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Can Moses have Written the Pentateuch? Answering Linguists

There is a narrative which goes about likethis (I think I've seen it around AronRa, Bill Ludlow or someone like that):

"Moses could not have written the Torah, because it is in Hebrew which didn't yet exist back in his time."

We have fairly good evidence in some cases for texts not being from when claimed to be, since in a later language. I think I saw a confession of Albigensians or Waldensians, purported to be from 11th or 12th or 13th C. and to be identically republished, and which was in a French of the 16th Century. I do not believe it was genuine, but it is now some time ago, if I should happen to be wrong, blame my memory.

But this evidence type uniformly only exists because of a massive text corpus outside the text so tested, either from then or from later times.

It also presupposes the text as tested by linguistics hasnot been syestematically updated since the first redaction : that we are either dealing with supposed autograph or acopy supposed to be orthographically, morphologically, verbally identic to it.

Imagine you took a modern English translation or translitteration or adaption of Canterbury Tales. You could prove Chaucer could not have written:

When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root

since in his day, you would instead have written:

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,

that would be a methodological error, since the text as per originally Chaucer's text indeed does have precisely:

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,

and what you are testing is an adapted version or perversion - in this case faithful to the word, except for expanding "shoures soote" to "showers sweet with fruit" - but this is fairly necessary, since "sweet" no longer has any form rhyming with "root".

So, the simplest approach, perhaps, and one I have taken and been content with before, has been to say Moses perhaps wrote the text in a language older than what is now "Hebrew" to us, and since then the kohanim have faithfully reproduced original meaning by changing a spelling here or an ending there or a contraction or non-contraction there (media waw-yod, for instance?) or even replacing an obsolete word or adding a correct explanation as language changed.

I was thinking of "Asason Thamar which is En Geddi" but that is Paralipomenon or Chronicles, a later work, redacted by kohanim over time and the added explanation could be there since before the final redaction of original full text.

But there might be a case for thinking one might go further.

Chaucer initiates the version of Middle English which is most comprehensible to speakers or Modern English without special study (confer his contempoirary, the Gawain poet in West Midlands, who needed a translation, provided by Tolkien, better known for being original author of The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings). But there are other authors within a century after him. Their lives and times are known, and so are quite a few of their works. There are private letters from an estate that have been studied. We can say with certainty that "shoures" is much likelier than "showers" and that "soote" has at least equal probability with "sweete" and that either way, as with "roote" the final e was pronounced and written.

And what is more : we can affirm this pertains to the exact same speech community that Chaucer belonged to.

In other words, to dislodge even one text from its place in a series of authors, who are more firmly or more loosely distributed in time, we don't rely primarily on "final e went silent this time and then dropped out of use or remained in another function" (here is one other function, when we write "clothes" instead of "cloaths" we indicate both that o is long as well as with writing oa, and also that th is voiced); but rather, we can use such linguistic data only as a shortcut (and detail specific clarification) to : no other author in Chaucer's time would have written:

When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root

Note, archaism is a standing possibility, especially in spelling. People do write Chaucerian English now and then for fun, and could have done so because written English had been fixed in usage earlier also. It wasn't because of Latin being England's official language of administration and jurisdiction.

And that no other author in "Chaucer's" time is precisely what is lacking for the argument as outlined above.

We have the texts of the Bible. Our historic indications for them are they were written by the Biblical authors. We also have a few ostraka and other short texts from archaeological digs. That is what we have for how Hebrew as spoken in times of Biblical authors "sounded like". Or how it was spelled - though there are known changes in spelling, like introduction of matrices lectionis and of dots now in use. We also have digs frompresumably non-Hebrew towns, like Ugarit, where we can (between Ugarit and 500 BC Edomite texts for instance) observe some kind of linguistic development in related languages, spoken by neighbouring speech communities. Related and neighbouring, not identic.

If you say (I make this example as a non-specialist who knows exactly one verse of the Hebrew Bible by heart), "Moses could not have written 'beresheet' because and Edomite text from five centuries later stillhas another word in such a form as to suggest it would have been rather 'bereshihit'*" you are arguing as if Germany could not have had (by now most dialects) uvular R in 1700 because by then some dialect in Sweden North of Scania still had retroflex R. But Sweden and Germany are not same speech community and if Swedish was influenced by German, partly via Danish, some changes occurred later in Swedish (even clearer : German has "das" in Middle Ages, while Swedish still had "thet", now "det" which changed only at the end of 17th Century). Similarily, some changes can have occurred later in Edomite than in Hebrew, and Hebrew having a literature, which Edomite had not, can have influenced Edomite. And Moabite, Ammonite and Phoenician, of course too.

So, evidence about chronology of language change in extra-Hebrew dialects is not proof against them already having occurred by the time of Moses' authorship.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Bibl. Crimée
St Pontius, martyr**

* Or whatever, "bereshihit" being spoof example. ** In Gallia sancti Pontii Martyris, cujus praedicatione et industria postquam duo Philippi Csesares ad Christi fidem conversi sunt, ipse, sub Valeriano et Gallieno Principibus, martyrii palmam adeptus est.

Chaucer modern and original cited from:

The Canterbury Tales
The General Prologue

This post first appeared on Creation Vs Evolution, please read the originial post: here

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Can Moses have Written the Pentateuch? Answering Linguists


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