Tuesday, April 10, 2018

How Moses Wrote the Torah and Why It Hasn't Been Changed

Nadene Goldfoot                                                 
           No, Moses wouldn't have written the Torah using Egyptian hieroglyphics. Paleo-Hebrew was known about.   It came out of the Phoenician alphabet. Moses lived from 1391 to 1271 BCE to the age of 120. He was a Prince of Egypt and well educated.  He obviously was skilled as a scribe.

An authentic Torah scroll is a mind-boggling masterpiece of labor and skill. Comprising between 62 and 84 sheets of parchment-cured, tanned, scraped and prepared according to exacting Torah law specifications-and containing exactly 304,805 letters, the resulting handwritten scroll takes many months to complete  .Paleo-Hebrew alphabet was already being used by then by the Educated Egyptians, probably as a 2nd language.  Like today, people learned many languages.  
"1450-516 B.C.                                      
I like the letter A of the Paleo-Hebrew as it really looks like today's capital A only laying on its side.    All Hebrew is read from right to left, the opposite of English. 

The first surprise is that Hebrew was spoken in Canaan before the Israelite conquest.  400 years before, Abraham had lived there, and now  his descendants and others who had joined them were returning.  The Hebrew language was still being used, proven by the Tel el Amarna Letters.  This was pre-exile biblical  Hebrew with a rich vocabulary that had borrowed many words from surrounding languages.  The Northern Kingdom used a slightly different standard language.  After the exile, the language continued for over 500 years, but had started to decay because of the influence of Aramaic from 539 to 331 BCE.  Aramaic had become the language of officialdom and was spoken by many Jews.  At the same time, Mishnaic Hebrew was emerging and was the new colloquial language from 200 BCE on. It's from some pre-exilic colloquial dialect and became a literary language through the tannaim in the 1st century CE.  They didn't use it as much  when speaking after the wars of 66 to 70 CE or after the final wars from 132 to 135 CE with Bar Kokhba.  
From the time of the Exodus in 1579 to 1578 BCE, Moses in all likelihood recorded the Torah over the next 40 years of traveling, in the Paleo-Hebrew script.   This script was nearly identical with the Early Phoenician script.  This same script was used throughout the land of Canaan as recorded by Isaiah in 19:18.  It was the main script used until the time of the exile to Babylon in 597 BCE.  There were only 22 letters.  I don't recognize any of them as Hebrew. 

 The Assyrians had conquered and taken the 10 Tribes of northern Israel, leaving Judah in the south in 722 BCE.  This was after the time of King David who ruled from 1010 BCE to 970 BCE and his son, King Solomon ruler from 961 BCE to 921 BCE.  The kingdom of Judah had to carry on alone against all the surrounding enemies of which Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was the next.  

  I like the ayin which is a small zero.  Ayin is silent anyway.  

It is at this point the armies of Babylon (586 B.C.), destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Temple, taking the survivors into Babylon for seventy-years.  The hostages during this period would include the Daniel and Ezekiel. (Daniel 1, Ezekiel 1:1). 

539 B.C. to A.D. 500                                   


            Producing a sefer Torah fulfills one of the 613 commandments.
 “The k'laf/parchment on which the Torah scroll is written, the hair or sinew with which the panels of parchment are sewn together, and the quill pen with which the text is written all must come from ritually clean —that is, kosher— animals.”
"An authentic Torah scroll is a mind-boggling masterpiece of labor and skill. Comprising between 62 and 84 sheets of parchment-cured, tanned, scraped and prepared according to exacting Torah law specifications-and containing exactly 304,805 letters, the resulting handwritten scroll takes many months to complete." No letter errors are allowed. 

In 539 B.C., the armies of Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, defeat Babylon, he allows the Jews to return and rebuild of the Temple to begin.  This is the beginning of the Second Temple Period. After Seventy-years of captivity, many of the descendants of the Jewish captives had forgotten the Hebrew tongue and alphabet.  The Aramaic alphabet was adopted for the Hebrew language by some Jews.   This helped the Jews make the transition, to still be a distinct people and yet being able to communicate with the society around them.  Manuscripts of the Torah and Prophets were written in the Aramaic square 
script (Current Hebrew) rather then the earlier Paleo-Hebrew script (Ancient Hebrew).  

Nehemiah records the problems facing the restored Hebrew nation in 440 B.C.   "In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab.  And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people. Nehemiah 13:23-24 
(page 1871 in The Stone Edition of Tanakh.) Nehemiah was the governor of Judah by asking the Persian king permission to return to Judah so he was appointed this by Artaxerxes I.  It was he who organized the repair of Jerusalem's walls when he arrived.  They completed the job in 52 days, even with the neighboring people's attacks.  It sounds like the 1880's with our Jewish pioneers having returned from living in eastern Europe, doesn't it?  They had many mixed marriages and not everyone spoke Hebrew.  This was also the problem of our recent return almost 70 years ago in 1948.  It wasn't until 1880 that the Hebrew language was again used for communication in oral language with each other with our return with Russian -Jewish pioneers.  It could be that those native Jews still living in Palestine had reverted to speaking Arabic.  

Nehemiah brought back all the customs they had missed in the past  70 years;  the Sabbath observance, cancellation of debts owed by the poor,  maintaining Temple regulations and paying their tithes were brought back.  There would be all those born during that 70 year period who knew of none of these practices; only the older men like Nehemiah and Ezra would have known and they must have been youngsters then. 

He helped to secure the city by arranging for 1/10 of the people to live in the city.  Then after living there as well for the next 12 years, he returned to Susa, Persia, and probably reported what he had accomplished, then returned again to Jerusalem.  In 433 to 432 BCE, he took steps against mixed marriages along with Ezra, who was a member of the priestly family of Zadok.  This means he was a Cohen.  He was also a scribe  but had worked for the Persian government.  He had received permission to go to Jerusalem in 458 BCE and lead a party of settlers and would establish the Mosaic Law once again in Judah.  My records show that the return to Jerusalem had started in 538 BC but that a return had started 60 years earlier of a group under the direction of Zerubbabel.   and were undergoing a spiritual deterioration of their Jewish community and needed help.  Ezra  had followed Nehemiah's return.  

Zerubbabel, born about 480 BCE, was the grandson of Jehoiachin, former king of Judah during the years of 598 to 597 BCE.  Zedekiah had followed him from 597 to 586 BCE. He was the last as the Babylonians had attacked in 597 BCE and again in 586 BCE.  Zerubbabel was the last satrap of Davidic descent in Jerusalem.  After his time, the high priest increased in influence.  

Notice the absence of vowels except for the vov which is a consonant and a vowel.  Beginners today get to use something like a code of dots and dashes under the letters giving the word the sounds needed that vowels create.  One does sight reading quite a lot in reading Hebrew more than phonics with adult literature.  
                        I see an error below.  #6 is a vuv, not a W.  There is no W in Hebrew. 
I taught English in the junior high of Safed to kittah zion, khet and tet.  

The alphabet song:  Aleph Bet Vet, Gimel Daled hay vov,   Zion khet tet, yud kuf chuf,
lamed mem and nun, samekh ayin pay, fay, Tzadee koof, raish, shin, sin, tauf.   

There is no ch sound like in choo choo train.  it's a deep throat clearing sound-kh.  a gargle sound.  Some still use the ch to stand for that sound.  They should use kh.  
"The use of Babylonian (Aramaic) square script would become the dominate form of  Hebrew in the Biblical manuscript for the future.  Although, there were Paleo-Hebrew manuscripts found at the Dead Sea and Bar Kochba introduced them on the coins, the square script remains until this day the current letters used for Hebrew." . The letters of the alphabet were also used for the number system.  
Shrine of the Book Museum housing Dead Sea Scrolls, Jerusalem
"The Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum: from ancient scripts to nanotechnologies
A comment overheard there:  The white dome is supposed to, in some way, remind us of the covers on the stone jars in which the scrolls were found. It is unbelievable to enter this circular room and look at the scrolls that are over 2000 years and ponder all that they represent. It makes me ask the question: what else could be hiding out there in the caves in the desert??"
I see that the Torah writing has gone through several transitions.  We still read the Torah in Hebrew but it's the square letter Hebrew, not in the handwriting of Moses.  I still feel confident that scribes were most careful in keeping to the original letters, even though the styles had changed.  Even at that, Dr. Eliyahu Rips felt confident enough about today's Hebrew to use his computer program in finding codes in our Hebrew writing of that has lasted this long.  It is depending on every word and every original letter being there as they all are needed in order to make sense.  

One can go into the museum in Jerusalem that looks like an upside down funnel where ancient Hebrew writings are on display and see for yourself how beautiful the letters have remained.                                                     
My Ulpan Hebrew 6 day a week classes with homework in Haifa  for 10 months with Morah Sarah, most understanding teacher I've had.  I can now confess after 38 years that I could never do the homework.  It was beyond me.  We had to hire a tutor who didn't know how to teach but just did it for us.  So we missed our Spring Break of taking a trip to Egypt and went over our text again by ourselves; 2 American teachers determined to pass our final test of 3 hours.  We did it, but that's another story.  The night before the test I passed out and fell, crushing  my left elbow and arm bone, and I'm left-handed.  I wound up taking the test later alone with the Israeli principal who didn't speak English while running a fever and wearing a cast on my arm.  I passed with 70 %.  

Resource:  http://www.truthnet.org/Bible-Origins/4_How_was_Bible_written/index.htm

5/3/18: The New Standard  Jewish Encyclopedia p. 3839, Alphabet, additional information

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