[b-hebrew] Early and late biblical Hebrew

David Steinberg david.l.steinberg at rogers.com
Fri Nov 25 15:31:51 EST 2011

It is a very good piece of research. At my request, Ms Vern sent me a 
copy. However, without her OK, of course, I cannot share the text with 

All the best

David Steinberg

On 25/11/2011 1:38 PM, Bryant J. Williams III wrote:
> Dear David,
> Do you have a link to Robyn Vern's dissertation? I have seen various references
> to it in google, bing, yahoo, etc., searches, but have not located it.
> Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "David Steinberg"<david.l.steinberg at rogers.com>
> To:<b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: Friday, November 25, 2011 7:26 AM
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Early and late biblical Hebrew
>> Yes I agree with him. I suggest that you read his more extensive works -
>> Young, Ian,- /Diversity in Pre-Exilic Hebrew,/ Forschungen zum Alten
>> Testament, Coronet Books Inc, 1993, ISBN-10: 3161460588
>> - Biblical Hebrew: /Studies in Chronology and Typology/ (Journal for the
>> Study of the Old Testament Supplement), T.&  T. Clark Publishers, 2004,
>> ISBN-10: 0826468411
>> Young, Ian, Robert Rezetko, Martin Ehrensvärd. /Linguistic Dating of
>> Biblical Texts: Volume 1 - An Introduction to Approaches and
>> Problems/(BibleWorld) (Paperback), Equinox Publishing (October 2008),
>> ISBN-10: 1845530829; Volume 2 - A New Synthesis and a Comprehensive
>> Bibliography
>> Three works that I suggest that you read carefully are:
>> Van Seters, John (1975) - /Abraham in History and Tradition/
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_in_History_and_Tradition#CITEREFVan_Seters1975
>> Thomas L. Thompson - /The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives/
>> (Walter de Gruyter, Berlin/New York, 1974). Read the section on names.
>> Redford, Donald B. (1970) - /A Study of the Biblical Story of Joseph/.
>> Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill.
>> We can assume that biblical prose "historic" texts such as /Samuel,
>> Kings/ etc. may have been read by literate scribes. Even these were
>> clearly modernized. A careful read of Polzin is worth the effort -
>> Polzin, Robert, /Late Biblical Hebrew: Toward an Historical Typology of
>> Biblical Hebrew Prose/.  (Scholars Press 1976. This isdiscussed in Vern,
>> Robyn, "The Relevance of Linguistic Evidence to the Early Dating of the
>> Archaic Poetry of the Hebrew Bible", PhD dissertation, University of
>> Sydney, 2008.). Polzin carefully examines the changes in language
>> between /Samuel-Kings/ and the parallel passages in /Chronicles/.
>> One has to accept that most of the literature of the Hebrew Bible was
>> meant to be comprehended read or recited aloud by a basically illiterate
>> audience in the period of say 800-400 BCE ( see van der Toorn, Karel.
>> /Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible/, Harvard University
>> Press, 2009 - worth a careful read).The audience would no more have
>> understood the language of 1400 -1200 BCE (case, mood, and other short
>> vowel endings, the existence of final /y/ and /w/ which were lost in
>> later Hebrew consequent on thedisappearance of final short vowels,
>> differences in syntax) than a modern audience, not specifically trained
>> in Middle English, would understand a recitation of Chaucer. On the
>> other hand, a sprinkling ofstandard archaisms in the "archaic poetry"
>> would present no more difficulties in comprehension that the scattering
>> of "thous", "thys" and "beholds" etc in a 19th century English love
>> poem. (See /Time and Modal Implications of PC in Various Categories of
>> BH Poetry/ http://www.adath-shalom.ca/history_of_hebrew3a.htm#time_mod_pc )
>> As far as dating by names go, I have already mentioned the cases of the
>> Iliad and the Nibelungenlied both of which contain ancient names and
>> originated in known historical events. In both cases they were written
>> down much later and neither contains much of the historical events in
>> any recognizable form.
>> The fact that St. George might really have been a third-fourth century
>> Roman soldier says nothing about the historicity or date of composition
>> of the St. George literature that has come down to us.
>> The fundamental situation is that we would all like to prove the date of
>> various pieces of the biblical text and, in most cases, be able to
>> demonstrate that the biblical Abraham, Moses etc. lived and did what
>> they are described as doing in the text. However, archaeology, critical
>> studies of history etc. contradict such naive readings of the text. The
>> linguistic evidence, which Avi Hurvitz (see
>> http://www.houseofdavid.ca/anc_heb_6.htm#_edn6 ), Cross etc. considered
>> objective indicators of date have turned out to be invalid ( see
>> http://www.houseofdavid.ca/anc_heb_6.htm#ident_prex ).
>> In my view we simply have to accept that we cannot linguistically date
>> the material and not to continue to grab at straws.
>> David Steinberg
>> 1. The material I discuss and reference in the box Can Biblical Texts be
>> Linguistically Dated? http://www.houseofdavid.ca/anc_heb_6.htm
>> 2. Vern, Robyn, "The Relevance of Linguistic Evidence to the Early
>> Dating of the Archaic Poetry of the Hebrew Bible", PhD dissertation,
>> University of Sydney, 2008.
>>    If you look at the text of any of the so called archaic poems, and you
>> revert it to its probable form c. 1200-1400 BCE (add case, mood, and
>> other short vowel endings, revert contractions of final /y/ and /w/
>> consequent on the disapearance of final short vowels etc.) you will find
>> that the orthography is not really archaic and, in many cases, such as
>> the use of matres - is often typologically late.

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