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

Jerry Shepherd jshepherd53 at gmail.com
Wed Jul 10 21:26:43 EDT 2013

Hi Will,

I'll intersperse my answers below.

Will:  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.

Jerry: When I say that the Masoretic notation does not reflect their own
time and place, I mean that there is nothing innovative in what they do.
Their sole innovation is to create a system of marks to indicate the sounds
and grammar of a tradition that was handed down to them.  But in terms of
the actual sounds and grammar, they did not innovate; they preserved what
was handed down to them.  There was less than a millennium between the time
of the writing of the last book of the Hebrew Bible and the work of the
Masoretes which began about 600 CE.  Of course the dating of the biblical
books themselves is notoriously difficult; but I think it is important to
note that books that may have been written during pre-exilic times,
probably went through and editing and updating process in the post-exilic
period, but the post-exilic period is still within the biblical period.  So
I am prepared to argue that the forms of the biblical books as they existed
in the post-exilic period are still largely preserved in the Masoretic
text, and that the pronunciation of the biblical text during the
post-exilic period largely continues through the next generations of
scribes and on down to the Masoretes.

Will: 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.)

Jerry: Sorry, Will, I really don't understand this paragraph, or what the
evidence is for the pronunciation differences you have suggested. Do you
think that in biblical times there was no shortening of full vowel sounds
down to half-vowel or vocal shewas?

Will: 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.

Jerry: But these developments begin in the biblical period.  Additionally,
things are complicated by our basic ignorance as to how soon or how
dominantly Aramaic overtook Hebrew as the primary spoken language.  In any
case, the sooner the Aramaic dominance is recognized to have taken place,
the greater the likelihood that the tradition handed down by the scribes
accurately reflects the state of the Hebrew text and pronunciation during
the post-exilic period.



Jerry Shepherd
Taylor Seminary
Edmonton, Alberta
jshepherd53 at gmail.com
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