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A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Proof of God from Hebrew

Updated thru April 30, 2016

This post will use some Hebrew, but anybody reading it should have no difficulty following the discussion.

The proof is based on ‘amazing’ Gematrias (Hebrew Numerology), ‘amazing’ relationships among Hebrew words, or even the shape of ‘Hebrew’ letters. It is then claimed divine intelligence is behind it all.

Explained below in the section Origins of Alphabet, other cultures also claimed divine origin for their own writing systems. We should not be surprised by a similar claim by some Jews.

For the most part the following names of script refer to the same type of Hebrew script and the  terms are interchangeable:  Ktav Ashuri,  Assyrian Hebrew, Square Hebrew,  Aramaic, Modern Hebrew. (FYI - Modern Hebrew script is over 2000 years old, but is used today in Israel.)

For the most part the following names of script refer to the same type of Hebrew script and the  terms are interchangeable:  Ktav Ivri, Paleo Hebrew , Old Hebrew. (FYI - This is even an older Hebrew script.)

So right away we see there are least two different scripts that were used to write the Hebrew Language. This should not be surprising since say Russian can be written using many letters from the English script. 

My post on Gematria is very related and I suggest at least skimming that post before this one.

I will provide  examples that the proof uses and demonstrate there are also‘amazing’ relations in English and I expect they would be found in many other languages.  They are the result of chance, human design, and especially confirmation bias. By this bias I mean that when some ‘amazing’ relation is found religious people show this relation, all the while ignoring the numerous and much more  prevalent situation  were no relations are found. 

1) Proof : A Kabbalah insight: The Hebrew letter alef {א} is formed by two letter yuds { י } , one to the upper right and the other to the lower left, joined by a diagonal vav { ו } .  These represent the higher and lower waters and the firmament between them.

Refute : The is aleph written as above was derived from Aramaic scripts and is not the original written Hebrew aleph of the Torah which used a different script (See below - Origins of Alphabet).  

There is no such thing as a firmament or upper waters. (See my post on Genesis and the Big Bang)

There are often calligraphic motivations for letter design. Perhaps that is the basis for the design of the aleph letter and not  mystical relations. 

2) Proof : Hebrew word for hand is spelled yud-daled ( daled = ד, yud= י) and adding up the numeric values of the letters  gives 14. There are  14 joints in the hand !

Refute: There are 14 finger joints, but there are more than 14 joints in the hand which includes the wrist and metacarpal bones. Hence the proof fails. Also there are numerous Hebrew words for body parts wherein the addition of the letters is not related to the body part. Try for example the  Hebrew for foot or head.  So ignore the numerous number  cases where nothing ‘amazing’ is found.  But then if you find some word with a connection, say divine. This is called confirmation bias. 

Besides Gematria relations and connections  may be found in English and I strongly suspect in many other languages.

Taking A=1, B= 2 etc we have the following amazing relations:

HAND = 8+1+14+4 =27 and there are 27 Bones in the hand. This is superior to the Hebrew example used by the proof.

LOCK  = 41 and KEY = 41

What does a CAT and DOG do ? FIGHT right ? Dog + Cat = Fight. Dog=26, Cat =24, Fight=50

DAY =D+A+Y = 30, and there are about 30 days in a month. SECOND=60 and there are 60 seconds in a minute 

EARTH = E+A+R+T+H = 52 and what is amazing Earth has a 52 weeks in a year

{ETA 10/31/2015 BEAN = 22, and  the number of chromosomes in  the Bean is 22.  }

If one searches long enough and seeks these kinds of relations many could be found.

3) Proof - Hebrew words that begin with the letters ches lamed   (Lamed =  ל, ches = ח) pronounced Chal , when found in Hebrew words almost always reference something infirm.

Refute: Similar things occur for example in the English language.

Consider these words: mistletoe, mist, milk, milch, micturate. All four of these words are related by starting with 'MI" and all the words are related conceptually ! (I will let the reader research why.) 

 Consider these words: circumcise, circuit, circumvent... Just like Chal may mean to weaken and hence be used in words that involve infirm/lacking, so too many English words having CIRC may involve the concept of 'around'. Evidence of the Divine ? Hardly. 

The English words influence, flush, flue, flucuate and many other 'disparate' words are related to the root word 'flu', meaning flow/river. There is often logic behind scripts and languages. In this case, flue as in passage for air to flow, or as a river may wave as in fluctuate etc: etc: 

In addition there are Hebrew words with Chal that don’t imply infirm. Some examples include:

I Samuel Chapter 17 Verse 40 The Hebrew word Chalookay ( י ק לח) smooth  is used in conjunction with something firm - a pebble.
(Hebrew is spelled right to left. I spelled it here left to right so some can perhaps follow the sounds better.)

The Hebrew Choled for rodent/ mole - only by a stretch would the concept of infirm relate to it.

Same for the Hebrew word Cholev (= tallow )  which is a firm fat.

You may take most adjectives or descriptions and retrofit them to virtually any noun. Take Ice. You can say it lacks firmness because you may slip on it. Or take Rodent. Its infirm because it is short.  Similar tactics are used by the proof to find ‘infirm’ in any word that has the Chal prefix. 

4) Proof: The Hebrew letter vav  when used in the beginning of Hebrew words means  ‘and’. The letter is used to 'hook' words together similar to fashion the English word 'and' is used. Vav even looks like a hook ( picture a T with the right side of the top chopped off). Spelled out in Hebrew it means hook.

Refute: The Phoenician letter called vav meant hook in Phoenician and the design of the letter was most likely based the hook that was used. It looks like our English letter Y and in fact is the ancestor of our English letter Y.  The original Hebrew script (Paleo-Hebrew) was derived from the Phoenician script and was very similar. The square Hebrew letter vav was derived from Aramaic and looks like the vav in the proof. Aramaic was also derived from Phoenician script. For more on the shape of letters and their meanings see Origin of Alphabet below.


I see nothing divine in  using the symbol that depicts hook, that means hook to be used to hook words together. Is it not better to build some rhyme and reason into the design of scripts and languages ?



Origins of Alphabets and the Hebrew Script

The following information is from the book  Alphabetical Order How the Alphabet Began by Tiphaine Samoyault 1996 unless stated otherwise. Although Tiphaine's book may not be an advanced text nor an academic text is very consistent with what I have read in Encyclopedia's and Academic texts regarding the topics discussed in this blog.

“Alphabets didn’t just suddenly appear”. The earliest writing started long before alphabets.”  Forms of writing date back around 3400 BC in Mesopotamia and China.  

“In almost every civilization, the earliest writing was connected to religion and magic....But writing was quickly put to use for financial life and daily activities as well.” 

( The Origins of Writing - Wayne Senner Editor 1989. Page 10 Earliest Myths credit the divine for the gift of writing. And in Encyclopedia Americana 2005 edition - under Writing - Ancient Egyptian credit the God Thoth for inventing writing. The Babylonian claim  God Nebo. The Chinese claim it is from the dragon faced Ts’ang Chieh, The Teutonic God Odin invented the runes, the Celtic God Ogma invented ogam. Aztecs claim the god Quetzalcoatl. The book explains writing had great value, exercised magical power over the unlearned and was thought to require special aid in its creation.   - [So should we be surprised if some Jews claim the same for Hebrew script ? After all, all those other cultures thought their own writing systems were a divine gift.] )

Ideograms and pictograms are some of the earliest writing systems using symbols and pictures and combinations of them for more complex Ideas. 

Earliest known system of writing is Cuneiform invented by Sumerians about 5000 years ago. They needed a way to record trade. It spread to Akkadia, Babylon, Assyria and eventually the writing system of the whole Middle East.

Example Ox








It is a short step from this or from the Egyptian pictogram of an Ox head to the Phoenician letter aleph which meant Ox.   Phoenician letter aleph is represented by -








From 3300 to 700 BC the pictograms evolve into abstract signs.

For example an obvious  pictogram (symbol or picture) of a  Fish eventually becomes 






Hieroglyphics the writing system of ancient Egypt appears 3200 BC or maybe earlier. “...a mixture of pictorial signs, which stood for individual things, and sound signs, which represent sounds.” These sound signs (phonetics signs) are the beginnings of alphabets.

Example -  water depicted as a wavy horizontal line. It also represented the ‘n’ sound. (The New Encyclopedia Britannica 15th edition 2003 Volume 29 under Writing - that sound is the first sound for the Egyptian word for water. It was that principle that was utilized to create the Phoenician script. Phoenician script is discussed later in this post.)







Ugaritic Alphabet first appears in Syria about 1500 BC uses symbols to stand for sounds and is a true alphabet.  Impressions are made on clay. Ugarit was a large international port where communication was essential and needed to be simple.

Example the “M”  sound  






Near the end of the 12th century BC The Phoenicians begin to use a 22 letter alphabet. Since they wrote on papyrus a more linear writing style could be used. 

We can trace some Phoenician letters to Egyptian pictograms. Below is a Phoenician letter, its name (mem) and its source. The Phoenician word for water (maiyim) was pronounced beginning with the “M’ sound and so the wavy line very similar to the Egyptian symbol for water was used for the sound “M”. ((See Wiki Phoenician Alphabet), and see Page 2 The Worlds Writing Systems 1996 by Daniels and Bright Editors - Egyptian Hieroglyphics probably inspired the Canaanite Script. [Phoenicians are Canaanite])






(Side note: The Greek and English alphabet are direct descendants from Phoenician letters. [ For example with very little imagination you see how our  English letter M and A is derived from the Phoenician letter mem and aleph respectively.]) 

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Sources for the following information are noted in the text


Paleo Hebrew was a very early “Hebrew” alphabet and virtually the same as the Phoenician Alphabet from which is came from. It looks  different than  the Square Hebrew. Square Hebrew was adopted  later  and is still used today for the ‘Hebrew’ Torah. 

A - The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Worlds Ancient Languages 2004 
Page 321 The National Hebrew script of Iron Age Israel and Judah arose as a branch of the Phoenician.script. After the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem 586 BC  Hebrew came to be written in the Aramaic script widely used in NeoBabylon and Assyrian empires. Aramaic script was an early branch of Phoenician. Page 319 - It is unlikely Hebrew emerged as a distinct language before the end of the late bronze age and the beginning of the Iron age.


B - The Origins of Writing - Wayne Senner Editor 1989. Beginning Page 80  -Linear Phoenician alphabet is ancestral to Old Hebrew and Aramaic scripts. Old Hebrew disappears from the Jews in the second century but survives amongst the Samaritans. Modern Hebrew [Square Hebrew] is derived from the chancellery hand of the late Persian Empire.

C- The New Encyclopedia Britannica 15th edition 2003 Volume 29 under Writing - It is unlikely writing was invented only once and then borrowed by different cultures. All Western writing systems can be traced back to the beginnings of symbol making in Sumer. It is believed the Oriental writing systems were not derived from Sumer.


D- The New Encyclopedia Britannica 15th edition 2003 Volume 29 under Writing states there is little doubt that Square Hebrew is Aramaic in origin. [Aramaic script itself  is a descendant of the Phoenician alphabet as well.].

E- The Jews adapted Aramaic around the time of the Babylonian exile. Reasons given for this include: Aramaic was in widespread use thru out the middle east. It was the script of trade. [Some suggest  Ezra and his entourage used  Aramaic because the Samaritans, another and competing Jewish sect  were using Paleo Hebrew for the Bible.  Ezra and company used the script as a religious -political weapon. Ironically, the Samaritans were most likely using a script more like what prior ancient Hebrew writings were written in.]

F - The Hebrew Script by Solomon Birnbaum 1971 Volume I
Page 86 - Square Hebrew and Paleo Hebrew descend from the same alphabet. Page 70 Aramaic characters are introduced in the 5th century as the official script of the Torah.  He also cites Talmudic narratives that describe a change of script from the original Torah in old Hebrew to Aramaic. Amongst the Talmudic tracts he reviews include Rav Yose and Mar Zudra of Sanhedrin 21b which attribute the change to Ezra. Birnbaum advocates Ezra changes scripts for the Samaritan reason given in E.  Recall Ezra had the backing of a powerful empire behind him. 


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The Paleo Hebrew letter mem is virtually the same as the Phoenician and has a similar name and represents a similar sound - ‘M’

The Square Hebrew letter with the sound of “M’ is מ and this letter was derived from the Aramaic script. It is also called the letter mem.


In the book A History of Writing Ann-Marie Christen (Editor) 2002 on Page 213 - Regarding Paleo Hebrew - “The Hasmonean renaissance of the second century BCE was marked by a certain revival of this archaic script, which was used to emphasize Jewish Statehood.” I find this very interesting because it suggests the Hasmoneans knew square Hebrew was a later introduction and suggests  they were reverting back to their more ancient script - Paleo Hebrew.

Conclusion 

{ETA April 30, 2016 From the 1965 book Introduction to Hebrew by Moshe Greenberg Prof. of Bibilical Studies Univ. of Penn.

Page 14 "The Hebrew alphabet, like the language  is Canaanite. " The traces that remain of the alphabet  development suggest that it was inspired by both Egyptian and Mesopotamian methods of writing. "The direct ancestor of the Hebrew Alphabet is Phoenician. As time went on the Phoenician script was gradually modified and by the 6th century it assumed the shape of present day Hebrew letters. Hebrew scribes in the 6th-4th century adopt Aramaic (square letters [hebrew]) abandoning the old Phoenician script." }

Archaeologists, Historians, Linguists are able to provide evidence and very plausible natural explanations for the evolution of scripts, including old Hebrew and square Hebrew. In addition, there are no convincing ‘amazing’ Gematrias or ‘amazing’ word relations or ‘amazing’ Hebrew letter shapes that requires invoking a God for any of it.