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

Uri Hurwitz uhurwitz at yahoo.com
Fri Nov 26 14:51:26 EST 2004

   I agree with your comment below, and also with your broad quantification. When it comes to prose I would venture the guess that even more than 95% of the text is clearly understood. Of course we are dealing with very ancient texts that do require commentaries.
  That not everything is fully understood even today, after the decipherment of languages like Akkadian and Ugaritic, is beyond question.

Karl Randolph <kwrandolph at email.com> wrote:

----- Original Message -----
From: "Uri Hurwitz" 

  > 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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