Friday, November 14, 2008

Avraham's mother, Shimshon's sister and the "Immaculate Conception"

Parshablog has an interesting post on the post-talmudic designation of Lot's wifes name as Idith. There is an interesting wiki on the subject of post-biblical designations for biblical characters here (hebrew) and here (english - they bring the source for Lot's wife back to the Sefer HaYashar).

On this subject, R' Reinman (One People Two Worlds) argues for the strength of Rabbinic tradition - because even a minor detail like the fact that Avrohoms mother's name was Amatlai bas Karnebo (see end of Ch. 5 of Bava Basra) has been verified by the discovery of a similar name in ancient Sumerian records.

I innocently mentioned this "source" on Wikipedia at one point, to which I got the following response:

"You mentioned that this was the name of Abraham's mother and that it had been found to be a name in Sumerian times. I am interested in following up on this as I can find no Sumerian called Amatlei Bas Karnebo (linguistically it looks very un-Sumerian too). Do you have a reference? "

Does a more scholarly source exist for this claim?

In the same sugya, we have the following cryptic tidbit:

The mother of Sampson, Z'llpunith, and his sister N'shiin. To what purpose was this said? For an answer to the Epicuristen (censored - should be minim - based on the shoddy and overly apologetic - Rodkinson ).

One might understand the need for the names of the mothers as per Rashi but what is the importance of the nameof Shimshon's sister?

R' Yaakov Kamenetsky has the following brilliant interpretation (B'Mechitzos Rabbenu pg. 212 - and this is a foreshadowing of what we can expect from EY on Nach which I am eagerly awaiting):

Minim generally refer to the Christians [Rashi, for instance, seems to learn that it is an acronym for M'Talmidei Yeshu HaNotzri - see the Rashis removed by censor. See the second part of R. Kimelmans diss. for a more comprehensive discussion]. In Judges 13 - it first states

verse 2 - הנה נא את עקרה ולא ילדת והרית וילדת בן

verse 4 - כי הנך הרה וילדת בן

In the first verse we are told that she is going to conceive a child - in the future. The second verse seems to say that she has already conceived - in the past tense. Chazal (Bamidbar Rabbah 10) explain that the seed that was already there "gathered" so as to form a child. But the Christian explain (although I see no nore of this distinction in the AKJV), that we have here mutatis mutandis a beautiful proof for the doctrine of the Virgin Birth - since we see that the word of an angel can cause conception. Therefore, by citing the sister of Shimshon -whose birth was preumably natural - we can prove that Tzlilpones's conception was of the normal kind.


joshwaxman said...

very interesting. I never saw that gemara before. besides, or perhaps alongside the gemara's answer, Midrash Hagadol connects zlilponit to הַצְלֶלְפּוֹנִי of Divrei HaYamim I 4:3. So perhaps there is a genealogical purpose to that particular name, making her descend from Peretz, and thus from Yehudah. This could also be an answer to the Christians, somehow, in terms of their genealogy. E.g. if they have some kind of genealogy from the mother's side for Jesus back to Yehudah (for after all, there is no ancestry on the father's side given his purported Father), or if we can cast Shimshon as the fulfillment of some sort of messianic prophecy.

We have, IIRC, the end of Bereishit Rabba where Yaakov sees Shimshon and thinks he is the melech hamashiach. But then, when he sees that Shimshon dies, he knows that this is not the melech hamashiach.


joshwaxman said...

the above was just random free-association, of course.

also, I know of no scholarly source for that name, or similar names but just because it a name (or a similar name) shows up in Sumerian records does not mean it must be a Sumerian name, and thus must accord to the typical form of Sumerian names -- just that it was a name in use at about that time. For example, the Egyptian slave lists, which has the North-West Semitic name Shifra on it. So perhaps his claim was not that it sounded Sumerian.


wolf2191 said...

The idrash in which he is "grinding mountains together", interesting identifying characterisitic for Moshiach.

Your Davidic decsent idea is interesting but not sure if it works.

BTW, Sefer HaYashar (as source for Lots wife) is a lot earlier then Pirkei D' R Elizer

andy said...

Sefer HaYashar is a lot earlier than Pirkei D' R Eliezer. Huh?

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

In general, Reinman doesn't seem to be overly familiar with scholarly work on Jewish subjects (e.g., professing not to even be aware that Ibn Ezra is seen as a proto-source critic of the Bible). However, he does mention Cassuto (a favorite Bible scholar for frum people), so I would not be surprised if this is his source for the info about the Sumerian name.

Wolf2191 said...

Thanks but Google books couldn't find anything

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

In Cassuto you mean? I'm not saying it's in his Documentary Hypothesis. It could be in his pirush on Bereishis. (I don't have it, otherwise I'd look. Point is, he is the likely source to look for.)

Yitzhak said...

On relying on Wikipedia in legal contexts:

link said...

The word "hara" is ambiguous, as we see by Tamat "hara leznunim", meaning ALREADY pregnant, while by Hagar is means "will become pregnant", see Rashi that Sorah made Hagar suffer a miscariage, so whe was no longer pregnant at the time the Malach spoke to her (and will become ppregnant again). This is the general ambiguity of adjectives that only take a tense in context. Thus, v. 4 that you cited simply means that "you will concieve".

Abramo said...


I suspect the older source is Sefer Hayashar. Actually, I think my edition (with Nikud - probably added later) says Amtalai, not Amatlai, but I do not have the book handy and I cannot check now. Also, the version Amtalay might be in my memory because many years ago I was taught that the name of Avraham's mother was Amtalay bat Karnavò and that's the reason why I read it that way. If I remember I will check.
And, unfortunately, we cannot trust very much those "wiki experts" ...

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