Thursday, August 17, 2006

Hebrew is Not Canaanite

Update: for more discussion, click here and here.

Anson Rainey is currently reporting that Gary Rendsburg has made an observation supporting the case that the Israelites are ethnically and linguistically distinct from the Canaanite peoples, as the Hebrew Bible again and again assumes. Rendsburg points out that "Hebrew, Aramaic and Moabite each have a distinct verb “to be.” Its root is HWY or HYY. That verb is not in Phoenician (Canaanite) or even in Ugaritic. These two languages from the Mediterranean coast have another verb entirely to indicate “to be.” Moreover, the personal name of Israel’s God—Yahweh [see artistic rendering above], is derived from the verb “to be”! This reflects a strong connection between ancient Hebrew and the languages east of the Jordan." The moral here: Please don't confuse the Israelites with the Canaanites, as many, many biblical scholars currently do.


Blogger Dr. Joseph Ray Cathey said...


I like Rainey's stuff on Cannanite. He has a three volume work on Cannaite Akkadian. It is well worth the price. I tend to agree with the linguistic arguments of Rainey. I don't agree with his archaeology but that is another story.

Fri Aug 18, 09:02:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Thank you, Joe. It is interesting that in this article Rainey does seem to have bone to pick with archaeology and especially the students of Albright. He himself seems to feel much more confident with linguistics than with digging. Take this telling slur- excerpt: "Dealing with ancient West Semitic religion requires competence in Ugaritic, which in turn, requires mastery of Semitic linguistics. As Frank Cross, usually considered the dean of paleographers, once said to me [= Rainey], students who could not handle the languages [in Cross's Harvard program] went instead into archaeology."

Why is Rainey so caustic sometimes? ----Steve

Fri Aug 18, 10:07:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Dr. Joseph Ray Cathey said...


I do not know why he is caustic. However, I met him last year in Philly. He was a very nice gentleman. In fact he had a bite of lunch with me and we talked for over 30 minutes. Never once did he speak ill of anyone. Maybe it is just in his writing.

Fri Aug 18, 01:37:00 PM GMT-5  

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