[b-hebrew] Initial "Beged Kefet" consonants always have a...

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Mon Oct 17 07:11:43 EDT 2005

On 11/10/2005 16:33, Dr. Joel M. Hoffman wrote:

>[re LXX confirmation for Masoretic work]
>NYU Press had kindly granted me persmission to put Table 6.4 from _In
>The Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language_ on-line:
>    http://www.exc.com/JoelHoffman/Excerpts/ITB-p95.pdf
>It contains a list of some names with their Masoretic pointing and LXX
>spelling; the Hebrew and Greek are both transliterated.
>-Joel M. Hoffman
> http://www.exc.com/JoelHoffman
I am at last able to get back to this after a week busy with other things.

Thank you for this list. There are of course much longer and more 
complete lists in dictionaries like BDB.

It seems that your list is almost consistent in transcribing כ kaf as χ 
chi and ק qof as κ kappa, also פ pe as φ phi, and ת tav as θ theta, ט 
tet as τ tau - all irrespective of dagesh. The only exception in this 
small list is the initial chi in the LXX form of Keturah, but this could 
be influenced by a Greek phonological rule which tends to avoid 
successive unaspirated plosives (as in the paradigm θριξ - τριχος). But 
this rule is not good evidence that Hebrew kaf, pe and tav (with or 
without dagesh) were fricatives, because according to most scholars 
(whether or not you agree, Joel) Greek kappa, phi and theta were 
originally not fricatives but aspirated plosives, although the date of 
the shift is debatable.

If we put forward the hypothesis that for the LXX translators every 
Hebrew consonant was pronounced according to the standard reconstruction 
of Masoretic pronunciation, and the LXX translators rendered every 
consonant as best they can in a form of Greek in which kappa, phi and 
theta are aspirated plosives, then the expected results would be much as 
found, with a few exceptions like Keturah which don't fit any rule. The 
implication of this is that there is no evidence here that the LXX 
translators heard anything different from the Masoretic pronunciation. 
This does not of course prove that that is what they heard - only that 
if there was a change in pronunciation of Hebrew consonants over this 
period, there is no evidence for it in the LXX forms.

There is much less consistency in vocalisation between the Hebrew and 
Greek forms. There could be a number of reasons for this, not least that 
the LXX translators were working from an unvowelled text and in a 
location remote from Jerusalem where the pronunciation tradition may not 
have been well preserved, and so they simply may not have known the 
correct vocalisation. This might sound unlikely with a well known name 
like Rebekka, but nevertheless variant pronunication traditions may well 
have grown up already by the time of the LXX translators. It is also 
worth remembering a widely recognised phonological rule that Hebrew 
short vowels in word initial syllables have often changed from "a" 
sounds to hiriq since the LXX translators' times, cf. LXX Samson and 
Hebrew Shimshon - so this might explain the hiriq in Rivka (and in 
Milcah and Bil`am), and some other vocalisation anomalies.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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