The Language of Palestine and Adjacent Regions, by John Courtenay James

It’s an old print, hence a not-clear script that your eyes need to process first and while delving into the core material with texts written in languages like (Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Greek). Other than that, the book gives you a nice glimpse into the language and history of the middle east with lots of footnotes.

Such books are by no means abundant on the Orientalism bookshelf and not many western scholars are able in the first place to expand their expertise in several fields within that scholarly discipline; whether it is archaeology, biblical-text, history, culture, language or any other related area. John Courtenay James is certainly one of the fewest scholars who are able to tackle such a wide spectrum in middle eastern sciences simultaneously.

The main theme of this thesis is that “Ancient Arabic may naturally be regarded as the chief source of the Hebrew language.”

Some highlights of this thesis:
(1) “The books of the Old Testament, as we know them, do not represent the language of Palestine as spoken at any one time or in any one place. ”
(2) “The scientific element failed the Hebrew author completely … the grammar is confused and the syntax unique and irregular. ”
(3) “The home of the historic Semites was Arabia.”
(4) “The Semites originally moved out of Arabia.”
(5) “All Semitic languages are perhaps ultimately traceable to Arabia.”
(6) “All the great Semitic migrations had their starting-place in Arabia.”
(7) “The Hebrew tribes no doubt moved out of Arabia with some of the earlier migrations from the great Semitic reservoir.”
(8) “Arabic was earlier than Canaanite in 1- its system of orthography; 2- its form of accidence; 3- its scheme of syntax.”
(9) “It is probable that in the ground-stock of the Hittites in Asia Minor the Turanian type prevailed, yet there is clear evidence of a Semitic element.”
(10) “The similarities between Egyptian and Semitic are explained by reference to some early connexion or common origin.”
(11) “The Semitic element in these literary discoveries (the archives of Boghaz Keui) is unmistakable and overwhelming.”
(12) “It affords considerable evidence that some factions of the Israelite tribes found their way into Canaan about the same time that other factions wandered into Egypt.”
(13) “The general conclusion .. many terms and ideas, which at one time were regarded as exclusively Biblical, are found to belong to the common stock of Semitic and eastern language and conception.”
(14) “Probably the best general type of writing to represent the Aramaic of 100 B.C.-100 A.D. is that which Euting calls ‘nabatäisch’, compared with the kindred ‘palmyren’.”
(15) “Nabataean and Palmyrene agree in most essential features with the Aramaic of Ezra and Daniel.”
(16) “It is to be presumed that the Aramaic of Palestine was nearer in sound to the early Syriac than to the pointed Hebrew. It is probable that the Arabic preserves the sound of some letters better than either Hebrew or Syriac.”
(17) “the vocalization of the gutturals ה and ע, in Aramaic and later Hebrew were supplanted by א. Even the א ceased to have any distinct sound in the later pronunciation of the language, and several Hebrew words beginning with א were written in Aramaic without this letter. But what by aphaeresis was thus lost at the beginning of the word, was sometimes by euphony added at the end.”
(18) “In general it must be concluded that the accentuation of the Palestinian Aramaic (derived from Aramaic of Babylonia) was the same as the Biblical Aramaic, the Nabataean, the Syriac, and as understood by the first Targumists. The same has been assumed for the Talmudic Aramaic .. Yemen MSS of Onkelos constitute one of the best guides to the vocalization of this Targum.”
(19) “some differences between LXX and the MT. are more frequently to be attributed to defective writing, to ignorance on the part of the writers, to textual corruption, and even to laxity on the part of the translators .. for example, the fragments of the Hebrew text of Ecclesiastieus appear to belong to two different MSS. It is interesting to find in these MSS, dating perhaps circa x-xi cent., the abbreviation of the divine name by three marks.”
(20) “Nabataean on the whole best represents the Aramaic dialect of the first century A.D .. Arab writers use the term ‘Nabat’ not of Arabians, but of Babylonians. From these writers some scholars have concluded that Nabataeans occupied Mesopotamia between the Euphrates and the Tigris.”
(21) “Within these boundaries the kindred dialects -Palmyrene and Nabataean- were paramount. The aristocratic and leading classes were mainly of Arabian origin.”
(22) “The Palmyrenes were of Arab race, and consequently connected ethnically with the Nabataeans .. Familiar features of the language clearly show its kinship with Palestinian Aramaic .. the Nabataeans were real Arabs .. there is substantial agreement of Biblical Aramaic with Nabataean, both in words and construction.”
(23) “After the Exile Hebrew was perpetuated by the Scribes; their origin is very obscure, maybe Babylonia. They originated the Synagogue service and opposed to the high-priestly caste. They were drawn from the ‘school’ of the Pharisees .. the Jewish schools in Palestine were earlier than those in Babylonia, and the tradition went from Palestine to Babylonia and possibly was the one that reached Arabia.”
(24) “the Halachic and Haggadic features of the Onkelos Targum belong to he Babylonian (hence European) MSS; these principles scarcely appear in the Yemen (original Palestine) text.”
(25) “the absence of anthropomorphisms is noted in Onkelos. But the tendency to avoid anthropomorphism is seen as early as the LXX.”

Jewish Plagiarism
1- “The theory of a sudden change of script in the time of Ezra is very old. It is definitely asserted in the apocryphal Ezra, where the skilled scribes are said to write in a character which they did not understand. The reference is to the transition from the Phoenician (=old Hebrew) script to the so-called ‘square writing’ which is attributed to Ezra. This old Jewish theory is utterly without foundation, and is contradicted by all available evidence. There never was a distinct time when the character of the Semitic writing in Palestine was deliberately changed. The script did change, but the transition was very gradual, extending from the Exile down to a period subsequent to the Christian era.”
2- “the ‘square’ character indeed seems to have arisen out of the Palmyrene script .. No doubt Aramaic was written in Babylonia before it was written in Canaan, and it was Aramaic influence which gradually changed the Phoenician cursive script into the uncial character.”

Indirect Attestation to Jewish Polytheism
1- “In the Egyptian papyri the ‘Jews’ are frequently called ‘Aramaeans’.”
2- “That offerings were made by individuals to local deities is proved by an Egyptian Aramaean inscription. ”

1- on p.216, footnote 3, the Arabic name is falsely back-transliterated from-hebrew-into-Arabic as “HQTAN” to resemble the order of the alphabets in the Hebrew word instead of “QHTAN”, which is the right form in Arabic.
2- on p.219, footnote 4, the Arabic word is, ‘رجز’, and not, ‘رجس’.

“multae terricolis linguae, coelestibus una.”

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