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2475Re: [biblicalist] Joseph's Historical Father-in-Law

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  • jimstinehart
    Mar 11 9:30 AM
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      At first glance it might seem harmless to accept the traditional analysis
      of the name of Joseph’s Egyptian priestly father-in-law, even though, as we
      shall see, it does not correlate at all well with the Hebrew letters in the
      received text. But in fact that would be lethal, not “harmless”, because
      that traditional, erroneous understanding of this Biblical Egyptian name turns
      out to have a 1st millennium BCE pattern that could not have applied in an
      historical Bronze Age Patriarchal Age.

      The conventional view of “Potiphera” is that the first four letters, peh/P
      vav/W teth/+ yod/Y, render pA di in Egyptian, meaning “the gift”. On that
      basis, university scholars claim that this name is a 1st millennium BCE
      name, long post-dating any historical Patriarchal Age in the Bronze Age:

      “Potiphar and its variant [Potiphera] are modeled on a very common type of
      name, namely p3-di [pA di] + god's name, meaning "He-whom-God-N-gives";
      these BEGIN at the close of the New Kingdom [ending 1069 BCE], increase in
      frequency in the 21st [1070-945 BCE] and 22d [945-860 BCE] dynasties, and become
      very common from the Kushite 25th dynasty [747-656 BCE] to Greco-Roman
      times.” Donald B. Redford, “Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times” (1992),
      p. 424.

      But in fact, there’s no way that the first four letters in this Egyptian
      name, peh/P vav/W teth/+ yod/Y, render pA di in Egyptian, meaning “the gift”.
      From the second half of this same name, we know that Hebrew peh/P, by
      itself, is the Egyptian word pA, meaning “the” (where either capital A or 3 is
      used to represent Egyptian aleph). So the second letter, Hebrew vav/W,
      cannot possibly be an Egyptian aleph, as scholars would have it, because (i)
      Egyptian aleph would be rendered by Hebrew aleph, not by Hebrew vav/W, and (ii)
      in any event we know that pA is rendered by only a single Hebrew letter
      anyway, peh/P. So that vav/W must be a consonantal vav. P W in Hebrew renders
      pA wA in Egyptian. As to the third and fourth letters, the Hebrew letters
      teth-yod are not the Egyptian word d or di (likely pronounced dji) meaning “
      gift”. Teth is Egyptian t; Hebrew dalet/D would be used for Egyptian d or
      dj. And just as the Egyptian aleph in pA and wA is not represented by any
      separate Hebrew letter, the same is true for the Egyptian true vowel I, which
      will not be rendered by its own separate Hebrew letter. So P W+ renders pA
      wAt, which comes right out of Akhenaten’s Hymn to the Aten and means “the
      distant [god]”. The Hebrew yod/Y that follows is a xireq compaginis, and
      functions as a dash, just as in the Amarna Letters name Milk-i-Ilu that
      appears at Genesis 46: 17 as MLK -Y- ’L.

      My point is that we should not passively accept the great linguistic
      stretches that underlie the traditional view of the Biblical Egyptian name “
      Potiphera”. Egyptian aleph would not be rendered by a separate Hebrew letter in
      this context, and in any event could never be Hebrew vav/W (as opposed to
      Hebrew aleph). And Hebrew teth/+ is Egyptian t, not Egyptian d or dj. Rather
      than accepting those “more or less in the general ballpark” semi-matches
      that university scholars have proposed, we should instead look for
      letter-for-letter exact matches. Those purported scholarly semi-matches would have the
      most unfortunate consequence of requiring a post-Bronze Age historical time
      period. By contrast, note the p-e-r-f-e-c-t , letter-for-letter match of
      the first three letters in the name Potiphar, P W+, to pA wAt. The match is
      absolutely perfect (where the Egyptian alephs/A are not rendered by a
      separate Hebrew letter), with no stretching whatsoever being needed -- so unlike
      the fanciful semi-match to pA di that is claimed by university scholars.
      wA.ti or wAt appears four times in the Great Hymn to the Aten, describing
      Ra/Aten as being a “distant”/wAt god.

      Rather than showing that the Patriarchal narratives are “late”, as
      university scholars would have it, the Biblical Egyptian name “Potiphera” instead
      shows that the Patriarchal narratives are truly ancient, having been written
      down in Akkadian cuneiform during the only time period in the Bronze Age
      when any significant writing of any kind is attested in south-central Canaan:
      the Amarna Age of the mid-14th century BCE.

      Jim Stinehart
      Evanston, Illinois

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