[b-hebrew] Hebrew pronunciation before the Masoretes
jkilmon at historian.net
Sat Jan 15 19:33:03 EST 2011
From: "Sesamo m." <sesamox at hotmail.com>
Sent: Saturday, January 15, 2011 2:32 PM
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Subject: [b-hebrew] Hebrew pronunciation before the Masoretes
> Considering these former examples, it seems that the first vowel had a
> tendency to be weakened. Another example that seems to agree with this is
> Capernaum. The name Capernaum seems to be a transliteration of "Kefar
> Nahum". This might indicate that the word "Kefar" was pronounced "Kafar"
> in the 1st cent. at least in Galilee.
> This makes me wonder if the names beginning with "Yeho-" could have been
> "Yaho-" originally. But in this case, the LXX puts "Yo-" which doesn't
> seem to support my suspicion. Any ideas?
> The name of Moses' succesor was pronounced "Yesu" by the 2nd cent. b.C.,
> or maybe "Yesua", if the Greeks considered the final sound just as a
> gutural consonant (the final -s is just a peculiarity of Greek, it was
> added to any name ended in a vowel), and that seems to be the
> pronunciation in the 1st cent. A.D. And it was "Yehoshua" by the 7th
> century (it seems strange to me the change from "Ye" to "Yeho"; could it
> be a kind of archaization on the part of the Masoretes?).
Actually, the "ye" did not change to "Yeho" exactly. The Yeho changed to Ye
(as I will explain) but then it changed back in Mishnaic times to avoid the
name of Yeshua for obvious reasons.
In pre-exilic times, it was common practice to include יהוָהas part of names
such as "YHWH is my Salvation" which was the name YESHAYAHU (Isaiah). The
pre-exilic Hebrew name that we know as "Joshua" was יְהֹושֻׁעַ Yehoshua
which means "YHWH is my help." The inclusion of the name of God in a
personal name was common practice in the ancient middle east and is called
the "Theophoric" noticeable in names like Michael (EL) Balshazar (Baal) and
Yahweh Yahosef (Joseph).
In the second temple period it became blasphemy for a mortal to pronounce
the name of God (Shem haMeforash), even accidentally, hence the theophoric
was either removed or shortened. Mattityahu (Matthew) became Mattaya and
Yehoshua became Y'shua (Yeshua). Yeshua was one of the most common names
during the 2nd temple period including Yeshua ben Sira and a number of High
Priests and many of the general population. The Hebrew word for "salvation"
is YESHA and it is from the same root as the second part of Y'shua, SHUA,
which means "To call for Help." Jesus' Aramaic name means "YHWH will
In the Galilee, Aramaic was pronounced differently and Galileans dropped
their alefs and ayins like Cockney English drop their H's. Jesus' Galilean
friends would have called him Yeshu. In Judea and formally, his name was
Yeshua, yehSHOO-ah (kind of a gulp), and in the Galilee his name was
pronounced Yeshu, pronounced YEHshoo. Because of strong Hellenistic
influence in Palestine at the time, some Jews with the name of Yeshua used a
Greek transliteration of the name. Yeshua ben Sirach was one of them who
went by the name Ἰησοῦς, pronounced YAYsoos. Greek had no sound for SH and
masculine ending S was added.
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