[b-hebrew] Unpointed

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Thu Jun 17 21:24:10 EDT 2010


On Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 5:00 PM, Kevin Riley <klriley at alphalink.com.au>wrote:

> On 18/06/2010 3:31 AM, K Randolph wrote:
> > Randall and James:
> >
> > On Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 1:16 AM, Randall Buth<randallbuth at gmail.com>
>  wrote:
> >
> >
> >> When interpreting the MT, it is always good to remember that
> >> the masoretes knew Hebrew.
> >>
> >>
> > That’s not the question. The question is how well did they know Biblical
> > Hebrew?
> >
> > First of all, the Masoretes were human and their pointing a human
> > development. As that popular modern paraphrase of Romans 3:23a states,
> “To
> > err is human”, therefore we cannot assume that their points are without
> > error.
> > b-hebrew
> >
> But surely the original writer, and every copier and/or editor from then
> until now, also was human?  Does that mean we must give up on the Hebrew
> (and obviously Greek as well) Scriptures because they were written by
> humans, and therefore in the end, to every question, all we can say is
> that we don't really know?

That is a theological question whose answer is off limits to this group.

What I can report is the traditional view is that the original autographs
were guided by God such that they were without error, Further we can see
from the record that the copies were, for the most part, carefully done to
try to avoid error, so that while they are not perfect, they are close.

Not everyone agrees with the theology behind that answer, so I will say no
more on it.

>  I may be misreading your posts over the
> years, but it seems as if you want to remove all tools for helping us to
> understand the Hebrew Scriptures - later Hebrew, cognate languages,
> tradition, much of history, linguistics, etc - and leave us with just
> the bare text.  But if we take your proverb "to err is human" seriously,
> can we even trust that?

LOL! There are practical limits.

What is true of cognate languages, and later Hebrews are cognate languages,
is that these tools are two edged swords—on the one hand they can help, and
on the other they can hurt our understanding of Biblical Hebrew. Handle with
care. If one knows cognate languages better than he knows Biblical Hebrew,
that can blind him to factors that are unique to Biblical Hebrew.

Translations are commentaries by fallible humans.

I take the Masoretic points as between a translation and a commentary. They
are not canon, i.e. authoritative, and never were. They were a crutch to
help me learn the language when I was starting, but now I notice them more
often when they are wrong. They do not reflect Biblical pronunciation in
force when Biblical Hebrew was spoken as a native tongue, i.e. before the
Babylonian Exile, so they are not even historical in that manner.

History is a thread all on its own, where there are web sites trying to make
sense of all the contradictions taught by professional historians.

That leaves us with the text, aided by linguistic tools looking for
patterns, recognizing actions and just getting a feel for the language.

On the final analysis, do I make mistakes? Of course! That’s what discussion
groups like this are for, to make mistakes and learn from them.

> Kevin Riley

Karl W. Randolph.

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