November 13, 2005

The Goliath 'lwt wlt Ostracon

The other day I wrote about a potsherd that some claim refers to Goliath.

Yigal Levin has posted on this sherd,

First of all, I should say that I was not personally involved in either the discovery or the publication of this ostracon. I first saw it the day after it was discovered. I should also comment, that the team paleographer, Prof. Aaron Demsky, initially read it as a "schoolboy exercise" and not as a proper name, and while I think that that is too convenient an explanation, I am not totally convinced that the shard actually reads "Goliath".

However, assuming that ")LWT" and "WLT" are really names, and that one could
invoke the well-known Indo-European G/W shift, and that the name found actually
is a cognate of the biblical "Goliath", let's see just what this might mean.

[snip]

As I wrote, I'm not totally convinced of the reading, but IF the ostracon really DOES read ")LWT" and "WLT" and IF these really are variants of "Goliath", it would mean that this name was in use among the Philistines of Gath during the 10th and 9th centuries.

His whole post, particularly the part I snipped, is well worth reading. If I understand correctly, it is not the first word but second that somehow stands for Goliath. Or perhaps some combination of the two somehow implies Goliath.

Well, first, even if we assume the G/W shift in the second sequence of characters, we have no idea what, if anything, comes after the t. The horizontal stroke of the t runs into the broken edge of the shard. See the picture I posted the other day. There could well be one of more letters after the t. Also, unless one has Goliath on the mind, is it the first thing you think of when you see a word on a potshard beginning in w, that it is the Indo-European G/W shift? No, the first think I would think of, even at a Philistine site is that it is a Semitic conjunction, "and." It is true that there are few Semitic words or roots that begin lt. But there are a few. I think of Hebrew לתך as an example. Now I'm not saying that this second letter cluster should be read "and a measure of barley" or the like. All I'm saying is that the most parsimonious readings of the scratchings on the shard have nothing to do with Goliath.

OK, even if all the IFs and wishful thinking turns out to be true and this second letter cluster is correctly read as the personal name Goliath, it is still a very long stretch from this to the Biblical character by the same name.

Also, Tyler Williams has a very complete analysis of the reading of the shard. The only problem I have with his reading is that where he and others see an initial aleph, I see a gt. I think if one looks carefully at the cluster of strokes in the picture one can see a vertical line cutting through what he thinks is the extended horizontal stroke of the aleph. I think that forms a t. However, the more I look at it the more I think that perhaps one should read 't rather than gt, so the whole word would be 'tlwt. Note that Tyler has trouble with the aleph also. I have no idea what this would mean. I will point out that a few place names and personal names begin with 'tl. I think of utly in KTA 4.348:11 as an example. I cannot find any Biblical examples. Neither my reading nor the one Tyler supports get us any closer to Goliath.

Via Biblical Theology (Be sure to read Christopher Heard's extended comment. It is right on target.)

Update: November 14, 2005

See my new post on this potshard here.

Posted by DuaneSmith at November 13, 2005 10:21 AM | Read more on Archaeology |

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