[b-hebrew] Ex 6:6 hiphil imperative 'bring' (K Randolph)

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Sat Jul 13 06:51:23 EDT 2013


On Sat, Jul 13, 2013 at 12:28 AM, Ruth Mathys <ruth_mathys at sil.org> wrote:

> > Even if the Masoretic points are 99% accurate, that averages out to one
> > mistake every three to four verses. Often that 1% error can make a
> significant
> > change in meaning. For me, unless I have verified the points in a verse,
> I
> > don’t trust them. And I recommend to everyone else that he verify the
> points
> > before he counts them as accurate.
> I've been pondering this for quite a long time.  How do we quantify what is
> the required level of accuracy to trust the Masoretic pointing, or what
> level of inaccuracy would cause us to reject them?

What I see here is an attempt to make everything black or white, when the
reality is that it’s a grey.

The number one reason I don’t use the points is because they
are visual clutter that make the text harder to read.

The second reason is because when looking at them on a case by case study,
I sometimes find that they are inaccurate. Here I’m talking about meaning
accuracy, not accuracy according to original pronunciation.

Connected with this second reading are reasons given in this article:

> Another anecdote that I heard recently, from someone in the linguistics
> field -- he and his linguist colleagues work in the same institution as
> people in the 'hard' sciences.  They were lamenting that their work had a
> 9%
> error rate.  The 'hard' scientists said, "You manage a 91% level of
> accuracy?? Wow! We're always publishing articles and having to retract them
> later because we found our results weren't accurate. You guys in the
> humanities are such perfectionists!"

Actually, in theology, they’re striving for 100% accuracy, knowing that
they won’t achieve it. That includes understanding the text of the Bible in
its original languages.  Knowing that they won’t achieve 100% accuracy
doesn’t give an excuse not to try. It’s in this context of striving for
100% accuracy that the pointing is neither uncritically accepted nor
rejected en mass.

> So if the Masoretes managed even 90% accuracy in their transmission of
> vowels and other linguistic data, IMHO that is a considerable achievement.
> Of course there are places where we might decide they have made a mistake,
> but these need to be taken as individual cases rather than rejecting the
> pointing en masse.  Even as a newbie to reading Tanakh, I find that when I
> come to some text that I completely fail to understand, checking a
> commentary often reveals that it is a textual crux or has weird grammar
> (sometimes, of course, it reveals that I need to pay better attention!).
>  In
> other words, most of the time the Masoretic pointing gives excellent sense,
> and when it doesn't, it doesn't take a lot of Hebrew experience to detect
> that something is wrong.

I don’t have access to all sorts of commentaries. Before the days of
electronic transmission, the dead tree editions were out of reach. Today,
I’m comfortable reading the text after reading it through so many times.

Concerning the “weird grammar” that you mention, how much of that is the
result of trying to follow the points? In other words, that the points
created the weird grammar? After all, the Masoretes were following a
tradition that had centuries to develop where the use of one grammar was
being imposed on a document that had been written using a different grammar?

> The other thought I have here is that in any textual emendation, the critic
> has the responsibility to not just suggest a better alternative to what is
> in the text, but also to explain how the version in the text came to be.
> Again, it needs to be specific to the case being looked at; not a
> generalised "they didn't know the language" but a specific "they
> misread/misheard/miscopied/chose to reinterpret in this way".

That would require that those who don’t follow the points know when they
don’t. When one reads the text without points, he usually doesn’t know when
he gives a different reading than what the points indicate.

> What I'm interested to hear from those who (unlike me) actually know the
> field is: does the Masoretic pointing as we have it cohere with what we
> know
> of the Semitic vowel system from other languages, especially those that are
> still spoken and/or have a reliable transcription of the vowels?  Can we
> draw up sound-shift 'laws' comparable to those that have been made for
> Indo-European?
> How can there be, when we don’t know how Biblical Hebrew was originally
pronounced? Which were the original phones? One thing is known is that
unstressed vowels were dropped, we don’t know which, and plosives were
sometimes changed to fricatives.

> > (6) Finally, sorry Karl–making the assertion that the use of the word
> "strike"
> > in baseball, meaning to miss, comes from a Norwegian or some other root,
> is
> > not the same thing as demonstrating that such is actually the case.  It
> is
> > much more plausible to suggest, rather, that "strike" referred
> originally to a
> > ball that was struck foul, and then by extension came to cover balls
> that were
> > missed entirely.
> >
> > Now you haven’t demonstrated that. That assertion is speculation on your
> part
> > to defend your position. I at least have evidence for a common root from
> > cognate languages, which give probability. Another example is German,
> “ein
> > Strich gegen” is used almost identically to “strike” in baseball to
> refer to a
> > mark against the batter, leading to his being counted out. Its verb is
> > “streichen”. So which is more likely, your speculation, or a Germanic
> root
> > still used in baseball?
> I'm really not sure why this keeps coming up on a list about biblical
> Hebrew, and I can't help noticing that nobody seems to have bothered to do
> any actual research!  So I turned to our old friend the WWW and found these
> (no idea how reliable they are):
> (http://www.etymonline.com)
>> >>
> >> The literal definition is (there is also the figurative one of having "a
> >> strike against you):

How do you explain the use of the “figurative” definition in other Germanic
languages that don’t have baseball?

> >>
> >> …
> Can we put this one to rest now? ;-)
> Ruth Mathys
> Karl W. Randolph.
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