[b-hebrew] Unpointed, plus qal passive

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Sat Jun 19 12:57:01 EDT 2010


RB “ish liqrat re`o/re`av and ish et re`o/re`av”

Just out of curiosity, why do you never write in Hebrew, rather you write
your transliterations of modern Hebrew?

On Fri, Jun 18, 2010 at 1:23 AM, Randall Buth <randallbuth at gmail.com> wrote:

> [KR]
> > so that while they are not perfect, they are close.
> Finally,
> we might be able to talk. One of the refrains we hear
> from Karl is that 'the MT is not perfect, therefore it cannot be
> trusted'. But now we hear that 'close' may be acceptable.

You are mixing two different traditions. So when I call one tradition (the
points) untrustworthy, you then claim falsely that I claim that the other
(the consonantal text) is also untrustworthy, which I don’t.

Agreed, the MT combines both traditions into one document, which is why I
have been careful to distinguish between those two traditions, and not just
say “MT”.

It is my understanding, which could be wrong, that the MT is the only source
for the majority of the consonantal text, which is why I have been careful
not to knock the generic “MT” rather to specify the late vocalizing
tradition of the “Masoretic points”.

> [KR]
> > how many of the ambiguities of the text were
> > self-inflicted? Based on the fact that they were trying to read Tanakh
> > through the lenses of tradition, medieval Hebrew and medieval Aramaic?
> Who said that they were trying to read through such lenses?

That should be self-evident.

For example, I know barely enough Aramaic to read the Aramaic portions of
Tanakh. When I read them, I read them mostly through the lens of Hebrew,
which I know far better.

Now we look at the Masoretes—what language did they use in their
discussions? What language was used to record those discussions? In both
cases, Aramaic. Why did they use Aramaic? The answer should be obvious. And
because Aramaic was a close cognate language of Biblical Hebrew, they tended
to give the unpointed text of Tanakh even pronunciations based on their
knowledge of Aramaic and the Aramaic rules of pronunciation of unpointed

We see the same pattern among those who speak close cognates of English,
when they try to read English text without first becoming very familiar with
spoken English as spoken by native speakers. And if their native tongue does
not have a sound that is indicated by a certain letter, they tend to
pronounce it according to their language’s pronunciation, not English.
Unfortunately for Biblical Hebrew, the last unquestionable native speaker of
Biblical Hebrew died during the early Persian era.

Taking the linguistic question a step further back, with which Hebrew would
the Masoretes have been more familiar—Mishnaic Hebrew which was closer to
their medieval Aramaic and used to record the Mishnah which they knew and
studied, or its cognate language Biblical Hebrew? How many on this list
would confidently claim that they knew Biblical Hebrew better? And how many
would join with me in concluding that they probably knew Mishnaic Hebrew

Given that the record shows that the Masoretes were more familiar with
medieval Aramaic and probably Mishnaic Hebrew secondarily, what is the
probability that they then read Bible with grammatical understandings,
pronunciation rules and thought patterns from their native tongue and
influenced also by their second tongue?

While a person who knows only one Semitic language, who cannot fall back
onto understandings derived from other Semitic languages, does he not have a
better chance of understanding of Biblical Hebrew as Biblical Hebrew, and
not just as a member of the family of Semitic languages with “let me try to
remember which” unique features?

> My bottom line is this: everyone can go ahead and read unpointed
> Hebrew to their heart's content. But one should learn one historically
> attested dialect, and internalize it, so that one is on the same page
> and can communicate with Hebrew speakers and texts from
> throughout the ages.

Well yeah, as a teacher I would teach the vowel points and what they mean,
so the students would be able to know what tradition says and be able to
recognize when the points indicate meanings that don’t fit the contexts, as
well as to help in communications to others, but at the same time I would
teach them to read in context, looking for the actions and be willing to
disregard points when they point to readings that don’t make sense.

> --
> Randall Buth, PhD
> www.biblicalulpan.org
> randallbuth at gmail.com
> Biblical Language Center
> Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life
Karl W. Randolph.

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