[b-hebrew] A Jewish perspective on reading biblical hebrew

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Fri Nov 26 02:28:30 EST 2004

----- Original Message -----
From: "Uri Hurwitz" <uhurwitz at yahoo.com>

> Dave Washburn <dwashbur at nyx.net> wrote:
> "..... But as you may have gathered from this 
> board, the perfect/imperfect thing doesn't exactly work, either. We're 
> fairly sure that BH isn't tensed, but it doesn't really seem to be aspectual, 
> either. That's why many of us are engaged in ongoing research, trying to 
> figure out exactly what it is (at the moment, we can only tell you what it 
> isn't). "
> -- Now the mystery really deepens: if the above is correct, how could this language have been in use for thousands of years, been  translated to practically every written language; how could commentators delude themselves they understaood it  -- since the the days of the Dead Sea Scrolls  at least, if its very basic verbal system defies comprehension?
>   Perhaps it is simply the difference  between the use of a language on the one hand, and the  grammatical tools  that are employed to analyze it, tools that by their nature are  constructs and abstractions?
>   Uri

How much do we know about the language?

After reading through Tanakh several times in Hebrew, I have now come to the conclusion that we don’t know as much about Biblical Hebrew as we thought we did. It’s like a person who knows only modern English who then tries to read Shakespeare or the King James Version translation. Sure, around 95% is understood, and the rest can be guessed at, but there is just that amount that we don’t know, even though we think we do.

Because this is the book that founded Western society (though modern modern trends have been a return to paganism) that has led to people translating the book, even though some sections didn’t make sense. I have repeatedly said in the past that it is demonstrable that the Masoritic points are sometimes wrong, in fact I think wrong points is often the reason for Ketib/Qere in Tanakh. Because 95+% is understood correctly in every detail, a translator can muddle through the few sections he doesn’t understand completely to get a final result that accurately covers all the main points.

Karl W. Randolph.
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