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About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI


Part V: The Confusion of Languages

Chapter 2

The Original Speech of Mankind

     IF IT IS ONCE admitted that mankind formerly spoke a single language, it seems logical to go one step further and attempt to identify what kind of language it was.
     Probably most readers are aware of the fact that rabbinical commentators, early Christian writers, and, until comparatively recently, modern Christian scholars generally accepted the view that this original language was Hebrew. It is true that a few of the early Church Fathers challenged this, but such great names as those of Augustine, Jerome, and Origen can be quoted in support of it; the few like Gregory of Nyssa who argued against it failed to influence the general Christian public, so that it became the accepted opinion throughout the Middle Ages and to the recent past.
     Were it not for the offensive tone of his book, one could recommend the well-known work of Andrew White entitled, A History of the Warfare of Science With Theology, for its survey of this subject.
(37) To him, the very word Orthodox is equated with the word ridiculous, and he has no argument other than ridicule against many ancient and quite reasonable beliefs held by Christians. He does not face squarely the evidence upon which such beliefs are founded, nor does he seek to provide an equally cogent or reasonable alternative. It is this unhappy circumstance which renders an otherwise massive piece of scholarship a most unfortunate display of narrow-minded and ill-considered dogmatism. What is perhaps even more unfortunate in the context of this Paper is that not a few contemporary Christian scholars have taken the same attitude toward the view that Hebrew could have been the language of Eden.

37. White, Andrew, A History of the Warfare of Science With Theology, Braziller, New York, 1955, vol. 2, p.175.

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     I should like to make it clear that I am not proposing that Hebrew itself was necessarily the language of Eden, but rather that the language of Eden was a language of which Hebrew may well be the closest modern representative. The point I am seeking to establish is that some form of Semitic was the original from which in the course of time were derived, not only all the members of that family (Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, etc.), but also the Japhetic (Indo-European) and the Hamitic.
     The line of reasoning which I propose to follow can be stated briefly thus:

     1. That the names of the immediate descendants of Noah (as set forth in Genesis 10), by whom the earth was re-peopled after the Flood, were the real names which those people originally bore and are not merely transliterations; that they are still traceable, though in modified forms, very extensively among their living descendants who, however, have no recollection of their meanings; and finally, that these names as given have meanings in Semitic but not in Japhetic or Hamitic languages.
     2. That in Genesis 4, which deals specifically with the history of man from Adam to Noah, there are a number of references to persons, places, and events that throw unexpected light upon the subsequent history of both Indo-European and Hamitic people even down to the present time. But this light is obtained only if the key words in these references derive their significance from their meaning in Semitic.
     3. That if a Semitic form of language was the language of Noah, and therefore presumably of Adam also -- then assuming that Adam learned to speak because God undertook to converse with him -- the language of heaven must be of the same nature. It will be shown that Scripture lends some support to this conclusion.

The Names of Genesis 10

     A word or two may be in order, first of all, regarding the question of whether the original language was specifically Hebrew or only some form of Semitic speech. Judging by Laban's use of Aramaic in Genesis 31:47, it seems likely that Abraham's parents spoke Aramaic. But by the time of Jacob, two generations later, a form of Hebrew seems to be in use, if we are to judge by the name he gave to the monument of stones set up when he parted company with Laban. Since Laban was the older of the two, one might be forced to conclude that Aramaic was the older language.
     Franz Delitzsch, basing his arguments upon the supposition

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that Abraham himself did not originally speak Hebrew but rather Aramaic, remarked: (38)

     We must regard as better grounded the position of the Syriac, Aramaic, and Persian writers that Syriac (i.e., Aramaic) or Nabatean was the primitive speech, and that in the confusion of tongues it was still retained as the language of Babylon (Chaldea).

     While it may be a disappointment to some Christian readers to discover that Hebrew itself was probably not the original language, it may at the same time be reassuring to remember that our Lord Himself spoke not Hebrew, but Aramaic. This subject is dealt with fully by the well-known Orientalist, Edouard Naville, in his book, The Archaeology of the Old Testament: Was the Old Testament written in Hebrew? (39) His conclusion is in accordance, save for some minor details, with the views of Delitzsch.
     In passing, it may be of interest to note how the Jewish people themselves, catering to their national pride, treated the subject in one of their rabbinical commentaries. Quoting from Hershon, we read the following argument for Hebrew as the original:

     The sacred tongue, Hebrew, was spoken by all till the generation of the Confusion of Tongues, for the world was created with the sacred tongue; but now each of the 70 angels took one nation and instructed it in a new language; but God instructed Israel in the Hebrew tongue.

     The significance of the number 70 rests upon the fact that Genesis 10 uses a total of 70 names, equal to the number of Jacob's children when he went into Egypt. It is interesting that the Lord sent 12 apostles to preach specifically to the 12 tribes of Israel, but 70 to carry out a general evangelistic ministry without respect to nationality (Luke 10:8f. -- "into any city").
     Coming more specifically to a consideration of the evidence from history that the original language of mankind was Semitic, we deal first with the names of Noah's immediate descendants. There is nothing new in the observation that when a people habitually employ personal names for themselves and their children which have an undoubted meaning in some particular language, such a people originally spoke that language. A community with a large proportion of -sees is as clearly Scandinavian as a community with a large number of vans is Dutch or -fils would be French.

38. Delitzsch, Franz, "Genesis" in Commentary of the Holy Scriptures, edited by Peter Lange, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, reprint, p.362.
39. Naville, Edouard, Archaeology of the Old Testament: Was the Old Testament written in Hebrew? Robert Scott, London, 1903, 212 pp.
40. Hershon, Paul Isaac, A Rabbinical Commentary on Genesis, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1885, p.57.

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     There is an instructive illustration of this in Ontario, Canada. One particular city known originally as "Berlin" was renamed "Kitchener" after World War I at the request of a number of its citizens. In the community, however, one finds many names which have an easily discovered meaning in German, but which have no obvious significance in the language now spoken by most of its citizens -- which is, of course, Canadian. Surely it would not have been unreasonable for a stranger unacquainted with the past history of the city to observe that, since so many of the names were much more meaningful in German than in English, the original language of these people was indeed German. He would not be surprised, therefore, to find that their settlement was once named Berlin.
     Jerusalem is as obviously a Semitic city as Peterborough is an English city, because the name Jerusalem is really a compound of two words having a meaning in Hebrew ("City of peace"), and Peterborough a compound of two words having a meaning in English ("City of Peter"). This is the principle. Of course, this is not always the case, since some names have been preserved in such a disguised form that no one has any idea of their original meaning; therefore they cannot for certain be attached to any particular language, so that there are many exceptions to the principle.
     However, it is this form of reasoning applied to Genesis 10 which lists the names of the descendants of Noah, that has lent strong support to the claim that Hebrew or some form of Semitic language was the original language of Noah and accordingly of mankind right back to Adam -- assuming that no significant change took place in the interval between them.
     Genesis 10 begins the genealogical survey with Japheth, and from Japheth are derived a number of descendants whose names have been preserved remarkably intact among Indo-Europeans. In the first place, the Greeks claimed as their father one whom they named Japetos.
(41) In fact, he was, according to them, the father not merely of the Greeks, but of the human race. The Aryans claimed as their original father one whose name is given as Djapatischa. (42) Both of these forms are modifications of the original name Japheth. There is no doubt, I think, that in neither language did the name have the slightest meaning, whereas in Semitic the meaning seems to be

41. See on this: M. L. Rouse, "The Bible Pedigree of the Nations of the World," in Transactions of the Victorian Institute, vol. 38, 1906, p.126.
42. Dods, Marcus, Genesis, Clark, Edinburgh, no date, p.43. The Indian Aryans were early referred to as Yavanas, undoubtedly from "Javan," a son of Japheth. See Wardour, Mythology and the Law of Nations, Burns, Oates, London, 1872, p.43.

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derived either from the root Yapah which means "to be fair," or from the root pathah which means "to be extended or enlarged." Either of these is legitimate etymologically, and either would be appropriate provided that Japheth was, as is generally assumed, fair in complexion. It is not unusual for Hebrew names to have two possible derivations, both of which are appropriate -- a fact which has sometimes led to much argument, as in the case of the word Babel. (43)
     While it is possible to trace with a considerable measure of certainty the descendants of Japheth whose names are given in Genesis 10:2-5, we limit ourselves to one or two for purposes of illustration here. This is the subject of another Doorway Paper.
     One of Japheth's sons is named Gomer. This name is still to be found in slightly modified form very widely in the Old World wherever Indo-Europeans have settled. In antiquity his descendants preserved his name as the Cimri. In another part of Europe the word reappears as Hiber-nia:
(45) In England the name appears in the word Cumberland. It is, in fact, possible to trace his descendants through history up into Europe, where they continued to retain the memory of his name in a number of forms, any of which is easily equated with the original form Gomer.
     For the benefit of anyone who is not familiar with the kind of changes which may take place in words -- and who finds it difficult, for example, to equate Gomer with Cumber -- on account of the appearance of the b in the middle of it -- it is only necessary to point out that the Latin word numerus becomes in English number. The additional consonant slips in for euphony. Replacing the initial G with a hard C is a common occurrence -- for example, where the Semitic form gamal becomes camel in English. But in none of these subsequent forms can we find a meaning in the language of the people who preserved the name. In the Semitic original, it is evidently derived from Gamar, meaning "to complete or finish."
     One of the sons of Gomer was named Ashkenaz. With the assistance of historical notices from antiquity, ancient and modern place names, and various other means, it has been possible to trace the spread of the descendants of Ashkenaz up into Europe, where the name underwent certain changes in form, appearing sometimes as Sakasene, and more familiarly as Saxon and finally in the compound word Scandi-navia. Such identifications may seem dubious to anyone

43. In connection with the name Babel, see John Urquhart, The New Biblical Guide, where two possible roots with very different connotations are discussed.
44. "A Study of the Names in Genesis 10," Part II in Noah's Three Sons, vol.1 in The Doorway Papers Series.
45. This was the ancient name of Ireland, the initial H being a hard H like the Gh in English, making the original form probably Ghiber-nia.

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not familiar with philology. As already stated, the subject is treated more fully in another Paper; but it may be mentioned at this point that much of this is based on a thesis accepted by the University of Toronto, Orientals Department, for an Honours Degree in Oriental Languages. I mention this here because it has always rather intrigued me that the panel of judges of my thesis stated that they considered the one really new and significant contribution in my presentation was the section which dealt with the tracing of the descendants of Ashkenaz -- and yet some of my scholarly Christian friends have since criticized it unmercifully!
     Another descendant is given (in Genesis 10:4) as bearing the name Elishah. This name has intrigued ethnologists for several reasons, not the least being the fact that it is so strongly Semitic in form, yet it seems clearly to have been really the name of a Japhethite (i.e., an Indo-European) and preserved subsequently in the familiar word Hellas.
(46) There are other possible identifications, but they need not concern us at the moment. It is sufficient to state that we have here a clearly Semitic name retained among a clearly Indo-European people in virtually the same form which has no meaning whatever except for a people speaking a Semitic language.
     If we pass down the list into the descendants of Ham and thus find ourselves no longer in Indo-European circles, we still meet with the same anomaly: words with a meaning in Semitic preserved as a patronymic of non-Semitic people. Thus, for example, in verse 15 we have the name Heth, undoubtedly referring to the progenitor of the Hittites. Whatever else may not be said about the ethnology of these particular people, one thing is certain -- they were not Semites. And yet their original progenitor bore a name which in Semitic means terrible. It does not appear to have any meaning in the language of his descendants as far as our knowledge of the Hittite language goes at the present time.
     Such, then, is the kind of evidence which led not a few scholars of a generation or so ago to argue stoutly that Semite was the language used by Noah. The argument seems to me to be a powerful one, and those who ridicule it must surely find some way to account for the strange circumstance that nations who no longer speak a Semitic language nevertheless recollect in one way or another that their first "father" bore a name, meaningless in their present tongue,

46. This was early recognized by M. M. Kalisch, Historical and Critical Commentary on the Old Testament, "Genesis," Longmans, London, 1858, p.242. J. Skinner disagrees (International Critical Commentary: Genesis, Clark, Edinburgh, 1951, p.198), though pointing out that the Targum of Jonathan supported the identification.

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but full of meaning in a Semitic one. One must surely conclude, therefore, that Noah -- and presumably Adam also -- spoke some form of Semitic language.

Incidental Light From Genesis 4

     The events set forth in barest outline in Genesis 4 have always fascinated Bible students, because Scripture has somehow succeeded in epitomizing here the history of a period of something like two thousand years. It is done in a matter of only twenty-six verses, of which approximately a third are taken up with the record of a conversation between the Lord and Cain. The text is so familiar in fact to many of us that we fail to recognize how much is actually crowded into these few sentences, how factual it all is, how obviously myth is totally absent, how vivid are the characters presented to us. The beginnings of so many things are here.
     One of these beginnings is stated simply in verse 17: "And Cain knew his wife: and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch."
     The subsequent history of this city we do not know: but of the name of the city we know a great deal. Without entering into too much detail regarding changes in pronunciation which occur in the course of the development of a language, it seems necessary to point out here that the sound represented by the letter N is often reproduced (strange as it may seem) as an R. The Ch sound which terminates the name Enoch may be replaced by a K or G or Gh. These changes are common. When cuneiform was being deciphered for the first time, it soon became apparent that some of the cities mentioned in biblical antiquity were still in existence as mounds, and very often the natives in the area had preserved the original name in a modified form. An important city in antiquity appeared under the name Uruk, and a study of cuneiform soon revealed that this could equally well be pronounced Unuk, which was recognized at once by Sayce and many others as identical with the biblical word Enoch.
     One feature of cuneiform writing was the use of what are called determinatives, signs placed before or after certain words to enable the reader to distinguish between names of cities and names of people, or names of deities and names of mortals, and so forth. Thus, if a city happened to have a name which was also the name of a famous man, it was customary to use a determinative to let the reader know whether one was referring to the man or to the place. In the case of a man's name, the determinative was put in front of the word; for a

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place-name, the determinative came after the word. The determinative place took the following form (left) or in earlier times (right):

both of which were pronounced KI. The interesting thing about the city Unuk, or Uruk, is that the determinative was omitted. It is the only instance in which this is so. (47) The reason for this sole exception to the rule was not apparent at first; then it was realized after considerable study of cuneiform texts that the word had come to mean The City par excellence, a special city, special for historical reasons. As such, it was not considered to stand in need of any distinguishing determinative. The "specialness" lay in the fact that it was the name of the first city ever to have been built; as such it was the prototype of all others and came to be referred to, to all intents and purposes, as "The City" -- in somewhat the same way that people tend in England to refer to London as "The City."
     Now, obviously the city which Cain built and named after his son Enoch must have been destroyed by the Flood, so that the physical entity itself probably disappeared, though it was subsequently refounded. If the rebuilders had followed our pattern, they might thenceforth have called it "New Uruk"! But though the original city was lost for a season, the name and its special significance were never lost sight of, for in time the name Uruk ceased to be a name at all and became merely a word meaning "city."
     In later cuneiform this city was known as Ereck, and at the present time the site is known by the local people as Warka. This may seem a very different word, but it is not really so. And this is not the end of the story.
     The city concept was not common to either Japheth's descendants or Shem's, and both these people borrowed the idea and the term from the Hamites. The word they borrowed was Ereck, or Warka, a word which re-appeared in Asia Minor in Perg-amos, for example. It travelled up into Europe in a number of slightly variant forms, becoming in due time burg and, of course, such other variants as burgh and borough. It is interesting, too, that in Greek this word took the form of Purg´┐Ż
os () meaning "tower," i.e., a place of ascent. In view of the fact that in Genesis 11 the people of Mesopotamia made the unanimous decision "to build a city and a tower," the association of the two words in subsequent history is remarkable. Nor does the association end here, for the word tower

47. See on this: J. Urquhart, "The Bearing of Recent Oriental Discoveries on Old Testament History," in Transactions of the Victorian Institute, vol. 38, 1906, p.48. Also W. S. Boscawen, The Bible and the Monuments, Eyre and Spottiswoode, London. 1896, p.94.

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came into other Indo-European languages in the form of tour and its cognate in English, the word town.
     Such is the intriguing history, not only of the city idea, but of the very word which conveys it, and this word may be traced in an unbroken line right back into Genesis 4, into pre-Flood times, to the first city ever planned. We are, therefore, back to the second generation from Adam. And the word Enoch -- which has no meaning in the languages of those people who made particular use of it in subsequent history -- does, however, have a meaning in Semitic, namely teacher.
     The second illustration I should like to use takes us on a rather wide excursion of ancient and modern history. Probably the most famous son of Ham is the man named Nimrod in Genesis 10, whose name, it had been expected, would turn up somewhere in the enormous collection of cuneiform tablets now available. But disappointingly, the name Nimrod has not appeared yet, so far as one can gather from the relevant literature. However, I have seen it stated that according to Brunnow's Classified List of Sumerian Ideographs, one particularly famous name, Nin-gir-shu, may also be read as Nin-mir-rud.
(48) As is well known, many readings of cuneiform ideographs are merely alternatives, some signs having at least a dozen different sound values. It is possible that Nin-gir-shu is, therefore, in fact Nin-mir-rud, i.e., Nimrod.
     Now, the father of Nimrod was Cush who was in turn the son of Ham. The name Cush is found in a number of localities, one of them Africa. In an article which deals with the magnificent Nigerian Bronzes from Africa, K. C. Murray, speaking of the Yoruba people who originated these bronzes, said:

     Legends concerning the origins of the Yoruba seem to deal with the establishment of a ruling dynasty. It is believed that in the second millennium B.C., a people known as the Kishites (Cushites?) began to enter the Horn of Africa from Mesopotamia and later gradually spread westwards. . . . According to the account by Sultan Bello of Sokoto, the Yoruba were of the Tribe of Nimrod.

     It is customary in reading cuneiform to replace the weak letter N at the end of a syllable by doubling the next consonant or by lengthening

48. I am unable to verify this. However, the Sumerian word Nimru means "leopard," a rather interesting finding in view of Nimrod's reputation as a mighty hunter. Furthermore, according to Rene Labat (Manuel d'Epigraplue Akkadienne, Paris, 1952, p.159), the sound value Mir may be read also as Gir, so that Nimgir may be read as Nimmir. I am aware that a good case can be made for identifying Nimrod with Marduk, or Merodach, an early Babylonian deity.
49. Murray, K. C., "Nigerian Bronzes: Work from Life," in Antiquity, March, 1941, p.76.

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the vowel that precedes it. Thus Nin-gir-shu would tend to be pronounced as Nigger-shu or Nyger-shu. It may well be that we have here not only the origin of the word Nigeria (pronounced with a long I), but even of the form nigger, for the native of Africa. The only representations of Nimrod of which I am aware are those given by Hyslop, where he is shown as Negroid.
     According to R. E. Dennett, the Yoruba tribe claims that the founder of their race had a wife whose name meant "Child of Brass."
(50) And if we go back a little further in the line of Noah we finally arrive at an individual who was said to have originated the art of working metals, iron and brass. In Genesis 4:22 his name is given as Tubal-Cain; although the name does not appear in this form in antiquity. R. J. Forbes, one of the outstanding authorities on metallurgy in antiquity, points out that Cain means "smith." (51) And according to the same author, one of the tribes long associated in the ancient world with metalworking was the Tibareni, (52) whom many scholars identify with Tubal, the L and the R being interchangeable.
     We may go one step further in this when we discover that the name of the individual who came to be constituted as the god of the Tiber (a clearly related word) was Vulcan. To my mind, there is little doubt that Tubal-Cain is the earliest form of the name Vulcan which in its later stages was merely shortened by the omission of the Tu-. In his commentary on Genesis, Marcus Dods points out that everything is so faithfully perpetuated in the East that the blacksmith of the village Gubbatea-ez-zetun referred to the iron "splinters" struck off while working at his forge as tubal.
(53) Is it entirely a coincidence that we should refer to an iron worker as a blacksmith, in view of the fact that these Hamitic people, themselves probably black-skinned, seem to have been the initial workers in iron?
     Now, the traditions regarding Vulcan are rather interesting. He is, of course, associated with fire and the working of metals, later appearing as the divine smith of the Roman Tubilustrum.
(54) He is said to have been a cripple, having been thrown out of heaven by Jupiter as a punishment for having taken the part of his mother in a quarrel which occurred between them. (55)
     In Genesis 4:23 there is the rather extraordinary story of how

50. Dennett, R. E., Nigerian Studies, London, 1910, p.75.
51. Forbes, R J., Metallurgy in Antiquity, Brill, Leiden, 1950, p.97.
52. Ibid. p.88
53. Dods, Marcus, ref. 42, p.26.
54. Forbes, R. J., ref. 51, p.90. Also H. J. Rose, "The Cult of Vulcanus at Rome," in Journal of the Royal Society, vol. 23, 1933, p.46
55. See T. Bulfinch, The Age of Fable, Heritage Press, New York, 1942, pp.7-8.

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Lamech took vengeance on a young man for wounding him. Lamech's son was Tubal-Cain, perhaps none other than Vulcan, subsequently deified. In the brief account in Genesis, it is stated that Lamech had two wives, one of whom was named Zillah. Let us suppose, for a moment, that it was with Zillah that Lamech quarrelled and that Tubal-Cain, the son of Zillah, took his mother's part and got into a fight with his father, Lamech. Whatever happened to Lamech is not clear, although he appears to have been wounded; but Tubal-Cain himself was injured sufficiently to become thereafter a lame man. Moreover, it is customary, in a society where polygamy is allowed, to name the child not after the father but after the mother, since this obviously assures better identification. In early cuneiform one of the curious words which has puzzled Sumerologists, is parzillu, the word for iron. Now, surely this word is none other than a masculinized form of two Semitic words, Bar Zillah, i.e., "Son of Zillah." In the course of time, because the ending -ah tended to be reserved for words of feminine gender, the word became Parzillu or Barzillu with a correct masculine termination.
     Putting all these things together, one has a remarkable series of fragments of tradition in which there is a continuity of name-forms, all related in meaning or association and wrapped up in a trade of very ancient origin, associated with a deity who had the strange experience of being ejected from his home and rendered lame for taking his mother's part and who thereafter lent his title, "Son of Zillah," to the Sumerian people as their word for iron. Furthermore, these same Sumerian people -- in spite of paintings in which they are portrayed in reconstructions as having had bronzed faces -- always referred to themselves as black-headed ones,
(56) and are indeed spoken of by other people as black-headed, (57) while their relatives in the Indus Valley were similarly termed black and noseless (!) by the white Aryans who conquered them. (58) The very name Ham means "burned" or "dark," and though his descendants were certainly not all black (witness the "yellow" Mongols, "red" Indians, and "brown" Malays), it seems that the traditions of iron working were kept particularly within the circle of black people: so Africa became the instructor of Indo-Europeans in this art, and metalworkers refer to themselves as "the Hamites" or, to use the original, al Hami, which in due time came to be identified with their art as alchemy, whence our chemistry.

56. Kramer, S., From the Tablets of Sumer, Falcon's Wing Press, 1956, p.60.
57. Thus Code of Hammurabi, Deimel's Transcription (1930), R. 24, line 11. Sennacherib's Prism (Col. I, line 15) refers to the related Canaanites in the same way.
58. Piggott, S., Prehistoric India, Pelican Books, London, 1950, p.261.

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     Such, then, is the light which this very early story in Genesis seems to shed upon much that is otherwise strange -- and even absurd -- in ancient tradition. That there is a basis of fact throughout is clearly confirmed by the very continuity of the blacksmith's art. Yet only in some form of Semitic language does one find any meaning to the venerable name Tubal-Cain, or any light upon the origin of the hitherto mysterious word Barzillu or Parzillu, which soon ceased to be a Semitic word at all.
     The story of Lamech is not myth, but fact; its special significance here is predicated upon a Semitic original.

The Language of Heaven

     It may seem absurd to suggest that spiritual beings in heaven converse in any kind of language such as we are accustomed to use: language as we know it by reason of its very nature places limitations upon the communication of our thoughts to one another. Surely no such limitations exist in heaven. One cannot imagine that God the Father would in this limiting sense "speak" to God the Son, though it might be conceivable that the angels would speak to one another and be spoken to by God. There may, of course, be some entirely different way of communicating, of which we know nothing at the moment, but which might bear some relation to the fact of inspiration -- for example, the kind of inspiration which leads to prophetic utterances and so forth and could be by a process of telepathy. Scripture notes a number of conversations in heaven between God and angels and even among angels themselves, as in Job 1:6 and Daniel 10:21. In the latter instance there is a suggestion of something in the nature of verbal argument.
     At any rate, God has spoken to man, and it is perhaps not without significance that when He did so -- whether in writing as in the giving of the Ten Commandments and upon the wall of Belshazzar's palace, or in direct conversation as when He spoke to the First Adam and to the Last Adam, and even through the Last Adam to man (in Aramaic) -- the language is always some form of Semitic. It might be argued that this was inevitable, since the Hebrew people had been chosen as God's intermediary in the matter of His self-revelation. This could be a quite sufficient explanation but for two circumstances which may possibly have special significance: (a) the original name which Adam applied to his helpmeet, and (b) the new names given to two New Testament converts.
     A word should be said, first of all, about the significance of

59. J. C. Jones points out with force that the very form of Lamech's song preserved the characteristic feature of Hebrew poetry, namely, atrophic parallelism (Primeval Revelation, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1897, p.339).

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names. This is the subject of another Doorway Paper, (60) but it may be said that in almost all other societies than our own, a personal name is not merely a useful label for identification purposes, but is the personal identity of the individual. This principle of identity originates in antiquity. One of the earliest cuneiform tablets of special interest to Bible students deals with the Creation story and describes the time before the earth was formed -- i.e., had no existence -- as a time when the earth "was not named." The couplet reads: (61)

Time was when Heaven above was not named,
To the earth beneath no name was given.

     No name, no real existence. An unnamed object is not a real object; an unnamed child is not a real person. Barbarous though it may seem to us, Eskimo mothers sometimes had to practice infanticide; but they sought to avoid it after the child had received a name. A nameless child was not yet a real human being at all, and its destruction was not considered a serious matter. Until the child was named, it was a thing, not a human being; it really had no soul.
     The story of Adam's naming of the animals brought to him is much more significant than we are apt to suppose, because the names that he gave to them were not merely labels, but summations of their "personalities." By these names he indicated his recognition of the fact that not one of them was a proper counterpart of his own being and therefore could not be a true helpmeet for him. When he awoke from the deep sleep which subsequently fell upon him, and when he saw that God had now brought to him one more of His creatures, he at once perceived in her a true helpmeet. By the name which he gave to her, he demonstrated his realization of her relationship to himself. Her original name was not Eve (a name given to her later on) but Woman.
     It happens that the word woman is a translation of a Semitic word which is the feminine form of the word for man. Man is Ish, woman is Ishah. In no other language does it appear to be true that the word for woman is the feminine form of the word for man. Compare, for example, the Latin: vir for man, mulier for woman; the Greek. aner for man, gune for woman. In English the word woman is a broken down form of an original "woof-man," which meant "the man who weaves."
(62) In Spanish the forms senor and senora may seem

60. "The Importance of a Name," Part V in The Flood: Local or Global?, vol. 9 in The Doorway Papers Series.
61. Barton, G., Archaeology of the Bible, American Sunday School Union, Philadelphia, 1933, p.62.
62. So Worcester Unabridged Dictionary, under "Woman." Other suggested alternatives are: Chamber's, Wif(e)-man, also Womb-man. But all agree that it is not formed by making the word man feminine.

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at first sight to be parallel, but senor is not really the word for "man" nor senora the word for "woman." They are more exactly titles of courtesy like "sir" and "lady" in English. This exceptional circumstance in the story of Adam and Eve is in itself some evidence that Semitic was the form of speech which Adam employed, since it would seem only natural that the first human being should have named his helpmeet by a modified form of his own name.
     Now, just as a name is equated with existence, so a new name is equated with a new existence. This concept is widespread, and in many other societies a person who changes his status will usually adopt a new (and often secret) name. And a person who is ill for an undue length of time will try the remedy of changing his name, thereby becoming another individual and ridding himself of the sickness attached to the old. Some instructive instances of this in recent times have even been reported from our own mental institutions.
     Jacob received a new name after a spiritual struggle of a very marked kind, and thereafter he appears to have been called by either the old or the new one, perhaps depending upon whether it was the old man or the new man who was in view. The nation which sprang from him seems to have been treated in the same way. Thus, while the Word of the Lord was sent unto Jacob, it lighted only upon Israel (Isaiah 9:8). Similarly, in that great and terrible day of tribulation it will be Jacob's trouble (Jeremiah 30:7) but only Israel shall be saved (Romans 11:26). One such Israelite was Nathanael, called by the Lord "an Israelite indeed" (John 1:47), as though to point up the distinction. In Isaiah 45:4 Jacob is merely a servant, whereas Israel is His elect bearing a new relationship to Himself.
     Of course, both the names Jacob and Israel are Semitic words, so that the new name was not in this respect in a different language. But in the New Testament we have two people receiving new names: Peter (which is Greek), and Mark (which is Latin), being given also Semitic names. Peter was later re-named Cephas, which is Aramaic; Mark was re-named John, which in the original is a combination of two Hebrew words. Like Jacob, Peter did not always "realize" his new name, except that Paul consistently so referred to him in his first Epistle to the Corinthians (1:12; 9:5; 15:5)
     Paul himself received a change of name, and the time of the change is significant. It was not coincident with his conversion. In Acts 9 Saul was converted, but is still being referred to as Saul in Acts 13:2. However, in Acts 13:9 we read this statement: "Then Saul

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(which is also called Paul) being filled with the Holy Ghost. . . ." Thenceforth he is never again referred to by his old name.
     I would gather from these few fragments of light that the new Name we are to receive, which is hidden at the moment, will sum up in a unique way our whole new personality in Christ and will probably have its meaning in Semitic -- the language of heaven, where our citizenship is. One or two people apparently were so manifestly and enduringly changed that their new Name entirely replaced their old, but I suspect that Satan is not able to discern the new person and therefore does not know the new name (which is secret -- Revelation 2:17), so that his accusations against us are against the old man and not the new man, against the one who has already been judged and who to all intents and purposes is dead in the sight of God.
     Henceforth, then, as citizens of heaven we quite appropriately have a new name in the language of heaven, whether our present name is in English or Chinese or African. In fact, I think there is a very real sense in which those who are redeemed do learn to speak a new "language," God's language. Although we obviously do not speak Hebrew or Aramaic, nevertheless the language of heaven it seems to me does become meaningful to us, though in a special sense, so that there may be times when we can be used to interpret to the world what God has spoken. The Chosen People were His instruments in a unique way, appointed to do this very thing in the world, i.e., to speak for Him. Possibly a Semitic form of speech is the ideal vehicle for this purpose, and thus God saw to it that Israel should never entirely lose the knowledge of it.
     Those who have studied Hebrew will agree, I think, without hesitation that it is one of the most remarkably pregnant languages for conveying deep spiritual truths. This pregnancy results in part from the fact that it has so many words with dual meanings. For example, the word "to forgive" is the same as the word "to lift up"; the word for "chasten" is the same as the word "to care for"; the words "to see" and "to provide" are the same; and also the words "to believe" and "to be established." This kind of dualism makes the language full of significance for the Christian.


     These are only suggestive thoughts, and the argument is evanescent. To one who is already convinced, these are strong confirmations,

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but they will carry little or no weight to those who are skeptical. In closing, I cannot refrain from telling a rather beautiful little story which has since been repeated on a number of recent occasions but is actually to be found in a commentary on Genesis published toward the end of the last century. It wonderfully illustrates the universality of the language of heaven:

     Two believers from different countries met at a conference and observed in one another the unmistakable evidences of their common faith. They approached each other with outstretched hands in welcome and, though quite unable to speak a word of the other's language, communicated perfectly when the one said, "Alleluia!" and the other replied instantly, "Amen!" (64)

64. Quoted by Joseph S. Exell in The Biblical Illustrator, vol. 1: "Genesis," Nisbet, London, no date, p.507.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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