[b-hebrew] Ex 6:6 hiphil imperative 'bring'

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Wed Jul 10 18:24:33 EDT 2013

Hello Jerry,

On Tue, 9 Jul 2013 21:50:40 -0600, Jerry Shepherd <jshepherd53 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi Karl,
> The problem was with how strongly you put things: "You can't trust the
> Masoretic points."  I believe rather that a great deal of trust can be put
> in the Masoretic points.  And, as it turns out, in the example Chris
> brought forward, the Masoretic text was spot on.
> Also, I do not believe that the Masoretic points reflect the "Masoretic
> time and place."  Rather, they reflect the tradition that was passed down
> to the Masoretes, which may well indeed go back to biblical times in large
> measure.

They do indeed "reflect the Masoretic time and place".  I don't think
there can be any doubt that the Hebrew text as we see it printed with
vowel marks, dageshes, &c. represents how it was pronounced in that
time and place.  That of course is not inconsistent with its being a
continuation of the pronunciation in Biblical times, but as it stands
it doesn't represent the pronunciation of Biblical times directly.
How could it?  Even ignoring that there were most likely dialectal
differences in ancient hebrew and the Biblical texts were written over
a period of centuries, there's more than a millenium of time in
between the writing of the Biblical texts and the Masoretes' work.

In looking at the 3rd person sing. corresponding forms (M & F) of the
verb כתנ, we have the Masoretic forms כָתְבָה - כָתַב, which I take to
represent the underlying pronunciations [kɔ:θ'av] (or perhaps
[kɔ:θaβ]) and [kɔ:θəv'ɔ:], but it seems pretty easy to infer that
these are later phonetic developments of something that would have
been something like /katab/, /kataba(h)/ earlier.  (How much earlier,
I can't say, or whether this would have represented the situation in
Biblical times.)

In another reply, Karl wrote:

> Actually, not to Biblical times. But it was a tradition that evolved over a
> millennium of no native speakers in an Aramaic and later Greek milieus.

I think I agree to a certain extent with Karl on this (at least about
the Aramaic part - not so much the Greek part).  The pronunciation of
Hebrew must have evolved after the Exile along with Aramaic, and I
can't help but think the pronunciation of Hebrew as finally codified
by the Masoretes owes a lot to developments in Aramaic.

William Parsons

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