Egyptian Loanwords in the Torah May Provide Evidence of the Exodus

June 14 2016

In a detailed linguistic analysis, Benjamin J. Noonan points to a preponderance of Hebrew words of Egyptian origin in the sections of the Pentateuch that describe the Exodus from Egypt and the Jews’ wanderings in the wilderness. He also argues that many of these words were most likely to have entered Hebrew in the late Bronze Age (the late 2nd millennium BCE)—the period during which the Exodus would most likely have taken place. While such an analysis cannot prove the historicity of the Exodus, it undoubtedly supports it:

[T]he Exodus and wilderness traditions contain significantly higher proportions of Egyptian terminology than the rest of the Hebrew Bible, proportions comparable to the high proportions of Old Iranian terminology in the books of Esther and Ezra-Nehemiah, [which were written when the authors lived under Persian rule and thus reflect foreign influence]. Furthermore, the Exodus and wilderness traditions contain significantly higher proportions of Egyptian terminology than other texts [from the sub-family of Semitic to which Hebrew belongs], with the exception of Imperial Aramaic texts that exhibit intense Egyptian contact. Finally, at least some of the Egyptian loanwords found in the Exodus and wilderness narratives were borrowed during the late Bronze Age [i.e., the putative period of the Exodus], and it is likely that many of the other loanwords also were borrowed then. What are we to make of these observations? . . .

Just as one concludes that the sudden increase of French loanwords in the English language around the period from 1050 to 1400 CE reflects some particular circumstance in history [i.e., the Norman Conquest], so one should conclude that a high concentration of Egyptian loanwords in the Exodus and wilderness traditions reflects some particular historical circumstance. Given the observation that at least some of the Egyptian loanwords in the Exodus and wilderness narratives were borrowed during the late Bronze Age, it is likely that the events of these narratives took place during the late Bronze Age, just as one would expect if they represent authentic history. This is the simple and logical conclusion we should come to [based on accepted standards of linguistic analysis]. The burden of proof remains on those who would offer any alternative explanation to demonstrate exactly why their hypothesis is superior to this conclusion.

Read more at Bible and Interpretation

More about: Ancient Israel, Exodus, Hebrew, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Language


Hannah Arendt, Adolf Eichmann, and the Jews

Feb. 23 2018

In 1963—a year after Adolf Eichmann’s sentencing by an Israeli court—reports on the trial by the German-born Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt appeared in the New Yorker and were soon published as a book. This “report on the banality of evil,” as the book was subtitled, outraged many Jews, including many of her erstwhile friends and admirers, on account of her manifest contempt for the entire preceding, her disgust for the state of Israel, her accusation that a wide array of European Jewish leaders (if not the majority of the victims) were complicit in their own murder, and her bizarre insistence that Eichmann was “not a monster,” or even an anti-Semite, but a mindless, faceless bureaucrat. While extensive evidence has been brought to light that Arendt was wrong both in her claims of Jewish passivity and her evaluation of Eichmann as the head of the SS’s Jewish section, her book remains widely read and admired. Ruth Wisse comments on its enduring legacy:

When Arendt volunteered to report on the Eichmann trial, it was presumed that she was doing so in her role as a Jew. . . . But Arendt actually traveled to Jerusalem for a deeper purpose—to reclaim Eichmann for German philosophy. She did not exonerate Nazism and in fact excoriated the postwar Adenauer government for not doing enough to punish known Nazi killers, but she rehabilitated the German mind and demonstrated how that could be done by going—not beyond, but around, good and evil. She came to erase Judaism philosophically, to complicate its search for moral clarity, and to unseat a conviction [that, in Saul Bellow’s words], “everybody . . . knows what murder is.”

Arendt was to remain the heroine of postmodernists, deconstructionists, feminists, relativists, and internationalist ideologues who deny the stability of Truth. Not coincidentally, many of them have also disputed the rights of the sovereign Jewish people to its national homeland. Indeed, as anti-Zionism cemented the coalition of leftists, Arabs, and dissident minorities, Arendt herself was conscripted, sometimes unfairly and in ways she might have protested, as an ally in their destabilizing cause. They were enchanted by her “perversity” and were undeterred in their enthusiasm by subsequent revelations, like those of the historian Bernard Wasserstein, who documented Arendt’s scholarly reliance on anti-Semitic sources in her study of totalitarianism, or of revelations about her resumed friendship with Martin Heidegger despite his Nazi associations.

At the same time, however, the Arendt report on the Eichmann trial became one of the catalysts for something no one could have predicted—an intellectual movement that came to be known as neoconservatism. A cohort of writers and thinkers, many of them Jews from immigrant families who had turned to leftism as naturally as calves to their mother’s teats, but who had slowly moved away from the Marxism of their youth during the Stalin years and World War II, now spotted corruption and dishonesty and something antithetical to them in some of their very models of the intellectual life.

They and their Gentile colleagues had constituted the only European-style intelligentsia to flourish in America. Most of them were only one generation removed from Europe, after all, so what could be more natural than for them to serve as the conduit of European intelligence to America? Arendt’s ingenious twist of the Eichmann trial showed them how Jewish and American they actually were—and how morally clear they aspired to be.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Neoconservatism, New York Intellectuals