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orion-list Pliny Qumran analysis: palmarum / kaf.pe - kope (was Baumgarten)
Following, on a separate post, I should like to provide a significantly
different, imo, reading of Pliny's N.H. passage under disscussion, but
before, I owe a few, additional remarks, to my earlier kaf.pe - kope post,
on Sigrid Peterson's Tue, 17 Aug post(s).
The issue was raised on whether the 'palm', of "palmarum", which appears
in Latin as "palm-hand" and/or as "palm-tree" (from palm=hand) that is
generally understood to had been used there by Pliny to have kept the Esseni
some company, may not really, "behind" the scenes, rather stand for some
other 'hand', that is in origin Aramaic.
There had written Sigrid Peterson:
> In Aramaic kaf.pe. means `palm' as
>in palm of the hand. In Latin, `palm' is either the tree or the palm of
>the hand. An Aramaic usage of kaf.pe.alef. meaning `palm tree' in the
>Tosefta (250 or so CE) is attested in Jastrow, though the possibility is
>always there when using Jastrow that there is no underlying support
If in Aramaic kaf.pe means 'palm', as in palm of the hand, I would say
that the meaning is taken on secondarily, via identification with the "hand/
palm-holding" < "cutting-chisel." The primary meaning, as mentioned more
extensively in the previous post, is drawn by association from the Greek
'kope', to cut, where the 'kope-di', chisel, cutting tool, is held within the
"palm" (of) the "hand", that is, within the 'pal(a)me' which is the hand,
the 'pal(m)', from which is said to come the Latin. So, there is no case
for involving and invoking here any Aramaic, and so Latin, and Greek.
There is not here any great mystery. Further to this, and If one wanted
to examine the particular 'cutting-palm/tree' instance of this Aramaic
metaphor, one could think that kaf.pe.alef. has come to stand for the
'palm-tree' by a 'cutting' identification itself with the tree.
In any case, insofar as the "socia palarum" goes, it seems more easily
connected with the Latin directly via the Greek, rather by some obsure way
of the Aramaic. Palma-, itself, to my mind ought to derive either from
the treee's 'hand-like' leaf, and so via _palame_, pal()m(e), the 'palm',
'hand', as many lexicographers want it, or frm _palmos_, and "palmic",
"trembling" (the leaves in the wind) or "shaking", as I sometimes think.
There is a third possibility, and not unlikely: to had come to Latin
from the Greek name for the area-land (rather) of Phoenice, the "red-ish"
(land), the "fire-ish", where "fulvus", as the "tree-that grew-off-the red-
land', the so called 'Phoenix' in Greek, became (easily) "pulmus", "palmus",
'palma', palm-. AFAIC, the exact derivation has not been sorted out.
What is of interest for us here, however, is the fact that what is
behind the "palmarum", if anything, may be, merely, the original Greek.
So that the passage may not appear as suspect by there been along the
Esseni any "Society" -- as I have seen the passage more than one
time been translated, indeed, strangely-- "of "'palms""(??)", but just
plain 'palms', trees, "with" which the "solitary" "tribe" would sit by.
>It is said that Pliny did not tolerate it well when his staff corrected
>themselves or went back and made a change. I don't remember at the moment
>whether that detail comes from Rackham in the Loeb Edition, or from
>Stern's comments on the passage. I tend to think the former, quoting a
>letter concerning Pliny the Elder's work habits.
>That's a tenuous basis for saying that the underlying text is Semitic,
>hinging, as it does, on a supposed mistake in the choice of Latin words to
>translate nun.kaf.pe.alef or a similar Semitic word.
No, there does not appear to be any need for "a tenuous basis for
saying that the underlying text is Semitic," however very "tenuously"
may this be held. If anything, behind this Pliny passage may directly lie,
as Russell Gmirkin persuasively has argued Greek writings, such as those
of Posidonius, Strabo, or of his contemporary Nicolaus of Damascus. This
I will, too, will argue further, on the strength, primarily, of the other
much perplexing word that has rbeen routinely mistranslated in the passage,
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