DOI: 10.1177/03090892231188742 ISSN: 0309-0892

An attempt to identify the birds of Leviticus 11.13–19 using onomatopoeia

Martin Johnson, Philip Jenson
  • Religious studies

We report research into the 19 Hebrew bird names found in Leviticus 11.13–19 using a group cognition methodology (Surowiecki 2004). This is a multi-disciplinary project. The reason for this approach is the degree of uncertainty surrounding the translation of these names, as seen in some Bibles and recent scholarship, where many identifications are at the taxonomic levels of order or family, while some genus- or species-level identifications are implausible. We show that some of the uncertainty is very ancient. Onomatopoeic correlations between the Hebrew names with selected bird calls are examined. We found good-to-strong correlations for 17 of the 19 birds in Leviticus 11.13–19, and suggest 15 as species-level correlations, with one of the others at genus-level, two at family-level, and one at order-level. We conclude with a list of suggested translations resulting from this research. The methodology is explained so that it may be replicated for further research.