Saturday, September 01, 2007

Interesting Class this Semester

This semester, I have the privilege of taking a class in Middle Egyptian. The reason why my school offers it as a supplement to their M.A. in Old Testament and Semitic studies program is that it is a very important language to the study of the Old Testament, not only because the culture of Egypt is very important, but also because Egyptian is a language that is somewhere between and African language and a Semitic language. Much of the vocabulary is very similar to Hebrew, and thus, it provides us a way to understand the development of Hebrew vocabulary.

However, another interesting aspect is the fact that Egyptian can be used to at least cast doubt on the authenticity of Wellhausen's Documentary Hypothesis. The reason is that the vocabulary in the Pentateuch is highly Egyptian. Thus, it is likely that the authorship of the Pentateuch came from Egypt [Moses would thus be a strong candidate].

However, it is somewhat frustrating because Egyptian has a hieroglyphic script. The alphabet is:

Egyptian Vulture
Reed Leaf
Double Reed Leaf
Quail Chick
horned viper
House plan
Animal Body with Tail
Folded Cloth
Basket with Handle
Ring stand for a vessel
Loaf of Bread
Rope for tethering

That is a little different from the "aleph bet gimel daleth" I am used to. The problem is not really learning the pictures and the sounds of the letters. The problem is learning the order of the letters in Egyptian.

However, Egyptian also uses logograms and determinatives just like Akkadian, which I was already studying before my acceptance. However, Egyptian simply loves determinatives. So much so that my professor says that you can easily tell word divisions by determinatives. A lot of determinatives also decrease vocabulary. For instance, the Egyptian word for "sun" and the god "ra" are essentially the same word. How do you know which is the word for the god, and which is the word for the sun? Yup, determinatives. The determinitive indicating that the word means "sun" is a circle with a dot in the center, and the determinitive indicating that the word means "the [sun] god" is a picture of a deity sitting down.

If I have sparked your interest, this web page has some excellent information on ancient Egyptian.

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