[b-hebrew] furtive patah (was Re: 2Ki 2:10)

Peter Kirk peter at qaya.org
Sat Feb 24 18:06:52 EST 2007

On 24/02/2007 21:45, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:
> ...
> The evidence from the word Messias is scant.  I am curious even to know
> when it is first attested (that is, the earliest copy of the NT where
> it is found). ...

The Greek word MESSIAS is found in just two places in the New Testament, 
both in John's gospel, 1:41 and 4:25. (CRISTOS is the much more common 
Greek word with the same meaning; in both of these places MESSIAS is 
further explained as CRISTOS.) Both of these verses are attested in the 
papyrus P66 from c. 200 CE, which may be the oldest evidence for this 
form. But there are no relevant textual variants, and so no reason to 
think that the word is any later than the original authorship of John, 
which, from surviving fragments, was certainly before 120 CE and 
traditionally a little before 100 CE. I do not immediately know whether 
this is the oldest extant example of the Greek word MESSIAS. This word 
is not listed in LSJ (at Perseus), presumably because it is understood 
as a proper name. It is not found in LXX, but was it found in any of the 
"intertestamental literature" or among the DSS? Also, is there any 
evidence of an alternative form without a "furtive patah"? I note that 
Jerome's Vulgate (4th century CE) has MESSIAS.

> ... While one recognizes an apparent patah in the end, the word itself seems to
> exhibit a different noun form (q-ttil) rather than that recognized in Hebrew
> (q-ti:l).  That is, we notice first the gemination of the letter Shin.
>  Secondly, the
> first vowel is transcribed as an epsilon.  An epsilon was used to transcribe
> short i and e (tsere).  Thus, we have a difference of quality (i/e instead of
> patah/qamats) and a difference of quantity (short vs long) from the Hebrew
> word's initial vowel.  The issue of the gemination can be probably considered
> an internal Greek development.  According to:
> http://www-user.uni-bremen.de/~wie/TCG/TC-John.pdf (p. 42, TVU 17),
> there are variants where the gemination does not appear. ...

Thanks for the interesting link. The Byzantine text does indeed have 
MESIAS rather than MESSIAS in both places. But it would be very 
surprising if this were original. The word is well attested in many much 
earlier MSS, and translations such as the Vulgate, with the double 

> ... Now, in an article
> on the short vowels in the second column of the Hexapla, Alexey Yuditsky
> notes transcriptions of the word with suffixes in Hebrew as mesiw. ...

I guess this corresponds to Hebrew M:$IYXOW, with sheva, in e.g. Psalm 
2:2. Now I know that sheva is commonly represented in Greek by alpha, 
but this is clear evidence that it could be represented as epsilon.

This kind of change is not unique. I note for example EMMWR (Acts 7:16) 
for Hamor of Shechem.

> ... (He also
> notes a Hieronymus transcription of "messio").  Yuditsky argues that the first
> vowel (a short "a" in Tiberian Hebrew) assimilated to the sibilant nearby to
> become epsilon.  We can argue the same for the word Messias.  That is, the
> word Messias in the Greek represents a short assimilated patah in the first
> vowel and no gemination in the second letter.  Now, while Hebrew had a long
> first vowel in this word, the Aramaic cognate ma$i:xa: did not.  In fact, the
> transcription Mesias appears to match the Aramaic perfectly.  There is no
> reason to suggest then that the word Messias in the NT shows evidence of
> a patah.
This does seem to be a possible alternative explanation. I note that 
this would only work with an Aramaic common noun which could take the 
definite suffix. A proper name would not have this suffix, and so if we 
could find in Greek, for example in the New Testament or in Josephus, a 
proper name with an -IAS type ending where there might be a furtive 
patah in Hebrew, this would prove that furtive patah was pronounced at 
the time these books were written.

And here is an example of that: Noah, NWE in Greek (LXX, NT and probably 
elsewhere) with epsilon where a furtive patah might be expected. This 
name is of course much more common as well as more consistent than your 
Abishua example. Also hWSHE (LXX, NT) for the prophet Hosea and the king 
Hoshea, HOW$"A(. But then IEFQAE (Q=theta) for Jephthah suggests that 
the epsilon may have been more an attempt to write something for a word 
final het. I note also Greek SILWAM (LXX and NT) for the pool of Siloam 
or, in Isaiah 8:6, Shiloah, $ILOAX. modern Arabic Silwaan, but here the 
M as well as the A needs explanation.

I note that the English form "Messiah" implies that the word comes from 
the Hebrew. If your hypothesis is correct, it should be re-spelled 

Peter Kirk
E-mail:  peter at qaya.org
Blog:    http://www.qaya.org/blog/
Website: http://www.qaya.org/

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