Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 4 (2002-2003) - Review
Reinhard Lehmann, ed., Kleine Untersuchungen zur Sprache des Alten Testaments und seiner Umwelt (KUSATU, Vols. 2-3; Waltrop: Harmut Spenner, 2001, 2002), Pp. Vol. 2, Pp. 129, Vol. 3, Pp. 121. ISBN 3-933688-57-4 and 3-933688-79-5 respectively; DM 28.00 and EURO 14.50 respectively.
This new series from Mainz University, targeted for publication twice
yearly, is dedicated to the rapid publication of studies on grammar,
lexicography, epigraphy, and paleography of biblical and extra-biblical
ancient Hebrew and Aramaic, as well as Phoenician and ancient Transjordanian languages (see
Theoretically oriented linguistic studies in these two issues include Jens Kotjatko's exploration of the Arabic roots of Hebrew grammatical terminology and the cross fertilization that occurred between early Arabic and Hebrew grammarians, particularly with respect to the nomenclature for infinitives and verbal nouns ("Infinitive und Verbalnomina bei den hebräischen Grammatikern des Mittelalters und das Problem der Terminologie," 3.5-54). Jacob Hoftijzer in "Zukunftsaussagen und Modalität" (2.5-45) is refreshingly not distressed by the lack of consensus in research into the Hebrew verb, noting that similar disagreements often apply to even modern languages where one has access to native speakers as informants. In this discussion of futurity and moods, he leans toward a three-part verbal system: suffix conjugation (with wayyiqtol), prefix conjugation (with Perfectum consecutivum), and indeterminate predicate participle.
Two exegetical studies include Andreas Schüle's defense of Buber's translation of the command traditionally translated as "love your neighbor as yourself," preferring instead "love your neighbor who is like you" ("Kāmōkā‚ der Nächste, der ist wie Du. Zur Philologie des Liebesgebots von Lev 19,18.34" (2.97-129). Josef Tropper addresses the phrase ’iššâ gedôlâ in 2 Kgs 4:8 ("Elischa und die 'grosse' Frau aus Schunem [2 Kön 4,8-37])" (3.71-80), arguing that it signifies an "older woman" (and only here in the Hebrew Bible does gādôl have this meaning) on the basis of a careful exploration of the context and genre of the narrative, along with etymology and comparative Semitic linguistics. As the springboard for this alternate understanding, he presents inner Hebrew evidence for gādôl with the meaning "old" when applied to sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters. But it must be stressed that this semantic range is not an uncommon phenomenon in languages, for in all such cases the adjective is used relatively ("older") and not as an absolute term for "old," so that even a teen-age girl can be so identified (e.g., Gen 29:16). The Arabic evidence for kbr, which Tropper presents only in part, when investigated in full demonstrates this same focus upon the relative notion of "older than" even though it has sometimes developed an absolute sense (even then signifying not always "old" but someone who, for example, has attained puberty). For such reasons, it is not convincing that the proposed semantic development occurred in Hebrew.
On the other hand, more persuasive is Tropper's satisfying solution to some notable peculiarites in the form and function of the Hebrew particle hinnēh ("Die hebräische Partikel hinneh 'siehe!' Morphologische und syntaktische Probleme," 3.81-121). The two primary issues addressed are 1) the particle's final vowel and 2) its infrequent attestation with the third singular suffix (it is amply attested with other suffixes). Tropper concludes that the Masoretic vocalization of this word masks three originally distinct words: 1) *hinnāh (the bare particle without suffixes), 2) hinnēhū (the particle with 3ms suffix), and 3) *hinnāh (the particle with 3fs suffix). Comparative Semitic linguistic evidence, particularly with respect to the Arabic particle ’inna, undergirds the analysis of the Hebrew data. The argumentation in support of a three-fold distinction includes striking evidence from analogy with other Hebrew particles (’ayyēh, ’ê, ’ayin, yēš, ‘ôd). In the case of ’ayin, yēš, ‘ôd, these particles appear with the 3ms suffix far more frequently than with any other suffix, and these particles appear with suffixes in nominal sentences regularly functioning as the subject of the sentence. Why, asks Tropper, do these same phenomena not occur with hinnēh? His conclusion is that, in fact, they do. What obscures the data is that the present Masoretic vocalization no longer distinguishes originally distinct vocalizations of the final heh on this particle. With respect to the interrogative adverbs ’ayyēh and ’ê, Tropper notes that, like hinnēh, there is an unexpected final long e vowel, as well as a short and long form comparable to hinnēh and hēn. He finds the confusion in the final vowel stemming from an Aramaic linguistic milieu where the 3ms suffix is a final--ē vowel: a tradition arose where ’ayyēh was pronounced in place of an original ’ayyô. A very fine piece of detective work.
A broader survey of linguistic traditions is presented when Stefan Schorch insists on oral tradition as a communal product that is not monolithic but reflects distinctive social identities in "Die hebräische Sprachgeschichte und die Vokalisierung(en) der Hebräischen Bible" (3.55-70). Thus, the distinctive features of the vocalization of the consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible that are found in the Samaritan, Qumran, and MT traditions reflect the insular self-identities of each of these groups as they defined themselves in contrast to one another and other groups in the period between the second century BCE and the second century CE when the stabilization of the distinctive traditions occurred. Exploring the vacillating treatment of the definite article in Samaritan and Tiberian traditions in particular, he establishes a typology of development such that the consonants of the MT preserve the oldest layer of linguistic evidence, the Samaritan consonants and vowels reflect a later development, and the MT vocalization represents the latest of all.
Wido van Peursen in "The Alleged Retroversions from Syriac in the Hebrew Text of Ben Sira revisited: Linguistic Perspectives" (2.47-95) concludes cautiously and with qualifications that there is little support for the theory that Medieval Geniza Hebrew texts of Ben Sira represent a (partial) translation from Syriac, at least with respect to the particular linguistic phenomena he investigates in 5:4; 10:31; 15:14, 15, 20; 16:3; 30:20; and 32:16 (much of the primary data and the beginning of the discussion for 16:3 on p. 73 was somehow omitted by a printer's error). Even so, he admits that the alternative explanations in some cases themselves remain problematic.
These stimulating presentations bode well for the new enterprise, and Professor Lehmann is to be commended for his editorial work in these issues.
Samuel A. Meier