Remarks On J. G. Mueller’s Die Semiten -- By: C. H. Toy

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 031:122 (Apr 1874)
Article: Remarks On J. G. Mueller’s Die Semiten
Author: C. H. Toy


Remarks On J. G. Mueller’s Die Semiten

Prop. C. H. Toy

The apparently anomalous position of the Canaanites — speaking a language of the group called Shemitic, yet belonging, according to the Table in Gen. 10, to the Hamitic family — has long furnished a problem to scholars. Various solutions have been offered. Accepting the threefold division of Gen. 10., as, in general, founded on real ethnographic differences, some have supposed that the Canaanites were Shemites, others that they adopted the language of the Hebrews, and others still that the Hebrews adopted their language. In any case the essential identity of the Phoenician, Canaanitish, Hebrew, Arabic, Ethiopic, Syrian, and Assyrian tongues excites surprise and calls for explanation. Dr. Müller, of Basle, has offered an explanation in his recent work “Die Semiten,’ which is an elaboration of views presented by him some years ago in his Article “Canaaniter,” in Herzog’s “Real-Encyclopadie.” He holds that the name “Shemite” means nothing but Hamitised Japhethite, and that what are called Shemitic languages are simply Hamitic languages spoken by Japhetic or Indo-European peoples. He supposes that in the period of national migrations(about B.C. 3000–2000) while a part of the Indo-Europeans remained in their native seats and retained their language, another part passed (in nomadic hordes) westward and northward into Hamitic lands, found there well-developed civilization and cultivated languages, which they adopted, and thus became externally Hamites, retaining, however, certain general religious conceptions which they had brought with them. The proof of this he finds in the ethnological, linguistic, and religious statements of the Hebrew Scriptures (especially Gen. 10.), in

other ancient writings (Greek, Roman, Phenician, Egyptian), and in the linguistic relations themselves.

Professor Müller’s argument is clear and simple, and he has brought together many interesting facts, and made some excellent remarks. Thus, he points out the confusion which exists in the use of the term “Shemitic,” showing that some of the best scholars of modern times (as Lassen, Hitzig, Rénan) have employed it sometimes in a linguistic sense, as including all the peoples who spoke this class of languages, and sometimes in an ethnological sense, as including the peoples who are derived from Shem in the Table of Nations in Genesis. His defence of the historical trustworthiness of this Table, proof that its principle of division is an ethnographical one, and demonstration that the Canaanites did not take their language from ...

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