[b-hebrew] Tiberian Hebrew

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sun Aug 19 15:18:27 EDT 2007

On 8/19/07, Joel Hoffman wrote:
> >> Tiberian Hebrew is a convenient standard for Biblical Hebrew.
> >
> >It is also the most authentic and complete reproduction.  Tiberian
> In religious circles it is certainly the most authentic reproduction,
> but let us not confuse authenticity with accuracy.

Let me go into a little bit of discussion about the difference between
authentic and authoritative.

In religious Jewish circles, it is the most authoritative reproduction.
>From a scholarly point of view, any of the Israeli, Babylonian, Samaritan,
or Tiberian vocalizations are authentic -- they all represent uninterrupted
traditions.  But the Tiberian vocalization is also the most complete
because from early times the pronunciation tradition of the Tiberian
school, a remnant of the Jerusalem scholarship, was held in high

> We know that some
> of the features of Tiberian Hebrew do not reflect Biblical Hebrew at
> all.

Tiberian Hebrew is Biblical Hebrew.  When people study Biblical Hebrew,
grammar and phonetics, they study the grammar of Tiberian Hebrew.  But
sometimes they think they study Ancient Hebrew or they want it to be
Ancient Hebrew.  Tiberian/Biblical Hebrew is not Qumran Hebrew, it is not
the Hebrew of the Siloam inscription.  It is a much later vocalization.  The
spelling of the consonantal text itself is very likely no earlier than the
Persian period, and even then the Massoretic text as it has been passed
down includes the consonantal text so that there are cases where
differences of vocalizations go together with differences in the consonantal
text.  But authentic does not mean exact -- it doesn't mean that it was the
exact Hebrew spellling and vocalization spoken during Biblical times --
there are various forms of Hebrew spoken in different communities and
in different periods in what constitutes "Biblical times."  Rather, authentic
means that the Massoretes did not invent anything -- and any differences
in pronunciation are mostly due to phonetic changes that take place in
all spoken and non-spoken languages over time.

> We know that the Tiberian Masoretes invtented some of what they
> recorded.

Maybe you think you know.  I'm not sure what you're referring to here,
although if I remember correctly, some of your past examples are at odds
with things the Massoretes wrote.

Yitzhak Sapir

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