[b-hebrew] Was the MT for public consumption?

fred burlingame tensorpath at gmail.com
Thu Dec 23 21:34:46 EST 2010

Hello George:

Thanks for your comments.

Perhaps I can clarify my point as follows.

a. If, in 2010, the only written record in america of the
shakespearean english language, existed in, and was generally restricted to,
churches and synagogues;

b. and only one copy of a book in that shakespearean language was possessed
by each church and synagogue;
c. literacy rates for shakespeare's english would likely plummet;
precipitously, and swiftly.

Hence, the conclusion would easily flow under those circumstances, that: the
language of shakespeare existed not for public consumption in 2010.
Americans could hear the language read on fridays and sundays. Some
americans might even look at the shakespeare book during leisure time at the
churches and synagogues.

But to say that the language of shakespeare was available for public
consumption? ... under those circumstances? ... I don't see that as a
reasonable conclusion.

Likewise, the language of the leningrad codex was not spoken as a means of
communication at the time of its creation (just like shakespearean english
is not spoken today). The talmud testifies to the movement of spoken hebrew
far away from biblical hebrew. Hence, anyone wishing to consume that
language (biblical hebrew) at that time (1010 a.d.), needed ready and
liberal access to a written document preserving the language. And such
access was not available to the public, given the scarcity of written books.

Hence, the conclusion follows. The language of the leningrad codex was not
available for public consumption in 1010 a.d.

Was the situation different in 600 b.c., when presumably the leningrad codex
language was commonly in use? I don't know. But we do know today that
church/synagogue services expend significant time with an expert explaining
to the assembly what the english language words/verses of the bible
"really" mean. There always seems to be a "priestly" class in every
century, necessary to explain to the people what the language "really"
means. So, to say that the hebrew people could understand the words of the
tanakh in 600 b.c., without help from the priests .... seems against
history. (not to mention nehemiah 8:8).

It would also be interesting to know the literacy rates for biblical hebrew
in persons attending american synagogues today, where hebrew books readily
available. 50%?


fred burlingame
On Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 6:30 PM, George Athas <George.Athas at moore.edu.au>wrote:

> Fred, your conclusion is possible, but not necessary. The evidence does not
> necessitate it. One could just as easily argue that the effort involved in
> production was intended for wide use.
> Of course, how you define 'use' is also important. Is it 'public' if it's
> kept in the repository of a synagogue where hundreds of people gather on
> Shabbat, and only brought out for reading by a cantor?
> Moore Theological College (Sydney, Australia)
> www.moore.edu.au
> From: fred burlingame <tensorpath at gmail.com<mailto:tensorpath at gmail.com>>
> Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2010 08:19:30 -0600
> To: George Athas <george.athas at moore.edu.au<mailto:
> george.athas at moore.edu.au>>
> Cc: B-Hebrew <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org<mailto:b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> >>
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Was the MT for public consumption?
> Hello George;
> You could be correct. I was not present at that time.
> But .... when manufacture of a single book the size of the bible consumes
> years of one scribe's full time effort, .... it seems improbable that the
> masoretic text resulted for any, but a relatively few teachers; and surely
> not the general population of millions of consumers.
> http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/gutenberg/html/2.html
> regards,
> fred burlingame
> On Wed, Dec 22, 2010 at 10:09 PM, George Athas <George.Athas at moore.edu.au
> <mailto:George.Athas at moore.edu.au>> wrote:
> Fred,
> The intent to preserve 'orthodoxy' is within the scope of the religious and
> pietistic purpose of the Masoretes. However, your three points (a, b, c) do
> not necessarily lead to the conclusion you reach, namely that the MT was
> produced 'for exclusive consumption by teachers and rabbis'. There is no
> reason why it could not have a wider scope in mind. In fact, given the
> intent of preserving orthodoxy for a particular community, it seems logical
> to conclude that they would have liked a wider audience. While not all of
> the community would have been able to read it, this does not preclude them
> from being 'consumers' of the MT. Your conclusion appears to be narrower
> than your three points require.
> Moore Theological College (Sydney, Australia)
> www.moore.edu.au<http://www.moore.edu.au/>
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