Saturday, November 28, 2015
CHAPTER TWENTY: Concluding Parts
The Igbos And Israel-An Inter-cultural Study of the Largest Jewish Diaspora
The Igbos And Israel-An Inter-cultural Study of the Largest Jewish Diaspora
And while my comparison of Igbo and Ivrit is still in infancy I must reveal that I have observed that both languages share quite an uncommon resemblance; from idiomatic expressions, to similar words having similar meanings in both, etc. An Igbo who compared Igbo and Hebrew as part of her graduate work reached the conclusion that both languages are genetically related. Below is part of the work that I have started to do in the studying of both languages:
It is interesting that the Igbo word for house or home is be, and the Hebrew word for house is bes or beth. That an Igbo type of light is urimmu, and six of the lights on the breast-plate of the Israelite chief priest is urim. That the meaning of Israel’s Name for God in Hebrew Yawe, is ‘I am’, and in Igbo Yawu means ‘He is’. That wine in Hebrew is yayin and mmanya in Igbo. Abraham to the Igbo is Abiama. We must admit that Abraham and Abiama are close in spelling and pronunciation. The Creator of the universe to the Igbos is Chukwu Abiama (Great God of Abraham). Omenana is the phrase for the Igbos religion and culture, and Emuna is the Hebrew word for faith. And adam (Hebrew) and madu (Igbo) both mean man (humans).
G.T. Basden devoted a large portion of his work to a comparison of Igbo and Israelite traditions, and he started the comparison thus:
‘There are one or two peculiarities of idiom in Ibo similar to some found in Hebrew. The chief parallel is found in the repetition of words to express a single idea and, perhaps to add emphasis. The practice of reduplicating verbs or adding their cognate nouns is characteristic of Ibo- e.g. ‘O galu aga’ = he passed; ‘o jelu ije’ = he went. As a rule, the addition makes little or no appreciable difference to the meaning. There are many verbs which are rarely used without reduplication or with their derived noun either attached or in close proximity, e.g., we have such terms as “murmur a murmur” = “o natamu atamu”, or, as we have in the litany, “those who have erred”= “ndi jefielu ejefie”, and “those who are deceived” = “ndi alaputalu alaputa.”5
My exploratory work on the idioms, expressions, usages, etc, is set out hereafter.
Moses’ call on ‘heaven and earth’ to be his witness that he gave Israel sufficient warning to stay away from idolatry and evil made profound impact on me the first time I read it scholastically (in Deuteronomy 4:26), because it is our (Igbo) fashion when we want to really lay emphasis on a matter in discussion. When the Igbo man says ‘enu igwe na ana nukwa onu m’ (‘may heaven and earth hear my voice’) he is really serious, and does not want to play with the matter that made him to utter those words. An Igbo writer; S.C. Onwuka mentioned that Igbos call upon ‘heaven and earth to witness’ while they are praying.6 I submit that it is not just coincidental that both languages have such an identical expression, and use it in similar circumstances.
Also Dr. J. H. Hertz, a Jewish scholar; had while explaining the nuance in Numbers 14:22, “these ten times” stated that it could stand for a ‘large number of times’. He further explained it to mean: “They had now filled up the measure of their iniquities, and punishment must inevitably come upon them.”7 Dr. Hertz used expressions very close to the Igbo idiom—‘iko ya ejuna’, which means that he has exhausted all his chances, but which can be translated literally to mean ‘his cup or measure is filled up.’ Igbos use this phrase or idiom when an evil doer gets caught and is awaiting punishment. From Hertz’s explanation it is easy to see that the same idea lies behind both the Igbo usage of the expression, and the Israelite usage, as explained by Hertz.
Hertz also explains, ‘for they are bread for us’ which is in Numbers 14:9 as meaning that:
‘We shall easily destroy them.’8
His explanation is very similar to an Igbo expression nni nracha ka ha wu which literally means (‘they are easy food’), which if employed during a quarrel or fight signifies that the opponent can be defeated easily.
Also very interesting is the nearness of words that Jacob and his sons deployed when they were talking about Joseph’s supposed loss, to a wild beast, to the words that Igbos would have used in similar circumstances.
The sons reported that an ‘evil beast’ might have devoured their brother. Jacob also referred to the beast as an ‘evil beast.’ Genesis 37:35.9 Ordinarily a beast is either a wild one or a domestic one. But I understand what Jacob and his sons said and why because as an Igbo I know that Igbos will refer to a ferocious or wild beast as ajo anu (evil beast), even though the beast could have equally been tagged anu ofia (wild beast) by the Igbos.
One comes across the phrase ‘the anger of the Lord was kindled’,—Numbers 12:9, ‘My wrath shall wax hot’,-Exodus 22:23. If the phrases are translated into Igbo language we will have iwe oku which means hot anger.
The Igbos call their anger iwe oku (hot anger) when they are very angry. As I was pointing out in the section that dealt with “evil beast,” is anger supposed to be “hot” or cold? Applying such adjectives in certain cases makes sense to me only when I consider that every language has its own idioms and characteristics.
I will make a preliminary conclusion of this section with the words of Basden: “The language (Igbo) also bears several interesting parallels with the Hebrew idiom.”10
But before making my final comment on this subject which I am just beginning to look at I want to bring up more strikingly similar Igbo and Hebrew words which have identical or near meanings.
It is not mere coincidence that makes may- im- hayy-iym “waters of life, living waters,” in Hebrew similar to iyi which is “stream, river” in Igbo language.
Also the belt that was part of the Israelite priest’s garment—the ephod or ‘efowd, which is comparable with the Igbo word mfiedo = girdle or belt.
In addition the Hebrew nasas /nasah which are “be clear, be pure /shinning”, can be related to the Igbo nso and which can be used for holiness. Aso can also be used for holiness, and in Igbo thought what is nso or aso (holy) is pure.
And I also observed that many Igbo words like unyahu, ebe ahu, and nke ahu (yesterday, that place, and that thing) definitely excites one to think of Hebrew names like Eliyahu, Netanyahu, Yeshayahu, etc., because of the ahu endings. It also occurred to me that Igbos would include an u when pronouncing a name like John giving out something like Johnu. I was moved by the following prayer: Barukh atah Adonai….shehekhyanu vekiymanu vehigianu lazman hazeh, because of the nu endings. I find it my favorite prayer in Hebrew. Researchers would find this area very interesting to explore I predict.
As I am only beginning an exploration of this section I will not go too far. I will not make definitive assertions on the relationship between the Igbo and Hebrew languages at this stage. However I must say that my observation is that the Igbo spoken fifty years ago was not very dissimilar in aspects like sound, pronunciation, etc, with ancient Ivrit. Shortly I will resume a comparison of both languages with Avraham Phil van Riper; an American Jewish scholar.
Van Riper can actually talk about the Igbos, because he has been studying the Igbos from many important angles for years. Alongside Professor Isaac Mozeson, the author of The Origin of Speeches-Intelligent Design In Language, Igbo-American Sampson Hannuka, and myself, Van Riper has been working to find Igbo words that are as he said, ‘clearly related to ancient Hebrew’. I can say that some important progress has been made in this project, but that more astonishing finds and revelations will come up when more Igbos that know Hebrew and similar languages like Aramaic, and Arabic join the effort. And while we are at it, it will be good to conduct a little demonstration about how close the Igbo and the Hebrew languages are to each other. Among the Igbos, when a man pre-deceases the father, by Igbo customs and traditions something that is note-worthy, and very important has happened. The position of the first son is very important in the Igbo family. Among other things the first son (di okpara) takes over from the father as the priest of the family, and gets a larger share of the inheritance. If the individual who died while the father was still alive was the first son, and had married and gotten a son or sons, his own son would not get the rights of the first son of the family, even though his father was the first son. The rights would go to the younger brother of the deceased (the uncle of the son of the deceased), because the deceased ‘nwuru na ihu nna ya’, (he died in the presence of the father). Curiously, what do we find in Genesis 11: 28?- “And Haran died in the presence of his father Terah…….” The writer of Genesis could have written that Haran died when/while the father was still alive. The writer could also have written that Haran died before….or pre-deceased the father. Both statements are standard constructions in English language. But he could not have, because he was translating from Hebrew to English, and had to try as much as possible to present what he saw. And what he saw in the Hebrew language is what is found in the Igbo language-that the way to present the death of a son when the father is still alive, is ‘that he died in the presence of the father.’ This somewhat confirms what G. T. Basden, the Welsh-Anglican missionary and anthropologist who lived among the Igbos for many years, observed so many years ago in his book Niger Ibos:1966-that “Igbo language runs an interesting parallel with Hebrew idiom.” More detailed studies of the similarities between the Igbo and the Hebrew languages can be conducted by reading the relevant sections of The Igbos And Israel: An Inter-cultural Study of the Largest Jewish Diaspora, and www.edenic/nigeria.com.
A. Talking About Possible Jewish presence in Nigeria
American Jewish student of world Jewish history Avraham Van Riper transmitted the following in a letter to Chika Oduah, an American-Nigerian journalist who was writing a story for the CNN about the Igbo people of Nigeria who believe that they are Jews, and whom an increasing number of non Igbos have began to believe that they are Jews.
In response Van Riper gave Oduah a brief history of the Jews, highlighting that indeed Jews went to, and many times settled in most parts of the world.
Van Riper noted: “Yes! Everybody knows about the major dislocation at the hands of the Assyrian Empire around 2600 years ago. Everybody knows that King Solomon was married to a rather famous East African ruler. And that at some point she and her son...the king's son...traveled back to East Africa. Everybody knows there were other occasional dislocations. And business travel. All thousands of years ago. Everybody knows that King Solomon dispatched a fleet of ships southward and eastward into the Indian Ocean, and that three years later the fleet, or part of it, returned to Israel...on the Mediterranean coast. Since there was no Suez Canal back then we know the fleet either circumnavigated Africa, the entire continent - or - they circumnavigated the planet! Either way, a big deal. Everybody knows that Jews and Phoenicians settled all across northern Africa. And when we read about 'Phoenicians’, 'we're often reading both about Jews and Phoenician people (as sailors, merchants, whatever). Everybody knows that Jews got kicked out of just about every country in Europe, leading to the big expulsion from Spain and then Portugal. And everyone knows that some of them sought refuge in West Africa. Perhaps in lots of places up and down West Africa”.
Van Riper also informed Oduah about his own observation:
“The 'problem' is determining and documenting who showed up where and when. The Beta Yisrael (Ethiopian Jews) could point to a few documents written by Jewish scholars hundreds of years ago. The Lemba people in Zimbabwe and RSA can provide DNA sequencing that shows they are descended from Jews (Edith Bruder, the University of London scholar that wrote the Black Jews of Africa is impressed enough with what she found in her study of the Igbo that she tried to mobilize resources for a study of the DNA of the Igbo)….Van Riper continued…..Although my Igbo brothers and sisters have a problem with actual documentation, actual paperwork - I've learned that they have a rather extensive mass of circumstantial data to present...if they were to pursue 'official' recognition as Jews. Chika, you're an anthro, not just a reporter. Check out just half of the 'data!' ……………….. Oh, I almost forgot language! There are lots of Asusu Igbo words that can, even now in 2013, be shown to be clearly related to ancient Hebrew……………….”
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Remy Ilona Friends, thanks for commenting and congratulating us. A very important update follows. I just stepped in, after spending the evening at the Jewish Museum in Miami Beach, Florida, where the Distinguished Professor Tudor Parfitt, who is one of the fathers of Jewish Diasporic Studies gave a great lecture about the phenomenon of the emerging and re-emerging Jewish communities. It was a lecture that you wouldn't like to end. The professor meticulously took us around the world, and with great skill told us what is happening in each place, steps that the relevant authorities in Israel are contemplating to take, what the 'communities themselves are doing, what researchers have done, and are doing, etc. And my people, the Igbo story was among the stories recounted. And were those in attendance which included scholars from institutions like the MIT, Florida International University faculty and students wowed? They were. There were many questions, and Professor Parfitt took them all. And at the end of the day, the Jewish people, and some members of the Parfitt Clan that were also in attendance left with much satisfaction. Yours humbly enjoyed the evening thoroughly. He engaged many of the invitees in lively discussions.....