One of the things Shirley and I do together almost every evening is watch Jeopardy. For the few who may not know the game, the contestants are supposed to provide questions that go with answer clues. Sometimes one or the other of us knows the question and sometimes we don’t. One of this evening’s answers was so messed up that instead of eliciting a simple question it called forth confusion. The answer was,
In 2000 B.C. the Israelites conquered this land whose people probably gave them the Hebrew language.
Alex Trebek accepted “What is Canaan?” as the correct question. But I was baffled. My first thought was to take Mark Twain’s copout, “I was gratified to be able to answer promptly and I did. I said, ‘I didn’t know.’” Because I didn’t know and I don’t believe anyone else does either.
Even if we accept that there was such a thing as an Israelite conquest, no one thinks it happened in 2000 BCE. Even following a fundamentalist position, it didn’t happen before the mid to late 15th century BCE. And most people who are called maximalists today would place the “conquest” in mid 13th century or a little later. In fact, many (most?) contemporary scholars have problems applying the word “conquest” to the process at all.
And then there is the question of language. Anson Rainey sure doesn’t think that Hebrew had its origins in Canaan. And Rainey is a conquest proponent, well, sort of a conquest proponent. Those who do think Hebrew originated in Canaan, would paint a rather complex picture of a dialect continuum that significantly stretches the meaning of “gave” in “probably gave them the Hebrew language” (if it has any meaning at all in this clause).
Generally, Jeopardy is much better than this.