Dave Washburn dwashbur at
Tue Jul 30 19:24:34 EDT 2002


> Hi Dave,
> Akkadian regularly uses shu and shi; Syriac hu'a and hi'a; and the oldest
> Aramaic inscriptions are all distinguished.  Old South Arabic, which is
> throughout conservative, clearly regards the distinction as huwwa'/hiyya'.

Which "oldest Aramaic inscriptions" do you refer to?

> As to my "jab," I see that you ignored it but the Hippopotamus apparently
> did not.  

"Hippopotamus" for "hypothesis" is one of my standard bits of silliness.  I use it in 
reference to my own as well as others'.

I do not intend to harpoon anyone either way, but simply to note
> that the confusion in orthography, which Randall and others have pointed out
> correctly interchange YOD and VAV, is all late.  Again, I fail to see where
> the hu/hi situation in the Pentateuch bears on the DH one way or the other,
> and I have not weighed in on either side.  It is my observation that those
> who think or wish it dead find evidence of its demise in a variety of
> graves, while those who find it useful are still trying to modify it on a
> case by case basis without abandoning it altogether.  That is ALL I meant by
> "the eye of the individual beholder."  Show me a scholar who holds one
> position strongly and yet sees the evidence as mixed and I will retract even
> this statement that you take as a "jab."  

You're looking at him.  I hold to Mosaic authorship in the main, and hold it strongly, 
yet I see questionable elements such as the anachronistic "Dan" in Gen 14 and other 
mixed evidence, and as yet I haven't really come up with a unified theory to explain it 
all any more than anyone else has.  The goal, as Gordon Lewis used to say, is to find 
the theory that best explains all the evidence with the least number of problems.  In 
my case, I'm not convinced yet that the orthographical evidence points to lateness, 
because as I mentioned, without the Matres Lectionis, we don't really know what 
early pronunciation was and whether the situation under consideration reflects a late 
development or preservation of an earlier pronunciation pattern.  Any and all of us 
are free to assume one or the other, and I think a good case can be made either 

If you wish to view Moses as the
> author of the Pentateuch, by all means do so with my blessing.  I would then
> merely ask how the great one himself could have been confused by so simple a
> matter a personal pronouns.

When I see him, I'll ask him ;-)

> In this regard, I think you are confusing orthography with grammatical
> function.  That is, if the earliest Hebrew mss. wrote H) for BOTH, that does
> not mean they were ever the same in function or pronunciation.  

Agreed, but as usual, arguments from silence cut both ways.  It doesn't mean they 
weren't.  That's precisely my point, we don't really know.

The VAV and
> YOD were added much later to assist those who, lacking native fluency in the
> language, could not make the distinction without such a crutch.  

What's your source for this statement?  We have what appear to be ML's in the 
Siloam Tunnel inscription, several of the Lachish letters and elsewhere; in the DSS 
we most often see KWL, with a ML, whereas in the MT it's consistently written 
defectively; the DSS commonly use the pronominal suffix KFH, where the MT 
(consonantal text) writes defectively; by contrast, with the possible exception of 
YWM, the Yavneh-Yam ostracon doesn't appear to include any ML's at all.  So we 
have at least a few written vowel letters in the time of Hezekiah and at the fall of 
Judah, but the one ostracon from Josiah's time doesn't show any, whereas at the 
time of the DSS they are in common use (do you really want to say that the scrolls' 
writers lacked native fluency?) but by the time the MT is standardized, at least some 
have passed off the scene and others are inconsistent.  I really doubt that the 
historical picture is as clear as you suggest.

A similar
> situation holds today in modern Hebrew.  In an unpointed text, the
> ORTHOGRAPHY of "Pretty" is the same whether one reads YeLeD Y-F-H or YaLDaH
> Y-F-H. A speaker of Hebrew knows instantly seeing the one that it is
> pronounced YaFeH and the other YaFaH. This is clear not from the orthography
> but from the word being modified.  Only Hebrew beginners would need to have
> the points added to help them make the correct decision.  So in a
> consonantal Pentateuchal text, BEFORE the addition of VAV or YOD as a
> pronunciation guide to the perplexed, BOTH forms would be written the same,
> but a native speaker would have little difficulty in knowing which was
> which.  

Agreed.  But if we assume the Masoretes were preserving the pronunciation 
traditions as handed down to them, they should have known, as well.  So none of this 
really helps to explain the phenomenon under consideration.  The reasons for it are 
still as clear as mud.

The point of the original question from Liz was whether the
> confusion indicated an early or a late date.  Since the confusion is
> essentially a Pentateuchal phenomenon and since all the evidence I have seen
> here so far indicates that the confusion occurred late [surely your
> strongest plea builds on the DSS chirography], at least AFTER the need arose
> for helping vowel indicators, I still fail to see how an early date could be
> indicated.

I believe the original quote that Liz offered and asked about gives a possible answer, 
and for myself I'm not convinced that "all the evidence" points to a late phenomenon.  
I'm also not totally convinced that what we are dealing with is a "confusion."  

Dave Washburn

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