In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language

By Joel M. Hoffman | Go to book overview

Appendix A

More about the Rules of the Game

I like your game
but we have to change the rules.

In this appendix, we supplement some of the material from Chapter 2, in particular, the “three theories of the world” and the “two theories of language.” The theories of the world are crucial for putting our approach to history into a larger context, especially in a field such as Hebrew where the competing theories are so often confused. The theories of language are equally important for putting our analyses of Hebrew into a larger context.


Three Theories of the World

The Dumb-Luck Theory

The Dumb-Luck Theory is at once the simplest and the most comprehensive theory of the past. It is completely consistent with everything that has ever happened, has no exceptions, and can be stated completely in one short sentence. In terms of accuracy and simplicity, the Dumb-Luck Theory describes the past better than any other theory. It thus seems to be the ideal theory.

But one problem with the Dumb-Luck Theory is that it makes no predictions regarding the future. (We will discuss this potential drawback in more detail below when we talk about the Science Theory and “falsifiability.”) For example, the Dumb-Luck Theory is neutral on the question of whether the sun will rise tomorrow. If we want to believe that the future and the past are governed by the same rules (as we generally do) and if we want to believe that we have some idea what will happen in the future

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In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Tables xi
  • List of Figures xiii
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Part I - Getting Started 1
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 3
  • Chapter 2 - Rules of the Game 7
  • Part II - Antiquity 13
  • Chapter 3 - Writing 15
  • Chapter 4 - Magic Letters and the Name of God 39
  • Chapter 5 - The Masoretes 49
  • Chapter 6 - Pronunciation 81
  • Part III - Moving On 119
  • Chapter 7 - The Dead Sea Scrolls 121
  • Chapter 8 - Dialects in the Bible 149
  • Chapter 9 - Post-Biblical Hebrew 165
  • Part IV - Now 185
  • Chapter 10 - Modern Hebrew 187
  • Chapter 11 - Keep Your Voice from Weeping 211
  • Part V - Appendices 215
  • Appendix A - More About the Rules of the Game 217
  • Appendix B - Further Reading 229
  • Bibliography 245
  • Index 251
  • About the Author 263
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