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

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sat Jun 14 22:42:26 EDT 2008

On Sat, Jun 14, 2008 at 10:59 PM, K Randolph wrote:
> 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 transcribe my personal translation of a few paragraphs from Richard Steiner's
"Emphatic p in the Masoretic pronunciation of 'ppadhno (Dan 11:45)" in Hebrew
and Arabic Studies in Honour of Joshua Blau, ed, M. Bar Asher et al.,
1993, p.552:

"Jerome's statement [that the p of 'appadhno is not the same as Greek phe] is
ambiguous because in his time there were two different realizations to Gk phe =
ph.  In Late Latin, that is, the vernacular spoken by Jerome, and in Byzantine
Greek, the Gk ph = ph had already shifted from aspirated [p^h] to [f], but the
original pronunciation remained in use by scholars like Jerome side by side with
the new realization.  Perhaps it should be stated thus:  the
realization of Gk phe
= ph, for a person speaking Late Latin like Jerome was [f] in the Latin words
that were borrowed from Greek, but aspirated [p^h] in literary Greek,
that is, in
the reading tradition of Classical Greek.

"To which realization of Gk phe = ph did Jerome mean?  It turns out he meant
[p^h].  If he bothered to write 'utatur phe cuius graecum phe sonat', instead of
writing 'utatur fe', he definitely meant the realization less known to
his readers
than [f].  It is inconceivable that Jerome would use Greek to describe to
Latin speakers a simple and early Latin phone, and which is an innovation in
Greek, and which was unknown in Constantinople.

"On the other hand, Jerome frequently transcribes Hebrew peh with f.  We can't
argue that all of these were done by later scribes who modified the
earlier ph to
f because many of them are supported by the alphabetic order of Jerome's
onomastic compositions.

"It seems that Jerome recognized two different realizations of the Hebrew peh
when they did not follow a vowel: [f] and aspirated [p^h].  The first was in use
among Christians, mainly in the pronunciation of Biblical names.  In these
transformed Hebrew names, there is no surprise that the later shift that took
place in the realization of Gk phe = ph took place, or in other words, that the
shift included those borrowed words that had a Gk phe = ph whose source is
in Hebrew peh.  The other realization, aspirated [p^h] was in use of Aramaic-
speaking Jews."

It probably goes the same for k/kh and t/th.  In the case of Nazaret, we have
another interesting issue, in that the final e is actually a vowel
that breaks up
the original consonant cluster from *nacartu > *nacart.  As late as medieval
times we have transcriptions of Hebrew without this vowel.  This is further
reinforced by the sonorant nature of [r] where in place of the vowel, the r
(which was pronounced as various kinds of rolls in Hebrew] might have been
rolled to break up the consonant cluster.  Thus, in the Hebrew and Aramaic
realization of the name, the name might have been pronounced [nacarrt^h],
with an aspirated t^h, since no vowel preceded the consonant.  This may
be compared with the Hebrew $ɔmart "you [2fs] guarded", where the taw
has a dagesh.  As for Capernaum, I refer you to the following posts:

In the latter, it seems the comment about Majority Text goes into your
personal theory, which in light of the evidence above for both Nazareth and
Maththaion, is weak.  I would appreciate it if you could elaborate on the
author's speculation regarding the p/f of Capernaum that you mention and
dismiss, without letting us know what he suggests.

Yitzhak Sapir

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