[b-hebrew] Proto-Semitic, was WAYYIQTOL

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Thu Mar 18 12:18:19 EST 2004

On Thursday 18 March 2004 04:33, Peter Kirk wrote:
> On 17/03/2004 18:19, Dave Washburn wrote:
> >On Wednesday 17 March 2004 03:35, Peter Kirk wrote:
> >> ...
> >>
> >>We know quite a lot about how Hebrew was pronounced at various times
> >>from transliterations of names in the Septuagint, in the New Testament,
> >>in Origen's Hexapla, in the Vulgate, etc etc. If you want to go back to
> >>the pre-exilic period, we know some things from cuneiform and Egyptian
> >>hieroglyphic transcriptions of names, although there may be some doubt
> >>about their original pronunciation.
> >
> >This may digress a bit, but I think it also might apply to the discussion,
> > but as I recall, the Erasmian pronunciation that has been in use for New
> > Testament Greek was based on the same sort of extrapolation, especially
> > pronunciation of names that carried over into Latin.  But the current
> > wisdom tends to downgrade the value of Erasmus' system and declare those
> > proper-name pronunciation extrapolations suspect at best.  I wonder if
> > the same is being said, or could be applied, to pronunciation of Hebrew
> > using names in the LXX and elsewhere?  Note that I'm not saying I agree
> > with the critics of the Erasmian system, I'm just pointing out that some
> > have called this method into question.
> I'm sure this has been done, but I am not aware of the details. I
> suspect that one of the main pieces of evidence against Erasmus' system
> is the regular LXX transliteration of Hebrew pe, tav and kaf (whether or
> not with dagesh) as Greek phi, theta and chi rather than pi, tau and
> kappa. It is highly unlikely that the Hebrew letters were always
> pronounced as fricatives; it is much more likely that the Greek letters
> were at that time pronounced as aspirated plosives. Latin transcriptions
> of Greek also give evidence for that, in that Greek phi became ph, not
> f, in Latin (and still in English though not in many European languages).

Actually, most of the gripe about Erasmus' system has involved his 
pronunciation of the vowels, but again, this is probably a digression.  Most 
of the criticism seems to come from those who prefer modern Greek 
pronunciation, so I'm not sure how significant this whole line of thought is 
anyway.  It just struck me that, if we can have a fair idea about 
pronunciation of Hebrew by way of such comparisons, then perhaps Erasmus was 
more accurate than some would like to think, as well.

> Of course this illustrates the complexity of the whole issue, and shows
> that it cannot be addressed adequately by looking at the evidence from
> just one language in isolation.


Dave Washburn
Learning about Christianity from a non-Christian
is like getting a kiss over the telephone.

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list