Topological Semantic Sensibility of Biblical Hebrew Verbs
It was a surprise for the first author to observe some years ago that professional teachers of BH ( Biblical Hebrew), fully aware of its triliterality, have had sometimes their own ways to appreciate this optimal verbal design:
Hebrew, of course, has difficulties of its own, which must be frankly faced. … the roots are almost entirely triliteral, with the result that, at first, the verbs at any rate all look painfully alike e.g., malak, zakar, lamad [learned], harag, etc. thus imposing upon the memory a seemingly intolerable strain. Compound verbs are impossible: there is nothing in BH to correspond to the great and agreeable variety presented by Latin, Greek, or German in such verbs as exire, inire, abire, redire, … ausgehen, eingehen, aufgehen, untergehen, etc. Every verb has to be learned separately; the verbs to go out, to go up, to go down are all dissyllables of the type illustrated above, having nothing in common with one another and being quite unrelated to the verb to go.» [John Mauchline, 1982]
Even these, proposed by chance, examples of English verbs with prepositions are well illustrating the fundamental professional disregard of the reality of BH. Thus, the verb to go, he-lamed-kaph ( (כלה) in BH, having the meaning to walk, to progress step by step toward a goal, is semantically and morphologically neighboring the verb he-lamed-qoph ( (קלה), with its main meaning divide and portion.
Whereas the verbs to go out, to go up, to go down, i. e., respectively, iod-tzade- aleph (אצי ), ain-lamed-he (הלע), iod-resh-daleth (דרי) ), translated respectively exit; come out, rise up, develop, go (come) down; descend, are semantically and morphologically neighboring the verbs (we choose just one sample, out of three to six possible for each of these verbs) iod-tzade-ain ( עצי– extend), aleph-lamed-he (הל א– master), and ghimmel-resh-daleth ( דרג – scrape; scratch), respectively.
This dramatic professional and pedagogical defamation of BH in one of the most popular and relatively modern BH textbooks represents both a sign and one of the reasons of the general Gentile disinterest in the fundamental treasures of the Old Testament’s cultural tradition.
The second optimality remark:
1) Much more often than by chance, two triliteral BH verbs, differing only in by two similar consonants at the same place, have deeply related meanings.
2) This signifies that an involved, profound study and knowledge of BH, with «every verb learned separately,» brings with it a deep intuitive knowledge of the human nature and of the human place in the World.
3) In other words, one does not have in BH the varieties of so dear to some of us “Latin, Greek, German” or English prefixes, suffixes, prepositions, etc., but one has here the remarkable and powerful semantically-oriented topological sensibility of verbs – the phenomenon never scientifically observed before us and yet apparently anticipated by certain Rabbinical [Matityahu Clark 1999] and cabalistic [Yitzchak Ginsburgh 1990] teachings.
Biblical Hebrew reminds a perfect artificial linguistic instrument
It is common knowledge today that “Hebrew grammar is essentially schematic. And, starting from simple primary rules, it is possible to work out, almost mathematically, the main groups of word-building” [Jacob Weingreen 1959]. It is thus not very surprising to discover that the grammar of BH is not only essentially schematic but that even the adverb “almost” can be removed, according to an interesting modern professional algorithmic-linguistic exercise [Joschim Lambek and Noson S. Yanofsky 2006].
The third optimality remark:
1) According to the modern universal linguistic paradigm, languages reflect human attention and attitudes to the external world in the first place, not first and foremost the human inner world in its most transparent and optimal manner.
2) The particular and forthright verbal character of BH, its simplicity, regularity, optimality, and beauty of its properties are linguistically unprecedented and exceptionally promising. One feels that this amazing “basement” was prepared to be crowned by an exciting edifice.
3) The additional exceptional optimality of BH – first, its algorithms on a higher level than the above optimality phenomena, and second, the absence of linguistically typical multitudinous exceptions of the rules (just remember your native language) – gives us a very plausible impression that BH is a unique linguistic instrument, compact and extremely “lightweight”, of perfect construction and high precision.
Proto-Semitic Alphabet: Speaking and Writing Interdependently
The prevalence of alphabets in modern languages is the result of thousands of years of public appreciation of their extreme effectiveness in L, BH, and Semitic languages, both for writing and memorization. On the other hand, there exist languages which are not adapted to be alphabetized, and difficulties for their alphabetizations persist [Peter T. Daniels, William Bright 1996].
How then, and when the alphabets appeared We know, for example, that the Cyrillic alphabet was born from its Greek “parent” with three BH references thanks to the efforts of Saints Cyril and Methodius and their students, IXth century A.D.:
Here is one of the modern, most popular – and mistaken in its Egypt reference – general explanations of the alphabet appearance, with Figure 3 below, illustrating this statement [C. George Boeree, the same Web]: “and their students, IXth century A.D.:”
Nearly all modern alphabets are descended from an alphabet invented 4000 years ago, probably by a group of people related to the ancient Hebrews, Phoenicians, and Canaanites, living in what is now the Sinai desert. They got the idea from the Egyptians but used their own simplified pictures to represented consonant sounds.
The forth optimality remark:
1) The above clear laconic interpretation simplifies long and fundamental linguistic/archeological observations and studies. Its first part, concerning the national, geographical, temporal circumstances, is evidently realistic (though the date specified below should be about 5000–6000 years ago), but the conclusion concerning the Egyptian idea is but a popular conjecture which ignores both the reality of hieroglyphic constructions and the inner harmonic complexity of Semitic languages, in particular, that of BH, the best-preserved fossil of L.
2) Thus, all alphabetic writing systems are descendants of the first linguistic al- alphabetic phenomenon – that of Adam’s language.
3)The weakness of archeological and cultural evidence of these origins of alphabetic writings is fully understandable: the story of the couple Adam and Eve (see below) was a private experience for both the Lord and the couple, fully outside the knowledge of the pre-Adamic peoples. Nobody, neither the couple nor the Lord were interested in making this story popular and public.
4) In fact, nobody needed to “use their own simplified pictures to represented consonant sounds” of the BH words taking in account that the very existence of its triliteral verbs and roots manifested an a priori presence of interdependent phonetics and morphology conceived simultaneously with BH, as the most important aspect of the parent of BH, the language L.
5) Besides, “language changes continually, but writing cannot keep up, both because of social conservatism and because permanent documents remain as a continual reminder of the past standards.” [Peter T. Daniels 1996]. In the first place, such permanent document is the Hebrew Bible (HB), the sacred text of the Jewish people (written in BH and partly in Biblical Aramaic) and later on, of the Christianity (Christian Old Testament). The texts of its beginning chapters appeared about 3000 years ago and the definitive form of the HB has been fixed 500 years later.
6) Neither of peoples in the World has today, and never had before, such an immediate and straightforward harmony between their speech and their writing, like that of BH of the HB. All other natural languages, each one in its own way, have a multitude of additional rules and divers exceptions, changing with time. Moreover, the phonetics of many languages do not represent directly it’s writing, as, for example, is the case of the French and English languages.
7) As we argue below, about 5000 thousand years old and absolutely constructively transparent speech-writing harmony of alphabetized BH is exceptional in its user simplicity, optimal inner logic, morphological harmony and beauty – and we will be able to stipulate below the real sources and meaning of it.
The Ultimate Questions of the Present Research
But if Biblical Hebrew is really an artificial instrument, then – for what handicraft, made by whom, for what purpose? In other words: Protolinguistic enquiry about BH:
1) During what historical processes, human and linguistic, was produced this language?
2) What psychological and social mechanisms are responsible for the corresponding historically fast, subtle, and extremely exact linguistic processes?
3) What was the field of actions and the human destiny during the time of this démarche?
Perfect multileveled optimality of BH cannot be the fruit of natural biological, psychological, or social processes:
1) The appearance and development of BH happened historically during a very short time no more than 6 000 thousand years.
2) Scientifically acquired understanding of linguistic transformations are depriving us of delusions of accidental but systematic improvements during any time, especially on such a brief time scale.
3) The passage from the proto-Semitic language L to its best-preserved fossil BH cannot be accompanied by systematic improvements to produce its delicate, uttermost optimality – the contrary is always true.
4) It means that the protolanguage L was already at least as good as (and most probably much more perfect than) BH today.
Proto-Semitic Language L and the Hebrew Bible
The HB, written mostly in BH, is not only its textual carrier, it is also the historically most important permanent document outlining, in particular, by its revelatory count the emergence and history of BH and L – as a part of the human history, of Adam and Eve, of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jacob’s children, of the birth of the Jewish people, his travels, his achievements and his defeats. Some three hundred years ago the scientific bibliographical reference to the HB could be used without any difficulty. Today, in the epoch of scientifically justified ignorance and atheistic suspicion, the“sacred Jewish myths” are commonly perceived as not worthy to represent deep and not social historical reminders.
However, after two hundred years of the forceful scientific atheism imposed on science by the French Revolution and, in particular, by the school of its successful scientific bureaucrat Pierre-Simon de Laplace (Philosophical Essays on Probabilities 1795-1951), science has recognized, already in the early time of
Albert Einstein (Paul Arthur Schlipp 1970, pp. 20-21), the obscuring limits of Laplace’s philosophical framework.
Contrariwise, too, the scientific discovery of the Big Bang (theoretical, by George Lemaˆıtre et al. 1927, and astronomical, by Edwin Hubble et al. 1929) led the Pope Pius XII to rightfully conclude (1951) that
“from one to ten billion years ago the matter of the spiral nebulae was compressed into a relatively restricted space, at the time the cosmic processes had their beginning” – shedding thus some light on the first, heretofore incomprehensible steps of the world creation (Genesis 1:1-10; The Jerusalem Bible – Reader’s edition 1968).
This is why are justified our intentions to faithfully follow here the temporal testimony, dynamic logic, and original formulas of Biblical accounts. At the same time, we are discovering with sincere amazement that our new, purely linguistic insights make the scrutiny of Biblical verse more practical, precise and remarkably nuanced.
The First Divine Oral and Linguistic Intervention in the Hebrew Bible
The sixth day: a creation of ordinary human beings, men and women (Genesis 1:26,28-31). God said,
“Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth.” God blessed them, saying to them: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth. … See, I give you all the seed-bearing plants that are upon the whole earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this shall be your food. To all wild beasts, all birds of heaven and all living reptiles on the earth I give all the foliage of plants for food.”
The above Divine reflection, followed by the blessing and the appeal to the humans to govern over the natural world, made them also open to the ability and power of speech and dialogue, religious and human – but did it in the linguistic framework of this particular, historically first Divine manifestation of language, soliloquy, and monologue. The sophisticated language L, with its semantically rich creational context, its impressive vocabulary, roots, numerals, grammatical rules, etc., will be introduced by our Creator later.
This is why we assume that the appearance of humans during the “sixth day of the Creation” was, in fact, a long process of development, as it were in their way the “fifth, fourth, etc., days” before, each one as long as the science is discovering today, and with the “first day” probably as long as 13-14 billions of years. This understanding is confirmed by the existence of such non-alphabetical languages like Chinese, with the archeologically documented traces of a Chinese neolithic civilization as old as about 10000 years before us.
We know also different and, after the religious history of Israel and the Christendom, rather primitive ancient religious rituals and manifestations – provoked by the above Divine blessing but not absorbed and reworked by the Divine revelations on the Mount Sinai and, later, in Jerusalem.
The Second Biblical Series of Divine Linguistic Interventions
Adam and Eve created and settled in the Paradise (Genesis 2:15-25).
Adam was not the first man on the Earth. He was, so to say, an adoptive son of the Almighty, modelled on the humans, but created anew according to criterions not known to us. With him and his descendants, God started a long and, with the expansion of time, substantially rich and involved dialogue, continuing and expanding today, and far transcending the first blessing and commandments of vocations for the first humans.
We learn from the Biblical verses that Adam was first instructed in certain religious obligations concerning “good and evil”, without presenting them to him in detail, and thus without understanding practically their inner opposition. He was also proposed to know, to learn, to deeply understand, and to meaningfully talk with and about the created natural world and its inhabitants. Then he joyfully accepted and deeply admired his newborn spouse, Eve:
The man exclaimed: “This, at last, is bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh! This is to be called woman [ – Ishá], for this was taken from man [ – Ish]” (Genesis 2:23).
A remarkable Divine teaching, particularly communicated through powerful instrumental language L, reflecting by its sense, structure and properties Adam’s the creation of nature and of Adam!
One might be surprised to discover that humans in Genesis 1:28-31 understood the first speech of the Lord without being intellectually and linguistically prepared for this – as later Adam, who communicated with Lord and was acting according to Lord’s teachings.
Our amazement looks similar to that of the witnesses and commentators of some apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Thus, for example, according to the account of two witnesses, the boy of 11 and the girl of 15, of the apparition at La Salette (September 19, 1846, the tiny community of the Isere department in southeastern France), Virgin Mary spoke to them, weeping, first in French, then in their own dialect of Occitan. Before that day, the children were able to speak and to understand only Occitan. By a real miracle, the two young shepherds without any education, with bad untrained memory, were able to perfectly repeat, to repeat, and to repeat anew many years after the original
French text of the Virgin Mary which they didn’t understand originally (P`ere Jean Stern 2018).
In other words, God’s speech is a spiritual and intellectual enlightenment, the school of practical and effective learning of the language, notions, fields and ways of action – and of the loving blessing and teaching to love, to learn and to serve our Lord.
These episodes of divine communications imply that the divine speech of Genesis (2:7,8,15-20) to Adam was not just a part of the usual dialogue but a profound and lasting teaching by divine inspiration – in a sense much more free, rich, and life-defining than the later Divine dialogues with Abraham, the dialogues of the beginning of the delivery of humanity from Adam’s fault and from Adam’s fall of graces.
The Third Biblical Series of Divine Linguistic Interventions
With Adam’s eviction from Paradise, the Biblical time became human – day after day, year after year. According to the common Jewish religious tradition, which we can trust, we live today 5779 years after exactly this moment in the life of Adam. Historically and archeologically, all known strong civilizations – powerful, hierarchical, religiously organized – and all modern languages coming from and with them – either born from and/or alphabetically influenced by L – appeared after this initial date.
We do not need to review linguistically these later, after the eviction from the Paradise, Biblical periods: the reader will be able to do it herself/himself following the above paradigms. The separation of languages, all coming from the original L, happened during the construction of the Babel tower, but the alphabetical tradition of L has been preserved, mostly without real intrinsic identification between phonetics and writing. In its weakened form BH, the original proto-Semitic language L became the language of Abraham and his Jewish descendants.
by Dr. Edouard Belaga and Dr. Ekaterina Belaga
1] Edouard G. Belaga. In the Beginning Was the Verb: The Emergence and Evolution of Language Problem in the Light of the Big Bang Epistemological Paradigm. FCCL Web – Journal of Formal, Computational, and Cognitive Linguistics, Issue 10 (2008).
2] Matityahu Clark. Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew. Based on the Commentaries of Samson Raphael Hirsch. Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem (1999).
3] Peter T. Daniels, William Bright, editors. The World’s Writing Systems. Oxford University Press (1996).
4] Peter T. Daniels. The First Civilisations. In: , pp. 21-32 (1996).
5] Albert Einstein. Autobiographical Notes. In: Paul Arthur Schlipp, ed. Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist. Cambridge University Press, London, pp. 1-95 (1970).
6] Yitzchak Ginsburgh. The Biblical Hebrew Letters – Channels of Creative Consciousness. The Teachings of Kabbalahh Series, Gal Einai Publications, Jerusalem (1990).
7] Joschim Lambek, Noson S. Yanofsky. A Computational Approach to Biblical Hebrew Conjugation. [PDF] from psu.edu (2006).
8] Pierre-Simon de Laplace. Philosophical Essays on Probabilities. Translated by F. W. Truscott and F. L. Emory from the French edition 1795. Dover, New York (1951)
 John Mauchline. Davidson’s Introductory Biblical Hebrew Grammar. 26th, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh (1982).
10] P`ere Jean Stern m.s. Le curé d’Ars et le message authentique de La Salette. L’Harmattan, Paris (2018).
11] Edward Ullendorff. Is Biblical Hebrew a Language? Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 34, No. 2, pp. 241-255 (1971).
12] Jacob Weingreen. A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, Oxford (1959).
Dr. Edouard Belaga IRMA – Institut de Recherche Mathématique Avancée e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Ekaterina Belaga Fraternité séculi`ere des Compagnons de Saint Joseph email email@example.com