[b-hebrew] Re: Hebrew spelling

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman joel at exc.com
Thu Apr 28 09:16:01 EDT 2005

>Um, I have to squawk a bit here; the KH ending of the DSS is the oldest form 
>we have, since the K- ending in "Biblical Hebrew" is found in the medieval 
>Masoretic manuscripts and we don't have a clue which spelling predominated 
>in, say pre-exilic Hebrew writing.  So it is possible that the DSS spelling 
>is in fact the older one and the short version is the "late invention."  It's 
>also possible that the DSS spelling is an artificial invention to aid in 
>pronunciation; the scrolls include many variations in spelling that seem to 
>be designed for just such a purpose.  So comparing DSS Hebrew to "Biblical 
>Hebrew" (i.e. Masoretic Hebrew) doesn't get us anywhere in terms of dating 

Again, yes and no.

Yes, we have to be careful, becuase, as we both know, we don't have
any substantial mss. from before the DSS.  (Indeed, it is one of my
frustrations that so much "academic" work wrongly equates Masoretic
Hebrew with biblical Hebrew.)

But no, because:

1.  Not all of the DSS are written in what most people call "DSS
    Hebrew."  The biblical material tends to be written in the older
    script and with the older (canonical, a.k.a Masoretic) spelling.
    That is, while we frequently see -KH as a suffix in the
    non-biblical DSS, we seldom see it, for example, in 11Q1
    ("PaleoLev"), we find a text remarkably close to the Masoretic

2.  The sort of changes that we see from Biblical Hebrew to Late
    Biblical Hebrew to DSS Hebrew to Rabbinic Hebrew are exactly the
    same sort of changes we see in Modern Hebrew.  There seems to be
    something natural about the progression.

So while I suppose it's possible that the DSS-ites wrote Leviticus and
other biblical material with new spelling, and then wrote their
commentaries on it in an older spelling (and in so doing went in the
opposite direction of Modern Hebrew), it seems exceedingly unlikely.


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