From time-to-time, I teach a course in historical linguistics, which is among my favorite subjects. One of the topics we spend a fair amount of time discussing is whats called Sound Shift , which describes how similar vowel and consonant sounds move around over long stretches of time. For those of you familiar with Germanic languages (including English), this is what lies behind Grimms Law (also called Rasks Rule ).
Historically, consonant sounds tend to move around in these groups: /g/, /k/, /h/; /d/, /t/, /th/; and /b/, /p/, /f/. This is why dent- becomes tooth in English (/d/ becomes /t/ and /t/ becomes /th/; the /n/ dropped out for some reason) and gen- becomes kin (/g/ becomes /k/), and so forth. (Apologies in advance to the specialists among our readers: I am glossing over loads of subtleties for a general audience). Some linguists call these tendencies the secret decoder ring for cross-language vocabulary building.
As I watched the news this weekend, a particular report on the current situation in Israel caught my eye. The reporter was based in Ashkelon. I looked at my wife and asked what century it is, remembering Judges 14:18 ff s description of Samsons actions in Philistine territory.
The roots of the Middle Easts conflicts are millennia deep. This is even more apparent when we realize that the biblical Philistia / Philistines have been sound-shifted over the centuries to Palestine / Palestinian . Scholars and partisans may argue about whether the term is geographical or genetic, but the reality is that the history of the region is long and complicated. What is easy is this: we should pray for peace in a region that knows little of it.
We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.
Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on firstthings.com.
Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.
Will you give today?