veqatal and adverbs, and Genesis 1:1-3

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Tue Sep 5 07:24:53 EDT 2000

Dear Liz,

I think your teacher, and also Ian, may be in error because they are looking
at the text in a very modern way (as opposed to post-modern as well as to
ancient). Apparently they are prepared to read only the marks on the paper
(and the ones which are ancient), and do not accept that anything else could
be a legitimate part of the text. But surely, to the ancient mind, the text
is not just marks on paper but a living tradition of recitation,
interpretation etc. Of course this tradition does not always survive, as
with DSS. But for the Hebrew Bible this tradition has survived, in the
pointing of MT. And we have sufficient evidence to show that this tradition
really is ancient.

Suppose your teacher was reading modern poetry. There might well be
something, even in an English text (and all the more so in an unpointed
modern Hebrew text), whose meaning was rather ambiguous because it could be
read in various ways, e.g. that word "read" can be read in different ways as
present or past. But if it is known how the poet themself read the poem out
loud, perhaps if there is a recording of a public reading, then the intended
reading is known apart from the printed text. Indeed it might be added, at
least in a footnote, in a later edition. Is that legitimate? Or would your
teacher insist on interpreting the printed text only, without looking at
what is otherwise known of the author's intention?

Of course the situation is never so clear cut with biblical Hebrew. But we
can get nearer to the author's original intention by not rejecting the
ancient reading tradition, even if it is not in the ancient manuscripts.

Peter Kirk

----- Original Message -----
From: "Liz Fried" <lizfried at>
To: "Peter Kirk" <Peter_Kirk at>; "Biblical Hebrew"
<b-hebrew at>
Sent: Tuesday, September 05, 2000 2:59 AM
Subject: RE: veqatal and adverbs, and Genesis 1:1-3

> One of my Hebrew teachers used to make us read the unpointed text.
> He also wanted us to get rid of the spaces between the words.
> All that was interpretation by the Masoretes he said.
> It was hard to do, since we all had the pointed copies anyway.
> I didn't realize the magnitude of the problem until I started
> reading the DSS texts. Deciphering unpublished fragments
> of texts with no nekudot brought it firmly home to me how
> every dot is translation. Every dot you add fixes one interpretation, and
> rules out forever every other one.
> Don't forget, besides, the many qorey, katib differences
> noted in the margins of the codices.
> Liz
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Peter Kirk [mailto:Peter_Kirk at]
> > Sent: Monday, September 04, 2000 5:59 PM
> > To: Biblical Hebrew
> > Subject: Re: veqatal and adverbs, and Genesis 1:1-3
> >
> >
> > Ian, is it actually true that the oldest surviving text of Genesis 1:1
> > unpointed? Is there actually a surviving ancient unpointed manuscript of
> > this verse?
> >
> > Even if there is a DSS fragment of this, it would not be as old as the
> > generally accepted dating (OK, I know it's not a proven dating) of the
> > translation which witnesses to a finite verb here. Even if LXX is no
> > than the oldest surviving MSS i.e. 4th century CE, it is a strong
> > that this word was understood as a finite verb long before the Masoretes
> > wrote the vowel points. The Vulgate also provides evidence on the same
> > lines, if I am not mistaken.
> >
> > Anyway, it wasn't me but Rashi who proposed emendation of bara'
> > to baro'. He
> > was presumably talking about emendation of the pointed text and the
> > recitation tradition which he knew. I don't know if he was aware
> > of the LXX
> > or Vulgate reading or if he would have taken them into account.
> > Maybe, given
> > the regrettable attitude of Christians to Jews in his time, he would
> > deliberately distanced himself from their readings.
> >
> > Peter Kirk
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: "Ian Hutchesson" <mc2499 at>
> > To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at>
> > Sent: Monday, September 04, 2000 5:52 PM
> > Subject: Re: veqatal and adverbs, and Genesis 1:1-3
> >
> > <snip>
> > >
> > > As the earliest texts are unpointed one has to conclude that bara'
> > to
> > > be only one interpretation. baro' is not an amendment of bara'
> > but another
> > > interpretation.
> > >
> > >
> > > Ian
> > >
> >
> >
> >
> > ---
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