[b-hebrew] Ayin and Ghayin

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Fri Oct 28 16:44:32 EDT 2005


First, you are the only person I have interacted with who 
makes the claim that "Biblical" Hebrew includes the 
Masoretic points. Everyone else, starting with my first year 
teacher, who had anything to say on the issue, claimed 
that the Masoretic points are post Biblical. Your argument, 
carried to its logical conclusion, would claim that the DSS 
Bible scrolls, because they do not have the points, are not 
"Biblical" Hebrew. Another example, when the DSS 
exhibit was in our local museum, there was a side exhibit 
of a Torah scroll from a synagog, a manuscript, opened to 
a passage in Leviticus; it, too, was written without points: 
as I read your claim, that Torah scroll is not in Biblical 

The way I was taught is that the Masoretic points are 
merely study aids, and that the authentic way to read 
Tanakh, i.e. the way it was read in Biblical times, is 
without points. Hence synagog scrolls lack points.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Yitzhak Sapir" <yitzhaksapir at gmail.com>
> Hello Karl,
> > No. What I've noticed is that that spelling is somewhat
> > different from the grammar you learned your elementary
> > Hebrew from, but I have read plenty of examples of
> > spelling consistant with both Gezar Calendar and Siloam
> > Pool inscriptions in the Bible
> Can you cite a place where the spelling )$ is used for man in the Bible?
> Or H) for "he"?
I just checked photos I have of both documents: where is 
H) used for "he" on either document? Does )$ on the 
Siloam stone refer to "man" or "fire" of an iron tool? Of 
course you can't leave out the )$ in 2 Samuel 14:19.

> > Just as I expected, you haven't put in the time, you don't know
> > Biblical Hebrew that well.
> Biblical Hebrew is not defined as "Hebrew without vowels as given in the
> MT."  I don't claim to know Biblical Hebrew, and while I do not "claim it", it
> seems to me that I probably have a better understanding of Biblical Hebrew
> than you do, as practically the entire world, except you, defines Biblical
> Hebrew.  Reading the Bible through nor reading it without vowels is not a
> prescription for learning Biblical Hebrew except for your own eccentric
> definition of Biblical Hebrew, which seems to be shared by noone else.
See above.

> The Bible uses many expressions to describe the different times
> of the day. Why never this particular term?
If there is no need to, why should it?

> > > ... I am not at odds with tradition,
> > > as you have suggested I am.
> > >
> > Where did I ever make such a claim?
> You wrote, among other places,  "It is your different set of
> presuppositions that makes you value cognate language
> study and diss the Biblical record."  Hopefully the links
> here provided will prevent future questions such as this one.
Granted what you do here is the same as others: the 
Biblical record indicates that Moses wrote Torah around 
1400+ BC. There is no record of him using a different 
alphabet than what we use today, other than a different 
font face. You diss that record in favor of Ugaritic. The 
reason you do is because of philosophical presupposition 
that not everyone on this list shares, which is why the 
history of Hebrew and the philosophical presuppositions 
that lie behind each "history" have been deemed off topic 
for this discussion forum by our esteemed moderators. I 
concur with their decision.

Now if you had some documents connecting the two ...

> > > The unpointed text is not "Biblical Hebrew."  It is "half" of
> > > Biblical Hebrew.  The other half is the Massorah.
> > >
> > The DSS show that the unpointed text *is* Biblical Hebrew.
> Can you cite an uncontroversial example?
See above.

> > Good. Now could you read the whole Tanakh using that font?
> Yes.
> > Now go back, finish reading Tanakh, through Chronicles,
> > then try it again at least once this time without points,
> > read the whole magilla, and for fun read the time without
> > points using the font found on the Gezar Calendar or
> > Jehoash inscription. That should be a good beginning
> > to learning Biblical Hebrew.
Since I wrote the above, I realized that when you read the 
text with points, the points often mask spelling variations 
found in the consonantal text. So a Hireq can mask the 
fact that a masculine plural sometimes lacks a Yod, and 
you overlook that lack. But when you read an unpointed 
text, you need to recognize that variant spelling for what 
it is and means. Other examples include that the Hiphil 
often lacks an internal Yod and a Waw can appear or 
disappear separated by only a verse or two in the same 
word. Thus the Siloam inscription contains no surprises, 
no spellings I had not seen elsewhere before.

> Rather, how about you answer me two questions, which I
> think may advance this discussion:
> 1) How is it that English originally had two different letters
> for the two sounds represented by "th" as in "loath"/"loathe"
> and yet, lost them and they are now represented by a
> single symbol (ie, "th") for several hundred years.

The printing press. As long as books were all written by 
hand, the letters remained in the English alphabet. But 
when presses made on the continent were imported, they 
lacked all the English letters. I don't know why the English 
lacked the gumption to add missing English letters to their 
type trays, instead for a while they used "y" for thorn, then 
later changed all to "th". Thus it was explained in a history 
of printing that I read.

> 2) You have evidently claimed that many words were
> influenced by different words in Aramaic, so much so that
> a whole new phoneme (&in) developed to represent some
> words so influenced.
Do you have any evidence against it?
> Now, first, in light of what you write above, can you either provide
> evidence that Aramaic indeed "bifurcated" sin/shin?
I have already indicated two, but let me repeat: 1) the 
number of times that sin and shin make phonemic 
difference is very rare, no more than for other letters 
where the same spelling has drastically different 
meanings, and 2) there are a number of words, where 
they are spelled once with a sin, another time with a 
shin yet the same word with the same meaning, or one 
derivative with a sin and another with a shin. The latter 
indicates that both were the same phoneme, hence most 
likely had the same pronunciation as well.

With evidence that they were originally the same letter, the 
question becomes, what caused the bifurcation? If it was 
not Aramaic, then what? The time line is right for Aramaic.

> Second, it would seem to be the case that even if Hebrew originally
> had one phoneme, but if it borrowed a great many words from cognate
> languages, then the etymology of those words is no longer necessarily
> related by root to one another and they may be etymologically unrelated.
> That is, we still have to conclude that words do not necessarily have
> "one meaning" as you have described your assumption earlier:
Do I need to go back to linguistics 101? Apparently so. In 
English there are three words, "two", "too" and "to". All 
three have exactly the same pronunciation. If they were 
spelled phonetically, they would be given the same 
spelling. Is there a native speaker of English who would 
claim that they are not three different words and have no 
trouble recognizing which word is being used by its 
context? I know of none. All languages have words like 
this. They are rare, but they exist. Biblical Hebrew is no 
different. Except with Biblical Hebrew, the ancients 
recorded only the consonants, so where vowels made 
phonemic difference, they were lost. Further, there are 
rules of derivation that sometimes causes words from 
different roots to converge to the same written form. That 
does not negate my working hypothesis that in general, 
words have but one meaning, sometimes the meaning is 
broadly defined, sometimes narrowly, seldom the same 
way as a corresponding word in a different, even cognate 
language. Similarly, a translator may use two, three or 
more words to translate one word, but that, too, does not 
negate my hypothesis. That's just part of the mechanics of 

Further, I look for the function, most lexicographers look at 
the form. Often one function acts the same way no matter 
which form it is in, which context it works on. Looking at 
function often automatically brings out a single meaning.

> Yitzhak Sapir

In closing, go back, read Tanakh cover to cover. Read it 
without points cover to cover so you get used to alternate 
spellings. Only after that look at documents as the Siloam 
inscription and then show me how it differs from Biblical 

Karl W. Randolph.

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