect verbs, separated from the rest of Torah. The rest of Torah records all sorts of things that the culture felt were important: here, it’s creation.  This is the only story in Torah that is specifically “about” creation.
 
How do I know this is perfect aspect? Well, I’ve learned a lot of Hebrew in the last 40 years, so I know what the conjugation of the verb is in qal perfect aspect. Here it is and don’t leave the post after you’ve looked at it because I have to point something out.
 
Singular
Plural
Person/gender
בָּרָאתִי
בָּרָאנוּ
First
בָּרָאתָ
בְּרָאתֶם
Second/masculine
בָּרָאתְ
בְּרָאתֶן
Second/feminine
בָּרָא
בָּרְאוּ
Third/masculine
בָּרְאָה
 
Third/feminine
Notice the shva under the first letter in 2nd person plural.
 
OK I have two things to point out.
 
First and most important to remember is that perfect aspect is called “the suffix aspect” by some grammarians. That’s because all the indicators of person, number, and gender are in the suffixes. The third root letter is alef and everything after that indicates person number and gender.
 
THESE SUFFIXES ARE THE SAME FOR ALL PERFECT ASPECT VERBS. MEMORIZE THEM and you will win a huge battle in figuring out BH.
 
The second thing I have to point out is not important for grammar but it’s important for understanding the history of the Hebrew Bible. The grammar is the same everywhere. There are parts of the Jewish Bible that are NOT in Hebrew; they are in Neo-Babylonian (which is probably not what you expected me to say but we are in the 21st century now). The Hebrew in the Bible uses the same grammar consistently as I will show by pointing out examples outside of Torah for some of the grammar points.
 
The use of the same grammar as the vernacular BH means that all the contributors to the Hebrew of the Jewish Bible spoke the same language in the same way. They didn’t speak Mishnaic Hebrew and then write in BH; they couldn’t. They had no grammar books to learn from; you did when you learned Modern Hebrew or French and you still got points taken off when you got the grammar wrong, as I know from my own experience.  BH had to be learned on the street and new material in that language could be produced only as long as BH was spoken on the street.  Which stopped some time during the Babylonian Captivity.  Think about it.

And NOW we'll move on.
 
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved