Charles David Isbell cisbell at
Wed Jul 31 01:14:09 EDT 2002

My thanks to the list for the opportunity to share my views on this
question.  Both Dave and I have opined at length, and I am satisfied that my
points are understood even if not shared.
Shalom le-Khulkhem,
Charles David Isbell
----- Original Message -----
From: "Dave Washburn" <dwashbur at>
To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at>
Sent: Tuesday, July 30, 2002 6:24 PM
Subject: Re: hu=hi?

> Charles,
> > Hi Dave,
> >
> > Akkadian regularly uses shu and shi; Syriac hu'a and hi'a; and the
> > Aramaic inscriptions are all distinguished.  Old South Arabic, which is
> > throughout conservative, clearly regards the distinction as
> Which "oldest Aramaic inscriptions" do you refer to?
> > As to my "jab," I see that you ignored it but the Hippopotamus
> > 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
> > correctly interchange YOD and VAV, is all late.  Again, I fail to see
> > the hu/hi situation in the Pentateuch bears on the DH one way or the
> > and I have not weighed in on either side.  It is my observation that
> > 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
> > 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
> > 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
> because as I mentioned, without the Matres Lectionis, we don't really know
> 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
> way.
> If you wish to view Moses as the
> > author of the Pentateuch, by all means do so with my blessing.  I would
> > 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
> > 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
> > 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> > 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
> > but from the word being modified.  Only Hebrew beginners would need to
> > 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
> > 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
> > here so far indicates that the confusion occurred late [surely your
> > strongest plea builds on the DSS chirography], at least AFTER the need
> > 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
> I'm also not totally convinced that what we are dealing with is a
> [snip]
> Dave Washburn
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