[b-hebrew] What is "Biblical Hebrew"

joel at exc.com joel at exc.com
Wed Aug 22 12:08:29 EDT 2007

>> Many people don't know that they are referring to a medieval
>> language when they use the phrase "Biblical Hebrew."
>I think it is inappropriate to label the language Medieval as Hebrew
>was spoken only until about the 3rd century CE.

I think you've missed the point.  By "medieval" I mean the Masoretes,
who gave us Masoretic Hebrew.  You claimed that people mean Tiberian
Masoretic Hebrew when they say "Biblical Hebrew."  My point was that
it is, at best, odd that "Biblical" refers to "Medieval" here.  (As a
matter of methodology, I don't think that the term "medieval" is
particularly useful in studying Hebrew, but that's another matter.)

>historical study of this period.  If a letter from Ezra/Nehemiah is quoted,
>however, it should ideally retain both the Massoretic vowels and accents
>because that is the raw evidence that we have from this source.

Here I guess we disagree.  I do not believe that of all scholars
throughout the last 2,500 or so years, the Tiberian Masoretes are the
most qualified ---  from a linguistic or other scientific point of
view --- to interpret Hebrew from the first millennium BCE.

>> Yes, I do know.  For example, some of the cross-word beged kefet
>> changes cannot be part of a spoken language.
>But this is not the way most Hebrew linguists view this issue.  The fact
>of the matter is that bgdkpt is exhibited not only by Hebrew but Aramaic
>as well.  The Aramaic shift is to be dated "sometime between the end of

Again, you have missed the point.  I refer not to intraword Beged
Kefet changes, but to *cross-word* changes.

>of the Second Temple.  But we also have Biblical books in Aramaic, and
>these show spirantization across word-boundaries (what you call "cross
>word beged kefet changes") -- for example vavloye in Ezra 4:9.  It would

No, we don't.  We have a Masoretic record of these changes.  That's my
whole point.  We do not have any evidence from the 1st millennium.


Joel M. Hoffman, PhD

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