I am often asked how it is that the Israelites ceased to speak Afro-Asiatic languages and came to speak Indo-European languages. Language and ancestry are two different matters. It is very clear from genetic data from modern and ancient Indo-European speakers that the Indo-European languages were propagated to many relatively diverse ethnic groups who had various different tongues of their own before.
These people of course all generally belonged to the Adamic race, but within that spectrum there was considerable diversity that cannot all be attributed to a singular proto-Indo-European speaking population. Thus the constant search by scholars of Indo-European studies for the theoretical Proto-Indo-European ‘Urheimat’ could never tell us where all modern Indo-European speakers originate.
It is now pertinent to discuss some common misconceptions about language in relation to the Adamic nations of Scripture. It is commonly perceived that that Indo-European is synonymous with Japhetic and that Afro-Asiatic encompasses the Hamites and Shemites, however this is demonstrably false. There are several biblical nations clearly identifiable in history and archaeology as Indo-European speakers; Medes (Madai), Thracians (Thiras), Ionians (Javan) and Lydians (Lud). While three of these four nations are indeed Japhetic, Lydians were Shemitic according to Biblical genealogy. Not only was one of these Indo-European speaking nations Shemitic rather than Japhetic, but there were also Japhetic tribes who spoke non-Indo-European languages such as Basque and the Kartvelian language family. So we see that there is no real consistency in this theory that Japhetic and Indo-European are synonymous.
The Biblical Philistines seem to have been speakers of an Indo-European proto-Greek dialect. Many scholars identify them with the Minoans of Crete (wrongly connected with and named for the Minos of Greek legend) which is commonly thought to be the Biblical Caphtor, the original home of the Philistines. It is unclear whether they were non-Indo-European speakers Hellenized by Ionian contact or whether they were proto-Greek speakers all along, but in either case it is evident these Hamitic Philistines in some way defy the narrative that all the Biblical Hamites are Afro-Asiatic speakers. (See Bryant G. Wood’s ‘The Genesis Philistines’ from the Associates for Biblical Research).
We also find that there were non Indo-European speaking Adamic nations who came to adopt Indo-European speech at an early time. Many scholars identify the Biblical Hamitic Hittites with the Indo-European speaking people of Hattusa, commonly refered to now by the Biblical name Hittite, however I believe this identification is somewhat errant. Rather I believe the original Hittites of Genesis 10 were the earlier inhabitants called the Hattians as it seems highly unlikely to me that a people with such a similar name could have preceded the sons of Heth into that land. These Hattians were speakers of the isolate language known as Hattic who were later overcome by Indo-European speakers who established what is commonly called Hittite civilization today. These latter arrivals seem to have retained the name of the land of Hatti in which their empire was established. In the wake of this conquest the Hattians came to speak an Anatolian Indo-European language and gradually abandoned Hattic speech as they were absorbed into the populace of the new empire.
A similar occurrence happened in Iran where the Shemitic Elamites (Biblical Elam) were Indo-Europeanized through extensive contact with Iranic speaking tribes such as the Medes. The isolate language Elamite continued to be used as a courtly language in the Persian Achmaenid empire showing that some Elamites must’ve remained a considerable element in the Persian aristocracy. Throughout history Persia is consistently the party fulfilling prophecies regarding Elam and Josephus identifies Elam as the patriarch of the Persians (Antiquities, 1.6.4) so presumably the Elamites formed an Indo-Europeanized element of the Persian aristocracy. Undoubtedly it was these Elamites who contributed to the obvious Mesopotamian influences exhibited in Persian art and culture. All of this goes to show that the narrative of Indo-Europeans as Japhethites and Afro-Asiatics as Hamites and Shemites is deeply flawed.
There is ample evidence for the linguistic transition of the Israelites out of the Afro-Asiatic speaking world and into the Indo-European world bringing considerable Semitic influence with them. This was the result of a series of contacts between the Israelites and their ancestors with Indo-European speakers during nomadic or semi-nomadic phases in their history. First their ancestors were at the tower of Babel when the Heavenly Host confounded the speech of the Adamites.
Biblical scholars have long generally agreed that the Shinar or Senaar of Genesis 11 where the Noahites all gathered after the flood is the Sumer of ancient Mesopotamia. This is supported by the similarity in the two Semitic names (Sumer is an Akkadian word), the matching geographical descriptions and the association with Babel, Akkad and Uruk. In Genesis 11 the Noahites all gathered in Sumer/Shinar and there they shared in the same speech and custom.
The Sumerian language is known today as a linguistic isolate, but was once thought to be the origin of the Indo-European languages. A comparison between Sumerian and Indo-European was made by Charles Autran already in 1925, finding many similar roots and even suffixes, like -ta for the origin (Skt. -tas), -bi for the instrumental (Skt. -bhis). Gordon Whittaker, since 1998, has identified so-called Euphratic, a substratum or superstratum in Sumerian, with an Indo-European language.
Particularly interesting is his analysis of the phonetic values, without meaning in Sumerian, of pictographic symbols, which in some cases can suggest an IE connection. The symbol for a fish is read peš, which recalls PIE *pisk/peisk- ‘fish’, perhaps from the Indo-European root pi- ‘to drink’ and the frequentative suffix -sk-. The symbol of a bird is read hu, and can be compared with PIE *hwi/hwai- ‘bird’ (notably Armenian hav meaning ‘chicken’). The logogram for ‘dog’, with an animal head, is read lik, and recalls PIE *wlkwa- ‘wolf’, especially Greek lykos.
The logogram for ‘fox’, with the symbol of a fox’s head with large ears, is read lib/lub, comparable to the PIE *wlpe- ‘fox’ (Latin vulpes, Greek alopex), which is apparently an offshoot or variant of the previous one (with kw > p). The phonetic values for ‘prince’ are nar/nara, as in the Sanskrit term for ‘man, hero’ (ner/nir).
In a publication of 2012, Whittaker has suggested laws of phonetic change from Euphratic to Sumerian, which is a necessary aspect in a scientific demonstration of the existence of this Indo-European language. In support he cites other examples of phonetic values, like sah/suh for the sign ‘thread+thread’, recalling Skt. sū-tra-‘thread’, from the root s(y)ū- ‘to sew’, corresponding to Latin su-ere. Also of note is semed for the sign ‘one’, comparable to the PIE root *sam-, found e.g. in English same and Latin semel ‘once’.
Aleksi Sahala, Assyriologist of the University of Helsinki, has between 2009 and 2013 proposed 30 Sumerian words with a possible common etymology with Indo-European. In 1927, the British explorer and scholar of Sanskrit, Laurence Waddell published a book with the title Aryan Origin of the Alphabet and Sumer-Aryan Dictionary.
Sumerian civilization was generally bilingual with the general populace being fluent in both Sumerian and Akkadian, the earliest attested Semitic language. Of course both languages used the same Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform. Linguists regard the relationship between Sumerian and Akkadian as a “sprachbund”; a group of closely related languages with profound influence on one another from lexical borrowing on a large scale, to syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence.
The Sumerian language is somewhat of a mystery to scholars. It is an isolate with no clear ancestors or descendants, but also with clear relationships with both Afro-Asiatic and Indo-European languages and potentially with other contemporary linguistic isolates such as Elamite. Thus I would identify Sumerian or its parent language as the the united tongue of the Noahites described in Genesis 11.1. This explains why it is a distinct isolate with such diverse affinities with many far-flung languages such as Uralic, Kartvellian, Basque, Sanskrit and Armenian as well as contemporary Akkadian.
Of course the events at Babel vastly predate the emergence of the Israelites but the Sumerian language is relevant to their history and that of the nations Israel would later be scattered among.
‘Sumer: the Civilization of Babel’
There is considerable evidence that the early Semites, Arphaxadites and Hebrews had extensive contact with Indo-European speakers or were perhaps even Indo-European speakers originally. One of the sons of Shem was Arphaxad who sired Eber, the eponymous patriarch of the Hebrews, and the name Arphaxad is quite likely of Indo-European origin. Strongs Exhaustive Concordance offers no Hebrew etymology for Arpakshad (H775) and says that it is probably of foreign origin. In Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon in the entry for Arpakshad he remarks that it is not improbable that it corresponds to Arrapachitis (proposed by Bochart, Phaleg 2.4) which is described as being near to Armenia in the Northern reaches of Assyria. He also notes that von-Bohlen compares Arpakshad to the Sanskrit word Arjapakshata meaning “(a land) by the side of Asia”.
The only other commonly proposed etymology for Arpakshad is from the Hebrew phrase arpa Kesed meaning “boundary of Kesed” but this is unlikely as Kesed descended from Arphaxad and they were certainly not contemporary nor did Kesed precede Arphaxad. Thus Arphaxad’s name could not be a reference to Kesed and the Indo-European etymology seems more likely. It also is fitting in light of the probable location of Arphaxad in Arrapachitis near to Armenia which sits in the extremities of Asia. In Joshua 24.2 the ancestors of the Israelites are described as being pagans who dwelt “beyond the river”. This river is the Euphrates of course and is identified as such by all notable scholars. “Beyond the Euphrates” is a phrase found both in the writings of Josephus (Antiquities, 11.133) and the Dead Sea Scrolls (The War Scroll). In The War Scroll the description “beyond the Euphrates” is applied to Togar (Togarmah) and Masha (Meshech) which are commonly identified as lands in modern Russia, Georgia and Armenia.
In the preface to Josephus’ Wars the phrase describes those “with the Adiabeni”. Adiabene consisted of the plains beyond the Tigris bordering Babylonia to the South, Armenia to the North and Media in the East. So we see that the phrase “beyond the Euphrates” in Israelite literature refers consistently to the Northernmost regions of Western Asia which sit well within the range of the spread of Indo-European languages. In ancient times these lands were under the influence of Anatolian, Armenian and Iranic Indo-European speakers.
Another of the sons of Shem was Lud, and his descendants are commonly identified as the Lydians and Luwians of Anatolia. Both of these tribal groups spoke languages of the Anatolian family of Indo-European languages and were quite close to the domain of the kindred Arphaxadites. The Lydians and Luwians shared Anatolia with the Hittites who had become Indo-Europeanized by conquest at an early time. It is possible that the Indo-European conquerors who subdued the Hattians and established the Hittite empire were a confederacy of Anatolian speaking Semitic tribes descended from Lud and Arphaxad along with neighbouring Japhetic tribes.
Hebrew is a patronym derived from Eber (H5676) which comes from abar (H5674) meaning “bring over”, “carry over” or “deliver”. Eber finds a likely Indo-European cognate, or perhaps even a root, in the proto-Indo-European root *bher- meaning “carry a burden”, “bring” or “give birth”. While it is beyond the scope of this discussion, it can be demonstrated that the Habiru of profane Near Eastern inscriptions are identifiable with the Biblical Hebrews who descended from Arphaxad. Excavations at Kultepe and Alishar in Anatolia, uncovered several collections of letters and legal and economic texts from Assyrian trading outposts of the old Akkadian period. Among them was a letter from one Assyrian merchant to another requesting that he seek the release of Habiru men who were imprisoned at the palace of Shalahshuwe, an unidentified neighbour, probably to the North of Alishar. In this letter we find that the Habiru are located in central Anatolia in the domain of the Hittites.
While many Habiru personal names are of Semitic origin and some Hurrian, many are of Indo-European origin as observed by Robert B. Coote and Carol A. Redmount. While it is not certain that the Biblical Semites, Arphaxadites or Hebrews were originally Indo-European speakers, we can be certain that they had extensive contact with Indo-European speakers in ancient times.
‘Habiru: Reavers of the Fertile Crescent’
The next major contact with Indo-European languages occurs in Canaan where the Israelites encountered Hittites, Ionian Greeks and Philistines. The Israelites traded extensively with the Ionians and intermarried to some extent with the Philistines. At this time the Israelites generally speak North-West Semitic languages.
Both the Philistines (often identified by biblical scholars with the Minoan culture) and the Ionians spoke variants of early Greek. This Hellenization certainly had a profound effect on the northern house of Israel.
There are numerous Semitic loan words in early forms of Greek and the Greek alphabet itself is derived from the Phoenician script. Phoenician was an early form of the Israelite script and paleo-Hebrew is widely known to be a form of Phoenician.
Many linguists acknowledge an Eastern Mediterranean sprachbund which facilitated trade and diplomacy in the ancient Eastern Mediterranean. North-West Semitic languages were a crucial part of this sprachbund and doubtless the Israelites both contributed to its development and were influenced by the contributions of early Greek speakers.
‘Dardan, Danaan and Dorian Origins: the Mediterranean Migrations of Ancient Israel’
An astounding affinity exists between the Northwest Semitic languages and the Celtic languages. Many scholars have noted this over the years including J. Courtenay James, Karel Jongeling, E. Raymond Capt, R. Govett, Beale Poste, Dr. Davies, Dr. Duncan McDougall, Samuel Lysons, Morris Jones, Theo Vennemann, Julius Pokorny, Heinrich Wagner, and Orin Gensler, to name just a few.
Both Celtic and Semitic languages are generally verb-subject-object in their default syntax. The two groups of languages feature extensive use of prepositions inflected for person and number. In both languages prepositions can be used to express obligation or possession. Celtic and Semitic languages both make use of resumptive pronouns in relative clauses.
Both families have a definite article but no indefinite article. Both use the construct state genitive in which two nouns are placed one after the other with the first noun modifying the second. Semitic and Celtic tongues both use the equivalent of “and” to subordinate one clause to the previous clause.
In 1675 Charles Edwards (“Hanes y Fydd”) documented what he termed Welsh Cambro-Brittanic Hebraisms which show that whole phrases in Welsh can be closely paralleled by whole phrases in Hebrew. It should be noted that when account is taken for likely and known dialectical changes of pronounciation the examples given in effect show identical Welsh parallel phrases for the Hebrew original.
In Welsh: Gael hedd meaning “Geledd” i.e. “Heap of testimony” (Genesis 31.47) = in Hebrew: Galaed.
In Welsh: Bagad meaning “A troop cometh?” (Genesis 30.11) = in Hebrew: Ba gad.
In Welsh: Anudon meaning “Without God” = in Hebrew: Aen Adon.
In Welsh: Yni all sy dda meaning “I am the Almighty God” (Genesis 17.1) = in Hebrew: Ani El Saddai.
In Welsh: Llai iachu yngwyddd achau ni meaning “Let him not live before our brethren” (Genesis 31.32) = in Hebrew: Loa yichei neged acheinu.
In Welsh: Ochoren ballodddi hoc-dena meaning “After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure?” = in Hebrew: Acharei belothi hedenah (Genesis 18.12).
In Welsh: Bebroch fra am beneu ach ef, dyfet Deborah mam ianceth Ribecah meaning “When he fled from the face of his brother. But Deborah Rebecca’s nurse died” (Genesis 35.7-8) = in Hebrew: Beborcho mpnei achiv vetamath Deborah mayneceth Ribecah.
In Welsh: Yngan Job yscoli yscoli cynghaws i (Job 6.1-2) meaning “Job answered, O that my grief were thoroughly weighed” = in Hebrew: Veya(g)n Eyub… shocol yishocal ca(g)si.
In Welsh: Amelhau bytheu chwi a bythau holl ufyddau chwi meaning “And they shall fill your house and the houses of all your servants” (Genesis 10.6) = in Hebrew: Umalu bathechoh and bathei col avedochoh.
In Welsh: Iachadd ni meaning “Thou hast healed me” = in Hebrew: Hechiyatni.
In Welsh: Nesa awyr peneu chwi meaning “Lift thou up the light of thy countenance” = in Hebrew: Nasa aor panechoh (Psalms 4.6).
In Welsh: As chwimwth meaning “an angry man” = in Hebrew: Ish chamas (Psalms 140.12, Proverbs 16.29 meaning a wickedly violent man).
In Welsh: Be heulo, luerferfo (Job 6.4) meaning “When his candle shined… and by his light” = in Hebrew: Behilo, leoroe.
In Welsh: Bwgythieu in gwarchaeni (Job 6.4) meaning “The terrors of God set themselves in array against me” = in Hebrew: Biu(g)thi elohai ya-a(g)rchuni.
In Welsh: I far meaning “Shall be cursed” = Hebrew: Yu-ar, yuv-ar. (Numbers 22.6).
In Welsh: Am geryddo fo meaning “At his reproof” = in Hebrew: Im ge-arato.
The Jewish archaeological and linguistic authorities have greatly obfuscated the linguistic history of Canaan. What is commonly called “proto-Canaanite” is actually the language of the Israelites of the Exodus which I would call Terahitic after Terah the ancestor of Abraham and Haran the father of Lot. Its writing system is “proto-Sinaitic” whose parent system is Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Derivatives include “Biblical Hebrew”, “Edomite”, “Ammonite” and “Moabite”. This raises an interesting question? Why is it named “Canaanite” when none of these tribes are direct Canaanite descendants, but rather descend (paternally at least) from Shemites of the line of Terah?
The languages of the Canaanites of Scripture (not as misidentified by Jewish archaeologists) are “Amorite” (perhaps properly proto-Canaanite) and its child “Ugaritic” (perhaps Canaanite). Little is claimed by experts about “Amorite” beyond defining it as ancestral to “Ugaritic”. Neither language uses any of the “North-West Semitic” alphabets like “proto-Sinaitic”, “Canaanite”, “Phoenician” and “paleo-Hebrew” etc. Rather “Ugaritic” has its own cuneiform derived script.
From “proto-Canaanite” comes “Canaanite” and there are two further developments from “Canaanite” identifiable with the Israelites: “Phoenician” and “Biblical Hebrew”. The linguistic and alphabetical lineage from “proto-Canaanite” to “Canaanite” to “Phoenician” and “Biblical Hebrew” is properly the Israelite linguistic development. Of course if scholars understood this it would prompt a line of questioning which would ultimately discredit Jewry and Zionism.
The Phoenicians of Phoenicia’s maritime golden age were one and the same people as ancient Israel, and they were surely not kin of modern day Jews. Rather they established many important European tribes including Milesians, Carthaginians, Thebians and others.
‘The Israelite Origins of Europa: the Phoenicians in the West’
When the northern house of Israel went into the Assyrian captivity they were placed among the Medes and Persians as a buffer population on the fringes of the Assyrian empire. There they would have, by necessity, adopted the Iranic lingua franca of these Medo-Persian territories.
This aligns with the Irano-Semitic language hypothesis which proposes an intermediary Irano-Semitic, Indo-Semitic or Aryo-Semitic language group conjoining Afro-Asiatic and Indo-European language groups (Carleton T. Hodge 1998:318, Alan S. Kaye 1985:887, Adams and Mallory 2006:83, Cuny 1943:1). This represents the complete crossover of the house of Israel into the Indo-European cultural and linguistic world.
As these Scythians penetrated into Central Europe they encountered various Indo-European speaking Adamic tribes. While beyond the scope of this discussion it can be demonstrated that these Scythian tribes formed the foremost racial element of the Germanic tribes.
‘Scythian Origins: the Lost Tribes in Iran, the Steppe and Europe’
There are many proto-Germanic words with likely Hebrew cognates. This aligns with Theo Venneman’s work Germania Semitica where he demonstrates a Semitic superstratum in the Germanic languages. Here we will look at a small sampling of these cognates.
PG *bautaną (giving us English beat) meaning “to push” or “strike” from PIE *bʰewd- meaning “to hit” or “strike”. Compare to Hebrew baat (H1163) meaning “kick” from a primitive root meaning “to trample down”.
PG *ders- (giving us English dare) meaning “to be bold” or “have courage” from PIE root *dhers- meaning “bold”. Compare to Hebrew addir (H117) meaning “gallant”, “excellent” or “powerful”.
PG *beranan (giving us English bear) meaning “to bear” or “carry” from PIE root *bher- meaning “carry a burden”, “bring” or “give birth”. Compare to Hebrew abar (H5674) meaning “bring over”, “carry over” or “deliver”.
PG *leukhtam (giving us English light) meaning “light” or “brightness” from PIE root *leuk- also meaning “light” or “brightness”. Compare Hebrew lahat (H3857) meaning “flaming” from a primitive root meaning “to blaze”.
PG *grap- (giving us English grab, grasp and grapple) meaning “to grab” or “seize” from PIE *ghrebh- “to seize” or “reach”. Compare to Hebrew garaph (H1640) meaning “to sweep away” from a primitive root meaning “to bear off violently”.
PG *brennanan (giving us English burn) meaning “to set on fire” of uncertain derivation. Compare to Hebrew ba’ar (H1197) meaning likewise “burn”, “heat” or “kindle” from a primitive root meaning “set on fire”.
PG *ertho (giving us English earth) meaning “earth” or “soil” from an extended form of PIE root *er- meaning “earth” or “ground”. Compare to Hebrew erets (H776) meaning “earth” or “land”.
PG *askon (giving us English ash) meaning “ash” from PIE root *as- meaning “to burn” or “glow”. Compare to Hebrew esh (H784) meaning “burning”, “hot” or “fiery” and Hebrew ashan (H6225) from a primitive root meaning “to smoke”.
PG *buron (giving us English bore) meaning “to bore through” or “perforate” from PIE root *bhorh- meaning “hole”. Compare to Hebrew bowr (H953) meaning “pit”, “cistern” or “well”.
PG *dumbaz (giving us English dumb) meaning “dumb” or “dull” of uncertain derivation. Compare to Hebrew damah (H1820) meaning “to be brought to silence” from a primitive root meaning “to be dumb” or “silent”.
PG *bannan (giving us English ban) “to speak publicly”, “command” or “forbid” from a suffixed form of PIE root *bha- meaning “to speak”, “tell” or “say”. Compare to Hebrew bin (H995) meaning “direct” or “discern” from a primitive root meaning “inform” or “instruct”.
PG *gel- (giving us English yell) meaning “to yell” or “to resound” from PIE root *ghel- meaning “to call”. Compare to Hebrew yalal (H3213) meaning “be howling” from a primitive root meaning “to howl”.
PG *brekanan (giving us English break) meaning “to break apart” from PIE root *bhreg- meaning “to break”. Compare to Hebrew perek (H6531) meaning “fracture” from an unused root meaning “to break apart”.
PG *kall- (giving us English call) meaning “to cry out” from PIE root *gal- meaning “to call” or “shout”. Compare to Hebrew qol (H6963) meaning “cry out” or “noise” from an unused root meaning “to call aloud”.
There arises a great deal of confusion concerning the connections between the Afro-Asiatic and Indo-European languages. There is a wide range of dates proposed for the Irano-Semitic language and other scholars like Theo Vennemann point to Semitic stratum in Indo-European languages outside of the Iranic family such as Germanic and Celtic.
Whittaker proposed the Euphratic Indo-European language of Mesopotamia which he identifies as a substratum in Sumerian. Sumerian itself was once commonly thought to be an Indo-European language and Sumerian was also in a sprachbund with Akkadian, the eldest attested Semitic language. There is even the Nostratic hypothesis which proposes a broader Nostratic language group encompassing Sumerian, Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic among other languages generally belonging to Caucasoid peoples. All of this confusion concerning when Afro-Asiatic and Indo-European languages diverged and/or converged disappears in light of the Scriptural narrative.
There is a related question I often face and so I will take this opportunity to address it. If the Israelites are among modern Europeans how come most distinctive European DNA is commonly thought to come from Anatolia or the Pontic-Caspian Steppe according to the favoured Kurgan and Anatolian hypotheses of Indo-European origins?
According to Scripture the Israelite’s lineage was not native to Canaan or Mesopotamia but rather, like all the Adamic nations of Scripture, they originated between Anatolia and the Pontic Caspian Steppe at Mount Ararat in the region of ancient Urartu just South East of the Black Sea. From there the Adamites spread Eastward across the Steppe and Iran (Genesis 11.2). After their time travelling through Mesopotamia and Egypt and dwelling in Canaan they were deported by the Assyrians to Northern Mesopotamia. From there they exited the Near East through Anatolia, the Caucasus and Iran.
‘Scythian Origins: the Lost Tribes in Iran, the Steppe and Europe’
The two most likely contenders for a Proto-Indo-European Urheimat (Anatolia and the Pontic-Caspian Steppe) sit just either side of the Scriptural origin point of all the Adamites. They also encompass the heartland of the Israelites in classical antiquity from which they settled Europe. Thus we should fully expect (according to Scripture) the Israelites to have a genetic origin traceable to Anatolia and the Pontic-Caspian Steppe and not Palestine or other regions of the Middle East.