Excerpts from Some of My Writing: The Difficulty of Hebrew Letters and Words

If God is all powerful and providing (God has given us some power), then there is no need for aggression.  God sets limits.  The Earth is one of these limits – its resources are finite, when they are gone, short of another creation, we should not expect God to magically create more resources.  In this sense, the planet Earth has a soul, a unique largely separable bundle of energy that can go extinct when the modes of energy available to it are depleted of energy.  

 

In spite of the presence of hieroglyphs, the emerging Jewish culture described in Exodus may be considered a protohistoric culture[i].  Hieroglyphs themselves are thought by some to derive from the Sumerian cuneiform of southern Iraq dating as far back as 3400 BC[ii].  The earliest evidence of Hebrew writings to date (Khirbet Qeiyafa) is 5 lines inscribed on a pottery shard dating to the time of David (1000 BC)[iii]. The evolution of hieroglyphs, into a decidedly acrophonic and consonantal system by 1700 BC Egypt (when the Jews were slaves) may have been influenced by Jewish slave culture. There is evidence from mining caves in the Negev desert around 1500 BC that the Proto-Canaanite/Proto-Sinaitic alphabet may have already existed[iv].  The Torah describes the naming of sites and wells by Abraham and Isaac, the sale of property by Jacob, and record-keeping by Joseph when he was in Egypt.  Joseph himself is portrayed as bilingual.  All of these occur in Genesis and are pre-exile.  Perhaps the necessary communication between the 2 cultures – Egyptian and Hebrew – would facilitate the development of an alphabet, a person in one culture trying to describe, in symbols and words, the meaning of the symbol in the other culture.  The symbol for a word in one culture would have to devolve of meaning when expressed in the second culture, its meaning only translated by symbols meaningful in the second culture.  About halfway through the 40 year wandering in the desert, there is a reference in Numbers to a “Book of the Wars of the Lord”[v].  No one seems to know anything more about that book.  Certainly, there are the 2 tablets of stone, and another command in Exodus 17:14 to write down the details of a conquest.  In Numbers 33:2, Moses writes down the stages of the Exodus by the Lord’s command.  Moses, educated in the Egyptian pharaoh’s court, was literate.  The importance of this to the establishment of a new nation probably cannot be underestimated.   There is additional evidence in the Torah that he was not the only literate one.  Aaron, the high priest, was made a holy crown of pure gold, upon which they (the makers) wrote: “Holy to the Lord”[vi].  In Deuteronomy, we have several passages that point to a larger literacy where for example Moses instructs the people to “write upon the plastered stones all the words of this law”[vii] when they enter the land of Canaan, and later instructs the priests to “read the entire law” to the people on the year of release (every seven years)[viii],

 

A literary analysis of the Torah reveals it to likely be a 4th century BC compilation of 4 primary texts – the Jahwest (9th cent BC), the Elohist (8th cent BC), the Deuteronomist (7th cent BC), and the Priestly document (5th cent BC)[ix].  While the postulated written records from the Exodus probably did not survive the hardships to which they were subject (being made from clay), I imagine that they existed.  The oral transmission had a backbone.  I believe that this backbone derived from the Holy Spirit.  However, with the errancy of humans, the consignment and preservation of God’s story in a written form would have been critical to its survival in a tangible form within a culture.  Even with writing, its sanctity was not guaranteed.  One only has to attend a Bible study group to recognize that every word does not have the same meaning to every individual.  Even if we could agree on what the actual words were, we are trained by our own experiences to interpret differently.  When you realize that some of the Torah words were hard to read, that people had neither ink readily available, nor good lighting, nor glasses, and that there is an inherent difficulty[x] in distinguishing in Hebrew the dalet ד the resh ר the vav ו and the final kaf ך, the he ה the het ח and the tav ת, and the nun נ the kaf כ and the bet ב, and finally the fact that the Torah was initially written without vowels making the two words shem (name) and sham (there) indistinguishable except by context, the Torah’s interpretation and transmission from thousand year old documents seem miraculous.  Still, one does not cling too desperately to any one word.  And yet, we have had years to study and formulate the best guess of what the words are when there has been ambiguity, and the differences that I am talking about generally do not revolve around one or two words.  They are, I believe, errors or harmful ways of thinking about certain things that have crept into God’s word and been transmitted from generation to generation in spite of what God has wanted.  God’s written word is important, but literacy, education, and even language are not requirements for communication with God.  When speaking in tongues, in fact, the oral communication with God, experienced and practiced by the individual, has been entirely removed from the comprehensive faculty of the individual who performs it. [Vedic meditation]

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