[b-hebrew] Masoretic vowel-points accuracy

Schmuel Schmuel at escape.com
Fri Dec 31 21:36:04 EST 2004

Hi b-hebrew,

Subjet was: Re: [b-hebrew] Re:morpho-syntax,was Proverbs 5:16 - a declarationor a question ?

>> One reason I will bypass Karl's suggestion is that I consider the Masoretic vowels as part of the 
>> Received Text, not arbitrary or  guesswork.

>How many times do I need to repeat that I do not believe that the Masoritic points were arbitrary or guesswork? Is the fact that I believe that they are sometimes wrong sufficient to bring that charge?

Hi Karl, I wasn't trying to accuse you of a belief you don't have, (and I wasn't in
that recent thread) I was simply taking a logical argument to its extreme, 
to contrast two positions. So my apologies if that had the result of appearing
to greatly exaggerate your own position. 

Now, there is in fact a view that considers the vowel points as inspired and true and accurate,
and the pointed Masoretic Text as a "Received Text".  
(Yes, within this view there are some nuances as to what exactly is the Masoretic text,
 and what about verses that have majority/minority readings, and of course special 
 issues such as the Tetragrammaton).

Clearly those that have that view will bypass arguments that are based on obscurities
and alternate translations that are created only by the removal of the points.  That is 
simply common sense.   So certain scholarly discussions might go on two tracks, 
one that accepts the points, and another that allows or focuses on the variations when
the points are removed.  All I am saying is that the track that I am on is the one with 
the points :-)

btw, John Gill was one of the men who wrote in this issue, as well as some others
quite a bit later.  I believe Thomas Strouse has written on it recently. They offer particular
examples of the exactitude of the text being maintained, often focusing on NT understandings
of particular words, that are in harmony with our Masoretic Text.  

While I am not familiar with all the issues on either side, I will simply say that I have 
very strong gut and spiritual sympathies for the Received Text view, some of which 
comes from an underlying belief in Inspiration and Preservation of the Scripture text,
in harmony with Romans 3:2. 

>Once more for the record, I believe that the points reflect a tradition as it existed at the time of the Masorites. There is more than one reason to believe that that tradition had changed from the pronunciation used when Tanakh was written. 

There are many theories here.  

One obvious aspect : There is a difference between saying that some pronunciations changed (Aussie English has different pronunciations than American English even on many words of identical spelling and meaning) and saying that the vowels are not accurate and reliable in representing the meanings of the words.  Let's be careful not to mix the two.

>Further, there are demonstrable places where the tradition had erred, which is possible from orally transmitted tradition. 

Well, this would be a key question.  Where would I find an article with say three to five of the supposed clearest cases of where the Masoretic points had supposedly erred.  So far I have never seen such an article. And  I would love to analyze the two sides of this question in a general sense, while focusing on the best case examples.  And I do have some very strong Hebraist friends who hopefully will assist in technical analysis, in addition to the scholars on this forum.

>But nowhere is this “arbitrary or guesswork”. Nor is it “made up”.

Again, my sincere apologies.  I run into that viewpoint often ("tampering" is the most common accusation)  from a variety of accusers of the Masoretic Text, including the Christian Identity crew, and 
some folks who consider the Septuagint the "true text" and the Masoretic Text a late and untrustworthy creation.  (Of course those folks generally knew diddles about the Great Isaiah Scroll, the DSS in general, the Targumim, the Latin Vulgate or the Aramaic Peshitta or the early Rabbinics)

>I prefer to read Tanakh without the points because I found that where the points are right, they are just so much extra clutter, where they are wrongc they are distracting.

Again, who has written a scholarly article "these Masoretic vowel-points are wrong" 
that I could study?  Not just an offhand flippant claim, but a reasonably rigorous study.

It is a discussion that I have really not found anywhere, and I will be very interested in 
what is out there.

Steven Avery
Queens, NY

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