[b-hebrew] What is "Biblical Hebrew"

Harold Holmyard hholmyard3 at earthlink.net
Thu Aug 23 11:34:58 EDT 2007

joel at exc.com wrote:
>> The Massoretes did not interpret the text, they were passing on a
>> consonantal and vocalization tradition as they had heard and seen the
>> text.  While some interpretation may have gone on, -- both in the
> I don't understand.  Your position is that they "did not interpret the
> text" but that "some interpretation may have gone on"?
> I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree.  My position, which seems
> to be supported by overwhelming evidence, is that the Hebrew
> pronunciation of the Masoretes does not accurately reflect the
> pronunciation from over 1,000 years before them, so using the Tiberian
> pronunciation diacritic marks (a.k.a. "vowels") to understand Hebrew
> from the first millennium BCE is simply a mistake in anything other
> than a religious context.

HH: The diacritical points help us to understand the words. If the 
pronunciation is not exactly the same as 1,000 years earlier, the 
pointing is nonetheless helpful for understanding the words. The Bible 
is a religious book, so using it in a religious context is using it the 
way it was meant to be used. It is important that the Masoretes were 
passing on a tradition of pronunciation. That must be what the previous 
commentator meant when he said that they did not interpret the text. If 
there were things they needed to make decisions about, such as choosing 
between two traditions of interpretation at a certain point, then they 
would have done interpretation, even though their basic desire was to 
pass on the tradition as they had received it.

Harold Holmyard

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