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Orthoepy in the Tiberian Reading Tradition of the Hebrew Bible and Its Historical Roots in the Second Temple Period

In: Vetus Testamentum
Author: Geoffrey Khan1
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  • 1 University of Cambridge
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Abstract

The Tiberian reading tradition of the Hebrew Bible contains a variety of features that point to its origin in the Second Temple period. Once such feature is the careful reading of the inflected forms of the verbs הָיָה and חָיָה to ensure that they are not confused. The paper directs particular attention to the lengthening of the vowels of the prefix conjugation (imperfect) of these verbs, which can be reconstructed from medieval sources. It is argued through comparison with the Babylonian tradition of Biblical Hebrew that this lengthening is an orthoepic feature that has its roots in the Second Temple Period. This demonstrates that the priestly authorities who were concerned with the careful preservation of the written text were also concerned with the careful preservation of the orally transmitted reading tradition.

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