Oldest Language

Hi. What language did Adam and Eve speak? What was the language God spoke to them in? In an article: A Short History of the Hebrew Language | AHRC
the author argues that Hebrew was the language Adam and Eve spoke. He argues this because: " When we look at all the names of Adam’s descendent we find that all the names from Adam to Noah and his children are Hebrew names , meaning that their name has a meaning in Hebrew. For instance, Methuselah (Genesis 5:21) is Hebrew for “his death brings” (The flood occurred the year that he died). It is not until we come to Noah’s grandchildren that we find names that are of a language other than Hebrew. For instance, the name Nimrod (Genesis 11:18), who was from Babylon/Sumer/Shinar and possibly the Tower of Babel, is a non-Hebrew name. According to the Biblical record of names, Adam and his descendants spoke Hebrew. "
However, science says Hebrew became a language around sometime before the Hebrew Bible, which some believe is the 10th century BCE, or 1400 BC, if Moses wrote it. Anyways, science says that Hebrew only became a language until the Hebrew bible, and it’s not the first language. So, what is your response to what this article said? How do we handle this?

I think you have to buy in to the authors presumptions to find his arguments coherent, which I do not. I think the names in early Genesis were given to them by the editors who consolidated and redacted oral traditions into written form around the time of the exile or just after, and so reflect Hebrew names as it is focused on Israel rather than all humanity. The names have meaning, not because their mommas had were prophetic in naming them, but because the later Hebrew writers purposely named them because of their roles and functions. The naming of the characters itself is evidence of a later writing. Sort of like the characters in Pilgrim’s Progress.
The article also presupposed a young earth with its inherent inconsistency with evidence regarding populations in the Americas at least 10,000-15,000 years ago. He would either have them mute or speaking Hebrew if pre-Babel, or a very recent migration if post-Babel. Babel would be post-flood after the rise of civilization from a 5 person population bottleneck in that view.
Lots more could be discussed, but that will start. I am sure Christy, our resident linguist, can expound a lot more on the subject.

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I think it’s even worse than this. The Hebrew of Genesis is not the earliest Hebrew we know of; the language of the text as we have it fits classical Hebrew that would’ve been understood by, e.g., Jeremiah. Think about how languages evolve generally (and we know Hebrew did as well). I don’t think I could have a convo with Chaucer, let alone the guy who wrote Beowulf. No way Moses and Jeremiah could’ve conversed in the same language. And now we want to push it back even further? Sorry! @jpm , your position on editing and “using” later Hebrew language to make sense of the narrative is far more reasonable.

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Yeah, because it’s a Hebrew document. Abraham didn’t even speak Hebrew, he spoke Akkadian. Hebrew emerged from Canaanite languages and scholars believe it began flourishing around the 10th century BC.

No professional linguist I have ever heard of argues that Hebrew was the first language. It’s demonstrably false using phylogenetic language family trees. You can trace its emergence from more ancient related languages. My response is the author is not a linguist, doesn’t understand the origin of the Hebrew Scriptures, bases his reasoning on unproven premises (like Adam and Eve were the first humans and lived in fairly recent history) and we should not really pay attention to this paper.

Rohan will you please stop scouring the internet for junk research and just read some actual biblical scholars and learn some stuff about textual criticism and the ancient Near East?

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He certainly doesn’t know Hebrew. Just notice the distorted transliterations he gives.

Either King James 1611 or Yiddish. :wink: I think

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12 Oldest Languages In The World Still Widely Used!

Even if we just go by the Bible, Adam and Eve were a couple of millennia or more before the Hebrew people existed. I am certainly not a language expert, but isn’t Hebrew like Arabic and other Semitic language from the Akkadians who conquered Sumeria. Thus a language closer to Sumerian (which apparently was not a Semitic language) seems a better bet for a language of Adam and Eve. Interestingly enough, the word “Eden” apparently comes from Sumerian.

Reminds me of looking at the Wycliffe and Tyndall bibles at the Museum of the Bible? In D.C. Even knowing the verses, tough to read.

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The Gunditjmara people have been speaking their language for 3,800 years either side of 36,800 at least. 27,000 years before Adam and Eve at the very least and easily 45,000 years. Over 50,000 years ago. There would have been little pressure to change since arriving in Australia 65,000 years ago and even from Africa 10,000 years before, 75,000 years ago.

Language change isn’t related to selective pressure and doesn’t require contact with other languages. It’s sociological, related to in-group marking and generational differentiation. Literacy and standardized written forms and esteemed texts slow language change, but don’t stop it. We don’t speak Shakespearean English.

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Excellent, thanks @Christy. So given a relatively static culture, and they don’t come much more static than Australian Aboriginal, the longest continuous culture on Earth, how fast do languages change?

With every generation there are slight changes because children generally don’t want to talk exactly like their grandparents because of social pressure to fit in with and have solidarity with their peers. I’ve read that if you separate two groups that speak the same language, within 1,000 years each group’s language will evolve to the point that it is mutually unintelligible to the other. Here in Mexico, many Indigenous groups are living in ways that are culturally very similar to their ancestors going back many generations, raising livestock and doing subsistence farming. But often the Mixtec spoken in one town is unintelligible to the Mixtec speakers in a town 50 km away, because they live in isolated, rugged mountain terrain, and absent a standardized written form and widespread literacy, language changes more rapidly. There are 11 language families represented here but over 350 distinct languages have evolved from those families.

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Thank you. Fascinating. How fast are global languages evolving? English, Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish? And how fast has modern Greek evolved from ancient, the same for Hebrew? I’ve heard that standard Italian hasn’t become unintelligible since Dante, 700 years ago.

It depends on what features you are looking at. I’ve only really looked at language change in English. For example, the Northern Cities Vowel Shift (noted since 1972) has significantly impacted American English in my region in my lifetime.

Here the 37 year Cockney soap opera East Enders has affected Northern English.

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So Gunditjmara will have naturally evolved much more, several times more, than Latin from PIE?

Is 5,000 year ancient Tamil (non-PIE?) visible in modern Tamil? Gunditjmara is ten times older… But not comparable as Tamil has been textually preserved.

All intriguing stuff.

The first language is unrecoverable. Anatomically modern humans have been around about 200,000 years and surely had language. The Neandertals preceded them and probably had language also, since they had symbolic thought, a FOXP2 Gene just like our own, and “handedness.”

A good book for learning about how humans might have developed language is:
The First Word: the Search for the Origins of Language
by Christine Kenneally. (I’ve heard clergy say that God poofed language into our brains! But when a person loses the ability to speak, swearing is the last thing to go. So, I don’t think so.)

Dennis Venema wrote a great article for BioLogos comparing evolution to the development of languages.

True, and the Hebrew Bible itself contains some archaic Hebrew passages, e.g. The Song of Miriam.

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Having just finished reading The Canterbury Tales, I think I could probably manage a conversation with Chaucer if we both spoke very slowly and clearly, and we rephrased things when necessary. (And if we were both, you know, alive.) Other English dialects from the same time – quite unlikely.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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