[b-hebrew] "th" and "b"

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Sat Jun 14 18:59:07 EDT 2008

In New Testament studies, one indication that the Byzantine tradition may be
older than the Coptic tradition that underlies most scholarly editions of
the New Testament is that it preserves what seem to be regional variations
of Hebrew names: for example, Bethlehem in Judea, was spelled with a theta,
while Nazareth in Galilee is consistently spelled with a tau as Nazaret. I
noticed a couple of other similar differences in transliterations. Both New
Testament traditions spelled Kapernaum with a pi instead of the modern phi
that would have been used.
I have not made a detailed study of the matter, but I wonder if these
variations indicate that there was a change in pronunciation going on at
that time, a change that was not reflected in the spelling as the spelling
was frozen to the Biblical norm.

Karl W. Randolph.

On Sat, Jun 14, 2008 at 3:12 PM, Yitzhak Sapir <yitzhaksapir at gmail.com>

> On Sat, Jun 14, 2008 at 8:42 PM, Yigal Levin wrote:
> > Dear Yakov,
> >
> > I'll try to re-phrase Yitzhak's answer. Since the earliest translation of
> > the Bible that we know of was into Greek, names and phrases that were
> > transliterated were done so in a way that matched how the Greek of the
> time
> > "heard" the way Hebrew was pronounced at the time. Since Hebrew at the
> time
> > pronounced a "soft" Tav as "th", and Greek had an equivalent sound
> (theta),
> > this is what was used. Thus: Beth-lehem, Sabbath (Greek does not have a
> > "sh") etc. Greek did not have a "v" sound, so "soft" Bet remained "b".
> Thus
> > Ya'akov became Iakob, which eventually became Latin Jacob. These forms
> > became standard in the English speaking world.
> A slight correction:
> At least, the letters k, p, and t were aspirated.  That is, their
> "hard" pronunciation
> included a burst of air.  In English, there is aspiration on these
> letters in the initial
> letter of the words kin, pin, top, as compared with skin, spin, stop.
> In Hebrew,
> the aspirated variants were pronounced everywhere where the hard
> pronunciation
> was used.
> They were therefore transcribed with a chi, phi, and theta in Greek, and as
> kh,
> ph, and th, in Latin.  The Greek and Latin writers could not
> differentiate between
> these hard aspirated pronunciation and the fricative x, f, and th (as
> in thin).
> Similarly, letters borrowed from these languages into Hebrew and Aramaic,
> used
> the emphatic counterparts of these letters quf and teth.  It is likely that
> an
> emphatic peh was also used.  Similarly, the letters b, g, d had a soft
> pronunciation v, gh, dh as in that, that was not differentiated in
> Latin and Greek
> writing.
> Yitzhak Sapir

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