Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Acharya, Higgins and Drummond: Etymological fun, again

In chapter 10 of The Christ Conspiracy, Acharya repeats a claim that is worth investigating closer.

In reality, virtually all Hebrew place-names have astronomical meanings. [1, p. 132]
She does provide sources for this statement, viz. Higgins' Anacalypsis, vol 1, p. 423 and vol 2, p. 136. Tracing these sources down we find two very similar statements, so similar that I will only type one of them here:

... We must not forget that Sir William Drummond proved that all the Hebrew names of places in the holy land were astronomical. I have no doubt that these names were given by Joshua when he conquered, settled, and divided it among his twelve tribes, and that all those names had a reference to the solar mythos. [2, p. 136, c.f. 3, p. 432]
The work in which Drummond mostly sets forth this is his Oedipus Judaicus, which sometimes does manage to get etymologies right, but a lot of the time Drummond's work seems to be tortuous guesswork. At least I must admit Drummond is thorough - he goes through long lists of names, and tries coming up with - sometimes quite fanciful - explanations as to what they mean and how they have an astrological significance. Examples include:
ענב, Anab, signifies a grape in Hebrew, and why would a mountain not be called a grape? Let us observe, that the season for gathering grapes was when the sun was in the sign of Leo, the emblem of Judah.[4, p. 174]
בית ישמות, Bith Jeshimoth,  Mr Hutchinson has written at great length on these words. I cannot follow him in all his whimsical though ingenious notions. I understand generally that Bith Jeshimoth signifies "the temple of the Heavens."[4, p 178-179] 
This is but a sample. Some of his etymologies are likely to be correct - I will readily admit that much - but a lot of the time, they offer nothing but goropism - not the kind that tries to derive every word from some specific language, but one that is ready to find an astrological root in any language in the ancient mid east,  by far-fetched derivations like the example above with Leo and grapes. In the case of Jeshimoth, most experts seem to think it means something like 'desolation', especially as forms of the same word appear with that clear meaning even in parallel constructions:
בְּכֹל מֹושְׁבֹותֵיכֶם הֶעָרִים תֶּחֱרַבְנָה וְהַבָּמֹות תִּישָׁמְנָה לְמַעַן יֶחֶרְבוּ וְיֶאְשְׁמוּ מִזְבְּחֹֽותֵיכֶם וְנִשְׁבְּרוּ וְנִשְׁבְּתוּ גִּלּוּלֵיכֶם וְנִגְדְּעוּ חַמָּנֵיכֶם וְנִמְחוּ מַעֲשֵׂיכֶֽם׃
[Ezekiel, 6:6]
KJV translation:
 In all your dwellingplaces the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your images may be cut down, and your works may be abolished. 
It seems rather unlikely Ezekiel would say something like 'in all your dwellingplaces the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be of heaven' or anything along those lines.

If the entire argument is based on far-fetched ad hoc explanations, probably mistaken etymologies and so on, we must keep rejecting it. If there is good evidence for it, let that evidence be produced. Accepting this interpretation as proof of an hidden astrological message in the bible fails on account of petitio principii. 

William Drummond lived and did his research in the 18th and early 19th centuries, which were times before a proper understanding of linguistic evolution had been achieved. I would be much less suspicious if someone with neogrammarian precision were to make claims such as these.

I may make a post sometime in the future where I document some shoddy etymologies of Drummond's. Don't wait for it, though, as it will probably be far into the future.

[1] Acharya S; The Christ Conspiracy
[2] Higgins, Godfrey; Anacalypsis, volume 2, available at archive.org
[3] Higgins, Godfrey; Anacalypsis, volume 1, available at archive.org
[4] Drummond, William; The Oedipus Judaicus, available at http://books.google.fi/books?id=xezmySsKM9oC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_v2_summary_r&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false.

No comments:

Post a Comment