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Linguistic Dating of Biblical Texts

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Linguistic Dating of Biblical Texts

V olume 1

A n Introduction to A ppro aches and P roblems

Ian Y oung
R o bert R ezetko


O Routledge
Taylor &. Francis Group


First published 2008 by Equinox, an imprint of Acumen

Published 2014 by Routledge

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© Ian Young, Robert Rezetko, and Martin Ehrensvard

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V o l u m e 1:
A n In t r o d u c t io n t o A p p r o a c h e s a n d P r o b l e m s

Alternative Education

Chapter 1
In t r o d u c t io n

Chapter 2
E a r l y v s . L a t e B ib l ic a l H e b r e w :
P r in c ipl e s a n d M e t h o d o l o g y

Chapter 3
E a r l y v s . L a t e B ib l ic a l H e b r e w :
C r it iq u e of P r in c ipl e s

Chapter 4

EducationPlanAlternative EducationPlan
E a r l y v s . L a t e B ib l ic a l H e b r e w :
C r itiq u e of M e t h o d o l o g y

Chapter 5
E a r l y v s . L a t e B ib l ic a l H e b r e w :
L in g u ist ic F e a t u r e s a n d R a t e s of A c c u m u l a t io n

Chapter 6
H e b r e w In sc r ip t io n s of th e M o n a r c h ic P er io d

Chapter 7
D ia l e c t s a n d D ig l o ssia

Chapter 8
A r a m a ic

Chapter 9
M ish n a ic H e b r e w
viii Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Chapter 10
Q u m r a n H e b r ew and B en S ir a 250

C hapter 11
Loanw ords 280

C hapter 12
A r c h a ic B ib l ic a l H e b r e w 312

C hapter 13
T e x t u a l C r it ic is m 341

C hapter 14
C o n c l u s io n 361

V o l u m e 2:
A S u r v e y o f S c h o l a r s h ip , a N e w Sy n t h e s is
a n d a C o m p r e h e n s iv e B ib l io g r a p h y

Abbreviations ix

Chapter 1
S u r v e y of S c h o l a r sh ip o n th e D a t in g
of B ib l ic a l L it e r a t u r e

Chapter 2
S y n t h e s is of t h e A r g u m e n t :

C hapter 3
L in g u ist ic C a s e S t u d ie s 106

Chapter 4
T a b l e s of L in g u ist ic F e a t u r e s
S u g g e s t e d to b e LBH in M a jo r P u b l ic a t io n s 160

Bibliography 215
Analytical Outline of Subjects 284
Index of Hebrew and Aramaic Words 296
Index of Biblical Literature and References 324
Index of Authors 368
P reface

Despite its ‘yawn-invoking title’ (Zevit 2004) considerable interest in the

question of using language to date biblical texts was generated by the
publication of Biblical Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and Typology
(Young 2003a). This was confirmed by the large attendance at a session
on the topic organised by Ziony Zevit at the Society of Biblical
Literature Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas in 2004. That evening,
Rezetko and Young ended up, purely by accident (Ehrensvard has a
better sense of direction), at a reception for Equinox Publishers hosted by
Philip Davies and Janet Joyce. It had been Philip’s brilliant idea that had
led to the earlier book (the title only shows that you can’t be brilliant all
of the time). In San Antonio he had another one: ‘You guys (Young and
Rezetko figured he was talking to them) should write an introduction to
linguistic dating of biblical texts. It should be easy: I mean, you already
know all the stuff.’
Over three years later we may look back on those inspiring, but not
very prescient, words. As we delved deep into the literature and in par­
ticular, the masses (and masses!) of data, our unease with the current
chronological model grew until we arrived at a new model to compre­
hend the linguistic diversity of the Hebrew Bible. Thus, the first volume
contains a lot more argument than we first planned, and an unexpected
second volume has grown out of the first.
On the way, we decided that having a good sense of direction is no
excuse to avoid hard work and so Ehrensvard was drawn deeper and
deeper into the web. Working together has been fun and the resulting
volumes are evidence of a true team effort, usually on three different
continents, but occasionally together in person, most notably in Vienna
in July 2007. We have encouraged, learned from and pushed each other,
and still ended up better friends than ever.
Many people have helped in many different ways in this team effort.
George Athas, Robert Holmstedt, S0ren Holst and Mark Leuchter read
the completed manuscript for us. Of the many others who helped us
along the way, we mention especially Matthew Anstey, Brian Aucker,
Ehud Ben Zvi, Shani Berrin, Lucy Davey, Philip Davies, Greg Doudna,
X Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Diana Edelman, Cynthia Edenburg, Michael Fox, Manfred Hutter, Jan

Joosten, Alan Lenzi, Timothy Lim, Raymond Person, Frank Polak, Gary
Rendsburg, Martin Shields, Luis Siddall, Mark Smith, Robyn Vem, Noel
Weeks, and students in the Classical Hebrew program at the University
of Sydney who worked with earlier drafts of the material. None of them
can of course be held accountable for the final product, which is solely
our responsibility.
Finally, we thank Duncan Bums for his expertise in the production of
the manuscript for publication.

Ian Young (Sydney)

Robert Rezetko (Guadalajara)
Martin Ehrensvard (Aarhus)
A b b r e v ia t io n s

ABD Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by D. N. Freedman. 5 vols. New

York: Doubleday, 1992.
ABH Archaic Biblical Hebrew
BA Biblical Aramaic
BDB Brown, F., S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs. A Hebrew and English
Lexicon o f the Old Testament. Oxford: Clarendon, 1907.
BH Biblical Hebrew
BHS Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Edited by K. Elliger and W.
Rudolph. 4th rev. edn. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1990.
CBH Classical Biblical Hebrew (= EBH and SBH)
DBI Dictionary o f Biblical Interpretation. Edited by J. H. Hayes. 2 vols.
Nashville: Abingdon, 1999.
DCH The Dictionary o f Classical Hebrew. Edited by D. J. A. Clines.
Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1993-
DSS Dead Sea Scrolls
EBH Early Biblical Hebrew (= CBH and SBH)
EVV English Bible Versions
GKC Gesenius ’ Hebrew Grammar. Edited and revised by E. Kautzsch.
Revised and translated by A. E. Cowley. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon,
HALOT Koehler, L., W. Baumgartner, and J. J. Stamm. The Hebrew and
Aramaic Lexicon o f the Old Testament. Translated and edited under
the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. Leiden: Brill, 1994—
2000 .
IDB The Interpreter’s Dictionary o f the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclo­
pedia. Edited by G. A. Buttrick. 4 vols. Nashville: Abingdon, 1962.
IDBSup The Interpreter’s Dictionary o f the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclo­
pedia: Supplementary Volume. Edited by K. Crim. Nashville:
Abingdon, 1976.
IH Israelian/Israelite Hebrew
JH Judaean/Judahite Hebrew
JM Joiion, P. A Grammar o f Biblical Hebrew. Translated and revised by
T. Muraoka. SubBib, 27.2nd edn. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute,
LBH Late Biblical Hebrew
LXX Septuagint
MH Mishnaic Hebrew
MT Masoretic Text
xii Linguistic D ating o f Biblical Texts

NRSV New Revised Standard Version

QH Qumran Hebrew
RH Rabbinic Hebrew
SBH Standard Biblical Hebrew (= CBH and EBH)
SP Samaritan Pentateuch
TDOT Theological Dictionary o f the Old Testament. Edited by G. J. Botter-
weck, H. Ringgren, and H.-J. Fabry. Translated by J. T. Willis, D. E.
Green, G. W. Bromiley, and D. W. Stott. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
TLOT Theological Lexicon o f the Old Testament. Edited by E. Jenni and
C. Westermann. Translated by M. Biddle. 3 vols. Peabody, MA:
Hendrickson, 1997.
WO Waltke, B. K., and M. O’Connor. An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew
Syntax. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990.
Chapter 1

I n t r o d u c t io n

1.1. Objective o f this Book

When were the books of the Hebrew Bible written?
Until about three hundred years ago Jews and Christians almost
universally believed that Moses wrote the Torah or Pentateuch around
1400 BCE, Solomon wrote the book of Qoheleth or Ecclesiastes c. 1000
BCE, and Isaiah wrote the book bearing his name c. 700 BCE, to give just
three examples. Although voices of dissent are traceable back to antiq­
uity, such confidence in the origins of biblical books came increasingly
into question beginning in the seventeenth century, on the heels of the
Renaissance, with the writings of scholars like Baruch Spinoza (1632­
77), often called ‘the father of (modem) biblical criticism’. This Dutch
philosopher of Portuguese Jewish origin in his Tractatus Theologico-
Politicus (1670) argued, for example, that Ezra (fifth century BCE) wrote
Genesis-Deuteronomy, and probably also Joshua-Kings, but that later
revisers put the finishing touches on these books (Spinoza 1883: 120—
45). Spinoza based his conclusions mainly on internally inconsistent
statements which he could not reconcile with the traditional early dates
assigned to the books of Genesis-Kings.
It was only later, following developments in comparative and histori­
cal linguistics, and in relation to the foundations of modem biblical
criticism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, that scholars of the
Hebrew Bible began to put more emphasis on language as a sign of time
of composition. We mention below several important figures in this
regard (1.3), and many others are cited in later chapters, especially in
Volume 2, Chapter 1. Furthermore, a survey of secondary literature, espe­
cially commentaries, both old and recent, shows that linguistic arguments
have played a part in treatments of date of most biblical books. However,
the significance of language is illustrated particularly well in discussions
of Joel, Jonah, Ruth, Song of Songs and Qoheleth, among others. For
2 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

example, scholars speak about Phoenicianisms, Northemisms, and late

Mishnaisms, Aramaisms, Persianisms and Grecisms in Qoheleth.
In recent decades the role of language in assigning dates of origin of
biblical books has come increasingly to the forefront. However, the
matter has also become very controversial. This is evident most recently
in a series of essays edited by Ian Young, Biblical Hebrew: Studies in
Chronology and Typology (2003a),1and in presentations at three sessions
of the Society of Biblical Literature (2004, 2005, 2007), subsequently
published in the journal Hebrew Studies2 and elsewhere.3
Our objective in this book is to introduce the field of linguistic dating
of biblical texts, particularly to intermediate and advanced students of
BH who have a reasonable background in the language, having com­
pleted at least an introductory course at the university or divinity school
level, but also to scholars of the Hebrew Bible in general who have not
been exposed to the full range of issues. As far as we know, this is the
first full-length treatment of this field of research. Therefore we have
sought to make this book useful to a wide range of readers by introduc­
ing topics at a basic level before entering into detailed discussion. This
applies especially to Chapters 6 through 12 in Volume 1 of this two-vol­
ume work. So, for example, we give a basic introduction to Mishnaic
Hebrew before analysing several MH texts and considering the relevance
of MH for the linguistic dating of BH texts. In addition, we have endeav­
oured to examine all matters related to our topic while engaging with
principles and methodology as well as clear achievements and unresolved
problems. We look both at consensus views on linguistic dating as well
as the views of those who challenge the consensus. The arguments of
both sides of the recent debate are presented so that students and scholars
may understand the potential significance of linguistic variety in BH and
appreciate more fully the relationship of this field of research to biblical
scholarship in general.
The following questions are several of the many significant ones we
will address throughout this book:

1. Articles by P. R. Davies, Ehrensvard, Eskhult, Hurvitz, Naude, Polak, Rends-

burg, Rezetko, D. Talshir, Wright and Young. Note that in the present book ‘Young’
refers to ‘I. Young’. The several instances of ‘E. J. Young’ in Volume 2 are cited as
2. Articles by Eskhult, Joosten, Young and Zevit in HS 46 (2005): 321-76;
articles by Ehrensvard, Hurvitz, Kofoed, Polak, Rendsburg and Zevit in HS 47
(2006): 83-210.
3. Articles by P. R. Davies, Polak, Rezetko and Young are forthcoming.
1. Introduction 3

• What is it that makes Archaic Biblical Hebrew ‘archaic’, Early

Biblical Hebrew ‘early’, and Late Biblical Hebrew ‘late’? Does
linguistic typology, i.e. different linguistic characteristics, con­
vert easily and neatly into linguistic chronology, i.e. different
historical origins?
• Scholars affirm that the contents of certain biblical books show
that they are postexilic in origin (Haggai-Malachi, Esther-Chron-
icles4), but do the linguistic contours of books such as Genesis-
Kings, weighed against the language of undisputed postexilic
books, demonstrate that the Torah and Former Prophets could
not have originated in the postexilic period as well?
• Is linguistic analysis a viable tool for dating biblical texts? Can
biblical texts be dated to particular historical periods on the basis
of their linguistic profiles? How do the principles and methodol­
ogy used by biblical scholars compare to those which experts in
other languages and literatures use for dating texts?
• Is chronology the only or best explanation for linguistic variety
in biblical texts? To what degree do other (strictly speaking)
non-chronological factors, such as dialect and diglossia, account
for the different linguistic profiles of biblical texts?
• In efforts to date biblical texts, how much importance should
be given to linguistic analysis relative to other factors, such as
textual and literary analysis?5 To what extent if any is linguis­
tic analysis a more objective approach to dating texts than
approaches related to other types of biblical criticism?

From the very start we wish openly and clearly to explain five issues
related to the content and objective of this book.
First, we will deal with the linguistic dating of biblical texts written
only in Hebrew. We will not directly discuss biblical texts written in

4. Note that we cite biblical books in the sequence found in most printed Hebrew
Bibles, so for example, Esther-Chronicles refers to the books of Esther, Daniel,
Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles.
5. Attempts by scholars to date biblical texts sometimes refer to other matters
such as (1) synchronisms between biblical literary phenomena and various types
of cultural, historical, political, archaeological and geographical phenomena;
(2) similarities between biblical literature and various extra-biblical writings rang­
ing from the Assyrian and Babylonian periods to the Persian and Hellenistic eras;
(3) trajectories in developments in religious beliefs and institutions; (4) inner-bibli­
cal literary links between different biblical books and sections. However, all of these
relate to matters portrayed in biblical texts rather than the dates of the extant biblical
texts themselves.
4 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Aramaic, although we have included a chapter on the relevance of

Aramaic for dating BH texts.
Second, we are uninterested in proving or disproving the antiquity of
biblical stories or the historicity of people and events in those accounts.
Rather, we are concerned with the role language has played in assigning
dates to the extant BH texts which transmit those stories.
Third, in the course of our research and writing during the past several
years we have reached the conclusion that the scholarly use of language
in dating biblical texts, and even the traditional standpoint on the
chronological development of BH, are in need of thorough re-evaluation.
Therefore, in addition to over-viewing this field of research (as discussed
above), this book is also a critique of scholarly assumptions and conclu­
sions and an argument for a new approach to linguistic variety in BH.
Throughout the chapters in Volume 1 we present different points in our
outline and in Volume 2 we synthesise the entire argument in a single
Fourth, we have limited the scope of our work to linguistic dating of
biblical texts. We will not say much about the relative dating of linguistic
features, or linguistic change, except when it pertains to the dating of the
texts (but see Volume 2, 2.6).
Fifth, the dual nature of this book, that it is simultaneously a review of
past research on BH and also an argument for a new perspective, means
that readers must often think twice about our use in particular contexts of
terminology such as ‘Early Biblical Hebrew’ and ‘Late Biblical Hebrew’.
On the one hand, we are working within the standard chronological para­
digm, trying to make it understandable to students and scholars, but on
the other hand, we are standing outside this framework, pointing to its
severe inadequacies and suggesting a much more viable alternative. Thus
the labels ‘Early Biblical Hebrew’ and ‘Late Biblical Hebrew’ sometimes
have their conventional diachronic significance (see below), whereas at
other times, especially as the book progresses, we seek to empty these
labels of their temporal meaning, instead using them for several different
synchronic styles of BH.6The crossroads in the history of scholarship in

6. ‘It was the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, in the early twentieth
century, who first emphasized the fundamental difference between synchrony and
diachrony in the study of language. In a diachronic approach, we look at how a lan­
guage has changed over some period of time... In a synchronic approach to describ­
ing a language, we focus on that language at one moment in time and describe it as
we find it at that moment’ (Trask 1999: 74-75,303). ‘Diachronic’ or ‘diachrony’ has
‘to do with changes over time. Thus a diachronic account of a language deals with
its history, a diachronic theory deals with the nature of historical change in general,
1. Introduction 5

which we find ourselves leaves us in this somewhat awkward predica­

ment. We hope we have adequately clarified our view when clarification
is needed and we ask for the reader’s understanding if in some instances
we have failed to do so satisfactorily.
We have divided this book into two volumes. Volume 1 may be loosely
characterised as an introduction or ‘textbook’ in the context of the aims
we have described above. For use as a classroom textbook, the detailed
notes on the text samples provide a background, concrete illustrations,
and a point of departure for discussion of the general and theoretical
issues discussed in each chapter. In this volume we methodically survey
the important topics related to linguistic dating of biblical texts. These
include the principles and methodology used to differentiate Archaic
(ABH), Early (EBH) and Late (LBH) Biblical Hebrew (Chapters 2-5,
12), the complicating matters of dialects and diglossia and textual
criticism (Chapters 7,13), and the significance of extra-biblical sources,
including Amama Canaanite, Ugaritic, Aramaic, Hebrew inscriptions of
the monarchic period, Qumran and Mishnaic Hebrew, the Hebrew
language of Ben Sira and Bar Kochba, and also Egyptian, Akkadian,
Persian and Greek loanwords (Chapters 6, 8-12). Volume 2 begins with a
book by book survey of scholarship on the origins (author, date, etc.) of
biblical sources, passages and books with particular reference to the
linguistic evidence scholars have cited in arriving at these conclusions
(Chapter 1). This chapter is followed by an in-depth synthesis of the
topics discussed in Volume 1 in which we argue at once for a new per­
spective on linguistic variety in BH (Chapter 2). Finally, we give a series
of detailed case studies on various linguistic issues (Chapter 3) and
extensive tables of grammatical and lexical features (Chapter 4). We
hope the material in these chapters as well as the extensive and accurate
bibliography will serve as a substantial basis for future scholarly research
and dialogue.

1.2. Preliminary Remarks on Biblical Hebrew

The following points are brief introductory remarks on issues related to
BH in general. The suggestions for further reading at the end of this
chapter introduce these topics in greater detail.

and so on’ (P. H. Matthews 1997: 96). ‘Synchronic’ or ‘synchrony’ means ‘[a]t a
single moment in time. A synchronic description of a language is accordingly an
account of its structure either at present or at some specific moment in the past,
considered in abstraction from its history’ (P. H. Matthews 1997: 367).
6 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

1.2.1. Language. Hebrew is the language of nearly all Jewish Scripture

(the Protestant Christian Old Testament). The related language Aramaic
is found in Gen. 31.47; Jer. 10.11; Dan. 2.4b-7.28; and Ezra 4.8-6.18;
7.12-26, but there are many other Aramaic or Aramaic-like forms,
constructions and words elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible.

1.2.2. Name. The word ‘Hebrew’ as the name of a language is first

attested around 130 BCE in the prologue to the Greek translation of the
Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sira (also called simply Ben Sira, Sirach or
Ecclesiasticus). The author’s grandson, who translated the book some
fifty years after its original publication, also wrote a foreword in which
he begged indulgence for any apparent failure on his part faithfully to
render passages from the original ‘Hebrew’ (e(3pcucm, an adverb). In
contrast, the Hebrew Bible calls frillT (‘Judahite’, ‘Judaean’ or ‘Jewish’)
the language or dialect used in and around Jerusalem (2 Kgs. 18.26, 28;
Isa. 36.11,13; Neh. 13.24; 2 Chron. 32.18). A more general description,
]J?]3 DSto (‘the language of Canaan’), appears in Isa. 19.18.

1.2.3. Classification. Hebrew is a member of the language group

called Canaanite. The other ancient languages in this family are Phoeni­
cian,7once used in the Mediterranean coastal cities of Byblos, Sidon and
Tyre (found in modern-day Lebanon), and several languages of the area
east of the Jordan River: Ammonite, Edomite and Moabite.8 Early
Canaanite words and expressions, sometimes referred to as ‘Old Canaan­
ite’, are also used in correspondence found at the ancient Egyptian city
el-Amama (see 12.2).

1.2.4. Origin. The earliest attestation of the Hebrew language is the

Gezer Calendar (tenth century BCE) and abecedaries found at cIzbet
Sartah (twelfth/eleventh century BCE) and Tel Zayit (tenth century

7. This language is often referred to as Phoenician-Punic. Punic is a later dialect

o f the language that developed in the ancient Phoenician colonies in the Western
Mediterranean, such as Carthage in North Africa.
8. Canaanite, in turn, belongs to the Northwest Semitic language family. Several
other well-attested members of this family are Aramaic and Ugaritic. As to whether
or not Ugaritic is a Canaanite dialect see 12.3.1. In short, the genetic classification of
Hebrew may be conceptualised as follows: Afroasiatic (formerly called Hamito-
Semitic or Semito-Hamitic) —>Semitic —►West Semitic —► Northwest Semitic (some­
times called Levantine or Syro-Palestinian) —>Canaanite —►Hebrew. Languages are
genetically classified according to features of phonology, morphology, syntax and
vocabulary which they have or do not have in common.
1. Introduction 7

BCE).9 However, Hebrew’s exact origin is surrounded by mystery.

According to biblical tradition, the mainstream of the Hebrew people
was Aramaean (Gen. 31.47; Deut. 26.5) and they learned Canaanite after
settling in Palestine (see, for example, Rabin 1971-72: col. 1156; Saenz
Badillos 1993: 53-54; cf. Young 1993a: 4-21).

1.2.5. Periodisation. The history of Hebrew covers some three

thousand years from the late second millennium BCE to the present. The
following table summarises the basic periodisation and diverse terminol­
ogy used for the Hebrew language in its chronological phases from c.
1200 BCE to c. 500 CE.
Biblical (BH), Ancient, Old Hebrew c . 1 2 0 0 - 2 0 0 BCE Chapter(s)
1. Archaic (ABH), Pre-Biblical c. 1200-1000 BCE 12
2. Early (EBH), Classical (CBH), c. 1000-587/586 BCE 2-5
Standard (SBH), Preexilic, First
Commonwealth, First Temple, Iron
Age, Golden Age, Neo-Assyrian
(c. 1115-609 BCE) and Neo-
Babylonian (c. 609-539 BCE) periods
3. Late (LBH), Late Classical, Post- c. 587/586-200 BCE 2-5, 8, 11
Classical, Non-Classical, Postexilic,
Second Commonwealth, Second
Temple, Silver Age, Persian/
Achaemenid (539-332 BCE) and
Hellenistic/Greek (332-63 BCE)
4. Other terminology: Epigraphic, 6 ,7
Inscriptional; Israelian/Israelite (IH),
Samaria, Northern; Judaean/Judahite
(JH), Jerusalem, Southern; Exilic;

Postbiblical, Middle, New Hebrew c. 2 0 0 bce -500 ce

1. Qumran (QH), Dead Sea Scrolls 10

2 . Ben Sira 10
Rabbinic (RH), Mishnaic (MH): 9
Tannaitic (RH1, MH1; 70-200 CE),
Amoraitic (RH2, MH2; 200-500 CE)
Bar Kochba Letters 9
Samaritan, Samaritan Pentateuch (s p ) 13

9. As to whether or not the language of the Gezer Calendar is Hebrew see

8 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

However, several remarks are in order. First, the periodisation and termi­
nology areflexible. It is impossible to establish exact dates, and scholars
sometimes use the same term with different connotations. For example,
some classify biblical and postbiblical varieties of Hebrew under the
general label ‘Classical’. Second, the interpretation of different forms of
Hebrew language and literature with respect to the periodisation and
terminology is disputed. For example, some scholars, including the
authors, believe Early Biblical Hebrew was written not only in the pre-
exilic period but also in the exilic and postexilic eras. We will address
these issues in later chapters. Third, the table is a generalisation. It is
clear that many of the books in the Hebrew Bible differ in respect to
grammar, so the individual periods cannot be taken as homogeneous
states of language.10Finally, we give the principal chapters in Volume 1
in which we discuss the phase or subject in question.
Scholars make use of different terminology, as the table shows, but in
this book we will mainly use Archaic Biblical Hebrew (ABH), Early
Biblical Hebrew (EBH), and Late Biblical Hebrew (LBH).

1.3. Synopsis o f Diachronic Study o f Biblical Hebrew

The most significant English language monograph on the history of the
Hebrew language is Saenz Badillos 1993. Kutscher 1982 was published
unfinished after the author’s death and Rabin 1973 has only 86 pages. In
addition, one can find helpful surveys in English of the history of BH in
some BH reference grammars, introductions to the Hebrew Bible/Old
Testament, and articles in dictionaries and volumes of collected essays.11
The history of research on the periodisation of BH and the linguistic
dating of BH texts has been helpfully summarised by Rooker and Naude
(Rooker 1988b: 205-11; 1990a: 26-33; 1990b: 133-37; 1994: 136-37;
Naude 2000c: 47-52; 2003: 190-94; 2004: 88-91).12 In short, the dia­
chronic study of BH may be said to have begun with the publication of
Geschichte der hebraischen Sprache und Schrift by Gesenius (1815).

10. In this book we often refer to BH, ABH, EBH, LBH, etc. as a whole. This is
not to be taken as though they were indeed homogeneous states of the language, but
it is sometimes because generalisation is necessary to make a point, and sometimes
because we so far lack descriptive grammars of the separate books of the Hebrew
Bible (cf. and hence must limit ourselves to certain generalisations.
11. See, for example, Rabin 1970, Blau 1971-72, 1997b, Hetzron 1987,
Schramm and Schmitz 1992, W. Weinberg 1993, Steiner 1997, Hackett 2002,
Huehnergard and Hackett 2002, McCarter 2004.
12. See also WO §1.4.2, pp. 13-15; Wright 2005: 3-13.
1. Introduction 9

However, S. R. Driver, who presented a thorough analysis of the lan­

guage of each book in his An Introduction to the Literature o f the Old
Testament (1891),13has probably influenced subsequent scholarship the
most. Other landmark publications during the twentieth century were
Kropat’s Die Syntax des Autors der Chronik( 1909), Bendavid’s Biblical
Language and Rabbinic Language (Hebrew; 1967-71), and Kutscher’s
The Language and Linguistic Background o f the Isaiah Scroll (lQIsaa)
(Hebrew edition: 1959; English edition: 1974). The most notable figures
during the past forty years have been Hurvitz and his students (Bergey,
Rooker) and Polzin, whose work also influenced Guenther and Hill. In
addition, we must mention the mostly dialectal research of Rendsburg
and his students (Noegel, Yoo, Chen, Wright, C. J. Smith), as well as the
stylistic research undertaken by Polak. In this book we will interact in
detail with the work of these scholars and others.

1.4. For Further Reading

JM §2—4, pp. 2-16.
Rooker, M. F., Biblical Hebrew in Transition: The Language of the Book of Ezekiel
(JSOTSup, 90; Sheffield: JSOT, 1990), pp. 23-33.
Saenz Badillos, A., A History of the Hebrew Language (trans. J. Elwolde; Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 56-62, 68-75, 112-29.
Young, I., ‘Introduction: The Origin of the Problem’, in I. Young (ed.), Biblical Hebrew:
Studies in Chronology and Typology (JSOTSup, 369; London: T&T Clark Inter­
national, 2003), pp. 1-6 (especially 1^).

13. This is the first edition of Driver’s introduction. In this book we cite from the
ninth revised edition (S. R. Driver 1913a).
Chapter 2

E a r l y v s . L a t e B ib l ic a l H e b r e w :
P r in c ip l e s a n d M e t h o d o l o g y

2.1. Introduction
2.1.1. Objective o f Chapter 2. In 1.3 we gave a brief synopsis of the
history of diachronic study of BH. In this chapter we will develop that
outline in detail by discussing the work of Hurvitz, Polzin, Rendsburg,
some of their students, and Polak. Our aim is to summarise these schol­
ars’ working principles and methodology and illustrate the type of lin­
guistic evidence they cite in their discussions of Early vs. Late Biblical

2.1.2. Summary o f Conventional EBHvs. LBH Perspective. The stan­

dard view is that we can detect clear development from EBH to LBH.1
EBH is the language of the preexilic period down to Judah’s fall. This
period’s language can be seen in most of Genesis-Kings. The sixth-
century exile marks a transitional period. After the return from exile in
the late sixth century we have the era of LBH. This period’s language
can be seen in Esther-Chronicles. Some diverge from this view mainly
on the question of the date of the transition from EBH to LBH. Instead
of the exile, these see the decisive transition in the mid-fifth century.2
According to this view, biblical texts can be dated on linguistic grounds
because LBH was not written early, nor did EBH continue to be written
after the transition to LBH, whenever that occurred. LBH features were

1. Major publications representing this view include Hurvitz 1972a, 1982a,

Polzin 1976, Kutscher 1982, Rooker 1990a, Saenz Badillos 1993, Wright 2005, and
the articles in the first half of Young 2003a (Eskhult, Hurvitz, Polak, Rendsburg,
2. See, for example, S. R. Driver 1913a: 505; D. Talshir 2003; Schniedewind
2004-2005b: 50-51; 2005: 382; Wright 2005: 154; Knauf 2006: 310-11. These
think the transition occurred later since the core LBH books of Esther-Chronicles
are considered by them to date to after the mid-fifth century.
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 11

unavoidable by late writers. Consequently, literature written in LBH is

characterised by linguistic mixture. It shows more Aramaic influence, it
has an accumulation of features found in later QH and MH, and LBH
literature may have Persian and Hellenistic loanwords and loan transla­
tions (‘caiques’).

2.1.3. Working Hypothesis o f Conventional EBH vs. LBH Perspective.

Most scholars have assumed the working premise that there is a clear
three-part typological and chronological division of BH: preexilic
Archaic and Early Biblical Hebrew and postexilic Late Biblical Hebrew.3
(We will focus on ABH in Chapter 12.) Furthermore, these scholars have
held that most biblical passages and books clearly relate to one of the
principal eras of ancient Israelite history, either the preexilic, exilic or
postexilic period. Thus a fairly traditional line-up of books which are
mostly undisputed with respect to their date of origin is given in the
following table:
Period Books
Preexilic Genesis-Numbers (minus P), Deuteronomy-
c. 1000-587/586 BCE 2 Kings 23, Isaiah 1-39, Hosea, Amos,
Obadiah, Micah-Zephaniah
Late preexilic to early 2 Kings 24-25, Isaiah 40-55, Jeremiah,
postexilic c. 600-500 BCE Ezekiel, Lamentations
Postexilic P in the Pentateuch, Isaiah 56-66, Haggai-
c. 539/538-165 BCE Malachi, Qoheleth, Esther-Chronicles

Consequently, many scholarly efforts have focused on trying to date to

one of these eras a fairly small group of disputed books. These are the
collections of Psalms and Proverbs, the prophetic books of Joel and
Jonah, and from the Writings, Job, Ruth and Song of Songs. Further­
more, there have been recent attempts on the basis o f linguistic evidence
to redate the Priestly Source (P), Isaiah 40-66 and Qoheleth to the
preexilic period,4 and some have sought to specify the precise point in
the early/late Persian period or Hellenistic period when certain (mostly)
undisputed postexilic books were written, especially Haggai, Zechariah,
Malachi, Qoheleth, Esther, Daniel and Chronicles.

3. See, for example, Kutscher 1982 and Saenz Badillos 1993. For a rather
different perspective, see DeCaen 2000-2001.
4. We should recall that most scholars have dated the Priestly Source and Isaiah
40-66 to the exilic and postexilic periods in spite o f their EBH language. We survey
these portions of BH in Volume 2, 1.2.3,1.3.1, respectively. Furthermore, very few
attempts to date to the postexilic period the books traditionally thought to be
preexilic have taken language into consideration.
12 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

2.2. Avi Hurvitz

2.2.1. Introduction. Hurvitz, bom in Ramat Gan in 1936, studied under
Kutscher (1909-1971) at the Hebrew University, where he wrote MA and
PhD theses on the language of biblical poetry and Psalms (Hurvitz 1961
and 1966, respectively, the latter under the supervision of Seeligmann
and Rabin). He became Lecturer at the University in 1967, Professor in
1989, and Professor Emeritus in 2004. In recent decades Hurvitz has
been the most prominent and productive scholar of the historical devel­
opment of BH. His publications outweigh those of his contemporaries in
number and breadth,5they have shaped current discourse on the linguis­
tic dating of biblical texts, and they are widely cited as authoritative. His
three monographs sum up the major focal points of more than sixty
publications: Late Biblical Hebrew and Wisdom language, especially in
Psalms (Hurvitz 1972a, 1991), and the language of the Priestly Source
and its date of origin relative to Ezekiel (Hurvitz 1982a). Other journal
and book articles focus, for example, on Aramaisms and late terminol­
ogy in BH, especially in Chronicles; the language of postbiblical texts,
including Ben Sira and QH; and the implications of his research for
recent debates on the origins of ancient Israel. Hurvitz’s writings build
especially on the publications of Bendavid (1967-71), S. R. Driver
(1913a; also BDB), Gesenius (1815; also GKC), Kropat (1909), and
Kutscher (1959 = 1974; 1982). In the following paragraphs we will
summarise Hurvitz’s working principles, methodology and major con­

2.2.2. Principles. The following principles stand behind Hurvitz’s

linguistic analysis of biblical texts. Heterogeneity. Alongside the traditional view that the Hebrew

Bible was composed over a period of approximately a thousand years
(c. 1200-200 BCE), scholars have also observed that its language reflects
an astonishing degree of linguistic homogeneity (uniformity, unity).

5. In the bibliography in Volume 2 we have cited all Hurvitz’s publications

known to us.
6. The following discussion is based on most of Hurvitz’s publications. The best
illustrations of his working principles and methodology in English are Hurvitz 1973:
74-77= 1972a: 67-69 (Hebrew); 1974b: 45-56; 1982a: 7-21,143-71; 1995a: 1-6;
1997a: 302-11; 2000a: 143-50, 154-60; 2000c: 185-91. Hurvitz 1968 and 1996a
(Hebrew) = 2003b discuss Aramaisms and Hurvitz 1983b and 1997b survey BH in
the Persian period in general.
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 13

Nevertheless, they have also noted that given a close look we can discern
linguistic heterogeneity (diversity, variety). Thus, for example, Blau
describes archaic, early and late linguistic layers in BH and then says:
‘Yet, as a rule, the differences between these layers are unexpectedly
slight; and Biblical language, though stemming from all parts of Erets
Israel over a very long period, is surprisingly uniform. This is due to it
being a standard literary language, on the one hand, and to the late
changes it underwent, on the other...’ (Blau 1978:1-2; cf. 1993:2; 1997:
7).7Similarly, Hurvitz recognises BH as a standard literary language, yet
he stresses the Hebrew Bible’s linguistic complexity: ‘On the surface, a
general stylistic unity is perceptible throughout the entire Old Testament
— from Genesis to Chronicles. However, upon a closer examination one
can clearly discern within BH different linguistic layers and stylistic
varieties, all of which point to the heterogeneous character of the lan­
guage’ (Hurvitz 1995a: 2; cf. 1997a: 303; 1999a: 22*; 2000a: 144-46).8

2.22.2. Typology. ‘Typology’ in this context refers to the idea that

there are different types of Hebrew language in different biblical sources.9
It has been common during the past several hundred years for scholars to
classify the patterns of the Hebrew Bible’s linguistic heterogeneity into
three main classes with common characteristics. This tripartite typologi­
cal division is traditionally referred to as Archaic Biblical Hebrew
(ABH), Classical or Standard or Early Biblical Hebrew (EBH), and post-
classical or Late Biblical Hebrew (LBH).10Furthermore, as some of the
terminology itself indicates (e.g. Late Biblical Hebrew) the typology of
BH is commonly construed as chronological variation. We will return to
this issue in the next point. Therefore, ABH is found in ancient poems in
the Pentateuch and Former Prophets, EBH is best exemplified by the
prose sections of the Pentateuch and Former Prophets, and to a certain
degree by the classical writing prophets, and LBH is found in Second
Temple compositions written in prose and in certain other books of the

7. For similar descriptions of large-scale linguistic homogeneity and small-scale

linguistic heterogeneity, see, e.g., JM §3a, p. 8; WO §1.1 a, p. 4; §1.4.2f-g, p. 15;
§ 1.6.3a, p. 24; Rendsburg 1980b: 66; Young 1993a: 88; Ehrensvard 1997: 35.
8. Hurvitz’s affirmation in these publications of linguistic heterogeneity in BH is
directed especially against the views expressed in Knauf 1990; Cryer 1994; P. R.
Davies 1995: 97-100.
9. In general linguistic literature the term ‘typology’ is usually defined as ‘[t]he
classification of languages in terms of their structural features’ (Trask 1993:288; cf.
1999: 325).
10. Other terminology is given in 1.2.5.
14 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Writings (Hurvitz 1995a: 2-5, and elsewhere).11In short, ABH, EBH and
LBH are distinguishable linguistic entities with many differences mani­
fested in every aspect of the language. Chronology. It was observed already in the previous point that

for several hundred years scholars of the Hebrew Bible’s language have
interpreted the typology of BH as linguistic chronology (development,
diachrony). Thus ABH and EBH have been taken to be classical or pre­
exilic varieties of Hebrew whereas LBH has been considered a post-
classical or postexilic variant.12Furthermore, it is widely held, by Hurvitz
and others, that there are many chronologically undisputed biblical texts
and books. (See the table and discussion in 2.1.3.) Thus, Hurvitz can
speak about ‘Linguistic Criteria for Dating Problematic Biblical Texts’
(Hurvitz 1973), for the reason that there are many cases of chronologi­
cally unproblematic biblical texts.13 To sum up: The Hebrew Bible’s
linguistic variety (heterogeneity) reflects three main types of Hebrew
(typology) which are successive stages in the language’s development
(chronology). Furthermore, linguistic dating is possible because of this
correlation between linguistic typology and chronology.
Hurvitz’s writings have a number of other points related to the issue of
linguistic chronology. Transition from EBH to LBH. As noted above, most believe

the transition between the two principal chronological phases of BH,
EBH and LBH, is the Babylonian exile of the sixth century BCE. This
intermediate period between roughly 586 and 539 is the linguistic
‘Greenwich Meridian’ of BH, ‘the dividing line between pre-exilic
(= early) and post-exilic (= late) Biblical Hebrew’ (Hurvitz 1974b: 26;
1983a: 84; 1999a: 26*-27*). In particular, Hurvitz believes Ezekiel is
the best example of transitional BH (Hurvitz 1982a). EBH is Early. Hurvitz argues that postexilic writers could

not write EBH. Late writers inevitably betrayed their late milieu by
recourse to neologisms (see below, which were unknown to

11. Also see the references to Blau and other scholars in the previous point.
12. For documentation see the references to Blau, Hurvitz and others in the
remarks on heterogeneity in
13. Similarly, for example, Hurvitz speaks about ‘the study of various texts of
chronologically disputable nature’ (Hurvitz 1983a: 84), and he remarks that ‘the
chronological order and historical background of a considerable number of biblical
texts are widely disputed’ (Hurvitz 1995a: 1). Thus, there are also books whose dates
of origin are generally unquestioned.
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 15

EBH writers. All late books have late features even if in some cases these
are minimal in number.14Thus, for example, it is not possible to regard P
as a late work since 4[t]he writing of pure classical prose was, by the time
of composition of Ezekiel, Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah, unachiev­
able— a fact which is endorsed clearly by these three books as well as by
the rest of biblical prose dated to this period’ (Hurvitz 1974b: 51). LBH is Late. Conversely, Hurvitz argues that preexilic

writers could not write LBH or make use of LBH features. His reason­
ing is twofold. First, ‘[i]n early compositions, a mixture of Classical/
Standard BH and Post-Classical/Late BH is, of course, out of the ques­
tion; by definition a late language cannot be postulated to have been
operative in an age which pre-dates its inception’ (Hurvitz 2000c: 186
n. 21; his emphasis). Second, extra-biblical Hebrew of the later First
Temple period (see below, does not bear the characteristics of
LBH: ‘the linguistic ground common to pre-exilic inscriptional Hebrew
and classical BH, excludes LBH’ (Hurvitz 1999a: 31* n. 30; cf. 30-31;
1972a: 177-84; 1982a: 162 n. 20; 1997a: 307-10; 2000a: 145-46; also
see Ehrensvard 1997: 36-37). Chronological Specificity within EBH or LBH. Hurvitz

believes it is impossible to discern linguistic development within pre­
exilic EBH or within postexilic LBH. In other words, while it is possible
to distinguish between ninth- and fifth-century BCE varieties of Hebrew,
we are ‘unable to tell apart the BH of the ninth century from that of the
seventh’ (Hurvitz 1999a: 32*; cf. 2000a: 147-48).15 Absolute Dating o f EBH and LBH. Hurvitz has discussed the
issue of relative vs. absolute dating in his monograph on the Priestly
Source and Ezekiel: ‘The linguistic data presented here, we believe,
clearly strengthens the case of those who place P prior to Ez. Whatever
the absolute dating of P and Ezekiel, then, it can definitely be stated that
P comes first in a relative chronological order’ (Hurvitz 1982a: 155; his
emphasis; cf. 151-55). However, Hurvitz argues elsewhere that P is
preexilic, and the previous points related to chronology indicate that for
him EBH is preexilic and LBH is postexilic.

14. For example, Hurvitz 1974b: 55 n. 57 (cf. 1983b: 215; 1997b: 20; 2006b:
206-207), responding to S. R. Driver, says ‘...Ezekiel, Haggai and Zechariah do
contain irrefutably late linguistic elements— no matter how few they may be...’.
15. Also see his remarks on chronological distinctions between P8 and Ps as
argued by Polzin (Hurvitz 1982a: 165).
16 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts Non-Chronological Explanations. Hurvitz occasionally

postulates literary artistry as an explanation for linguistic variety (e.g.
Hurvitz 1983c); however, he generally favours diachronic explanations
over synchronic ones,16especially for (early) terminology in P (Hurvitz
1974b: 47-49) and (late) terminology in Chronicles (Hurvitz 1995b:
182-83). Occasionally he finds a correlation between chronology and
geography, as in the case of f 13, which, he argues, reflects ‘the increased
post-exilic contact with the Northeast (and the Aramaic language spoken
there)’ (Hurvitz 1967a: 120). Finally, insofar as LBH is concerned,
Hurvitz believes it is unnecessary to maintain a prose-poetry distinction:
late poetry and prose both reflect changes in postexilic Hebrew (Hurvitz
1972a: 56-61; 1974a: 18; cf. Hill 1981: 4-5; Bergey 1983: 19-20 n. 2;
Rooker 1990a: 40^14; Wright 2005: 14-15). Objectivity. Hurvitz’s ‘greatest donation has been his insistent

effort to fashion an objective methodology for the diachronic study of
Biblical Hebrew’ (Rooker 1990a: 30; cf. 1996: 303). In Hurvitz’s own
The possibility of dating Biblical texts has always held great fascination
for scholars. There is the feeling that if we were certain when a particular
text has been written, we would have an additional clue to both its mean­
ing and its significance. Unfortunately, the theological, historical and
literary criteria which have been used for establishing the date of chrono­
logically problematic texts are very often subjective. Linguistic studies
likewise did not produce satisfactory results, since they were not usually
based upon methodologically reliable criteria. However, we believe that it
is this linguistic aspect which should be primarily studied in order to gain
objective criteria for solving chronological issues. The particular contri­
bution of the linguistic discipline stems from the fact that the solution of
exegetical and theological questions involved in Higher Criticism simply
does not affect its procedures; hence the considerably objective results it
is likely to provide (Hurvitz 1973: 74; his emphasis; cf. 1967a: 117;
1972c: 21; 1974a: 17; 1974b: 25, 55-56; 1982a: 13-19).

The following points complement Hurvitz’s perspective on the

neutrality of linguistic analysis. Masoretic Text. Hurvitz’s quest for an objective methodol­

ogy means that he bases his linguistic analysis of the Hebrew Bible
solely on the MT: ‘[I]n the framework of this discussion we seek to deal

16. We discuss several synchronic explanations for linguistic variety in Chapter

7. The difference between ‘diachronic’ or ‘diachrony’ and ‘synchronic’ or ‘syn­
chrony’ is described in 1.1 (n. 5).
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 17

exclusively with biblical texts in the way in which they have crystallized
and in the form in which they now stand—regardless of textual altera­
tions, literary developments and editorial activities which they may or
may not have undergone during their long transmission’ (Hurvitz 1982a:
21; cf. 18-21 for the rationale; 1967: 117a; 1972a: 67; cf. 182-84;
1972c: 21; 1973: 74; 1974a: 17; 1974b: 54-56; 1999a: 31*; 2006b: 210
n. 69; Bergey 1983: 21; Rendsburg 1990b: 16-17; Rooker 1990a: 57;
Wright 2005: 13-15). Literary Revision. Hurvitz recognises that biblical books

may have various literary strata, but in keeping with his methodological
decision to work only with the MT, he does not distinguish between
possible primary and secondary elements. Moreover, with respect to P,
Hurvitz believes his linguistic analysis challenges the consensus view
that P had a lengthy editorial history extending into the postexilic period.
He says: ‘Since it emerged above that P was absolutely clear of all
distinctively late terminology, our conclusion is that whatever suggested
editorial activity which the P texts might have undergone must have been
completed before the emergence of the distinctively Exilic literature (as
represented by Ezekiel). In other words, P as we have it is substantially a
product o f the pre-exilic period’ (Hurvitz 1974b: 54-55; his emphasis). Linguistic Modification. Hurvitz considers the possibility

that late linguistic features in the prose prologue and epilogue of Job
(1.1-2.13; 42.7-17) are the result of an exilic/postexilic reshaping of an
older story. However, in the end he favours the view that this material is
‘an exilic/post-exilic product’ (Hurvitz 1974a: 33; cf. 31-33). Further­
more, and speaking generally, Hurvitz takes the Hebrew Bible’s linguis­
tic heterogeneity as evidence that its language was not greatly adjusted or
updated by later scribes:

Setting aside, then, the question as to when — and by whom — the dif­
ferent texts of the Hebrew Bible were edited, it is quite clear that their
language was not severely harmed during that crucial phase of textual
transmission. This is amply borne out by the phenomenological evidence
of BH, which — as demonstrated above — exhibits a chronology-oriented
linguistic profile; such a situation leads to the inevitable conclusion that
the editorial activity carried out by those who established the MT did not
mutilate the original wording. It is, therefore, a gross methodological
error to interpret the literary ‘editing' of the Hebrew Bible in terms of
linguistic 'revision \ and to argue ‘that this revision of tradition sub­
stantially affects access to earlier strata of the tradition’. Had the texts of
the Hebrew Bible undergone an extensive process of language levelling
18 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

and re-formulation, as conjectured by the Minimalists, we would have

expected to find a linguistically homogeneous, uniform, type of BH —
which, as we have seen, is absolutely not the case presented by the extent
[s/c] Hebrew version of the OT (Hurvitz 1999a: 31*; his emphasis; cf.
2000a: 160). Approach. Hurvitz’s point of departure for diachronic lin­

guistic analysis of biblical texts is the late phase of BH, the undisputed
postexilic corpus and unmistakable late features attested in it.17As for the
corpus, he says: ‘The only working hypothesis concerning chronology is
that such books as Ezra-Nehemia [sic], Chronicles, Esther, Ecclesiastes
etc. were written during the Post-Exilic period. This, of course, is univer­
sally accepted’ (Hurvitz 1973: 75). Regarding late features he remarks:
‘Early linguistic elements that appear in a given text may indeed be due
to literary archaization, and therefore do not reliably indicate the antiq­
uity of a given text. Late lingual elements, on the other hand, if they are
not few or sporadic (in which case their occurrence may be regarded as
only incidental), effectively date a given text’ (Hurvitz 1965: 231). In
other words, early linguistic features in late texts may be genuine reten­
tions from an earlier period, deliberate imitations of outmoded idioms, or
literary borrowings from older sources. However, late linguistic features,
which by definition are late, indicate that the texts in which they (regu­
larly) occur are themselves late. Conversely, Hurvitz considers texts defi­
cient of late features altogether to be early, since late writers were unable
to escape completely their own late linguistic milieu (see ‘If
such an analysis [a linguistic re-examination of P’s phraseology] proves
that P consistently avoids linguistic usages which are peculiar to post­
exilic sources, we shall have to reconsider seriously the possibility that
even the present form of P (and not only [some of] its material) is old’
(Hurvitz 1967a: 120-21; his emphasis; cf. 1988a: 90-91). Synoptic Texts. A key issue related to Hurvitz’s point of

departure for diachronic linguistic analysis is synoptic texts, especially
Samuel-Kings and Chronicles (Hurvitz 1972a: 15-20; frequently in his
other publications; cf. Rooker 1990a: 30-31, 57-58). Since Chronicles
was written in the Second Temple period, the book’s language reflects a
typologically and chronologically younger sort of Hebrew than the
language we find in Samuel-Kings. In short, Chronicles often updated

17. In addition to citations given here see Hurvitz 1972a: 68, 69 = 1973: 75, 76;
1974a: 17, 32; 1974b: 25-26; 1982a: 157-58; 1983a: 84-85, 93; 1988a: 90-91;
2000a: 144, 146-48.
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 19

linguistically its source texts. Therefore, by observing the linguistic

differences in later Chronicles compared to earlier Samuel-Kings we can
see firsthand how the Hebrew language changed from the preexilic to the
postexilic period. Following Kropat, Hurvitz attributes the linguistic
differences to different languages rather than stylistic tendencies, but,
slightly different to Polzin (see below,,, he takes into
consideration non-synoptic as well as synoptic portions of Chronicles. Neologisms. The distinguishing feature of LBH is the appear­

ance of neologisms or linguistic innovations.18These neologisms in LBH
are new words and expressions, which are absent from EBH, which are
the product of a natural process of linguistic development, and which
were to become normative only in subsequent historical phases of
Hebrew. From the perspective of Classical Hebrew, these neologisms in
postclassical Hebrew may be considered as late ‘deviations’ from the
earlier norm and as marks of ‘deterioration’ and ‘decline’. Aramaisms, Mishnaisms, Persianisms. Hurvitz remarks that

LBH is marked by three main characteristics: ‘In reading through the late
biblical books, one can sense three different flavours: a flavour of biblical
style struggling for its existence, a flavour of Aramaic penetrating from
without, and a flavour of popular Hebrew (“Mishnaic”) emerging from
within’ (Hurvitz 1997a: 310; citing Bendavid 1967: 60). Aramaisms19
and Mishnaisms are the main neologisms in LBH. A third important
category of neologisms in LBH is Persianisms. We will devote a later
chapter to each of these issues: Aramaisms in Chapter 8, Mishnaisms in
Chapter 9, Persianisms in Chapter 11 on loanwords (11.5).
Several other points related to neologisms will bring this discussion of
principles to a close. Archaisms. Archaisms are the opposite of neologisms. They

are old, or older, linguistic features which are prominent in early texts.
However, archaisms may occur in late texts as well, in which case they
may be genuine retentions, deliberate imitations or literary borrowings.
When late writers deliberately imitate earlier language, it is commonly
said that they are ‘archaising’, and Hurvitz sometimes calls these imita­
tions ‘pseudo classicisms’. Thus, for example, Hurvitz considers certain

18. See, for example, Hurvitz 1968:234; 1982a: 157-58; 1983a: 84; 1995a: 3^4;
2000a: 157; 2000c: 185-88.
19. Two programmatic articles on Aramaisms are Hurvitz 1968 and 1996a =
20 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

forms in Psalm 113 to be ‘pseudo classicisms’ compared to truly archaic

features in 1 Samuel 2 (Hurvitz 1985: 121). In contrast, since Hurvitz
dates the Priestly Source early, he rejects the theory of P’s archaising
style, because in his view P is genuinely archaic. This issue is discussed
in detail in Hurvitz 1974b: 49-53; 1982a: 163-70 (cf. 1983a, 1988a,
2000c). Mixed Language. Hurvitz recognises that it can be difficult

to tell a genuinely archaic text from one which is merely archaising, in
the sense of deliberate imitation. Consequently, he argues that an archa­
ising text is detectable only through the presence of neologisms. In other
words, late texts, such as Ezekiel, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles,
Ben Sira, the Temple Scroll, Psalm 151, etc. have ‘mixed language’ (or
‘different flavours’), archaisms and neologisms, simultaneously (e.g.
Hurvitz 2000a: 154-57). In this or that late book, in some cases, equiva­
lent EBH and LBH features compete, coexisting peacefully as synony­
mous expressions, but in other cases, an LBH item has completely
displaced its rival EBH counterpart. Yet, in any given late book one will
find some sort of old and new mixture at the same time. Furthermore,
Hurvitz argues, the Priestly Source does not archaise, but rather, it is
genuinely archaic since ‘Ezekiel, Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles may
avail themselves of the earlier terms; but P is alone in its systematic
preference for them’ (Hurvitz 1974b: 45 and passim; his emphasis). Lexicon. Most LBH neologisms are lexical, rather than

grammatical. Consequently, Hurvitz gives consideration to all aspects of
language (e.g. orthography, phonology, morphology, syntax, lexicon),
but the balance of his evidence for LBH is lexicographical. (This
contrasts with Polzin’s methodology, on which see below, For
example, in his monograph on Ezekiel (Hurvitz 1982a), 27 of the 37
features Hurvitz studies are from the realm of the lexicon.

2.2.3. Methodology. In the previous paragraphs we surveyed the

working principles (theory) which underlie Hurvitz’s research. Now we
turn to his methodology (practice). It was observed above that Hurvitz’s
most important contribution to the diachronic study of BH has been his
persistent effort to develop an objective methodology. In particular, the
criteria of distribution, opposition and extra-biblical attestation are used
to determine if a particular linguistic feature is late. A fourth criterion,
accumulation, is used to establish whether or not a particular text is late.
Again, observe that Hurvitz’s point of departure for diachronic linguistic
analysis of biblical texts is the late phase of BH (see
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 21 Linguistic Distribution. The first criterion for determining that

a particular linguistic feature is late is linguistic distribution, frequency
or penetration.20 The linguistic feature in question should occur
exclusively or predominantly in core LBH books (Esther-Chronicles)
whose content indicates beyond doubt that they were written in the post­
exilic period. Failure to check distribution may lead to the designation of
a feature as late when in fact the feature is not a clear characteristic of
LBH or later Hebrew. Thus, for example,21 for ‘kingdom’ occurs
in all the core LBH books, 78 times out of 91 total occurrences in BH. A
further six occurrences are in LBH-related psalms and Qoheleth. In
contrast, the noun is found only three times in core EBH books (Num.
24.7; 1 Sam. 20.31; 1 Kgs. 2.12).22 Linguistic Opposition. The second criterion for determining

that a particular linguistic feature is late is linguistic opposition, contrast,
replacement or substitution.23 The linguisticfeature in question should be
equivalent in meaning and used in place o f a feature found in core EBH
books (most o f Genes is-Kings). Insofar as the evidence permits, the con­
trasting features in EBH and LBH should be used in identical or similar
contexts. Failure to establish opposition may lead to the designation of a
feature as late when in fact there was no opportunity in the first place for
the feature to be used in EBH. Thus, may be considered a late
equivalent of other biblical words for ‘kingdom’ such as (xl 17 in
BH).24 However, as noted above in the discussion of mixed language
(, it is often the case that the earlier item continues to appear
alongside its later equivalent in postexilic literature, as is the case with
ro'pQO and HID*70, but may still be considered a characteristic of

20. See Hurvitz 1972a: 15-20; 1973: 76; 1995a: 5-6; 2000a: 148-49, 153; cf.
Bergey 1983: 17-19; Rooker 1990a: 55-57; Wright 2005: 6. With respect to
Aramaisms in particular, see Hurvitz 1968: 235, 238-39; 2003b: 35.
21. The distribution of the terms nil'ppD and ITD^O is considered a classic
illustration of an EBH to LBH diachronic shift. See, for example, S. R. Driver
1913a: 506, 536; Hurvitz 1972a: 79-88, 110-13; Polzin 1976: 142, 147; Kutscher
1982: 43, 81, 84; Bergey 1983: 31-34; Qimron 1986: 66; Rooker 1990a: 56-57;
Saenz Badillos 1993: 116-17; Wright 2005: 135-37; Polak 2006c: 121 n. 23.
22. The other four occurrences of in BH are in the EBH language of Jer.
10.7; 49.34; 52.31 and Ps. 45.7.
23. See Hurvitz 1972a: 20-26; 1973: 76; 1995a: 5-6; 2000a: 148^9, 153; cf.
Bergey 1983: 17-19; Rooker 1990a: 55-57; Wright 2005: 6-7. With respect to
Aramaisms in particular, see Hurvitz 1968: 238-39; 2003b: 35.
24. Two other less frequent terms relevant to this discussion are bfi (x24) and
m rteQ (x9).
22 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

2 2 3 3 . Extra-Biblical Attestation. The third criterion for determining

that a particular linguistic feature is late is extra-biblical attestation,
alternatively called non-biblical or external attestation or evidence.25 The
linguistic feature in question should appear in biblical or postbiblical
Aramaic and/or in postexilic Hebrew sources outside the Hebrew Bible,
such as Ben Sira, QH, Bar Kochba and MH. Failure to consider extra-
biblical attestation may lead to the designation of a feature as late which
was simply a peculiarity of the late biblical writer’s style or which was
not current in the linguistic milieu of the postexilic period. Thus, DID*70
is widely used in later Aramaic dialects and MH and it is found in QH
In addition to the attestation of distinctive LBH features in late
Aramaic and Hebrew sources, Hurvitz argues that the antiquity of the
ABH and EBH strata are confirmed by similarities between ABH and
Amama Canaanite and Ugaritic (see Chapter 12) and between EBH and
monarchic-era inscriptions (see Chapter 6). Thus the standard ABH,
EBH and LBH outline, with respect to both typology and chronology, is
supported by early and late extra-biblical sources, respectively. For
example, he says:
The suggested division is not based solely on internal biblical considera­
tions: its chronological and typological validity is supported by extra-bibli­
cal evidences as well. It is highly significant that such outside confirmation
exists, since the extant biblical corpus is not overly abundant. Because of
their limited number (and narrow range of topics), the biblical books alone
cannot possibly provide us with a complete cross-section of the actual
living language of those days. Consequently, the supplementary informa­
tion to be gleaned from non-biblical sources is essential to any diachronic
investigation of the Hebrew language of that period (Hurvitz 1982a: 158;
cf. 1995a: 3-4; 1999a: 28*-29*; 2000a: 146). Accumulation. A fourth and final criterion is accumulation,

clustering, concentration, diffusion or frequency.26If a particular biblical
text is to be judged late on linguistic grounds it must exhibit an accu­
mulation o f late linguistic items identified using the above three criteria
(linguistic distribution, opposition and extra-biblical attestation). Failure

25. Hurvitz 1972a: 26-56, 69, 177-79; 1973: 76; 1995a: 5-6; 2000a: 148-49,
153; cf. Bergey 1983: 18,21-26; Rooker 1990a: 56-57; Wright 2005: 7-8, 15-19.
With respect to Aramaisms in particular, see Hurvitz 1968: 238-39; 2003b: 35.
26. See Hurvitz 1972a: 69; 1973:76-77; 1995a: 6; 2000a: 153; cf. Bergey 1983:
19; Rooker 1990a: 181-86; Wright 2005: 8. With respect to Aramaisms in particu­
lar, see Hurvitz 1968: 235, 239.
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 23

to show accumulation may lead one to conclude that a text is late on

linguistic grounds when in fact one or several late features in a text could
be due to something other than the lateness of the text. Finally, Hurvitz
remarks: ‘This accumulation is relative. It is very doubtful whether we
can mechanically apply statistical criteria to linguistic issues like these’
(Hurvitz 1973: 76; cf. 1972a: 69 n. *).27

2.3. Ronald L. Bergey

Bergey wrote his PhD thesis on Esther under Hurvitz (and others) at The
Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning (Bergey 1983). It has
not been published, but Bergey has made available short excerpts as
articles (Bergey 1984, 1988). Bergey begins his thesis with a more
detailed discussion of linguistic diachrony in general than one finds in
Hurvitz’s publications (Bergey 1983: 1-14). However, from this point
onward he follows Hurvitz’s working principles and methodology very
closely (Bergey 1983: 16-26). He characterises his work as follows:
‘This dissertation presents a diachronic analysis of selected grammatical
and lexical features of a post-exilic Hebrew prose composition — the
Book of Esther. The theoretical basis of this study is that Esther’s lan­
guage elements and place in the linguistic milieu of post-exilic Biblical
Hebrew prose can be best analyzed and described through a diachronic
approach which employs the controls of linguistic contrast and distribu­
tion’ (Bergey 1983: 1). Bergey argues his case by analysing in detail 22
grammatical and 36 lexical developments in Esther compared to EBH
(Bergey 1983:27-167). The number of features he examines, 58 in total,
makes Bergey’s thesis very helpful, since other similar studies treat only
37 items each (Hurvitz 1982a, Rooker 1990a). The final chapter of his
thesis (Bergey 1983: 168-86) and an excursus (Bergey 1983: 187-92)
give a series of tables which helpfully show the diffusion of Esther’s
LBH features in other EBH and LBH books (Bergey 1983: 176-80,183­
84, 191-92). His conclusion is ‘that the Book of Esther’s linguistic dis­
tance from the exilic sources and its proximity to the Mishnah’s Hebrew
suggest that the position of this composition, in the post-exilic milieu,
rests in the later part of that period rather than the earlier’ (Bergey 1983:
181; cf. 185).

27. We have not seen this qualification stated anywhere else in Hurvitz’s
24 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

2.4. Mark F. Rooker

Rooker’s monograph on Ezekiel (Rooker 1990a) is a published version
of his Brandeis University PhD thesis (Rooker 1988a), which he wrote
under Fishbane but also under the influence of Hurvitz. In addition,
Rooker has published several articles which are mostly abstracted from
his monograph on Ezekiel (Rooker 1988b, 1990b, 1994) as well as an
article on the date of Isaiah 40-66 (Rooker 1996). These four articles are
reprinted together in Rooker 2003. Rooker begins his monograph by
citing the basic presupposition of his approach: ‘The premise of this
work is that the history of biblical Hebrew is characterized by two
successive language states: pre-exilic or Early Biblical Hebrew and post­
exilic or Late Biblical Hebrew. This distinction presupposes that the
Hebrew language, as it is represented in the Hebrew Bible, was subject to
linguistic change over the course of time’ (Rooker 1990a: 1; cf. our
remarks in 2.1.3). He then discusses some important issues relevant to
the subject of linguistic change, including its factors and mechanisms
(Rooker 1990a: 1-21). This survey surpasses both Hurvitz and Bergey
(see above) in its attempt to establish a general linguistic framework for
diachronic variation in BH. Following this comes a succinct review of
the major contributors to the historical study of the language of the
Hebrew Bible from Gesenius to the present day (Rooker 1990a: 23-33).
Rooker begins his linguistic examination by tracing most of Polzin’s 19
LBH grammatical features (see below) in Ezekiel (Rooker 1990a: 35­
53). Using these criteria he concludes that Ezekiel proves to be a better
transitional book between EBH and LBH than does P. In this he agrees
with Hurvitz (1982a) against Polzin (1976). Furthermore, next Rooker
outlines the working principles and methodology that underlie his
research, and here too he follows Hurvitz closely (Rooker 1990a: 55-64).
The balance of Rooker’s monograph analyses in detail 20 grammatical
and 17 lexical items in Ezekiel compared to EBH and LBH (Rooker
1990a: 65-176).28On this basis Rooker draws the following conclusions
(Rooker 1990a: 177-86; cf. 123, 176):
• Ezekiel has 37 grammatical and lexical features which are
characteristic of LBH.
• 34 of these LBH features continued into postbiblical Hebrew.
• 15 of these LBH features may be due to Aramaic influence.
• Alongside these 37 LBH features Ezekiel also uses 31 EBH

28. See 4.2.1 for a table of data cited by Rooker.

2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 25

• Therefore, the language of Ezekiel is not LBH; rather, it is

transitional between EBH and LBH: ‘Thus Ezekiel appears to be
the best representative of the mediating link between pre-exilic
and post-exilic Hebrew and hence the exemplar of Biblical
Hebrew in Transition’ (Rooker 1990a: 186).

2.5. Robert Polzin

2.5.1. Summary. Polzin’s monograph on Chronicles and P (Polzin
1976) is a published version of his Harvard University PhD thesis
(Polzin 1971), which he wrote under Cross. This is probably the most
widely cited publication on Late Biblical Hebrew in general. The
majority of the book traces 19 LBH grammatical features in Chronicles
and P, and in portions of the Pentateuch, Former Prophets, Esther, Ezra
and Nehemiah (Polzin 1976: 27-122).29 These are divided into 13
features of LBH which are not attributable to Aramaic influence (Al-13)
and 6 features of LBH caused by Aramaic influence (Bl-6). In addition,
Polzin records and briefly discusses 91 lexicographical features of LBH
(Polzin 1976: 123-58).30 Polzin draws some conclusions regarding the
linguistic proximity of the LBH books studied (Polzin 1976: 70-75), but
the main result of his book is a typological and chronological characteri­
sation of BH: ‘Classical BH appears to have remained generally stable
for a considerable period of time. It seems probable from the data
presented that the grammatical/syntactic nature of P8 and Ps places them
between classical BH and the LBH of Chronicles. Moreover, the data
suggest that Ps is typologically later than P8’ (Polzin 1976: 112). These
conclusions are illustrated in the following (adapted) table:31

29. Actually, Polzin traces 21 features, since his A6 and A 11 each subsumes two
related features. His A6 discusses the decrease of complementary/paronomastic
infinitive absolute and the decrease of imperatival infinitive absolute (Polzin 1976:
4 3 ^ 4 ) and his A ll looks at the decrease of introductory “’n'H/rnni verbs and the
decrease of waw consecutive verbs and increase of copulative verbs (Polzin 1976:
30. He gives 84 features in Chronicles and 7 in P. Note that he numbers 1
through 6 for P but the numeral 3 is repeated, thus he actually gives 7 features in P.
31. J = Yahwist Source of the Pentateuch; E = Elohist Source of the Pentateuch;
D = Deuteronomy; Dtr = Deuteronomistic History comprising Deuteronomy-Kings;
CH = Court History in Samuel-Kings; P = Priestly Source of the Pentateuch; P8 =
‘groundwork5 of original Priestly Source o f the Pentateuch; Ps = ‘secondary
additions’ to the Priestly Source of the Pentateuch.
26 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

EBH (JED) Transitional (P) LBH

JE CH Dtr P8 Ps Chronicles
12 EBH features 7 EBH features 2 EBH features 13 LBH features
4 LBH features 8 LBH features
2 unique features 3 unique features
(2 = P8)

Observe that Polzin considers P to be transitional between EBH and

LBH, whereas Hurvitz 1982a and Rooker 1990a consider Ezekiel the
best example of transitional BH (see above,, 2.4). For their
replies to Polzin, see Hurvitz 1982a: 163-70 and Rooker 1990a: 35-53.

2.5.2. Similarities and Differences between Hurvitz and Polzin.

Hurvitz and Polzin differ not only in the results of their research, insofar
as P is concerned, but also on several matters related to working princi­
ples and methodology. The following points summarise these similarities
and differences. Working Hypothesis. Polzin, like Hurvitz, begins by recognis­

ing the long-held view that the Hebrew of later biblical books differs
markedly from that of earlier ones (Polzin 1976: 1). Chronicles as LBH Exemplar. Polzin, like Hurvitz (but cf., assumes that Chronicles (and also Esther-Nehemiah and Ben
Sira) provides the best example of what LBH looked like (Polzin 1976:
1-2). Polzin dates the non-synoptic material in Chronicles to the fifth
century BCE (Polzin 1976: 21; cf. 37, 53, 54, 60; and in this he follows
Cross). Furthermore, he says: ‘We assume only that all three of them
precede the Chronicler’s language.... Assuming only that the Chroni­
cler’s language is to be placed at the latest extreme of a diachronic
continuum...’ (Polzin 1976: 90-91; cf. 21-22; see below on ‘the Chron­
icler’s language’, Grammar vs. Lexicon. Polzin, unlike Hurvitz, believes gram­

mar provides a more objective and reliable basis for chronological
analysis than do lexicographic features of a language. He says:
Unless I am mistaken, given the paucity of texts at our disposal, gram­
matical/syntactical evidence is more diffuse, meaningful, and productive
of analysis than is lexical evidence.... In other words, it appears to me that
grammatical/syntactical features are more efficient chronological indica­
tors than are lexical features. Moreover the premium of efficiency is even
higher in material that is not as extensive as one would like (Polzin 1976:
124; his emphasis; cf. 2, 15-16, 123-24, 168-69).
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 27

As we saw above, Hurvitz does not make this distinction, and in fact the
preponderance of his evidence for LBH is lexicographical. Influence o f Imperial Aramaic. Polzin, like Hurvitz, recog­

nises the well-known influence of Imperial Aramaic on LBH (Polzin
1976: 2; cf. 13-14). However, Polzin minimises this influence more than
Hurvitz (and Kropat and Bendavid), emphasising more the inner devel­
opment or natural evolution of the language. Chronicler's Language. Polzin, unlike Hurvitz, defines the

Chronicler’s language as the non-synoptic portions of Chronicles, the
book of Ezra, and the non-memoir sections of the book of Nehemiah.
Furthermore, he says: ‘One may assume with some assurance that this
body of material best represents the actual state of the language at the
time of its composition. Thus the strong desire to archaize seen in the
post-exilic books of Esther and Nehemiah’s memoirs (hereafter = N 1
[ 1.1 -7 .5 ; 12.27-13.31 ]) is not present in Chr., Ezr., and N 2 [7 .6 -1 2 .2 6 ]’
(Polzin 1976: 2 -3 ). As we saw above (, Hurvitz sees varying
degrees of archaisation in all LBH books. Monarchic-Era Inscriptions. Polzin, unlike Hurvitz, considers

the sixth-century BCE monarchic inscriptions (e.g. the Lachish and Arad
Ostraca) to be ‘late Hebrew sources’ (Polzin 1976: 4). As we saw above
(, Hurvitz believes extra-biblical Hebrew of the later First
Temple period does not bear the characteristics of LBH. Late Extra-Biblical Sources. Polzin, like Hurvitz, takes into

consideration late extra-biblical sources, and he looks favourably upon
Hurvitz’s treatment of Aramaisms in particular (Polzin 1976: 4-12). Synoptic vs. Non-Synoptic Chronicles. Polzin, unlike Hurvitz,

feels it is imprudent to include Chronicles’ synoptic material in linguistic
analysis: ‘What [Kropat] in fact produced was as much a study of the
syntax of the Chronicler’s sources as of the Chronicler’s language itself’
(Polzin 1976: 13; cf. 12-13). Curiously, however, Polzin sometimes uses
differences in parallel texts for specifying late language (Polzin 1976:41,
46, 53, 58, 62).

2.6. Allen R. Guenther

Guenther wrote his PhD thesis on Jeremiah and Esther under Revell at
the University of Toronto (Guenther 1977). It has not been published and
28 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

remains relatively unknown and unmentioned in the secondary literature.

An important distinctive of Guenther’s work is his modem linguistic
approach which fuses elements of the so-called tagmemic and structural
methods of analysis with priority given to formal components. He states
his aim as follows: ‘The intention of the present investigation is to iden­
tify the syntactic differences at the CB [clause builder]32 level between
JER 37-45 and EST 1-10, and to attempt to determine which of these
represent syntactic change as over against stylistic variation, deliberate
archaizing, or dialect difference’ (Guenther 1977: 1-2). He focuses on
Jeremiah 3 7 ^ 5 and the book of Esther since scholars consider these
writings to be cohesive units which are also temporally removed corpora,
separated by one to three or four centuries, during the course of which
biblical writers were increasingly influenced by Aramaic. He limits his
analysis to the syntax of the verbal clause since a fuller investigation
would significantly broaden the scope of his thesis. Altogether he isolates
fifteen syntactic features in which there is a difference between Jeremiah
and Esther and which might represent syntactic change. In the end he
judges that twelve of these represent diachronic linguistic developments.
To give just one example, he says regarding waw consecutive verb
There is no change in the frequency of the ‘waw consecutive imperfect’
(Vn) in JER and EST. There may be a difference in its use, however, in
that it occurs in JER as part of narration embedded in dialogue (13 x) but
does not occur in similar contexts in EST (0). This narrative function in
dialogue seems to be assumed by the perfect (Vp) tense.... The ‘waw
consecutive perfect’ (C-Vp) occurs much less frequently in EST (13x)
than in JER (56x). Whereas C-Vpoccurs frequently in conditional clauses
in JER, the corresponding function in EST is assumed by the V,
[imperfect] tense (Guenther 1977: 53; cf. 193-97).

We discuss Guenther’s work at this point since it was also influenced

by Polzin. In particular, Guenther tests the results of his work against the
data in Polzin 1976. He tabulates the occurrences of each syntactic
feature in twelve corpora and concludes that they have a relative place­
ment in four groups:33 (1) selections from JE, Jeremiah, selections from

32. ‘The clause builder of the verbal clause is a construction (a syntactic unit of
words or morphemes) which exists in a direct relationship to the verb’ (Guenther
1977: 7).
33. J = Yahwist Source of the Pentateuch; E = Elohist Source of the Pentateuch;
Dtr = Deuteronomistic History comprising Deuteronomy-Kings; CH = Court
History in Samuel-Kings; P8 = ‘groundwork’ of original Priestly Source of the
Pentateuch; Ps = ‘secondary additions’ to the Priestly Source of the Pentateuch; N 1=
Neh. 1.1-7.5; 12.27-13.31; N2 = Neh. 7.6-12.26.
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 29

Dtr, CH; (2) P8, Ps; (3) N 1, Daniel, Esther; (4) N2, Ezra, non-parallel
sections of Chronicles. He ends his thesis by suggesting that two matters
for further research are the influence of Aramaic on language change and
the definition and identification of the phenomenon of archaising
(Guenther 1977: 205-206).

2.7. Andrew E. Hill

Hill wrote his PhD thesis on Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi under
Mendenhall (and others) at The University of Michigan (Hill 1981). It
has not been published, but Hill has made available short excerpts as
articles (Hill 1982, 1983) and in his Anchor Bible commentary on
Malachi (Hill 1998: 77-84; cf. 393^00). It is unnecessary to discuss
Hill’s work in detail since he follows Polzin’s working principles and
methodology very closely. The topics of his thesis are (1) the language of
Malachi and (2) the chronological relationship of Malachi’s prophecy to
the writings of other postexilic prophets, more specifically Haggai and
First and Second Zechariah (Hill 1981: 1). He concludes that Malachi
should be dated to 500-450 BCE, probably 500-475 BCE. His conclusions
regarding relative dates are illustrated by the following (adapted) table
(Hill 1981: 77, 82-83; cf. Polzin’s table above, 2.5.1):34
EBH LBH Unique
JE 12 0 0
CH 12 0 0
Dtr 12 0 0
Zechariah 1-8 10 3 0
Malachi 9 3 1
Pg 7 4 2
Joel 7 4 0
Zechariah 9-14 8 4 1
Jonah 5 5 0
Haggai 8 5 0
Esther 6 6 0
Ps 2 8 3
N1 5 8 0
Ezra/N2 0 10 0
Chronicles 0 13 0

34. J = Y ahwist Source of the Pentateuch; E = Elohist Source of the Pentateuch;

CH = Court History in Samuel-Kings; Dtr = Deuteronomistic History comprising
Deuteronomy-Kings; P8 = ‘groundwork’ of original Priestly Source of the
Pentateuch; Ps = ‘secondary additions’ to the Priestly Source of the Pentateuch; N 1=
Nehemiah 1.1-7.5; 12.27-13.31; N2 = Nehemiah 7.6-12.26.
30 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

2.8. Gary A. Rendsburg

Rendsburg wrote his PhD thesis under C. H. Gordon at New York
University on diglossia/colloquial vs. written Hebrew (Rendsburg 1980a)
and published it in revised form a decade later (Rendsburg 1990a). He
has devoted most of his academic career to research on non-diachronic
variation within BH:35 diglossia, regional dialects (especially Israelian
Hebrew36), style-switching, addressee-switching, confused language as a
literary device, etc.37 (We address these issues in later chapters.) Never­
theless, Rendsburg follows Hurvitz’s working principles and methodol­
ogy closely. This includes, among other things, linguistic analysis of BH
on the basis of the MT alone, and careful use of the criteria of distribution,
opposition, extra-biblical attestation and accumulation (e.g. Rendsburg
1990a: 31-32; 1990b: 15-17; 2002a: 18-19). Several of Rendsburg’s
publications, nevertheless, have mainly a diachronic concern (e.g. Rends­
burg 2002b, 2003b), and Rendsburg 1980b is an important review of
Polzin’s monograph (see 4.2.4). Several of Rendsburg’s students have
continued his research on BH dialects (Noegel 1994, Yoo 1999, Chen
2000), whereas others have been concerned with matters related to both
dialect and diachrony (C. J. Smith 2003, Wright 2003, 2005). These
scholars also follow Rendsburg’s commitment to Hurvitz’s working
principles and methodology (Yoo 1999: 25-28, 33-35; Chen 2000: 14­
17; C. J. Smith 2003: 10-17, 31-32, 35-36; Wright 2005: 6-8, 13-15).
We remark on the work of Wright and C. J. Smith in our discussion of the

35. He has written three monographs related to this topic: Rendsburg 1990a,
1990b, 2002a.
36. Rendsburg and his students have developed this notion o f ‘Israelian Hebrew’.
Other terms found in the literature are ‘Northern Hebrew’, ‘North Israelite Hebrew’,
‘Northern Hebraisms’, ‘northern influence theory’, etc. According to Rendsburg
2003a: 8-9, the corpus of Israelian Hebrew texts amounts to an upper estimate of
about 30% of the Hebrew Bible. (1) The principal texts are: Genesis 49; Lev. 25.13—
24; Deuteronomy 32-33; the stories of Deborah, Gideon and Jephthah in Judges 4­
8, 10-12; 2 Sam. 23.1-7; most o f 1 Kings 12-2 Kings 17; Hosea; Amos; Micah 6-7;
Psalms 9-10, 16, 29, 36, 42-50, 53, 58, 73-85, 87-88, 116, 132-133, 140-141;
Proverbs; Song of Songs; Qoheleth; Nehemiah 9. (2) Israelian Hebrew forms occur
in other texts as well, especially in style-switching and addressee-switching contexts:
Genesis 24,29-31; Numbers 22-24; Job; prophetic oracles to the foreign nations: 8
chapters in Isaiah, 6 chapters in Jeremiah, 8 chapters in Ezekiel, approximately 2
chapters in the Twelve. (3) 1 Kings 6-8 has a high concentration of (northern)
Phoenicianisms. (4) Jeremiah and the early chapters of 1 Samuel have Benjaminite
material. For detailed discussion see Chapter 7.
37. Rendsburg 1991b is a good survey of these various issues.
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 31

Yahwist and Jeremiah in Volume 2,1.2 and 1.3.2, respectively. Wright’s

work merits several additional comments here.

2.9. Richard M. Wright

Wright’s monograph on the Yahwist (Wright 2005) is a published
version of his Cornell University PhD thesis (Wright 1998) which he
wrote under Rendsburg. A related publication is Wright 2003. The bal­
ance of Wright’s monograph (1) analyses in detail 4038grammatical and
lexical items in the Yahwist compared to their LBH counterparts and
(2) calls attention to the absence of Persian vocabulary in this source and
in EBH in general (Wright 2005: 22-120). His conclusion is that
[o]f the 40 [sic] late language elements discussed in this study, never does
‘J’ appear to reflect late usage. In 37 instances, late expressions which
appear only in late post-exilic writings do not appear in ‘J’ source verses,
which instead employ only the SBH [= EBH] equivalent. There are 8
features of late BH that appear in early post-exilic works but not in the ‘J’
source of the Pentateuch. And there are 5 features which occur in exilic
texts which ‘J’ avoids in favour of the earlier usage. Although the strong­
est contrast is between the language background of ‘J’ and that of the late
post-exilic period, we can still see several instances where ‘J’ does not
display characteristics of late biblical Hebrew that occur in exilic and early
post-exilic texts. With one possible exception [low use of HK with suffix],
what we find in ‘J ’ is early, and what is missing is late (Wright 2005: 161;
his emphasis).

Wright outlines in the introductory chapter his working principles and

methodology and in these he follows Hurvitz closely (Wright 2005: 3­
19). We bring this discussion to a close by citing several important
statements by Wright which highlight the chronological presupposition
underlying his linguistic investigation of the Yahwist:
The above method for determining the lateness of particular expressions
requires a working hypothesis as to which books of the Hebrew Bible are
pre-exilic, exilic, or post-exilic in date. It is unnecessary for the purposes
of this study to provide an exact date for each book because it is the
general distinction between pre-exilic and post-exilic books which is of
immediate concern. Granted, scholars are seldom in unanimous agree­
ment as to the approximate date of most biblical books. Furthermore,
they often date different sections of a given book to different periods.

38. How Wright arrived at the total figure of ‘40’ is unclear to us. We find 56
features discussed in his book: 5 in Chapter 2; 6 in Chapter 3; 8 in Chapter 4; 15 in
Chapter 5; 22 in Chapter 6.
32 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Nevertheless, for the purposes of this study it is possible to outline a

working hypothesis as to which general period each biblical book
belongs: pre-exilic, exilic, or post-exilic. When specific chapters or
sections within a given book cause particular problems for dating, special
note will be made (Wright 2005: 8).

First, he remarks on the Pentateuch: ‘Several studies on the Pentateuch

have shown that the work is pre-exilic.... Clearly this study cannot treat
“J” as pre-exilic for the purpose of determining LBH expressions, since
it is the date of “J” that is in question’ (Wright 2005: 8-9). Then, he turns
to the Former Prophets: The date of Joshua-Kings depends heavily upon
scholarly theories about the composition and date of the Deuteronomistic
History (DH).... This study will treat Joshua-Kings as pre-exilic (with the
exception of the last 2 chapters of 2 Kings, which are exilic)’ (Wright
2005: 9-10). We will return to the import of these statements in 3.2.4.

2.10. Frank H. Polak

2.10.1. Synopsis. Polak has argued in about a dozen articles over the
past twenty years or so that EBH and LBH books reflect different styles
of writing which have their origins in successive historical contexts and
social conditions.39Thus the background of his work is the field of socio­
linguistics, which is the study of the interaction between society and lan­
guage. His stylistic analysis is the most sophisticated assembly of data in
favour of mostly traditional datings of biblical books. He calls attention
to four independent parameters which he believes converge to support
his thesis:40
• Differences between rhythmic-verbal (= EBH) and complex-
nominal (= LBH) styles.
• Shifts in certain aspects of the lexical register from EBH to LBH.
• Presence of late grammatical and lexical features in LBH writ­
• Correlations between his findings and extra-biblical sources.
Polak argues that his analysis of these factors leads to four main styles,
classes or strata of BH which were written in four successive yet slightly
overlapping historical periods:

39. With reference to BH language and literature Polak prefers to speak about
‘periodisation’ rather than ‘chronology’/‘chronological’, ‘diachrony’/‘diachronic’,
40. Polak’s multifaceted approach occasionally mentions other non-linguistic
data which he argues coincide with his dating scheme, e.g. the archaeological record
and residues of ancient beliefs and myths in the earliest biblical sources.
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 33

• Classical Style, linked to the premonarchic and early monarchical

era. Date: late tenth through early eighth century BCE. Examples:
the Abraham-Jacob narratives in Genesis; various parts of
Exodus; the tales of Samson and some other judges in Judges;
the Samuel-Saul-David narratives in Samuel; the Elijah-Elisha
stories in Kings; the narrative sections of Amos and Hosea; etc.
• Transitional Classical Style, a subclass or intermediate style
between Polak’s classical and late preexilic/exilic styles. Date:
eighth century BCE. Examples: the story of the garden of Eden,
the Cain and Abel story, certain segments of the patriarchal
narratives, and large sections of the Joseph narrative in Genesis;
the exodus cycle in Exodus; the battle accounts in Joshua; most
of the tales in Judges; etc.
• Late Preexilic and Exilic Style, linked to the late monarchy and
the first stages of the Babylonian period. Date: late eighth
through early sixth century BCE. Examples: parts of the patriar­
chal narratives in Genesis; parts of P; the book of Deuteronomy;
the final section of Joshua; much of Kings; the Jeremiah Vita;
• Postexilic Style, linked to the latter stages of the Babylonian
period and the Persian era. Date: late sixth through fourth cen­
tury BCE onward. Examples: parts of P, especially in Numbers;
the Prose Tale of Job; the books of Esther, Daniel, Ezra and
Nehemiah; the non-synoptic parts of Chronicles.
In the remainder of this section we will summarise Polak’s criteria for
distinguishing between strata in biblical literature and the presupposi­
tions which stand behind his approach.41

2.10.2. Rhythmic- Verbal and Complex-Nominal Styles. The table over­

leaf summarises the principal differences between the two writing styles
Polak has discerned in biblical literature.
Polak’s periodisation of biblical sources consists of a two-part process.
In the first stage of his analysis he relies on statistics to estimate the
ratios in biblical pericopes or chapters of (1) nouns to verbs (NV ratio)
and (2) nominal verbs to finite verbs (NF ratio). This establishes the
basic framework of chronological development.

41. Our review is based on the following publications by Polak: 1989, 1992a,
1995, 1996, 1997-98, 1998, 2001a, 2002, 2003, 2006a, 2006b, 2006c.
34 Linguistic D ating o f Biblical Texts

Biblical Literature Biblical Literature

in the Rhythmic- Verbal (R V) Style in the Complex-Nominal (CN) Style
Characterisation: The RV style is con­ Characterisation: The CN style is intri­
cise and unembroidered. cate and detailed (‘elaborate’).
Oral: The RV style reflects an oral sub­ Scribal: The CN style reflects a
stratum. It is similar to spontaneous ‘writerly’ orientation. It has features
spoken language. It originates in an which involve planning, rereading,
orate speech community. correction, addition and removal, and
thus it is composed from the outset in
writing. It originates in a literate speech
Discourse: The RV style is similar to Writing: The CN style has basic
spontaneous spoken language, which features which are characteristic of
is evidenced also in direct or quoted written language in general.
speech embedded in biblical narrative.
Context: Generally speaking and grosso Context: Generally speaking and grosso
modo, one RV clause contains less modo, one CN clause contains more
information than one CN clause. The information than one RV clause. The
RV style demands far less planning than CN style requires much more planning
the CN style due to its limited quantity than the RV style due to its high con­
of information within the clause. It has centration of information within the
its origin in a society with restricted clause. It has its origin in a society with
literacy. Orality prevails over the liter­ more widespread literacy. It reflects the
acy of the writer. The royal bureaucracy language skills of the professional
did not yet play a central role in society. scribe. It is at home in the official
scribal chancery.
Brevity and simplicity in diction and Lengthiness and complexity in diction
syntax: The RV style is characterised and syntax: The CN style is character­
by short and simple clauses, brief noun ised by long and complex clauses,
chains, indirect reference by pronouns extended noun strings, explicit expres­
and deictic particles, and coordination sion of arguments in the clause, and
or parataxis. Lexical sparsity. More subordination or hypotaxis. Lexical
fragmented and elliptical. density. More organised and integrated.
Statistics'. The RV style has a preference Statistics'. The CN style has a prefer­
for more verbs and fewer nouns, and ence for more nouns and fewer verbs,
then more finite verbs and fewer nomi­ and then more nominal verbs and fewer
nal verbs. We give percentages below. finite verbs. We give percentages below.
Date range: Late tenth through late Date range: Late eighth through fourth
eighth century BCE. century BCE.

Based on his sampling of preexilic (e.g. 2 Sam. 5.17-25) and postexilic

(e.g. 2 Chron. 20.23-30) sources, he comes up with the following
approximate intervals:42

42. The following numbers are based on Polak 1998: 70-71. The numbers vary
slightly in different publications. Note the following counting guidelines: (1) nouns
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 35

Style N(oun)-V(erb) N(om inal) -F(inite)

Ratio Ratio
Classical 58-63% 11-19%
Transitional Classical 64-67% 11-23%
Late Preexilic and Exilic 69-73% 17-22%
Postexilic 71-76% 30-40%

The NV and NF ratios indirectly express a tendency toward subordina­

tion. In other words, an increase in nouns and nominal verbs reflects a
more intricate and detailed style. In his words:
The evolution from early classical literature to the postexilic period, then,
is characterized by a gradual increase in the incidence of nominal forms.
This development seems to be related to the spread of literacy: written
texts have more use for the condensation of clauses in infinitives and
participles than oral language, for such compound sentences are easier to
handle in writing than in oral improvisation, in reading than in listening
to singer or narrator. In this respect the proportional decrease in the use of
the finite verb parallels the decrease in the use of verbal forms as such
(Polak 1995: 293; our emphasis).

It is important to observe, as Polak points out, that the difference between

the earlier classical style and the later postexilic style is a gradual differ­
ence in tendency or statistical divergence.
The second stage of Polak’s analysis consists of the functional analy­
sis or systematic examination of various biblical pericopes. In this
analysis he seeks to illustrate and explain the syntactic conditions which
are evidenced in the numerical data and which exemplify the large-scale
differences in the early and late styles of biblical narrative. To accom­
plish this he tabulates the following stylistic parameters in a variety of
pericopes and chapters:43

= common and proper nouns, adjectives, numerals, substantivised participles;

(2) verbs = all finite and non-finite forms excluding substantivised participles and
excluding infinitives absolute when not used as verbs; (3) nominal verbs = parti­
ciples, infinitives construct; (4) finite verbs = simple and consecutive perfects and
imperfects, imperatives, infinitives absolute when used as finite verbs; (5) all other
words are not counted (e.g. pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions); (6) also note this
important qualification: ‘In the statistical survey does not count as an infini­
tive, when it serves as an introduction to direct speech. The words 1HO and DttTf
count as adverbs, Pltnpb as a preposition. In LBH as in Aramaic the periphrastic
form of the participle (iTH with participle...) is counted as a single form, indicating a
special Aktionsarf (Polak 1998: 63 n. 24).
43. Polak 2006a: 300. These parameters are phrased somewhat differently in
other publications (e.g. Polak 1998: 71-76; 2002: 261-68; 2003: 4 4 ^ 5 , 49-50,
36 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

• ‘The number of independent, explicit arguments, that is to say,

subject, direct/indirect object, and modifier, in the form of a
noun, a noun phrase, a particle with a pronominal suffix..., or in
the form of a subordinate clause’.
• ‘The number of noun groups such as kernel with apposition or
attribute, or nouns injunction...’.
• ‘The number of subordinate clauses, such as relative clauses,
object clauses...’.
• ‘The number of clauses dependent on subordinate clauses
(complex hypotaxis...)’.
In this context we must defer to Polak’s publications for additional
explanation and illustration of these matters.

2.10.3. Lexical Registers. Polak argues that the large-scale stylistic

differences which he sees in preexilic and postexilic BH are also
evidenced in shifts in the lexical register from EBH to LBH. He has
published discussions on three principal issues. Epic Formulas. The distribution of certain conventional

formulas coincides with characteristic stylistic differences between early
and late narrative. Polak has studied several dozen formulas including,
for example, ‘and he answered and said’ ( ip ^ l ]!?!]), ‘and he called and
said’ ("1QNH KHp’1), and ‘and he arose and went’ Of1?!] Dj?"]). Overall,
these are much rarer in postexilic literature. He has made the same
argument regarding the verb (‘and he did obeisance’). In short,
pre-Israelite epic poetry was the ultimate ancestor of early biblical prose.
Regarding this issue Polak builds on the theories of Cassuto and Cross. Frequency o f Certain Verb Lexemes. Certain verbs of per­

ception and movement tend to disappear in postexilic prose, especially
n to , "['bn and npb, which for the most part are replaced by NTH and
8*0 Hiphil.44 He says:
Part of the explanation [for the increase of KID and N*Q Hiphil as against
and np4^] could be related to orientation. In the later corpus, subjects
are moving towards a well-defined goal, which is at the center of the
action and by which the tale is dominated, such as the royal court, or the
Temple, whereas in the classical texts the heroes are free to roam around
as they think fit. This aspect of the problem seems to be analogous to the

44. He actually looks at the relationship of three verbs in each of three sets: ntn,
"[bn, n o ; npb, Kto, am Hiphil.
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 37

issues concerning the field o f perception. With respect to movement and

perception, the characters of postexilic narrative could appear less
dynamic than the heroes of early pre-exilic literature (Polak 1995: 302). References to Writing. References to writing and written

documents are rare or non-existent in sections in the rhythmic-verbal
style but they figure prominently in sections in the complex-nominal
style. This development is related to changes in bureaucracy and literacy
in society. Schniedewind 2004: 121-36 (citing Polak) also develops this
line of thought.

2.10.4. Late Biblical Hebrew. A third element which Polak argues

corroborates his findings is the presence of distinctive LBH features in
his texts in the complex-nominal style. In particular, he cites Aramaisms
and Persianisms. These relate to bilingualism and the scribal chancery in
the Achaemenid administration.

2.10.5. Extra-Biblical Sources. Polak, like Hurvitz and others, corre­

lates the results of his statistical and functional analysis to external data.
Thus, for example, the ninth-century Mesha inscription represents the
transition from an oral to written style. Writings in the rhythmic-verbal
style, such as the Abraham-Jacob and the Samuel-Saul-David narratives,
probably are anterior to or contemporary with this stele. The complex-
nominal style is evident in late monarchic inscriptions (Arad, Lachish,
Mesad Hashavyahu, Siloam Tunnel, Yavneh Yam, etc.)45and in Aramaic
prose in the Persian period (Ahiqar tale, Elephantine contracts, etc.).

2.11. Illustrations
2.11.1. Introduction. To this point we have summarised the working
principles and methodology found in some of the most important publi­
cations on BH typology and chronology. Now we will give several illus­
trations of differences between EBH and LBH.46First we will review two
lexemes47and then we will look in more detail at a passage in Chronicles,
an undisputed postexilic book written in LBH.

45. Compare Polak’s view to Polzin’s ( in contrast with Hurvitz’s

46. We will address many other features in the remainder of this book. In
addition, in Volume 2, Chapter 4 we give tables with many if not most LBH features
and suggested EBH counterparts which are cited in the scholarly literature. See the
introduction to the tables in 5.2.1.
47. We already summarised above one of the classical illustrations of an EBH to
LBH diachronic shift: ra'ppQ and
38 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

2.11.2. Lexemes: f13 f*13 ( ‘byssus, fine linen)** (1) Distribution. In BH ]H3

occurs in LBH writings only: Ezekiel (xl), Esther (x2), Chronicles (x5).49
(2) Opposition. The synonym EJ# is found in different phases of BH, but
primarily in EBH: Genesis (xl), Exodus (x33), Ezekiel (x3), Proverbs
(xl). Furthermore, in synoptic passages, }*13 is found in Chronicles, but
it is absent from Samuel (e.g. 2 Sam. 6.14//1 Chron. 15.27). Observe that
Ezekiel has both 02? and f 13 and therefore this book exemplifies trans­
itional BH. (3) Extra-biblical attestation. The Aramaic Targums render
f 13 and Kfcj by H^13 and MH employs f 13 only. Hurvitz concludes that
|"13 is an unmistakable indication of lateness in BH. However, since f13
is attested in the ninth-century BCE Phoenician Kilamuwa inscription,
Hurvitz also says the use of these two words ‘should be explained in both
chronological (pre-exilic/post-exilic) and geographical (Egypt/Meso-
potamia-Syria) terms’ (Hurvitz 1967a: 120). rnJK ('letter’) .50 (1) Distribution. In BH rn?K occurs in

LBH writings only: Esther (x2), Nehemiah (x6), Chronicles (x2).51 (2)
Opposition. The synonym HSD with the meaning ‘letter’ is found in
different phases of BH (e.g. 2 Sam. 11.14, 15; 2 Chron. 32.17). (3)
Extra-biblical attestation. ~)?D is found in the late preexilic Lachish
letters. Outside BH rnafc is frequently employed in Aramaic correspon­
dence of the Persian period (cf. rH3K in Ezra 4.8,11; 5.6) and the term is
widely documented in the postbiblical period in Aramaic and in MH.
Hurvitz concludes that ‘...what we have is a clear-cut distribution pattern
which may be accounted for satisfactorily only in chronological terms’
(Hurvitz 1997a: 313).

48. Hurvitz 1967a is the classic study. Also see Hurvitz 1974b: 33-35; 1982a: 8;
1983a: 86-88; Polzin 1976: 130; Bergey 1983: 94-95; Rooker 1990a: 159-61.
49. The references are LBH-related Ezek. 27.16; LBH Est. 1.6; 8.15; 1 Chron.
4.21; 15.27; 2 Chron. 2.13; 3.14; 5.12.
50. See Hurvitz 1972a: 21-22,28; 1997a: 311-14; 2000a: 150-51; 2002: 38-40;
2003b: 35; Polzin 1976: 126; Bergey 1983: 148-49; Saenz Badillos 1993: 117;
Polak 2006c: 120.
51. The references are Est. 9.26,29; Neh. 2.7, 8, 9; 6.5, 17,19; 2 Chron. 30.1,6.
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 39

2.11.3. 2 Chronicles 30.1-12 (part I)52

(2) rnirn (l) in’prn’ n'?©’] l
no? nwsb D ^ n ’3 rnrr-rra1? (3) tfn 1? ncsei (l) c ^ s t r 1^ nra
' •,n‘7« rnrr1?
.•'j®! erfra np?n nWv'? n'pon-a (4) ^npn'ba'i vntoi ^ p n y 0v i 2
"■ID1? lEnpnrrR'1? D'ptfan ’3 trnn nua '.rivzb ibrr si1? "a 3
:q‘?2rn, ‘7 (5) isptjrtu'1? 00m
:(4) bnprrba ' r s at f ‘ppn 'ri?a "m n 4
Kia1? i t ^ I -’a triica s ^ “tr'^aa *?ip I ’a^nb n a i (6) n ’p in 5
aira? wv a'“i*7t*S ’a q ^ n '3 nvr1? np? nito?1?
rrnrn ^tot^'aa vntoi ^pn tp (2) rrnatra (7) D’jnn la^’i 6
pniT nnna« 'nStj niir-1^ iaio b»~wr. "?a "ibK1? “^p" rn.yppi
mm ,ai7p ^pp op1? n~HtC3~ np,l??n-L^ air: %~t~:
(8) on-niast -n ^ rnrra i*?0P ito cp-nfci cpT^asa rnrr^Ki 7
o -« “i aris “it&g np©1? (9) oprn
ienpp1? isai mrr1? Ti3n op’rrasa cpsii? nnu 8
cap aeri Da'nbs nin'-nys 11301 (10) c 1? ^ 1? t£Hpn i w
:is« ]n n
c p n i 1? nrnpi c a 'n s ( l) rnrr_1?0 ( 11) opaira ’a 9
a p T 1^ nirr (12) oirni ]i 3n_,a n«rn aic'pi (9) Dn'ric
laiErrcK cap d’jb "i,P’'»L’i
nt£ipi o '- ^ s r p s a T r 1? T 0P ongi? (7) D-inn (13) rn n 10
o a (14) cnj?7pi an’1?:? O 4) cp'n'P? (13) v n ’i p^arTPi
o ^ c i t 1? is o ’i 10333 P ^ rp i n#;pi ip j p D'Efta'fi* 11
rnyp n it o 1? i r a a 1? ari^ nn1? C'ri^n t nrrn rnirra as 12
:rnrr naia a’lEni f *?pn

1 Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to
Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the L o r d at
Jerusalem, to keep the passover to the L o r d the God of Israel.2 For the
king and his officials and all the assembly in Jerusalem had taken counsel
to keep the passover in the second month3 (for they could not keep it at its
proper time because the priests had not sanctified themselves in sufficient
number, nor had the people assembled in Jerusalem). 4 The plan seemed
right to the king and all the assembly. 5 So they decreed to make a
proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beer-sheba to Dan, that the
people should come and keep the passover to the L o r d the God of Israel,
at Jerusalem; for they had not kept it in great numbers as prescribed.6 So
couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king
and his officials, as the king had commanded, saying, ‘O people of Israel,
return to the L o r d , the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, so that he may
turn again to the remnant o f you who have escaped from the hand of the

52. In texts presented for study in this book, numbers within parentheses, e.g.
‘(1)’, correspond to the notes on the texts which follow the English translation and
introduction to the passage.
40 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

kings of Assyria.7 Do not be like your ancestors and your kindred, who
were faithless to the L o r d God of their ancestors, so that he made them a
desolation, as you see. 8 Do not now be stiff-necked as your ancestors
were, but yield yourselves to the L o r d and come to his sanctuary, which
he has sanctified forever, and serve the L o r d your God, so that his fierce
anger may turn away from you. 9 For as you return to the L o r d , your
kindred and your children will find compassion with their captors, and
return to this land. For the L o r d your God is gracious and merciful, and
will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.’ 10 So the
couriers went from city to city through the country of Ephraim and
Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun; but they laughed them to scorn, and
mocked them.11 Only a few from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled
themselves and came to Jerusalem.12 The hand of God was also on Judah
to give them one heart to do what the king and the officials commanded by
the word of the L o r d .53

The undisputed postexilic books of Esther-Chronicles are regarded as

the best representatives of LBH language. It is widely believed that
Chronicles, especially in non-synoptic material, reflects a typologically
and chronologically younger sort of Hebrew than the language we find in
the parallel books of Samuel-Kings. For this reason we have chosen part
of a non-synoptic chapter in Chronicles as the first text for study in this
book. The story we have chosen comes from the account of Hezekiah’s
reign and this section is the longest for any king after David and Solo­
mon (2 Chron. 29.1-32.33). Its length is an indication of the Chronicler’s
esteem for the king. Most of this material does not have parallels in
Kings. Non-synoptic 2 Chron. 30.1-12 recounts Hezekiah’s preparations
for the Passover. The passage has discourse at its centre (w . 6b-9)
which is framed by prose (w . l-6a, 10-12).
(1) bv (30.1,1,9; ‘to’). The interchange of b& and bv is a well-known
phenomenon in BH. However, in LBH and QH, bv in the sense ‘to’ is
increasingly used where bto appears in EBH (Kropat 1909: 40-42, 74;
Goshen-Gottstein 1958: 108; Hurvitz 1972a: 22; Bergey 1983: 46-49;
Qimron 1986: 93,96; Rooker 1990a: 127-31; Saenz Badillos 1993:117,
120, 138, 143; cf. Rendsburg 2002a: 32-36). Compare b$ twice in v. 6.
(2) (30.1, 6; ‘letter’). rn^K is an LBH equivalent of EBH 1SD.
We discussed this lexeme above (
(3) t fn 1? (30.1, 5; ‘to come’) and ViWVb (30.1, 5; ‘to do’). In LBH
there is an increase of b + infinitive construct instead of direct speech
after verbs of commanding, speaking, etc. (Kropat 1909: 65; van Peursen
2004: 257-76, 296, 402). Thus, for example, in 2 Chron. 30.1 we find

53. In this book, unless stated otherwise, translations of biblical texts follow the
NRSV and translations of non-biblical texts are by the authors.
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 41

and he sent...and he do [i.e. that they should come
and do]

rather than
n ’t o i K3 nbKl7...Dn3...]...n'7tp’!

and he sent...and he wrote saying, ‘Come...and do...’

(4) *X(j? (30.2,4; ‘congregation’). The term bnj?, though certainly not
absent from EBH, is argued to become more widespread in LBH and
postbiblical Hebrew than its earlier counterpart iTTI? (Hurvitz 1982a: 8,
65-67; Rooker 1990a: 143-46). '
(5) Oi?n] (30.3; ‘and the people had not been gathered’).
Collective nouns construed as plurals are more common in LBH and MH
than in EBH (Kropat 1909: 28-30, 45, 72, 74; Polzin 1976: 40-42;
Hurvitz 1982a: 165; Qimron 1986: 83-84; Saenz Badillos 1993: 118,
126; van Peursen 2004: 319-20, 324).
(6) TQU (30.5; ‘establish’). The Hiphil stem of "toy for ‘appoint,
assign, ordain, establish, fulfil’ is an LBH usage (BDB, 764). ‘BH
employs the root qwm = “to get up” and cm d= “to stand”. In Late BH, at
the height of the A [ramaic] influence, cmd carries both meanings (also in
MH). Since A[ramaic] also uses only one lexeme for both meanings, it
stands to reason that the change in BH indicates the influence of
A[ramaic], the content being A[ramaic] but the sign Il\ebrew}' (Kutscher
1970: 359; cf. Curtis and Madsen 1910: 32; Hurvitz 1972a: 173; 1982a:
94-97; Polzin 1976: 148; Kutscher 1982: 84, 88; Bergey 1983: 125-28;
Qimron 1986:94; Rooker 1990a: 149-52; Saenz Badillos 1993:127; van
Peursen 2004: 171, 328).
(7) D’y in (30.6,10; ‘messengers’). The substantival participle of]"n
(‘run’) used for royal ‘messenger’ rather than royal ‘escort’ (2 Sam. 15.1;
1 Kgs. 1.5) or royal ‘body-guard’ (1 Sam. 22.17; xl 1 in Kings) is found
only in EBH Jer. 51.31 and core LBH Est. 3.13, 15; 8.10, 14; and 2
Chron. 30.6, 10 (BDB, 930; Curtis and Madsen 1910: 474).
(8) Drrni- (30.7; ‘their [fathers]’). LBH prefers the third masculine
plural suffix Drrni - rather than Dni- on feminine plural nouns ending in
ni - and on masculine plural nouns which take the feminine plural ending
ni- (Hurvitz 1982a: 24-27; Qimron 1986:63; Saenz Badillos 1993: 141;
Wright 2005: 26-30).
(9) DDCT] (30.7; ‘and he gave them’). The issue here is D3FH rather
than nn'N ]FH. In LBH n$ + pronominal suffix as the direct object of a
verb decreases in favour of a suffix attached directly to the verb (Kropat
42 Linguistic D ating o f Biblical Texts

1909: 2-3, 33-38, 73, 75; Polzin 1976: 28-31; Bergey 1983: 85-89;
Qimron 1986: 75-77; Rooker 1990a: 86-87; Saenz Badillos 1993: 119,
126, 145; Wright 2005: 37-41, 125-26).
(10) Qlpiyl7 (30.8; ‘forever’). □1piyL? is used throughout BH, thus
strictly speaking it is not LBH here. However, Hurvitz points out that
DD’r r n 1?, □rh'T1? and v r r n 1?, found only in P, are completely absent
from the LBH corpus, which shows, in his opinion, that these expres­
sions are an old element in the language which fell into disuse in
postclassical times (Hurvitz 1982a: 98-101; Saenz Badillos 1993: 121).
(11) DDDlEn (30.9; ‘when [if] you return’). In LBH the infinitive
construct with 3/3 preceded by introductory ~'H ('H"/n'ri") decreases
(Kropat 1909:22-23,73-75; Polzin 1976:45-46,56-58; Hurvitz 1982a:
165-67; Bergey 1983: 52-55, 65-67; Qimron 1986: 72-73; Rooker
1990a: 103-105; Saenz Badillos 1993: 118-19, 123, 144-^5; van
Peursen 2004: 340^13, passim; Wright 2005: 42—45, 126-27).
(12) DUTY] ]13!7 (30.9; ‘gracious and compassionate’). In LBH the
order of words in certain phrases is reversed (‘diachronic chiasm’). Thus
the distribution of DHTTI ]13n and |13IT1 Din-! in the Hebrew Bible
suggests that mrn] 'HH was the order of the word pair in LBH (Hurvitz
1972a: 104-106, 1.46-47,174; Bergey 1983: 56-57; Qimron 1986: 88­
89, 91; Rooker 1990a: 174-75; Wright 2005: 138-39).
(13) D1"),1 (30.10; ‘and the messengers passed’) and ...Vrj’l
□,3y‘7!31...D, p, np5 (30.10; ‘and they scorned and ridiculed’). In LBH
there is an increase of ITH + participle as a periphrastic form for cursive/
imperfective activity (Hurvitz 1982a: 49; Qimron 1986: 70, 90; Rooker
1990a: 108-10; Saenz Badillos 1993: 121, 127, 129, 144; van Peursen
2004: 226-27, passim).
(14) D’pTItoD (30.10; ‘laughing’) and (30.10; ‘mocking’).
Although attested in all strata of BH, it is argued that LBH has a particu­
lar tendency to use the Hiphil stem of certain roots with an equivalent
sense to the Qal stem (Polzin 1976: 133-34,137; Qimron 1986: 4 9 ,90­
9 2 ,97). Thus the Qal stem of pltto and m b are found throughout BH but
the Hiphil stem of pnto is used only here and the Hiphil stem of is
found elsewhere only in Ps. 22.8; Job 21.3; Neh. 2.19; 3.33.
(15) nbc/IT1? (30.11; ‘and they came to Jerusalem’). In LBH
there is an increase of a prepositional phrase using or b at the expense
ofn of direction (Kropat 1909: 43-44; Qimron 1986: 69, 90-91; Saenz
Badillos 1993: 122). In addition, movement verb + b rather than is
characteristic of LBH (Kropat 1909:43-44,74; Qimron 1986:88; Saenz
Badillos 1993: 117).
2. EBH vs. LBH: Principles and Methodology 43

Additional remarks on 2 Chron. 30.1-12:

As well as *78 (x2; cf. point 1, above) in v. 6, a number of other stan­
dard BH (= EBH) forms are found in this passage. For example:
(16) Chronicles shows no decrease in waw consecutive verb forms
(passim; cf. Kropat 1909: 17-23, 74-75; Polzin 1976: 56-68; Hurvitz
1982a: 121; Kutscher 1982: 45, 75, 82, 88, 99; Bergey 1983: 65-67;
Rooker 1990a: 100-102; Saenz Badillos 1993: 120, 123-24, 129, 144;
van Peursen 2004: 127-28, 141—43, passim).
(17) Chronicles has □‘ptOTT rather than LBHpleneO''b&i~\] (30.1,2,3,
5,11; ‘Jerusalem’; cf. Hurvitz 1972a: 18,62; Kutscher 1982: 81,94-95;
Bergey 1983:43^45; Qimron 1986:90-91; Rooker 1990a: 68-71; Saenz
Badillos 1993: 116, 128-29, 134, 136-37).
(18) Chronicles hasin’pTHP rather than LBH n’pTfV (30.1; ‘Hezekiah’;
cf. Kutscher 1982: 60-63, 94; Qimron 1986: 91, 94; Saenz Badillos
1993: 121, 134; Chronicles also uses IH’pTn rather than n’pin).
(19) The phrase Ti?3 “linn “ICF’I (30.4; ‘and the matter was right
in the eyes o f’) is found in EBH Samuel and LBH Chronicles but in other
cases LBH prefers a phrase without Ti?3, such as ’DS1? (“linn) DtD’
rather than \r r il (“linn) Ht3\ or by HID rather than \ r i n 3C37nit3
(Hurvitz 1972a: 21-22,28; Kutscher 1982: 83; Bergey 1983: i 56, 160­
62; Saenz Badillos 1993: 117, 121, 127).
The appearance in this passage of LBH and EBH features side by side
illustrates the combination of archaisms and neologisms which one
generally finds in LBH texts (‘mixed language’, ‘different flavours’; see

2.12. Conclusion
In this chapter we have summarised the working principles and method­
ology of scholars undertaking diachronic research on BH and we have
given some illustrations of what constitutes LBH in comparison to EBH.
The main issues we summarised under principles are heterogeneity,
typology, chronology, objectivity, approach and neologisms, and per­
taining to methodology we looked at distribution, opposition, extra-
biblical attestation and accumulation. In Chapters 3-5 we will evaluate
the EBH vs. LBH paradigm we have studied here.

2.13. For Further Reading

Hurvitz, A., A Linguistic Study of the Relationship Between the Priestly Source and the
Book of Ezekiel: A New Approach to an Old Problem (CahRB, 20; Paris: J. Gabalda,
1982), pp. 7-21.
44 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Polak, F. H., ‘Sociolinguistics: A Key to the Typology and the Social Background of
Biblical Tradition’, Hebrew Studies 47 (2006), pp. 115-62.
Polzin, R., Late Biblical Hebrew: Toward an Historical Typology of Biblical Hebrew
Prose (HSM, 12; Missoula, MT: Scholars, 1976), pp. 1-25.
Rendsburg, G. A., ‘The Strata of Biblical Hebrew’, Journal of Northwest Semitic
Languages 17 (1991), pp. 81 -99.
Rooker, M. F., Biblical Hebrew in Transition: The Language of the Book of Ezekiel
(JSOTSup, 90; Sheffield: JSOT, 1990), pp. 55-64.
Wright, R. M., Linguistic Evidence for the Pre-exilic Date of the Yahwistic Source
(LHBOTS, 419; London: T&T Clark International, 2005), pp. 1-21.
Chapter 3

E a r l y v s . L a t e B ib l ic a l H e b r e w :
C r it iq u e o f P r in c ip l e s

3.1. Introduction
In Chapter 2 we summarised the working principles and methodology
used by scholars researching BH from a diachronic perspective. We also
gave several illustrations of what constitutes LBH in comparison to
EBH. In this chapter we will critically examine the principles which
support recent attempts to date biblical texts on the basis of linguistic
analysis. In Chapter 4 we will examine the dating methodology. The
points in this chapter follow the flow of discussion in Chapter 2 in our
remarks on principles found in the writings of Hurvitz (2.2.2).

3.2. Critique o f Principles

3.2.1. Heterogeneity. In we noted widespread scholarly agree­
ment that the Hebrew Bible is characterised by linguistic homogeneity
with evidence of linguistic heterogeneity. In other words, the Hebrew
Bible exhibits some degree of linguistic variety in that different forms
and words can have similar or identical meanings. We also pointed out
several examples of this, such as TO and }H3, both signifying ‘byssus,
fine linen’. In recent years scholars have raised several questions related
to the Hebrew Bible’s global linguistic makeup. Thus, for example,
Barstad asks: ‘...Can the Hebrew Bible be said to represent some kind of
a “linguistic museum” with a diversity bearing witness to centuries of
diachronic history, or is the lack of linguistic uniformity a result of cir­
cumstances other than chronological developments?’ (Barstad 1998:121
n. 3). Two questions are: (1) What is the extent of the Hebrew Bible’s
linguistic variety? and (2) What is (are) the reason(s) for the Hebrew
Bible’s linguistic variety? Let us take a closer look at these issues.1

1. We will not discuss the largely discredited fusion theory or Mischsprache

hypothesis, which argued that BH is a language of mixed parentage, consisting of a
Canaanite foundation overlaid by Aramaic elements (e.g. Bauer and Leander 1922,
46 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts Quantification. We are unaware of any attempt to measure

concretely the extent of the Hebrew Bible’s linguistic variety. On the one
hand, scholars have discerned some synonymous word pairs in biblical
literature (e.g. COT and fl3 ), but the Hebrew Bible more often than not
uses a single lexeme for any given referent (e.g. JT? for a building for
human habitation, ‘house, home, dwelling, domicile’, etc.2). On the other
hand, scholars have pointed out that the Hebrew Bible’s 8000 lexemes
must be a small part of the vocabulary in regular use in spoken and
written ancient Hebrew (e.g. Ullendorff 1977: 3-17; cf. Barr 1968: 224­
27; Elwolde 1997: 52-53 withnn. 100-102). The question that remains,
however, is whether the Hebrew Bible displays adequate linguistic
variety to sustain the scholarly consensus that it was composed over a
period of approximately a thousand years (c. 1200-200 BCE)? The most
direct reply we have seen to this question was given by Cryer:
A similar leap [from ABH to LBH] in the history of the English language
would take us almost back to Beowulf in German, the equivalent would
lead us back to some centuries before the Niebelungenlied; in the
Scandinavian languages, we would go back to a linguistic phase well
before the commission to writing of the sagas with which we are now
familiar only thanks to their accidental preservation in Iceland. In short,
analogous spans in connexion with yet-extant languages suggest that we
should be able to find an impressive spectrum of phonological, morpho­
logical, syntactical, and lexical phenomena in the Old Testament.... Now
it will come as a shock to no one to learn that the OT texts do not actually
reveal the expected wealth of forms.... The problem for an historical
linguist is, of course, to explain the absence of this expected multiplicity
of forms (Cryer 1994: 186-87; his emphasis).3

Bauer 1924, G. R. Driver 1936, Birkeland 1940, Sperber 1966). For critiques of this
view see, for example, WO §29.3-^4, pp. 461-70; Faber 1992a: 191—92; Young
1993a: 17-19; cf. JM §2e, p. 5 n. 2.
2. This is not the place for a word study of fPS in relation to terms like
(‘tent’) and (‘refuge’).
3. Compare the following statements: ‘Putting J in the exilic period without
addressing the linguistic evidence is like putting Shakespeare in the twentieth
century without addressing the fact that he certainly sounds different from the rest
of us’ (Friedman 1998: 362). ‘The language of the biblical commentaries that are
among the Dead Sea Scrolls reflects a much later stage of Hebrew than do the bibli­
cal manuscripts themselves, just as the English language in a modem commentary
on Shakespeare differs from the language of Shakespeare himself. The linguistic
evidence precludes a very late dating of the composition of the Bible’; and, ‘One
favorite solution of past generations, namely, to push much of biblical literature into
the Hasmonean period (167-63 B.C.E.), is no longer an option. As mentioned before,
the Dead Sea Scrolls give us biblical manuscripts dating to the mid-third century
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 47

Thus, in his view, ‘the OT was written more or less at one go, or at least
over a relatively short period of time, so that the texts quite naturally do
not reveal signs of significant historical differentiation’ (Cryer 1994:
192; his emphasis). We will return below to the issue of cross-linguis­
tic parallels of diachronic development, but we should note here
Ehrensvard’s response to Cryer:
Cryer argues that cross-linguistic parallels...suggest that a language can­
not be in use for as long as a thousand years without changing drastically.
However, this is not necessarily so. It would seem methodologically
sounder to compare Biblical Hebrew with other classical Semitic (instead
o f modem Germanic) languages. Written Standard Arabic seems to
provide a useful parallel. It has changed remarkably little over - roughly
- the last millennium and a half, even though Arabic vernaculars have
changed drastically. Indeed, the vernaculars have had a certain influence
on the written language; nevertheless, it remains broadly similar.... [A]s
far as the linguistic data itself is [s/c] concerned, we should rather talk
here in terms of recognizable difference and not a sharp distinction
between the two strata involved [EBH and LBH]. Accordingly, a priori,
we cannot expect to find diversity on the scale Cryer is looking for. Being
the standard literary language, it was in many respects the same through­
out the entire Biblical period and developed relatively little, as is the case
with Standard Arabic (Ehrensvard 1997: 31-32, 34-35; his emphasis). Interpretation. In addition to the view that the Hebrew Bible

may have been written over a relatively short period of time, scholars have
proposed several other explanations for the Hebrew Bible’s large-scale

B.c.E. Moreover, the Hebrew language of the second century B.C.E. is so distinc­
tively different from biblical literature that it is not a plausible solution. This would
be like saying that Shakespeare wrote his works in the 1990s!’ (Schniedewind 2004:
19,171). ‘If, indeed, people speaking postexilic Hebrew and writing LBH were also
experts in SBH [= EBH], then the situation is comparable to imagining Shakespeare
or one o f his more bookish contemporaries writing Chaucer without leaving a trace
of Elizabethan vocabulary, syntax or style or to propose that Chaucer could have
written Beowulf in Old English without revealing his Frankified Middle English’
(Zevit 2004: 13). ‘Some Scholars suggest that it would have been possible to write a
work in flawless CBH [= EBH] during the Persian-Hellenistic periods and that such
a perfect imitation would be impossible to detect. This is a logical possibility, just as
it is that a twentieth-century Frenchman [s/c] could have written Don Quixote. But it
is not very likely...’ (Hendel 2005: 110). However, the question remains: Does BH
reflect linguistic developments similar to those which took place from Old English
(c. 450-1066), or Middle English (c. 1066-1450), or Early Modem English (c. 1450—
1650), to the present day Modem English? Should BH reflect such linguistic
48 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

linguistic homogeneity.4First, it has been recognised for a long time that

the relative homogeneity of BH may be explained by its function as
a standard literary language (e.g. Chomsky 1957: 30-31, 46-49;
W. Weinberg 1993 : 13). In other words, BH was an artificial construct, a
Bildungssprache or ‘language of education’, that was written by many
scribes at many times and places, and whose linguistic differences may
be due to proficiency and/or style. Ehrensvard’s reference to Arabic
presents in some respects a fair analogy. It shows that it is possible for
a language to stay the same for many centuries. Also, Blau points out
that ‘there were Arabic authors who wrote in a late period in a purely
classical style and succeeded in avoiding not only neo-Arabic forms, but
also post-classical forms’ (Blau 1997b: 28). In the same article he refers
to the twelfth-century scholar Usama bin Munqidh who wrote his
memoirs in Middle Arabic, i.e. heavily influenced by vernacular Arabic,
but who wrote poetry in perfect Classical Arabic (Blau 1997b: 26 n. 30).
Second, it has also been recognised for a long time that the relative
homogeneity of BH may be explained by scribal updating (e.g. WO
§ 1. lb, p. 4; Bauer and Leander 1922: §2q, pp. 25-26). In other words, an
understanding of the history of the biblical text(s) may explain why
variations are not as marked as we would expect due to chronological,
geographical and other factors. A major question is whether this scribal
intervention extended beyond the areas of orthography and vocalisation
to syntax and lexicon. We will address these issues in Chapter 13.

3.2.2. Typology and Chronology. We observed in 2.22.2 that typol­

ogy, different types of Hebrew language in different biblical sources, has
generally been interpreted as chronology, development along a diachronic
continuum from earlier to later sources. Thus, ABH is found in ancient
poems in the Pentateuch and Former Prophets; EBH is best exemplified
by the classical or preexilic prose of the Pentateuch and Former Prophets,
and to a certain degree by the classical writing prophets; and LBH is
found in postclassical or postexilic compositions written in prose, such as
Esther-Chronicles, and in certain other books of the Writings. However,
challenging the common working hypothesis, P. R. Davies has argued
that typology does not automatically convert into chronology (P. R.
Davies 1995: 98-100; 2003: 151, 157-59). Rather, Davies affirms the

4. For example, besides Cryer 1994, see Knauf 1990; 2006: 309-18; Thompson
1992: 413-14; P. R. Davies 1995: 100. For responses to these scholars, besides
Ehrensvard 1997, see Young 1993a: 203-205; Hurvitz 1997a, 1999a, 2000a, 2002;
Verheij 1997. For a concise review of all these publications, see Emerton 2000:
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 49

typological distinction between EBH and LBH, but he challenges the

assumption that chronology is the only or best explanation, suggest­
ing instead that EBH and LBH coexisted in the Second Temple period.
Indeed, the mechanical conversion o f typology into chronology is
severely challenged if it can be shown that LBH or proto-LBH was
written early or that EBH was written late. Transition from EBH to LBH. In 2.1.2 and we

remarked that many consider the transition between two principal
chronological phases of BH, from writing EBH to writing LBH, to be the
Babylonian exile of the sixth century BCE. We cannot overestimate the
influence of ‘the exile’ on biblical scholarship. For example, Hurvitz and
others interpret the intermediate period between roughly 586 and 539 as
the linguistic ‘Greenwich Meridian’ of BH, ‘the dividing line between
pre-exilic (= early) and post-exilic (= late) Biblical Hebrew’ (Hurvitz
1974b: 26; 1983a: 84; 1999a: 26*-27*; cf. Kutscher 1982: 71-77, 81­
85; Naveh and Greenfield 1984: 118-19; Saenz Badillos 1993:112-16).
Many others also consider the exile equally important for discerning con­
tours in history, religion and literature, to mention only several important
aspects o f ancient Israelite society. Nevertheless, recent scholarship has
shown that trying to assess the impact of the exile on ancient Israel is
more controversial than one might first suspect. These scholarly debates
are available in several volumes of essays published during the past
decade (Scott 1997, Grabbe 1998, Lipschits and Blenkinsopp 2003).
Accordingly, any discussion of so-called transitional BH in relation to
the exile must proceed cautiously. Our aim here is to highlight some
problematic aspects of the notion of transitional BH. Exile? The first matter for discussion is the date of the
so-called transition from EBH to LBH. Should the transition be assigned
to the exilic period or to a later time? Not all scholars agree that the main
break in the history of BH took place during the sixth-century exile.
Long ago S. R. Driver argued that ‘the great turning-point in Hebrew
style falls in the age of Nehemiah. And not, as is sometimes supposed,
the Captivity. This appears with especial clearness from Zech., the style
of which, even in the parts which are certainly post-exilic, is singularly
pure’ (S. R. Driver 1913a: 504-505). Today others echo this view, argu­
ing that the decisive transition happened during the period of the restora­
tion. This dating is possible since they consider the core LBH books of
Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles to date to after the mid­
fifth century. Representatives of this view include: D. Talshir 2003;
50 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Schniedewind2004-2005: 50-51; 2005: 382;5Wright 2005:154; Knauf

2006: 310-11.6 Mechanism? A second issue is the cause of the so-called

transition from EBH to LBH. According to Hurvitz and others, LBH was
shaped to a great extent by Aramaic influence; that is, it was the increased
influence of Aramaic on Hebrew beginning during the exile which was
the crucial factor in the history of BH.7 In spite of this judgment at least
three voices of dissent are worthy of mention. First, as noted in,
Polzin minimises the influence of Aramaic on LBH, emphasising instead
the inner development or natural evolution of BH (Polzin 1976: 2; cf.
13-14). Second, Naude argues, writing on the transitions (plural) of BH
in the perspective of language change and diffusion, that Aramaic
influence was not a cause of change from EBH to LBH; rather, there was
a diffusion in LBH of changes that had already taken place in EBH; and
more specifically, the diffusion of Aramaic forms in LBH ‘is due to the
prestige factor of speaking Aramaic by the educated classes’ (Naude
2003: 204; cf. 2000a, 2000b, 2000c, 2004). Third, P. R. Davies high­
lights the preexilic status of Aramaic. He says:
Hurvitz has a single explanation for the change from a uniform ‘Classi­
cal’ Hebrew to a uniform ‘post-Classical’ or ‘Late Biblical’ Hebrew: only
in the sixth and fifth centuries did Aramaic seriously influence Judaean
Hebrew, and then dramatically so. Aramaic was a language long spoken
and written in Syria and Palestine, and was indeed the lingua franca of
most of the Levant during the entire first millennium BCE as well as the
diplomatic language of the Assyrian empire. It was thus known and
frequently written by the scribes of both Samaria and Judah. But, Hurvitz
suggests, while the spoken language of Israel was influenced by Aramaic
from the eighth century, that of Judah was not affected until the late sixth
century. Again, we must note that this is not a conclusion independently
argued from evidence, but a manufactured explanation in defence of a
hypothesis (P. R. Davies 2003: 155; cf. 155-56; his emphasis).

We will return to the issue of Aramaic in Chapter 8.

5. Contrast the view expressed in Schniedewind 2004: 139-41.

6. Also see Levin 2006: 2. Note that recently Hurvitz has stated: ‘In historical
terms, the turning-point may be conveniently marked by the destruction of Jerusalem
(587/6) and the ensuing Babylonian Exile. Yet, since we are dealing here with a -
linguistically - continuous process, and not with - an historically - one-time event,
LBH in the full meaning of the term made its appearance on the biblical scene only
some one hundred years later’ (Hurvitz 2007: 25 n. 6).
7. Also see Schniedewind 2004: 143, 146-47.
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 51 Representative? A third issue is the determination of the

best exemplar of so-called transitional BH. We must begin with a com­
mon description: Transitional BH, as commonly understood, is the medi­
ating link between preexilic EBH and postexilic LBH. Transitional BH is
typologically and chronologically between EBH and LBH because it has
both early EBH and late LBH linguistic features. Transitional BH may
have a particular EBH feature to the exclusion of its LBH counterpart, or
it may have a particular LBH feature instead of an equivalent EBH item,
or it may have both EBH and LBH synonyms. Thus, to return to an
earlier example (, while BH uses the word for ‘fine linen’
and LBH uses Ezekiel shows its ‘transitional’ BH status by using
both. In short, transitional BH has a mixture of EBH and LBH character­
istics. Next, it is important to emphasise that a book (or portion thereof)
in so-called transitional BH is identified by comparing the linguistic
features found in it with the features of EBH and LBH books which are
usually undisputed with respect to their date of origin. In this way
transitional BH is assigned a date, both absolute and relative, in relation
to preexilic EBH and postexilic LBH.
In Chapter 2 we mentioned two main transitional BH candidates in
recent scholarship: P (Polzin 1976; cf. Guenther 1977, Hill 1981) and
Ezekiel (Hurvitz 1982a, Rooker 1990a). Here we wish to highlight some
general problems with the notion of transitional BH.
In addition to (1) the view that P or Ezekiel is the best transitional BH
candidate and (2) the alternative stance that the main transition in BH
was in the postexilic period rather than the exile, scholars have occasion­
ally described the language of other biblical sources as transitional. For
• Isaiah 40-55 (Wright 2003: 128 [‘possibly’]; cf. 135, 144)
• Jeremiah (Gropp 1991: 46; Hurvitz 2003b: 26 n. 4;8 C. J. Smith
2003:238-39; Wright2005: 153-54,163; Fassberg2006: 57,64)
• Jonah (A. Brenner 1979: 404-405; Landes 1982: 63*; Dobbs-
Allsopp 1998:2, 35)9

8. In contrast with Fassberg, Gropp and Wright, who explicitly use the words
‘transition’ or ‘transitional’, Hurvitz describes the language o f Jeremiah as a ‘fore­
runner’ o f LBH. Elsewhere, however, Hurvitz sometimes links Jeremiah to EBH.
For example, he describes ‘Classical BH’ as exemplified by the prose sections o f the
Pentateuch and Former Prophets and ‘also, [sz'c] to a certain degree, by writings o f
the classical prophecy (e.g., Jeremiah)’ (Hurvitz 1995a: 2-3; cf. 1982a: 105, 125;
Rooker 1990a: 186 [but contrast his use o f Jer. 51.54 on p. 137]).
9. Rooker 1990a: 186 n. 14 comments on Landes 1982, saying: ‘We believe this
premise [transitional BH] is difficult to prove given the restricted size o f the
52 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

• Ruth (Bush 1996: 30; cf. 18-30; Zevit 2005c: 592; cf. 592-94)
• Lamentations (Dobbs-Allsopp 1998: 2, 35)
Observe that in each case the ‘transitional’ BH book is not one of the
core EBH or LBH books. This scenario is inevitable since the above
authors have discerned the mixed linguistic character of these other
books when compared to the language of core EBH and LBH books. In
contrast, a few scholars have discerned ‘transitional’ BH in the books of
Genesis-Kings. Polak finds a ‘transitional classical style’ in parts of
Genesis, Exodus, Joshua and Judges (see 2.10.1 and 2.10.2). Edenburg
believes Judges 19-21 dates to the early postexilic period and its lan­
guage represents ‘transitional late biblical Hebrew’ (Edenburg, Gibeah ,
forthcoming). Finally, Gropp labels ‘the secondary additions to the
Deuteronomistic History’ as ‘transitional’ BH (Gropp 1991: 46). How­
ever, it is difficult to show that even the final chapters of Kings, which
are widely believed to have an exilic provenance, are transitional BH in
character.10Furthermore, many scholars attribute substantial parts of the
Deuteronomistic History to the exilic and postexilic periods; yet again,
the language of these books is EBH.11
In this regard it is worth mentioning together both Polzin’s linguistic
and literary research. In 2.5 we saw that in his book on the linguistic
chronology of BH (Polzin 1976) he adheres to a traditional view of
preexilic EBH and postexilic LBH, with a transitional P somewhere in
between. However, in his more recent books on the Deuteronomistic
History, Polzin emphasises the ‘final form’ or ‘final text’ of Deuteron-
omy-Kings, ignoring ‘genetic theories’ and ‘excavative scholarship’, and
he reads these books as a unified exilic composition (Polzin 1980, 1989,
1993; cf. especially 1989: 9-17). His view is perhaps most evident in the
chapter on the ‘Ark in Exile’ (1 Sam. 4.1 b -7 .17) where he argues that the
Deuteronomist exposes his ‘very purpose in composing the history; the
author writes to describe the causes of the exile and the conditions that
will bring it to an end’ (Polzin 1989: 72; cf. 77-79). Thus, for example,
whereas Rost and others believe the so-called Succession Narrative
(2 Samuel 9-20; 1 Kings 1-2) is an early source which a Deuteronomistic
editor(s) inserted with minimal intervention into a larger History, Polzin
says: ‘Nevertheless, I will rarely comment on what Rost wrote and on the

document [Jonah]’. He refers to Nida 1972: 79, who remarks on the necessity o f a
sizeable corpus as a safeguard against statistical distortion. Presumably Rooker
would say the same for Ruth and Lamentations.
10. In Volume 2, 3.13 we remark on verb syntax in the narrative o f 2 Kings
11. See our survey o f the language o f these books in Volume 2, 1.2.
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 53

scholarly research he provoked, because my compositional approach is

so much at odds with his basic redactional perspective...and Rost’s very
exaltation of the art of his supposed document implies an unwarranted
denigration of the aesthetic excellence and ideological sophistication of
the Deuteronomic narrative that surrounds such a “document” ’ (Polzin
1989: 221 n. 1). In short, Polzin’s expertise in the linguistic chronology
of BH does not sway him from dating Deuteronomy-Kings, written in
EBH, to the exilic period.
We stated above that transitional BH is considered by some scholars
to be typologically and chronologically between EBH and LBH because
it makes use of both early EBH and late LBH linguistic features. How­
ever, there are several difficulties with using linguistic features for pin­
pointing transitional BH. First, no one has attempted systematically to
compare and contrast the linguistic features of suggested transitional BH
books. Thus, for instance, Ezekiel is more LBH-like than Second Isaiah
and Jeremiah in its preference for over 'DDK and for HEn over DPT (cf.
C. J. Smith 2003: 41^44, 51-52). Similarly, Joosten argues that iterative
weqatalti disappears over time (Joosten 2006: 146), though it is attested
in Jeremiah whereas Ezekiel does not use it. Likewise, regarding the
paronomastic infinitive absolute, which is thought to decrease signifi­
cantly from earlier to later BH, Kim argues that usage in Jeremiah shows
innovation rather than archaisation, and he highlights the contrast between
Jeremiah and Ezekiel, which is ‘surprising, considering the fact that the
date of the final redaction of Jeremiah cannot predate the Exile, so that it
cannot be dated significantly earlier than Ezekiel’ (Kim 2006: 173; cf.
173-76).12 In addition, Fassberg (2006) examines five sequences of
positive commands in BH.13 He points out that the sequence qatol +
weqatalti , an ‘early Northwest Semitic feature’ which is not found in
LBH, is also absent from Ezekiel (Fassberg 2006: 57, 64), though strik­
ingly this sequence is most common in Jeremiah in all of BH. In contrast,

12. A detailed case study o f the paronomastic infinitive absolute is given in

Volume 2, 3.11.
13. He discusses these sequences: (1) qtol + (w)qtol (imperative + [wow]
imperative), (2) qtol + w eqatalti (imperative + 2nd singular perfect with waw
consecutive), (3) qatol + weqatalti (infinitive absolute + 2nd singular perfect with
waw consecutive), (4) qtol + yiqtol (imperative + imperfect), (5) qtol + weyiqtol
(imperative + waw + imperfect). Fassberg is unconvinced that there is a significant
difference in meaning between these constructions. He says: ‘In sum, although the
existence o f different sequences involving imperatives suggests that the sequences
expressed distinct nuances, I am not sure that the synchronic data support such a
conclusion. Rather, it appears that there are chronological, lexical, and stylistic
features that determine the use o f the sequences’ (Fassberg 2006: 64).
54 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

the sequence qtol + weqataltl , which ‘disappeared [in LBH] when the
waw consecutive disappeared’, is preferred in Ezekiel over qtol + qtol , 43
vs. 15, whereas Jeremiah likes better qtol + qtol , 70 vs. 40 (Fassberg
2006: 57, 64).14 (Also see our remarks on Jeremiah and Ezekiel in, 4.2.1 and 4.5 [point 3].) Second, all EBH and LBH books have a
mixture of typical EBH and LBH linguistic features in varying propor­
tions to one another. In fact, a large-scale review of supposed early and
late linguistic features throughout all biblical books shows that the dating
criteria of linguistic distribution, contrast and accumulation are problem­
atic, as we will show in Chapters 4 and 5. In addition, the relative status
of a book among other biblical books cannot be adequately assessed by
comparing linguistic features in one book to two sets of linguistic
features found in two other groups of books, but only by thoroughly
comparing the languages of different biblical books (cf. Ben Zvi 1992:
541-42; Naude 2000c: 60-61; 2003: 202; Holmstedt 2006a: 1815).
Even if, for the sake of argument, Hurvitz and Rooker have success­
fully proved that the language of Ezekiel is actually transitional BH
relative to the language of the core EBH and LBH books, it is still not
certain that the language of EBH books is preexilic and the language of
Ezekiel is exilic. Rather, one could propose, for example, that EBH books
are exilic, Ezekiel is early postexilic, and LBH books are late postexilic.
In other words, it is possible to accept the relative dates of Ezekiel and
the core EBH and LBH biblical books while rejecting the absolute dates
proposed by Hurvitz and Rooker (cf. Levin 2006: 2, 4 -5 16). The most
plausible refutation of this alternative possibility would be to find indis­
putable anchors for (the language of) EBH books in the preexilic period
and/or (the language of) Ezekiel in the exilic period. However, scholars
have cast doubt on both points. For example, P. R. Davies has challenged
Hurvitz’s and Rooker’s assumption that Ezekiel is datable to the sixth
century BCE (P. R. Davies 1995: 98).17The following points cast further
doubt on the notion of transitional BH.

14. In a recent article Joosten (2007b) argues that some MT pluses in Jeremiah
have elements o f postclassical Hebrew vis-a-vis the parallel material in the MT and
l x x , but see our remarks on his article in Volume 2, 3.15.
15. ‘Perhaps it has come to the point at which a new bottom-up approach is
needed, in which separate descriptions are constructed for each “bibliolect,” that is,
the grammar o f each text’ (Holmstedt 2006a: 18).
16. Also see the remarks in Frolov 2004: 192 n. 119; cf. 194-95 n. 128.
17. See our discussion o f Ezekiel in Volume 2, 1.3.3.
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 55 EBH is Early. Many affirm that postexilic writers were unable
to write EBH, since late writers inevitably betrayed their late milieu by
recourse to neologisms which were unknown to EBH writers, so that all
late books have late features even if in some cases these are minimal in
number. In contrast, some have argued that postexilic writers did success­
fully write EBH. Thus S. R. Driver, for example, held that P and certain
psalms are datable to the exilic or (early) postexilic period, notwithstand­
ing their EBH language (S. R. Driver 1913a: 155-57, 383, respectively;
cf. GKC §2u, p. 1618). Similarly, scholars have dated the Deuteronomis­
tic History, its redaction or composition, in part or whole, to the exilic
and/or postexilic period, yet the language of the Deuteronomistic History
is EBH throughout (see our remarks above on the Deuteronomistic
History and Polzin’s work [] and also our discussion in Volume
2, 1.2). Furthermore, the claim that texts written in EBH must be pre­
exilic in origin illustrates the logical fallacy of negative p ro o f or argu­
ment from silence : EBH is early because it has a complete absence or
insufficient number of LBH features. However, the claim that texts
written in EBH must be preexilic in origin is problematic.
First, we noted in (and will remark further below) that
Hurvitz’s and others’ point of departure for diachronic linguistic analysis
of biblical texts is the late phase of BH, the undisputed postexilic corpus
and unmistakable late features attested in it. However, this approach can
only be used to date texts which display late language. Hurvitz himself
acknowledges that we are unable to date a text early on the basis of early
language. For example, he says:
The investigation is aimed at identifying late linguistic uses in our texts
and deriving chronological conclusions therefrom. Early forms and words
might be only imitations of, or quotes from, early sources. Given the
status o f research today, we are unable to decide whether a certain text
using early stylistic features is actually archaic or merely archaizing. It
seems, then, that at this stage it would be preferable to draw chronologi­
cal conclusions only on the basis o f late linguistic uses (Hurvitz 1973: 75
[point 4] = 1972a: 68 [point 1]).

In other words, we can date texts late on the basis of late language, but
we cannot date texts early on the basis of early language, since there are
no specifically early linguistic properties. Therefore, it is possible that
EBH texts could have an early provenance, but it is impossible to prove

18. ‘As literary compositions, these [postexilic] books are sometimes far inferior
to those o f the first period, although work was still produced which in purity o f
language and aesthetic value falls little short o f the writings o f the golden age’ (GKC
§2u, p. 16).
56 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

on the basis of early language that they must be dated early. We will
return to this issue in 4.2.4.
Second, the claim that texts written in EBH must be preexilic in origin
is falsifiable, since there are undisputed postexilic texts written in EBH.
As we saw above (, this is acknowledged by scholars who date
a transition from EBH to LBH to the fifth rather than the sixth century
BCE. Furthermore, Ehrensvard has emphasised that undisputed postexilic
texts, including Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, and probably also Isaiah
40-66 and Joel, lack characteristic LBH features, and instead, when the
opportunities arise, they use linguistic features that are characteristic of
EBH texts.19 In other words, these are probably postexilic but certainly
EBH. Ehrensvard 2003: 175-83 surveys the language of these books,
and Ehrensvard 2006 looks closely at the language of Zechariah 1-8. He
demonstrates that EBH was fully at home in the postexilic period, and he
suggests on the basis of linguistic analysis that the default date given to
the (final linguistic form of) EBH texts should be the postexilic period,
because we certainly have undisputed postexilic texts written in EBH
(e.g. Haggai-Malachi), whereas the date of other EBH texts (e.g. Genesis-
Kings) is disputed (Ehrensvard 2003: 187-88). Finally, Young argues
that, despite dating to the first century BCE, the Qumran Pesher Habak-
kuk is written in EBH (Young, ‘Pesher’, forthcoming; cf. Chapter 10). LBH is Late . This is an important corollary to the previous

point: EBH was not written late, after the supposed transition to LBH,
and LBH was not written early, before the supposed transition to LBH.
However, the view that the language of LBH texts must be dated late is
questionable. First, scholars have shown that the language of exilic books
displays a considerable LBH element. This is especially true of Ezekiel
(Hurvitz 1982a, Rooker 1990a) but also for Lamentations (Dobbs-
Allsopp 1998) and for Jeremiah to a slightly lesser extent (C. J. Smith
2003).20 Since exilic texts already attest LBH features we must ask from

19. Cf. Carr 2004-2005: 14-16; Edenburg, Gibeah, forthcoming. The response
o f Schniedewind 2004-2005b: 49-50 to Carr’s remarks is inadequate in view o f the
cumulative argument in this chapter.
20. We should point out that the dated events in Jeremiah start with the prophet’s
call in 627/626 (1.1-19), they continue on through the destruction o f Jerusalem and
its aftermath in 586-585 (chs. 39-44, 52), and they end with a final voice in 560
(52.31-34); and the chronological notices in the book o f Ezekiel situate the prophet
in Babylon between 593 (1.1-3; 3.15-16) and 571 (29.17), thus making him a
younger contemporary o f Jeremiah. Accordingly, the Hebrew Bible allocates an
exilic but also preexilic framework to these books.
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 57

where these features came? Second, against the view that extra-biblical
Hebrew of the late First Temple period does not bear the characteristics
of LBH, Young 2003 c demonstrates that there are many links between
preexilic Hebrew inscriptions and LBH. Again, we must ask from where
these features came? We will look at this matter in detail in Chapter 6.
Third, the principal difference between EBH and LBH is the frequency
of certain features (cf. Ehrensvard 2003: 167-71, especially 168 n. 18,
citing Rabin 1971: 70andEskhult 1990:14,119). In short: (1) most LBH
features appear in EBH, though they occur more often in LBH texts;
(2) most LBH features are used together with the corresponding EBH
features in LBH texts. The normal situation is that corresponding EBH
and LBH features coexist in both EBH and LBH books. We address this
matter further below, in Chapter 5, and also illustrate it further in Volume
2, Chapter 3. To summarise: We contend that scholars have not demon­
strated on the basis of linguistic analysis alone that LBH texts must have
been written late and could not in principle have been written early. Chronological Specificity within EBH or LBH. In Chapter 2

we discussed several attempts to specify when in the preexilic and post­
exilic periods certain biblical sources were written, namely, Bergey on
Esther (see 2.3), Hill on Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (see 2.7), and
Polak’s several preexilic classes or styles of BH (see 2.10).21 Neverthe­
less, in spite of these efforts with respect to undisputed postexilic books,
we agree with Hurvitz that it is impossible to discern linguistic develop­
ment within EBH or within LBH (see For example, on the
basis of language, we cannot date alleged preexilic EBH texts to the
tenth as opposed to the seventh century, nor can we date possible sources
within supposed preexilic books, such as Genesis or Samuel, to particu­
lar points in time.22 More explicitly, alleged preexilic EBH texts written

21. We can also mention here Whitley’s attempt to date LBH Qoheleth to the
middle o f the second century BCE (Whitley 1979) and W. J. Adams’ argument for
the preexilic EBH compositional order Genesis, Judges, Samuel, Joshua, Kings
(W. J. Adams 1987; cf. W. J. Adams and L. L. Adams 1977a, 1977b). In addition,
Zevit claims that ‘Eskhult’s research differs from that o f Hurvitz crucially. Whereas
Hurvitz develops criteria for distinguishing between Standard Biblical Hebrew and
Late Biblical Hebrew, Eskhult proposes criteria for distinguishing chronological
horizons within SBH [= EBH]’ (Zevit 2004: 6). Also see Zevit’s remarks in the
section ‘Summaries’. However, we do not see a basis for Zevit’s claim in Eskhult
2003a, the article Zevit is discussing.
22. See P. R. Davies 2003: 159-60 for related remarks focusing on lexical
variation in Pentateuchal sources.
58 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

over a potential span of hundreds of years (e.g. 1000-600 BCE) do not

reflect any discernible chronological linguistic variations. How can this
be? One answer is that scholars have not yet developed an efficient meth­
odology for detecting the differences. We looked at three other possible
explanations of this phenomenon in our remarks on heterogeneity in Our discussion below ( of cross-linguistic parallels of
diachronic development will return to this topic. Absolute Dating o f EBH and LBH . Our remarks above

( on so-called transitional BH are pertinent here. The possibility
of dating biblical texts absolutely on the basis of linguistic criteria
depends on extra-biblical linguistic sources that are undisputed with
respect to date, and to which BH linguistic data can be adequately
compared. Thus, in an earlier publication Ehrensvard stated that it is
necessary to show ‘that the language of the former Biblical group [EBH]
does conform to external sources dated to the earlier period and that the
language of the latter group [LBH] does conform to external sources
dated to the later period. Only thus it would, mutatis mutandis, be the
simpler hypothesis to assume the earliness and lateness of the Biblical
texts in question’ (Ehrensvard 1997: 36; cf. 36-39).23 For example, the
preexilic dating of EBH texts depends on the linguistic proximity of
these texts to monarchic-era inscriptions. We will look closely at the issue
of extra-biblical attestation in 4.2.3. Furthermore, if we were unable to
date biblical texts absolutely, but somehow we still managed to establish
a relative chronology for these texts, we might still be incapable of
deciding whether the texts in question spanned the tenth to the eighth
century BCE, or the eighth to the sixth, or the sixth to the fourth, and so
on. In other words, we would be left with a moveable preexilic/exilic/
postexilic span of time for the dating of these texts.24 Non-Chronological Explanations. Linguistic dating is based

on the observation of linguistic variety; however, chronology is not the

23. Hurvitz 1997a, 1999a and 2000a cite Ehrensvard 1997 favourably.
24. Thus, for example, P. R. Davies 1995: 101 says: ‘In short, there are no lin­
guistic arguments to date the biblical literature to, say, the ninth or seventh century
rather than the fifth, and examination o f the evidence and arguments for such a
procedure does not establish a basis for dating biblical texts but actually exposes the
fallacious assumption on which they rest. If there is indeed evidence o f linguistic
development, I can see no reason why such development is not to be assigned to the
period between the sixth and third centuries BCE, during which, I believe, the
biblical literature was composed.’
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 59

only explanation of linguistic variety.25 Nevertheless, we observed in that proponents of the chronological model generally favour
diachronic explanations over synchronic ones. This is true even when
non-chronological explanations might provide an equally probable or
even superior explanation for the linguistic variety in question.26 In later
chapters we will discuss non-chronological explanations of linguistic
variety. The following remarks suffice here. First, linguistic variety may
relate to dialect , the speech of a particular geographical place or region.
In Chapter 7 we will examine diverse local varieties or dialects of
Hebrew and especially Northern (Israelian) vs. Southern (Judaean)
Hebrew, and in Volume 2, 2.7 we will discuss the problem of Ezekiel
and the possibility of Eastern (Yehud) vs. Western (diaspora) Hebrew.
Second, another possible explanation of linguistic variety is sociolect ,
also called social dialect or social-class dialect. This terminology refers
to the speech of a particular class or group within a society. In this regard
we will look in Chapter 7 at the related issue of diglossia, which can be
described as a switch between different sociolects, loosely defined as
high and low language varieties.27Third, other variations in biblical texts
may be due to idiolect or style. Idiolect is the speech or ‘dialect’ of a par­
ticular individual. Everyone has, to a limited extent, a ‘personal dialect’,
with differences in phonology, grammar and lexicon. Style is systematic
variation related to a type of discourse or its context, rather than differ­
ences of dialect or sociolect. We may mention here a large number of
non-chronological explanations of linguistic variety such as subject or
theme, genre, prose vs. poetry, quoted vs. non-quoted speech, specialised
or technical phraseology (e.g. Priestly, Wisdom), personal educational
level, aesthetic preference (e.g. archaism, neologism), inner-biblical con­
siderations (e.g. literary dependence), rhetorical effect (style or addressee
switching, desire for foreign flavour, confused language as a literary
device), and so on. Fourth, some linguistic variety is not created by
authors but rather by editors and scribes. We will take up this matter in
Chapter 13. In summary, we agree with Holmstedt 2006a: 18 that ‘[w]hile
many of these [chronological and non-chronological] issues have been

25. Unfortunately, many facets o f biblical studies— especially linguistic, textual

and literary approaches— have been dominated by unidirectional or unilinear
perspectives to the detriment o f other viable (synchronic) interpretations.
26. For remarks on the neglect o f non-chronological explanations see, for exam­
ple, Blenkinsopp 1996: 510-16; P. R. Davies 2003: 153-54, 156-57, 160-62;
Rezetko 2003: 2 4 1 ^ 5 ; 2007a: 417.
27. Other terms are: ‘High’ = upper, standard, formal, official, traditional,
prestige language; ‘Low ’ = lower, ordinary, informal, unofficial, non-traditional,
non-prestige language, a popular, colloquial or vernacular form o f speech.
60 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

discussed, as of yet there has been no synthesis that presents a plausible

description with this level of sophistication of the variety of ancient
Hebrew data to which we have access’.28

3.2.3. Objectivity. We remarked in 2.2.2A that Hurvitz and others

believe the linguistic evidence is the most, and perhaps only, objective
criterion for dating biblical texts.29 In contrast, Blau once said: ‘ We do
not possess any objective criterion for fixing the accurate date of biblical
books’ (Blau 1993: 1; our emphasis). The following remarks deal with
the notion of objectivity. General Remarks. Hurvitz says: ‘We are free to neglect

dubious hypotheses and controversial theories, as well as to adopt
methodologically reliable principles and philologically well-established
standards’ (Hurvitz 1982a: 18). In the context of this statement, but also
in view of similar remarks in other publications,30Hurvitz clearly means
that linguistic evidence should be privileged over the non-linguistic

28. Also see the helpful remarks in C. L. Miller 1996: 25-29 on the inter­
pretation o f linguistic variation.
29. The notion that language and linguistic dating is objective is frequently
repeated in the secondary literature. The following additional citations will suffice:
‘There is also linguistic evidence. In the main, this shows conclusively that the text
was written before the 6th century, when Babylon exiled the population o f Judah’
(Halpem 2001: 59; our emphasis). ‘For two reasons, it is difficult to assume that the
Pentateuch was essentially com posed at a very late date (i.e., the Persian period, or
fifth-fourth centuries B.C.E.). The first reason is simply that the language is Classical
Hebrew, not late Hebrew.... They [i.e. the linguistic changes] provide objective
criteria for dating most o f the Pentateuchal literature in the pre-exilic period’
(Schniedewind 2004: 82; our emphasis). ‘Perhaps the clearest data for the age o f
biblical literature are linguistic’ (Hendel 2005:109; our emphasis). ‘Similarly [i.e. as
in archaeology] linguistic stratigraphy is not an exact science, but it is rather more
precise than dating literary motifs or theological ideas’ (Joosten 2005: 328; our
emphasis). ‘Typically, scholars who take this approach [i.e. dating biblical texts to
the Persian and Hellenistic periods] base their dating o f biblical texts on social,
political, and theological concerns deemed to be present in the texts. In so doing,
they regularly ignore the most objective criterion available for the dating o f texts,
namely, the linguistic evidence’ (Rendsburg 2006a: 1; our emphasis). ‘The linguistic
method’s claim to objectivity rests on its use o f established theory, external controls,
and disciplined methodology. Moreover, it avoids special pleading for the Bible or
for Hebrew since the Hebrew project is no different from similar projects throughout
the Semitic language family as well as in other language families’ (Zevit 2007: 28).
30. For example: ‘Unfortunately, the theological, historical and literary criteria
which have been used for establishing the date o f chronologically problematic texts
are very often subjective’ (Hurvitz 1973: 74; his emphasis).
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 61

dating criteria which are frequently cited by biblical scholars.31 Further­

more, in addition to privileging linguistic evidence over other forms of
evidence, Hurvitz also states that Persianisms mediated through Imperial
Aramaic are an ‘Archimedean point’ for the dating of BH texts (e.g.
Hurvitz 1974a: 17). In other words, this particular evidence constitutes a
vantage point from which he believes he can objectively perceive the
subject of inquiry, namely, the preexilic or postexilic date of origin of
any given biblical text. Similarly, Eskhult and Rendsburg, for example,
emphasise the absence of accumulation of (late) Aramaisms and the
complete absence of Persianisms in the Pentateuch as reliable indicators
of its preexilic origin (Eskhult 2003a: 23; Rendsburg 2001a: 33; 2001b:
39; 2006a: 175-76). We will look at Aramaic and Persian influences
in BH in Chapters 8 and 11.5, respectively. Our immediate concern
is weighing up the alleged objectivity of current linguistic dating meth­
odology. Cross-Linguistic Studies. The precedence of linguistic argu­

ments over other types of arguments in the dating of texts is not the
normal procedure in biblical studies or in any other studies. Looking at
cross-linguistic data, we do indeed find corpora of undated texts where
linguistic arguments play a part in the dating endeavour, e.g. texts in Old
English (Amos 1980) or Old Norse (Fidjest0 l 1999) or Guanzi (Phua
2002).32 But these corpora are dated linguistically on the basis of pre­
conditions that (as we will see during the course of this book) do not
hold for BH. The preconditions can, for our purposes here, be para­
phrased as follows: If the language of one text reflects a linguistic

31. For examples o f non-linguistic dating criteria see 1.1 (n. 5). Also, to be fair,
Halpem 2001, for example, pays attention to non-linguistic dating criteria, but he
still makes it clear that in his mind it is the linguistic evidence that ‘shows con­
clusively’ that Samuel was written before the sixth century BCE. Indeed, many
biblical scholars criticise the so-called revisionists for going against long-held views
on the dates o f origin o f biblical books and trying to date most or all o f the Hebrew
Bible to the Persian and/or Hellenistic periods. However, it is worth pointing out that
these same biblical scholars who criticise the so-called revisionists are actually
revisionists themselves, since, also against the long-time practice o f biblical scholars
to give equal attention to a variety o f dating criteria (cf. our survey in Volume 2,
Chapter 1), they insist on dating biblical texts primarily on the basis o f linguistic
criteria alone. See the remarks in P. R. Davies 2003: 150; 2005: 83.
32. See also Kofoed 2006. Note that historical linguistics, rather than the dating
o f texts, is much more commonly concerned with the relative dating o f linguistic
features, i.e. linguistic change, and the mechanisms o f such change (e.g. Joseph and
Janda 2003).
62 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

development which can be shown to be an innovation (e.g. a new mor­

phological development, or a loanword which could not have entered
the language before a certain date), then we know objectively that we
are dealing with a text which (in its current linguistic form) postdates
the introduction of this innovation. Then, if it is evident that this lin­
guistic form dates back to the original composition of the text, a confi­
dent terminus a quo can be set for the text. If in addition it is clear that
several linguistic features of the text went out of fashion at a certain later
stage, and that the ability to reproduce these features was lost (or that
no one had any reason to do so), then a terminus ante quern can be
confidently set, which in turn gives a reliable interval for the date of its
An important precondition of dating texts on the basis of linguistic
analysis is the availability of adequate control corpora. In this regard we
may also mention the attempt by Runnalls to date texts based on the
presence of several closely related, datable texts. Runnalls (1976) dates
two Middle French plays, on the basis of linguistic analysis, to the
fourteenth century, and he is confident that he is mistaken by no more
than ten or fifteen years either way. It is notable here that he undertakes
the linguistic dating only in the absence of any other dating options. And
again, the dating endeavour is based on several conditions, none of
which hold for biblical texts: (1) the period of Middle French, spanning
200-300 years, ‘is a period of slow, gradual change’ (Runnalls 1976:
757); (2) the dating method used could be confirmed by comparison with
‘a score’ of contemporary texts from the same genre, texts firmly datable
by non-linguistic aspects (Runnalls 1976: 758); (3) the plays have only
one author— ‘O f course, certain types of texts, for example those written
by different authors at different times, and other composite texts, would
not be suitable for this method of dating’ (Runnalls 1976: 764); (4) it is
arguable that ‘the language in the theatre is closer to contemporary
speech than in [lyric poetry, didactic works and narrative poems]’
(Runnalls 1976: 764 n. 1). Therefore, when none of these conditions are
met by biblical texts, then dating them on the basis of linguistic data can
hardly be regarded as objectively precise. We will return to the particular
issue of control corpora in 4.2.3. Linguistic vs. Non-Linguistic Data. Another problem with the

notion of the objectivity of linguistic dating is that scholars sometimes
regard cultural changes reflected in the language as linguistic. We will
give two examples. First, the word with definite article (e.g. Hurvitz
1974a: 19-20; 2006b: 206-207 n. 52) is found in Zech. 3.1,2, and in the
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 63

Prose Tale of Job.33 Arguing for the lateness of the Prose Tale of Job,
Hurvitz points out that a definite image of The Satan is a concept that
emerges in later times. This is a strong argument, but it is theological and
not linguistic in that it refers to a cultural change in the course of which
a simple noun meaning ‘adversary’ receives the connotation of ‘The
Adversary’ and is used as a proper noun. It is true that this change thus is
reflected in the language, but it is not a case of people starting to speak
differently; rather, it is a case of a changed theology. Second, the Baby­
lonian calendar system (e.g. Wagner 1966: 20; Hurvitz 1983a: 215;
1997a: 20) was different from the Israelite system in a number of ways,
among them the month names. When LBH authors refer to months by
their Babylonian names, it is not because they had started speaking
differently but because they were referring to a different calendar system. Literary Revision and Linguistic Modification. We believe

attempts to date biblical texts ‘objectively’ on the basis of linguistic
analysis have disregarded (1) relevant data and (2) views about these
data which are held by many biblical scholars.34The common denomina­
tor is a failure to recognise the diachronic dimension in biblical stories
and texts, both of which are demonstrably unoriginal. Or, to state it dif­
ferently, they fail to take seriously the literary complexity and textual
fluidity of the Hebrew Bible. We will address these matters briefly under
the headings of literary revision and linguistic modification. Further
discussion is given in Chapter 13. Literary Revision. Scholars who seek to date biblical texts

on the basis of linguistic analysis often downplay or sidestep the issue of
literary revision of biblical stories. The vast majority of biblical scholars
believe the biblical stories we have are not the versions created by the
original authors. Rather, they are the complex result of numerous stages
of growth through successive generations of authors, editors and scribes.
Therefore, even if we grant the possibility of (linguistically) dating
biblical stories, we are still required to resolve and explain exactly what
we are dating: the original story or a much later version and, then, the
whole story or just a portion of it (e.g. books, sections of books, elements

33. Job 1.6,7 (x2), 8 ,9 ,1 2 (x2); 2.1 ,2 (x2), 3 ,4 ,6 , 7. The noun is found in EBH
in the sense o f ‘adversary’. In the sense o f ‘accuser’, the word is also found without
article in Ps. 109.6 and 1 Chron. 21.1.
34. P. R. Davies 2003 interprets this disregard as ‘hidden assumptions’. Our
survey in Volume 2, Chapter 1 illustrates scholarly views regarding individual
biblical books.
64 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

in books)?35 Language scholars frequently assume they are dating

original compositions as a whole.36 Linguistic Modification. A second corollary of the a priori

commitment to the MT (cf. is that language scholars talk down
or circumvent the issue of linguistic modification of biblical texts. By
‘linguistic modification’ we mean that editors and scribes adjusted the
language of biblical texts, often randomly, leading overall to greater
linguistic uniformity or diversity, as the case may be. Our comments
above on linguistic heterogeneity and homogeneity have already touched
on this issue (3.2.1), and in Chapter 13 we will argue that the language of
biblical texts clearly bears the marks of scribal intervention in its
transmission. We cannot affirm with certainty that the linguistic profiles
of the texts we have are of those of original authors. At the very least,
individual linguistic elements were transmitted with a high degree of
fluidity. Consequently, scholars of the language of the Hebrew Bible
must take seriously the text-critical dimension in their research on
chronological layers in BH.
Let us close this discussion of objectivity by summarising our basic
argument: Taking an objective approach to the linguistic dating of
biblical texts means giving serious consideration to all the known facts
and scholarly viewpoints regarding those texts. Language scholars are
not justified in arbitrarily privileging one type of evidence over another.
Linguistic analysis should not ignore the scholarly consensuses about the
Hebrew Bible’s literary complexity and textual fluidity. Any attempt to
date biblical texts, which seeks to be fair and balanced, must work
uniformly with linguistic and literary and textual data.

35. See the remarks in Barstad 2001:76 and the discussion o f ‘the “original text”
o f Scripture’ in Ulrich 1999: 12-16. The latter gives eight possible meanings o f ‘the
“original text” ’, ranging from ‘“the original text” o f the source incorporated by an
early author or tradent’, to ‘ “the original text” as the original or superior form o f the
MT’, to ‘“the original text” as fully attested in extant manuscript witnesses’.
36. We are not the first scholars to make this observation. For example, with
respect to J, see the review o f Wright 2005 by Levin 2006; and with reference to P
and Ezekiel, see Blenkinsopp 1992: 237-39; Jenson 1992: 29; Carr 1996: 133-39;
the reviews o f Hurvitz 1982a by Becker 1983 and G. I. Davies 1987; and the reviews
o f Rooker 1990a by Ben Zvi 1992 and Lust 1991: 424 as well as the comments in
Lust 2006: 161-65. Furthermore, Hurvitz 1982a and Rooker 1990a, which attempt
to date P’s language prior to Ezekiel’s, fail to grapple with the possibility o f
reciprocal influence between these writings (cf. S. R. Driver 1913a: 145-52; Knohl
1995: 202).
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 65

3.2.4. Approach. In we described the working hypothesis and

point of departure supporting efforts to date the language of biblical
texts. The heart of the matter is the late phase of BH, the undisputed post­
exilic corpus of Esther-Chronicles and unmistakable late features attested
in it. However, in our estimation, this approach amounts to literary-
linguistic circularity. In other words, current methodology in diachronic
linguistic analysis of BH is founded on non-linguistic assumptions
regarding the dates o f origin ofmany and perhaps most biblical books?1
However, at the start we are faced with an obstacle to showing that this
is in fact the case, since by definition an assumption is held to be true,
taken for granted, and generally not stated. Consequently, for the most
part our proof for literary-linguistic circularity is based on indirect evi­
dence. Consider, for example, the following citations:
There are however certain basic principles upon which my study is based.
First o f all it has for a long time been beyond doubt that, as Ch. Rabin
[1970: 316] has pointed out, ‘The Hebrew o f the later books o f the Bible
differs markedly from that o f the pre-exilic corpus.’ In other words, Late
Biblical Hebrew prose (=LBH) differs from classical prose in very many
lexicographic, grammatical and syntactic features. Secondly, I assume
that the Books o f Chronicles provide us with the best example o f what
this LBH looked like. It is for this reason that I have concentrated a major
portion o f my study upon an analysis o f the language o f the Chronicler.
Such an analysis should provide a framework for the main features o f
LBH as well as a well-grounded control with which to analyze the lan­
guage o f P.... [W]e make no assumptions concerning the relative dates
attributed by scholars to the writing down o f these segments [JE, CH,
Dtr]. We assume only that all three o f them precede the Chronicler’s
language.... Assuming only that the Chronicler’s language is to be placed
at the latest extreme o f a diachronic continuum,... (Polzin 1976: 1 - 2 ,90­
91; cf. 21-22; our emphasis).

It is scarcely possible to date the different books o f BH on a linguistic

basis, but by and large, scholars have accepted the follow ing tripartite
division: 1) Archaic Biblical Hebrew...2) Standard Biblical Hebrew...3)
Late Biblical Hebrew (Kutscher 1982: 12; our emphasis).

37. This observation is not original to us. See the quotations and list o f citations
in Rezetko 2003: 218-1 9 ,2 4 0 and also the remarks in Kofoed 2005: 122; Edenburg,
Gibeah, forthcoming. Young 2003b: 2 says: ‘...If Samuel-Kings are older than
Chronicles then it is obviously most likely that linguistic contrasts between them
reflect that chronological difference. However, can the argument be reversed, and
the linguistic contrasts be used to show that Samuel and Kings are in fact older than
Chronicles?’ Young 2003c: 280 says: ‘The idea o f a pre-exilic SBH [= EBH] and a
post-exilic LBH arose naturally out o f the critical consensus on the dating o f many
o f the biblical books. It is, however, quite a different question to ask whether the
linguistic evidence can exclude other datings o f the biblical literature.’
66 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

The prem ise o f this work is that the history o f biblical Hebrew is char­
acterized by two successive language states: pre-exilic or Early Biblical
Hebrew and post-exilic or Late Biblical Hebrew. This distinction p re ­
supposes that the Hebrew language, as it is represented in the Hebrew
Bible, was subject to linguistic change over the course o f time (Rooker
1990a: 1; our emphasis).

Work in this field demands precise methods. I f we begin by comparing

writings that we know fo r certain to be post-exilic, such as 1 & 2 Chron­
icles and Ezra-Nehemiah, with parallel pre-exilic texts, like Samuel-Kings
(which runs parallel to Chronicles), we can discover many differences
between the two periods (Saenz Badillos 1993: 115-16; our emphasis).

One should note, however, that these linguistic features have been indi­
cated as early or late not because they show specific qualities but because
they appear in texts identified as early or late by other means, such as
foreign vocabulary and mention, or lack o f mention, o f late events. Only
after they have been identified as related to a certain period by other
means can these linguistic features serve for dating biblical texts by
themselves (Zewi 2004: 3-4, remarking on Rezetko 2003; our emphasis).

The above method for determining the lateness o f particular expressions

requires a working hypothesis as to which books o f the Hebrew Bible are
pre-exilic, exilic, or post-exilic in date. It is unnecessary for the purposes
o f this study to provide an exact date for each book because it is the
general distinction between pre-exilic and post-exilic books which is o f
immediate concern. Granted, scholars are seldom in unanimous agree­
ment as to the approximate date o f most biblical books. Furthermore, they
often date different sections o f a given book to different periods. Never­
theless, for the purposes o f this study it is possible to outline a working
hypothesis as to which general p eriod each biblical book belongs: p re ­
exilic, exilic, or post-exilic. When specific chapters or sections within a
given book cause particular problems for dating, special note will be
made. Several studies on the Pentateuch have shown that the work is pre­
exilic.... [Guenther, Haran, Hurvitz, Kaufmann, Milgrom, Polzin, Rends­
burg, Rooker, Weinfeld, Zevit].... Clearly this study cannot treat ‘J’ as
pre-exilic for the purpose o f determining LBH expressions, since it is the
date o f ‘J’ that is in question. The date o f Joshua-Kings depends heavily
upon scholarly theories about the composition and date o f the Deuter-
onomistic History (DH).... This study will treat Joshua-Kings as pre­
exilic (with the exception o f the last 2 chapters o f 2 Kings, which are
exilic) (Wright 2005: 8-10; our emphasis).

Each citation above strongly implies that linguistic dating is based on

assumptions about the early or late dates of biblical books. Wright’s
words are particularly revealing: (1) he openly states his ‘working
hypothesis’ regarding the dates of origin of biblical books; (2) he defends
the Pentateuch as a preexilic composition, although the so-called Yahwist
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 61

Source, which he seeks to date, constitutes a significant part of the

Pentateuch;38 (3) he endorses the Deuteronomistic History as a preexilic
composition, based on 4a brief survey of scholarly opinion’, which alleg­
edly ‘reveals a broad consensus that a first version of the DH was com­
piled in the pre-exilic period’, yet this is only one viewpoint regarding
the composition of the Deuteronomistic History.39
When we turn to the writings of Hurvitz we encounter similar evidence
of literary-linguistic circularity:
Hurvitz correctly asserts that certain books o f the Bible were written
during the (exilic or) post-exilic period (e.g. Chronicles), but he assumes
that others were not written then (e.g. Samuel). Or to rephrase this, he
correctly asserts that certain books o f the Bible are ‘non-chronologically
problematic texts’ (e.g. Chronicles is not pre-exilic), but he assumes as
well that other books are also ‘non-chronologically problematic texts’
(e.g. Samuel is pre-exilic) (Rezetko 2003: 240).40

More importantly, we find in Hurvitz’s writings a major problem related

to the import of extra-biblical evidence. For example, he says:
The suggested division [ABH, EBH, LBH] is not based solely on internal
biblical considerations: its chronological and typological validity is
supported by extra-biblical evidences as well. It is highly significant that
such outside confirmation exists, since the extant biblical corpus is not
overly abundant. Because o f their limited number (and narrow range o f
topics), the biblical books alone cannot possibly provide us with a com­
plete cross-section o f the actual living language o f those days. Conse­
quently, the supplementary information to be gleaned from non-biblical
sources is essential to any diachronic investigation o f the Hebrew
language o f that period (Hurvitz 1982a: 158).41

Hurvitz argues that the antiquity of the ABH and EBH strata are con­
firmed by similarities between ABH and Amama Canaanite and Ugaritic
(see Chapter 12) and between EBH and monarchic-era inscriptions (see
Chapter 6). However, a survey of the history of scholarship shows in fact
that ‘internal biblical considerations’ were the first and decisive factor
for the dating of biblical literature. This is evident because the Amama
and Ugaritic tablets were discovered in 1887 and 1929, respectively, and

38. Ironically, scholarship has traditionally described EBH on the basis o f the
Pentateuch’s Yahwist Source and the so-called Succession Narrative in Samuel! See
the remarks in Zevit 2006: 87 (Wright’s ‘argument was largely circular’) and also
Van Seters 2006: 751 (again, ‘circular reasoning’).
39. See our survey o f biblical books in Volume 2, Chapter 1, especially 1.2.
40. See, for example, Hurvitz 1972a: 68, 69 = 1973: 75, 76; 1974a: 17, 32;
1974b: 25-26; 1982a: 157-58; 1983a: 84-85,93; 1988a: 90-91; 2000a: 144,146-48.
41. Also see Ehrensvard’s words cited above in
68 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

the editio princeps of each collection was not complete until roughly
twenty years following the discovery of the tablets.42 Similarly, the
majority of the monarchic-era Hebrew inscriptions were unearthed and/
or published in the 1960s and 1970s (e.g. the Arad Ostraca). Significant
earlier finds were the Samaria (1910) and Lachish (1930s) Ostraca and
the first finds were the Siloam (1880) and Gezer (1908) inscriptions.
Thus Cooke’s (1903) handbook has only Siloam, and the introduction to
the second edition of S. R. Driver’s notes on Samuel (1913b) can discuss
only Gezer and Siloam. So, whatever the import of the early non-biblical
sources, these were unknown to the early scholars who defined and dated
the traditional ABH, EBH and LBH styles of biblical literature. Indeed,
this fact is made all the more obvious when we recall that the diachronic
study of BH began with Gesenius in 1815 (cf. 1.3) and he in turn pro­
vided the detailed philological support43 for the conclusions concerning
Chronicles vis-a-vis allegedly early biblical books and the history of
Israelite religion, which de Wette had argued a decade earlier in 1806 (cf.
Rezetko 2003:239). Consequently, since early non-biblical sources were
unavailable to early scholars of the history of BH, they must have relied
solely on internal biblical considerations for their early dating of substan­
tial portions of biblical literature (e.g. most of Genesis-Kings). In short,
diachronic linguistic analysis of BH texts has always been based on non-
linguistic assumptions. This is a major difficulty with the so-called
objectivity of the linguistic dating enterprise. Synoptic Texts. Synoptic texts in the Hebrew Bible have played
a pivotal role in discussions of the historical development of BH.44

42. O f course, publication began soon after discovery, but widespread knowledge
o f the collections was delayed until Knudtzon 1907-15 (Amama) and Schaeffer,
Virolleaud and Nougayrol 1955-78 (Ugaritic).
43. For Gesenius’ analysis ofB H , see especially Gesenius 1 8 1 5 :2 1 ^ 4 . Equally
instructive is GKC §21—p, t-v, pp. 12-13, 16-17, first published by Gesenius as
Hebraische Grammatik in 1813.
44. Parallel texts have also proven important in discussions o f (1) developments
in Israelite religion (e.g. Wellhausen 1885) and (2) editorial procedures o f biblical
writers (e.g. Fishbane 1985, Brettler 1995). Samuel-Kings and Chronicles have had
pride o f place in these discussions. Other parallel texts can be found in the legal
sections o f the Pentateuch and in some parts o f the Latter Prophets and Writings. For
parallel layouts o f BH texts, see Vannutelli 1931, Bendavid 1972, Kegler and
Augustin 1991. In Chapter 2 we remarked that Hurvitz takes into consideration non­
synoptic and synoptic language in Chronicles ( whereas Polzin limits his
study o f the Chronicler’s language to the non-synoptic material ( Verheij
1990: 86, 120 and Rezetko 2007a: 415 n. 181 (cf. 2007b, passim ) agree with
Hurvitz. Rendsburg 1980b: 66 and Throntveit 1982: 207 agree with Polzin.
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 69

Indeed, from Gesenius (1815: 37-44) to Kropat (1909) to Hurvitz (1972a:

15-20) to the present day, scholars have compared the language of the
parallel histories of the monarchy in Samuel-Kings and Chronicles in
order to demarcate the qualities of EBH and LBH. Rezetko has critically
examined this pillar of the linguistic dating of BH texts (Rezetko 2003,
2007a, 2007b). It is clear that use of Samuel-Kings and Chronicles in
linguistic research has been based on a series of questionable proposi­
tions. The argument is: (1) since Chronicles is later than Samuel-Kings,
and (2) since Chronicles used Samuel-Kings, and (3) since Chronicles
made use of a proto-MT of Samuel-Kings, therefore (4) the language
of Chronicles is younger than the language of Samuel-Kings. Premises
1 and 2 may be true, but premise 3 is suspect, and regardless of the truth­
fulness of the premises, the conclusion that ‘the language of Chronicles
is younger’ is a deduction based on the assumption o f a chronological
interpretative fram ework . Whatever the relationship between Samuel-
Kings and Chronicles, it is problematic to conclude that a diachronic
literary relationship between them must be mirrored in a diachronic lin­
guistic relationship in our present Masoretic texts of these books. Rather,
sound linguistic methodology should (1) set aside suppositions regarding
the historical and literary relationships of these books, (2) give equal
consideration to chronological and non-chronological (dialect, sociolect,
idiolect, style, editorial and scribal practices, etc.) explanations for their
linguistic differences, and (3) argue that the linguistic contrasts in them
show that Samuel-Kings are in fact older than Chronicles (cf. Olafsson
1992: 140; Cryer 1994: 198; Young 2003b: 2; 2003c: 280). Meanwhile,
it is unsafe to regard Chronicles as the benchmark of late BH. We will
remark further on the issue of synoptic texts in Chapters 5 and 13
(especially 5.4.4 and 13.3.6).

3.2.5. Neologisms . The distinguishing feature of LBH is the appearance

of neologisms or linguistic innovations. See our discussion in Aramaisms, Mishnaisms, Persianisms . We will critically

examine these neologisms in Chapters 8, 9 and 11, respectively. Archaisms. Archaisms are the opposite of neologisms. They

are defined as old, or older, linguistic features which are prominent in
early texts but which also occur in late texts. We will critically examine
ABH language and texts in Chapter 12. Mixed Language. Hurvitz argues that LBH is characterised by

linguistic mixture, a shifting proportion of traditional characteristics
70 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

(archaisms, early language) and innovative features (neologisms, late

language). In any given late book, equivalent EBH and LBH features
compete, coexisting peacefully as synonymous expressions, or an LBH
item has completely displaced its rival EBH counterpart. Yet, in any
given late book, one will find some sort of old and new mixture at the
same time. Joosten develops this concept further.45 He describes three
types of mixed language: (1) mixture of EBH and post-EBH elements,
such as LBH alongside EBH (Joosten 1999: 148-49); (2) mixed
constructions, in which EBH and post-EBH elements are combined
within one and the same expression, such as the post-EBH order IW G +
subject + verb rather than the EBH order + verb + subject (Joosten
1999: 149-50); (3) pseudo-classicisms, in which a post-EBH expression
resembles an EBH one but the later expression has an element of error,
showing false apprehension of the earlier meaning, thus betraying
incorrect analysis or interpretation, such as IT (‘fill his hand’),
meaning ‘induct into a priestly office’ in EBH but ‘be generous’ or
something similar in Chronicles (Joosten 1999: 150-59). First, even if
we grant that mixed language is characteristic of LBH, it does not neces­
sarily follow that the phenomenon requires a diachronic interpretation.
Rather, mixture in LBH could also reflect a difference in style. Indeed,
our view is that EBH and LBH are two different authorial/editorial/
scribal approaches to language use— conservative and non-conservative.
Conservative EBH authors/editors/scribes mainly rely on a limited core
of linguistic forms, while non-conservative LBH authors/editors/scribes
are more open to using a variety of linguistic forms. Between these poles
there is a continuum of openness to linguistic variety. In short, EBH and
LBH are co-existing styles of Hebrew instead of successive chronologi­
cal periods (see further Volume 2, 2.7). Second, another problem with
mixed language is that it is evident in all strata of BH. Most EBH fea­
tures are found in LBH texts and the majority of LBH features are
attested in EBH texts. We will address this in Chapters 4 and 5 in our
discussions of the dating criteria of distribution, opposition, and accu­
mulation. In short, the main difference between EBH and LBH texts is
due less to distribution or opposition than to different rates of accumula­
tion of the same features in one stratum or another (cf. and
Chapter 5).46

45. Also see Joosten 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, which address postbiblical
Hebrew and Aramaic interference in QH (due to biblicising style, imitation o f BH)
and in the l x x (due to translators’ knowledge o f late Hebrew).
46. In Chapter 10 we discuss the issue o f imitation in QH and Ben Sira.
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 71 Lexicon. We noted in that the balance of evidence

given by Hurvitz and others for LBH is lexical rather than grammatical.
Indeed, most published research on the history of BH deals with vocabu­
lary. This is because changes in the lexicon of a language are more fre­
quent than grammatical changes, and they are also more readily observed
and easily documented. An old word may occur more or less frequently,
it may fall from use altogether, or it may undergo a change in meaning
(semantic development). A new word may enter the language and be used
alongside an equivalent older word (mixed language) or it may com­
pletely take the place of the older word (linguistic opposition). Despite
the simplicity of these different scenarios, Rezetko (2003: 245-49) dis­
cusses drawbacks to using lexical data in investigations of diachronic
strata in BH,47 and later (2007a) explores common nouns in Chronicles,
arguing that the vocabulary of LBH is virtually identical to the vocabu­
lary of EBH. In Chapter 4 and in Volume 2, Chapter 3 we will discuss
other shortcomings of lexical evidence. For example, it turns out that the
three examples of ‘mixed language’ cited in Joosten 1999 are problem­
atic from the standpoint of linguistic chronology.

3.3. 2 Chronicles 30.1-12 (part 2)

In 2.11.3 we looked at 2 Chron. 30.1-12 and briefly summarised fifteen
features of this text in the MT that are normally considered late linguistic
phenomena. Now we wish to look again at this passage, but from a differ­
ent angle, questioning whether those features are actually late, and if so,
in what sense of the word. We observed already in our earlier discussion
that this text also has a number of EBH features alongside the fifteen
LBH ones we will discuss again here. The text and translation are given
in 2.11.3 and there and here the numbering of the features corresponds.
(1) by (30.1 [x2], 9; ‘to’). The interchange of b§ and by is a well-
known phenomenon in BH. It is argued that in LBH and QH, by in the
sense ‘to’ is increasingly used where bto appears in EBH. This phenome­
non is often attributed to Aramaic influence. However, this ‘confusion’
of prepositions is also common in EBH in e.g. Samuel (cf. Sperber 1966:
631-33). Thus, for instance, we find interchange of b\k and by in MT
Samuel on many occasions, even in a single verse (1 Sam. 15.35; 16.1;
20.25; 24.23; 25.17, 25; 27.10; 2 Sam. 2.9; 3.29; 6.10; 24.4) and in
similar phrases in nearby verses (e.g. 1 Sam. 14.1,4,10,12,33,34; 22.8,
13; 26.15,16; 2 Sam. 7.25,28). Unfortunately, due to the high frequency

47. Joosten 2005: 3 and Edenburg, Gibeah, forthcoming, also remark on poten­
tial shortcomings o f lexical arguments.
72 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

of these two prepositions in the Hebrew Bible (more than 11,000

occurrences in the MT) there is not a comprehensive investigation of this
issue which takes into account many variations in usage, ‘indiscriminate’
interchanges in the MT in particular books and in synoptic passages, and
also the evidence offered by the ancient versions for fluctuations in the
process of textual transmission. It seems that the confusion of b# and bv
in BH is due to multiple factors including scribal modifications in the
textual traditions. Some of the sources cited in 2.11.3 make this point and
Rezetko 2007b: 93-94, 123-24, 153, referencing additional secondary
literature, discusses this phenomenon in more detail.
(2) rn|K (30.1, 6; ‘letter’). The noun is an LBH equivalent of
EBH "150, meaning ‘letter’. This is one of the few cases in which an
LBH item is not found at all in core EBH (cf. 5.2.2). However, rnatt is
attested in Aramaic sources already in the seventh century BCE. Further­
more, the distribution and usage of these words in Esther and Chronicles
are not haphazard. The noun is found in contexts that deal with letter-
writing in a socio-religious context. This type of situation is not attested
in EBH literature. Rezetko 2007a: 399—400 discusses these matters
(3)8111*7 (30.1, 5; ‘to come’) m d n w v b (30.1, 5; ‘to do’). It is argued
that in LBH there is an increase of b + infinitive construct instead of
direct speech after verbs of commanding, speaking, etc.48The issue here
is that the writer of Chronicles wrote in, for example, 2 Chron. 30.1
nV^b...8inb...nn3...1...n1? ^ ] (‘and he sent...and he
do [i.e. that they should come and do]’) rather than ...3n3...]...n1??P1
i r t o l 83 “ibK1? (‘and he sent...and he wrote saying, “Come...and
do...” ’). This argument has three main parts. First, the background of
LBH literature is the ‘writerly’ chancery and consequently it has fewer
oral characteristics, including less direct speech, than does EBH. (We
will examine this assertion in 4.3.4.) Second, related to this, LBH shows
a decrease of'“ibK1?, which in BH introduces direct speech and functions
as our modern-day quotation marks. Finally, LBH writers often replace
the object of which in EBH is a finite verb ([‘he said’:] ‘eat!’),
with an infinitive ([‘he said’] ‘to eat’). We have not seen comprehensive
data that systematically document this alleged change from EBH to
LBH. The data in the bibliography we have cited consist principally of
several LBH examples, sometimes set in contrast to examples of the

48. In addition to the bibliography cited in 2.11.3, see especially Eskhult 1990:
112; 2000a: 90; 2003b: 156, 164; 2005: 359-63, 370; C. L. Miller 1996: 59-60,
123-29. Additional references are JM § 157c, p. 555 n. 3; S. R. Driver 1892: §39(3,
pp. 43-44; Corwin 1909: §37, pp. 29-30; Striedl 1937: 80; Kieviet 1997a: 24-26;
1997b: 59-60.
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 73

‘early’ phenomenon in EBH, and in this regard it is common for authors

to cite a synoptic passage in which, for example, Samuel has the ‘early’
construction with direct speech but Chronicles has the ‘late’ one with b +
A detailed study of this issue is a desideratum. Meanwhile the follow­
ing points cast doubt on the chronological hypothesis. First, discourse
(direct or reported speech) makes up a greater part of some EBH prose
books compared to some LBH books. For example, Samuel is 55% prose
and 45% discourse; similarly, Ruth, dated by many to the postexilic
period, is 42% prose and 58% discourse; and Jonah, dated by most schol­
ars to the Persian period, is 50% prose and 50% discourse; in contrast,
Chronicles is 50% prose, 27% discourse, and 23% list; and similarly,
Esther is 73% prose and 27% discourse. Thus discourse is also a signi­
ficant part of LBH. Additionally, it is questionable whether a more
‘writerly’ style should be dated later than a more ‘oral’ style. (Again, we
will examine this assertion in 4.3.4.) Second, there are relatively few
occurrences of Ibfcb in some LBH books (a total of thirteen in Esther,
Ezra and Nehemiah) and none in Daniel. Chronicles has 59 instances of
which 27 are not shared with Samuel-Kings.49 Either way, compared to
129 appearances in Kings and 98 in Samuel, Chronicles has far fewer
cases of-fc&b. However, other EBH books also have far fewer examples:
Numbers (x84), Genesis (x81), Leviticus (x51), Exodus (x50), Joshua
(x43), Deuteronomy (x40), Judges (x29). Compare Jeremiah and Ezekiel,
often dated to the exile, which have 114 and 63 examples, respectively.
We gain more leverage on this issue approaching it from a different
angle. If we compare the ratio of “ibttb forms to verbs of speech in parti­
cular books50we find that some ‘late’ or ‘later’ books rank high (Haggai,
Zechariah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Chronicles, like Leviticus, Numbers and
Joshua) whereas all other EBH books rank lower in this regard. Third, b
+ infinitive construct rather than direct speech is attested unevenly in
LBH sources.51 We find the construction 31 times in Chronicles,52 eight

49. In several cases Chronicles has IbK1? where Kings has a finite verb: 2 Sam.
6.9//1 Chron. 13.12; 2 Kgs. 18.19//2 Chron. 32.9; 2 Kgs. 18.22//2 Chron. 32.12. The
finite form lipK’l is secondary in MT 2 Sam. 6.9 (cf. Rezetko 2007b: 149).
50. We are counting the following verbs: 1 DK, “[in , *131, pUT, 133,113, HDI3, mu,
sip , b&vi, ratf.
51. In both EBH and LBH we have examined b + infinitive construct after the
same verbs mentioned in the preceding footnote. If we consider non-speech verbs,
such as 1^3, DID, etc., we can enlarge the number o f examples in both EBH
and LBH. For example, scholars routinely cite in 2 Chron. 28.16 in
contrast with lb K t?...n‘?^,l in 2 Kgs. 16.7. However, in EBH there are many cases o f
+ b + infinitive construct (e.g. C. L. Miller 1996: 129 nn. 77-78).
74 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

times in Esther,53 four times in Nehemiah,54twice in Daniel,55 but not at

all in Ezra. In some cases another construction, such as a clause intro­
duced by ip * , may function in place of b + infinitive construct, but this
does not cancel out the infrequency of b + infinitive construct in certain
LBH books. This construction does not characterise all LBH sources.
Fourth, van Peursen says ‘this construction, which is especially frequent
in LBH and QH, is also well-attested in SBH [= EBH] and MH’ (van
Peursen 2004: 402). C. L. Miller 1996: 123-29 gives many examples in
EBH literature. For example, we find a dozen instances in Samuel.56
Fifth, we observed above that scholars often cite synoptic passages as
prooftexts of the diachronic hypothesis. However, this is risky since in
parallel material we find equivalencies,57pluses58a n d minuses in Chron­
icles: 2 Sam. 24.21 (ni3p*?)//l Chron. 21.22 (-); 1 Kgs. 5.19 (PiDD*?)//
2 Chron. 2.3 013*0). In summary, this feature is found many times in
EBH books and it is not characteristic of all LBH books. The distribution
of this feature is best explained as a stylistic choice shared by some EBH
and LBH books.
(4) (30.2, 4; ‘congregation’). The term b7)\> supposedly became
more widespread in LBH and postbiblical Hebrew than its earlier
counterpart rn y . However, the standard diachronic view is difficult if not
impossible to sustain. For instance, both words are often used synony­
mously in EBH (e.g. nil? and b7]\) are used for Israel’s assembly in Num.
16.3), and br\\), which is far from absent in EBH, is actually used to the
exclusion of rni? in Deuteronomy (11 to 0). Rezetko 2007a: 412-13
argues that the distribution of these terms in biblical and postbiblical
literature does not support the chronological hypothesis.59

52. 1 Chron. 13.4; 15.2, 16; 17.6; 21.17, 18; 22.2, 6, 17; 27.23; 2 Chron. 1.18;
6.1,20; 7.13; 13.8; 14.3; 21.7; 28.10, 13; 29.21, 27, 30; 30.1 (x2), 5 (x2); 31.4, 11;
32.1; 33.16; 35.21.
53. Est. 1.10-11, 17; 4.5, 7, 13, 15; 6.1; 9.14; cf. 6.4 (?).
54. Neh. 5.14; 8.1; 9.15, 23.
55. Dan. 1.3; 2.2.
56. 1 Sam. 10.14; 19.1; 20.6; 24.11; 30.6; 2 Sam. 1.18; 2.26; 3.9-10; 7.7; 17.14;
21.16; 24.21.
57. 2 Sam. 7.7 (nixn*?)//l Chron. 17.6 (nijn*?); 1 Kgs. 8.12 (]30b)//2 Chron. 6.1
Cjiscp4?); 2 Kgs. 8.19 (nn*p)//2 Chron. 21.7 (Pin1?).
58. 2 Sam. 24.17 {-) H \ Chron. 21.17 (HiDO1?); 2 Sam. 24.18 O G tfl, D,?n)//
1 Chron. 21.18 (“ibK1?, U'pnb) (cf. Kieviet 1997b: 60); 1 Kgs. 8.29 (—)//2 Chron.
6.20 (aito*7); 2 Kgs. 18.13 = Isa. 36.1 (-)//2 Chron. 32.1 (D?f?3*?).
59. Note that Rezetko 2007a: 413 mistakenly says there are three cases o f in
Deuteronomy (cf. BDB, 730; HALOT, II: 791). T
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 75

(5) DXJni (30.3; ‘and the people had not been gathered’).
Collective nouns construed as plurals is a phenomenon considered to
be more common in LBH and MH than in EBH. However, Young has
investigated Dtf, rni? and concluding that collective nouns should
not be treated as an undifferentiated group, and that current patterns of
grammatical concord may be due to non-chronological factors (Young
1999,2001a). Thus, some core LBH books, such as Esther and Daniel, as
in EBH, construe Di? as singular a proportionately high number of times.
Nonetheless EBH books regularly construe UV as plural, just not almost
all the time as in Ezekiel and Ezra-Chronicles. So, all books commonly
construe UV as plural, but some books prefer this.
(6) “TDJ7 (30.5; ‘establish’). The Hiphil stem of 7DJJ for ‘appoint,
assign, ordain, establish, fulfil’ is said to be a late usage (BDB, 764; cf.
Kutscher’s statement cited in 2.11.3). The core EBH corpus is nearly
three and a half times larger than the core LBH corpus; given this, the
fewer instances of "TEU in Esther-Chronicles (xl57) than in Genesis-
Kings (x205) actually appear at a higher rate of occurrence. On the other
hand, the Hiphil stem occurs more often in core LBH (x53) than in core
EBH (xl9).60 However, it is not clear in this particular case that 1!2V
{Hiphil) with ""Q7 and b with infinitive is a late usage. This is a unique
syntagm which can be interpreted ‘decide to do something’ (HALOT, II:
842; Ringgren 2001: 185). In any case, at best the issue is not early vs.
late but rather a stylistic preference for this feature.
(7) (30.6,10; ‘messengers’). The substantival participle of f T"!
(‘run’) used for royal ‘messenger’ rather than royal ‘escort’ (2 Sam. 15.1;
1 Kgs. 1.5) or royal ‘body-guard’ (1 Sam. 22.17; xl 1 in Kings) is found
in LBH in Est. 3.13, 15; 8.10, 14 and 2 Chron. 30.6, 10. In the Hebrew
Bible, messengers in general appear most often in Samuel and Kings and
then about twice as often in each book as they appear in Chronicles.61
Several factors suggest that cannot simply be characterised as
a late term in Esther and Chronicles. First, in EBH Jer. 51.31, twice we
find the substantival participle fH used in parallel with T2D for royal
‘messenger’ (cf. LXX present participles of avayysAAco). Second, Chron­
icles has crynn three times for the royal ‘body-guard’ in a synoptic
passage, and in the first instance, as in Kings, it is modified by
(1 Kgs. 14.27, 28 [x2]//2 Chron. 12.10, 11 [x2]). Third, Chronicles also
uses *^*70 for royal ‘messenger’, in synoptic passages (2 Sam. 5.11//

60. The single EBH exception to both these tendencies is Leviticus.

61. Kings uses only the word ‘pD for royal messengers and others. Samuel also
prefers for royal messengers and others but the book has several other terms as
well: "l©3D (?; 1 Sam. 4.17); (?; 2 Sam. 15.10); T ag (2 Sam. 15.13).
76 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

1 Chron. 14.1; 2 Sam. 10.2//1 Chron. 19.2; 1 Kgs. 22.13//2 Chron. 18.12
[cf. DHp in v. 8]) and in non-synoptic material (1 Chron. 19.16;
2 Chron. 35.21). These points show that CPynn is not a late substitute for
and that the meaning royal ‘messenger’ for D'^nn is not an issue
of semantic development. Rather, D 'y in is occasionally used with a
switch in referent (cf. Rezetko 2007a: 390-95).
(8) Drrni- (30.7; ‘their [fathers]’). LBH prefers the third masculine
plural suffix Drrni - rather than Dni - on feminine plural nouns ending in
Hi - and on masculine plural nouns which take the feminine plural ending
ni-. If we compare the core EBH and LBH books, we find ratios of 6
EBH Dni- vs. 1 LBH occurrence, and 1 EBH D rrn i- vs. 2 LBH
occurrences. Or, from a different perspective, in core EBH Dni - prevails
over DiTni - by about 12 to 1, whereas in core LBH Drrni - occurs only
slightly more often than Dni-. The difference between EBH and LBH is
the frequency of the endings. Consequently, this is not an issue of early
vs. late but rather stylistic preference. EBH mostly shuns ‘younger’
D rrni- whereas less conservative LBH uses both suffixes evenly.
(9) DDH’l (30.7; ‘and he gave them’). It is argued that in LBH n$ +
pronominal suffix as the direct object of a verb decreases in favour of
a suffix attached directly to the verb. This tendency in core LBH is
considered symptomatic of later developments in the history of BH.
However, an examination of specific texts produces widely divergent
results. The construction is found most often in Ezekiel and then about
equally in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Jeremiah. On the other hand,
whereas Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi use the construction, Obadiah,
Nahum and Habakkuk do not. Furthermore, the ‘late’ tendency is also
found in the Mesha inscription from Moab and the Hebrew of Iron
Age inscriptions. See Edenburg, Gibeah , forthcoming; Young, ‘Pesher’,
forthcoming. So, although some consider chronology a possible explana­
tion for distribution of n$ + pronominal suffix, it seems better to explain
this feature as a stylistic choice in any period (cf. Kofoed 2005:126-27).
(10) D^iU1? (30.8; ‘forever’). We noted in 2.11.3 that D^iU1? is used
throughout BH, thus strictly speaking it is not LBH here. The absence of
an expression with n i l (D ^ rn 5! 1?, Dn’T l 1?, vn'TT*?) in Chronicles is an
argumentum ex silencio since such constructions are found only in P but
nowhere else in EBH.
(11) D3 1 flizn (30.9; ‘when [if] you return’). It is often said that in LBH
the infinitive construct with 3/3 preceded by introductory ITn O rri/rr HI)
decreases. In addition to the bibliography cited in 2.11.3, see Eskhult
1990:108, 111, 115-16;2000a: 9 1-93;2003b: 154-56,164;2005:367-
68, 370. Rezetko 2003: 235-37 criticises this hypothesis with regard to
TH in prose texts. The following remarks relate to introductory ITIT] in
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 11

discourse. The question here is whether an EBH author would have

written <"^1- First, introductory ITH] in discourse is used ten
times in Samuel, eight times in Kings, but only once in Chronicles,
where, surprisingly, it is a plus in a synoptic verse: 2 Sam. 7.12
Chron. 17.11 ^ ^ 3 n;ni).62 Second,
introductory PTH*] + 3/3 + infinitive construct in discourse is actually not
very common in BH. We find it once in each of Exodus, Leviticus,
Numbers, Judges and Ezekiel; twice in each of Genesis, Samuel, Kings
and Jeremiah; four times in Joshua; and seven times in Deuteronomy.63
Third, the phrase in this verse, n3 + 3/3 + infinitive construct, is found
only here in discourse, and elsewhere only twice in prose (Judg. 11.16;
1 Sam. 24.12). Fourth, Eskhult 2000a: 92 n. 46 remarks regarding prose:
‘To be sure, be/ke + inf est without waw is common in both our corpus
and Samuel - Kings. The difference is thus not the use of be or ke + infini­
tive, but rather the proclitic w a w \ i.e., ubeqotlo rather than beqotlo in
LBH.64 It is true that we find this introductory syntagm more frequently
in LBH prose than in EBH prose. However, the observation does not
apply to discourse, in which introductory ubeqotld is found nine times in
EBH, thirteen times in Ezekiel, and twice in Daniel.65Fifth, in fact, intro­
ductory beqotld is common in discourse throughout BH. For example, we
find it nine times in Samuel-Kings and twice in Chronicles.66Therefore,

62. 1 Sam. 2.36; 3.9; 10.7; 16.16; 17.25; 23.23; 25.30-31; 2 Sam. 11.20-21;
15.35; 17.9; 1 Kgs. 1.21; 2.37; 11.38; 18.12,24; 19.17; 20.6; 2 Kgs. 4.10. In Samuel
and Kings the apodosis has weqatalti (x7), forcedyiqtol (x3), unforced yiqtol (x6),
qtol (x l), and a verbless clause (x l). The example in Chronicles has weqatalti.
63. Gen. 9.14-15; 44.31; Exod. 33.22; Lev. 27.21; Num. 15.19; Deut. 17.18;
20.2, 9; 23.14; 25.19; 27.4; 29.18-19; Josh. 2.14; 3.13; 6.5; 8.8; Judg. 9.33; 1 Sam.
16.16; 2 Sam. 17.9; 1 Kgs. 1.21; 2 Kgs. 4.10; Jer. 24.12; 51.63; Ezek. 44.17. In these
examples the apodosis has weqatalti (xl 1), forced yiqtol (x l), and unforced yiqtol
(xl2). Note also several cases o f jussive ,,rr] + 3/3 + infinitive construct in dis­
course: 1 Sam. 10.5; 2 Sam. 5.24//1 Chron. 14.15; 1 Kgs. 14.5; Ruth 3.4.
64. Eskhult’s view regarding this feature appears to have changed. Eskhult 1990:
108, 111, 115-16 speaks about (u)beqotlo with or without waw whereas in subse­
quent publications he says ubeqotld with waw rather than beqotlo is LBH (Eskhult
2000a: 91-93; 2003b: 154-56,164; 2005: 367-68,370). However, other scholars do
not make this distinction, arguing rather that both constructions (1 + 3/3 + infinitive,
3/3 + infinitive, both without T H ) are more characteristic o f later books. This
becomes particularly clear when the evidence o f QH is discussed.
65. Exod. 30.8; Lev. 12.6; 19.9; 23.22; Num. 1.51 (x2); 10.7; Isa. 1.15; 18.3
(3); Ezek. 3.20, 27; 18.24, 27; 20.31; 33.14, 19, 33; 44.19; 45.1; 46.8, 9, 10; Dan.
11.34; 12.7 (3).
66. 1 Sam. 9.13; 10.2; 2 Sam. 11.19; 1 Kgs. 8.33; 13.31; 14.12; 2 Kgs. 5.18;
6.32; 2 Chron. 30.9; 1 Kgs. 8.35//2 Chron. 6.26; cf. 2 Kgs. 5.6; 10.2 with initial
78 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

we must conclude that the absence of iTH! in 2 Chron. 30.9 is perfectly

acceptable (E)BH. The issue, once again, is stylistic preference.
(12) 01 ITT] ]13n (30.9; ‘gracious and compassionate’). In LBH the
order of words in certain phrases is sometimes reversed (‘diachronic
chiasm’). We will examine this issue and the particular phrase ]13n
□ irni, used here and elsewhere, in our discussion of Joel in 5.3.
(13) (30.10; ‘and the messengers passed’) and ...vrPl
(30.10; ‘and they scorned and ridiculed’). Scholars
argue that in LBH there is an increase of ITH + participle as a peri­
phrastic form for cursive/imperfective activity. In addition to the sources
cited in 2.11.3 see especially Eskhult 1990: 113-14; 2000a: 89; 2005:
365-66; Ehrensvard 2003: 171.67 Ehrensvard finds 30 instances in EBH,
and Eskhult points to 24 in LBH, which is a significant difference in
frequency considering the size of the corpora.68 However, note that one
of Eskhult’s examples in Chronicles is found in the parallel (1 Kgs.
22.35 [Hophal]//2 Chron. 18.34 [Hiphil]), and there are apparently no
examples in the LBH book of Ezra. Thus this use of ITH + participle was
available to all authors but preferred by some.
(14) Cp^ntoQ (30.10; ‘laughing’) and D'MbD (30.10; ‘mocking’).
Although attested in all strata of BH, it is argued that LBH has a particu­
lar tendency to use the Hiphil stem of certain roots with an equivalent
sense to the Qal stem. Thus we find the Qal stem of pflto and
throughout BH but the Hiphil stem of pnto is used only here and the
Hiphil stem of is found elsewhere in core LBH (Neh. 2.19; 3.33) but
also in ABH Job 21.3 and EBH Ps. 22.8. Young, ‘Pesher’, forthcoming,
discusses this matter further. In short, this feature is used in all strata of
BH, so strictly speaking the issue cannot be early vs. late.
(15) (30.11). It is widely believed that LBH shows an
increase of a prepositional phrase using bto or b at the expense of il of
direction. ‘Locative he is attested 752 times in Genesis to 2 Kings, but
only 97 times in the Late Biblical Hebrew corpus (8 times more cases in
Classical Biblical Hebrew than in Late Biblical Hebrew).... Late Biblical
Hebrew for its part shows much similarity to the Hebrew of the Qumran
scrolls in the use of locative he* (Joosten 2005: 337-38; cf. Hoftijzer

67. For more discussion, see Verheij 1990: 78-81; van Peursen 1997: 159-63;
Muraoka 1999: 194-200.
68. EBH: Gen. 1.6; 39.22; Deut. 9.7,22,24; 28.29; 31.27; Judg. 1.7; 11.10; 19.1;
1 Sam. 2.11; 2 Sam. 3.17; 4.3; 7.6; 8.15; 13.23; 15.32; 1 Kgs. 5.1, 24; 12.6; 20.40;
2 Kgs. 8.21; 9.14; 1 7 .2 5 ,2 8 ,2 9 ,3 2 ,3 3 ,4 1 ; 18.4; LBH: Est. 1.22; 2.7, 15; 6.1; 9.21,
27; Neh. 1.4; 2.13, 15 (x2); 3.26; 6.14, 19 (x2); 13.5, 22; 1 Chron. 6.17; 2 Chron.
5.8; 18.34; 20.25; 24.14; 30.10 (x2); 36.16. In other cases, according to Eskhult, the
habitual character o f the construction is neutralised (e.g. Neh. 2.15; 2 Chron. 24.12).
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 79

1981: 223-43).69 Our research suggests that the evidence of the Hebrew
Bible is inconclusive.70 It is clear, as Joosten points out, that there is a
distinction between Genesis-Kings and the rest of the Hebrew Bible
(Latter Prophets and Writings alike).71 Nonetheless: (1) Joosten draws
attention to locative he attached to a noun in the construct state 25 times
in EBH but not even once in LBH. However, as Joosten observes, this
construction is found 15 times in Genesis, twice in Exodus, never in
Leviticus, twice in Numbers, once in Deuteronomy, once in Joshua, once

69. We find 119 cases in books that are definitely postexilic or probably post­
exilic according to the scholarly consensus: Isaiah 4 0-66 (x4), Joel (x2), Jonah (x3),
Haggai (x2), Zechariah (x4), Job 1-2, 42 (x3), Ruth (x2), Song o f Songs (x2),
Qoheleth (x4), Daniel (x9), Ezra (x2), Nehemiah (x2), Chronicles (x80). Only
Malachi and Esther lack locative he.
70. In 13.3.3 we will look again at this issue in light o f some interesting text-
critical evidence.
71. Joosten, referring to Z. Frankel 1841: 197-99, also argues that4[t]he Septua-
gint translators often transcribe the ending as part o f a proper name, showing that
they too were unaware o f its grammatical function’. However, this is untrue. We
have examined approximately 300 cases o f proper noun + locative he in MT. Only
about 80 show MT n - / / l x x -a. A careful review o f all the evidence shows that
almost always the l x x noun is (1) indeclinable, (2) an accusative form after e is or
ini, or rarely (c) an adverbial accusative o f place. For example, Josh. 18.13 twice
has n n 1? = Aou£a ( ‘to Luz’), but Aou£a is indeclinable, thus we find this same form
elsewhere as a nominative (Judg. 1.23), accusative (Josh. 16.1; Judg. 1.26) and
dative (Gen. 35.9; 48.3). Similarly, 1 Sam. 21.2 and 22.9 have n3’3 (‘to N ob’), but
again Nom(3c( is indeclinable, and thus this same form is also accusative (1 Sam.
22.19) and dative (1 Sam. 22.11). This explanation also holds for AE(3Xa0a,
Maaar|<t)a0, and 0anva0a, among others. Z. Frankel’s citation o f several o f these
examples without further analysis seems to have misled Joosten. Alternatively,
sometimes the l x x form is an accusative. This is true for = eis TaXyaXa ( ‘to
Gilgal’) in Josh. 10.6; 2 Sam. 19.16,41; 2 Kgs. 4.38. TaAyaXa is an accusative form
elsewhere (Josh. 5.9; 9.6; 22.10; 1 Sam. 7.16; 11.14, 15; 13.8, 12; 15.12; Hos. 4.15;
Amos 4.4; 5.5). It is also nominative (Amos 5.5) and genitive (1 Sam. 10.8),
although the normal genitive and dative forms are TaAyaXcov and TaXyaXois,
respectively. (Note that in some other texts is rendered by ToXyoX or TaXyaX.)
This explanation also applies to = sis Pa(3uXcova ( ‘to Babylon’) in many
passages (2 Kgs. 24.15, 15, 16; 25.13; Isa. 43.14; Jer. 20.5; 27.22; 29.1, 3; 40.1, 7;
52.11, 17; Ezek. 12.13; 17.12; 2 Chron. 33.11; 36.6, 10). BaPuXcov works asathird
declension noun. In the end there are only about fifteen good candidates where
l x x -a may correspond to MT Ht- , but many o f these are questionable too, usually
due to an absence o f evidence. In the best case scenario, the l x x translators perhaps
misunderstood the meaning o f locative he in about 5% o f all possible cases. Finally,
there are cases o f ‘confusion’ in the MT o f EBH books, e.g. ‘Timnah’ in Judges 14
(vv. 1, 2, 5), where proper noun + locative he has both directive and non-directive
80 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

in Judges, never in Samuel, once in Kings, and twice in Isaiah. This is

hardly a typical EBH feature. See further 6.6. (2) If Ezekiel represents an
intermediate stage between EBH and LBH— as Joosten claims—then
what should be made of the fact that this book ranks third in total number
of locative hes following behind Genesis and Joshua only? Similarly, in
the Twelve, where admittedly the feature is uncommon, we find locative
he in Joel, Jonah, Haggai and Zechariah, as also in Hosea, Amos, Micah
and Habakkuk, but Obadiah, Nahum and Micah do not use it. (3) We
find a remarkable situation when we compare Samuel-Kings and
Total Frequency Shared Plus Non-Synoptic
Samuel-Kings 199 once each 15 verses 18 2 72 179
Chronicles 80 once each 22 verses 18 673 56

The difference in overall frequency is minimal. Most instances of locative

he appear in non-synoptic material or on non-synoptic words. Samuel-
Kings has a plus on two words and Chronicles on six words. (4) Also,
the fact of the matter is that ‘Jerusalem’ rarely has locative he when it is
the indirect object of the verb K*Q: 1 Kgs. 10.2; 2 Kgs. 9.28; Isa. 36.2;
Ezek. 8.3; 2 Chron. 32.9.74 (5) Finally, we noted earlier that movement
verb + b rather than is characteristic of LBH, but this construction
does appear in EBH albeit less frequently (see, e.g., BDB, 511; DCH ,
IV: 480-81; HALOT, II: 508).
To sum up, we have examined fifteen lexical and grammatical features
of 2 Chron. 30.1-12 that are generally interpreted as indicators of the late
origin of the language of Chronicles. However, based on the linguistic
dating criteria of distribution, contrast and external attestation (cf. 2.2.3),
our findings are that none of these items is absolutely late. We have seen
that LBH features are regularly found in EBH. Indeed, the exception
here is rn}8, which is not found in EBH, but extra-biblical evidence

72. 1 Sam. 31.13 (n ra! 3 )//l Chron. 10.12 (tiT S); 2 Kgs. 14.14 (njinqti)//
2 Chron. 25.24 ()i“TO). But note the awkward construction in 1 Sam. 31.13: loca­
tive he on a noun prefixed with beth (cf. Josh. 15.21; Judg. 11.20; 14.1, 2; 1 Sam.
23.15, 18, 19 [see S. R. Driver 1913b: 187]; 2 Sam. 20.15; Jer. 52.10).
73. 2 Sam. 5.25 (-lTj)//l Chron. 14.16 (rnTa); 2 Sam. 10.14 (TJ?n)//l Chron.
19.15 (rrrpn); 1 Kgs. 7.39 pJJ)//2 Chron. 4.10 (PQM); 1 Kgs. 7.46 (]nnH)//2 Chron.
4.17 (nrrnif); 1 Kgs. 12.1 (D32?)//2 Chron. 10.1 (rim #); 2 Kgs. 23.34 (onS D )//
2 Chron. 36.4 (noniiD ).
74. Rather, in BH we find: 8*0 (xlO in Chronicles; x3 in other LBH; x20
in EBH); Kin (x2 in Chronicles; x5 in other LBH); P ^ I T Kin (x2 in
Chronicles; x2 in other LBH).
3. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Principles 81

disproves the absolute lateness of this word. The issue, then, is one of
statistical divergence or rate of accumulation. More pointedly, the differ­
ence between EBH and LBH is not linguistic chronology but rather
stylistic preference. We will examine the significance of these findings in
Chapters 4 and 5.

3.4. Conclusion
In Chapter 2 we summarised the working principles and methodology
of scholars undertaking diachronic research on BH, and we gave some
illustrations of what constitutes LBH in comparison to EBH. In this
chapter we have critically examined those principles. In addition, our
analysis of 2 Chron. 30.1-12, summarised in the preceding paragraph,
illustrates that the difference between EBH and LBH is largely one of
dissimilar frequencies of the same linguistic features. In Chapter 4 we
will focus on methodology. The following are several important points
we have tried to make in this chapter.
First, scholars routinely interpret the Hebrew Bible’s typological
variety in terms of chronological development; thus, ABH is very early,
EBH is early (preexilic), and LBH is late (postexilic). However, the
automatic conversion of typology into chronology is challenged by exam­
ples of early LBH features (stemming from what we may hypothesise as
early LBH or proto-LBH) and late EBH.
Second, scholars frequently promote linguistic dating of biblical texts
as an objective discipline which should be privileged over non-linguistic
dating criteria. However, there is no firm basis for favouring a priori one
type of evidence over another. In addition, those who seek to date bib­
lical texts on the basis of linguistic analysis overlook nearly without
exception important aspects of those texts, namely, their literary com­
plexity and textual fluidity.
Third, the heart of the linguistic dating of biblical texts is the late
phase of BH, the undisputed postexilic corpus and unmistakable late
features attested in it. However, lurking behind this point of departure we
find indisputable evidence for literary-linguistic circularity. In fact, the
history of scholarship shows that early scholars relied solely on internal
biblical considerations for their early dating of substantial portions of
biblical literature. Extra-biblical sources, which are recognised to be
essential for the absolute dating of biblical texts, did not come into play
until long after the development of the preexilic EBH and postexilic
LBH framework had been widely accepted.
82 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

3.5. For Further Reading

Davies, P. R., ‘Biblical Hebrew and the History of Ancient Judah: Typology, Chronology
and Common Sense’, in I. Young (ed.), Biblical Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and
Typology (JSOTSup, 369; London: T&T Clark International, 2003), pp. 150-63.
Rezetko, R., ‘Dating Biblical Hebrew: Evidence from Samuel-Kings and Chronicles’, in
I. Young (ed.), Biblical Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and Typology (JSOTSup,
369; London: T&T Clark International, 2003), pp. 215-50.
— ‘“Late” Common Nouns in the Book of Chronicles’, in R. Rezetko, T. H. Lim and
B. A. Aucker (eds.), Reflection and Refraction: Studies in Biblical Historiography
in Honour o f A. Graeme Auld (VTSup, 113; Leiden: Brill, 2007), pp. 379^17.
Chapter 4

E a r l y v s . L a t e B ib l ic a l H e b r e w :
C r i t iq u e o f M e t h o d o l o g y

4.1. Introduction
In Chapter 2 we surveyed the working principles and methodology of
scholars who seek to date biblical texts on a linguistic basis. Chapter
3 responded critically to the principles (theory) which support such
research. In this chapter we will focus first on the matter of methodology
(practice) and offer an evaluation of the criteria of linguistic distribution,
opposition, extra-biblical attestation and accumulation. Then we will
respond to Polak’s work on styles of BH.

4.2. Critique o f Methodology

4.2.1. Linguistic Distribution. The first criterion for determining that a
particular linguistic feature is late is linguistic distribution: The linguistic
feature in question should occur exclusively or predominantly in core
LBH books (Esther-Chronicles) whose content indicates beyond doubt
that they were written in the postexilic period. However, in we
observed already that the principal difference between EBH and LBH is
the frequency of certain features. Very few EBH and LBH features are
linked exclusively to one chronological phase of BH. (We will also see
in Chapter 12 that ABH features are not exclusively tied to ABH texts.)
Rather, the normal situation is that corresponding EBH and LBH features
coexist in both EBH and LBH books. Accordingly, most LBH features
appear in EBH texts, though they occur more often in LBH texts, and
most EBH features are used alongside equivalent LBH features in LBH
texts. This situation explains the need for the phrase ‘or predominantly’
in the definition of ‘linguistic distribution’. For example, let us return to
the example of We observed in that this word occurs in all
the core LBH books, a total of 78 times, out of 91 total occurrences in
BH. A further six occurrences are in LBH-related psalms and Qoheleth.
84 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

There are also four occurrences in the EBH language of Jer. 10.7; 49.34;
52.31 and Ps. 45.7.1But the noun is also found in the core EBH books,
albeit only three times (Num. 24.7; 1 Sam. 20.31; 1 Kgs. 2.12). In con­
trast, EBH occurs throughout BH, so that, for example, Ezra
has ‘early’ (xl) and ‘late’ (x6), Nehemiah also has both
words (xl and x2, respectively), and so does Chronicles (x22 and x28,
Let us give an illustration of the fact that very few EBH and LBH
features are linked exclusively to one chronological phase of BH. The
table opposite presents all the linguistic data Rooker cites in his mono­
graph on Ezekiel (Rooker 1990a).2
This table clearly shows that many LBH features are used in core EBH
texts and many EBH features can be found in core LBH texts. As we will
see, the breakdown in distribution is even more pronounced when we
focus on features which occur often, say ten times or more, and when we
compare distribution of features in BH with their distribution in Aramaic
and postbiblical Hebrew. In Rooker’s analysis of Ezekiel:
• In 26 of 37 cases (70%), an LBH feature is used in EBH, and the
equivalent EBH feature is found in LBH.
• In 9 cases (25%), an LBH feature does not appear in EBH, but
the corresponding EBH feature shows up in LBH.3
• In only 2 cases (5%) do we see a definite contrast between EBH
and LBH, in which an LBH feature does not occur in EBH and
the matching EBH feature is absent from LBH.4
We point out here, and show elsewhere in many other cases, that this
scenario is not limited to these particular features or to the book of Ezek­
iel. This is the normal situation for the vast majority of EBH and LBH
features and for all strata of BH. Unfortunately, it is common practice in
studies of this type (i.e. Rooker 1990a) for scholars to leave out a sum­
mary of distribution of EBH and LBH features. Thus, we are often not
reminded that a particular EBH feature ‘continues’ in use in LBH.

1. This is a royal psalm and as such it is often attributed to the preexilic period
(cf. Volume 2, 1.4.2).
2. Young 2003c: 283 has a similar discussion o f Rooker’s data. Note that in some
cases among features 1-20 (grammar) the particular feature cited simply illustrates a
broader phenomenon, e.g. nilHK is one example o f several cited in support o f a
pluralising tendency in LBH.
3. These nine cases are the grammatical features 5 ,6 ,1 4 and the lexical features
22, 24, 27, 34, 35, 36.
4. These two cases are the lexical features 31 and 32.
4. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Methodology 85

Distribution o f 37 Grammatical and Lexical Features Cited in Rooker 1990a

Pages LBH Feature LBH in EBH Feature EBH in
1 68-71 T il Yes th Yes
2 72-74 Yes •q'DK Yes
3 75-77 n im a Yes n« Yes
4 78-81 Q(n)- Yes 103)- Yes
5 82 mn No *'0 Yes
6 83-85 D’P No n'pn Yes
7 86-87 im ^ n Yes iris i ^ n Yes
8 88-90 nEr.-.K-iran n« Yes 3KT arton Yes
9 91-93 er«n iK'ra Yes nspb k m Yes
10 94-96 lira b s lin i Yes “itai ^3 Yes
11 97-99 b "®3 Yes dk Yes
12 100-102 13 T ^ r n Yes 13 Yes
13 103-105 nai?3 Yes n « s3 '•nn Yes
14 106-107 nni; k is 1? No KiT 1JDV Yes
15 108-10 i d u rrn Yes Yes
16 111-12 im u t Yes '3 0Tt Yes
17 113-14 n ia s ran 3rin Yes 3 ifi n ia s ran i Yes
18 115-16 Yes Yes

19 117-19 Yes r 3 . .. r s Yes

20 120-22 m Q \./3 Yes ,,3nDm...DRi Yes
21 127-31 Yes Yes
22 132-33 rntppD No nnno Yes
23 134-38 ?9\ Yes P?¥ Yes
24 139—41 n ns No n sg Yes
25 142 Yes fnp ,onn Yes
26 143-46 Yes ■ni? Yes
27 147-48 No «)SP ,*1S rnn Yes
28 149-52 in v Yes □ip Yes
29 153-55 t? n Yes Yes
30 156-58 D33/b_33 Yes rsi? Yes
31 159-61 na No No
32 162-63 n sm No tfp lp ,n ? s ie No
33 164-66 nr TJ Yes f in Yes
34 167-69 I 1?™ No th Yes
35 170-71 rn iy No nun Yes
36 172-73 No “ibr ^ “ie» ]?Dlp' Yes
37 174-75 *1531 Yes nnn ^95 Yes
86 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Similarly, references to occurrences o f a particular LBH feature in EBH

texts are often overlooked or relegated to footnotes. In any case, we
emphasise once again that the issue is one o f frequency rather than
clear-cut linguistic distribution (or opposition; see b elow ).5 This phe­
nomenon should seriously modify the chronological approach to BH.
Thus, is actually a ‘late’ linguistic item after all? If so, its appear­
ance in a text should indicate that therefore the text is to be dated late. A
corollary o f late dating those EBH texts which use would be the
realisation that late texts need not exhibit a large accumulation o f LBH
features. If against this is it argued that the LBH linguistic feature found
in the EBH text is not actually ‘late’ but was also available in an early
period, then its value for dating texts ‘late’ is negated. Despite the claims
o f the criterion o f accumulation, there is no reason to assume that an
early author could not produce a text with a clustering o f LBH elements
if they were available to him. Therefore, if EBH texts are early, and most
LBH features are attested in EBH texts, then LBH features already
existed in an early period, and were available to early authors, and thus
their use is a matter o f style, not chronology.
There is yet another flaw with the criterion o f linguistic distribution:
M ost LBH features are not characteristic o f all LBH texts. We will
clarify this in Chapter 5. For the moment the following illustrations make
the point w ell enough. Take, for example, theophoric names ending with
71] - and 1PT-.6 According to some scholars, the long ending 1JT- is pre­
exilic and the short ending 71] - is postexilic, the result o f Aramaic
influence.7 However, Ezra and Nehemiah unequivocally have ia t e ’ IT-,
whereas Chronicles generally has ‘early’ liT -, in independent material

5. In fact, descriptions such as the following occur many times in Rooker 1990a:
‘almost exclusively’, ‘beginning to be used’, ‘continued to be used’, ‘diminished’,
‘emerging pattern’, ‘employed more and more’, ‘especially prevalent’, ‘greater
degree’, ‘greater frequency’, ‘growing frequency’, ‘growing tendency’, ‘inclina­
tion’, ‘increased frequency’, ‘increased in frequency’, ‘increased preference’,
‘incremental tendency’, ‘more intensified’, ‘more prominent’, ‘more widespread’,
‘more widespread use’, ‘only rarely’, ‘only sparingly’, ‘predominantly’, ‘prefer­
ence’, ‘preferred’, ‘prevailing pattern’, ‘prevailing tendency’, ‘prevalence’, ‘preva­
lent’, ‘primarily’, ‘primarily restricted’, ‘tended’, ‘tendency’, ‘tends’, ‘trend’,
‘usually’, ‘virtually restricted’, etc.
6. Also see the discussion o f unassimilated ]Q in Young, ‘Pesher’, forthcoming.
He looks as well at 2b and DD1? (cf. Volume 2, 3.3). The distribution o f Persian
loanwords also illustrates the phenomenon that LBH features are not characteristic
o f all LBH texts. See 11.5.
7. For example, see G. R. Driver 1928; Torczyner 1938: 24-25; Japhet 1968:
338-41; Kutscher 1974: 104; Saenz Badillos 1993: 121.
4. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Methodology 87

and in synoptic parallels where Kings has IT-.8 In fact, there are many
such differences in language between Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles.9It
is often difficult to determine which feature in which book would repre­
sent truly late language. Similarly, Bergey’s study of Esther illustrates on
a larger level the diversity of LBH language (Bergey 1983). For exam­
ple, he discusses fifteen LBH common noun lexemes in Esther. O f these,
in one instance Chronicles uses neither the LBH or the EBH word, twice
Chronicles uses the LBH word only (f 13, n5)2T% rather than EBH tftp,
j?“!j?)j times Chronicles uses both the LBH and EBH words
(LBH rnat*, 3H 3, “IKE, and EBH 3 n 3 Q /“l?D, n r v ), and nine times
Chronicles uses the EBH word only (e.g. 1 1 3 3 , rather than “IjT). Similar
observations can be made for the near-contemporary books of Jeremiah
and Ezekiel. Thus Rooker, for example, contrasts the so-called
transitional BH of Ezekiel with the language of Jeremiah, noting that
Ezekiel has 37 LBH features and 31 corresponding EBH features while
Jeremiah, with regard to the same features, has the LBH feature 15 times
but the corresponding EBH feature 20 times (Rooker 1990a: 182-83).10
(Also see our remarks on Jeremiah and Ezekiel in, and
4.5 [point 3].) Conversely, in we pointed out that some undis­
puted postexilic texts, including Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, and
probably also Isaiah 40-66 and Joel, are characterised by their lack of
typical LBH features, and instead, when opportunity arises, they use
linguistic features that are characteristic of EBH texts.11 In other words,
there are some books which with certainty and others which in all
probability are postexilic but which are definitely in EBH. Thus, LBH is
not monolithic or uniform with regard to the distribution of supposedly
late linguistic features. This is another strong argument for the view that
the use of typical LBH features is a matter of style, not chronology.

4.2.2. Linguistic Opposition. The second criterion for determining that

a particular linguistic feature is late is linguistic opposition: The linguis­
tic feature in question should be equivalent in meaning and used in place

8. Also see our discussions in 4.5 (point 4) and 6.4.3 (point 1) o f the theophoric
elements IT - and 1IT-.
9. See, for example, Corwin 1909, Kropat 1909, Polzin 1976, Williamson 1977;
c f Japhet 1968, Throntveit 1982, D. Talshir 1988. Also see the remarks in Young
1993a: 84; 2003d: 313-14; Elwolde 1997: 53-54 n. 102.
10. Rooker points out that in two cases Jeremiah uses neither the LBH nor EBH
11. Also see the tables o f late features in exilic and postexilic books in Wright
2005: 153-61. He describes LBH as ‘a language in transition’ because o f ‘the
chronological differences that can be discerned even among late books’ (p. 153).
88 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

o f a feature found in core EBH books (most o f Genesis-Kings). How­

ever, if the criterion of linguistic distribution is shaky, then the criterion
of linguistic opposition is doubly unstable. This is unavoidable. When
two features having equal significance crop up concurrently (e.g. English
‘humour’ and ‘wit’) then by definition there is not a definite contrast in
meaning and time between them. Therefore, opposition between EBH
and LBH is undermined to the extent that we find any given EBH feature
in LBH texts and LBH feature in EBH texts. More commonly, then, we
find that ‘linguistic opposition’ between EBH and LBH actually resolves
into supplementation in LBH or EBH (‘mixed language’). Thus, to return
to and
• Some EBH books have only, namely, Genesis, Exodus,
Deuteronomy, Joshua and Isaiah 1-39, but so do Isaiah 40-55,
56-66, Ezekiel and Haggai.
• Other EBH books have both rD^pft and namely Num­
bers, Samuel and Kings, but so do Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemiah
and Chronicles.
• Finally, only three books have to the exclusion of
LBH Qoheleth, Esther and Daniel.12
Similarly, we saw above that only two of 37 features which Rooker
1990a studies in the so-called transitional BH of Ezekiel meet the crite­
rion of linguistic opposition in BH: EBH TO in contrast to LBH
(#31), and EBH n5S"]Q and in contrast to LBH HSin (#32).
Moreover, none of the forty features which Wright 2005 cites in his
study of the EBH Yahwist Source meet the criterion of linguistic opposi­
tion in BH.13Similarly, Rezetko 2007a argues that only 6 o f700 common
noun lexemes found in LBH Chronicles are set in opposition to syno­
nyms found only in core EBH texts, and sometimes also in so-called
transitional BH books and books of disputed date, but not in core LBH
texts.14 In other words, regarding common noun lexemes, the most

12. This summary leaves aside only Amos, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah and
Lamentations, all having only, and Psalms, with six instances each o f mnbft
and ra'ppQ, but these never appear together in the same psalm.
13. This does not take into consideration his chapter on Persianisms. On this see
14. Rezetko 2007a: 399-400 also illustrates that sometimes scholars create false
oppositions: in Esther and Chronicles has a socio-religious concern; hence it is
not in opposition to the usual word “l?0 which refers to a political document in these
two books. Similarly see also the argument in Guenther 2005: 3 9 9 ^ 0 1 , 4 0 4 ^ 0 5
that for ‘marry’ rather than npb does not relate to ‘late’ language but rather
social factors.
4. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Methodology 89

productive part of speech in BH, Chronicles, the prime exemplar of

LBH, is mostly EBH with several nouns attested exclusively in LBH
found occasionally.15 It turns out, as we will see, that many linguistic
features traditionally characterised as late or early actually fail, upon
closer scrutiny, to meet the criteria of linguistic distribution and opposi­
tion. Consequently, it seems that the use of typical LBH features is a
matter of style, not chronology.
It is evident that the dating criteria of linguistic distribution and
opposition are imprecise:
• Distribution: Most typically cited LBH linguistic features do not
occur only or even predominantly in undisputed postexilic texts.
• Opposition: Most typically cited LBH linguistic features which
do happen to meet the first criterion in turn fail to stand in
contrast with corresponding EBH features that appear only in
EBH sources.
Furthermore, with regard to the small number of linguistic features that
do fully meet the criteria of distribution and opposition, it is still neces­
sary to demonstrate on the basis of external evidence that EBH feature A
is absolutely early and/or conversely that LBH feature B is absolutely
late. We will take up this issue shortly. Otherwise, there seems to be only
one possible way to salvage the integrity of any given preexilic EBH or
postexilic LBH feature, insofar as linguistic opposition is concerned. One
could allow that early/preexilic EBH feature A continues into postexilic
LBH, where it is used alongside late/postexilic LBH feature B, and then
one could argue that features A and B in postexilic LBH are actually not
synonymous. In other words, although feature A and feature B both
appear in LBH, either the meaning of feature A has undergone semantic
development, and consequently it is not really equal in meaning to
feature B, or feature B entered LBH not as a competitor to feature A but
rather as a feature with a meaning different to feature A. In actual fact,
however, few such examples are cited in the literature, and those given
prove, upon closer scrutiny, to be questionable. Thus Rezetko 2007a:
390-95 gives cautionary remarks on demarcating semantic development
in BH and challenges sixteen different supposed cases of change in
meaning in Chronicles. Similarly, in Volume 2, 3.2, we will see that

15. These common noun lexemes are f'D (vs. ttf©), )T (vs. (vs.
cr 113 (vs. njpn), ‘r q - a (vs. - 39, i^ in , n?*?in[n] "DC, ^ [ n ] n r ‘pin) and (»)tan
(vs. rQ in). However, we use the phrase ‘exclusively in LBH’ only with regard to
attestation in BH, since once the criterion o f extra-biblical attestation is invoked,
absolute lateness is far from certain for ]T, CPri^Q and (8)13“], leaving only
b'lTQ and] 1].
90 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Joosten’s argument that IT (‘fill his hand’) ‘clearly has a different

meaning’ (cf. is questionable.

4.2.3. Extra-biblical Attestation. The third criterion for determining

that a particular linguistic feature is late is extra-biblical attestation: The
linguistic feature in question should appear in biblical or postbiblical
Aramaic and/or in postexilic Hebrew sources outside the Hebrew Bible.
In our discussion of the absolute dating of EBH and LBH ( we
observed that the possibility of dating biblical texts absolutely on the
basis of linguistic criteria depends on extra-biblical linguistic sources,
which are undisputed with respect to date, and to which BH linguistic
data can be adequately compared. Furthermore, in our discussion of the
standard approach or starting point of linguistic dating (3.2.4) we argued
that since early non-biblical sources were unavailable to early scholars of
the history of BH, therefore they must have relied solely on internal
biblical considerations for their early dating of substantial portions of
biblical literature (e.g. most of Genesis-Kings). Therefore, in the history
of scholarship it is evident that extra-biblical attestation really functions
as an ex post facto (‘from after the fact’) attempt at confirmation rather
than the true foundation of the supposed tripartite typological and
chronological division of BH. Nevertheless, it is worth examining the
external evidence given for the dates traditionally applied to ABH, EBH
and LBH texts.
In Chapters 6-12 we will look closely at the character and significance
of extra-biblical sources. At this point we will summarise four general
conditions for the more precise use of these materials.
First, there must be adequate extra-biblical evidence to compare to
BH. The term ‘adequate’ should be interpreted in terms of quantity, the
satisfactory size of each corpora, and scope, corpora which are continu­
ous with the purported dates of origin of biblical literature, however
early or late they may be. (We recall the remarks on this matter in the
discussion of cross-linguistic studies in Unfortunately, we are
immediately faced with two problems. For the period stretching from the
sixth to the third century BCE, which includes the whole Persian period,
we have almost no extra-biblical evidence for Hebrew at all. Yet, this is
precisely the period when many biblical scholars would date the com­
position and/or editing of much or all of the Hebrew Bible. Furthermore,
this first prerequisite virtually negates the usefulness of the extra-biblical
sources, since the vast majority of our evidence for Hebrew and Aramaic
dates to the (late) postexilic period or later, so that it is almost inevitable
that typical LBH forms will be attested somewhere in a late non-biblical
4. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Methodology 91

Second, we must have extra-biblical evidence which is in fact similar

to each of the three chronological (previous point) and typological
divisions of BH. The similarity between the non-biblical and biblical
materials should extend to both genre and quality. As for genre, it is
widely recognised, for example, that poetry and prose, or literary and
non-literary prose, may attest different linguistic features, or these may
utilise similar linguistic features in different ways. Is it reasonable, for
example, to compare inscriptional and literary Hebrew? (On this see
Chapter 6, especially 6.3.3.) By quality, we mean that the features attested
in extra-biblical sources should actually be like the features attested in
BH, individually and in their totality. Thus, ABH should really be similar
to Amama Canaanite and Ugaritic (Chapter 12); EBH should actually be
similar to monarchic-era inscriptions (Chapter 6); and LBH should have
true similarities to biblical or postbiblical Aramaic (Chapter 8) and/or to
postexilic Hebrew sources outside the Hebrew Bible, such as MH and
the Hebrew of the Bar Kochba letters (Chapter 9) and QH and the
Hebrew of the book of Ben Sira (Chapter 10). However, we argue in this
book that not only are the so-called distinctive ABH, EBH and LBH
features attested outside their respective strata, but also without excep­
tion the extra-biblical sources are in fact substantially different from the
biblical sources they are said to resemble.
Third, all known extra-biblical evidence which is relevant to the BH
features or texts under review should be given consideration in said
discussion. This means that the relevant data are satisfactorily described
and adequately weighed as to their relevance. The criterion of external
attestation can be very misleading if attention is paid only to part of the
external evidence. Thus, to return to rPDta, the Old Aramaic occurrences
of this word are generally overlooked, but at a minimum they show that
the appearances of JTDta in later Aramaic by themselves tell us nothing
about the chronology of the word in BH.16
Fourth, even if our use of extra-biblical evidence meets the preceding
three conditions, with the result that we could irrefutably demonstrate the
typological similarity of monarchic-era inscriptions and EBH prose, this
still would not prove that EBH prose is preexilic rather than postexilic.
To accomplish this we would still need to show that there were not
different contemporary styles of BH in the preexilic and postexilic
periods. However, we cited evidence above in and which
contests the views that EBH must be early and LBH must be late.

16. Other remarks on the neglect o f extra-biblical evidence can be found in

Young 2003c: 277 n. 3; 280 n. 5; ‘Pesher’, forthcoming. He cites (overlooked) late
evidence related to EBH H1J? and (overlooked) early evidence related to LBH rn2N,
fin , n'jW rra, “fta (Piel) and ta p .
92 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

4.2.4. Accumulation. So far we have addressed criteria germane to

discussions of individual linguistic features. A fourth and final criterion
must be invoked in debates on the linguistic dating of biblical sources
and books: I f a particular biblical text is to be ju dged late on linguistic
grounds it must exhibit an accumulation o f late linguistic items identified
using the above three criteria (linguistic distribution, opposition and
extra-biblical attestation). We have seen already ( that the princi­
pal difference between EBH and LBH is the frequency (and consequently
the accumulation) of certain features. So our first observation is that the
criterion of accumulation is well-founded only to the extent that the
individual late features are truly late. Therefore, if the lateness of some or
many late features in a text are called into question, then the lateness of
the text itself (vis-a-vis other texts) must also be re-evaluated.17 As an
example we can mention Rendsburg (1980a), who accepts only four of
Polzin’s nineteen features as late BH (cf. Zevit 1982: 494-501).18
A second issue connected to accumulation is the validity of the point
of departure for diachronic linguistic analysis of biblical texts: the late
phase of BH, the undisputed postexilic corpus and unmistakable late
features attested in it. This approach can only be used to date texts which
display late language. Therefore, the assumption is that texts lacking an
accumulation of late language must be early. Thus, according to Rends­
burg, ‘...if the Pentateuch were the product of Persian-period Jewish
scribes, as claimed in prominent places during the last several decades,
one would expect Aramaisms or Aramaic-like features to appear through­
out its 187 chapters in significant concentrations, and not, as per the main
conclusion of this essay, in select chapters for specific purposes’ (Rends­
burg 2006a: 175-76).19 And consistent with this view, Rendsburg’s

17. Schniedewind 2005: 380 overlooks this point in his review o f Rezetko 2003.
18. He accepts Polzin’s A .I. ( ‘radically reduced use o f ’et with pronominal
suffix’), A .5. ( ‘the Chronicler exhibits a preference for plural forms o f words and
phrases which the earlier language uses in the singular’), B.2. (7* is used very often
as mark o f the accusative’), and B.3. ( ‘Min: “from”: the nun is often not assimilated
before a noun without an article’).
19. Cf. Rendsburg 2003b: 106,108,115: ‘Moreover, with no overriding Persian-
period evidence in such texts [texts with Aramaic-like features], one should assume
a pre-exilic date for these compositions’ (p. 106); ‘Or to put this in other terms: the
question is: Where does the default lie? For most scholars, almost in knee-jerk
fashion, and contrary to Hurvitz’s approach, the default is to assign a late date to any
composition with Aramaic features. For me, with no overriding Persian period
evidence (such as the setting o f a particular book such as Haggai, the presence o f
Persian loanwords as in Qohelet and Song o f Songs, and so on), the default is to
assume a pre-exilic date’ (p. 108); ‘But again, to reiterate what I stated above, with
4. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Methodology 93

former student, Wright, says: ‘It is particularly worth noting the absence
of Persian loan-words in “J”.,.. O f the 40 late language elements dis­
cussed in this study, never does “J” appear to reflect late usage.... With
one possible exception, what we fin d in “J ” is early, and what is missing
is late .... Indeed, given the total absence of late features in “J”, one
should look to a period antedating the late pre-exilic period’ (Wright
2005: 145,161,164; his emphasis). So, in their view, the Pentateuch and
its so-called Yahwist Source are early because of an 'accumulation ' o f
absence o f late features.™ However, we have pointed out that late
linguistic features have all along been declared late because they are
found in biblical books which are known already to be late. Thus, insofar
as certain linguistic features are declared late because they are found in
certain books and not in others, so also an ‘accumulation’ of absence of
these late features in those other books is inevitable. There is no argu­
ment for an accumulation of presence of early features since there are
few if any early features, meaning features which are early but not also
late. Thus, for example, it is impossible to argue the antiquity of, say, the
Pentateuch, on the basis of early language (see, e.g., S. R. Driver 1913a:
125-26 and our remarks in 12.8). This is acknowledged by Hurvitz as
well (e.g. Hurvitz 1973: 75 [point 4] = 1972a: 68 [point "f]21). In short, if
there are no EBH linguistic distinctives, then the suggested earliness of
EBH sources relies on the absence of postexilic distinctives. Therefore
some scholars have criticised Hurvitz and others of literary-linguistic

no a priori reason to date this composition [Psalm 116] to the Persian period, a pre­
exilic date should be assumed’ (p. 115). Contrast Rendsburg’s preexilic default date
for EBH with Ehrensvard’s view that the default date for EBH should be the
postexilic period, since we have undisputed postexilic examples o f EBH, but none
which are certainly preexilic (Ehrensvard 2003: 187-88; cf. our discussion in
20. See further our discussions o f Aramaisms and Persianisms in Chapters 8 and
11, respectively.
21. ‘The investigation is aimed at identifying late linguistic uses in our texts and
deriving chronological conclusions therefrom. Early forms and words might be only
imitations of, or quotes from, early sources. Given the status o f research today, we
are unable to decide whether a certain text using early stylistic features is actually
archaic or merely archaizing. It seems, then, that at this stage it would be preferable
to draw chronological conclusions only on the basis o f late linguistic uses’ (Hurvitz
1973:75 [point 4]).
22. ‘Hurwitz [{s/c} 1972:34] warns against the circular reasoning: “It is neces­
sary to beware o f the ‘vicious circle’ whereby the characteristic x is believed late
because it is found in text y , and text y is late because o f characteristic x” (my
94 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

A third difficulty with the criterion of accumulation is that the fre­

quency of late features is interpreted irregularly, being dependent on
the subjective judgment of the individual scholar. According to Hur­
vitz: ‘This accumulation is relative. It is very doubtful whether we can
mechanically apply statistical criteria to linguistic issues like these’
(Hurvitz 1973: 76; cf. 1972a: 69 n. *).23 Thus Edenburg says about
Hurvitz’s methodology: ‘Hurvitz (1967[b]) argued that the late composi­
tion of Ps. 151 can be established on the basis of seven LBH usages in
the psalm. However, he admitted doubts regarding two of the cases
T33; *TnftK) and the only undisputed late expressions in the
psalm are the term r v n and the epithet b'JTl ]*nN’; and also:
‘Hurwitz [{s/c} 1972:160-69,174] indeed displays great leeway in judg­
ing what comprises significant accumulation of data. Two phenomena
throughout the eight verses of Ps 124, and four phenomena throughout
the fifteen verses of Ps 144 sufficed for establishing their late composi­
tion, while two phenomena throughout the nine verses of Ps 137 were
considered insufficient’ (Edenburg, Gibeah, forthcoming). Young pin­
points similar difficulty with Hurvitz’s analysis of the Prose Tale of Job,
concluding: ‘Even within Hurvitz’s own system, the Prose Tale of Job is
not in LBH. It does not exhibit enough of an accumulation of LBH
features to place it with the core LBH books. Instead, it aligns with the
core EBH books in having a lower accumulation of LBH features’
(Young, ‘Job’, forthcoming). Nobody to our knowledge has defined how
much accumulation of typical LBH features is enough to qualify a text as
late. In Chapter 5 we will elaborate on this dilemma.

translation, C.E.). But his contention that the burden o f proof lies on those who
argue for late composition o f a given text (pp. 20-21), is in itself based on a circular
argument: a given characteristic x is early because it is found in text>>; text^ is early
because o f characteristic x, and because it lacks known late characteristics'
(Edenburg, Gibeah, forthcoming). Similarly: ‘Hurvitz’s method does not allow such
a suggestion [of postexilic EBH writing] to be tested, because he concludes that any
such texts will be “pre-exilic”. Since Judaean scribes o f the Persian period cannot
have written CBH [= EBH]— ergo they didn’t: the theory is driving the data, and the
argument is completely circular; it is a version o f the absurd claim that we can
always detect a forgery because forgers always make mistakes! ’ (P. R. Davies 2003:
23. Compare also the following more recent statement: ‘It should be noted that
certain features characteristic o f the late period indeed occasionally are found -
sporadically - also in older writings; but an accumulation o f such traits we find...
exclusively in the clearly late sources’ (Hurvitz 2002: 36 n. 2; our translation; his
emphasis). Again, we are not told what constitutes sufficient accumulation for a text
to be ‘late’.
4. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Methodology 95

4.3. Frank H. Polak24

4.3.1. Introduction. In 2.10 we summarised Polak’s arguments for
different styles of writing in EBH and LBH books which, he argues,
have their origins in successive historical contexts and social conditions.
We turn separately in this chapter to an evaluation of Polak’s research
since in some ways his working principles and methodology are unique
to him. The following points are some of the issues in his publications
which are open to criticism.

4.3.2. Circular Argumentation.25 Polak’s dating of texts exhibiting

different styles presupposes many results of biblical criticism in general.
This is particularly true for Polak’s anchoring of Deuteronomy to the
seventh century and Kings to the late preexilic and early exilic period.
Indeed, Polak’s overall approach to the Deuteronomistic History matches
up with the double redaction theory of the so-called American, Harvard
or Cross school.26 However, there is widespread disagreement on these
matters.27Furthermore, Polak’s assignment of certain texts but not others
to his transitional classical style, which is a subclass or intermediate style
between classical and late preexilic/exilic styles, is somewhat circular
since it relies to a large extent on the assumption of gradual changes in
his NV and NF ratios.

4.3.3. Editorial Shaping. Polak’s analysis leads to a complex redaction

history for some books, such as Genesis, since overall this book exhibits
all four of his stylistic classes.28In contrast, Polak concludes that Samuel
was more or less written in the preexilic period and then left untouched
(cf. below). This view, however, stands in contrast to the view
held by many biblical scholars that Samuel had a complex history of
literary development, lasting probably into the exilic and postexilic

24. We thank Professor Polak for personal conversation on 25.07.07 and e-mail
correspondence on 28.11.07 in which he sought to clarify his views on several
25. See Eskhult 2003b: 153; Kofoed 2005: 79-81.
26. Thus, for example, with reference to Kings he says: ‘These findings [espe­
cially o f a mixture o f nominal and verbal tendencies in Kings] suggest historical
development, since the Book o f Kings, at least in large sections o f it, originates in
the last quarter o f the seventh century and the exilic period, and thus is anterior to
postexilic narrative’ (Polak 1998: 69; cf. 2003: 52-53). Polak 1998: 69 n. 28 adds:
‘This generalization is true for all divergent theories on the composition and
provenance o f 1-2 Kings’.
27. See our summary o f research in Volume 2, 1.2.4, as well as Volume 2, 2.8.
28. See the summary in 2.10.1 and our remarks below on P.
96 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

periods.29In this regard we should also point out Polak’s assumption that
the language of biblical texts effectively represents the language of
original authors. We will address this issue in Chapter 13. In short, it is
unlikely that texts in the rhythmic-verbal style were unaffected in the
editorial and transmission process in regard to their linguistic and literary

4.3.4. Oral-Literary Divide. Polak’s approach to orality and textuality

echoes the view that literature having an oral substratum and literature
with a ‘writerly ’ orientation cannot be written in the same period of time.
In other words, a single ancient writer could not formulate narratives in
both styles, and several contemporaneous writers could not create narra­
tives in different styles, one with oral features (RV style) and another
with literary characteristics (CN style).31However, recent scholarship has
cast doubt on the juxtaposition of orality and textuality, arguing instead
that the shaping of ancient literature rests on an oral-written interface.
Thus, for example, Carr says ‘...though traditions ranging from Plato’s
Phaedrus to early Christian and rabbinic texts testify to occasional oppo­
sition between the oral and written, this study suggests that most cultural
usage of written traditions has involved significant elements of both oral
performance and cognitive mastery’ (Carr 2005: 288; cf. 4-8, 161-73,
291-93, 302-305; also see Niditch 1996, Person 2002, Isser 2003).32
Thus, Polak may have discovered that certain biblical narratives have an
oral style which is closer to speech than writing, but his research resem­
bles an either/or approach which seeks to fit these narratives into a linear
framework. In addition, whereas Polak envisions orality developing into
textuality, C. L. Miller describes a process which is exactly opposite:
Cross-linguistic studies o f diachronic patterns o f variation between spoken
and written language suggest that in the early periods o f literacy, the written
register develops linguistically in ways that more sharply distinguish it
from oral language....[n. 33, referring to Biber 1995: 311-12].... In later

29. See the discussion in Rezetko 2007b: 7-14, 53-68 and also the summary o f
research in Volume 2, 1.2.7.
30. Somewhat related to this topic we observed in 2.10.2 that Polak says texts in
the complex-nominal style, in contrast to texts written in the rhythmic-verbal style,
have characteristics which involve planning, rereading, correction, addition and
removal (cf. Polak 2003: 39, 50; 2006c: 133). However, the realia o f writing and
rewriting ancient scrolls naturally led to certain limitations on the insertion and
deletion o f elements (cf. Tov 2005b).
31. See, for example, Polak’s remarks in 2003: 84-89 and 2006c: 158-59. This
view is also advanced in Schniedewind 2004.
32. In addition, see the reviews o f Schniedewind 2004 in JHS 5 (2004-2005).
4. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Methodology 91

periods o f literacy, written registers sometimes split between formal regis­

ters (which maintain greater structural density) and informal registers
(which become more like oral language) (C. L. Miller 2004: 289-90).

Although the cross-linguistic studies referred to by Miller examine

only two languages, English and Somali, ‘the striking similarities in
the observed diachronic patterns provide the basis for several strong
hypotheses. These developmental similarities are even more noteworthy
given the major situational and social differences between English and
Somali’ (Biber 1995: 311). Further:
Overall, the diachronic register patterns in Somali show several similarities
to those in English: 1 From their inception, written registers are markedly
different from spoken registers in their linguistic characteristics. This
generalization holds...for most written registers, including fiction and serial
stories.... 2 In the early stages o f development, all written registers evolve
to become even more sharply distinguished from spoken registers....
3 There is some evidence o f a reversal in the development o f popular regis­
ters - shifting back towards more oral styles in response to less specialized
purposes, a widening literate public, and the need for accessible written
texts (Biber 1995: 309-10).

While we cannot a priori be certain that BH conforms to this picture, this

research casts severe doubt on Polak’s chronological interpretation of the

4.3.5. Fluctuations in Noun-verb and Nominal-finite Verb Ratios.

On the basis of Polak’s published figures we have put together a table
of more than 200 noun-verb and nominal-finite verb ratios for particular
pericopes, chapters and sections of biblical prose (and poetry).34 The

33. Further, Polak’s model presupposes a steady growth o f literacy and bureauc­
racy. But in fact this is questionable. In the late preexilic period, Judah was a highly
literate state (for the ancient world; see Young 1998a) whose scribes were drawn
(as far as we know) from local people using their local literary language. In the
postexilic period, on the contrary, the Jews found themselves in a foreign empire run
by foreigners, using a foreign language (Official Aramaic). One might suggest that
there was a greater scope for local literacy and involvement in the bureaucracy in the
earlier rather than the later period. For the idea that the biblical texts were nurtured
by small groups o f scribes in the Persian period, see Schniedewind 2004: 165-66,
34. In addition, Rendsburg and Edenburg have published figures for certain
passages using Polak’s methodology and we have worked out additional ones as
well (Rendsburg 2002b: 33-35, 44-45; 2003b: 120-21; Edenburg, Gibeah, forth­
coming). Other scholars who cite favourably Polak’s methodology, but without
giving details, include: Schniedewind 2004: 225 n. 35; 2004-2005a: 25-26; 2005:
377, 380-81; Leuchter 2007: 431-32, 437.
98 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

table shows that the sum of his statistics undermines the claim that there
is a clear division between preexilic and postexilic narrative. For exam­
ple, with the exception of Samuel, the books of the Pentateuch and
Former Prophets each displays three or usually four of Polak’s styles.
It remains to be seen whether scholarship in general will embrace the
editorial histories of these books which Polak has discerned on the basis
of his stylistic analysis. Also, Polak says noun-verb distributions (1) hold
true in different genres (covenant, narrative, etc.) and typologically dif­
ferent texts (action narratives, battle accounts, etc.), and (2) may fluctuate
in parts of a single narrative (exposition, rising action, etc.), but (3) in
poetry and near-poetic discourse nominal and the verbal diction are not
related to any period. The following remarks relate to Polak’s argu­
mentation regarding several books and passages that are problematic for
his theory. Samuel. Polak argues that this book’s narratives reflect the
classical style which he dates to the late tenth through early eighth century
BCE. This conclusion is based on the parameters we described in 2.10,
including low noun-verb and nominal-finite verb ratios. His view is very
difficult to sustain from literary-critical and text-critical standpoints (cf.
4.3.3 above). Polak is well aware of textual issues in Samuel (e.g. Polak
1992, 2000) yet nevertheless he assumes that editorial shaping did not
bring large-scale infringement of the ‘early’ style. Furthermore, we have
pinpointed chapters in Samuel, and in other EBH books, in which the
ratios and syntactic complexity fit better with his postexilic samples.
Compare, for example, 2 Samuel 6 and non-synoptic 2 Chronicles 29,
chapters with similar prose-discourse ratios, and both with noun-verb
ratios of 75% and nominal-finite verb ratios of between 20 and 21%. Jonah. Many scholars, including Polak, date this book to the
postexilic period, yet it has a high concentration of epic formulas and it
is written in the rhythmic-verbal style. As a result, Polak states that the
small size of the book and the LBH imprints in it override the results of
his stylistic analysis (Polak 1989: 460-61, 473; 2006c: 162 n. 139). Zechariah 1-7. The noun-verb ratio in the prophetic prose of

Zechariah sits squarely in Polak’s classical stratum. In turn he claims that
the relatively high nominal-finite verb ratio (26%) mitigates this unex­
pected result and he suggests that the poetic tradition of prophecy (ch. 8)
has influenced the prose account of Zechariah’s visions (chs. 1-7) (Polak
1995: 286, 291; 1996: 91). Conversely, the nominal-finite verb ratio is
4. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Methodology 99

slightly lower than his typical figure of 30% (or greater) for postexilic
books. In addition, some of Polak’s preexilic samples have noun-verb
and nominal-finite verb ratios which are comparable to Zechariah’s (e.g.
Judges 17-21; cf. the remarks on Judges 19-21 in Edenburg, Gibeah ,
forthcoming). Furthermore, the argument that in postexilic texts a high
nominal-finite verb ratio mitigates a low noun-verb ratio is debatable,
since not all postexilic texts have high nominal-finite verb ratios. For
example, Joshua 4, which fits in Polak’s transitional classical style, has a
noun-verb ratio of 74% and a nominal-finite verb ratio of 17%. But,
non-synoptic 2 Chronicles 14-15, which also has a lower proportion of
discourse than Joshua 4, has a comparable noun-verb ratio of 73% but a
lower nominal-finite verb ratio of just 12%. Job 1-2 and 42. The Prose Tale of Job, like Jonah, has a high
concentration of epic formulas and it is written in the rhythmic-verbal
style: c[T]he prose tale of Job is far closer to the classical style than to
that of the post-exilic period. This result is surprising, for the language of
the tale shows unequivocally that it was composed in the Second Temple
period [Hurvitz 1974a, 1975a]. The verbal tendency, then, is not in keep­
ing with the stylistic preferences of the period’ (Polak 1996: 88, 91; cf.
1989: 473; 1995: 286, 304; 2006c: 162 n. 139). In this case Polak also
finds that the slightly elevated nominal-finite verb ratio (24%) substanti­
ates the lateness of the tale and he assumes that the poetic language of
the speeches has influenced the style of the prose narrative. Ruth. The frequency of epic formulas and the prose style of
Ruth fall well within Polak’s ranges for classical literature, but he finds
that ‘the figures for Y\pb and HfcO are hardly compatible with the pre­
exilic register’. He concludes that the postexilic storyteller ‘cultivated the
archaic style’ and pulled o f f ‘a rare, successful imitation’ (Polak 1989:
473; 1995:304 n. 47).35 Nehemiah 1 -7 (Plus Parts o f Other Chapters). The rhythmic-

verbal style prevails in the ‘Memoir of Nehemiah’.36 Here again Polak
finds that the slightly elevated nominal-finite verb ratio (29%) mitigates
the low noun-verb ratio (Polak 1995: 286, 291; 1998: 71).

35. Contrast Polak’s view with Hurvitz’s contention that postexilic writers could
not write EBH (
36. ‘It is quite possible...that the Nehemiah memoirs preserve the tone o f oral
narrative’ (Polak 1998: 103 n. 70).
100 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts Priestly Texts. Polak’s dozen or so published samplings of

Priestly texts suggest the following scenario: (1) the Priestly corpus (H
and P) developed from the eighth century BCE into the Persian era and
this is why the corpus has ‘ancient and late’ stylistic elements; (2) H is
‘close-to-oral’, precedes P, and dates to the eighth century BCE; (3) P
follows H, and P dates from the late preexilic period into the postexilic
period. Polak says:
From a stylistic point o f view, then, the second P-group [Leviticus 1—1,
18; Numbers 6, 15, 18, 35-36, Ezra-Nehemiah] seems to originate in the
Persian era, whereas the first P-group [Genesis 1, 6 -7 , 9, 17, Exodus 12­
13, Numbers 16-17] is better attributed to the late pre-exilic period
(seventh Century [s/c]). The texts from the H-group seem earlier, much
like the first D-group. The similarity between the profile o f Leviticus 20;
25 and Genesis 2-4 suggests attribution to the ‘Intricate Classical’ sub­
corpus (possibly medio eighth century BCE). Thus the H-P group presents
a continuous development from the period before the con-quest [s/c] o f
Samaria until the Persian era. The notion o f a continuous tradit-ion [szc]
( ‘stufenweiseUmarbeitungundErweiterung,’ Dillman[n {szc}] 1892:XI)
pro-vides [szc] a simple explanation for the particular combination o f
ancient and late elements in the various texts attributed to the H-P group
(Polak 2002: 279; cf. 275, 278; 1995: 289-90; 2003: 66 n. 79, 67, 85, 87,
88 n. 126; 2006c: 117, 119, 162).

The conclusions Polak has reached on the basis of stylistic criteria should
be contrasted with the results of the lexical and thematic research under­
taken by Hurvitz and Milgrom.37They conclude: (1) P should be dated to
the tenth through eighth century BCE prior to D (and also prior to H
according to Milgrom); (2) according to Milgrom, the H school redacted
P, and the last layer of the Priestly corpus attributed to this school
(Leviticus 23) should be dated to the exilic period, since nothing in H
postdates the exile; (3) the Priestly corpus, consisting of P and H, was
completed prior to the time of the prophet Ezekiel. Compare, for exam­
ple, the following quotes with the citation from Polak given above:
The formative years which determined the shape o f the Priestly corpus
ought to be sought in pre-exilic times. This conclusion is borne out by the
testimony o f the language in which these texts are formulated; i.e. by P’s
linguistic profile, which reflects Classical BH at its best. Clearly, o f crucial
significance in this regard is the fact that no interference o f distinctively
post-classical features has been detected in the extant version o f
sharp contrast to what we find in comparable biblical compositions written

37. See our summary o f research in Volume 2, 1.2.3.

4. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Methodology 101

during the exile (Ezekiel) and after it (Chronicles, Ezra, etc.). These
compositions, unlike P, abound in post-classical linguistic neologisms -
Priestly as well as non-Priestly, in lexicon as well as grammar and syntax.
The fact that the P corpus, whether narrative or legislative, is devoid o f the
late phraseology and terminology current in post-classical times, provides
us with the terminus ad quern for the historical age in which P was shaped
and consolidated (Hurvitz 2000c: 190-91; passim in many other publi­

Thus the diachronic study o f Priestly terminology, the comparison between

P and D, and the variety o f data culled from realia, institutions, literary
forms, and historical allusions lead inexorably to one conclusion: the
Priestly texts are preexilic. At most, one may allow the very last strand o f
the school o f H (e.g., the framework o f chap. 23...) and the final redac-
tional touches to be the product o f the exile. Otherwise, H and, all the
more so, P were composed by the priests o f Israel, in the land o f Israel,
during the days o f the First Temple (Milgrom 1991: 12-13; 2007; passim
in many other publications).

Consequently: (1) Polak’s view on the long growth of the Priestly corpus
is in much closer agreement with the conclusions of the vast majority of
biblical scholars; but (2) if Polak is correct, then there are postexilic P
texts in the complex-nominal style but without late linguistic features
(contra Hurvitz and Milgrom); or (3) if Hurvitz and Milgrom are correct,
then there are preexilic P texts without late linguistic features but in the
complex-nominal style (contra Polak); (4) furthermore, whereas Milgrom
dates P prior to H, Polak dates H prior to P, and in Polak’s system none
of the Priestly corpus could date earlier than the eighth century BCE due
to its stylistic characteristics.

4.3.6. Lexical Register . Polak shows that the frequency of epic formu­
las may fluctuate such that there are EBH texts with low rates (e.g. parts
of Genesis, Judges, 2 Samuel and Kings) and LBH texts with high rates
(e.g. Jonah, Job, Ruth). Polak’s statistics for particular verb lexemes are
inconclusive since in all cases the differences relate to changes in
frequency and these could relate to style rather than chronology. Further­
more, all but seven biblical books prefer over “f^n, and to give a
somewhat unrefined illustration, there are ‘early’ books which prefer
KID over "]^n and NIT (Genesis, Samuel) and ‘late’ books which prefer
“f*?n over KID and KIT (Jonah, Qoheleth).38 As for references to writing,
once again this is an issue of relative proportion (cf. Young 1998a).

38. On these verbs also see the remarks in Young 2003c: 293.
102 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Furthermore, this is not a linguistic argument (cf., but regardless

of this, the absence or presence of such references could relate to subject
matter or literary setting.

4.3.7. Extra-Biblical Sources. Polak finds that the complex-nominal

style is characteristic of late monarchic (i.e. preexilic) inscriptions and
also that the rhythmic-verbal style is found in postbiblical sources such
as the later Midrashim and some mediaeval narratives (Polak 1997-98:
51-52; 1998: 103-104; 2002: 268; 2003: 47-49, 59, 80-81). Young
2003c: 296 remarks: ‘The operative factor then is not date but nature of
source. Works using oral traditions as their source tend to preserve some
features of oral style; works using written sources, or heavily reworked
by their scribes, reflect a more scribal style. Polak has thus discovered
important information relating to the origins of biblical traditions, but it
is not relevant to the question of chronology.’

4.3.8. Conclusion. We acknowledge that Polak seems to have dis­

cerned differences between texts which are based on either an oral or
‘writerly’ substratum. However, his discovery regarding style does not
convert into a chronological scheme which clearly periodises BH lan­
guage and literature largely into either the preexilic or postexilic period.39
Rather, on the basis of the criticisms we have summarised above, his
findings point to stylistic characteristics rather than historical develop­
ments in language use. In particular, we cannot see how the conclusions
regarding the Priestly corpus reached by Hurvitz and Milgrom on the one
hand and by Polak on the other can be brought into agreement with one

39. We observed in 2.10.1 that Polak speaks about four main styles o f BH:
classical style and transitional classical style in the preexilic period, late preexilic
and exilic style, and postexilic style. In addition, we pointed out in 2.10.2 that
according to Polak the difference between the earlier classical style and the later
postexilic style is a gradual difference in tendency or statistical divergence. Never­
theless, Polak routinely speaks about preexilic vs. postexilic varieties o f BH and
he also applies the phrase ‘total rupture’ to ‘the special status o f LBH’: ‘A total
rupture separates the scribal culture o f this period from the low-ranking oral culture
o f the Hebrew vernacular’ (Polak 2003: 98). In his view the ‘oral culture’ with its
rhythmic-verbal writing style flourished in the preexilic period especially from the
tenth to the late eighth century BCE (cf. Polak 2003: 66 n. 77, 81, 84, 89 on ‘oral
4. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Methodology 103

4.4. 2 Samuel 6.16-23

]i*?ni i r a nap®) ta ra i n t i ; (2) v& i i t p iK (l) t ti i 16
TQta (3) i*? n n i iin*; is in q i t-tsq i i i ^ i t i ^ Kirn
n i i^ n b ip * bi'ai “jinn iQipnn iriK w _i i i t ]ii*rn$ m yT] 17
T tratari iii*; -ds1? nita 1 1 1 bvv
iii" did? Dtfrrnt* y ir r i 1*711:1 n ita io t i tan 18
□1*7 nta e r ^ it t r iir ) etmd"1? Winter porrtab D ^ T ta 1? pta'i 19
nrrrib era n^Tta -j^i nm iwrn) im* ist^i rm
ipK'ni i i i ntnp1? SiKErra tara k^fii irrnTiK ^i2b n i j m 20
v in o ninos t?*? ovn i t a i®k ^nfer ^*79 n v i in b 'i o
TT trpin ins ni^3 nita-D
i T 3~taqi f ' T i i n ")#$ n il1; ’ds1? tartr1^ 1 1 1 io t n 21
: t t ;j?*? (l) ’’Pipntoi b&iw-bo mn; D irta t j j 'ris
(4) nor niia» i m n iin K T n ri *ti?3 tatp 'rrrn ntwo iii: ’rftppi 22
T :iniD nv 10 1*7; 1*7 ttk '* ? biKefra tarobi lin n s 23
16 As the ark o f the L o r d came into the city o f David, Michal daughter o f
Saul looked out o f the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing
before the L o r d ; and she despised him in her heart. 17 They brought in the
ark o f the L o r d , and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched
for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings o f well-being before
the L o r d . 18 When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the
offerings o f well-being, he blessed the people in the name o f the L o r d o f
hosts , 19 and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude o f
Israel, both men and women, to each a cake o f bread, a portion o f meat, and
a cake o f raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes. 20 David
returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter o f Saul came out to
meet David, and said, ‘How the king o f Israel honoured him self today,
uncovering him self today before the eyes o f his servants’ maids, as any
vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself !’ 21 David said to Michal,
‘It was before the L o r d , who chose me in place o f your father and all his
household, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people o f the L o r d , that
I have danced before the L o r d . 22 I will make m yself yet more contemptible
than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes; but by the maids o f whom
you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honour.’ 23 And Michal the
daughter o f Saul had no child to the day o f her death.

The language of Samuel is thought to reflect the preexilic golden age

of BH (e.g. Wellhausen 1885: 9). Samuel, together with most of Judges
and the so-called Yahwist Source in the Pentateuch, are considered the
best exemplars of EBH. We look closer at research on Samuel in Volume
2, 1.2.7. The present text for study comes from the narrative of David’s
transfer of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6. This story
is often considered David’s most important achievement and the pivotal
104 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

event in the early history of the united monarchy. In the following

remarks we do not give text-critical data or differentiate primary and
secondary LBH features in MT 2 Samuel 6. An MT-only approach is
advocated by most proponents of the chronological model of EBH and
LBH (see This means, for the purpose of linguistic analysis,
that LBH features in EBH books should be taken as original to those
(1) rrm (6.16; ‘and was’) and ’FlpnETj (6.21; ‘and I have danced’).40
Twice we find weqatalti verb forms in place of wayyiqtols. The story
could have read TH and pntofcl, respectively. This ‘breakdown’ in the
aspect/tense system is considered a characteristic of LBH (e.g. Kropat
1909: 17-23,74-75; Polzin 1976: 56-58; Hurvitz 1982a: 121; Kutscher
1982: 45, 75, 82, 88,99; Bergey 1983: 65-67; Rooker 1990a: 100-102;
Saenz Badillos 1993: 120,123-24,129,144; van Peursen 2004:127-28,
142-43,passim). We also remarked on this feature in our discussion of
2 Chron. 30.1-12 in 2.11.3 (point 16).
(2) K3...iTni (6.16; ‘and was...entering’). The periphrastic use of rrn
(in any form) + participle is thought to increase in frequency in LBH
(e.g. Hurvitz 1982a: 49; Qimron 1986: 70, 90; Rooker 1990a: 108-10;
Saenz Badillos 1993: 121, 127, 129, 144; van Peursen 2004: 226-27,
passim). We also remarked on this feature in our discussion of 2 Chron.
30.1-12 in point 13 in 2.11.3 and 3.3.
(3) ib n n i (6.16; ‘and she despised him’). Here we see b in place of
n$ for expression of the direct object. This is considered an LBH trait
(e.g. Kropat 1909: 35, 37-38, 73; Hurvitz 1972a: 95; Polzin 1976: 64—
66; Kutscher 1982: 82; Rooker 1990a: 97-99; Saenz Badillos 1993:
120). This is also the only time in EBH narrative that the verb HTH uses b
for the direct object (contrast Gen. 25.34; Num. 15.31; 1 Sam. 2.30;
10.27; 17.42; 2 Sam. 12.9, 10). Ironically, Polzin 1976: 65 cites the
parallel instance in 1 Chron. 15.29 as LBH!
(4) □a^..ninD«rnDJ?1 (6.22; ‘and with the maids...with them [mascu­
line]’). The issue here is gender incongruence between the feminine
plural noun and masculine plural pronominal suffix. The use of mascu­
line verbs and pronominal suffixes when feminine forms are expected is
characteristic of LBH (e.g. Kropat 1909:61-62,74; Polzin 1976:52-54;
Hurvitz 1982a: 168-69; Kutscher 1982: 41; Qimron 1986: 62-63;
Rooker 1990a: 78-81; Saenz Badillos 1993: 119).

40. For a past rather than future reading o f ’Hpntol, see n r s v ; Fokkelman 1990:
380; Rezetko 2007b: 250 n. 83.
4. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Methodology 105

Additional remarks on the language of 2 Samuel 6:

(A) There is confusion in use of the prepositions b$ and by on three
occasions in 2 Samuel 6: nblV~b$ (6.3; ‘on a cart’); (6.6;
‘against/upon the ark’; disputable, but cf. versions); ^V 'bV (6.10; ‘to/
into the city’). This tendency is seen more frequently in LBH (e.g. Kropat
1909: 40-42,74; Hurvitz 1972a: 22; Bergey 1983:46-49; Qimron 1986:
93,96; Rooker 1990a: 127-31; Saenz Badillos 1993: 117,120,138,143;
cf. Rendsburg 2002a: 32-36). We also remarked on this feature in our
discussion of 2 Chron. 30.1-12 in point 1 in 2.11.3 and 3.3.
(B) The double plural construct-chain is considered a characteristic
of LBH (e.g. Kropat 1909: 8-9; Hurvitz 1972a: 37-38; Polzin 1976: 42­
43; Kutscher 1982: 82; Qimron 1986: 74-75; Rooker 1990a: 75; Saenz
Badillos 1993: 118). However, usage suggests that D'Eh'"Q (‘conifer
trees’) in 6.5 is a doubtful example since the plural nomen rectum is
standard in this phrase and in most others with 'yi? (cf. Rezetko 2007b:
106 n. 95).
(C) The noun (‘cymbals’) in 6.5 is usually considered the
early equivalent of late CTn^yp (xl3 in Ezra-Chronicles; e.g. Polzin
1976: 144). However, occurs elsewhere only in Ps. 150.5 (x2).
This doxology at the end of the Psalter is often considered postexilic
(e.g. Anderson 1972: 955; Kraus 1989: 570).
(D) S. R. Driver remarks on the noun by) in 6.7:
is a very rare root in H e b r e w . . . h e r e is commonly...explained
from this root ‘because o f the erro r:’ but (1) is scarcely a pure
Hebrew word: where it occurs, it is either dialectical (2 Ki. 4) or late
(2 Ch.); so that its appearance in early Hebrew is unexpected; (2) the
unusual apocopated form (bw for ^E?) excites suspicion (S. R. Driver
1913b: 267-68).

For detailed discussion of Samuel’s *?$, see Rezetko 2007b: 128-41.

It is remarkable that a comparison of linguistic features in synoptic
2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13, 15-16 brings to light cases in which
Samuel has LBH but Chronicles has EBH (points 1, 4 and A). It is
a separate issue whether any of the features given above are truly late.
We will not discuss the details here (but cf. our comments on points 1,2
and 5 in 3.3). However, we must point out that if these features are con­
sidered late (as they usually are when found in core LBH books) then
they must also be considered late when found in EBH books such as
106 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

4.5. Zechariah 6.9-15

non1? ■**?« rn rr'irn (l) ’rn 9
(4) rr’ziiED (3) risen (5) • i lh c n'rian (3) ntw (2) nip1? 10
(l) ntoi «inn ova nns (l) m pi (4) ; t j j t (3) napi
' :(5) ^330 (4) rnaiTjP (4) H W n-3
e»i? (l) nqi$ri rrnta:? (l) rvtoi (6) (l) nnp*pi 11
:(7) ‘rnar? ]n'3n p-tBirr-]3 a c i r
Taa1? (8) nitoy rnrr nos n'a i a s 1? vSk (l) Fi-iato 12
:rnrr ^p’rrnt* (l) rrai nay" vnnnoi iatp nay ertrran
*7cai (1) 3^1 tin 8to,_Kirn rnrr bpTrnt* nap' sin] 13
orrjty rpnn niSti train m p T 1?? jn'a (1) rrm
(4) n;?sy'|3 ]n*7i (4) rrjjTVi (4) rrpia1^ □‘pn*? rm n riip^ni 14
' ’ ' rnrr Sp’np (9)
,?n‘7!0 nitoa rnrrpa (1) d e jth rnrr ^p’na uai inP; trpirni 15
o p ’i f ^ rnrr Vipp (11) puatyn (10) jj’ibb'dk (l) rrni □p,l?k
9 The word o f the L ord came to me: ‘10 Collect silver and gold from the
exiles— from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah— who have arrived from
Babylon; and go the same day to the house o f Josiah son o f Zephaniah.
11 Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head o f
the high priest Joshua son o f Jehozadak; 12 say to him: “Thus says the
L o r d o f hosts: ‘Here is a man whose name is Branch: for he shall branch
out in his place, and he shall build the temple o f the L o r d . 13 It is he that
shall build the temple o f the L o r d ; he shall bear royal honour, and shall
sit upon his throne and rule. There shall be a priest by his throne, with
peaceful understanding between the two o f th em .14 And the crown shall
be in the care o f Heldai, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Josiah son o f Zephaniah,
as a memorial in the temple o f the L o r d . 15 Those who are far off shall
come and help to build the temple o f the L o r d ; and you shall know that
the L o r d o f hosts has sent me to you. This will happen if you diligently
obey the voice o f the L o r d your God.” ”

Most scholars judge the book of Zechariah to be a composite produc­

tion which consists of Proto- or First Zechariah (Zechariah 1-8) and
Deutero- or Second Zechariah (Zechariah 9-14), although some proceed
further to divide the final six chapters into two parts, distinguishing
Deutero- or Second Zechariah (Zechariah 9-11; 13.7-9) from Trito- or
Third Zechariah (Zech. 12.1-13.6; ch. 14). Scholars concur that Zecha­
riah 1-8 dates to the final part of the sixth century BCE (c. 520-518;
cf. 1.1, 7; 7.1) and that the postexilic language of this material is,
surprisingly, EBH with few typical imprints of LBH (e.g. S. R. Driver
1913a: 156, 505-506; Sznejder 1934-35: 306; Baumgartner 1940-41:
609; Hurvitz 1983b: 215 = 1997b: 20). The text we have selected for
study (Zech. 6.9-15) is an epilogue, following eight visions in 1.7-6.8,
that relates the symbolic crowning of Joshua the high priest.
4. EBH v.v. LBH: Critique o f Methodology 107

(1) ’rH (6.9; ‘and it was’) and HKin (6.10 [x2]; ‘and you go’), plus
nine additional cases of weqatalti in 6.11-15. It is widely believed that
the ‘Classical’ verb system broke down in LBH (e.g. Kropat 1909: 17­
2 3 ,74-75; Polzin 1976: 56-58; Hurvitz 1982a: 121; Kutscher 1982: 45,
75, 82, 88, 99; Bergey 1983: 65-67; Rooker 1990a: 100-102; Saenz
Badillos 1993: 120,123-24,129,144; van Peursen 2004: 127-28, 142-
43 ,passim). However, there are a dozen waw consecutive forms in these
verses alone but not a single instance of (‘late’) weqatalti or weyiqtol.
(For additional discussion see Rezetko 2003:233-37 and our remarks in
2.11.3 [point 16] and 4.4 [point 1]. See also our discussion in Volume 2,
3.12 of verb forms in the apodosis of conditional clauses introduced
by Dtjt or ’5.)
(2) n ip 1? (6.10; ‘take!’). The scholarly consensus is that the imperati­
val infinitive absolute decreases significantly or disappears completely in
LBH (e.g. Kropat 1909: 23, 72; Polzin 1976: 43^14; Hurvitz 1982a:
121-23, 166-67; Kutscher 1982: 82; Qimron 1986: 47-48; Saenz
Badillos 1993: 118,126; van Peursen 2004:277,282,402). However, in
a lengthy case study in Volume 2, 3.10 we show that the use or non-use
of the infinitive absolute for command is a stylistic trait that varied from
writer to writer, and editor to editor, probably regardless of historical
setting. In any case, note that Zechariah uses the EBH form here.
(3) n$?3 (6.10 [x3]; ‘from’). Zechariah has two other instances of this
feature in 7.12 and 14.7. In contrast, HKD is rare in core LBH texts. We
find it in Est. 7.7, Ezra 9.8 and Neh. 6.16, and also three times in Chron­
icles with a pronominal suffix (1 Chron. 2.23; 2 Chron. 11.4; 18.23). In
contrast, the core EBH books of Genesis-Kings have n$0 without suffix
80 times and nKQ with suffix 31 times. Synoptic Samuel-Kings and
Chronicles reveal the following scenario: nstQ without suffix is absent
twice in Chronicles, which instead has |Q in a slightly different phrase
(2 Kgs. 12.6//2 Chron. 24.5; 2 Kgs. 22.41/2 Chron. 34.9); n m with suffix
is shared twice (1 Kgs. 12.24//2 Chron. 11.4; 1 Kgs. 22.24//2 Chron.
18.23) and once Chronicles has a minus (2 Sam. 24.24//1 Chron. 24.24).
Finally, it is interesting to compare the near-contemporary books of
Jeremiah and Ezekiel: Jeremiah has n$Q without suffix 23 times, and
HKO with suffix four times, compared to a single occurrence of nKO
without suffix in Ezekiel. (See also our remarks on these books in, and 4.2.1.) In any case, once again Zechariah uses the
characteristically EBH feature.
(4) n’DID (6.10, 14; ‘Tobijah’), ITiJT (6.10, 14; ‘Jedaiah’), n’p r
(6.10; ‘Josiah’), and r n s a (6.10,14; ‘Zephaniah’). Names with the short
theophoric ending IT - predominate in Zechariah, although note irP3“!3
108 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

in 1.7. The short ending is commonly considered postexilic (e.g.

Kutscher 1982: 60-63, 94; Qimron 1986: 91, 94; Saenz Badillos 1993:
121, 134), but this view is problematic (cf. 4.2.1 and point 1 in 6.4.3;
Rezetko 2003: 226-27; Young 2003c: 297).
(5) ^330 (6.10; ‘from Babylon’; cf. ‘from Heldai’, in 6.10).41 It
is widely argued that the non-assimilation of the nun of ]Q before a noun
without definite article is a feature of LBH (Polzin 1976: 66; Qimron
1986: 30-31,92; Saenz Badillos 1993:119,143). This view is problem­
atic (cf. Rezetko 2003: 230-31; Young 2003c: 289; our discussion in
5.3.3 of\53”]Q in Joel). In any case, Zechariah has no unassimilated nuns
and thus the book does not fit the profile of LBH in this feature.
(6) 3nT"fff|QII (6.11; ‘silver and gold’). It is argued that EBH prefers
the order ‘silver (and) gold’ while LBH prefers ‘gold (and) silver’
(Hurvitz 1972a: 104-106, 146-47, 174; Bergey 1983: 56-57; Qimron
1986: 88-89, 91; Rooker 1990a: 174-75; Wright 2005: 138-39; cf.
Hurvitz 1972b; Ehrensvard 1997: 37-38).42 Zechariah follows EBH.
Once again, however, we find that ‘gold (and) silver’ is not an unequivo­
cal marker of LBH (cf. our discussion in 5.3.3 of Din- !] ]130 in Joel).
While Chronicles (10 to 8), Esther (1 to 0), and Daniel (2 to 1) do prefer
‘gold and silver’, Ezra strongly favours ‘silver and gold’ (5 to 1). Further­
more, there are several EBH examples of ‘gold and silver’. In fact,
Exodus has more ‘gold and silver’ than ‘silver and gold’ (4 to 3).43
(7) *7nan ]rp n (6.11; ‘the high priest’). ‘Tnjn ]n'3n is a common title
in EBH and LBH for the high priest. We find several alternative titles in
LBH: CKO ]H3n in 1 Chron. 27.5; in 2 Chron. 19.11; 24.11
(cf. tONIH in 24.6); 26.20 (and also in 2 Kgs. 25.18//Jer. 52.24); and
©Sin jrp n in 2 Chron. 31.10 and Ezra 7.5. Zechariah does not have this
suspected LBH phrase.
(8)niK31£ rnrr (6.12; ‘the Lord of Hosts’). This phrase is rare in core
LBH (but cf. Rezetko 2007b: 114-16, 229-30), appearing just three
times in Chronicles (1 Chron. 11.9; 17.7, 24).
(9) '|in3Tl? (6.14; ‘as a memorial’). The word is characteristic
of the Priestly Source of the Pentateuch44 as well as core LBH45 and

41. DSD (6.10 [x3]) and nnFD (6.12) always have assimilated nun in BH.
42. We mentioned already the related phrase □irn'l ]13n in 2 Chron. 30.9 (see
point 12 in 2.11.3 and 3.3) which we will look at in our discussion o f Joel in 5.3.
43. Sources in Exodus: J: 0 to 1; E: 1 to 2; P: 3 to 0.
44. Exod. 12.14; 28.12 (x2), 29; 30.16; 39.7; Lev. 23.24; Num. 5.15,18; 10.10;
17.5; 31.54.
45. Est. 6.1; Neh. 2.20; cf. Job 13.12; Qoh. 1.11 (x3); 2.16.
4. EBH vs. LBH: Critique o f Methodology 109

otherwise exilic/postexilic texts.46 However, Hurvitz argues that P is

EBH, and there are also several other EBH examples.47
(10) tflQtp (6.15; ‘diligently [obey]’). Scholars argue that LBH shows
less frequent use of the infinitive absolute in immediate connection with
a finite verb (complementary, paronomastic or tautological infinitive
absolute; e.g. Polzin 1976: 43^14; Hurvitz 1982a: 121-23, 166-67;
Qimron 1986:47—48; Saenz Badillos 1993:118,144; van Peursen 2004:
277, 279-80). This view is problematic. For example, Zechariah has
more examples (6.15; 7.5; 8.21; 11.17 [x2]; 12.3)thanEBH Hosea(1.2,
6; 4.18; 10.15), Amos (3.5; 5.5; 7.11, 17; 9.8) or Micah (1.10; 2.4, 12,
12). We will look more closely at this issue in Volume 2, 3.11. In any
case, Zechariah has the EBH usage.
(1 l)]1UO0n (6.15; ‘you obey’). Scholars argue that the verb afforma-
tive }1- (paragogic nun) decreases in postexilic Hebrew (e.g. Qimron
1986: 45; Saenz Badillos 1993: 118, 142; van Peursen 2004: 100-101,
402). It is pointed out that the feature is common in core EBH while it is
absent from core LBH with the exception of four occurrences in Chron­
icles, two synoptic (1 Kgs. 8.38//2 Chron. 6.29; 1 Kgs. 9.6//2 Chron.
7.19) and two non-synoptic (2 Chron. 19.9,10). Nevertheless, it is diffi­
cult to construe this and other evidence along chronological lines, as we
will show in Volume 2, 3.8. In any case, Zechariah sides with EBH in
this feature.
In this passage we see several linguistic features that connect Zecha­
riah with EBH rather than LBH. Furthermore, we note that suggested
links with LBH are rare in this passage as in all of Zechariah 1-8. How­
ever, we did find some features, such as the theophoric element IT - in
6.10, 14 (cf. point 4) which some scholars have connected with LBH.
Other cases of possible LBH features in Zechariah 1-8 can be found, but
these are few and far between. Consequently, Ehrensvard argues that the
language of postexilic Zechariah 1-8 is EBH rather than being close to
EBH (Ehrensvard 2003: 175-87; 2006). Finally, it is remarkable that
when we compare the number of typical LBH features in 2 Sam. 6.16-23
and Zech. 6.9-15 we find significantly more of these in Samuel than
Zechariah. We will look closely at the importance of these findings in
Chapter 5.

46. Isa. 57.8; Mai. 3.16.

47. Exod. 13.9; 17.14; Josh. 4.7.
110 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

4.6. Conclusion
The standard methodology for dating biblical texts includes the criteria
of linguistic distribution, opposition, extra-biblical attestation and accu­
mulation. However, these criteria are often used in an imprecise way in
treatments of particular BH features and texts. In particular, it is rarely
pointed out that the vast majority of EBH and LBH features are found in
all alleged chronological phases of BH. Consequently, the difference
between biblical texts relates to the frequency of particular features. On
close examination—for example, in Samuel and Zechariah—we find that
the occurrence and frequency of LBH features do not meet our expecta­

4.7. For Further Reading

Ehrensvard, M., ‘Linguistic Dating of Biblical Texts’, in I. Young (ed.), Biblical Hebrew:
Studies in Chronology and Typology (JSOTSup, 369; London: T&T Clark Inter­
national, 2003), pp. 164-88.
— ‘Why Biblical Texts Cannot be Dated Linguistically’, Hebrew Studies 47 (2006),
pp. 177-89.
Chapter 5

E a r l y v s . L a t e B ib l i c a l H e b r e w :
L in g u is t ic F e a t u r e s a n d R a t e s o f A c c u m u l a t i o n

5.1. Introduction
In the previous chapters we critically evaluated the principles and meth­
odology which underlie attempts to date biblical texts using linguistic
criteria. The essence of this chapter is the data since it is here that the
notion of chronological development in BH stands or falls. This chapter
has three parts. First, we will give a global overview of LBH lexical and
grammatical features. Second, we will sample the language of a book
disputed in date: Joel. Third, we will re-evaluate the linguistic dating
criterion of accumulation of LBH features in biblical texts.

5.2. Overview o f LBH Features

5.2.1. Introduction. In Volume 2, Chapter 4 we have tabulated nearly
500 lexical and grammatical items which are thought to be characteristic
of LBH texts and therefore of the final chronological stratum of BH. The
dozen sources we cite for these items span nearly a century of scholar­
ship and approach the corpus of LBH writings from various perspec­
tives.1Other linguistic features which scholars sometimes consider late

1. Kropat 1909 (Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles); Hurvitz 1972a (Psalms); Polzin

1976 (P, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles; cf. Hill 1981 on Haggai, Zechariah and
Malachi, which is identical to Polzin’s monograph in the features discussed);
Hurvitz 1982a (P, Ezekiel); Kutscher 1982 (history o f Hebrew); Bergey 1983
(Esther); Qimron 1986 (QH); Rooker 1990a (Ezekiel); Saenz Badillos 1993 (history
o f Hebrew); van Peursen 2004 (Hebrew o f Ben Sira); Wright 2005 (J in the Penta­
teuch); JM (BH grammar). We should make the following clarifications regarding
the tables. (1) In the table o f grammatical features the descriptions have been
generalised. Allowance should be made for individual phraseology and focus in each
source. (2) In the table o f lexical features many o f the suggested EBH words and
phrases are unmentioned in the literature and they are also unresearched by us. Thus
they are simply tentative suggestions. Further investigation is required. (3) It is
important to point out that many o f the linguistic features, grammatical and lexical
112 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

are cited elsewhere in this book (see index). Yet the list could be
enlarged further by including items mentioned here and there in other
studies.2 In this regard we should make special mention of BDB and
HALOT. Both lexica often label particular lexemes and phrases ‘late’ or
something similar, although BDB is far more liberal than HALOT in this
regard (by about 5 to 1). In the following paragraphs we will attempt to
give a global appraisal of LBH lexical and grammatical features.3

alike, suggested by scholars to be LBH are doubtfully so since, for example, they do
not have a distribution within core LBH books. See our definition o f LBH features
in 5.4.2. The principal criterion for describing a feature as ‘LBH’ is that it is charac­
teristic o f the principal LBH writings o f Esther-Chronicles. (4) Sometimes a phe­
nomenon appears in both the grammar (e.g. increase o f nouns with afformative m -)
and lexicon (e.g. DID^D) tables. (5) In some cases we have not cited items labelled
‘Aramaic’ or ‘Aramaising’ in JM since it is not clear that the authors mean to imply
that these (mostly noun and verb) forms are chronologically late. (We note that
many o f these forms occur in core EBH books.) In addition, some items in our tables
occur in JM, but since they are not given chronological significance we have not
included page references in JM (rv, ND-, etc.). (6) In some cases the authors cited in
the table actually dispute rather than support the alleged diachronic development. We
cite them anyway so that our index is as complete as possible. (7) In the following
sources we cite from a limited scope o f pages, which includes the principal discus­
sions o f the feature cited or deal mainly with BH and QH: Polzin 1976: 2 8 -6 9 ,1 2 4 —
52; Kutscher 1982: 12-106; Qimron 1986: 17-97; Saenz Badillos 1993: 1 1 2 ^ 6 .
2. Indeed, one can suggest an almost endless list o f LBH lexical and grammatical
characteristics since anything non-standard in any LBH book can be called ‘late’
using the current methodology. The following sources document a large number o f
LBH features: Ehrensvard 2003: 167-71; 2006; Polak 2003: 91-97; 2006b: 596­
600, 610-16; 2006c: 120-22,125-27; D. Talshir 2003: 264-75. More detailed lists
and discussion can be found in the following sources: Gesenius 1815:21-44; Parker
1843, II: 443-57; Bendavid 1967-71: 60-80; Schattner-Rieser 1994. Two helpful
volumes on QH with many references to LBH are Kutscher 1959 = 1974 (lQ Isaa);
Qimron and Strugnell 1994: 65-108 (4QMMT). The following focus on the linguis­
tic characteristics o f particular biblical books: Cheyne 1891:461-84 (Psalms); S. R.
Driver 1913a: 155-56 (P), 240 (II-III Isaiah), 297-98 (Ezekiel), 313 (Joel), 322
(Jonah), 374 (Psalms), 434 (Job), 448-50 (Song o f Songs), 454-55 (Ruth), 473-75
(Qoheleth), 484-85 (Esther), 501-508 (Daniel), 535-40 (Chronicles), 553 (Ezra-
Nehemiah); Curtis and Madsen 1910: 28-36 (Chronicles); Striedl 1937 (Esther);
Landes 1982 (Jonah); Collins 1993:12-24 (Daniel); Bush 1996:18-30 (Ruth); Seow
1996 (Qoheleth); Dobbs-Allsopp 1998 (Lamentations); Delsman 2000 (Qoheleth);
Dobbs-Allsopp 2005 (Song o f Songs). The tables in Volume 2, Chapter 4 include the
majority o f the items cited in all these additional sources. Finally, we should point
out that older publications, especially introductions and commentaries, usually (but
not always) cite more linguistic data relevant to dating than do recent publications.
3. We will comment briefly on matters related to orthography and vocalisation in
Chapter 13.
5. EBH vs. LBH: Linguistic Features and Rates o f Accumulation 113

5.2.2. Lexicon. Scholars have discovered many differences in LBH

vocabulary compared to EBH and this reinforces the point that the
principal difference between ‘early’ and ‘late’ BH is an issue of lexicon
rather than grammar. The characteristic lexical features of LBH may be
classified in the following manner:
• LBH has a ‘new’ lexeme or phrase, used together with an ‘older’
equivalent (e.g. [‘letter’] alongside nrDQ and “ISP).
• LBH has a ‘new’ lexeme or phrase, used instead o f an ‘older’
equivalent (e.g. [‘linen’] rather than Kfcj).
• LBH has an ‘old’ lexeme or phrase, used with a change in
frequency , either less or more often (e.g. [‘flesh’] in relation
to “IKE). TT
• LBH has an ‘old’ lexeme or phrase, used occasionally or always
in a different form or stem, in a different construction, with a
different meaning or referent, in a different literary genre, etc.
(e.g. th e P ie l of Dip [‘erect’]).4
The most common scenarios in LBH books are the first and third and
between these the third is far more frequent. Thus we find that in the
realm of vocabulary LBH may be characterised as EBH with some dis­
tinctive LBH lexical elements here and there. We can illustrate this by
gathering together all LBH lexical features in our appendix regarding
which the lexeme itself or a particular ‘late’ meaning, referent, stem or
syntagm occurs 10 times or more in (mostly) undisputed postexilic books
and not in core EBH books .5The table overleaf presents our findings.
These ten items are representative of the distinctive lexical stock of
LBH as a whole with the exception that these are the most frequent items
of the entire lot. We may draw the following conclusions:
(1) The differences between EBH and LBH are mostly lexical rather
than grammatical, and then nominal rather than verbal.
(2) Most LBH lexemes are used alongside EBH equivalents. In other
words, in LBH sources the items in the table in the EBH column are used
alongside the items in the LBH column. This is true for eight of ten items
given above, the exceptions being for which EBH has

4. Note that we include verbs which are sometimes used in a different stem in
LBH in our table o f LBH lexical features.
5. For this exercise we are using a minimal list o f core EBH books (G enesis-
Kings) and a maximal list o f (mostly) undisputed postexilic books: Isaiah 40-66,
Jonah, Haggai-Malachi, Job 1-2 and 42, Song o f Songs-Qoheleth, and Esther-
Chronicles. Note that the following books o f allegedly exilic and disputed date are
not considered here: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, particular Psalms, Ruth and Lamenta­
114 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

LBH Gloss Occurrences in Occurrences Corresponding

Term (Mostly) Undisputed Elsewhere EBH Term(s)
LBH (* = also in
‘letter’ xlO total: Est. x2; Ezra x3 (Aram.) (*) "iso ,nrqo
Neh. x 6; Chron. x2
nn ‘spoil’ xlO total: Est. x3; xO ,n ero , n
Dan. x2; Ezra xl; (*) bbti
Neh. x l; Chron. x3
nT 3 ‘palace’ x l 8 total: Est. xlO; E zraxl (Aram.) pianist
Dan. x l; Neh. x3; ,mrr rr?
Chron. x4 (*) tarn ,rrm
TP: ‘honour’ x l l total: Zech. x l; Jer. x l; Ezek. x l; (*) 7 ^ 3
Est. xlO Pss. x2; Job x l;
Prov. x l
n ra ‘letter’ x l 6 total: Est. x9; Ezek. x l; Dan. (*) n so ,nnpo
Dan. x l; Ezrax2; xlO (Aram.); Ezra
Neh. x l; Chron. x3 x2 (Aram.)
‘cymbals’ x l3 total: Ezra x l; xO
Neh. x l; Chron. x l 1
ton” ‘register’ x20 total: Ezra x3; xO ,"isd ,n ^
(Hithpael) Neh. x2; Chron. x l5 (*) etc. ,nps
m 3 ‘volunteer’ x l2 total: Ezra x3; Exod. x3 (Qal), (Qal) m 3
(Hithpael), Neh. x l; Chron. x 8 with ref. to
with ref. to tabernacle; Judg.
temple x 2 , with ref. to
military service;
Ezra x4 (Aram.)
ta p ‘receive’ xlO total: Job x2; Exod. x2 (Hiphil); (*) np1^
CPiel) Est. x3; Ezra x l; Prov. x l; Dan. x3
Chron. x4 (Aram.)
‘exceed­ xlO total: Chron. Gen. x2; Exod. (*) rqnn
ingly’, as xlO x 8; Num. x2;
mere Deut. x l; Josh. x2;
intensive Judg. x l; Kgs. x4;
Isa. x3; Jer. x l;
Ezek. x l4 ; Pss.
x l; Prov. x l; Qoh.
x l; Ezra x l;
Chron. x 6, all with
other meanings
(‘above’, etc.)
5. EBH vs. LBH: Linguistic Features and Rates o f Accumulation 115

(xl, in 2 Sam. 6.5; but cf. [late?] Ps. 150.5), and ITT] (Hithpael), which
EBH uses in a different stem and/or for distinct referents.
(3) If we broaden this illustration to include many items which occur
one to nine times in core LBH and not in core EBH , we find that most
occur only several times and then in only one or few LBH books, and in
the great majority of cases the lexeme itself occurs in EBH or even LBH
in a different stem, meaning, referent or syntagm.
(4) With the possible exception of ton'1 it is doubtful that any other
lexical item above can be conceived of as strictly late in origin .6Simi­
larly, Blenkinsopp, Levine and others have disputed the antiquity of
particular lexical items in P which Hurvitz and Milgrom have studied .7
In fact, even one of the clear-cut lexical proofs for diachronic develop­
ment in BH, namely pG?p“H ('Damascus’) rather than in Chronicles
(Hurvitz 1972a: 17-18; 2006b: 197-200),8turns out on closer inspection
to be more problematic than hitherto assumed (Rezetko 2007a: 390;
‘Damascus’, forthcoming): ptoOT is the only form attested in actual texts
dated to the Persian period and p P 2~H is unattested until the first century
BCE, long after the time when the book of Chronicles was originally
written. Furthermore, we will argue in 11.5 that even the absence or
presence of Persian loanwords turns out to be inconclusive evidence for
dating biblical literature.
(5) Finally, there are methodological problems with the use of lexical
data in research on the dating of biblical literature. We have discussed
these issues in detail elsewhere (Rezetko 2003: 237-38,245-49; 2007a:
379-82, 415-17). Some significant points are:
• Instability. From the synchronic perspective grammar (morphology
and syntax) is more complex and invariable than the occurrence or
non-occurrence of particular words.
• Randomness. The Hebrew Bible’s lexical stock is limited such that
the approximately 8000 lexemes it contains represent a limited
part of the vocabulary in regular use in ancient Hebrew, i.e. the
extant evidence corresponds to attestation rather than availability.

6. On m m , HT3 , HT3, “)|T, DPS, CTfitaE and ilta D 1?, see Rezetko 2007a: 379,
392, 399-403, 405, 407, 416. On ta p , see Young 2003c: 277 n. 3; ‘Job’, forth­
coming. Observe also that for DID there are several cognate nouns in EBH: n in j
(‘voluntariness, freewill-offering’), DHJ ( ‘generous, noble’), and rD'T? (‘nobility,
7. See, for example, Blenkinsopp 1996, Levine 1982, 1983, 1989, 1993b, 2000,
8. In this article Hurvitz treats four other lexical items: rvnafc, □ ta U K , ^[T33,
ETnp (Hurvitz 2006b: 200-201), but note Rezetko 2007a: 396-97, 3 9 9 ^ 0 0 , 405­
406. (Rezetko’s article was in press prior to the appearance o f Hurvitz’s essay.)
116 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

• Correspondence. Ironically, while the principal difference between

EBH and LBH is an issue of lexicon rather than grammar, the
dictionary of LBH is not markedly different to that of the rest of
the Hebrew Bible; or, to restate this, the vocabularies of EBH and
LBH are virtually identical.
Unfortunately, proponents of the chronological approach to BH have
not seriously engaged the phenomenon of lexical elasticity in written
language. Thus, for example, some (mostly) undisputed postexilic books
have in varying degrees ample traces of ia te ’ vocabulary (Jonah, Ruth-
Qoheleth, Esther-Chronicles) whereas others do not (II—III Isaiah, Joel,
Haggai-Malachi). Or, to give a specific example, we will consider the
distribution of the verb f PD (‘break, pull or tear down’) and its synonym
Din. Rooker 1990a: 142 argues that there is a ‘diachronic shift’ in usage
from EBH f n3 ( Qal) and D“in to LBH y n (Piel). The following table
gives the BH attestations of these verbs.
Verb Number Core EBH Core LBH Other
fH] (Qal) x31 Exod. x l Chron. x l I Isa. x l
Lev. x l Jer. x 6
Deut. x l Ezek. x2
Judg. x7 Pss. x2
Kgs. x 8 Job x l
(x 18 total) (xl total) ( x l 2 total)
)TI] (Qal passive) xl Jer. x l
f D3 (Niphal) x2 Jer. x l
N a h .x l
yn3 (Piel) x7 Deut. x l Chron. x5 Ezek. x l
Xru (Pual) xl Judg. x l
D“in (Qal, Niphal, x43 Exod. x5 Chron. x l I Isa. x2 (Qal)
Piel) (Qal, Piel) (Qal) II Isa. x l (Piel)
Judg. x l Jer. x7 (Qal,
(Qal) Niphal)
Sam. x l Ezek. x 8 (Qal,
(Qal) Niphal)
Kgs. x4 (Qal) Joel, x l
Mic. x l (Qal)
Mai. x l (Qal)
Pss. x3 (Qal,
Job x l (Qal)
Prov. x4 (Qal,
Lam. x2
(x l 1 total) (xl total) (x31 total)
5. EBH vs. LBH: Linguistic Features and Rates o f Accumulation 117

This is not very compelling evidence for a ‘diachronic shift’ in usage.

The Piel of )T1] is found in EBH in Deut. 12.3, the Pual is used in Judg.
6.28,9 and in LBH the ratio o f ‘late’ to ‘early’ forms is only 5 to 4. But to
return to the issue of lexical flexibility, Rooker observes that fn ] (Piel) is
unattested in postbiblical literature which instead uses j*n] (Qal) and
D in,10 and so he remarks: ‘Thus we have the unique situation where a
term gained dominance in LBH only to later give way to the earlier EBH
practice’ (Rooker 1990a: 142). An alternative explanation is that the
various stems of Din and ynD were available to all biblical writers and
editors, regardless o f their historical milieus, and that these chose one or
another root or stem for literary colouring or other reasons unknown to
us. Whatever the case may be, this illustration exemplifies the hazards of
basing chronological theories of BH on the very elastic lexical facet of
biblical language. In sum, most ‘late’ vocabulary is found somewhere in
EBH sources, EBH vocabulary is also a component o f ‘late’ sources, and
the nature of language in general suggests that basing diachronic con­
clusions mainly or only on vocabulary is unsafe.

5.2.3. Grammar. The LBH grammatical features cited in the literature

are far fewer in number than lexical ones. More importantly, however,
the vast majority o f ‘late’ morphological and syntactical phenomena are
attested in EBH (thus: ‘decrease’, ‘increase’ and ‘preference’ in LBH in
the secondary literature). The dozen or so items in the table that are not
found in the ‘earlier’ sources are in fact attested sporadically and then in
only one or several (mostly) undisputed postexilic books rather than
most or all of them. In other words, most grammatical features that are
considered characteristic of LBH are found already in EBH, though they
occur with greater frequency in some (mostly) undisputed postexilic
books (cf. Rabin 1971:70; Eskhult 1990: 14,119; Ehrensvard 2003:168
n. 18). In several cases it is the decreased frequency of a particular
feature in LBH which is considered the ‘late usage’. Either way the issue
is one of tendency or statistical divergence. Thus we find that the dating
criteria of linguistic distribution and opposition apply only loosely in the
sphere of grammar since no grammatical feature considered characteris­
tic of LBH is exclusively late or a straightforward substitute for a feature
which is found regularly in EBH only (cf. 4.2.1 and 4.2.2). There are two

9. Unfortunately Rooker overlooks the Pual o f ]T 0 in Judg. 6.28. However,

observe that this verb is clearly synonymous with D"in (Qal, 6.25) and f Dj (Qal;
6.30, 31, 32) in this passage, and all these verbs have n3TD as their object.
10. Young, ‘Pesher’, forthcoming, remarks on Din in 4QpHab 4.8.
118 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

other difficulties with the LBH grammatical (and lexical) features cited
in the literature. First, the methodology used to discover many if not
most of these ‘late’ grammatical features is problematic since it rests on
literary-linguistic circularity and assumptions regarding synoptic biblical
texts (cf. 3.2.4 and Second, a number of studies have called into
question the so-called lateness of particular features and we cast doubt on
others throughout this book, especially in the case studies in Volume 2,
Chapter 3 .11
Sound methodology demands that in dating biblical texts no linguis­
tic evidence— whether lexical or grammatical— should be excluded or
favoured a priori. This said, however, we believe lexical elasticity in
written language means that the main focus in linguistic dating of
biblical texts should be grammar, which provides a more reliable and
efficient basis for chronological analysis than does vocabulary .12 This
view was recently confirmed by Eskhult and Joosten. Eskhult said 6[o]ld-
fashioned words, phrases, and forms are well-known devices in the art of
archaizing: but a writer cannot possibly archaize his syntax beyond the
horizon of his own understanding of the language as a system’ due to
4the more or less unconscious use o f verbal syntax ’ (Eskhult 2005: 369­
70; our emphasis). Additionally Joosten noted ‘potential shortcomings
to lexical arguments’ and suggested that attention to syntax can help
circumvent this problem (Joosten 2005: 329). Furthermore, these authors
contend that EBH and LBH each represents a ‘structured unity’ and
‘system’ in which ‘minute divergences [in the LBH verb system] are
manifestations of a single evolution’ (Eskhult 2005: 360; Joosten 2005:
334-35). We will return to Eskhult’s and Joosten’s remarks in Volume 2,

11. See, for example, the following critiques o f Polzin 1976: Rendsburg 1980a;
Hurvitz 1982a: 163-70; Zevit 1982: 494-501; R. L. Harris 1990: 509-13; Rooker
1990a: 35-53; cf. Elwolde 1997: 53-54 n. 102. Much earlier, R. D. Wilson 1926:
105-63 had already challenged the lateness o f several grammatical features. Among
recent studies remarking critically on particular items and offering additional bib­
liography we may mention Ehrensvard 1999, 2003, 2006, Young 1999, 2001a,
2001b, 2003c, ‘Job’ (forthcoming), ‘Pesher’ (forthcoming), Rezetko 2003.
12. It is worth pointing out that the orthography, vocalisation, phonology and
morphology o f EBH and LBH are remarkably uniform whereas more tangible varia­
tions between these are found in syntax and vocabulary (e.g. Joosten 1999: 147-48).
One explanation for this is the continual process o f linguistic modification, which is
widely recognised to increase in intensity as one moves from syntax to vocabulary to
morphology to phonology to orthography (cf. Boccaccio 1963: 1116; Rezetko 2003:
2 4 2 ^ 4 ). We will return to the issue o f linguistic modification in Chapter 13. The
point here is that syntax was far less susceptible to linguistic modification than
vocabulary and especially orthography, vocalisation, phonology and morphology.
5. EBH vs. LBH: Linguistic Features and Rates o f Accumulation 119

3.15, after a series of case studies .13 Finally, studies of grammatical

features in EBH and LBH should consider each item individually and
comprehensively and ought to pay attention to form (similar, different),
function (similar, different), frequency (decrease, equivalent, increase),
and replacement (none, partial, total). Only after this laborious task has
been completed for each feature can we begin securely to characterise
the linguistic relationships between separate books and sets of books in
the Hebrew Bible.

5.2.4. Additional Remark on Differences between EBH vs. LBH. In

Volume 2, Chapter 3 we will also discuss (1) linguistic items which
show variation in the Hebrew Bible but are difficult to relate to EBH vs.
LBH (e.g. l b vs. 3D1?) and (2) typical LBH features which are typo­
logically earlier than the corresponding EBH features (e.g. jO vs. -D).

5.3. Joel 2.12-20

n s o o z n -3331 m i n i D 3 3 3 ‘?~‘?3 3 'i d i3t? rnrr'm?? nn jroj') 12
p T ' 3 2 3 T ' ^ rrir-bt*! mttfi □3, i3 3 '^ 1 3333*7 u n p i 13
am i ~ 3 T 3 ~ i □, s « w n (2) qinTi
nmq nrn? vim * (6) —s e n ( 6) 3 m i 3i2r in i- "q 14
c p ’nSs rnrr1?
s n a g itn p n ijn eftp | i ’2i3 i s i c ii?pn 15
Kit’. O’ltp 'P?"‘ 1B0K D’jpT 1H3P *7np Itiftp mriSQfc 16
:(3) nnsriQ nta'i (3) i~nnq inn
noin n q ^ ’i nirr ’cntpq nnn'qn 133 " (4)n3Tql7i ]’3 17
n a 1? D’ia nsin*? ^ri'pn; ]nrfVKi ^ q ir 1?:? rrin'
on’nS« rrK C’qp3 n q « ’
toirbi? (6) “x ir n lint?1? rnrr (6) Kip’i 18
ciT tvn inrrnt? aq1? n^'ej "jpn iap 1? (6) nqsi’i rnrr (6) ] in 19
o ’iaa nsnn -rij> 3 3 .15*! (5) iris (6) O0J?3't?n "nirrn
n aq p rry (6) (5) vnnirn a q ^ q p’rni* ’jisanTiHi] 20
iefra (6) n*pjoi ]n r a n B’n-^ (l)ia'B] ’frnpn B’n_L?t* vjbti ®
n i r o 1? b’lan ’3 irona (5) bun)

12 Yet even now, says the L o r d , return to me with all your heart, with
fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 rend your hearts and not
your clothing. Return to the L o r d , your God, for he is gracious and

13. In addition to the sources mentioned above in nn. 1 and 2, there are several
important contributions on differences in EBH and LBH syntax: Corwin 1909;
Guenther 1977; Eskhult 1990: 103-23; Verheij 1990. Recent major studies on verb
syntax in QH and Ben Sira are M. S. Smith 1991, van Peursen 2004, Penner 2006,
Holst 2008, and a number o f essays in Muraoka and Elwolde 1997, 1999, 2000
(especially Eskhult 2000a) and in Joosten and Rey 2007.
120 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from
punishing . 14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a
blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the L o r d ,
your God? 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn
assembly; 16 gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the
aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom
leave his room, and the bride her canopy. 17 Between the vestibule and
the altar let the priests, the ministers o f the L o r d , weep. Let them say,
‘Spare your people, O L o r d , and do not make your heritage a mockery, a
byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples,
“Where is their God?’” 18 Then the L o r d became jealous for his land,
and had pity on his people . 19 In response to his people the L o r d said: ‘I
am sending you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will
no more make you a mockery among the nations. 20 I will remove the
northern army far from you, and drive it into a parched and desolate land,
its front into the eastern sea, and its rear into the western sea; its stench
and foul smell will rise up. Surely he has done great things!’

5.3.1. Introduction . Scholars have dated the book of Joel anytime from
the ninth to second century BCE, but most modem scholars think the
book was written in the postexilic period, probably around 400-350
BCE.14 The evidence for this view is largely non-linguistic (historical,
literary, theological, etc.) since, as noted by S. R. Driver, ‘[t]he phraseol­
ogy, viewed as a whole, can hardly be cited as positively favouring the
later date’ (S. R. Driver 1913a: 313). In the words of another scholar:
‘The style of Joel is remarkably good-at least for the silver age of
Hebrew literature to which he unquestionably belongs’ (Pfeiffer 1952:
576). (Compare the brief remark on Joel in Hurvitz 1983b: 216.) Despite
this general assessment, scholars have occasionally suggested that certain
aspects of the book’s vocabulary and grammar fit better the postexilic
rather than the preexilic period of BH. Does the evidence support this
5.3.2. Lexicon. Attempts to date Joel late on the basis of vocabulary
have proven inconclusive. We will look at the two most promising items.
Others are more fragile still.15

14. See our summary o f research in Volume 2, The following have good
surveys o f the dating o f Joel and conclude that the book has a postexilic origin: S. R.
Driver 1897: 11-25; 1913a: 308-13; Bewer 1911: 56-62; W olff 1977: 4-6; Finley
1990: 2-9; Crenshaw 1995: 21-29; J. Barton 2001: 14-18: 14-18. Examples o f
commentaries with good discussions concluding in favour o f a preexilic date are
Allen 1976: 19-25; Garrett 1997: 286-94.
15. Other words and phrases cited in the literature are ( ‘lament’; 1.8); n]N
(‘groan’; 1.18); ’’DN (‘I’; 2.27 [x2]; 4.10,17); Hftnta (‘men o f war’ > ‘soldiers’;
2.7); rr? rather than tarn for the temple (1.9, 13, 14, 16; 4.18 [evy 3.18]; cf. 4.5);
5. EBH vs. LBH: Linguistic Features and Rates o f Accumulation 121

(1) *]1D (2.20; ‘end’). The most compelling, and thus frequently
mentioned, examples in the realm of vocabulary are (‘end’; 2 .20)
and n t a (‘javelin’; 2.8). The principal evidence for the lateness of each
noun is their distribution elsewhere predominantly in core LBH: ®yiO is
found in Qoh. 3.11;7.2;12.13;2 Chron. 20.16; and also in Aramaic Dan.
4.8,19; 6.27; 7.26,28; and we find n bti in Neh. 4.11,17; 2 Chron. 23.10;
32.5; and also in Job 33.18; 36.12. Regarding *|iD, the cognate verb *]1D
turns up in EBH (Jer. 8.13; Amos 3.15; Zeph. 1.2-3; Ps. 73.19); the EBH
synonyms rvnnK, f p, HHp, nyp and n^p are used to the exclusion of*yiD
in Ezekiel, II—III Isaiah, Job, Esther and Nehemiah; and although the
Aramaic portions of Daniel have ^iD seven times, the terms used in the
Hebrew portions of the book are rn*!n$ (x5), y p (xl5), and HHp (x4),
which also appears three times in the Aramaic material.16Turning to n 1?^,
it is remarkable that the term is attested in Ugaritic: ‘the seventh of them
fell by a spear (bslhy (cf. Dietrich, Loretz and Sanmartm 1995: 36 [KTU
1.14.i.20-21]). Furthermore, the occurrences in Job’s poetry cast some
doubt on the word’s lateness, as does the conjectured original reading
□ 'n ta (cf. LXX P eAt])17 rather than □''Mtp in 2 Sam. 18.14.18 Thus
Ahlstrom, for example, dates the book of Joel to the postexilic period,
but he acknowledges that this dating is mostly in spite of the book’s
vocabulary, which does not require a postexilic setting .19

]V 2f \33 ( ‘the sons o f Zion’; 2.23); t a boi ( ‘repay’; 4.4 [e w 3.4]); ’,3ta"[jpn D*n
( ‘eastern sea’) and]l"in^n D*n ( ‘western sea’) contrasted (2.20; cf. Zech. 14.8); Din
( ‘look compassionately on’; 2.17); p ta lT ] [’’3^] rn irf [\331] ( ‘[and sons of] Judah
[and sons of] and Jerusalem’; 4.1, 6 [EW 3.1, 6]); nJ2in"ta...'p3n",,3 ( ‘for he is
gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents
from punishing’; 2.13; cf. Jon. 4.2); DISHED ( ‘shovels’; 1.17); i n v ’’Q ( ‘who knows’
> ‘perhaps’; 2.14); rvnjQQ ( ‘granaries’; 1.17); nflDQ ( ‘grain-offering and drink-
offering’; 1.9, 13; 2.14); m rr (‘ministers o f Yhwh’; 1.9; 2.17; cf. 1.13);
nitftalQ (‘teeth’; 1.6); nn] ( ‘descend’; 4.11 [e w 3.11]); &2 V ( ‘lose the w ay’; 2.7);
KDI7 ( ‘shrivel’; 1.17); DiTIS ( ‘seeds’; 1.17); (‘stench’; 2.20); ta p (‘assembly’;
2.16); nb“l ( ‘lance’; 4.10 [e w 3.10]); lp"l ( ‘dance’; 2.5); BSttf (‘judge’) for Yhwh’s
litigating with his enemies (4.2 [EW 3.2]); niBfl ( ‘apple tree’; 1.12). Close scrutiny
shows that these lexical items cannot be defended as absolutely late.
16. On *]1D, see Kapelrud 1948: 111-13; Ahlstrom 1971: 2-3; Rezetko 2007a:
17. See, for example, Thenius 1842: 212; Wellhausen 1871: 202; H. P. Smith
1899: 359; Budde 1902: 284; Nowack 1902: 222; Dhorme 1910: 397; S. R. Driver
1913b: 330; Caspari 1926: 622.
18. On n ta , see Kapelrud 1948: 77-78; Ahlstrom 1971: 12-13; Rezetko 2007a:
19. For additional discussions o f Joel’s vocabulary, see Kapelrud 1948: 38­
40, 49-50, 66-67, 76-78, 86-88, 108-14, 160-62, 174; Ahlstrom 1971: 1-22; cf.
122 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

5.3.3. Grammar, in Joel 2.12-20. The grammar of Joel has received

far less discussion than the book’s vocabulary. Nevertheless, we will
look in detail at a number of grammatical features which may support the
late date often given to Joel.
(2) mnTI ]13n (2.13; ‘gracious and compassionate’). These words are
combined eleven times in BH. Three times the word order is Dirn
(Exod. 34.6; Pss. 86.15; 103.8) and eight times it is DUTY! ]13n (Joel
2.13; Jon. 4.2; Pss. 111.4; 112.4; 145.8; 2 Chron. 30.9; Neh. 9.17, 31).
Based on the distribution, several scholars have argued that the word
order in Joel is the late one (Hurvitz 1972a: 104-106; Wright 2005: 138—
39). However, Ehrensvard 2003: 182-83 points out that Psalms 111,112
and 145 are acrostic psalms and all three occurrences are in the n-line, so
there the word order is forced .20Furthermore, in 2 Chron. 30.9 and Neh.
9.31 the proximity of Lnrni |13n shortly after an occurrence of □’’Qrn
may have prompted the postposition of Dirn. Finally, unlike the phrase
nnn ^93 (see 4.5 [point 6]), we are unaware of any early extra-biblical
evidence which substantiates the claim that DUTY! ]13n was not an option
in EBH.
(3) iTTnD (2.16; ‘from his room’) and HnSfTft (2.16; ‘from her can­
opy’). The issue here is the assimilation of the nun of jft. Ahlstrom says:
‘There is in Joel one particular form which suggests that the book would
have been written down late rather than early...’: the unassimilated nun
of ]D in D"TK (112; ‘from the sons of men’) (Ahlstrom 1971: 21;
our emphasis). However, Ahlstrom himself mentions three cases of
in EBH (Lev. 1.14; 14.30; Judg. 10.11) and he also refers to other
EBH texts with the unassimilated nun of ]D (Ahlstrom 1971: 21 n. 3).
Furthermore, Rezetko has argued that this is a stylistic feature of Chron­
icles, but not of LBH in general (Rezetko 2003: 230-31). Finally, the
single case of non-assimilation of the nun of in Joel 1.12 should be
contrasted with the 16 instances of the ‘standard’ assimilated nun else­
where in the book (1.5, 9, 13, 15, 16; 2.6, 16 [x2], 20; 4.6, 11, 12, 16
[x2], 18, 19).
(4) rnTQ^l (2.17; ‘between the vestibule and the altar’).
It is widely believed that the constructions and ...*?...],,3
coexisted in EBH and LBH but that the latter had ‘an intensified

Crenshaw 1995: 23 n. 21, 26, 28-29. On the basis o f Persian loanwords in LBH,
Wright 2005: 114 argues that the books o f Jonah and Joel should be dated to the
early postexilic period at the time o f the first wave o f returnees. We address this
issue in 11.5.
20. This feature is also discussed in Ehrensvard 1997: 37-38; 2006: 184; Hjelm
2004: 15.
5. EBH vs. LBH: Linguistic Features and Rates o f Accumulation 123

application [in LBH] the expense o f the former (Hurvitz 1982a: 114
n. 179; his emphasis). Consequently, Wright, for example, classifies the
construction ...l7!...p3 in Joel 2.17 as an example of the ia te ’ or ‘post-
exilic’ usage (Wright 2005: 45; cf. DCH , II: 149). However, there are
several difficulties with this view. First, there are two exceptions to the
standard BH constructions, this one in Joel and ...,p 3 l?...,p3 in Isa. 59.2.
These two examples may be contaminations of the standard construc­
tions, or they may not be, but whatever the truth is, it seems inappro­
priate to classify, without argumentation, Joel’s ...*7]...'p3 with ...l?...,p 3.
Rather, the construction in Joel 2.17 should be recognised as unique in
BH, and consequently, it cannot serve as evidence for the lateness of this
book. Second, even if we were to grant the association of Joel’s unique
construction with 3 , in fact, we actually find that the data do not
support the view that ...*7...“JO gradually increased in frequency in BH
compared to ...'p3*1...’p 3 . The table overleaf summarises the data.
The principal difference between EBH and (mostly) undisputed
postexilic BH is the greater number of ‘between x and y ’ constructions,
especially of the ...*p31—*P3 type, in EBH. It is largely unnoticed that
there are altogether more instances of 3 in EBH than in (mostly)
undisputed postexilic BH, 12 to 8, respectively .21 Interestingly, scholars
routinely overlook i n 1? Di£D”p 3 in Lev. 27.33, 2 Sam. 19.36 and 1 Kgs.
3.9, yet nevertheless they cite i n p 31 DIE p 3 in Lev. 27.12, 14. Also,
when we focus on EBH Numbers, we find that it uses ...p31...p3 (types I
and II) four times (17.13; 21.13; 31.27; 35.24) and ...lp../p3 three times
(26.56; 30.17 [x2]). The ratio in LBH Chronicles is very similar. In
addition to five total cases of ...p 31...p 3 that are shared by Kings and
Chronicles ,22we find in Chronicles one non-synoptic case of ...p 31...p 3
(1 Chron. 21.16) and only two of *p3 (2 Chron. 14.10; 19.10). In
short, the construction ...*7]...,p 3 in Joel 2.17 does not, and could not, tell
us anything about the book’s date of origin. Both ...p 31...p 3 and ...l?...p3
were stylistic choices available to all BH writers, whether EBH or

21. EBH: Gen. 1.6; Lev. 20.25 (x2); 27.33; Num. 26.56; 30.17 (x2); Deut. 17.8
(x3); 2 Sam. 19.36; 1 Kgs. 3.9; (mostly) undisputed postexilic BH: Jon. 4.11; Mai.
3.18 (x2); Dan. 11.45; Neh. 3.32; 2 Chron. 14.10; 19.10 (x2).
22. 1 Kgs. 7.46//2 Chron. 4.17; 1 Kgs. 15.6//2 Chron. 13.2; 1 Kgs. 15.19//
2 Chron. 16.3; 1 Kgs. 22.34//2 Chron. 18.33; 2 Kgs. 11.17//2 Chron. 23.16 (the last
is type III).
124 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

...r s i.-r s . . . U 'l

I Different common or EBH 60 8
proper noun lexemes late preexilic/ 8 5
or noun phrases (e.g. exilic BH
‘between the herders (mostly) 6 7
o f Abram’s livestock undisputed
and the herders o f postexilic BH
Lot’s livestock’, Other 0 0 (Job 16.21?)
Gen. 13.7) Total 74 20
II Identical common EBH 6 4
noun lexemes or noun late preexilic/ 0 4
phrases, allowing for exilic BH
different pronominal (mostly) 1 1
suffixes on identical undisputed
noun lexemes (e.g. postexilic BH
‘between my herds­ Other 0 0
men and your herds­ Total 7 9
m en’, Gen. 13.8)
III Two pronouns, or one EBH 37 0
pronoun and one noun late preexilic/ 4 0
lexeme or noun phrase exilic BH
(e.g. ‘between me and (mostly) 3 0
you’, Gen. 13.8) undisputed
postexilic BH
Other 1 (Ruth 1.17) 0
Total 45 0
Total EBH: 103 Total EBH: 12
Total late pre­ Total late pre­
exilic/exilic exilic/exilic
BH: 12 BH: 9
Total (mostly) Total (mostly)
undisputed post­ undisputed post­
exilic BH: 10 exilic BH: 8
Total other: 1 Total other: 0
Grand total: 126 Grand total: 29
EBH: Genesis-Kings; late preexilic/exilic BH: Jeremiah, Ezekiel; (mostly) undis­
puted postexilic BH: Jonah, Zechariah, Malachi, Daniel, Nehemiah, Chronicles
5. EBH vs. LBH: Linguistic Features and Rates o f Accumulation 125

5.3.4. Grammar, outside Joel 2.12-20. Scholars have suggested that

additional aspects of Joel’s grammar support a postexilic date for the
(A) DrrrHK 'Q'3, DK1 c p 'c r? ntti nn^nn (1.2; ‘Has such a thing
happened in your days, or in the days of your ancestors?’);
'b y u m U 'btirn*} 'b y U 'p b m (4.4; ‘Are you paying me back for
something? If you are paying me back...’). Disjunctive questions are
usually introduced by DK...H (GKC §150g, p. 475). Some claim that the
occasional construction with waw , DK1...1 , which we find in Joel 1.2 and
4.4, is late, and they point to other purportedly late texts with the con­
struction such as Isa. 49.24; 50.2; Job 8.3; 11.2; 21.4; 22.3; 34.17; 40.8­
9. However, we also find D$l...n in EBH texts: Gen. 17.17; 2 Sam. 24.13
(cf. 1 Chron. 21.12); Jer. 5.9; 14.22. Consequently, the construction does
not indicate a postexilic date (Ahlstrom 1971: 3).
(B) "hll 111 (2.2; 4.20; ‘all generations’23). Many claim that the
syndetic distributive construction "1111 111 (X w-X; ‘quivis construc­
tion’) is later in origin than its asyndetic equivalent: "111 "ill (X X).
However, looking momentarily only at constructions with "111, we find
that "1111 "111 is also found in books often attributed to the preexilic
(Deut. 32.7; Isa. 13.20; 34.17) and exilic (Jer. 50.39; Lam. 5.19) periods.
Thus, although IT11 "111 may appear more often in works considered
postexilic (e.g. Isa. 58.12; 60.15; 61.4; Pss. 85.6; 119.90), it is not argu­
able that "1111 "111 indicates a postexilic origin.24 Among others,
Rendsburg 1980a: 68-69 and Gevirtz 1986: 26-28 also arrive at this
conclusion .25When we look more broadly at these distributive construc­
tions, regardless of the common nouns used, we find the following
distribution in BH :26

23. Common translations o f this phrase are ‘all generations’, ‘many generations’,
‘every generation’, ‘each and every generation’, ‘every single generation’, ‘genera­
tion to generation’, ‘ages to com e’, ‘always’, ‘forever’, etc.
24. The remaining references for these constructions with 1 1 1 are: n i l "ill in
Exod. 3.15; 17.16; Prov. 27.24 (Kethib; Qere = 1111 1 1 1 ); 1111 1 1 1 in Psalms whose
dates o f origin are unclear: 10.6; 33.11; 49.12; 61.7; 77.9; 79.13; 89.2, 5; 90.1;
100.5; 102.13; 106.31; 135.13; 146.10. Note, however, that some o f these Psalms,
such as Psalm 89, are usually considered preexilic. We will return below to the
construction IT11 1 1 1 ^3 (Pss. 45.18; 145.13; Est. 9.28).
25. However, note that Rendsburg does believe the asyndetic formulation (X X)
predates the syndetic one (X w-X), even though the latter is found occasionally in
26. Here we cannot discuss other possible examples o f this construction using
other parts o f speech (e.g. interrogative "D in Exod. 10.8) or cases which are
sometimes cited but which are not used distributively (e.g. ] 3 « in Deut. 25.13).
126 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

‘Preexilic ’ 4Exilic ’ P ostexilic ’ Unknown

(G enesis- (Jeremiah, (III Isaiah, several (Joel, most
Joshua, Ezekiel, Psalms, Esther- Psalms,
I Isaiah) Lamentations) Chronic les) Proverbs)
XX 25 2 1 5 33
X w -X 3 1 32 17 53
K o lX w-X 0 1 15 1 17
28 4 48 23 103

These data seem to indicate that Kol X w-X is the best candidate for a
postexilic construction. However, note that we do not find this construc­
tion in Joel. Yet even here we must exercise caution since, although this
construction is attested most often in undisputed postexilic texts,27we are
surprised to find it in Jer. 48.8, generally dated to the late preexilic/exilic
period, and also in Ps. 45.18, which most scholars consider preexilic in
origin .28
(C)mH0(4.1 [EVV3.1]; ‘captivity, restoration’). Many hold that rPQ0
and more generally nouns with the afformative m - are indicative of the
exilic and postexilic periods of BH. However, it is obvious that neither
this noun nor the formation in general are late phenomena. (See Rezetko
2003: 230-31 and our remarks on in 2.2.3 and 4.2.) In particular,
the phrase in Joel 4.1, PID# ‘restore the fortunes’, is also used in
EBH Deut. 30.3; Hos. 6.11; Amos 9.14; Zeph. 2.7; 3.20.
(D) CHVn (4.6; ‘the sons of the Ionians’ > ‘the Greeks’). Wolff
1977: 79 comments that the proper noun ‘“Javan” (jV) for the Greek­
speaking regions of the western world and their inhabitants (cf.
“Ionians”) appears in the Old Testament only in exilic and later texts’
(cf. Gen. 10.2, 4 [P]; Isa. 66.19; Ezek. 27.13, 19; Zech. 9.13; Dan. 8.21;
10.20; 11.2; 1 Chron. 1.5, 7). However, more recent scholarship has
emphasised that the Greeks were in contact with the region of ancient
Israel throughout the second and first millennia BCE. (On this see our
discussion of Greek loanwords in 11.4 [cf. Ahlstrom 1971: 116-18;

27. Est. 2.11; 3.14; 4.3; 8.11, 13, 17 (x2); 9.21, 27, 28; 2 Chron. 11.12; 28.25;
31.19; 32.28; cf. Ps. 145.13.
28. As far as we can tell scholars have systematically overlooked the instance o f
K ol X w-X in Jer. 48.8 (T in T irta r^ N , ‘to/against every city’), e.g. most recently,
Wright (references below). Furthermore, he and Rendsburg have argued that Psalm
45 is an early northern psalm and they postulate that the ‘late’ K ol X w-X in this
‘early’ psalm is a dialectal feature o f Israelian Hebrew (Rendsburg 1990b: 45-50;
Wright 2003: 136-38; 2005: 48-52). In any case, the instance o f K ol X w-X in Ps.
45.18 should caution against labelling this construction postexilic (e.g. GKC § 123c,
p. 396).
5. EBH vs. LBH: Linguistic Features and Rates o f Accumulation 127

Kapelrud 1948: 153-58].) Turning to the grammar, Bewer 1911: 133

points out that ‘CPDVn is peculiar, we expect either ]V or simply
D*’]Vn, but there are parallels] in late literature for the use of the pi. of
the gentilic word with ’DD instead of the sg .’.29‘Sons’ + definite article +
plural gentilic noun is found in BH only here and in 2 Chron. 20.19
(D'nnpn \;m, tr r n p n \;q) and 34.12 (□‘,nnj?n rja). However, Chronicles
is inconsistent in this matter, since in this book we also find HHp \] 3,30
•’rinpn \]:a,31 and ,,rn p n \:j3.32 Also, the expected phrase jV ^ a p p e a r s
in 1 Chron. 1.7 (cf. Gen. 10.4).33 In any case, this may be the strongest
link between the language of Joel and LBH.
(E) fcrpDTR (4.19 [EVV 3.19]; ‘innocent blood’). The adjective np] is
spelt with final K only here and in Jon. 1.14. Elsewhere in BH we find ’’p]
a total of 41 times in core EBH and in Jeremiah, Psalms, Job, Proverbs
and Isa. 59.7. Aleph as mater lectionis for final f, o or u is common in
QH and the SP (Kutscher 1974: 171-75, 178-82; cf. JM §7b, p. 44).
However, in BH the phenomenon is apparent in both EBH and LBH.
Thus, for example, in addition to Knp] in Joel 4.19 and Jon. 1.14, we find
the verb form tTlTBT] (‘and he completed’) in Aramaic Ezra 6.15, but also
the noun form Knl?p (‘roasted grain’) in 1 Sam. 17.17, in contrast to ^ p
in Lev. 23.14; 1 Sam. 25.18; 2 Sam. 17.28 (x2); Ruth 2.14; Neh. 12.20.
Furthermore, the spellings with final K may not be authorial but rather
scribal (GKC §23i, p. 81; Kapelrud 1948: 174).

5.3.5. Doubtful Late Features . In other cases the evidence for the
lateness of certain grammatical features in Joel is inconclusive since the
uses are also widely attested in EBH: weqatalti (1.7); verb + object suffix
rather than PK + pronominal suffix (1.7; 2.11, 20; 4.2, 6, 7, 8; cf. 2.19);
Hiphil for Qal of ED’’ (1.10, 12; cf. Qal in 1.12, 20 and ttfD in 1.11, 12
[> EET], 17 [> £nn]); indirect object without preposition, i.e. adverbial

29. Gentilic nouns are names o f peoples. They are regularly formed by the
addition o f an -f suffix and they are made definite by the addition o f the article. For
example: ( ‘Israel’), ( ‘Israelite’), ( ‘the Israelite’).
30. 1 Chron. 5.28; 6.3, 7 ,46, 51, 55; 15.5; 23.12; cf. Exod. 6.18; Num. 3.19,29;
4.2, 4, 15 (x2); 7.9; Josh. 21.5, 20 (x2), 26.
31. 1 Chron. 6.18; 9.32; 2 Chron. 29.12; cf. Num. 4.34.
32. 1 Chron. 26.19; cf. m p -J? in Exod. 6.24; Num. 26.11; Pss. 42.1; 44.1; 45.1;
46.1; 47.1; 48.1; 49.1; 84.1; 85.1; 87.1; 88.1.
33. For a number o f other groups the standard construction is ‘sons’ + proper
noun in EBH and LBH, but we also find some cases o f ‘sons’ + article + singular
gentilic noun (Num. 4.27,28; 34.14 [x2]; 1 Chron. 26.21), or, surprisingly, ‘sons’ +
article + proper noun (Josh. 15.14; Judg. 1.20; Ezra 2.26, 55, 61; Neh. 3.3; 7.63;
10.40; 1 Chron. 12.3, 27; 15.15 [pi.]; 24.30 [pi.]).
128 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

accusative (1.14); Drvni- rather than DHl- (1.17); jussive form but not
meaning (2 .20); feminine plural noun as subject of second masculine
plural verb (2.22); collective construed as plural (2.26,27). Additionally,
in his work on the postexilic prophets Zechariah and Malachi, Hill
argues for ‘the basic homogeneity of the post-Exilic prophets’ among
which he also includes Jonah and Joel (Hill 1981: 79 with 77 [‘graphic
I ’]).34In his estimation, basing his analysis on Polzin’s typology, Joel
shares four grammatical links with LBH: Polzin’s A1 (reduction of n$
with pronominal suffix; see above); A 6 (infrequency of paronomastic
infinitive absolute; see next point); A7 (infrequency of 2/3 with infinitive
construct, especially after nrrV!TiTl); A 11 (infrequency of introductory
’’PH). However, Joel is similar to several EBH prophets, such as
Habakkuk and Nahum, which highly favour verb + object suffix rather
than m (Young, ‘Pesher’, forthcoming). Similarly, Joel has only one
paronomastic infinitive absolute, more than EBH Obadiah, and equal to
EBH Nahum (3.13), Habakkuk (2.3) and Zephaniah (1.2 ).35Finally, as
for the verb (A7, A ll), exactly where in Joel could the author have made
use of these features?

5.3.6. Preference fo r EBH Features. In a number of other matters Joel

has uses which are considered more characteristic of EBH than LBH. For
example: two paronomastic infinitives absolute (1.7; 2.26); nine cases of
paragogic nun;3628 examples of weqatalti , including the sequence qtol +
weqatalti (4.11);37 7 wayyiqtol forms;38 rather than DKT ‘HOK
(2.28); rather than DHQI? (4.2); the word order DHT1 *\Q3 rather than
^□31 DHT (4.5); and two cases of locative he (4.7, 11).

5.3.7. Conclusion. In light of our detailed review of Joel’s language it

is clear that the overwhelming majority of biblical scholars have dated
Joel to the postexilic period in the face o f the book’s language which has
only a tenuous connection to LBH and no demonstrably late feature.
Furthermore, there is clearly not an accumulation of distinctive LBH

34. See our survey o f H ill’s work in 2.7.

35. It is worth pointing out again (cf. 4.5 [point 5]) that LBH Zechariah has
more paronomastic infinitives absolute (6.15; 7.5; 8.21; 11.17 [x2]; 12.3) than
EBH Hosea (1 .2 , 6; 4.18; 10.15), Amos (3.5; 5.5; 7.11, 17; 9.8) orMicah (1.10; 2.4,
12 [x2 ]).
36. Joel 2.4, 5, 7 (x3), 8 (x2), 9; 3.1.
37. Joel 2.14 (x2), 19,20 (x2), 24 (x2), 25,26 (x2), 27; 3.1 (x2), 3, 5; 4.2 (x3), 7,
8 (x 2 ), 1 1 , 16, 17 (x2), 18 (x 2 ), 21.
38. Joel 2.18 (x2), 19 (x2), 23; 4.3 (x2).
5. EBH vs. LBH: Linguistic Features and Rates o f Accumulation 129

features in Joel (see below). The book’s lexical and grammatical inven­
tory does not demonstrate the book’s postexilic origin. However, we
stress that we are not arguing that the book should therefore be dated to
the preexilic period. Rather, our argument is that if Joel was written in
the postexilic period, as most believe, then its language exemplifies the
EBH writing style in that period.

5.4. Rates o f Accumulation

5.4.1. Introduction to the Problem . To this point, from the perspective
of the standard chronological approach to BH, we have made the
following observations regarding accumulation:
• The main difference between ‘early’ and ia te ’ BH is an accu­
mulation of LBH features39in ia te ’ books/passages. See 2.1.2,,,, 4.2.1, 4.2.4, 5.2.3.
• Conversely, an absence of accumulation of LBH features is a
reliable indicator of a preexilic origin. This is because preexilic
writers could not write LBH, since they did not have access to
most ia te ’ linguistic features in the preexilic period (since by
definition these ia te ’ features cannot be ‘early’), and postexilic
writers could not write EBH, since these writers were unable to
break free of their own late linguistic milieu. See,,,,, 4.2.4.
• The frequency or rate of accumulation of LBH features required
to label a book/passage ia te ’ is left unqualified and in fact it is
interpreted with a great deal of latitude. See 2 .2 .3.4, 4.2.4.

However, we have seen in this chapter and in Chapters 3 and 4 that these
three statements, widely held to be true, require modification in order to
fit the facts of BH. We have reinforced this evaluation in our remarks on
particular biblical passages. 2 Chronicles 30.1-12 has many LBH
features (cf. 2.11.3, 3.3), as we would expect to find, but these are also
present in 2 Sam. 6.16-23 (cf. 4.4). In contrast, Zech. 6.9-15 (cf. 4.5), an
undisputed postexilic book, and Joel 2.12-20 (cf. 5.3), a book most
scholars date to the postexilic period, have few LBH features. In

39. According to the standard chronological approach, ‘LBH features’ refers to

lexical or grammatical items which are found typically in the undisputed postexilic
books o f Esther-Chronicles, or which are attested frequently in biblical or
postbiblical Aramaic or in postbiblical Hebrew (QH, MH, Ben Sira, Bar Kochba), or
which are Persian or Hellenistic loanwords or loan translations ( ‘caiques’).
130 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

response to these findings we believe the logical outcome of the criterion

of accumulation, as advocated by Hurvitz and others, is that all biblical
books are postexilic compositions .40(See Volume 2,2.3.) This is the case
since all biblical books have LBH features and some EBH books have a
greater frequency of these than undisputed postexilic books. In other
words, i f ‘late’ features are really late, then books written in EBH which
have these features are also ‘late’, at least in their current textual forms.

5.4.2. Test o f Accumulation. In response to the problem of accumula­

tion we have developed a simple test of accumulation. Plainly put, this
counts how many different LBH features occur in a given stretch of text.
Normally, this stretch of text will be of 500 words length,41 although by
necessity sometimes our excerpts will not be that length. Thus we
discuss below 2 Samuel 22//Psalm 18, each of which has fewer than 400
words. Nevertheless, where at all possible, the stretch of text analysed is
500 words in each case so that samples are comparable. Within this
sample we count how many distinct LBH features there are. We do not
count repetitions of the same feature. Once an author has demonstrated
the possibility of using a particular LBH feature, there is no reason it
cannot be repeated as many times as opportunity presents itself. Thus, for
example, the LBH order of substantive before numeral occurs seven
times in Ezra 1.9-11 simply because this is a list.
In this exercise we follow a loose definition of LBH features. Here
‘LBH features’ means linguistic items characteristic of the core LBH
books of Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles. In addition, we

40. However, we are not arguing that in fact all biblical books are postbiblical
compositions, but rather, that this is the logical outcome o f current linguistic dating
principles and methodology.
41. We use the term 4words’ to refer to Hebrew graphic units. Thus T ID 1 (‘and in
the city’) counts as one ‘word’ rather than four. Hebrew graphic units correspond on
average to about 1 .5 words in this latter sense, and hence a 500-word (graphic units)
sample is approximately equivalent to a 750-word sample in English. Biber 1990:
258-61 argues that a 1000-word English sample is reliable for analyses o f linguistic
variation o f grammatical features. See C. L. Miller 2004: 285 for the application o f
this principle to ancient Semitic linguistics. Note that Biber is not arguing that 1000
words is a minimum, only that 1000 words is adequate. The argument being made
here is less linguistically sophisticated than the studies for which Biber found 1000
words adequate. 500 graphic units represents a compromise between having a large
enough sample, and the problem that too large a sample size will render the method
unable to be used on texts o f a size similar to biblical Habakkuk or Pesher
5. EBH vs. LBH: Linguistic Features and Rates o f Accumulation 131

have included several LBH features which occur seldom in these books
(thus these features cannot be considered characteristic of the core LBH
books) but also occur at least once in Qoheleth (an LBH book which is
generally considered postexilic even if it is not strictly speaking one of
the core LBH books). So, as a rule, we have accepted any feature cited
by an authority as LBH provided that it occurs in more than one core
LBH book (including here in this exercise also Qoheleth), so as to avoid
features simply characteristic of a single author’s idiolect (the criterion
of distribution). We must mention that in this context we cannot justify
each feature we have judged to be LBH or have excluded as such .42Also,
we may have overlooked legitimate examples in some of the samples,
but the results are so clear that a slight adjustment here or there will not
affect the picture that emerges. In regard to ‘preference for’ categories,
we decided to score this as an LBH feature if the feature in question
occurs five times or more in the 500-word section with no examples of
the EBH form or a ratio of 10 to 1 if the data so permitted. Thus, for
example, both Pesher Habakkuk and biblical Habakkuk show a
preference for verb suffixes and hence register this as an LBH feature.
On the contrary, the two examples of LBH pUT in biblical Habakkuk do
not qualify as an LBH feature. The ‘preference for’ categories in the
following table include preference for collectives as plurals, preference
for verb suffixes, and preference for over '’DDK.

5.4.3. Table o f Accumulation. The following table gives the number of

LBH features in 500-word samples of selected biblical and extra-biblical
texts .43

42. We note below (giving references to other discussions) several items we have
not accepted as LBH: P iel in Ezek. 18.9 and Ben Sira 42.5 (col. 4.11); 2TK
in Job 1.1; 7 V + participle as ‘w hile’ in Job 1.18; DH3 in Dan. 1.4 (x2), 6;
T'TOin 1 Chron. 13.9; 3 ‘pD Hithpolel in Ben Sira 42.18 (col. 5.6); 'pH Hiphil in Ben
Sira 42.21 (col. 5.11). When in doubt we have weighed scholarly statements and
generally erred on the side o f inclusion.
43. The choice o f individual sample passages is somewhat random. We have
avoided non-conducive material such as lists and the like. In a few cases we have
excluded part o f a verse in order to have as close as possible 500 words (cf. ‘a’ and
‘b’ in references in the table). The overall principle is that there is at least one
sample from each o f the core LBH books, and samples from each o f the core EBH
elements, i.e. sources o f the Pentateuch, books o f the Deuteronomistic History, EBH
prophets, EBH poetry. The samples presented here represent the full number o f texts
we have studied thus far.
132 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

LBH Features in Biblical and Extra-Biblical Hebrew Texts

(500-W ord Samples; Descending Order o f Frequency)
Text Number o f LBH
1 Ezra 1.1—11; 9.1—10.2a 2544
2 Daniel 1.1-20; 11.44-12.13 2445
3 2 Chronicles 3 0 .1 -3 1.346 2247
4 Nehemiah 1.1-2.17 2048

44. rn- names (1.1; 10.2); and rm3J2 with m - afformative (1.1; 9.8, 9);
U'Qm ’’hSr (1.2); motion verb + b (1.3, 11); D 'n'^n IT3 (1.4; 9.9; 10.1); Dirrii-
(1.6; 9.1, 2, 11, 12); 3n3 Hithpael (1.6); T bv (1.8); Persian words (1.8, 9);
substantive before numeral (1.9 [x3], 10 [x3], 11); CP“)iS3 (1.10 [x2]); *]D3...3nT
order (1.11); (u)b/keqotlo temporal clause (9.1, 3, 5; 10.1 [x2]); Nto3 as ‘marry’ (9.2,
12); weqatalti (9.2, 13); double plurals (9.1, 2, 11, 14); w a’eqtlah (9.3 [x2], 5 [x2],
6); DOE?P o e lparticiple (9.3,4); -b IV (9 .4 ,6 ) ;n n ( 9 .7 ) ; “IQi:i/z/?M(9.9);n«T n n »
(9.10); (9.14); HT Hithpael ( 10.1); preference for verb suffixes 8 to 0 (1.4,7, 8
[x2]; 9.8, 9, 11 [x2]).
45. r r a ta with m - afformative (1.1, 20); r a p e (1.2); n ’3 (1.2);
infinitive for direct speech (1.3, 4, 18); Persian words (1.3, 5, 8, 13, 15, 16; 11.45);
in o (1.4, 17); H3Q P ie l( 1.5,10, 11); nHEto as ‘drinking’ (1.5, 8, 10,16); substantive
before numeral (1.5, 12, 14, 15; 12.11, 12); T - names (1.6 [x2], 7 [x2], 11 [x2], 19
[x2]); b w Hithpael (1.8); for **3 (1.8 [x2]); pluralisation (1.15; 12.2); nun o f }0
unassimilated (1.15); JT’n + participle (1.16); 3 y 'l Hiphil (1.17); (11.45);
10V for Dip (12.1,13); w eqatalti( 12.5); (u)b/keqotld temporal clause(12.7; cf. 1.15,
18); w a’eqtlah (12.8); weyiqtol instead o f weqatalti (12.10 [x2], 13 [x2]); I7ET) Hiphil
for Qal (12.10); preference for verb suffixes 8 to 0 (1.2,4, 5, 14,18 [x2], 20; 11.44).
We do not accept DH3 in 1.4 (x2), 6 rather than 33 as LBH (cf. Rezetko 2007b: 226),
and in any case, this feature could only be included here as LBH if it met one o f the
stipulations o f our ‘preference for’ categories (see 5.4.2).
46. Non-synoptic.
47. by instead o f another preposition (30.1 [x2], 9, 18, 22); (30.1, 6);
infinitive for direct speech (30.1, 5); 1 Q0 Hiphil (30.5; 31.2); (30.7, 22);
□irn../p3n order (30.9); ITH + participle (30.10 [x2]);}Ub Hiphil for Qal (30.10; cf.
pnto Hiphil); motion verb + b (30.11); postpositive 31 *7 in the sense ‘a lot o f (30.13,
24); day-month word order (30.15); pluralisation (30.17); NISO Niphal as ‘be
present’ (30.21; 31.1); HT Hithpael (30.22); 01“1Hiphil as ‘contribute for sacrifice’
(30.24 [x2]); substantive before numeral (30.24 [x2]); (u)b/keqotld temporal clause
(31.1); -b IV (31.1); Hint* (31.1); n ip ta o as ‘divisions’ o f people (31.2 [x2]); nun
o f )Q unassimilated (31.3); preference for collectives with plural verbs 6 to 0 (30.3,
13, 17, 18, 23; 31.1; cf. 30.25).
48. rr- names (1.1 [x2]; 2.10); HT3 (1.1; 2.8); n r iD (1.3); HDD wayyiqtol + long
III -He (1.4); w a’eqtlah (1.4; 2.1, 6 , 9 , 13); n-n + participle (1.4; 2.13, 15 [x2]);
□,,Qton 'Tib* (1.4, 5; 2.4); HT Hithpael (1.6); f ta n ZYX (2.1); rrn jussive + long
III -He (2.3); for "3 (2.3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 17; Holmstedt [e-mail 21.05.06] considers
most o f these examples uncertain; only Neh. 2.10 is cited in Holmstedt 2002:294 n.
25; 2006b: 10 n. 10); 3iB ^ p n b v DK (2.5, 7); ')Sb 3tr (2.5, 6); (2.6); IpT
5. EBH vs. LBH: Linguistic Features and Rates o f Accumulation 133

5 Esther 5 .1 -6 .13a 1749

6 Qoheleth 1.1-2.9; 6.1-12 1550
7 Temple Scroll (1 lQ Ta) 57.7-59.21 1351
8 1 Chronicles 13.5-14; 15.25-16.3; 16.43-17.1252 1253
9 Damascus Document (4QDa) 2 , 1; 1 0 ,1; 11 1254

(2.6); rna» (2.7, 8, 9); bv instead o f another preposition (2.7; cf. 2.4); Persian word
(2.8); substantive before numeral (2.11); preference for verb suffixes 8 to 0 (1.2, 9
[x2], 11; 2.5 [x2], 6, 7).
49. with m - afformative (5.1 [x3], 3, 6; 6.8 [x2]); HttfpD (5.3, 6, 7, 8);
DIO b v DK (5.4, 8); (u)blkeqotld temporal clause (5.9); ITIT Qal (5.9);
substantive before numeral (5.14); ^ b DO1’ (5.14); infinitive for direct speech ( 6.1,
4); rnn + participle ( 6.1); for '3 (6.2); nbM} (6.3); iEK1? as embedded infinitive
expressing purpose/result (6.4); ]Q "ini*' ( 6.6); T bv (6.9); Persian word (6.9);
(6.12); preference for verb suffixes 5 to 0 (5.11 [x2]; 6.9, 11, 13).
50. (1.10); weqatdlti (1.13, 16; 2.5, 9 [x2]); m in and nitafo with m -
afformative (1.14, 17; 2.3; 6.9); w a’eqtlah (1.17); Mil HI as casus pendens (1.17);
for "D (2.3; 6.1,10,12; not all o f these examples are accepted by Holmstedt [cf.
n. 48]); Persian word (2.5); D3D (2.8); ITHp (2.8); D'D'D) (6.2); (6.2); ( 6.6);
rrn long for "PI ( 6.6); ]D "ini" ( 6. 8); «]pn ( 6. 10).
51. D'H'HD as ‘chosen men’ (57.8); rrn + participle (57.10, 13; 58.8; 59.4-5);
nun o f ]D unassimilated (57.11); substantive before numeral (57.12, 12-13); as
‘marry’ (57.15,18); bv instead o f another preposition (57.17; 58.3,4 [x2]); ")$K for
"D (58.9 [Holmstedt {cf. n. 48} does not accept this example]; 59.8); ..A ..I'D
(58.14); locative he without locative sense (59.3); pJJT Hiphil for Qal (59.6);
w ithm - afformative (59.17,21); ] iiP as ‘w ill’ (59.20); preference for verb suffixes
10 to 1 (58.12 [x2]; 59.2, 11 [x3], 12 [x2], 18, 20 vs. 59.7).
52. Compare (largely) synoptic 2 Sam. 6.1-20a; 7.1-12 in this table. Note that
we have skipped over list, poetic and non-synoptic material in 1 Chronicles 13-17.
53. Nun o f ]Q unassimilated (13.5; 15.25; 17.7); CPn^p (13.8; 15.28); y n
(13.12); (15.27); T 0 Polel participle (15.27 [x2]); rr- name (15.27); n*TI +
participle (15.29); b for (15.29); pluralisation(17.1); HTf wayyiqtol + long III-He
(17.5, 8); infinitive for direct speech (17.6); mD^O w ith n v afformative (17.11). We
do not accept TTO1? in 13.9 rather than Trm’’] (2 Sam. 6.6) as LBH (cf. Rezetko
2007b: 123-26).
54. The Qumran material has demonstrated the general reliability o f the mediae­
val copies o f the Damascus Document from the Cairo Geniza in those sections
paralleled by both (Baumgarten 1996: 2). Because the language o f the preserved
sections o f 4QDa (4Q266) matches well with the mediaeval parallels, we have
included the sections reconstructed from the mediaeval manuscripts. About 66% o f
the sample is from 4Q266. Column 11 has no mediaeval parallel. Direct biblical
quotes are excluded from the sample. E h l as ‘study’ (2,1.4); 2 ]‘, D (2,1.5-6, 7, 12);
(u)b/keqotld temporal clause (2,1.9); substantive before numeral ( 2 , 1.10, 13); 1 DV
for Dip (2,1.18; 10,1.12); T (10,1.6; 11.16); weyiqtol instead o f weqatalti (10,
1.13; 11.8, 14); bnp (1 l.l) ; ] iin as ‘w ill’ (11.1); Drrni- (11.10); rrn long for -n
(11.12); preference for verb suffixes 13 to 0 (2 ,1 .3 ,8 , 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 1 8 ,2 1 ,2 5 ;
10,1.1, 14; 11.10).
134 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

10 Arad Ostraca 955

11 Community Rule (IQS) 1.1-3.2 956
12 War Scroll (1QM) 1.1-2.1 la; 2.16-3.6 957

13 1 Kings 22.6-35 58 859

14 Ezekiel 18.1-19.3 760
15 2 Chronicles 18.5-3461 762
16 1 Samuel 13.1-14.963 664
17 2 Samuel 6.1-20a; 7 .1-12 65 666

55. Substantive before numeral (1.3, 7; 16.5; and many other cases); weqatalti
(3.2-3; 16.4); by instead o f another preposition (3.3); (u)b!keqotlo temporal clause
(16.3); T by (24.15); nun o f p unassimilated (26.2); n m as ‘want’ (40.6-7); re­
names (107.2; 110.1, 2); Upb Niphal for Qal passive (111.4).
56. Pluralisation (1.9,22; 2 .1 ,6 -7 ,1 7 ); crFI^ (1.14); (u)b/keqotld temporal clause
(1.18); rrn + participle (1.18-19); tfeh Hiphil for Qal (1.25); by instead o f another
preposition (2.1); (2.3, 4, 8, 15, 17, 23, 25); (2.7, 14); preference for
verb suffixes 6 to 0 (2.2, 3 [x2], 5, 8, 16).
57. nriny (1.2); v m Hiphil for Qal (1.2); n 'n b w (1.5, 12); y $ b (1.6); Persian
word (1.9, 10, 13); substantive before numeral (2.1 [x2], 2 [x2]); ttfNhn ]rf3 (2.1);
H’TI + participle (2 . 1 ); pluralisation ( 2 . 8).
58. Compare synoptic 2 Chron. 18.5-34 in this table.
59. b^ /by interchange/1?^ instead o f another preposition (22.6 [cf. 22.15], 17,
32); IT- name (22.11); for ’ S (22.16); masculine plural suffix for feminine
plural (22.17); HDD and nbu w ayyiqtoh + long III-He (22.24, 34, 35); substantive
before numeral (22.31); ITH + participle (22.35; cf. 2 Chron. 18.34); preference for
verb suffixes 6 to 0 (22.8, 1 6 ,2 1 ,2 6 ,2 7 ,3 4 ; note that PK + suffix in 22.14 is forced).
60. b$/by interchange (18.6, 11 [cf. 18.15]; 19.1); ...L? (18.8); pluralisation
(18.12; cf. 18.7, 16, 18); Hto and wayyiqtoh + long III -He (18.14 [Qere], 19,
28); rrn long for^n (18.23); (u)b/keqotlo temporal clause (18.24,26,27); 311DHiphil
for Qal (18.32). We do not accept "jfn P iel as LBH (18.9) since this is never attested
in core LBH and is strictly a Mishnaism (cf. Hurvitz 1982a: 48-52).
61. Compare synoptic 1 Kgs. 22.6-35 in this table.
62. p $ + participle (18.7); absence o f paragogic n x- (18.8; cf. 1 Kgs. 22.9);
absence o f particle NJ- (18.12 [first instance; cf. 1 Kgs. 22.13]); *")©!$ for "ID(18.15);
absence o f adverb ^ (18.31; cf. 1 Kgs. 22.32); + participle (18.34; cf. 1 Kgs.
22.35); preference for verb suffixes 8 to 0 (1 8 .7 ,1 5 ,2 0 ,2 5 ,2 6 ,3 1 [x2], 33; note that
ntj + suffix in 18.13 is forced).
63. Non-synoptic.
64. Hiphil for Qal (13.8); nbu wayyiqtol + long III-He (13.12); b$/ by
interchange (13.13; 14.4; cf. 13.12); KHD Niphal as ‘be present’ (13.15, 16); n
definite article non-syncope (13.21); name (14.3).
65. Compare (largely) synoptic 1 Chron. 13.5-14; 15.25-16.3; 16.43-17.12
in this table. Note that we have skipped over non-synoptic 2 Sam. 6.20b-23 (cf.
LBH masculine plural suffix for feminine plural in 6.22, and our discussion in 4.4
[point 4]).
66. bto/by interchange/1?^ instead o f another preposition (6.3, 10; cf. 6.6);
weqatalti (6.16); n^H + participle (6.16; 7.6); b for n$ (6.16); n^n wayyiqtol + long
5. EBH vs. LBH: Linguistic Features and Rates o f Accumulation 135

18 2 Samuel 2 2 .1 -5 167 668 (7.969)

19 1 Kings 2 .1 -2 9 70 671
20 Joel 1.1-2.19 672
21 Psalm 18.1 -5 173 674 (7.675)
22 Job 1.1-2.1 la 676
23 Pesher Habakkuk (lQpHab) 5.3-12.13 677
24 Habakkuk 1.1-3.4 5 78

III-He (7.6, 9); wa'eqtlah (7.9). A seventh feature that probably should be included
is t a in 6.7. See our discussion in 4.4 (point D).
67. Compare synoptic Ps. 18.1-51 in this table.
68. Nun of]p unassimilated (22.14); pluralisation (22.22,48,49; cf. 22.12); ITH
wayyiqtol + long III-He (22.24); w ayeqtlah (22.24); absence o f cohortative (22.50;
cf. Ps. 18.50); preference for verb suffixes 31 to 2 (22.3, 5 [x2], 6 [x2], 15, 15
[Kethib\, 17 [x2], 18, 19, 2 0 ,2 1 ,3 4 ,3 6 ,3 8 ,3 9 [x2], 4 0 ,4 1 ,4 2 ,4 3 [x3],44 [x3],49
[x3], 50 vs. 22.1,20).
69. Since 2 Samuel 22 contains only 382 words, the figure in parentheses gives
the projected number o f LBH features in a 500-word sample.
70. Non-synoptic.
71. Absence o f locative he (2.3, 6, 8, 9; cf. 2.26); DID*?? with m - afformative
(2.12); ^[tan ZYX (2.17); by instead o f another preposition (2.26); IT - names (2.28;
cf. 2.5, 22 with rHIH, but the etymology is disputed); preference for verb suffixes
7 to 0 (2.5, 8 [x2], 9, 24 [x2], 26).
72. Weqatalti (1.7); 12D*’ Hiphil for Qal (1.10,12); nun o f ]D unassimilated (1.12);
D -n ^ n IT? (1.13, 16); DiTni- (1.17); mni...]13n order (2.13).
73. Compare synoptic 2 Sam. 22.1-51 in this table.
74. Nun o f unassimilated (18.4, 49); pluralisation (18.22, 48); absence o f
cohortative (18.38; cf. 2 Sam. 22.38); by instead o f another preposition (18.42);
□ T H i-(18.46); preference for verb suffixes 31 to 1 (18.2,5 [x 2 ],6 [x 2 ], 15 [x2], 17
[x2], 18,19,20 [x2], 2 1 ,3 3 ,3 4 ,3 6 [x2], 3 8 ,3 9 ,4 0 ,4 1 ,4 2 ,4 3 [x2], 44 [x3], 49 [x2],
50 vs. 18.1).
75. Since Psalm 18 contains only 394 words, the figure in parentheses gives the
projected number o f LBH features in a 500-word sample.
76. Drrni - (1.4); DnDJ? (1.4); by instead o f another preposition (1.6; 2.1 [x2]);
wa^eqtlah (1.15, 16, 17, 19); tap (2.10 [x2]); preference for verb suffixes 8 to 0
(1.5, 11, 15, 16, 17; 2.3 [x2], 5). We do not accept tati...rvn (1.1) as LBH
(Rezetko 2003: 233-37) and we are equally hesitant about 1 y + participle as ‘while’
(1.18) since it is only attested once in core LBH (Neh. 7.3) (Young, ‘Job’, forth­
77. Biblical quotes are excluded from the sample. "")®K for'S (5.3, 7; 6.3, 6; 7.7,
15); I7ETI Hiphil for Qal (9.11); b b h y interchange/^^ instead o f another preposition
(5.11; 6.11; 7.7, 12, 15; 9.12; 12.3); pluralisation (6.4; cf. 8.12-13; 12.8); Persian
word (7.5, 8, 14); preference for verb suffixes 17 to 0 (5.11; 7.2, 4; 8.2; 9.10 [x2];
10.4, 5 [x2], 11; 11.5, 7, 8, 15; 12.5, 13 [x2]).
78. HOT wayyiqtol + long III-He (1.14); pluralisation (2.7, 8, 17); by instead o f
another preposition (2.14, 15, 18; cf. 2.16); ff]D3...nnT order (2.19); preference for
verb suffixes 14 to 0 (1.3, 10, 12 [x2], 15 [x2]; 2.2, 7*8, 11, 17 [x2], 18; 3.2).
136 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

25 Genesis 24.1-36 (J79) 480

26 Ben Sira 41.13-44.17 (cols. 3.15-7.24) 481
27 Zechariah 1.1-3. la 3 82
28 Exodus 6.2-12; 7.1-13; 9.8-12; 12.1-7b (P83) ! 84

5.4.4. Commentary. The following remarks summarise our main

findings regarding accumulation of LBH features in biblical and extra-
biblical texts.
(1) Core EBH and LBH. None of the sample passages are free from
LBH features. Core EBH samples typically have an accumulation in the
area of 6 to 8 LBH features whereas our core LBH samples have 17 to 25
LBH features, although some synoptic passages in Chronicles score
much lower. Alternatively, some EBH passages, such as the samples
from J and P, have only four and one LBH feature(s), respectively. We
could perhaps separate out an ‘intermediate LBH’ group with a range of
7 to 15 LBH features, consisting of LBH-related Ezekiel, Qoheleth, and
synoptic Chronicles. However, this is complicated by our findings
regarding synoptic Samuel-Kings and Chronicles (see the next point).
The group with the highest accumulation of LBH features, standing well
above the other samples with an average of 20 to 25 LBH features per
500 words, includes Nehemiah, non-synoptic Chronicles, and especially
Daniel and Ezra. We note that Daniel and Ezra are the two bilingual
books of the Hebrew Bible, including significant Aramaic sections. This
may be a clue about their linguistic background, although many LBH
features are not obviously directly related to Aramaic. As an interesting
observation, if we focus on shorter segments of text we find that some­
times EBH passages have a high concentration of LBH features. Thus, in

79. See, e.g., Noth 1972: 29, 264.

80. CTQIsn (24.3, 7); ~\m for (24.3; Holmstedt 2002: 294 n. 25 does not
cite this example but Holmstedt 2006b: 10 n. 10 does); interchange (24.11);
preference for verb suffixes 7 to 0 (24.3, 7, 16, 17, 18, 19, 27; note that HK + suffix
in 24.14 is forced).
81. Our sampling is based on the Masada manuscript, with some LBH forms
restored whenever possible. instead o f another preposition (42.25 [col. 5.16]);
(damaged context; 42.4 [col. 4.10]); HP? (42.7 [col. 4.13]); ntVD? (partially
restored; 44.3 [col. 7.8]). We do not accept P iel (42.5 [col. 4.11]) as LBH (cf.
n. 60 on Ezekiel). In addition, we do not accept as LBH 3 ]nD Hithpolel (42.18 [col.
5.6]) or *pD Hiphil (42.21 [col. 5.11]) since the distinctive LBH idiom is 3 'pD Hiphil
(Hurvitz 1972a: 136, 138-39; Polzin 1976: 142-43; Qimron 1986: 88; Qimron and
Strugnell 1994: 89; contra S. R. Driver 1913a: 536).
82. IT- names (1.1 [x2], 7); day-month word order (1.7); motion verb + b (1.16).
83. ET .g. Noth 1972: 18,268.
84. Preference for ‘’jtj over "DDK 8 to 0 (6.2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12; 7.3, 5).
5. EBH vs. LBH: Linguistic Features and Rates o f Accumulation 137

a 100-word sample from Ps. 18.38-51 we find five85 suspected LBH

features. In contrast, some core LBH books have lengthy sections with
few LBH features. Thus, in a 200-word sample from non-synoptic
2 Chron. 28.5-15 we find only three suspected LBH features, and one of
them, p^ETH for ‘Damascus’, has no distribution in LBH outside Chroni­
cles. This section of non-synoptic Chronicles is thus indistinguishable in
its concentration of LBH features from EBH passages. Therefore, what
marks EBH off from LBH is the absence of consistently high clusterings
of LBH features over long stretches of text.
(2) Synoptic Samuel-Kings and Chronicles. Parallel passages in Sam-
uel-Kings and Chronicles provide particularly interesting insights. It is
a commonplace of scholarship that in synoptic passages it will be
Chronicles that replaces the EBH features of Samuel-Kings with LBH
features (cf., In fact, comparison of 1 Kings 22//
2 Chronicles 18, for example, tells a different story. 1 Kings 22.6-35 has
eight LBH features, while synoptic 2 Chron. 18.5-34 has only seven.
However, whereas three LBH features are shared in common, Kings has
five LBH features not found in Chronicles, and Chronicles has four LBH
features not found in Kings. Additional discussion of these passages is
given in 13.3.6. This example casts doubt bn the view that Chronicles
can be used as the primary exemplar of LBH and that LBH can be
defined on the basis of synoptic passages.
(3) Other Synoptic Passages. Equally perplexing are parallel passages
such as 2 Samuel 22//Psalm 18. These have not just been considered
EBH, but even examples of AJBH (e.g. Robertson 1972: 155; see Chapter
12). Yet each one of them displays what are considered classic features
of LBH such as unassimilated nun of ]D before an anarthrous noun or the
wa^eqtlah verb pattern. It is important to observe that each chapter has its
own unique set of LBH features. This is strong evidence that significant
clusterings of LBH features could be added (or subtracted) to texts
during the course of their scribal transmission. Thus we see that arguing
from current texts about the language and hence date of the ‘original
author’ of a text is precarious business. We will deliberate on this issue
in Chapter 13.
(4) Zechariah 1-8. Ehrensvard’s contention that postexilic Zechariah
1-8 is EBH despite having a few suspected LBH features is vindicated
(cf. 4.5; Ehrensvard 2003: 175-87; 2006). Zechariah 1-8 turns out to
have one of the lowest accumulations of LBH features of our samples.
This exercise also answers any suggestions that Zechariah 1-8 and other

85. Due to the length o f the sample we do not include verb suffixes in place o f
TO + suffix for the object o f a verb.
138 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

samples cited by Ehrensvard of postexilic EBH represent too small a

corpus to prove the case. It is clear that any 500 words of an LBH text
will generally display a tell-tale concentration of LBH elements quite
unlike anything in the 1745 words of Zechariah 1-8.
(5) Prose Tale o f Job. Hurvitz has argued that the so-called Prose Tale
of Job, found in 1.1-2.13 and 42.7-17, is a specimen of LBH (Hurvitz
1974a, 1975a). We have included all the LBH features suggested by
Hurvitz in the table, with three exceptions. We agree with Ehrensvard
that ‘the Satan’ is strictly a non-linguistic development (Ehrensvard
2003: 180; cf. We also cannot accept that the absence of TH
(1.1) (Rezetko 2003: 235-37) or IV + participle in the sense of ‘while’
(1.18) (Young, ‘Job’, forthcoming) are characteristics of LBH .86 Yet,
even if we included these features, the concentration of LBH in the Prose
Tale of Job would not rise much above core EBH passages. So, if we
accepted all of Hurvitz’s features— and we have added other features to
Hurvitz’s list—the Prose Tale of Job simply does not have a sufficient
concentration of LBH features to be classified as LBH.
(6) Books o f Disputed Date: Joel and Qoheleth. The results of this
exercise suggest that books of disputed date, such as Joel and Qoheleth,
and also other books like Jonah, Ruth and Song of Songs, cannot be
assigned to a particular historical period on the basis of their linguistic
profiles. Thus Joel, for example, though dated by most scholars to the
postexilic period, sits squarely among core EBH books with just six LBH
features. Furthermore, this study may help explain why other disputed
books, such as Ruth, have been dated by scholars citing linguistic evi­
dence to the preexilic, exilic or postexilic period.
(7) Arad Ostraca. The sample from the Arad Ostraca exhibits an
accumulation of nine LBH features. We examine the details in 6.5. This
is a remarkable discovery. The (mostly) preexilic Arad Ostraca are more
LBH-like than our core EBH samples, LBH-related Ezekiel, the LBH
(according to Hurvitz) Prose Tale of Job, and some postbiblical Hebrew
samples. This reinforces the conclusion in Young 2003c that the Hebrew
inscriptions of the monarchic period have many links with LBH and

86. Ehrensvard and Young have argued that several other LBH features Hurvitz
discussed are unconvincing (Young 1993a: 134-35; ‘Job’, forthcoming; Ehrensvard
2003: 180). It is interesting to recall Polak’s conclusion that ‘the prose tale o f Job is
far closer to the classical style than to that o f the post-exilic period’ (cf.
Also, in a recent article on the disappearance o f iterative weqatalti in the BH verb
system, Joosten says the occurrence o f this feature in Job 1.4 makes it unlikely that
the prose framework o f Job was written in the Persian period or later (Joosten 2006:
5. EBH vs. LBH: Linguistic Features and Rates o f Accumulation 139

should be seen as an independent corpus within ancient Hebrew .87There

is no one-to-one correspondence between EBH and Hebrew inscriptions
of the monarchic period, and this severely weakens the only available
extra-biblical anchor fo r dating EBH to the preexilic period (cf.,, 3.2.4, 4.2.3).
( 8) Ben Sira and Qumran Hebrew . It is commonly assumed that there
is a relationship between LBH and Ben Sira and QH. This is quite logi­
cal. If EBH developed over time into LBH, then it is reasonable to expect
that sources composed, as a rule, after the LBH books, will also exhibit
‘late’ language. This expectation, one of development or trajectory, is not
fulfilled in our samples. The selections from the Temple Scroll and the
Damascus Document have significantly fewer LBH elements than the
core LBH books. As for the Community Rule and the War Scroll, both
have hardly more LBH features than LBH-related Ezekiel. Even more
surprising, the pesher sections of the Habakkuk Pesher88have almost no
LBH elements in them at all, comparable with those EBH samples with
the least amount of LBH in them. Astoundingly, Ben Sira has just four
LBH features, equivalent to our sample from Genesis, and lower than all
other core EBH samples with the sole exception of the selection from P
in Exodus. A full re-examination of the relationship of LBH with Ben
Sira and QH is called for (cf. Chapter 10). The failure of the evidence to
meet expectations in this case indicates that the idea that there was a
straight chronological progression from EBH to LBH to postbiblical
sources, such as Ben Sira and QH, is wrong.

5.5. Conclusion
In this chapter we first gave an overview of LBH lexical and grammatical
features. Then we looked at the language of a book whose date of origin
is disputed: Joel. Finally, we discussed rates of accumulation in numer­
ous biblical and extra-biblical Hebrew texts. Let us summarise some
important points.
Our view is that most linguistic features which are deemed ‘late’—
both lexical and grammatical—will not hold up to close scrutiny when
examined exhaustively and in all books of the Hebrew Bible. We believe
it is time to stop generalising about the distribution and usage of BH
linguistic features. Rather, with the aid of printed and digital concor­

87. This conclusion also argues in favour o f the view o f Polzin (cf. and
Polak (cf. 4.3.7), contra Hurvitz (cf., that preexilic inscriptions do have
characteristics o f LBH.
88. That is, not counting the quoted material from the biblical book o f Habakkuk.
140 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

dances we must proceed to map exhaustively the lexical and grammatical

features and relationships of all biblical books. In particular, it is impera­
tive that we start over and tabulate all alleged diachronic linguistic
variations in all books of the Hebrew Bible to see where they lead us.
Most linguistic features traditionally characterised as ‘late’ fail to meet
the criteria of distribution and opposition in BH. In this regard it is
important to point out that many ‘late’ features not only fail to meet the
criterion of EBH vs. LBH opposition but these ia te ’ features cannot
even be considered LBH since they are often attested in only a couple of
our LBH sources. It is common for Chronicles vs. EBH plus other LBH
books to count as ‘LBH usage’ but this is often an invalid deduction.
It is unavoidable that the core LBH books of Esther-Chronicles should
have a higher accumulation of LBH features when compared to EBH
books, since in the history of research, ‘early’ vs. ia te ’ language was
discovered in the first place by contrasting the language of books known
beforehand to date to the preexilic or postexilic period. In other words,
we are back to the issue of literary-linguistic circularity (cf. 3.2.4).
Our test of accumulation shows that the predictions of the chronologi­
cal approach are off the mark. All biblical texts attest ‘late’ linguistic
items, which means that the principal difference between EBH and LBH
is fluctuation in the accumulation of the same features. The issue is
tendency or statistical divergence. To continue to maintain the validity of
the criterion of accumulation, and hence of LBH itself, one would have
to admit that EBH passages generally exhibit LBH features. Further­
more, if LBH features are really late, then all BH texts are late. If they
are not late, then in principle there is no reason to suppose that a
preexilic author could not have written in a style with an accumulation of
LBH features.
In view of these problems and others we maintain that recent efforts
to date biblical texts linguistically are flawed in their principles and
methodology. Consequently, we have been developing a new approach89
which we are arguing in this book and especially in our synthesis in
Volume 2, Chapter 2. This approach argues that whatever the date of
biblical books, their current linguistic forms are fully at home in the
postexilic period. There is no sharp linguistic contrast between EBH and
LBH. All EBH books have LBH features, just not the concentration
found in core LBH books. Thus, LBH language in monarchic-era inscrip­
tions, possibly corroborated by LBH language in books traditionally

89. P. R. Davies 2003, Ehrensvard 2003, Rezetko 2003, Young 2003c andNaude
2004 represent early steps in this direction. Young 2005a, ‘Pesher’ (forthcoming),
Ehrensvard 2006 and Rezetko 2007a represent a more developed approach.
5. EBH vs. LBH: Linguistic Features and Rates o f Accumulation 141

dated to the preexilic period and in the late preexilic/exilic books of

Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Lamentations, suggests that some form of LBH or
proto-LBH existed in the preexilic period. Likewise, EBH continued in
the postexilic period, as demonstrated by the EBH language of Haggai,
Zechariah and Malachi, but also II—III Isaiah and Joel, and some late
Psalms as well. Furthermore, despite dating to the second and first centu­
ries BCE, respectively, Ben Sira and the Qumran Pesher Habakkuk are in
EBH. They do not share the accumulation of LBH forms which
characterises core LBH books. Additionally, Pesher Habakkuk in
particular exhibits a large number of cases where it prefers EBH forms
against their LBH equivalents .90Thus, instead of two chronological eras
with a transition between them, we see two basic authorial/editorial/
scribal approaches to language use— conservative and non-conservative.
Conservative EBH authors/editors/scribes mainly rely on a limited core
of linguistic forms, while non-conservative LBH authors/editors/scribes
are more open to using a variety of linguistic forms.91 Between these
poles there is a continuum of openness to linguistic variety. In short,
EBH and LBH are, demonstrably in postexilic times, and theoretically
also in the preexilic period, co-existing styles of Hebrew instead of
successive chronological periods in the history of ancient Hebrew.

5.6. For Further Reading

Davies, P. R., ‘Biblical Hebrew and the History of Ancient Judah: Typology, Chronology
and Common Sense’, in I. Young (ed.), Biblical Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and
Typology (JSOTSup, 369; London: T&T Clark International, 2003), pp. 150-63.
Ehrensvard, M., ‘Linguistic Dating of Biblical Texts’, in I. Young (ed.), Biblical Hebrew:
Studies in Chronology and Typology (JSOTSup, 369; London: T&T Clark Inter­
national, 2003), pp. 164-88.
— ‘Why Biblical Texts Cannot be Dated Linguistically’, Hebrew Studies 47 (2006),
pp. 177-89.
Eskhult, M., ‘Traces of Linguistic Development in Biblical Hebrew’, Hebrew Studies 46
(2005), pp. 353-70.
Joosten, J., ‘The Distinction Between Classical and Late Biblical Hebrew as Reflected in
Syntax’, Hebrew Studies 46 (2005), pp. 327-39.

90. Note however that Ben Sira has a noticeable Aramaising and MH element
and the pesher does contain the usual QH features.
91. We stress that we use ‘conservative’ here in the sense o f ‘moderate, cautious,
avoiding extremes’ rather than conservatism in the sense o f favouring an older style.
EBH may or may not be an older style, but the evidence currently to hand indicates
the likelihood that both the conservative and non-conservative styles co-existed
throughout the period o f the composition o f the biblical literature. We will return to
this issue in Volume 2, Chapter 2.
142 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Rezetko, R., ‘Dating Biblical Hebrew: Evidence from Samuel-Kings and Chronicles’, in
I. Young (ed.), Biblical Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and Typology (JSOTSup,
369; London: T&T Clark International, 2003), pp. 215-50.
— ‘“Late” Common Nouns in the Book of Chronicles’, in R. Rezetko, T. H. Lim and
B. A. Aucker (eds.), Reflection and Refraction: Studies in Biblical Historiography in
Honour o f A. Graeme Auld (VTSup, 113; Leiden: Brill, 2007), pp. 319-411.
Young, I., ‘Biblical Texts Cannot be Dated Linguistically’, Hebrew Studies 46 (2005),
pp. 341-51.
Zevit, Z., ‘Introductory Remarks: Historical Linguistics and the Dating o f Hebrew Texts
CA. 1000-300 B.C.E.’, Hebrew Studies 46 (2005), pp. 321-26.
— ‘Symposium Discussion Session: An Edited Transcription’, Hebrew Studies 46 (2005),
pp. 371-76.
— ‘What a Difference a Year Makes: Can Biblical Texts be Dated Linguistically?’,
Hebrew Studies 41 (2006), pp. 83-91.
Chapter 6

H e b r e w I n s c r i p t i o n s o f t h e M o n a r c h ic P e r io d

6.1. Using Hebrew Inscriptions to Fix the Chronology

o f Biblical Hebrew
In the previous chapters we have seen how scholars have identified two
types of BH, which they have named ‘Early Biblical Hebrew’ and ‘Late
Biblical Hebrew’. EBH has usually been considered typical of the
preexilic era in ancient Israel and Judah, down to the end of the kingdom
of Judah in 586 BCE. LBH has commonly been linked with the postexilic
era, after the restoration of the Second Temple in 515 BCE.
We have already sketched various problems with the chronological
model. At this point a further question arises, however. Even granting the
differences between EBH and LBH, how do we know that EBH is really
linked to the preexilic period, and LBH to the postexilic? Is it impossi­
ble, for example, that EBH could be postexilic? Is it impossible that EBH
and LBH could have existed at the same time? The answer to these ques­
tions is that it is quite possible that there were several different contem­
porary styles of literary Hebrew in the postexilic period (cf. Chapter 7).
Even if it were demonstrated that, in general, LBH represents a typo­
logically later form of Hebrew, this still would not mean that it could
not have been used at the same time as the typologically older EBH.
Furthermore, the postexilic period was long enough for diachronic
developments to occur. It is possible, for example, to imagine diachronic
developments that might mark Hellenistic-period Hebrew as different to
earlier Persian-period Hebrew.
Since it is not a priori impossible that the various types of BH all had
their roots in the postexilic period, scholars have appealed to external
sources in order to prove that EBH really is from a chronologically earlier
Hurvitz has argued that ‘non-biblical sources...provide us with the
external control required in any attempt to detect and identify diachronic
developments within BH’ (Hurvitz 1997a: 307; c f He concludes
144 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

that, 4by and large, there is a far-reaching linguistic uniformity under­

lying both the pre-exilic inscriptions and the literary biblical texts written
in classical BH’ (Hurvitz 1997a: 308). ‘We have, therefore, to conclude
that “Classical BH” is a well-defined linguistic stratum, indicative of
a (typologically) datable time-span within biblical literature and a
(chronologically) datable time-span within biblical history’ (Hurvitz
1997a: 309). The chronological distinction between a preexilic ‘Classical
BH’ and a postexilic ‘Late Biblical Hebrew’ ‘is based, by and large, on
two important corpora of extra-biblical sources...on the one hand, the
Dead Sea Scrolls—dated to the end of the biblical period—which betray
numerous isoglosses specifically with Late BH; and on the other hand, an
increasing number of Hebrew epigraphical inscriptions— dated to the
pre-exilic period—which largely conform to the linguistic profile of
Classical BH’ (Hurvitz 1999a: 30*).
In an earlier phase of his work ,1 Ehrensvard also stressed the impor­
tance of the extra-biblical linguistic evidence. He was aware that, for
example, ‘[o]ne could argue that the differences [within BH] are simply
due to differences in the proficiency of Standard Biblical Hebrew of two
groups of contemporary writers’ (Ehrensvard 1997: 36). However, the
extra-biblical ‘evidence strongly suggests a difference in time between
the language of the two groups [EBH and LBH]; the linguistic features
proper to LBH are not found in the (admittedly rather limited corpus of)
pre-exilic inscriptions, but by and large they are prevalent in post-
Biblical Hebrew. In the pre-exilic inscriptions...there are found, on the
contrary, distinctive features indicative of SBH [= EBH]’ (Ehrensvard
1997: 36-37; his emphasis).
The main points raised by Hurvitz and Ehrensvard are the following.
The Classical Hebrew, SBH, or EBH of, say Genesis-Kings, is practi­
cally identical with the Hebrew of the inscriptions from the monarchic
period. That, they say, establishes the preexilic date of composition of
those biblical books. In contrast, the LBH of, say Chronicles, has definite
links with late sources such as the DSS. There are linguistic features
found in the early inscriptions which are not found in LBH sources. Nor
are distinctively LBH features found in the inscriptions. The extra-
biblical sources establish that EBH is contemporary with the Hebrew
inscriptions of the monarchic period, and that LBH is later, i.e. post­
exilic. The conclusion is drawn that there is thus no way linguistically
that the EBH sources could in fact have been composed after the exile.

1. Ehrensvard’s early published work defended the chronological model, a

position he has now abandoned.
6. Hebrew Inscriptions o f the Monarchic Period 145

In its simplest form, the argument is that the Hebrew inscriptions show
us what preexilic Hebrew looked like, while sources like the DSS show
us what postexilic Hebrew looked like .2

6.2. A Problem With the Argument: The Gap in the Evidence

Since it is not impossible that different varieties of BH all had their roots
in the postexilic period, we have seen the external sources invoked in
order to prove that EBH really is from a chronologically earlier period.
However, even if for the moment we take for granted that the Hebrew
inscriptions have a closer relationship with EBH than with LBH, does
this fact prove that EBH cannot be postexilic?
The major problem with using the external Hebrew sources is the
large gap in the middle of the period under discussion. The Hebrew
inscriptions date almost exclusively to the monarchic period, in particu­
lar the eighth to early sixth century BCE. None of the DSS manuscripts is
considered to be older than the third century BCE (Cross 1998: 387). The
other Hebrew sources mentioned by Hurvitz as ‘[ejxtemal controls for
the post-classical phase of BH’—Ben Sira, the Bar Kochba letters, and
MH (Hurvitz 1997a: 310)— are even later .3 For the period stretching
from the sixth to the third century BCE, which includes the whole Persian
period, we have almost no extra-biblical evidence for Hebrew at all
(Naveh and Greenfield 1984:122). Since we have almost no idea, on the
basis of external sources, what any sort of Hebrew in the Persian period
looked like, we cannot exclude the possibility that the sort of Hebrew
being used in the inscriptions from the monarchic period continued to be
used at least for a while after the exile. This would be the view of those
scholars who, while taking a chronological approach to BH, see the
transition from EBH to LBH happening after the exile in the fifth cen­
tury BCE (see, e.g., S. R. Driver 1913a: 505; D. Talshir 2003; cf. 2.1.2,
Finally, we should note an inherent weakness of the whole enterprise
of dating language which is relevant to the present chapter. Even if one
sort of Hebrew is well attested in external sources from any particular
period, that does not prove that it was the only sort of Hebrew in

2. In Chapter 10 we will argue that in fact the DSS do not have a direct
relationship with LBH.
3. Most non-biblical Qumran scrolls represent compositions later than the third
century BCE (see Chapter 10). Ben Sira, therefore, dated to the first half o f the second
century BCE, was originally composed earlier than many DSS. For the question o f
the ‘lateness’ o f MH, see Chapter 9.
146 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

existence at the time. All it proves is that it was the chosen style for that
sort of writing. The more genres of writing that are attested, the more we
can claim to know about styles of writing in a particular period. Thus, we
are relatively well informed about the Hellenistic era due to the discovery
of the DSS. The scrolls from cave 1 at Qumran present a larger corpus of
Hebrew than all the epigraphic material from the preceding eras. On the
basis of that knowledge we could feel confident to declare that we know
what written Hebrew of that period looked like. But we would be wrong,
since we would be unprepared for the distinctively different features of
Copper Scroll Hebrew (from cave 3) or 4QMMT Hebrew (from cave 4).4
Linguistic dating relies on having adequate evidence of the language,
securely dated to its various historical periods, something we do not have
for BH (cf. 4.2.3).

6.3. Problems with Using the Inscriptions as Evidence

There are several major problems in trying to establish the relationship of
the inscriptions to EBH and LBH.

6.3.1. Size and Scope o f the Corpus. The inscriptions present a limited
corpus in several ways. While we have a reasonable number of short
inscriptions, these present a total amount of linguistic material that
amounts to less than one percent of the size of the Hebrew Bible, accord­
ing to one estimate (DCH, I: 28). The inscriptions, furthermore, have a
focus on issues, such as supply of daily rations, which are not prominent
in the biblical material. Thus for the majority of the suggested linguistic
contrasts, EBH vs. LBH, the inscriptions provide no evidence at all. Even
such a common linguistic item as the first person singular independent
pronoun, where the form *’3']$ is said to die out in LBH in favour of ’’DtJ
(e.g. Rooker 1990a: 72-74; Wright 2005: 79-82), is only clearly attested
in the inscriptional corpus once ( ’DN: Arad 88.1).5

6.3.2. Date o f the Major Hebrew Inscriptions. The table below

presents the major6 Hebrew inscriptions in their generally accepted
chronological order.

4. For 4QMMT, see further 9.4.5.

5. Pardee 1982: 100 suggested reading [’’pDK in Lachish 6.8, a reading which is
followed (without comment) by Dobbs-Allsopp etal. 2005: 323. However, Pardee’s
suggestion is considered uncertain by Renz and Rollig 1995,1:427 and Gogel 1998:
6. ‘Major’ here means containing connected text. The list is highly simplified
and does not include some recent non-provenanced inscriptions.
6. Hebrew Inscriptions o f the Monarchic Period 147

Name Century Basic Contents1

Gezer Calendar Late 10th Agricultural Activities
Kuntillet cAjrud Late 9th/early 8th Religious Blessings
Samaria Ostraca Early 8th Delivery Records
Tell Qasile Ostraca Early 8th Goods Delivery
Khirbet el-Qom 8th/7th Religious Blessing
Silwan Tomb Late 8th Tomb Inscriptions
Samaria Ostracon Cl 101/111 Late 8th Barley Delivery (?)
Arad Ostracon 40 Late 8th Military Letter
Wadi Murabbacat Late 8th/early 7th Letter
Siloam Tunnel Late 8th/early 7th Building Commemoration
Ketef Hinnom Late 7th Priestly Blessing
Mesad Hashavyahu Late 7th Judicial Plea
Arad Ostraca8 Late 7th/early 6th Military Letters
Lachish Ostraca Early 6th Military Letters
Khirbet Beit Lei Early 6th Prayers

Another problem is that the majority of our inscriptions of any length

are dated to the last half century of the kingdom of Judah, c. 625-586
BCE. Into this category fall the ostraca from Mesad Hashavyahu, Arad
(largely; 6.4.4,6.5), and Lachish, which represent the bulk of our knowl­
edge of inscriptional Hebrew in extended contexts. The earlier dated
texts like the Gezer Calendar (, Siloam Tunnel (6.4.2), Silwan
Tomb (6.4.3), and the Khirbet el-Qom and Kuntillet cAjrud texts
certainly attest sections of connected text, yet cannot rival the size and
linguistic variety of the later texts. While bulky, the Samaria Ostraca do
not generally provide a significant amount of linguistic material (
[point 7 with n. 14]). Within the context of the biblical texts, therefore,
the largest part of inscriptional material is from the period of Jeremiah
(c. 627-586 BCE) and Ezekiel (beginning c. 593 BCE). Jeremiah is often
considered an example of EBH. However, it is noteworthy that in the
language of Jeremiah, even those working within the chronological para­
digm have suggested the early signs of the appearance of LBH (e.g.
Wright 2005: 153-54, 163, and others cited in Even more
important, Ezekiel is often described as exhibiting a transitional form
of language from EBH to LBH (Hurvitz 1982a, Rooker 1990a, cf.

7. The most prominent characteristic o f often quite varied groups o f texts is

presented here.
8. O f the Arad Ostraca dated to the tenth, ninth and eighth centuries, only Arad
40, noted above, contains a connected text. Dobbs-Allsopp et al., however, provide a
number o f arguments for dating this inscription a century later, contemporary with
the seventh/sixth-century ones (Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 69-70).
148 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts In other words, an important part of the inscriptional corpus

comes from a period when, even according to a traditional reading of the
sources, LBH was already beginning to appear. Polzin, in fact, refers to
the Lachish and Arad Ostraca as ia te Hebrew’ (Polzin 1976: 4). On the
basis of the biblical evidence, therefore, we might expect these inscrip­
tions to exhibit a mixture of LBH elements among the standard EBH
elements. The evidence from texts such as the Lachish and Arad Ostraca
is thus somewhat ambiguous if one is trying to demonstrate the close
links of the inscriptions with EBH.

6.3.3. Different Genres? It is reasonable to ask in what way the

inscriptions are relevant, if at all, to the discussion. It is widely acknowl­
edged that the inscriptions generally represent different genres to those
preserved in the biblical literature. In a previous study Young dubbed the
inscriptions as ‘Official Hebrew’ as opposed to the ‘Literary Hebrew’ of
the Bible (Young 1993a: 103-13). If we are indeed dealing with a differ­
ent variety of Hebrew, various alternative possibilities present them­
selves. Did LBH forms perhaps appear in Official Hebrew earlier than
Literary Hebrew? Or was Literary Hebrew more open to linguistic
variety than the more mundane style? In other words, we may not be able
to make a simple equation of inscriptional Hebrew with BH.

6.3.4. The Problem o f Defining LBH from EBH . Another important

problem relates to the nature of the LBH corpus in that it is not always
easy to tell LBH apart from EBH. As we have seen in the preceding
chapters, it is only very seldom the case that linguistic form X is con­
fined to EBH, while in LBH it is completely replaced by form Y. This
would be the easiest sort of case when arguing that the inscriptions have
a close relationship with EBH, since the mere appearance of X, not Y,
would constitute strong evidence. More common is the situation where
linguistic item X continues into LBH, but is joined by a (generally rare)
new synonym Y. When investigating the relationship of EBH to the
inscriptions, what are we to make of a case when X is found in a Hebrew
inscription? Do we stress the fact that it is not Y? Or simply note that X
is attested in all strata of Hebrew, and therefore its appearance in the
inscriptions has no significance at all? In contrast, the attestation of form
Y in the inscriptions would be more significant. More common still are
those cases where both linguistic forms X and Y are attested in EBH
texts, but form Y becomes proportionately much more significant in
LBH. Since both X and Y are attested in all strata, can we see any
6. Hebrew Inscriptions o f the Monarchic Period 149

significance in the appearance of X in the inscriptions? With a small

corpus, can we meaningfully discuss issues relating to the relative pro­
portions of linguistic forms?

6.4. Hebrew Inscriptions

6.4.1. Introduction . In this section we present a guide to reading some
Hebrew inscriptions from the southern kingdom, Judah. Further inscrip­
tions are discussed in the following chapter. The texts are presented in
modem script, including final forms of the letters, which are not indi­
cated in the ancient script, and with spaces separating words, rather than
dividing dots. Note that ancient inscriptions commonly run words from
one line to the next, rather than keeping complete words together on the
same line. See, for example, p in lines 2/3 of the Siloam Tunnel
inscription, below in 6.4.2. The epigraphic texts in this chapter and in
Chapter 7, including readings of doubtful letters and all reconstructions,
are generally based on the standard handbooks of Renz and Rollig (1995)
and Dobbs-Allsopp et al. (2005). We have simplified the notation of
damaged letters, only noting, with square brackets, those letters com­
pletely reconstructed. The focus of the commentary is the question of the
relationship of the inscriptions with BH and especially EBH and LBH.
Brief introductory remarks are provided to set the inscription in context,
but readers are encouraged to consult the books noted at the end of this
chapter (6.7) for further information.

6.4.2. Siloam Tunnel. The inscription was found on the wall of the
tunnel which connects the Virgin’s Spring on the northeast side of Jeru­
salem with the Pool of Siloam on the southwest side. Scholars generally
relate the construction of the tunnel to biblical references to Hezekiah’s
efforts in connection with the water supply of Jerusalem in the face of
impending attack from the Assyrian King Sennacherib in 701 BCE
(2 Kgs. 20.20; 2 Chron. 32.2^4, 30).9 However, many questions remain
about the function of the inscription. One peculiarity is the focus of the
text on the making of the breach in the tunnel by the workmen, with no
mention of God or the king, unusual in Northwest Semitic inscriptions,
nor any mention of the reason why the tunnel was made.

9. Contrary views are that the tunnel and inscription date to the period o f
Hezekiah’s successor, Manasseh, in the seventh century BCE (Knauf2001); or to the
Hasmonaean period (second-first centuries BCE; Rogerson and P. R. Davies 1996).
150 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

[nK mann dsdd] (3) Tim mp^n (2) n r rrn nn (l) mpDn [n«T] l
jj[db3 npDnb (7) no» e/to Tiirn (6) ^ (5) m (4) i n n 2
p m ^p
n (11) a m ^ [Q 2JQ]i (10) p - o “im (9) h it (8) rrn "rj ixn ^ tn 3
(14) ■d'ti ] n p ] ^ in : im (13) m pb m (12) m unn im nnpD 4
[K]cn (17) nos (16) n rm n ^ (15) tunon p cron 5
[□pimn e*n -ran nn: n n (18) n 6

1 [This is]10 the tunnel. And this was the manner o f its boring. While [the
stonemasons were] still [w ielding]2 the pick, each toward the other, and
while there were still three cubits to be breached, the voice o f a man was
heard2/3 calling to his mate, because there was a fissure (?) in the rock in
the south and in the north. And on the day o f th e4 breach the stonemasons
struck, one toward his fellow, pick against pick, and flowed 5 the waters
from the spring to the pool for 1,200 cubits. A n d 5/6 a hundred cubits was
the height o f the rock over the head o f the stonemasons.

(1) rnpDil (line 1; ‘the tunnel’). V. Sasson contrasts this noun ‘the tunnel’
with BH n*?OT), which is used in regard to Hezekiah’s tunnel in 2 Kgs.
20.20 (V. Sasson 1982: 116; cf. 1979: 105). Other scholars suggest read­
ing a verbal form, ‘its tunnelling’, a Niphal infinitive construct with third
person singular masculine or feminine suffix (Renz and Rollig 1995,1:
183-84) or a verbal noun ‘the breaking through’ (Dobbs-Allsopp et al.
2005: 501). Note that the verb Dp] is never used in BH referring to
anything but a small hole (V. Sasson 1979: 99; 1982: 114). Each of these
interpretations, therefore, involve features unattested in BH. Excursus: Spelling ( ‘Orthography) in the Inscriptions.

Various interpretations offered above suggest that the final letter of this
word is marking a vowel, either the feminine singular on a noun or a
third person singular suffix. The spelling of the inscriptions from the
monarchic period is systematically different to that in all known biblical
manuscripts in the following ways:
a. The third person masculine singular suffix on a singular noun is
-h (n) in the inscriptions, identical to the third person feminine
singular. With the exception of some 55 cases (see Young 2001b),
in our biblical manuscripts it is -w (i). No clear case of -w in the
inscriptions is attested.11 On *im later in this inscription, see

10. Other reconstructions include: ‘Behold’ (]H), ‘The day o f’ (CT) and ‘Finished’
(DH); cf. Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 500-501.
11. The interpretation o f Amulet 1 from Ketef Hinnom, line 11, as containing the
word in ( ‘in him’) has been supported by the recent re-edition o f the texts (Barkay et
al. 2004: 54, 61). The argument made there that the attestations o f -h for the third
6. Hebrew Inscriptions o f the Monarchic Period 151

below, point 6. The biblical form resolves the ambiguity in the

inscriptions between the third person masculine and feminine
singular suffixes on singular nouns, which are both spelled with
-h (n), but creates a potential problem with the third person mas­
culine singular suffix on plural nouns (see the following item).
b. The third person masculine singular suffix on plural nouns is
-w (1) in the inscriptions. With, again, a significant minority of
exceptions, in our biblical texts the form is -yw (1\-). The extra
yod, which is not pronounced, resolves the ambiguity between
the third person masculine suffixes on singular and plural nouns.
These preceding two differences are summarised in the following
table, which gives third person masculine singular suffixes on DID
Inscriptions BH Gloss
On Singular Nouns HD1D 1D1D ‘his horse’
On Plural Nouns 1D1D VOID ‘his horses’

With the possible exception of the Gezer Calendar (cf., our
Hebrew inscriptions typically mark vowels in final position in a word.
Apart from rnpDH, if it represents a feminine singular noun, in this
inscription, note for example ilTl, iTH, nD, and IDil.
Two additional differences between the spelling of the inscriptions
and biblical manuscripts are:
c. The use of waw and y o d to mark vowels in the middle of words
presents a different picture to their common use in final position.
A discemable process in the inscriptions is a slow growth in
the use of medial vowel letters. Thus "THR in the Silwan Tomb
inscription (6.4.3) in line 2 stands for the Qal passive participle
‘cursed’ in the MT). Nevertheless, it is clear that these
matres lectionis (‘mothers of reading’) are not used with the
same frequency as in our biblical manuscripts, even in the latest
dated inscriptions. Thus, for example, while the word ‘prophet’
in the MT is always spelled plene as (167 times), with a yod,
Lachish 3.20, from the last days of the monarchy, spells the
word defectively as KUD. ‘Plene ’ means means ‘full’, with the

person masculine singular suffix all considerably predate the late preexilic date
assigned to the Ketef Hinnom amulets is strange in light o f the evidence from Mesad
Hashavyahu, Arad and Lachish. If present, *D would be as unusual in this period as
in the earlier preexilic period. Recent treatments o f the inscriptions express serious
reservations about the interpretation o f the line, which presents a broken context (see
Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 268; Rollston 2006: 62-63 n. 43).
152 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

sense here o f ‘with a vowel letter’; ‘defective’ means ‘lacking a

vowel letter’. In this feature also, therefore, as with the suffixes,
the orthography of our Hebrew Bible seems to be of a type later
than that of the inscriptions (cf. Barr 1989: 20, 31, 207).
d. Individual peculiarities mentioned below also distinguish the
orthography of the inscriptions from that in our biblical texts.

6.4.2 (continued). Siloam Tunnel

(2) "Q"T rnn nn (line 1; ‘and this was the manner’). Ehrensvard
pointed out that this sort of introduction is found three times in EBH, but
not in LBH, as part of his argument that the inscriptions are close to EBH
(Ehrensvard 1997: 37). However, he provided no LBH equivalent nor
any reference to a place where such an introduction would have been
appropriate in LBH. Further, all the EBH examples he cites are lacking
rnn even when the reference is clearly to a past event (e.g. 1 Kgs. 9.15).
Hence this may be better classed as a form independent of BH.
(3) "HID (line 1; ‘while, still’). Ehrensvard also cites this form,
attested 20 times in BH, and notes its absence from LBH (Ehrensvard
1997: 37). LBH would seem to prefer simple T)I7(1), which is, of course,
common in EBH also. This form may, therefore, be claimed as a link
between the core EBH texts and the inscriptions, against the core LBH
books. However, note that while not used in core LBH books, "liin is
used in a number of texts often considered postexilic by scholars: Psalms
104 and 146 (see, e.g., Fohrer 1970: 291, 293), Job 29 (e.g. Crenshaw
1992: 863-64), and Proverbs 31 (e.g. Wolters 1985: 585-86).
Note the spelling with medial waw. Judahite Hebrew, the language of
the southern kingdom Judah, generally spells the historical diphthong aw
(pronounced ‘ow’) with the letter waw , and ay (pronounced like the
pronoun ‘I’ in English) with yod, even in places where BH has reduced
the diphthong. Thus in our case here, biblical manuscripts vocalise the
word as T1U, not *cawd. Scholars generally argue from the consistency of
such spellings that these diphthongs were preserved to a greater extent in
preexilic Hebrew than in the recorded biblical pronunciation (Cross and
Freedman 1952: 57).
(4) ]T"ia (line 2; ‘axe, pick’ [?]).12This word is used in Siloam Tunnel
2, 4 and four times in EBH, but not in LBH. However, such a tool does
not seem to be mentioned at all in LBH, and thus there is no ‘linguistic

12. A }H3 is used to cut trees in Deut. 19.5; 20.19; for hewing stone (apparently)
in 1 Kgs. 6.7.
6. Hebrew Inscriptions o f the Monarchic Period 153

(5) IBK (line 2; ‘a man’). Note the ‘defective’ spelling (i.e. without the
vowel letter). The spelling in the MT is always plene (i.e. with the vowel
letter): EFK (Barr 1989: 52).
(6) li n (line 2; ‘his mate’). BH attests ‘his mate’ as in in 117 times,
and only once as itf"1 (Jer. 6.21). Hence the form in the inscription is very
rare in BH. Most likely, however, this is not an exception to the non-use
of waw for the third person masculine singular suffix (see the excursus
above []). Scholars generally think that underlying the Siloam
Tunnel form is a quite different morphology than is represented in the
Tiberian Hebrew vocalisation of Jer. 6.21, for example, recew (Renz and
Rollig 1995,1: 187; cf. Dobbs-Allsopp e ta l . 2005: 502), or the attractive
suggestion of F. I. Andersen and Forbes who note that there is evidence
that the retention of the original III -Yod can lead to the attachment to the
singular of suffixes more typical of plural nouns, hence IJ^l (F. I. Ander­
sen and Forbes 1986: 41; on this phenomenon see GKC §93ss, pp. 273­
74). Alternatively, one could simply take the suffix as plural (Schiile
2000: 37), bringing it in line with normal orthographic practice in the
inscriptions. In this case, we would have a contrast to the regular use of
the singular in the equivalent biblical phrase. In any case, the non-use of
the in- suffix provides a strong contrast with the regular BH form.
(7) PEN wbw (line 2; ‘three cubits’). Note the consistently defective
spelling against the plene options found in biblical texts (alongside the
defective forms), niftK
(8) rrn (line 3; ‘[she] was’). It is generally assumed that the third
person feminine singular perfect of Wl-He verbs developed hayat >
hayetah (‘she was’) with an additional feminine suffix (Z. S. Harris
1939: 75-76).13 Traces of the older ending are found in BH in, for
example, Lev. 25.21 (n to l); cf. 2 Kgs. 9.37 where the consonants rrm
are supplied with the vowels of the standard BH n rrn (GKC §75m, p.
210). The Siloam Tunnel form is also common in MH (Sarfatti 1992:
64-65). This makes it more likely we have here a variant morphology
from EBH than that the difference is merely a question of orthography.
The Siloam Tunnel form is the only third person feminine singular
perfect in the inscriptions (Gogel 1998: 89-90). Z. S. Harris considered
the form as evidence that the language of the inscriptions represented
an older type of Hebrew than that eventually fixed in the biblical text
(Z. S. Harris 1939: 76).

13. It is further explained that lll-H e verbs did not follow the normal Hebrew
trend o f dropping the original taw o f the feminine due to the influence o f the long
vowel produced by the contraction o f the original lll-Y o d o f the root (III-He roots in
BH are historically \U-Yod [and Wl-Waw]): aya > a (Z. S. Harris 1939: 59; Gan-
1985: 61).
154 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

(9) m i (line 3; ‘?’). This word (‘fissure’ [?]) is unattested in BH, and
its exact meaning is debated (Renz and Rollig 1995,1: 184-85; Dobbs-
Allsopp et al. 2005: 503).
(10) (line 3; ‘in the south/to the right’). Note the defective
spelling against the MT biblical form which is always 'pE’E.
(11) CPDl (line 3; ‘and on the day’). The consistent defective spelling
in the inscriptions of the word ‘day’ in contrast to BH UV has been inter­
preted as indicating that the inscriptional form was pronounced *yam
(Cross and Freedman 1952: 50, 53; Schule 2000: 52), the unattested
singular of the MT plural □ ’’ET (‘days’).14
(12) CQ^nn (line 4; ‘the stonemasons’). Note the defective spelling of
the masculine plural suffix, rare in biblical texts, against D ^ynn.
(13) m pb (line 4; ‘towards’). BH always derives this construction
from the root N“)p (II), hence DKHp1?. The Siloam Tunnel form seems to
be from the parallel root m p (Renz and Rollig 1995,1: 188), unless the
aleph has been dropped (cf. Gibson 1973: 23; Gogel 1998: 211 n. 274).
(14) 1Z31T1 (line 4; ‘and [the waters] flowed [went]’). Hurvitz argues
that the Piel of the verb “f^n, as opposed to the regular Qal form, is late
(Hurvitz 1982a: 48-52). He points out that the Siloam Tunnel evidences
the Qal (Hurvitz 1982a: 50). However, as Hurvitz points out: ‘The root
hlk in the Qal conjugation occurs frequently (over 1000 times) through­
out all of biblical literature: ancient and late...’ (Hurvitz 1982a: 49).
Therefore this is not a special link with EBH.
Polak argues that the verb (‘go’) is relatively rare in LBH, corre­
sponding to a proportionate rise in the frequency of N*n (‘come’) (Polak
1997-98: 144-48).15Polak also notes that ~[^n is rare in the inscriptions,
occurring in fact only once (Siloam Tunnel 4) as against nine occur­
rences of K*Q (G. I. Davies 1991: 301), corresponding thus with LBH
rather than EBH (Polak 1997-98: 147).16

14. O f course, it cannot be absolutely excluded that we have merely a case o f

non-MT orthography.
15. As might be expected in light o f the discussion in the previous chapters, the
situation is much more complex than this. In regard to distribution, it is true that core
LBH Esther and Daniel have a very high ratio o f use o f KID as opposed to "[‘n (9 to
1 and 7 to 1 respectively). However, against the suggested pattern, EBH Leviticus
has a higher ratio o f Kin vs. than the other core LBH books o f Ezra, Nehemiah
and Chronicles, while LBH-related Qoheleth has the equal lowest ratio o f 8*0 vs.
“I^n in the Hebrew Bible, identical also to the ratio in, for example, Hosea. We
looked at the issue o f lexical register and Polak’s theory in general in 4.3.
16. This 9 to 1 ratio in fact equals the highest N*Q vs. ratio in the Hebrew
Bible, in Esther (see the preceding footnote).
6. Hebrew Inscriptions o f the Monarchic Period 155

Rooker argues that ‘a distinctive feature of LBH is the diminished

employment of the waw consecutive tense’ adding th a t4[accompanying
the tendency to avoid the consecutive tense in LBH is the increase in the
use of the simple tense with waw conjunction’ (Rooker 1990a: 100-102).
Scholars have long noted what Rooker calls ‘the reluctance to use the
waw consecutive tense’ in the Hebrew inscriptions, particularly the
Lachish letters (Albright 1939: 21; Baumgartner 1940-41: 609; Rooker
1990a: 100 n. 123). It is notable that while the waw consecutive + the
suffix conjugation (weqatalti) is used a number of times in the Arad
letters, and waw consecutive + the prefix conjugation (wayyiqtol) is
common in the Mesad Hashavyahu Ostracon, waw consecutives are very
rare elsewhere. Apart from this form in the Siloam Tunnel inscription,
waw consecutive + the prefix conjugation ( wayyiqtol) is found in Lachish
4.6-7, and Mesad Hashavyahu 1.4, 5, 7, 8. Nevertheless, it is difficult to
find many examples where simple waw with a verb is found where waw
consecutive might be expected.17 One might explain this as due to the
nature of the texts—very seldom are two ‘consecutive’ actions described.
However, Isserlin has suggested that an important factor is the pre­
dominance of inverted sentence structures in the inscriptions, i.e. an
avoidance of placing the verb in sentence initial position where the waw
consecutive appears (Isserlin 1972: 200-202; cf. Young 1993a: 104).18
Thus, while this Siloam Tunnel form has a biblical look to it, in some
ways it is not typical of the inscriptions as a whole.
(15) (line 5; ‘the spring’). Note the spelling with medial waw ,
reflecting the diphthong aw. See point 3, above, and contrast BH
(16) (line 5; ‘for 1,200’). CJbson notes: ‘There are no
very clear parallels to the use of [b]...’ in BH (Gibson 1973: 23).
(17) HEK 1 □’’DNM (line 5; ‘for 1,200 cubits’). S. R. Driver points
out that the order of the numerals, with the smaller first, is rare in the
Hebrew Bible, except in the Priestly Source in the Pentateuch (S. R.
Driver 1913b: x), which has been argued to have links with LBH (Polzin
1976), LBH-related Ezekiel and core LBH Chronicles.19However, as is
usual with LBH features, the construction is also attested in EBH
sources, e.g. 1 Kgs. 5.12.

17. See below (6.5.3) for examples in the Arad Ostraca.

18. Sometimes examples are cited in the literature where LBH ‘avoids’ using the
waw consecutive by use o f an alternative (classical) word order, for example, the
citation o f 2 Kgs. 8.27//2 Chron. 22.3 in Rooker 1990a: 100. This feature too might
therefore be claimed as a link between the inscriptions and LBH.
19. Waltke and O’Connor cite examples from Numbers (P) and one from core
LBH Ezra (WO §15.2.5d, p. 283).
156 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

(18) n[K]m (line 6; ‘and a hundred’). S. R. Driver further notes that

the use of the number ‘100’ in the form nNO is also common in the
Priestly Source in the Pentateuch (S. R. Driver (1913b: x). Outside the
Pentateuch HKO is only found in core LBH Est. 1.4; Neh. 5.11; 2 Chron.
25.9; and LBH-related Qoh. 8.12.
From the discussion above, it emerges that the Siloam Tunnel inscrip­
tion thus has a possible link with EBH against LBH (point 3). However,
we also saw that we could suggest three possible links with LBH (14,17,
18). Even more noticeable are the eight forms unattested or rare in BH
(1, 2, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 16; in addition to the spelling of many items).

6.4.3. Silwan Tomb. The village of Silwan, in the vicinity of Jerusa­

lem, has yielded four funerary inscriptions from the necropolis (see
Ussishkin 1993). The longest of these tomb inscriptions is presented
here. It is dated according to the script to around the same time as the
Siloam Tunnel inscription, c. 700 BCE. The tomb is that of a high royal
official, the one ‘over the house’. Although the distinctive part of the
name has been obliterated, scholars have often been intrigued by a
possible connection with Isa. 22.15-16, which berates ‘Shebna (short for
irnntD?) who is over the house’ for making a tomb for himself (cf.
Young 1998a: 422 n. 29; Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 508).
(4) nnn n [s] (3) (2) rran ba ~\m (1) m , [..rr a p ] n«r l
~\m (8) m a n (7) m t* (6) nriK (5) n r m noaui [inouu] dk p s ] 2
nKT m nns’ 3

1 This is [the tomb o f ..Jyahu, who was over the (royal) house. There is
no silver or gold [he]re 2 but only [his bones] and the bones o f his
maidservant with him. Cursed be the man who 3 opens this.

(l)v r[ ..] (line 1; ‘[name]-yahu’). Kutscher suggested that the use of the
theophoric element in ’- in personal names in the MT of Isaiah reflected a
linguistic background in the preexilic period (Kutscher 1974:4-5, 122­
23). In contrast, the use of the short form n’ - marked lQIsaa’s linguistic
background as from the Second Temple period. This idea is based on
Torczyner’s work on the Lachish letters where, it should be noted, he
went to great lengths to explain away preexilic evidence of the co­
existence of the short ending (Torczyner 1938: 24-25). While the long
form certainly predominates in the inscriptions, the short form is well
attested (Zevit 1983: 8-10; Young 2003c: 297 n. 17). For the later
period, as stated above, extra-biblical evidence of Hebrew between the
sixth and third century BCE is extremely meagre. Nevertheless, one of the
few traces of Hebrew is a seal impression from a fourth-century BCE
6. Hebrew Inscriptions o f the Monarchic Period 157

governor of Samaria whose name ends inliT- (Cross 1969:42; 1974:18;

G. I. Davies 1991: 172; Schniedewind 2006: 142). So too we have
cuneiform sources from earlier in the Persian period (early fifth century)
which attest individuals with -yahu names (Joannes and Lemaire 1999).
Against this, sources such as the Aramaic Elephantine Papyri from fifth-
century BCE Egypt show a predominance of -yah names. No clear
chronology emerges from the biblical evidence either. Yah names are
frequent in EBH sources and even in the same book the same person can
have both forms of the name (Zevit 1983). Furthermore, whereas core
LBH Ezra and Nehemiah almost exclusively20 have the short form IT-,
core LBH Chronicles generally has 1IT-, even in those places where MT
Kings has IT - in parallel passages (Japhet 1968: 338-41; Rezetko 2003:
226-27). Thus, although -yah names are certainly characteristic of some
core LBH books, and thus it is an ‘LBH’ form, both forms existed
throughout the biblical period. The predominance of one form over
another in a particular written source quite likely simply reflects author­
ial preference. For example, various authors may have felt that -yahu was
a more formal element, better suited to literary or official Hebrew.21
(2) rrn n nttfK (line 1; ‘who was over the house’). This title of a
high official is also found on several seals (Layton 1990: 637^11; Gogel
1998: 492, 462, 487). Ehrensvard notes its absence from LBH
(Ehrensvard 1997: 38). However, note that the full title is only found in
the books of Kings and Isaiah. Most of these references are in the parallel
texts about Sennacherib, King of Assyria’s attack on Hezekiah of Judah
(2 Kgs. 18.18,37; 19.2//Isa. 36.3,22; 37.2). The other two references are
to Arza, at the end of Elah’s reign over Israel (1 Kgs. 16.9), and Shebna,
also in Hezekiah’s reign (Isa. 22.15). It is important to note that none of
the passages has a parallel in Chronicles. Hence the question arises
whether Chronicles (or LBH in general) ever had the opportunity to use
this form of the title.
A shorter version of the title seems to be r r g r r t a , which occurs in the
Joseph story in Genesis 37-50 and in Kings (1 Kgs. 4.6; 2 Kgs. 15.5;
Layton 1990: 633-37). 2 Kings 15.5 has aparallel in core LBH 2 Chron.
26.21, where instead of Kings’ ‘Jotham the king’s son was over the
house (rT3n“t a ) ’ we have ‘Jotham his son was over the house of the
king Of‘pgn rP 3 "ta)’.22 If these are to be considered variations on

20. In Ezra 10.41, l ir p ^ .is explained as a scribal error, the final waw originally
functioning as a conjunction on the following word (Japhet 1968: 339 n. 3).
21. Also see our discussions in 4.2.1 and 4.5 (point 4) o f the theophoric
elements IT- and 11T-.
22. And cf. core LBH Est. 8.2 where Mordecai is appointed ‘over the house o f
Haman’ (]Dn
158 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

rnsrr^X? we must note for our current discussion that neither

r r g r r 1?!? nor rV3_L7I? occurs in the inscriptions.
(3) (line 1; ‘there is not’). Note the spelling with medial yo d . As
noted above (6.4.2 [point 3]), Judahite Hebrew generally spells the
diphthong ay (pronounced like the pronoun ‘I’ in English) with y o d and
aw (pronounced ‘ow’) with the letter waw. Scholars commonly consider
this as evidence that these diphthongs were preserved to a greater extent
in preexilic Hebrew (**ayn ) than in the recorded biblical pronunciation
(which would be for this word).
(4) 3HT1 (line 1; ‘silver and gold’). Ehrensvard argues that while
EBH prefers the order ‘silver and gold’, LBH prefers ‘gold and silver’
(Ehrensvard 1997: 37-38). However, there is no absolute distinction,
only a question of proportions. ‘Gold and silver’ is not uncommon in
EBH texts, and is in fact the more common expression in EBH Exodus.
LBH also uses both. Thus Chronicles has eight ‘silver and gold’
alongside its ten ‘gold and silver’ (Rooker 1990a: 174-75).
(5) nnEN (line 2; ‘his maidservant’). ‘Maidservant’ (HON) is almost
completely missing from LBH, appearing only, in the plural, in Ezra
2.65//Neh. 7.67. However, its possible parallel nnatp is also rare in these
texts (Est. 7.4; 2 Chron. 28.10; cf. Joel 3.2; Qoh. 2.7). Only Exodus,
Leviticus and Deuteronomy have a strong preference for nEK over nnacp,
whereas other core EBH books like Genesis strongly prefer nn?0. There
is thus no basis for explaining the low attestation of HEK in core LBH as
due to chronological factors.
It is very strange that a man should be buried with his ‘maidservant’.
Perhaps, therefore, the word should be translated ‘wife’, and thus the
inscription exhibits a lexical difference from BH.23
(6) nns nn&K (line 2; ‘his maidservant with him’). Note the spelling
of the third masculine singular suffix with he , typical of the inscriptions
(see, rather than waw as in the majority of biblical forms (i.e.
(7) THK (line 2; ‘cursed’). Note the plene spelling of the Qal passive
participle ‘cursed’ OTntjt in the MT). As noted above ( spelling
the vowel marker in medial position is much rarer in the inscriptions than
in our biblical texts, and hence this form in the Silwan Tomb inscription
is particularly noteworthy.
(8) m a n TPK (line 2; ‘cursed be the man’). Sarfatti points out the
contrast between this expression ‘cursed be the man (one) who...’ and the
common biblical expression for the phrase ‘cursed be the man (one)

23. This was suggested to us by Professor P. R. Davies (e-mail 13.06.05).

6. Hebrew Inscriptions o f the Monarchic Period 159

who...’:2TKH Tntji(Sarfatti 1992:58-60;cf. 1982:74-75).Henotesthat

this is related to a more general phenomenon. BH rarely uses D"TK as an
indefinite pronoun (‘someone, anyone’), preferring instead to use the
other word for ‘man’, ETK. He notes that MH, in contrast, uses only 0“76Js
for this function. Further, Sarfatti notes the use of DTK in the inscriptions
as an indefinite pronoun in Lachish 4.5-6: DTK DC? ],R ( ‘there is no-one
there’; contrast 2 Kgs. 7.10: 2TK Dtp I’N, although DTK is also used in the
context). His third example, from Lachish 3.4—5, rests on a dubious read­
ing (cf. Renz and Rollig 1995,1:417; Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 309­
11). Sarfatti notes that the more common BH usage of 2FK as indefinite
pronoun also occurs in the inscriptions in Arad 40.8; Lachish 3.9-10; and
three times in the expression ‘a man to his fellow’ in the Siloam Tunnel
inscription. With a small corpus one cannot meaningfully talk of relative
proportions of D"JK vs. 2TK in the inscriptions vs. BH, but the contrast in
the specific case of the curse expression is instructive.
The Silwan Tomb inscription thus has one link with EBH against LBH
(point 2). However, it is not certain that LBH had the opportunity to use
it. Two other suggested links with EBH (1 and 3) are in fact cases where
both the supposed early and late forms are well attested in both EBH and
LBH. More clear is one form (8) which presents a linguistic contrast with
BH as attested in our biblical manuscripts.

6.4.4. A rad Ostracon 1. Arad was a Judaean military fortress, protect­

ing the region against the Edomites in particular. Over a hundred
inscribed ostraca were found at this site in the eastern Negeb, some 26
km east of Beersheba. The majority of the ostraca come from the last
days of the kingdom of Judah, before the Babylonian invasions of the
early sixth century BCE. As seen above (6.3.2 [n. 8 ]), of the ostraca dated
to the tenth, ninth and eighth centuries, only Arad 40, from the late eighth
century, contains a connected text, and the early dating of this ostracon
has been challenged. Like the Lachish Ostraca from the same era, we
thus have administrative Hebrew used in a military context. The Eliashib
who is mentioned in this and other texts (Arad 1-18 in particular) was
probably stores officer at Arad.24 The ‘Kittim’ who are mentioned in our
text are usually interpreted as Greek mercenaries, either in the employ of
the kingdom of Judah or of Judah’s sometime overlord, Egypt.

24. Other suggestions include that he was military commander at Arad (cf.
Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 5). It is noteworthy that whatever his status, letters such
as Arad 1 show him apparently receiving orders from a superior.
160 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

i (l) aerba l
(4) □,n31? (3) ]ro (2) np 2
1 (8) (7) 1 1 1 (6) /3 (5) 1” 3
(9) DTI OiO 3H3 4
napn (10) mum 5 ■
n ( i i ) ie* n n 6
nop 1 (13) <homer> (12) 33"l 7
b a n 1? (14) n m b 8
p a on 9
]nn n m n 10
1 To Eliashib. 1/2 And now: Give to the Kittim 3 three bath o f wine 3/4
and write the name o f the d a y .5 And from the remainder5/6 o f the first
flour 6/7 you should grind one homer o f flour 8 to make for 8/9 them
bread. Some o f the wine 10 o f the bowls you should give.

(1) (line 1; ‘Eliashib’). This name appears 17 times in

the Hebrew Bible, but only in the core LBH books of Ezra, Nehemiah
and Chronicles.25 This is true of other names at Arad also, such as
Nehemiah (11.5, etc.), Shemaryahu (18.4), Meremoth (50.1), etc.
(Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 588, 609, 622), or the mention of ‘the
Qerosite’ (18.5), the Qerosites being cultic servants only mentioned in
core LBH books (Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 39-40). Although not
strictly linguistic evidence, it is a further demonstration that just because
something is not attested in our limited BH sources outside LBH does
not mean that it did not exist in the preexilic period.
(2) nui (line 2; ‘and now’). The MT normally attests the long form ilFliJ
for ‘now’, whereas the inscriptions never attest the form with the he
(Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 9). However, the form without he is attested
as the Kethib in Ezek. 23.43 and Ps. 74.6. The inscriptional form either
reflects a linguistic variation (i.e. *(ai\ Cross and Freedman 1952:52-53;
F. I. Andersen 1999: 9-10) or simply a variation of spelling practice (i.e.
ny, written without final vowel letter). ‘And now’ is the common way of
marking the transition from the introduction to the body of the letter.
(3) |H] (line 2; ‘give’). This is usually understood as an infinitive
absolute verb used as a command (BH ]'nt3). Several scholars have, how­
ever, suggested that the Arad form is actually an irregular, non-BH form
of the imperative, which normally in BH drops the initial nun (Sarfatti
1982: 71; Gai 1996: 530—3 1).26 This is certainly possible, but given the

25. Ezra 10.6, 24, 27, 36; Neh. 3.1, 20, 21 (x2); 12.10 (x2), 22, 23; 13.4, 7, 28;
1 Chron. 3.24; 24.12.
26. They point to the multiple forms o f the infinitive construct o f ]ro, i.e. }'nj and
nn, as well as multiple forms o f other I-Nun imperatives such as Kto and Rtp (‘lift
6. Hebrew Inscriptions o f the Monarchic Period 161

multiple attestations of the regular imperative form ]P1 (BH ]H) at Arad
(Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 714), it is probably better to assume that we
have a form also known to us from BH rather than a non-biblical form.
It has been claimed that the use of the infinitive absolute as an
imperative decreased over time until it was non-existent in the postexilic
period.27However, many core EBH books either do not use the imperati­
val infinitive absolute or use it to a negligible extent. Also, the form is in
fact attested in core LBH and LBH-related texts, as well as in the
postexilic EBH of Zechariah. It also occurs at least once in Ben Sira (van
Peursen 2000: 225-26; 2004: 282). Finally, it is the late preexilic/exilic
books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel that attest the highest numbers of this
form.28The attestation of the infinitive absolute as command at Arad29fits
neatly with this picture, since the Arad Ostraca in question date to the
same period as the historical setting of the books of Jeremiah and
Ezekiel. Rather than confirming a broad EBH vs. LBH opposition in this
feature, the Arad Ostraca forms may be more easily explained as
evidence of the popularity of this form around the time of the exile.30
(4) D‘,n!D^ (line 2; ‘to the Kittim’). T hejw /here is not a plene spelling
of the masculine plural, but rather the marker of the gentilic, i.e. D*PO
(‘the Kittites’).
(5) ]” (line 3; ‘wine’). Note the spelling of the diphthong ay with j W
(see 6.4.3 [point 3]). The form is used again in line 9 where it would be
in the construct state. In the MT, whereas the absolute form is ]” , the

up’). They argue that the use o f the infinitive absolute for command is a feature o f
high literary style not expected in administrative correspondence.
27. We give a detailed case study o f the imperatival infinitive absolute in
Volume 2,3.10.
28. Jeremiah is first, Ezekiel ties second with Deuteronomy, itself often con­
sidered to be largely a late preexilic text, associated with the reform o f King Josiah
in the late seventh century BCE.
29. We are aware o f no other certain cases o f infinitive absolute as command in
the inscriptions outside the use o f ]HD at Arad (cf. Gogel 1998: 78; Schiile 2000: 89).
A major problem is that in strong verbs the only difference between infinitive and
imperative in the masculine singular involves the vowels, which are not marked,
thus imperative, infinitive absolute. Incidentally, this phenomenon affects
the question o f the distribution o f the forms in the MT Bible, since the distinction
between them is produced by the vocalisation tradition and not necessarily by the
original authors o f the books. See Chapter 13.
30. Given the complex textual histories o f most, if not all biblical books (see
Chapter 13), and especially Jeremiah and Ezekiel, it might be less naive to suggest
that the original core o f the books used the infinitive absolute as command to a
conspicuous extent, and that later editors o f the books followed this stylistic trait.
162 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

construct would be ]n\ The consistent spelling with y o d has suggested to

scholars that the diphthong ay was retained even in the construct (Cross
and Freedman 1952: 57).
(6) 2 (line 3; ‘bath'). The inscriptions use abbreviations such as IBfor
‘shekel’ (e.g. Arad 16.5; see G. I. Davies 1991: 488) or 2 for ‘bath
(measure)’ (see G. I. Davies 1991: 512-13). Although strongly suspected
to have been used at some stage of the history of the text (Tov 2001:
256-57) no abbreviations are attested in existing biblical manuscripts.
(7) 1 1 1 (line 3; ‘three’).31 Our biblical texts spell numbers in full.
This is found in some inscriptions (e.g. the ‘year 9’ and ‘year 10’ Samaria
Ostraca), but not in others (e.g. the ‘year 15’ Samaria Ostraca, or com­
monly in the Arad Ostraca), where hieratic numerals of Egyptian origin
are used (see Millard 1995).
(8) 1 1 1 /2 ]" (line 3; ‘three bath of wine’). Polzin argues that LBH
has a tendency to place the substantive before the numeral in apposition
(‘wine: three bath ’), where EBH uses the opposite word order (Polzin
1976: 58-60). Weitzman has pointed out not only that the LBH word
order is used in EBH, but also has discussed the inscriptional evidence
(Weitzman 1996: 180; cf. Hurvitz 1982a: 167-68).
(9) DTI (line 4; ‘the day’). On the spelling o f ‘day’ in the inscriptions,
see 6.4.2 (point 11).
(10) TUJE*1 (line 5; ‘and from the remainder’). The noun TIU
(‘remainder’) is unattested in BH, which uses a range of other words for
this meaning: HKI2&, ~ini], "1KI2J, “IJT (V. Sasson 1979: 17-26; cf. Young
1993a: 113). Ahituv notes the occurrence of T1JJ in MH (Ahituv 1995:
379-80). Sarfatti argues that the use of T1XJ as a noun, rather than an
adverb ‘still, yet, again (etc.)’ represents a typologically more ancient
linguistic usage in the inscriptions as opposed to BH (Sarfatti 1992:
(11) ]{Z&nn ra p n (lines 5-6; ‘the first flour’). Although various sorts
of flour are mentioned in BH, this designation, ‘the first flour’, probably
meaning ‘the choicest flour’ (Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 10), is not used.
Note the defective spelling of ‘first’, rather than the plene The
defective spelling of this word is very rare in the MT (Barr 1989: 185).
(12) n :n n (line 7; ‘you should grind’ [?]). The interpretation of this
word is disputed, but it is generally thought to be used in a sense not
attested in the Hebrew Bible, such as ‘load onto a donkey’ (Ahituv 1995:

31. There is an additional stroke after the abbreviation b{ath) which some
scholars read variously as part o f the number, arriving at, for example, ‘four’ or ‘one
and a half’ (see Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 10).
6. Hebrew Inscriptions o f the Monarchic Period 163

380-81) or (as above) ‘grind’ (V. Sasson 1979: 7-16; cf. Gibson 1973:
52; for other suggestions see Aharoni 1981:13; Renz and Rollig 1995,1:
355-56; Schiile 2000: 115 n. 2; Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 10-11).
(13) <Homer> (line 7). Some symbol is used which has commonly
been interpreted as standing for the biblical measure ‘a homer' (Itin).
(14) ntoub (line 8; ‘to make’). Polzin argues that LBH shows an
increased use of the infinitive construct with lamed (‘to’) (Polzin 1976:
56-58). He further argues that LBH shows a less frequent use of the
infinitive construct with beth and kaph (typically ‘when’) (Polzin 1976:
45—46). Young identified 19 forms as infinitive constructs with a prepo­
sition in the Hebrew inscriptions (Young 2003c: 297 n. 18), 17 of them
with lamed and only one each with beth and kaph, thus seemingly fitting
in with Polzin’s description of LBH. On TIKHD (‘when I left’) in Arad
16.3, see below, 6.5.5.
Thus in Arad Ostracon 1 we have one feature which arguably links
with EBH against LBH (point 3), and one that links with LBH (8, cf. 1,
14). However, once again the largest category are those forms which are
rare or non-existent in BH as attested in the MT. There are between five
and eight examples in this category depending on whether we interpret
non-biblical spellings as evidence of non-biblical linguistic forms (6, 7,
10, 11, 12; and 2, 5, 9).

6.5. LBH Accumulation in the Arad Ostraca

6.5.1. Introduction. We saw in that the main criterion in
Hurvitz’s system which allows him to separate EBH from LBH texts is
the criterion o f ‘accumulation’. Later we saw (cf. 5.4) that EBH texts all
exhibit LBH linguistic features, it is just that LBH texts exhibit a much
higher concentration of them. Thus core EBH texts commonly have
accumulations in the area of six LBH features. In contrast, core LBH
samples have 17 to 25 LBH features.
We have already pointed out that the corpus of Hebrew inscriptions
presents a very small quantity of text, especially when compared to the
size of the Hebrew Bible. In line with this, whereas it is easy to find 500
words (graphic units) of connected text in almost any biblical book, a
‘long’ inscription like the Siloam Tunnel only has about 50 words. One
corpus of texts that is potentially helpful is the Arad Ostraca. Using
Aharoni’s edition as a starting point (Aharoni 1981), we discover that the
Arad corpus has a total of around 500 reasonably preserved words, that
is, complete words and those whose restoration seemed quite certain.
Admittedly this is not an ideal 500-word sample, since there are a dis-
164 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

proportionate number of personal names and p (‘son of’). Further, many

of the texts are too fragmentary to present more than a word or two of
connected text.32These factors probably mean that from the point of view
of representative quality, we have in effect a somewhat smaller sample of
Arad language than our 500-word samples from BH texts. Nevertheless,
the results of a survey of the language of the Arad corpus are striking.
The 500-word sample from the Arad Ostraca exhibits an accumulation
of nine LBH linguistic features, that is, features considered characteristic
of the core LBH books as opposed to the core EBH books.

6.5.2. 111 /D ]” (Arad 1.3, etc; ‘three bath of wine’). As pointed out
above in point 8 on Arad Ostracon 1 (6.4.4), the word order placing the
substantive before the numeral is a feature of LBH.

6.5.3. Weqatalti = Qatal. Rooker argues that ‘a distinctive feature of

LBH is the diminished employment of the waw consecutive tense....
Accompanying the tendency to avoid the consecutive tense in LBH is the
increase in the use of the simple tense with waw conjunction’ (Rooker
1990a: 100-102). A major difficulty with discussing verbal syntax in
Hebrew inscriptions is the lack of clear context in many cases. Even
when the inscription is not broken, the short documents often presuppose
a context which is not clear to us. The following two cases, however, are
commonly suggested to be cases where simple waw , not waw consecu­
tive, is used with the form weqatalti. *irr]]n “[1H1 (Arad 3.2-3; ‘and Hananiah has commanded

you’). A translation ‘has commanded’ fits the context of the verb without
difficulty (see Aharoni 1981: 17; Blau 1982-83: 20; Schtlle 2000: 137;
cf. Pardee 1983: 35 n. 8; Rogland2000: 198; Dobbs-Allsopp etal. 2005:
16). Against this, some scholars have understood the use of the perfect in
a performative or epistolary33 sense: ‘Hananyahu (hereby) orders you’

32. With fragmentary inscriptions, readings are obviously tentative. However,

we have followed scholarly consensus in the linguistic forms identified below.
33. A performative utterance is ‘where the uttering o f the sentence is not a
description o f an action, but itself the doing o f an action, or part o f the doing o f an
action’ (Hillers 1995: 758). Epistolary verbs are seen by some as a type o f performa­
tive, by others as a distinct category (Rogland 2000: 194-95). An epistolary verb is
where the writer o f a letter puts him self in the position o f the reader and hence views
actions as past (Pardee 1983: 34). Both categories can usually be translated into
English using the word ‘hereby’ (see Gogel’s translation o f this text), and both are
expressed in BH by the perfect (<qatal) verb.
6. Hebrew Inscriptions o f the Monarchic Period 165

(Gogel 1998: 386; Pardee 1978: 300; 1982: 35; 1983: 35; cf. Rogland
2000: 198; Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 16). However, third person
performatives are rare (Rogland 2003: 119). Furthermore, nowhere in
the literature have we come across another suggested performative or
epistolary verb in the weqatal form (i.e. with the conjunction; see WO
§30.5.Id, pp. 488-89; Pardee 1983; Hillers 1995; Hendel 1996b: 156,
162-63; Rogland 2000; 2003: 115-26). sp a n n» Tin^En - p a o TIKIO (Arad 16.3-5; ‘When I left

your house, I sent the money’). Dobbs-Allsopp etal. state: ‘Although the
context is not entirely clear, it suggests a past tense rendering of this
verb’ (Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005:33). This understanding of the context
is reflected by most scholars (e.g. JM §11 la, p. 325 n. 3; Pardee 1978:
311; Aharoni 1981: 308; Blau 1982-83: 20; Renz and Rollig 1995, I:

6.5.4. unto bu rn’inn -pm (Arad 3.2-4; ‘and Hananiah has

commanded you to Beersheba’). A similar expression is found in the
core LBH book of Esther: (‘and [Esther] ordered him
to go to Mordecai’; 4.5). A few verses later, virtually the same phrase is
used, except that here the preposition is used (Est. 4.10). It seems
clear that in LBH Esther is synonymous with *78, both simply mean­
ing “to”. Thus the Arad passage, means simply that Eliashib is com­
manded to go to Beer-Sheba’ (Rainey in Aharoni: 1981:18 n. 2; see also
Levine 1978: 289; Layton 1990: 634 n. 2; Gogel 1998:213-14; cf. Renz
and Rollig 1995, I: 361; Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 17).34 This is
therefore an example of the LBH preference for the preposition bv and
confusion of the roles of *71? and (cf. Rooker 1990a: 127-31).

6.5.5. f r r n a TIKID (Arad 16.3—4; ‘when I went out from [left] your
house’). We have discussed already (2.11.3 and 3.3 [point 11]) that
scholars have argued that the use o f’n’l generally decreases in LBH and
especially that the absence of ,n''Vn’n] introducing the infinitive con­
struct with 3 /? is a feature of LBH. This is the case whether the infinitive
construct is preceded by the conjunction waw or not. For example,
Rooker cites as LBH Ezek. 47.3, □, lj? ETKn nfclQ, literally ‘when the
man went out eastward’, using the same word as in the Arad example

34. Pardee refers to the Qere reading o f core LBH Ezra 8.17, DP'S H'HK'i
( ‘and I commanded them [to go] to Iddo’ [our translation]; Pardee 1982:35).
The Kethib seems to be ntJUJiKI ( ‘and I sent’) (Williamson 1985: 112-13).
166 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

(Rooker 1990a: 104; cf. Wright 2005: 45). Pardee specifically notes the
absence of TP] in this context, and in the inscriptions in general (Pardee
1978: 311; cf. van Peursen 2004: 341). Schule argues that this is
evidence that TV] is a late redactional element in BH (Schule 2000:

6.5.6. im n tn n irv a T p t bv DTpnm (Arad 24.14-16;

‘and he will turn them over to the command of Elisha son of Jeremiah in
Ramath Negeb’). The use o f T _L^ in the sense ‘at the direction of, under
the command o f’ is characteristic of core LBH Chronicles and also
occurs in Ezra.35 For a similar military context to the Arad attestation,
see, for example, 2 Chron. 26.13: ‘Under their command (DT-1?!?]) was
an army of three hundred seven thousand five hundred, who could make
war with mighty power...’. Hence Polzin argues that it is LBH, pointing
out also that it occurs in late preexilic/exilic Jeremiah (5.11; 33.13;
Polzin 1976: 148; cf. S. R. Driver 1913a: 538). Polzin does not, however,
note that in the very closely related sense of ‘put into (upon) the
hand’ = ‘entrust to ’ is found in the core EBH text Gen. 42.37 (cf. the
chronologically uncertain Ps. 63.11 ;36late preexilic/exilic Jer. 18.21; and
LBH-related Ezek. 35.5; BDB, 391). Finally, we note that a closely
similar context to the Arad Ostracon, of delivering people into the charge
of someone is found as in Est. 2.3, 8 (x2), 14. Thus, the use of
(bfc) in the sense of people being under the direction or command
of someone is certainly characteristic of LBH. As is common with LBH
features, however, a similar idiom can be found in core EBH. Gogel
seems to classify this idiom as another case of preference for bv (cf.
6.5.4). However, we have seen that the form with is also LBH37 and
hence the issue is the whole idiom in contrast to other BH
idioms such as T ? , as Polzin rightly argues (Polzin 1976: 148; cf.
Dobbs-Allsopp 1998:22). This is therefore a separate LBH feature of the
Arad Ostraca (cf. Young 2003c: 292).

6.5.7. ’HR ]Q (Arad 26.2; ‘from my lord’). Although we cannot be

certain due to the broken context, the preposition ]D, unassimilated
before an anarthrous noun as often in core LBH Chronicles and Daniel
(Rezetko 2003:230-31), is commonly read here (e.g. Aharoni 1981: 52;

35. 1 Chron. 25.2 (x2), 3, 6 (x2); 2 Chron. 23.18; 26.13; 29.27; Ezra 3.10. See
Polzin 1976: 148.
36. The reference to the king in v. 12 [ e w v. 11] probably indicates a preexilic
setting, cf. ‘late preexilic?’ (Fohrer 1970: 289).
37. BDB, 390 mentions only the examples from Esther in this sense.
6. Hebrew Inscriptions o f the Monarchic Period 167

G. I. Davies 1991: 427; Gogel 1998: 393; Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005:


6.5.8. ETKn !tu[“)] (Arad 40.6-7; ‘the man wanted’). Hurvitz points out
that the word n m in standard BH has such meanings as ‘take pleasure in,
be favourable to’ (Hurvitz 1972a: 73-78; cf. Wright 2005: 75-78;
HALOT, III: 1281). In MH the root has the sense ‘want’, which in BH is
expressed by fa n . Hurvitz suggests that a semantic shift occurred under
the influence of Aramaic n m . Although it does not preserve any cases of
the verb n m (‘want’), LBH does evidence the noun ]im (‘will’),
especially in the phrase jim (3 ) Hitol?1? (‘do the will of...’). Although the
word is partially reconstructed, all recent commentators find the ‘late
Aramaism’ HH- 1(‘want’) in Arad 40.6-7, commonly dated to the late
eighth century BCE (Pardee 1978: 323; 1982: 64; Aharoni 1981: 71;
Ahituv 1992: 88; Renz and Rollig 1995,1 :147; Gogel 1998:396; Dobbs-
Allsopp et al. 2005: 70, 72; cf. Young 2003c: 292-93).39

6.5.9. rn®N(Arad 107.2; ‘Ashiyah’), rnotE (Arad 110.1; ‘Shemiyah’),

and rr'TU (Arad 110.2; ‘Gedaliah’). As discussed above, in point 1 on
the Silwan Tomb inscription (6.4.3), the long theophoric element -yahu
is considered typical of EBH, while -yah is typical of LBH. Most
theophoric names from Arad end in -yahu. However, these three names
have the LBH -yah.

6.5.10. n p*T (Arad 111.4; ‘it will betaken’). The writing of the lamed
in this form makes it virtually certain that we have the Niphal imperfect
rip1?’ here. BH attests instead the form nip’ (Gen. 18.4; Isa. 49.24, 25;
Ezek. 15.3; Job 28.2; cf. njpFl in Gen. 12.15), which, although in the form
of the Hophal stem, is generally considered by scholars to be a remnant
of a Qal passive stem. The replacement of the Qal passive by the Niphal
is considered a characteristic of LBH (Kutscher 1974:43,364; 1982:36;
Saenz Badillos 1993: 118; Hendel 2005: 115-16). Kutscher notes: ‘[I]n
the Book of Esther (LBH) we find “lFlQK n p ’pFH “Esther was taken”
(Esther 2, 8, 16) instead of njpFl] (Gen. 12, 15). That is, the original
passive Qal was displaced here by the N iPal’ (Kutscher 1982: 36).

38. The only objection we have noted to the reading is that ‘this could not be the
preposition min in normal Judaean Hebrew (m e’adoni)' (Pardee 1978: 323), i.e. we
would not expect LBH forms to occur in preexilic inscriptions. We can now see that
this is a groundless objection.
39. Pardee mentions the problem that the root n in is not used in the EBH sense
(Pardee 1978: 324), but see the preceding footnote.
168 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

We can, therefore, propose an accumulation of nine LBH linguistic

features in the Arad Ostraca. This accumulation is in fact slightly higher
than any of the core EBH samples presented in the table in 5.4.2. Further­
more, given the factors discussed in 6.5.1, it could be argued that we
should proportionately increase the significance of the Arad accumula­
tion in comparison with a normal 500-word sample from a biblical text.

6.6. Conclusion
The preceding discussion of the Hebrew inscriptions from the monarchic
era has brought out three bodies of evidence that must each be weighed
for their significance. We have seen linguistic forms in the inscriptions
which link with characteristic features of both EBH and LBH. However,
the largest category of forms are those which are unattested or rare in
BH. Focusing on these three types of evidence should not obscure the
fact that most of the Hebrew in the inscriptions is common to all varieties
of BH. Nevertheless, for linguistic classification it is the other forms
which carry more weight.
There seems no room to doubt that the inscriptions attest linguistic
features considered characteristic of LBH. Not all the forms discussed
above are certain due to factors such as the fragmentary nature of the
evidence. Nevertheless, this only applies to some of the forms. At first
sight, it may seem a strange result that LBH features are well attested in
preexilic inscriptions. On reflection, however, this discovery will be seen
to be fully in harmony with an early dating of EBH literature, should
such a dating be arrived at on non-linguistic grounds. As we have seen in
earlier chapters, scholars of LBH have always admitted that LBH forms
could be found in EBH works. It is only the accumulation of such
features which marks a work as LBH. There is thus no reason to try to
explain the many LBH features in EBH texts as due to late editing of
early books, even though such editing seems certainly to have occurred
(see Chapter 13).
A preexilic dating of the core EBH books suggests that many or most
LBH features already existed in preexilic Hebrew. This suggestion
receives important support from the LBH forms in preexilic inscriptions.
This fact, however, has significant consequences for linguistic dating. If
preexilic authors could occasionally choose to use LBH forms, why
could a preexilic author not choose to write in a style with a heavier than
normal concentration of LBH features? Thus Young argues for a
preexilic date for Qoheleth (Young 1993a: 140-57; 2003c: 299; 2005:
6. Hebrew Inscriptions o f the Monarchic Period 169

347-48; cf. Rabin 1973-74: 216). The choice to write in EBH (generally
avoiding the use of LBH linguistic features) or in LBH (with a high
concentration of LBH features) would thus have been a matter of style in
the preexilic as well as in the postexilic period.
We have seen that previous scholars argued for a close identity
between the language of the inscriptions and EBH. This argument has
been revived recently by Joosten. He does not deny that some of the
linguistic features of the inscriptions align with LBH (Joosten 2005:
336). Nevertheless, he argues: ‘On the whole what is striking is the
similarity of the language of the inscriptions to Classical Biblical
Hebrew’ (Joosten 2005: 336). Joosten does not succeed in substantiating
this point, however. He presents as evidence five linguistic forms which
he says are exceptional or unattested in LBH (Joosten 2005: 336-38).
This does not address the issue raised by Young that the mere presence
of a few links with EBH does not prove the linguistic identity of the
inscriptions with EBH, any more than the links with LBH prove that the
inscriptions are in LBH (Young 2003c: 299,308). Four of Joosten’s five
forms are in fact attested in LBH as well as in EBH. As discussed above,
how are we to judge issues of frequency with such a small corpus as the
Hebrew inscriptions?
Next, we note that Joosten accepts without examination previous
scholarly work that claimed to identify clear dichotomies between EBH
and LBH. One of Joosten’s examples is the use of the infinitive absolute
as an imperative. As we see above in point 3 on the Arad Ostracon 1
(6.4.4), and in greater detail in Volume 2, 3.10, the simple equation of
the imperatival infinitive absolute with EBH is problematic. Rather, it
represents an extremely rare linguistic feature in both early and late
periods that—as far as our evidence suggests—may have been briefly
popular in the period c. 600 BCE. In a similar vein, Joosten’s discovery
that the use of the locative he in a construct chain, if evidenced in iirrn
(‘to the house of Eliashib’) in Arad 17.2,40and although unattested
in core LBH, is not as unequivocal as it seems. Joosten lists 25 cases of
such a construction in core EBH. However, closer examination reveals

40. Note that although Dobbs-Allsopp et a l state that the he in this form is ‘most
likely the /^-directive’ they add ‘but one may also take it as an anticipatory suffix’
(Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 36), i.e. ‘his house o f Eliashib’, a feature claimed by a
number o f scholars to be characteristic o f LBH (see, e.g., Polzin 1976:38—40; Rooker
1990a: 91-93; cf. Young 2003c: 293; [point 1] on the Gezer Calendar). Our
policy in this chapter, however, has been to accept the reading proposed by the
majority o f scholars for each inscription.
170 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

that 15 of these are in the book of Genesis. No other EBH text attests it
more than twice and both Leviticus and—very significantly— Samuel do
not have a single occurrence.41 This form seems better described, there­
fore, as an extremely rare feature in most books—whether EBH or
LBH—that is favoured in the idiolect of the book of Genesis. It may be
significant that it occurs once in an Arad ostracon.42 But should this be
compared with the frequency in Genesis, or the rarity in other books?
In regard to Joosten’s argument we therefore reiterate Young’s
conclusion, that there are certainly cases where the inscriptions attest
forms more characteristic of EBH sources than LBH (Young 2003c:
291-92). However, discovering a few such forms does not establish an
identity between the inscriptions and EBH, any more than the links with
LBH show the inscriptions to be in LBH. In fact, as we saw above, it is
not the mere appearance of LBH linguistic elements that identifies a text
as LBH, but rather a high concentration of them. On this criterion we can
see that the Hebrew inscriptions are not to be classified as LBH. Even
though we identified an accumulation of nine LBH linguistic elements in
the Arad Ostraca, this is little higher than the degree of accumulation of
LBH features usually found in core EBH books. Saying that the Arad
Ostraca do not have an accumulation comparable to the core LBH books
does not automatically mean that the inscriptions are therefore linguisti­
cally identical to EBH, however. First, there is the question of whether it
is appropriate to label all texts lacking an LBH-like accumulation— such
as the first-century BCE Qumran Pesher Habakkuk (see Chapter 10)— as
EBH. Second, it is possible that the inscriptions are neither like LBH nor
The overwhelming impression given by the case studies of the inscrip­
tions earlier in this chapter, and by Young’s general survey (2003c), is of
the high number of linguistic elements in these texts which are either
unattested or extremely rare in BH, whether EBH or LBH. In contrast to

41. Leviticus and Samuel together are approximately equal in size to the com­
bined totals o f the Hebrew sections o f the core LBH books. The two books most
closely related to Chronicles (which makes up about two-thirds o f the core LBH
corpus), Samuel and Kings together, although more than twice the size o f Chron­
icles, attest but one example o f the locative he in a construct chain in a passage
which has no parallel in Chronicles (1 Kgs. 19.15).
42. We have not been able to find another example. We note also the absence o f
any preposition or locative on Ramath Negeb in ‘And you will send them (to)
Ramath N egeb’ in Arad 24.13, reminiscent o f the supposed lack o f locatives in
LBH. However, we know o f no BH case where a locative is attached to such an
element as ‘Ramath’ in a place name.
6. Hebrew Inscriptions o f the Monarchic Period 171

the few solid links we could discover between the inscriptions and the
distinctive features of EBH or LBH, at every turn we are confronted with
linguistic features which contrast with what is attested or regular in
the Hebrew Bible. Inscriptional Hebrew is therefore best seen as an
independent corpus within ancient Hebrew, rather than, say, as a mere
adjunct of EBH. As an independent corpus, it has links sometimes with
EBH, sometimes with LBH, and sometimes with other types of Hebrew
such as ABH (Young 1992b) and MH (Sarfatti 1992). In regard to
linguistic dating, therefore, the identity of EBH with inscriptional
Hebrew cannot be taken for granted and used as a secure base from
which to argue conclusions about the nature and date of EBH.
The contrast between the orthography of the inscriptions and the
orthography of all known biblical manuscripts (see the excursus in would seem to indicate that no manuscript in our possession is
likely to attest to a form of text that dates back unchanged earlier than the
Persian period. We should not, of course, dogmatically assert that the
inscriptions give us the full range of possible early Hebrew. Never­
theless, the simplest reading of the evidence at hand would place the
Hebrew Bible in its current form no earlier than the Persian period. One
need not conclude that the biblical texts were composed in the Persian
period. However, the commonly assumed alternative scenario, that
pre-Persian period texts were edited to change their orthography in the
Persian period, raises important questions about the degree to which
the language was also changed, a matter to which we will return in
Chapter 13.
The Hebrew inscriptions may thus be used in quite different recon­
structions of the history of the Hebrew language. Their linguistic identity
with EBH or LBH is far from established. It seems better, in fact, to see
them as an independent corpus43 within ancient Hebrew. Their most
significant contribution to the question of linguistic dating is their
confirmation that LBH linguistic features already existed in preexilic
Hebrew. They thus raise the question of why such linguistic forms are
not more prominent in preexilic Hebrew literature, and whether other
styles of preexilic Hebrew may have been more open to using them. If
LBH linguistic forms existed in the preexilic period, could the LBH style
have existed then also?

43. Or better: multiple corpora. See the following chapter.

172 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

6.7. For Further Reading

Using the Hebrew inscriptions for linguistic dating:

Ehrensvard, M., ‘Once Again: The Problem of Dating Biblical Hebrew’, Scandinavian
Journal o f the Old Testament 11 (1997), pp. 29 ^ 0 .
Hurvitz, A., ‘The Historical Quest for “Ancient Israel” and the Linguistic Evidence of the
Hebrew Bible: Some Methodological Observations’, Vetus Testamentum 47 (1997),
pp. 301-15.
Young, I., ‘Late Biblical Hebrew and Hebrew Inscriptions’, in I. Young (ed.), Biblical
Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and Typology (JSOTSup, 369; London: T&T Clark
International, 2003), pp. 276-311.

General works in English on the Hebrew inscriptions:

Dobbs-Allsopp, F. W., J. J. M. Roberts, C. L. Seow and R. E. Whitaker, Hebrew

Inscriptions: Texts from the Biblical Period o f the Monarchy with Concordance
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005).
Gibson, J. C. L., Textbook o f Syrian Semitic Inscriptions. Volume 1. Hebrew and Moabite
Inscriptions (Oxford: Clarendon, 2nd edn, 1973).
Gogel, S. L.,A Grammar o f Epigraphic Hebrew (SBLRBS, 23; Atlanta: Scholars, 1998).
Smelik, K. A. D., Writings from Ancient Israel: A Handbook o f Historical and Religious
Documents (trans. G. I. Davies; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1991).
Chapter 7

D ia l e c t s a n d D ig l o s s ia

7.1. Introduction
Linguistic dating is based on the observation of linguistic variety. For
example, Samuel construes the collective noun (‘people’) evenly with
singular and plural verbs, whereas Chronicles has a strong preference for
plural verbs (Young 1999: 50-51). Once linguistic variety has been
observed, an explanation for that variety must be sought. We have seen
the differences between Samuel-Kings and Chronicles commonly
explained chronologically. According to this approach, the Hebrew of
Chronicles represents a later development in the history of Hebrew.
However, chronology is not the only explanation of linguistic variation.
Languages not only display variation over time, or diachronically, but
also there may be different varieties of a language at the same time, or
synchronically. Thus, the mere observation of linguistic variation does
not automatically mean that we have evidence of a difference of date
between two biblical books or sections. Contemporary forms of language
can differ from each other.
In this chapter we will review recent research on synchronic variation
in BH. We will do this under two headings: ‘diglossia’, here used to refer
to social stratification of the same language at the same time and place;
and ‘dialects’, here used to refer to the use of different varieties of lan­
guage in different, but contemporary, localities.

7.2. Diglossia
1 2 A . Rendsburg. The topic of ‘diglossia’ in relation to BH was firmly
put on the agenda of modem scholarship by the publication of Rends­
burg’s book Diglossia in Ancient Hebrew (Rendsburg 1990a).1Although

1. This book is a revised version o f his New York University PhD thesis,
‘Evidence for a Spoken Hebrew in Biblical Times’ (Rendsburg 1980a).
174 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

aware that the term ‘diglossia’ has been used in different ways by differ­
ent scholars, Rendsburg states that he uses it in the sense of the original
concept proposed by C. A. Ferguson (1959; Rendsburg 1990a: 2 n. 2).
Rendsburg quotes Ferguson’s definition of diglossia:
Diglossia is a relatively stable language situation in which, in addition to
the primary dialects o f the languages (which may include a standard or
regional standards), there is a very divergent, highly codified (often
grammatically more complex) superposed variety, the vehicle o f a large
and respected body o f written literature, either o f an earlier period or in
another speech community, which is learned largely by formal education
and is used for most written and formal purposes but is not used by any
sector o f the community for ordinary conversation (C. A. Ferguson 1959:
336; Rendsburg 1990a: 1-2).

Rendsburg adds: ‘In short, diglossia refers to the phenomenon of two

synchronic varieties of the same language, one used for colloquial and
informal purposes, the other for literary and formal purposes’ (Rends­
burg 1990a: 2). Rendsburg states his argument as: ‘Thus I will attempt to
demonstrate that in Biblical times two separate varieties of Hebrew could
be distinguished: 1) a written dialect used for literary composition and
for formal orations, and 2) a spoken language used for everyday com­
munication’ (Rendsburg 1990a: 3). Linguists often describe the formal
language as the ‘High’ dialect, the informal as ‘Low’. Rendsburg makes
a special point of stressing that it is well known in diglossia situations
that even what seem to be quotations of direct speech in literature are
couched in the classical language (Rendsburg 1990a: 19-21).
A key part of Rendsburg’s argument is ‘the already recognized
diglossia in the Hebrew of the post-Biblical period’. He points to the
widely held theory that in the Second Temple period, MH functioned as
the spoken language, while the biblical-style language of the DSS,
Qumran Hebrew, represents the written dialect of the period (Rendsburg
1990a: 7; see Chapter 9). He argues that ‘[t]his diglossia can be retro-
jected to Biblical times’ as had already been suggested by Bendavid,
Chomsky, Segal and Ullendorff (Rendsburg 1990a: 15-18).
For clues as to the existence and features of the spoken dialect in
biblical times, Rendsburg follows a twofold method. First, there is the
recognition that ‘numerous usages which are common in MH appear in
BH in isolated instances.... These BH forms, which anticipate MH devel­
opments, are to be considered colloquialisms that have infiltrated the
classical language’ (Rendsburg 1990a: 22-23). Second, Rendsburg uses
the analogous diglossia in Arabic, and sometimes other spoken dialects
of Semitic, which are better documented, since ‘[i]n numerous cases, we
will see that rare usages in the Bible, which run counter to the accepted
7. Dialects and Diglossia 17 5

norms of BH grammar have parallels specifically in spoken Arabic and

not in written Arabic’ (Rendsburg 1990a: 24).
The bulk of Rendsburg’s book is a study of various rare forms of the
MT Bible which he explains as evidence of a variant spoken dialect (or
spoken dialects— see below) in biblical times. Thus, Rendsburg points
out that while the normal BH first person common plural independent
pronoun is in MH the form is 1 DK. He points to the appearance of
in the MT Bible at Jer. 42.6 ( Kethib ). He argues: ‘The one appearance
of *I]K in MT is sufficient to establish its usage at least as early as the
600s B.C.E. and presumably even before then, albeit as a colloquial
form’ (Rendsburg 1990a: 139).2

7.2.2. Reactions to Rendsburg. Soon after Rendsburg’s book was

published C. A. Ferguson published a retrospective on how study of
‘diglossia’ had progressed since the publication of his 1959 article (C. A.
Ferguson 1991). In this he clarified what he intended by the term
diglossia: ‘I wanted to describe the kind of situation in which the ordi­
nary formal language of the community is one that no one speaks without
special effort and no one uses in ordinary conversation: it is acquisition-
ally and functionally superposed to the primary variety of the language’
(C. A. Ferguson 1991: 218). He also says: ‘In addition to whatever
ordinary ways of talking there were in the community, there was one
superposed variety to be used for written purposes and for many formal
spoken purposes, but not spoken by anyone as the ordinary medium of
conversation’ (C. A. Ferguson 1991: 217). Thus, the word ‘diglossia’ in
Ferguson’s terms refers to a specific linguistic situation, not just any case
where two varieties of language were used side by side. For example,
‘this situation differs from the standard with dialect variation, such as
Italy, for example, where there are those who essentially speak standard
Italian as their mother tongue and use it in everyday conversation’ (C. A.
Ferguson 1991: 217-18).
These comments by Ferguson bring clearly into focus the issue of
definition. When discussing Rendsburg’s work, there is not only the
broader issue of linguistic diversity, which Rendsburg documents with
much data, but the narrower question of how to classify this variation.
Thus it is possible that written and spoken Hebrew in biblical times
could have diverged, but that the situation was not technically diglossia.
For instance, if one suggested that standard BH was based on the lan­
guage of the capital, Jerusalem, and that some inhabitants of Jerusalem

2. We chose a simple example to illustrate Rendsburg’s method. Many of his

other chapters have a great deal more data.
176 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

actually spoke this language as their first language, this would not
technically be diglossia. Outside Jerusalem, people could have used the
standard language for formal purposes while speaking many diverse
dialects at home. This, in Ferguson’s terms, would be a ‘standard with
dialects’ situation, not ‘diglossia’.
Among scholars who have interacted with Rendsburg’s work, we are
not aware of any scholar who disagrees with the view ‘[t]hat there were
differences between the written and the spoken language seems obvious’
(Olafsson 1991:201). However, several scholars have questioned whether
this divergence is best described as ‘diglossia’. Olafsson, for example,
explores different ways of explaining the linguistic diversity which
Rendsburg documents. One of the hypotheses he explores ‘is that SBH
[= EBH] was based on one dialect (Judean?), probably the dialect of the
politically most influential part of the population, and that in this dialect
the written and spoken varieties were fairly close for several centuries’
(Olafsson 1991: 201-202). While it seems highly unlikely that a spoken
language could have remained as static as BH over several centuries, the
suggestion that SBH [= EBH] was based on one leading dialect would
mean that at that time there was no diglossia in that region. This is in fact
Rendsburg’s suggestion. However, he correctly emphasised that a
standardisation of literary Hebrew would lead over time to greater and
greater divergence between spoken and written Hebrew and hence to a
diglossia situation (Rendsburg 1990a: 175).
Blau disputes the use of the term ‘diglossia’ not only for preexilic, but
also for Second Temple-period Hebrew. A large part of his argument is
based on the strict sense of diglossia. He argues that an essential feature
of diglossia is the highly codified nature of the High variety (Blau 1997b:
32), whereas literary Hebrew was too adaptable to fit this description. He
would prefer to see linguistic variety not as evidence of different spoken
dialects, but rather due to different styles, traditions or scribal schools
(Blau 1997b: 32). He concedes that there were of course differences
between the literary and the spoken language, but questions whether we
have the evidence to say that they reached the degree implied in a
diglossia situation (Blau 1997b: 26).
The question of whether the degree of variation documented by
Rendsburg’s evidence is evidence of a diglossia situation comes up also
in other scholars’ work. One important question is whether the evidence
points to systematically different socially stratified types of Hebrew, or
just substandard usage of a single variety of Hebrew (Olafsson 1991:
196-97; Gianto 1996: 503; North 1999: 208). Young argues that while
some of Rendsburg’s evidence, such as incongruities of gender and
7. Dialects and Diglossia 177

number, could fit into the category of substandard language, other varia­
tions point to a different situation (Young 1993a: 76-79). Thus, the
variant independent pronouns 13n3K and 13N, or the relative pronouns
and $, seem to represent genuinely variant morphological forms, not
merely standard forms with their ‘incorrect’ substandard equivalents.
A problem with all biblical linguistic data arises in this case also.
Rendsburg uses his data to argue about the linguistic background of the
original authors of the biblical books. However, Emerton points out:
‘Allowance must also be made for the possibility that the apparent
anomalies of grammar, or some of them, may go back, not to those who
first wrote the texts, but to later copyists’ (Emerton 2000: 174; cf.
Olafsson 1991: 201). In response to the textual problem, Rendsburg
points to the large number of examples of the phenomena he discusses
(Rendsburg 1990a: 173). However, a large number of examples might
just mean that the MT has been changed linguistically more than nor­
mally suggested. On the text-language problem see further Chapter 13.
The most sustained attack on Rendsburg’s theory of diglossia is that of
S. P. Smith.3 Smith accepts that there was diglossia in the Second
Temple period (S. P. Smith 2000: 38-39). However, he believes that the
evidence for diglossia in an earlier period is not clear. He does not argue
against linguistic variety or even diglossia, just that we must suspend
judgment for the present (S. P. Smith 2000: 49).
Smith argues that Rendsburg’s approach is flawed on three grounds.
First, Rendsburg has chosen his evidence in an ad hoc manner. For
example, why explain the first person common plural pronoun 138 as a
colloquialism on the basis of its appearance in MH, yet baulk at explain­
ing the exclusive use of the singular ’JN in MH as evidence that it was
the colloquial equivalent of (the less common) ’’DDK (S. P. Smith 2000:
43^15)? This criticism is worth raising. He then suggests, however, that
it ‘is at least as likely that the increased use of 138 and ultimate replace­
ment of 13113K followed a diachronic path similar to that of n3K in its dis­
placement o fa3 K ’ (S. P. Smith 2000: 44). In response to this, one might
ask how Smith explains the sole appearance of 138, in Jer. 42.6 {KethibJ!
Surely Rendsburg’s explanation is logical. I f \ 3$ existed c. 600 BCE in
Jeremiah’s time, then the form must have co-existed with the form 13n_3K

3. We have not had access to Versluis 2003, which according to JM offers a

critique of Rendsburg’s general methodology with regard to diglossia and dialect in
BH (JM §3cN, p. 10 n. 4; §149bN, p. 516 n. 2). We should note as well that JM is
critical of Rendsburg’s linguistic methodology in a number of instances (e.g. JM
§35e, p. 104 n. 1 [‘too selective’]; §37d, p. 107 n. 2 [‘too atomistic’]; §88MkN, p.
243 n. 3 [‘ad hoc’]).
178 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

for hundreds of years, in a stratum of the language which never again

impinged on the literary dialect of the biblical authors. Smith fails to
come to grips with the evidence. There may be other ways to explain
than as Rendsburg does, but at least he grapples with the issue.
Second, Smith argues that appeal to cognate colloquialisms is faulty.
Just because a particular form is colloquial in one language, does not
mean that the comparable form will be colloquial in another language
(S. P. Smith 2000: 40). This again is a fair point. However, in Rends­
burg’s defence he does not use the comparative evidence to generate his
primary data. First, he discovers a linguistic anomaly, and then he uses
the analogy of better attested Semitic languages to demonstrate the
plausibility that this anomaly was a colloquial variant.
Smith’s third criticism is that Rendsburg ‘neglects early Hebrew
epigraphic materials that one would classify as “non-literary” and thus
potentially indicative of colloquial usage’ (S. P. Smith 2000: 40). This
seems a weak point of Smith’s analysis. It appears to be methodologi­
cally flawed to assume that the military/administrative texts he discusses
from Arad, Lachish and Mesad Hashavyahu would be expected to
exhibit a high degree of colloquial usage. Certainly according to C. A.
Ferguson’s definition of diglossia the administrative language would be
firmly at the ‘High’ end of the linguistic spectrum (Young 1993a: 97­
121: ‘Official Hebrew ’ ).4 Therefore, it is no surprise if, for example, the
relative pronoun turns up as the only form attested in inscriptions
from both south and north .5
The fullest acceptance of Rendsburg’s theory is by Young (1993a). He
not only accepts Rendsburg’s data, but adds a further argument in sup­
port of Rendsburg’s model. He argues that BH is in origin a continuation
of the pre-Israelite Canaanite prestige language evidenced by Amama
Canaanite and Ugaritic. Thus, even at the beginning of biblical history,
BH was not identical with any one of the many tribal dialects (Young
1993a: 87). Nevertheless, despite his wholehearted endorsement of
Rendsburg’s theory, Young is forced to admit regarding the linguistic
forms which Rendsburg cites: ‘At present it is not possible to test

4. Smith tries to justify his assumption by pointing out that some scholars have
discussed the Bar Kochba letters from the second century CE as if they were evi­
dence of the colloquial. But while the Bar Kochba letters evidence the use of some
MH features outside rabbinic circles, they do not, in our opinion, simply represent a
colloquial dialect. On the Bar Kochba letters see further 9.4.2, 9.4.3, 9.4.4.
5. S. P. Smith 2000: 43 seems unaware of the attestation of on a stele frag­
ment from Samaria (see Renz and Rollig 1995,1: 135; Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005:
7. Dialects and Diglossia 179

whether they completely conform to Ferguson’s definition [of diglossia]

in that they are of the nature of anomalous low forms in the High literary
language - we have no evidence whether they fulfill a definite social role
as variants in their normal context’ (Young 1993a: 78).

7.2.3. Conclusion. Rendsburg’s theory that diglossia in ancient

Hebrew existed throughout most of the biblical period is a plausible
interpretation of the evidence he presents. However, it must be admitted
that definite evidence is lacking, and probably by the nature of the case
will always be lacking, that ancient Hebrew had diglossia in the strict
sense. One very important element missing is explicit testimony that
linguistic variations had definitely assigned social roles.
At the very least Rendsburg has documented a great deal of linguistic
diversity in BH. On general linguistic grounds it would seem likely that
spoken and written Hebrew diverged (Crystal 1987: 179). Even if not
technically diglossia, the distance between the literary and colloquial was
likely to be great. Although evidencing a fair number of individual lin­
guistic anomalies, the Hebrew inscriptions evidence a quite standard,
biblical-like Hebrew in use as the administrative language of the king­
dom of Judah in the eighth through early sixth century BCE. Even in the
extremely minimalist interpretation that this standard language was only
established in the late eighth century (not 1200 BCE [Rendsburg 1990a:
175] or 1000 BCE [Young 1993a: 20]) and that it was based on a homo­
genous colloquial dialect spoken throughout Judah (an unlikely assump­
tion; see below), nevertheless after over a century it is still certain that
the colloquial dialect would have evolved a noticeable distance away
from the standard. Even at the time of its inception it is likely that certain
elements of the spoken language were excluded from the literary lan­
guage, being considered ‘substandard’ language.
No scholar, to our knowledge, doubts that there was a divergence
between literary and spoken Hebrew in the biblical period. The only
dispute is whether the divergence is great enough to be called ‘diglossia’.
At the very least, the divergences are likely to have been as great as the
minor variations that set LBH apart from EBH. We will return to the
implications for linguistic dating later. First, we will note that both
Rendsburg and Young, among others, do not limit diversity in preexilic
Hebrew to the divergences between spoken and literary languages. Both
conceive the standard language to be over the top of a variety of local
dialects. The existence of local dialects in ancient Hebrew is easier to
demonstrate than the presence of diglossia, and it is to this topic that we
now turn.
180 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

7.3. Dialects
7.3.1. Introduction. In this section we will speak of regional dialects in
ancient Hebrew. In linguistics the term ‘dialect’ is much debated, a major
question being whether one can distinguish between a ‘language’ and a
‘dialect’ (Crystal 1987: 25; Hock 1991: 380-81). Linguistic variety is not
only a function of geography, but also, as we have seen with diglossia,
social circumstances. Factors such as social class can mean that quite
different varieties of language may be spoken by people living in the
same geographical region. One could thus discuss ‘upper’ and ‘lower’
class dialects. Variety is, in fact, one of the most basic characteristics of
any linguistic situation. It is true to say that probably no two people on
the planet use language in exactly the same way (Crystal 1987: 24).
In the study of BH, due to a general lack of data, studies of linguistic
variety have focused on three factors: chronology, social stratification,
and regional variations. Most commonly the word ‘dialect’ has been used
in this field to refer to regional variations, and this is how we use it in
this section. Scholars have found evidence for regional variations in
ancient Hebrew from both biblical sources and sources external to the
Hebrew Bible, the Hebrew inscriptions. Thus Rendsburg suggests that
beneath the High language of ancient Hebrew diglossia ‘theoretically
there existed many different dialects of Hebrew in ancient Israel’
(Rendsburg 1990a: 21).

7.3.2. Inscriptions. In Chapter 6 we saw that even in the biblical-style

Hebrew of the inscriptions of the kingdom of Judah there were diver­
gences from BH. Other inscriptions seem to provide clear evidence of
regional dialects in ancient Hebrew. Samaria Ostracon 6/7.6 Over 100 inscribed ostraca were

discovered in 1910 and 1932 during excavations at the site of the ancient
capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, Samaria.7 The majority of these
Samaria Ostraca were discovered in the 1910 excavations. Recent schol­
ars agree on a date in the eighth century BCE for these texts, but beyond
that the interpretation of the texts is open to dispute, as will emerge in the
commentary below.

6. This text is commonly designated as Samaria Ostracon 6. However, Dobbs-

Allsopp et al. 2005: 435-36 follow an alternate order in which Ostraca 6 and 7 are
found in reversed order.
7. However, quite a number of these are indecipherable (Dobbs-Allsopp et al.
2005: 424).
7. Dialects and Diglossia 181

(2) njjenn (l) n ra l

(3) nupD 2
(6) r (5) (4) V 3
(7) 4

1 In the ninth y ear,2/3 from Qoseh, to Gaddiyaw,3/4 a ja r of old wine.

(1) r\m (line 1; ‘in the year’). Since date formulas in BH can be
constructed using the absolute or the construct of the word ‘year ’ ,8 it is
not certain which form we have here. However, even in biblical texts
which might be considered to have links with the northern kingdom,
such as narratives about northern kings, or the prophecy of Amos, the
word for year is HDC? (construct: ro$). The word ‘year’ is not attested
in provenanced southern inscriptions.9 Presumably the development
reflected in the Samaria Ostraca is along the lines of *sant> *satt .10
Whereas BH generally has lost the taw as the marker of a feminine
singular noun in the absolute, it is still retained in the construct and
before suffixes. In contrast, the taw is retained in all positions in other
Northwest Semitic languages, such as Phoenician and Moabite. Thus the
Moabite equivalent of the word H03 (‘high place, temple’) is
(Mesha inscription, line 3). The taw in TW may thus be the taw of the
construct, or if this is the absolute state of the noun, we would have
evidence of the retention of the archaic marker of the feminine singular.
(2) nuenn (line 1; ‘the ninth’). The ostraca almost all11 date to the
years 9, 10 and 15, presumably referring to the regnal years of a king.
One of the puzzles of the Samaria Ostraca is the differences between the
year 9 and 10 ostraca and the year 15 ostraca. Thus, for example, the
numbers are written in full in years 9 and 10, but using Egyptian numer­
als for year 15. The geographical names in year 9 and 10 ostraca are
towns and villages; year 15 are clan names. Most personal names in year
15 ostraca have patronyms, while there are none in year 9 and 10 ostraca.

8. Contrast n ^ tin n n im (Jer. 39.1; 52.4; Ezek. 24.1) with n ^ tin n n jr a

(2 Kgs. 17.6; 25.1). ' ”
9. The expression POTH ilDED (‘in the sixth year’) does occur in an inscription
said to originate somewhere in the Judaean hills, and to date c. 600 BCE, published in
Deutsch and Heltzer 1995: 81-83; cf. Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 549-50.
10. BH HD2? probably derives from a slightly different form of the feminine
ending: *sanat (Garr 1985: 94). In other words, as Professor Rendsburg pointed out
to us (e-mail 20.11.05), Canaanite had two forms of this word.
11. The reading of Ostracon 63 is disputed, but recent suggestions include: the
16th (Renz and Rollig 1995,1: 106) and ‘twelfth (?)’ (Gogel 1998:436) years. After
reviewing various theories, Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 480 conclude: ‘Given the
present state of the ostracon, it may well be impossible to resolve the issue’.
182 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Mostly the year 9 and 10 ostraca refer to different people than the year
15 ostraca. The year 15 ostraca seldom refer to commodities.
Most recent scholars date the Samaria Ostraca to the first half of the
eighth century BCE (Rainey 1988; Smelik 1991: 60-6 l;R enz and Rollig
1995, I: 86 ; Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 423). From this general time
period, three kings are candidates because of the length of their reigns:
Jehoahaz (17 years according to 2 Kgs. 13.1), Joash (16 years: 2 Kgs.
13.10), and Jeroboam II (41 years: 2 Kgs. 14.23). Various solutions have
been proposed, since the ostraca could come from the reign of more than
one of these kings. An intriguing suggestion from Rainey notes the pro­
posal that there was a co-regency between Jehoash and his son Jeroboam
II. He suggests that Jehoash’s year 15 and Jeroboam’s years 9 and 10
would have clustered around the year 784/783 BCE. Thus he explains
why years 9,10 and 15 ostraca (and not other years12) are found together.
Rainey explains the differences between the two sets of ostraca as due to
the different social policies of the co-regents. The old king Jehoash’s
year 15 ostraca refer to traditional clan districts, whereas the young king
supported social innovation (Rainey 1988).
(3) HHpft (line 2; ‘from Qoseh’). This refers to a town in the region of
Samaria (Renz and Rollig 1995,1: 89; Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 435).
| ft (‘from’) is assimilated, against the tendency of Chronicles and Daniel
among core LBH books to leave it unassimilated before a noun without
definite article.
(4) V l l b (lines 3-4; ‘to Gaddiyaw’). The preposition b (‘to, for’) on
the Samaria Ostraca has been interpreted to mean ‘paid to the official...’,
or ‘the owner is... (i.e. belonging to...)’ or ‘for the personal use of...’. In
line with these different interpretations of the preposition, the ostraca
have been variously interpreted as recording payments of taxes, or
deliveries of commodities to the palace for the support of important
personages at court, supplied from their own estates (Dobbs-Allsopp et
al. 2005: 425-26).
BH employs the divine elements 1 IT- and IT- (see 6.4.3 [point 1]) at
the end of names, whereas inscriptions relating both to the northern
kingdom and the southern kingdom have a form without the he, V-
(Young 1993a: 114-15). Presumably this represents a contraction yahu>
*yaw (Cross and Freedman 1952: 48). In general the V- names are
northern, whereas most southern names agree with the biblical 1 iT -/rr-.
Nevertheless, despite hints of a different situation (Diringer and Brock

12. But see the preceding footnote.

1. Dialects and Diglossia 183

1968: 41; Briquel-Chatonnet 1992: 104-105) it is significant that our

current biblical texts do not mention northerners with the V - theophoric
element (Young 2003c: 310-11).
(5) b'Zl (line 3; ‘jar, bottle’). This word as a wine container is common
in the Samaria Ostraca and EBH. However, no wine containers seem to
be referred to in core LBH texts, and hence there is no ‘linguistic
(6) y (line 3; ‘wine’). The spelling without the medial yo d has sug­
gested to scholars that the word was pronounced with a reduced diph­
thong, *yayn > *yen (Cross and Freedman 1952: 49). Southern Hebrew
attests I" (e.g. Arad 1.3), which links up with BH I” .13 However, note
that the form ]*n is found even in parts of the Hebrew Bible where a
northern link might be expected, such as narratives dealing with
northerners, or the prophets Hosea and Amos. It is, of course, possible
that the difference is merely one of spelling, rather than pronunciation,
the diphthong ay being treated like any other vowel.
(7) y (line 4; ‘old wine’). This designation of wine is never found
in the Hebrew Bible, but is attested in MH (Sarfatti 1982: 76). Similarly
the expression p m ]OC? (‘purified oil’) in Samaria Ostraca 16.3, etc.,
which seems to be parallel to various BH (and southern?) words describ­
ing oil, such as ^|T (‘clear, pure’) (V. Sasson 1979: 65-75; 1981; Ahituv
1992: 176), but note the alternative translation: ‘oil for washing’ (cf.
Renz and Rollig 1995,1: 83).
Thus, although the Samaria Ostraca evidence very few non-repeated
words,14 they do contain forms that are not only unattested in biblical
texts, but also in inscriptions from the kingdom of Judah. On this basis,
it is generally considered that the Samaria Ostraca are evidence of a
divergent ‘northern’ as opposed to ‘southern’ dialect of Hebrew (e.g.
Baumgartner 1940-41: 608; Cross and Freedman 1952: 45 n. 4; Kutscher
1982: 66 ; Saenz Badillos 1993: 65).

13. The development yayn > yayin is considered a later development in Hebrew
(Z. S. Harris 1939:31).
14. Knauf 1990: 15 says that apart from prepositions, numbers and personal
names, there are only eight words. This is, of course, referring only to the texts from
the 1910 excavations; in the 1930s other brief inscriptions were found containing
another handful of words (Renz and Rollig 1995,1: 135-44; Dobbs-Allsopp et al.
2005: 487-97). However, the interpretation of the ‘wordiest’ inscription, Cl 101, is
uncertain (cf. Renz and Rollig 1995,1 :136-39; Dobbs-Allsopp etal. 2005:487-90).
According to the interpretation given in Dobbs-Allsopp et a l ., the text contains five
additional words and one name.
184 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts The Gezer Calendar. This small limestone tablet is usually

dated to the late tenth century BCE (Renz and Rollig 1995, I: 31-32;
Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 156).15The purpose of the tablet is disputed.
Talmon suggested that the text was a timetable for the collection of taxes
from farmers on behalf of the royal administration (Talmon 1963: 177).
The inelegant hand has suggested that it was a school exercise. Thus
Albright suggested that it was a mnemonic for teaching children the
seasons (Albright 1943: 25). Wirgin suggested it was a blessing tablet, a
prayer for fertility (Wirgin 1960: 11 *—12*).
T *I!TT »pK ( 1) liTV 1
(2) vpb irrv in 2
(4) nra (3) -rax? rrr 3
(5) □-\VV -rap FIT 4
(6) ta i in p rrr 5
(7) HIT 6
(8) y p rrr 716

1 (Two?) months of ingathering, (two?) months of 2 sowing, (two?)

months o f late planting,3 month of flax pulling, 4 month of barley har­
vest, 5 month of harvest and m easuring,6 (two?) months of pruning,7
month of summer fruit.

(1) ir r r (line 1; ‘months’). The word PIT for ‘month’ is rare in BH,
appearing only 12 times. The more common term is 0 111 , which occurs
about 250 times (cf. BDB, 294). JIT is the normal term for ‘month’ in
Aramaic (and thus could be potentially considered an ‘Aramaism’ in BH;
see Chapter 8), Ugaritic (see Chapter 12) and Phoenician. Rendsburg
suggests that it is a dialect form, specifically a characteristic of Israelian
Hebrew (see below), although he admits that it also occurs in Judahite
Hebrew, including the Gezer Calendar (Rendsburg 2002a: 127-28). At
the very least we can say that PIT is a rare form in BH, in opposition to
There have been various attempts to explain the function of the waw
on the end of the form iriT which appears four times in the inscription.
The two main lines of interpretation are that it is a pronominal suffix, or
that it is some sort of case ending (Young 1992b: 363-66; Renz and
Rollig 1995,1: 32-24; Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 157-58).

15. But note the late ninth-century date given by Sass 2005: 83-84, who further­
more does not consider the inscription to be in Hebrew (see below on this issue).
16. On the left edge appear the letters ’DK, usually understood as a name,
Abi(yah [?]); and on the reverse is r n s , perhaps another name, Peniyah.
7. Dialects and Diglossia 185

The suffix theory would lead to a literal translation along the lines of
‘his months of ingathering’, i.e. a proleptic suffix with the sense ‘the
months belonging to ingathering’. On the proleptic suffix Rooker states:
‘The use of the proleptic pronominal suffix increased in frequency in the
history of BH and can be seen as a characteristic of LBH’ (Rooker
1990a: 91-93; cf. Polzin 1976: 3 8 ^ 0 ). However, Rendsburg objects that
this construction is frequent in EBH as well (Rendsburg 1980b: 67).
Commonly, the suffix here is understood as attaching to a dual noun,
giving the translation ‘his two months’. In this way, counting the non­
suffixed forms as singular, the inscription can be seen as talking about
twelve months.
The case ending 17 theory has numerous forms, some seeing it as a dual
and others as simply plural. Thus, since the archaic masculine plural
nominative case ending in the construct state would be - u, we could
vocalise the word as yarhu (Young 1992b: 363-66). If this is the correct
understanding of the word, it represents a form unattested in the Hebrew
biblical texts.
A basic issue that scholars have debated in regard to the Gezer
Calendar is whether the text is using vowel letters (matres lectionis ; see Phoenician never adopted the system of vowel letters used in
Aramaic, Hebrew, etc., and it is theorised that in very early Hebrew
vowel marking was entirely absent, at the end as well as in the middle of
words. This is entirely plausible, but since final vowels are marked in
inscriptions from the next century from, for example, Kuntillet cAjrud,
the question is whether they had already been introduced at the time of
the Gezer Calendar. The argument in regard to the Calendar is somewhat
circular, since one generally first argues for a particular interpretation of
the forms 1I1T, FTT and in the inscription, and then on this basis
decides whether final vowels are used. Thus, in regard to H IT, if the final
waw is marking a vowel, then vowel markers were used by the scribe. If,
on the contrary, the waw , is marking a suffix, then perhaps vowel mark­
ing was not used by the scribe, since then it is argued that while the third
person masculine singular suffix on a plural/dual noun was marked by
the consonant waw the third person masculine singular suffix on a singu­
lar noun, which in MT is simply a vowel i, was not written. Hence, while
UTV is ‘his (two) months’, PIT is understood as in T , ‘his month’

17. For more on case endings, see 12.2.1.

186 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

(2) ©p*7(line 2; ‘late planting’). In BH this word appears only in Amos

7.1. Other interpretations include ‘after-growth’, that is, grass growing
late in the season or a late crop (HALOT , II: 536) or ‘spring pasture’
(Gibson 1973: 2-3). Dobbs-Allsopp et al. prefer ‘late planting’ since it
fits better with the listing in the rest of the Gezer Calendar of agricultural
activities (Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 159-60).
(3) fy y (line 3; ‘harvesting [?] [flax]’). Although the tool named
is attested in the Hebrew Bible {HALOT, II: 615) other forms are
unattested. Since the exact translation is uncertain we cannot be sure
whether there is a linguistic opposition to a biblical word such as T y p
(‘harvest’). A problem with seeing this as a reference to the flax harvest
is that it would be in the wrong part of the year, assuming that the activi­
ties are listed in chronological order in the Calendar (Dobbs-Allsopp et
al. 2005: 160-61).
(4) DOS (line 4; ‘flax’). Albright suggested that ntDS should be
vocalised as pista (Albright 1943: 22 n. 34). This is possible on the
presupposition that no vowel letters were used in the inscription. Alterna­
tively, there is evidence that a masculine form of the noun existed in
Hebrew from the masculine plural □’ntps in Judg. 15.14 (Gibson 1973:
3). If a feminine form is preferred, DOS may be analysed as formed with
the archaic or dialectal feminine singular absolute termination with taw,
representing a development *pistat > *pistt. If the Samaria Ostracon
form HO is understood to be in the absolute, then it would share this
variant linguistic feature.
(5) “ I'i-' (line 4; ‘barley’). Note the absence of internal vowel nota­
tion for the masculine plural, rather than the plene form D’ -. Scholars
agree that internal, rather than final, vowel letters are not expected in this
inscription. On spelling in Hebrew inscriptions, see Chapter 6 , especially
(6 ) b'D'l (line 5; ‘and measuring’). The Qal verb l7'3/Lr o (‘measure’) is
found in BH only at Isa. 40.12 {HALOT, II: 463). A derivation, here and
in the seventh-century inscription from Mesad Hashavyahu 1.5, 6 , 8 ,
from (‘finish’) is less likely (cf. V. Sasson 1979: 56-64; Renz and
Rollig 1995, I: 325-26). The general BH word for ‘measuring’ is the
verb "HQ, to which is parallel in Isa. 40.12.
(7) “IDT (line 6 ; ‘pruning’). This word is commonly understood as
‘trimming (of vines)...or vintage’ and connected with the word TOT in
Cant. 2.12 {HALOT, I: 273). In the Gezer Calendar a reference to
‘vintage’ or grape harvest would be out of sequence if the text lists the
activities in a chronological order (Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 162-63).
7. Dialects and Diglossia 187

( 8) Yp (line 7; ‘summer fruit’). BH only attests the form ’p p . The

absence of the medial y o d has suggested to scholars that the Gezer form
had a reduced diphthong (<qes), contrary to the biblical evidence (Gibson
1973: 4). This would be a link with the Samaria Ostraca form y for BH
]" , discussed above. It is possible, however, that we merely have here an
orthographic difference, rather than pronunciation, the diphthong ay
being treated like any other vowel.
The Gezer Calendar thus has a number of forms which are rare or
unattested in biblical texts, and furthermore contrast with what might be
expected in southern, Judahite inscriptions. However, although the Gezer
Calendar is usually treated as a ‘Hebrew’ inscription, it must be admitted
that this is not beyond dispute. While some view it as Judahite (Diringer
and Brock 1968: 39), others view it as representing another southern
dialect (Gibson 1973: 1), a northern dialect (Cross and Freedman 1952:
47), or wonder whether it is non-Israelite (e.g. Kutscher 1982: 67; Schtile
2000: 26 n. 2). While Young’s study demonstrated its links with Archaic
Biblical Hebrew, it did not prove that such a style was exclusive to Israel
(Young 1992b). We remain largely ignorant of Phoenician literature, for
example. If the names on the edge, *08, and reverse, iTDS (cf. n. 16), are
formed with the Israelite divine element IV-/IIT -, as many scholars think
(e.g. Renz and Rollig 1995, I: 32, 36), then this would be a strong
argument that we should designate the text as ‘Hebrew’. Peculiarities in Judahite Inscriptions. In Chapter 6 we saw

that the Hebrew inscriptions from the kingdom of Judah provide numer­
ous examples of linguistic forms that are either unattested or rare in
biblical texts. It seems likely that at least some of these forms stem from
dialect variation within the kingdom of Judah (Young 1997: 8-9).
However, we run into a methodological problem at this point. Since we
have no physical attestation of a biblical text before the first DSS in the
third century BCE, we cannot simply presuppose that the biblical texts are
providing us with reliable evidence of the language of monarchic-era
Judah. The fact that the inscriptions evidence numerous divergences
from biblical usage (Young 2003c: 299-306) may not be evidence of
synchronic variations in the language of the kingdom of Judah before its
destruction in the early sixth century BCE. One could also propose that
the linguistic differences are diachronic, that is, that the divergent
linguistic forms in the inscriptions are due to the fact that they are earlier
than the language of the biblical texts.
188 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Ideally, therefore, we would like to argue the case for synchronic

diversity from contrasting forms found in the corpus of Hebrew inscrip­
tions. A major problem with this is the limited size of the epigraphic
corpus. Thus, in the context of BH, the first person common plural
independent pronoun 13I1D (Lachish 4.10-11) is a rare variant of the
regular 1 )11]^ (Young 2003c: 307). However, the inscriptional corpus is
so limited that the occurrence of the form in the Lachish ostracon turns
out to be the only occurrence of the first person plural pronoun.
More promising is the appearance of the root n p 3 18 for regular BH
npS in Arad 24.14-15:19
[’3 3]33 nan nn« nnn^cn 13
nm mtanp p irrrte n 14
’o t p t bn n r p 15
n n« mp- p 333 ncnn in 16
□3ns i^on n an nm "vs 17
□32033 18

13 ...and you shall send them (troops) to Ramoth Negeb 13/14 by the hand
of Malkiyah the son o f Qrab’ur 14/15 and he shall hand them over to
Elisha son 15/16 o f Jeremiah in Ramath Negeb lest anything happen to
16/17 the city. Now the word of the king is with you 18 on your life.

We note also the appearance of EH3 for regular BH (‘life’) in line 18.
However, this is the only occurrence of this word in the inscriptions. In
regard to npS/np3 we can at least point to the appearance of the root in
its regular guise as npB in the noun npSD (‘muster’) in an ostracon from
Tel cIra (Beit-Arieh 1983; Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 197-98), and as a
verb in many readings of an inscription from Khirbet Beit-Lei (Renz and
Rollig 1995,1: 248; Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 130).
In sum, the Hebrew inscriptions provide evidence of dialectal varia­
tion in ancient Hebrew, north vs. south, but also within the south in the
kingdom of Judah. These conclusions are only to be expected in light
of general linguistic observations about the prevalence of variety in
language (Young 1997: 7-8).

18. Recently, Dobbs-Allsopp et al. argue: ‘The letter, however, looks far more
like the p e in the following lines than the bet ’ (Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 51). If
this reading is correct, this example would cease to exist. However, the traces on the
photograph published in Aharoni 1981:47 look like a beth to us. The issue requires
further investigation.
19. These lines are designated alternatively as lines 3-4 of the reverse side of the
ostracon (Dobbs-Allsopp et al. 2005: 48).
1. Dialects and Diglossia 189

7.3.3. Biblical Evidence o f Dialects Shibboleth: Judges 12.4-6
ivbi "cos i3!i onatrniji □n'p’] isbi ^ ?K _u>3"n$ nnsr p p ’i 4
mego ■fira mat* “Pn? “m'pa dak anat* ,o,,l?a n o a -3 anatrriK
^ rrm onas*p ] i _n nngpDTit* irS a -a*?*] 5
afr “iqhh nna ’nisijn ^ nofcn rnnw crnaa
ini« i im n p “131*7 f r r n^o —iq« i*? n a t n 6
□n?t>0 K"nn nra ^s,i ]iT n ningre-^ imtDneri
:«]*?« D73C71 CPin“]K
4 Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim;
and the men of Gilead defeated Ephraim, because they said, ‘You are
fugitives from Ephraim, you Gileadites — in the heart of Ephraim and
Manasseh’. 5 Then the Gileadites took the fords of the Jordan against the
Ephraimites. Whenever one of the fugitives of Ephraim said, ‘Let me go
over’, the men of Gilead would say to him, ‘Are you an Ephraimite?’
When he said, ‘N o’, 6 they said to him, ‘Then say Shibboleth’, and he
said, ‘Sibboleth’, for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized
him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand of the
Ephraimites fell at that time.

This incident is set in the period of the Judges, that is, before 1000 BCE.
It tells us that there was a difference between the language of two
northern groups, Transjordanian Gilead and Cisjordanian Ephraim. Most
biblical scholars have considered that Judges records an incident that
actually happened, but in any case the biblical author indicates an
awareness that different groups in ancient Israel were distinguishable by
their use of language.
The phrase ]3 "131*? 8*71 in v. 6 is usually understood along the
lines of the NRSV, ‘for he could not pronounce it right’. The difficulty is
the word 'p T , which as the Hiphil stem of ]13 typically has meanings
such as ‘establish, prepare, make firm’. The MT is variously interpreted
as ‘he was not prepared to pronounce it correctly’ or ‘not taking care to
pronounce it correctly’ (see D. Marcus 1992: 100-101). G. R. Driver
reads jllT and argues that ]13, as in Syriac, can mean ‘be able’ (G. R.
Driver 1964: 16-17). Another solution has been to follow some MT
manuscripts and read from the root *p3 (‘understand’) (.HALOT, II:
465). T
D. Marcus is correct to note that the dialectal difference between the
two tribal groups is only mentioned to illustrate the main point of the
story, that the Ephraimites are ‘incompetent nincompoops’ (D. Marcus
1992: 100). Nevertheless, the linguistic reality behind the distinction
which the text presents as has been much debated. The
190 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

straightforward reading of the text is that the Ephraimites could only

pronounce ‘sh’ as ‘s’. However, it is possible that Judges presents it thus
simply because Hebrew does not have the means to represent precisely
the actual pronunciations.
Scholarly solutions to the problem follow two broad paths. One is to
explain the distinction as due to recognizably different ways of pro­
nouncing the phoneme /s/ (R. Marcus 1942, Emerton 1985, Faber 1992b,
Hendel 1996a, Tropper 1997, Woodhouse 2003). Thus, Hendel suggests
that the Gileadite pronunciation of sin was heard by the Ephraimites as
approximating their pronunciation of samek. Therefore they repeated
what was said to them as sibbolet. However, the Gileadites could detect
the difference between Ephraimite samek and Gileadite sin, with fatal
consequences (Hendel 1996a: 71).
Another group of scholars argues that the ancient phoneme ‘th’ was
still retained by the Gileadites (Speiser 1942, Swiggers 1981, Rendsburg
1986c, 1992g). In all varieties of Hebrew, this extra phoneme (written
with a different consonant sign in Ugaritic, for example) has merged
with the sin (see further 8.3.1). In this scenario the Gileadites asked the
Ephraimites to say ‘thibbolet’. Since the Ephraimites no longer had ‘th’
in their dialect, they had no more hope of success than those foreigners
who pronounce English ‘th’ as ‘s’ (Speiser 1942: 12).
Whatever the correct explanation, Judges 12 provides us with con­
firmation of regional variations in ancient Hebrew. Let us stress that this
is only confirmation of what we would already expect. No matter how
linguistically homogenous the Israelites were at their beginning, it is
certain that regional linguistic variations would have developed over

1 3 3 2 . Ruth. It was noted by E. F. Campbell (1975) that the over­

whelming number of linguistic peculiarities in the book of Ruth occur in
the speech of Boaz and Naomi.
Ruth 2.8

nrm r n ta tipbb -ra n vow br\ Tin “igtn

(l) y p n i p roi n-iq n m r n tib cni

Then Boaz said to Ruth, ‘Now listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in

another field or leave20 this one, but keep close to my young women’.

20. Professor Rendsburg points out that another peculiarity in this passage is the
vocalisation 'H'DIJn rather than the standard ’" I M (e-mail 20.11.05; cf. GKC §47g,
p. 127).
7. Dialects and Diglossia 191

Ruth 3.4

r r ^ i narn Dernaer Dipan-ntj ri^T*] inrpra "rn

T :(i) j-ton ntpK n$ -pr wni (2) ^nnDtpi
[Naomi said,] ‘When he lies down, observe the place where he lies;
then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to

(1) I'p in n (2.8; ‘you will stay close’) and y'w r\ (3.4; ‘you should do’).
The second person feminine singular imperfect with paragogic nun
occurs only in the speech of Boaz and Naomi in the book of Ruth. The
nun, related to the nun on masculine plural forms like (second
person) and ]^Q |T (third person), represents a more archaic form of the
verb than the standard BH forms without the nun (JM §44f, pp. 126-27).
It is also retained in Aramaic (and Arabic; Segert 1990: 250).22 In
different contexts it could be explained as an Aramaism (see Chapter
8 ), an archaism, or a dialect form, since dialect forms often reflect an
archaism which has been lost in other dialects. Note in the passages
above that the variant forms occur in the same context as forms without
the nun.
(2) (3.4; ‘and lie down’). The Kethib preserves a variant form
of the second person feminine singular perfect with waw consecutive (or
weqatalti). Like the imperfect forms with nun discussed above, this too is
an archaism (JM §42f, p. 122), attested in Aramaic (Segert 1990: 247).
This form also occurs alongside standard forms without the final yod,
e.g. HiTH.
Young suggested that the appearance of these linguistic forms in the
speech of Boaz and Naomi fits into the wider biblical literary practice of
characterising both foreigners and distinct groups within Israel and Judah
by using ‘strange’ linguistic items considered typical of them (Young
1997: 10-11; cf. 1992a, 1995, Rendsburg 1995).
The case of Ruth is but one example of where biblical authors con­
sciously use variant language for the purpose of characterisation. On
a number of occasions this technique is used to characterise foreign­
ers. Thus, 2 Kgs. 5.18 gives us the speech of the Aramaean general,

21. is the Kethib; the Qere is nriJtfl.

22. For a full study of the paragogic nun, see Volume 2, 3.8.
192 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

2 Kings 5.18

natp ninn^n^ lianTrn 'dik airm ^\invb mrr nbq' n-in nnn1?
fan rrg (O^nnntdnn fan rrn "n’inntfrn jjm# wm
m-in nnns ^nnp1? mrr ^arn^cr
But may the L o r d pardon your servant on one count: when my master
goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and
I bow down in the house of Rimmon, when I do bow down in the house
of Rimmon, may the L o r d pardon your servant on this one count.

(1) ^ i n n ^ r n (‘when I bow down’). This represents an Aramaising form

of the infinitive construct (Burney 1903: 208), appropriate in the mouth
of an Aramaean. Whereas Hebrew infinitives of III-He verbs end in Hi-,
the equivalent Aramaic form in non -Peal (cf. Qal) stems ends in IT;, as
in BA in the case of a verb like rppttfn (Dan. 6.9, 16; 7.25; Ezra 6.12), a
Haphel (cf. Hiphil) infinitive of the root rrattf (‘change ’).24Note, however,
that not only is the rest of the verse (obviously) not in Aramaic. This is in
fact the second use of the infinitive construct of this verb in the verse,
and the first occurrence is the standard form Dinn^H1?. There is thus a
clear intentionality in the use of the Aramaic form. Once the reader is
made sufficiently aware of the context, the unusual linguistic form is
introduced to mark the speaker as a foreigner (Young 1995: 64-65).
More relevant to our current purposes are those cases in which, like
the book of Ruth discussed above, the biblical authors portray Israelites
as using variant linguistic forms, since this is evidence of an awareness
of dialect differences in ancient Hebrew at the time of the author.
Another example is provided by the prophet Elisha in the book of Kings.
The author of these narratives not only characterised foreigners by use of
variant linguistic forms, but also used (different) forms to characterise
Israelites (Young 1995).
Thus the purpose of using the variant linguistic forms in the speech of
Boaz and Naomi was to mark them off as Bethlehemites. The fact that
these variant forms occur side by side with their standard equivalents
would seem to be evidence that their appearance is due to a conscious
artistic decision by the author, not simply because he or she was unaware
that they were variant forms.

23. W- is marked as ‘written but not read’.

24. The use of the preposition beth to indicate ‘when’ seems more Hebrew than
Aramaic, which does not normally prefix beth to an infinitive. The form is thus
correctly described as ‘Aramaising’ rather than simply ‘Aramaic’.
7. Dialects and Diglossia 193

As with the Shibboleth incident, so too in Ruth and Kings we see

biblical authors revealing an awareness of dialect differences in ancient
Hebrew. Whether the author has accurately represented the actual dialect
used, and whether this is evidence of preexilic or postexilic linguistic
realities (cf. Young 1997: 10-11) is not known. Nevertheless, this is fur­
ther evidence that linguistic variation in ancient Hebrew was well known
to the biblical authors. Israelian Hebrew. The most important recent work on docu­

menting linguistic variety in BH has been done by Rendsburg and his
students.25 Along with his work on diglossia, discussed above, these
works demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt the large amount of
linguistic variation within the Hebrew Bible.
Rendsburg’s interpretation of this linguistic variety is disputed, how­
ever. He believes that a considerable amount of the evidence he presents
is evidence of a northern ‘Israelian’ Hebrew (IH) as opposed to the stan­
dard ‘Judahite’ Hebrew (JH) of the southern kingdom that Rendsburg
argues constitutes the bulk of the Hebrew Bible. Rendsburg’s methods
and conclusions regarding Israelian Hebrew have been disputed by,
among others, Fredericks (1996), Schniedewind and Sivan (1997),
Young (1997) and D. Talshir (2003).
Many scholars have argued that linguistic peculiarities of the northern
prophet Hosea or the stories about northern heroes in Judges, Samuel and
Kings are likely to be explained by the northern rather than southern
origin of those texts (e.g. Burney 1903: 208-209; cf. 1918: 171-76).
Rendsburg, however, expands the corpus of IH considerably, including
for instance, the wisdom books of Qoheleth, Proverbs and Job, Song of
Songs, the archaic poetry of the Pentateuch, and 36 of the psalms
(Rendsburg 1990b: 8-13, 103; 2003a: 8-9; cf. 2.8 for a fuller list).26
Rendsburg models his methodology on that used by Hurvitz for
isolating LBH (cf. 2.8). Suspected IH features must have ‘distribution’,
that is, they must be found exclusively or largely in known IH texts.
‘Extra-biblical sources’, that is, other Northwest Semitic languages,
provide additional evidence of IH features, since IH will have shared

25. Major publications are Rendsburg 1990b, 2002a, 2003a. Some of his many
other articles are given in the bibliography in Volume 2. Works by his students
include Wright 2003, 2005, and the PhD theses by Yoo 1999, Chen 2000 and C. J.
Smith 2003.
26. In fact, Young argues that Rendsburg’s corpus of texts, which potentially
contain IH features, swells in practice to the majority of the Hebrew Bible (Young
1997: 14-18).
194 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

isoglosses with neighbouring languages. An IH form must have a ‘lin­

guistic opposition’ to a JH form in order to demonstrate that its appear­
ance in IH texts is not just due to chance. Finally, a ‘concentration’ of
such features in a text will make it likely that the text in question is in IH
(Rendsburg 1990b: 15-16).
Other scholars have questioned Rendsburg’s methods, and hence his
conclusions. An important question in regard to distribution is why IH
elements are so sporadic in IH texts, constituting peculiarities even there
(Fredericks 1996: 18-19)? Another question is why, nevertheless, IH
features also turn up in ‘southern’ texts (Fredericks 1996: 16; Young
1997: 13)? In regard to the extra-biblical sources, it may be asked why
we would not expect variant southern linguistic forms also to have
Northwest Semitic cognates (Young 1997: 12-13)? As already noted, IH
forms are usually in the minority in IH texts, so they will also exhibit
linguistic oppositions to IH forms, never mind southern forms. Finally,
as pointed out in regard to typical LBH features in EBH texts in
(and illustrated in 4.2.1 and 5.2), ‘concentration’ glosses over the prob­
lem, already mentioned, of why the IH forms also appear in southern
texts. If these peculiarities could be used by Judahite authors some of the
time, why could a Judahite author not produce a text with a concentration
of these features (Young 1997: 17)? Finally, it is important to note that
the few distinctive linguistic forms we know from northern inscriptions,
in particular (‘year’) and the theophoric ending of names V-, do not
appear in the Hebrew biblical texts in our possession (Young 2003c:
Despite sharing many methodological caveats, Rendsburg’s critics
have differing emphases in their own responses to the data. Schniede­
wind and Sivan (1997) suggest a greater degree of caution when identify­
ing northern Hebrew features. They focus their study on the Elijah-
Elisha narratives which have been widely linked to northern sources.
Fredericks suggests ‘we are talking simply about a colloquial dialect that
at this point in our knowledge of Hebrew cannot be exclusively located
within either the north or south, but somehow breaks the surface of
standard literary Hebrew and protrudes rarely, but noticeably, into our
view... since northerners may have been slightly less repulsed by the
vernacular, they filtered out fewer colloquialisms than their southern
counterparts’ (Fredericks 1996: 20). Young emphasises that since at least
some of the texts with a significant number of variant linguistic items
seem to have a southern origin, we should conceive of both Israelian and
Judahite Hebrew being characterised by considerable linguistic diversity
under the surface of standard literary Hebrew (Young 1997; cf. D.
Talshir 2003:275).
7. Dialects and Diglossia 195

The dispute over interpretation should not obscure the most important
point for our current discussion. Rendsburg has documented a great deal
of linguistic diversity in BH. We cannot conceive of ancient Hebrew,
whether northern or southern, early or late, as being a monolithic entity.
The existence of variant forms side by side with standard linguistic forms
indicates the likelihood that beside, or under, any standard language of
the biblical period there existed a diversity of other linguistic usages.

7.4. Linguistic Variety and Linguistic Dating

The survey above shows general acknowledgment by scholars of syn­
chronic linguistic variety in ancient Hebrew. At the very least, it seems
likely that all scholars would accept that there was some distance between
spoken and written language in any one locality, and that language use
differed according to region. Our data do not allow us to quantify how
great were these linguistic differences, but there is good evidence from
both biblical and extra-biblical sources that linguistic diversity was
significant throughout the biblical period.
Linguistic dating is easiest when development can be shown to have
progressed in a straight line. In other words, linguistic form A was
replaced by linguistic form B. However, synchronous linguistic variety
means that even though linguistic form B is considered a later develop­
ment than linguistic form A, both A and B could have co-existed over a
period of time. When synchronous linguistic complexity is introduced, a
simple equation of linguistic variation with chronology is thrown into
doubt. Since, furthermore, this linguistic diversity is mostly beneath the
surface of the literary language(s) being used in various eras, the impact
of this linguistic diversity is unpredictable. Thus, at one time, different
scribal schools may have different evaluations of what are acceptable
linguistic forms in literary works. We recall Fredericks’ theory that IH
may have had a higher tolerance for colloquial forms than JH. Further­
more, genre may be important. If Song of Songs is built from popular
songs, as has sometimes been suggested, perhaps local dialect forms
were considered acceptable in that genre. Young suggests that Qoheleth
consciously chose to write in a non-standard dialect as a vehicle for
expressing his non-traditional message (Young 1993a: 155). Hurvitz
considers that the Aramaisms in Job and Proverbs may be evidence not
of late date, but were simply part and parcel of the Wisdom genre
(Hurvitz 1968: 236). If linguistic variety was characteristic of all phases
of the Hebrew language, it becomes very difficult to argue that differ­
ences of language are clearly due to chronological factors, and hence can
196 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

be used to date texts. Qimron in fact concludes that ‘the information in

the early sources does not reflect a single language as it developed and
changed over time, but rather different types of Hebrew at different
stages of development. All attempts to fit the surviving fragments of
early Hebrew into a single historical sequence are misguided and mis­
leading’ (Qimron 1992: 360). Similarly: ‘Ancient Hebrew was divided
into dialects, so that any attempt to locate a given work merely on the
basis of the Tiberian BH tradition, of MH, and of biblical Aramaic is not
compatible with the linguistic reality’ (Qimron and Strugnell 1994: 107).
A recent criticism of linguistic dating procedures in light of the phe­
nomenon of linguistic diversity is that of P. R. Davies (2003). He argues
that to claim that different types of language vary due to factors of
chronology, ‘BH must represent a single linguistic tradition. If more than
one tradition or usage is present, so that typologies represent distinct
lines of evolution, then these must be separated and individual chronolo­
gies for each must be constructed from the relevant typologies’ (P. R.
Davies 2003: 151). Davies points out that our main corpus of extra-
biblical Hebrew from the Second Temple period, the Qumran scrolls,
exhibits different forms of Hebrew written at the same time (P. R. Davies
2003: 154). At the other end of the time-scale, Davies points to the con­
sensus, sketched above, that the Hebrew of the monarchic era exhibited
dialect variations (P. R. Davies 2003: 160). Finally, Davies argues that
the case for dialectal variation in the intervening, Persian period is
In the late fifth- and early fourth-century Judah’s population consisted of
several elements: native Judaeans, who no doubt still spoke Hebrew (not
necessarily without dialects; were the dialects of Jerusalem and Mizpeh
identical?); immigrants from Mesopotamia...speaking Aramaic as a first
language (and possibly without any Hebrew); and those from neighbour­
ing territories (Ammon, Edom) who had immigrated to Judah during the
sixth century, and who probably spoke a Hebrew influenced by their own
language (probably close to Hebrew).... [TJhere was no standard Judaean
Hebrew spoken (P. R. Davies 2003: 161).

Davies then suggests that it is premature to claim that linguistic variation

in BH, such as between EBH and LBH, is necessarily due to chronology.
He suggests that a social explanation is at least as valid: ‘That Ezra,
Nehemiah and Chronicles are probably written in a form of Hebrew
reflecting the spoken language of some Judaeans may have more to do
with the fact that their authors came from the so-called “golah” popula­
tion element (in which the “exiles” are heroes) while other writings, such
7. Dialects and Diglossia 197

as Jeremiah and Kings (perhaps as Noth [194327] originally supposed, the

“Deuteronomistic” tradition as a whole) came from native scribes’ (P. R.
Davies 2003: 162).
A good illustration of the difficulties of applying a linear chronologi­
cal explanation of the development of BH is the case of the Song of
Songs. The language of the Song of Songs is characterised by an unusu­
ally high proportion of Aramaisms, links with the Mishnah and hapax
legomena (Young 1993a: 163-65; and see 9.6). The links with MH led
Fox to suggest that the ‘explanation for the linguistic character of the
Song involving fewest unsupported assumptions is that it was composed
in the period of transition between classical biblical Hebrew and
Mishnaic Hebrew’ (Fox 1985: 189). Fox phrases his conclusions with
due caution because he is aware that other scholars, notably S. R. Driver,
suggested that Song of Songs could be in an early northern dialect (S. R.
Driver 1913a: 449). Even Fox’s cautious statement, however, is open to
serious question, particularly his assumption that there was a period of
transition between BH and MH. The same can be said of the recent
detailed and erudite argument for the lateness of the Song of Songs by
Dobbs-Allsopp. A constantly repeated theme is the relationship of the
Song of Songs with MH (examples include Dobbs-Allsopp 2005: 36-37,
38, 39,40,45,47,48). If, on the contrary, as we have seen argued in this
chapter (and see Chapter 9), MH is in fact the descendent of a spoken
dialect that existed side by side with literary BH throughout much of the
biblical period, then such a transition period ceases to exist.
Focusing on the dating implications of the MH elements in the Song
of Songs in fact obscures a larger issue. This is that Song of Songs
cannot be placed anywhere in a linear history of BH. The dialect of Song
of Songs is not ABH. Nor is it EBH or LBH. Following the end of the
biblical period, the dominant literary language was a form of BH, i.e.
QH. It cannot be later than this since manuscripts of the Song of Songs
turn up at Qumran. Song of Songs fits nowhere in a linear history of BH.
Whatever period we date it to, we must explain its language as evidence
of another variety of Hebrew than that of the rest of the Hebrew Bible.
Once we realise that Song of Songs’ Hebrew was, according to our
current knowledge, never the normal sort of literary Hebrew in any age,
we no longer have any firm peg to date its composition. If this language
reflects a colloquial or regional dialect, for example, there is no reason
why it is necessarily late or early— it is just different. As we will see in

27. P. R. Davies says ‘1981’, referring to the first English edition of Noth 1943
(cf. Noth 1991 in the bibliography in Volume 2).
198 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Chapter 9, just because MH is only evidenced late does not mean that
the ancestor dialect of MH only came into existence in the postexilic
As a final example of how linguistic diversity could impact theories of
dating we look at some suggestions as to the significance of the study of
IH as discussed above. Rendsburg has, following C. H. Gordon (1955a),
pointed to the phenomenon that some LBH forms can also be found in
his corpus of IH texts (Rendsburg 1990b: 12-13). The links between IH
and LBH become even more obvious when one considers that Rendsburg
includes a core LBH text like Nehemiah 9 (Rendsburg 1991a), and the
strongly LBH-related Qoheleth (Rendsburg 1990b: 9-10). Rendsburg
has also contributed several studies arguing that what other scholars have
claimed to be traces of late Aramaisms in BH are actually to be
explained as features of early IH texts (Rendsburg 2002b, 2003b).
Wright has picked up on this phenomenon and written a full study of six
linguistic items which occur in (early) IH and LBH (Wright 2003).28
Rendsburg and Wright view their studies as being in harmony with
Hurvitz’s model of LBH. However, Zevit has suggested th a t 6[although
Rendsburg claims that his approach—positing preexilic SBH (= Judah-
ite) that gave rise to LBH and preexilic IH that gave rise to Mishnaic
Hebrew— explains efficiently the types of data that challengers consider
illustrative of the lateness of texts..., it actually undermines the method­
ology of the consensus.... [D]ata supposedly characteristic of IH—
defined as not characteristic of SBH— are not locked into any chrono­
logical horizon’ (Zevit 2004: 11).
As we have mentioned, linguistic dating works best on a linear pro­
gression model. Late linguistic features appear in texts known certainly
to be late, and hence the appearance of those items in other texts of
uncertain date helps to indicate that those texts are likewise late. How­
ever, Rendsburg and Wright argue that many LBH forms are actually not
late—they already existed in early IH. This immediately raises the
possibility that some texts which seem to contain late linguistic features,
are actually early, just reflecting a different dialectal background to other
EBH texts.
This was, we saw, S. R. Driver’s argument in regard to the Song of
Songs. It is important to note that Hurvitz, the leading scholar of LBH,
has consistently raised the same possibility. Thus, ‘the Aramaisms in The
Song of Songs—many of them being at the same time “Mishnaisms” as
well— may not be helpful for our purpose’ since Song of Songs may

28. Wright 2003: 148 n. 33 mentions that he is aware of ‘at least 18 [other]
examples of IH features which occur also in late (northern or Judahite) texts’.
7. Dialects and Diglossia 199

reflect a northern dialect (Hurvitz 1968: 236; 2003b: 31; Hurvitz’s views
are [candidly!] quoted in Dobbs-Allsopp 2005: 27 n. *).29 Similarly, the
language of Job and Proverbs cannot be treated within the normal
framework of standard BH (Hurvitz 1968: 236).
It seems thus widely accepted that there were preexilic dialects that
differed from standard BH, and that some of these differences are char­
acteristically LBH linguistic items. Rendsburg would argue that early
LBH elements were only characteristic of IH, not Judahite Hebrew.
However, this theory runs into the problem that a scholarly consensus
argues that after the fall of the kingdom of Israel to the Assyrians in the
late eighth century BCE, the population of Judah was swollen by northern
refugees (Broshi 1974; Young 1997: 8 ; Finkelstein and Silberman 2001:
243-45). These refugees brought with them their traditions, their sacred
texts and their language. Late monarchic Judah would have absorbed IH,
and hence, even if proto-LBH features had only been hitherto charac­
teristic of IH, now they were part of the linguistic structure of the
southern kingdom.
In fact, as we have seen above, there is no compelling reason to view
linguistic diversity as characteristic only of northern, not southern
Judahite Hebrew. There is thus a theoretical likelihood that at least some
features that came to prominence in LBH already existed in preexilic
Hebrew dialects. In fact, as we have seen (5.2), only a very small number
of well attested LBH features are not also found in EBH books com­
monly dated to the preexilic period. That this is not simply due to
postexilic modification of the language of preexilic books (see Chapter
13) is evidenced by the LBH features in monarchic-era inscriptions. As
we saw in 6.5 (cf. 5.4.3, 5.4.4), the 500 words of the Arad inscriptions
exhibit an accumulation of LBH features. So too we argue that the high
number of LBH forms in late preexilic/exilic Ezekiel and exilic Lamenta­
tions are best explained as due to the fact that these LBH features already
existed in some strata of the language of preexilic Judah (see;
illustrated in 4.2.1 and 5.2). Since LBH linguistic features could and did
appear occasionally in EBH texts, there is no logical reason why a con­
centration of them could not appear in early texts. An early text with a
concentration of LBH features would render invalid current linguistic
dating methods.

29. Hurvitz’s equally consistent late dating of Qoheleth similarly is not based on
the Aramaic and MH-related forms in it, but on a perceived high number of links
with the core LBH books (Hurvitz 2007). Note, however, that Hurvitz only discusses
two such links in this article.
200 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

The acknowledgment of linguistic variety in ancient Hebrew therefore

has a dramatic effect on the question of linguistic dating. If LBH linguis­
tic forms already existed in preexilic dialects of Hebrew, works with a
concentration of LBH features could have been produced at the same
time as EBH works. So too after the exile, EBH could have continued
alongside LBH. A direct linear evolution of EBH to LBH is therefore
rendered problematic, and with it an easy equation of linguistic data and

7.5. For Further Reading

Books on inscriptions cited in 6.7.

Davies, P. R., ‘Biblical Hebrew and the History of Ancient Judah: Typology, Chronology
and Common Sense’, in I. Young (ed.), Biblical Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and
Typology (JSOTSup, 369; London: T&T Clark International, 2003), pp. 150-63.
Ferguson, C. A., ‘Diglossia Revisited’, Southwest Journal o f Linguistics 10 (1991),
pp. 214-34.
Fredericks, D. C., ‘A North Israelite Dialect in the Hebrew Bible? Questions of
Methodology’, Hebrew Studies 37 (1996), pp. 7-20.
Olafsson, S., ‘On Diglossia in Ancient Hebrew and Its Graphic Representation’, Folia
Orientalia 28 (1991), pp. 193-205.
Rendsburg, G. A., Diglossia in Ancient Hebrew (AOS, 72; New Haven: American
Oriental Society, 1990).
— Israelian Hebrew in the Book o f Kings (Occasional Publications of the Department of
Near Eastern Studies and the Program of Jewish Studies, Cornell University, 5;
Bethesda, MD: CDL, 2002).
— ‘Some False Leads in the Identification of Late Biblical Hebrew Texts: The Cases of
Genesis 24 and 1 Samuel 2:27-36’, Journal o f Biblical Literature 121 (2002), pp.
— ‘A Comprehensive Guide to Israelian Hebrew: Grammar and Lexicon’, Orient 38
(2003), pp. 5-35.
Schniedewind, W. M., and D. Sivan, ‘The Elijah-Elisha Narratives: A Text Case for the
Northern Dialect of Hebrew’, Jewish Quarterly Review 37 (1997), pp. 303-37.
Smith, S. P., ‘The Question of Diglossia in Ancient Hebrew’, in S. P. Porter (ed.),
Diglossia and Other Topics in New Testament Linguistics (JSNTSup, 193; Studies
in New Testament Greek, 6; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 2000), pp. 37-52.
Wright, R. M., ‘Further Evidence for North Israelite Contributions to Late Biblical
Hebrew’, in I. Young (ed.), Biblical Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and Typology
(JSOTSup, 369; London: T&T Clark International, 2003), pp. 129^8.
Young, I., Diversity in Pre-Exilic Hebrew (FAT, 5; Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul
Siebeck], 1993), pp. 73-96.
— ‘Evidence of Diversity in Pre-Exilic Judahite Hebrew’, Hebrew Studies 38 (1997),
pp. 7-20.
Chapter 8

A r a m a ic

8.1. General History o f Aramaic in the Biblical Period

Aramaic enters history as the language of the Aramaeans, a people first
mentioned in the annals of the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser I (c. I l l 5—
1076 BCE). Important inscriptions in Old Aramaic date from the ninth
and subsequent centuries BCE. Although not uniform, scholars often
consider several major texts of the ninth and eighth centuries BCE to be
close enough to each other to be designated ‘Early Standard Aramaic’
(Greenfield 1978: 95; Young 2002b: 99-101). These include texts from
the kingdoms of Damascus (Hazael inscriptions, c. 810 BCE), Hamath
(Zakkur, c. 800 BCE), and Arpad (Sefire inscriptions, c. 750 BCE). Differ­
ent dialects are in evidence further north in Sam’al (Hadad and Pan-
ammu, eighth century BCE; Young 2002b: 99-104), and east in Gozan
(Tell Fakhariyeh, c. 850 BCE) and Iran (Bukan, c. 700 BCE).
By the eighth century BCE, Aramaic came to be adopted as an official
language (or lingua franca) of the Assyrian empire. It continued this
function in the Neo-Babylonian period (sixth century BCE) and func­
tioned as the main language of administration of the Persian empire
(559-332 BCE). It was not only used for correspondence between offi­
cials, but abundant evidence from the Persian period shows it being used
for day-to-day correspondence, as well as being the language of official
documents such as marriage, divorce, and land transfer contracts (see, for
example, the Elephantine Papyri from a Jewish community in fifth
century BCE Egypt). The Aramaic of this period is often called ‘Imperial
Aramaic’. Another name is ‘Standard Aramaic’ since, even though not
uniform, and despite late dialect differences, it represents the classic
form of the Aramaic language that persists in later periods (Fitzmyer
2000: 49).
202 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

After Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Near East in the late
fourth century BCE, Greek took over the role of imperial language.
Aramaic developed into various local dialects. One of these is Palestinian
or Judaean Aramaic in which are written literary texts from Qumran and
documentary texts from elsewhere in the Judaean Desert.
Aramaic is thus one of the most important languages of human
history, and exerted considerable influence on other languages in the
region. In regard to the Hebrew Bible we have to reckon not only with
Aramaic influence on BH, but that some sections are written wholly in
Aramaic, namely, Jer. 10.11; Dan. 2.4b-7.28; Ezra 4.8-6.18; 7.12-26.1

8.2. Aramaic and Canaanite

8.2.1. Introduction. The Northwest Semitic language group in the first
millennium BCE is often presented as split into two distinct streams,
Aramaic and Canaanite, each with its own set of distinctive elements.
Thus, a major difference between Aramaic and Canaanite is the position
of the definite article. While Hebrew places the definite article at the
beginning of a word, e.g. DVH (‘the day’), Aramaic places it at the end
(the ‘emphatic’ state), KDV (‘the day’; cf. Dan. 6.11, 14 in BA). How­
ever, the language of the Samalian Aramaic inscriptions contains no
definite article at all, and contains other features which seem more typi­
cally ‘Canaanite’ according to a strict definition (Young 2002b: 99-102).
Thus, in the absolute state of the noun, Standard Aramaic indicates the
feminine plural with ];, for example, ]Vn (‘beasts’; a feminine noun; see
Dan. 7.3). This contrasts with a Canaanite language like Hebrew which
indicates the feminine plural with the letter taw , not nun, for example,
DIDID (‘horses’). However, Samalian Aramaic marks the feminine plural
with taw , like Canaanite. The reason for this is that Aramaic and Canaan­
ite both derive from a common ancestor, and that Samalian Aramaic
represents an archaic local dialect which has not followed Standard
Aramaic in all of its divergences from standard Canaanite .2
Even the standard Old Aramaic inscriptions exhibit forms considered
more typical of Canaanite. More interesting still is the phenomenon of
both ‘Canaanite’ and ‘Aramaic’ forms appearing side by side. Thus,
Greenfield points out that the Sefire treaties not only exhibit the standard
form of the feminine plural absolute with nun, but also the Samalian/
Canaanite form with taw. He rightly concludes that this is evidence that

1. As well as two words in Gen. 3 1.47.

2. For an argument that Samalian should not be classified as Aramaic at all, see
Huehnergard 1995: 275-82, and also the following discussion of Deir cAlla (8.2.2).
8. Aramaic 203

local Aramaic dialects are being overlaid with a standard language

(Greenfield 1978: 95; Young 2002b: 100). Young argues that, in fact,
Standard Aramaic and standard Canaanite were created in conscious
polar opposition to each other. Standard Aramaic is a conscious amalga­
mation of all that makes Aramaic distinct from Canaanite, representing
not one Aramaic dialect but characteristic forms drawn from several
(Young 2002b: 100-101). At the very least it is clear that beneath the
surface of Standard Aramaic a neat distinction between Aramaic and
Canaanite becomes more problematic.

8.2.2. Deir cAlla Combination 1, Lines l-6 a . The suggestion that

‘Canaanite’ and ‘Aramaic’ are not so easy to define is not new, espe­
cially in the wake of the discovery of the Balaam plaster texts from Deir
cAlla. The question of their linguistic affiliation is reduced to a matter of
Discovered in 1967 at Tell Deir cAlla in the Jordan Valley, the text is
written in ink on lime-plaster and is usually dated to c. 750 BCE.3 To
rescue any part of a text written on such brittle material was a major
achievement, but the text is still very fragmentary and hence the reading,
translation and interpretation of large parts of it are debatable. The best
understood part is the first combination of fragments.4 What seems clear
about this part of the text is that it relates to Balaam son of Beor, who is
mentioned as a foreign seer in, among other places, Numbers 22-24. In
the D eircAlla text, El, the high god, and the assembly of the gods send a
message to Balaam at night to warn him of coming disasters. Balaam
then delivers the gods’ message to his people.
Since Deir cAlla lies in what the Hebrew Bible indicates was the
Israelite territory of Gilead, there is a temptation to link D eircAlla with
Israel and Hebrew. But why is the Israelite god YHWH not mentioned at
all, not even as part of the pantheon? In any case, as we will see, the
language of the Deir cAlla text is not a standard form of Hebrew .5

3. Major treatments of the Deir cAlla text include Hoftijzer and van der Kooij
1976; Hackett 1984; Hoftijzer and van der Kooij 1991; Ahituv 1992: 265-86. The
text presented below is based on these sources.
4. But even here there is room for dispute. We have indicated some of these
disputes below when they relate to our theme. For a full treatment of the text, consult
the references in the preceding footnote.
5. For the simplified method of transcription of the inscription see 6.4.1. Square
brackets indicate broken text. Letters inside them are reconstructed.
204 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

(3) irwn an (2) ]nbx nm (l) m -i[m"n nx^n] nao l

n rra Tm n 'r t a ] n ^ (4)
k[ ] (6) ^ a - ro (5) -un-n D p ^ ] V i w i ^ kibm 2
nr[ ]i^ m ntona
□m [ b p ^ n[ ] p [ ]- *?[ (7) ] i m p Dpi 3
n[*7 n o m ] m b s (10) n o r (9) (8) r n r r n 4
t n rm m mm (11) u n -Q nvbn
(13) i*n id^i [ i ^ a i”]!© no (12) m int* me? o n 1? no 5
(14) ■nrrriK ][n]*?K ] n ^ nbua
n o w i m a (16) ]-ie? (15) iniui 6

1 The book of [Balaam son of Beo]r. The seer of the gods was he, and
the gods came to him in the night and he saw a vision,2 indeed, an oracle
of El. And they said to [Balaa]m son of Beor ‘Thus he will do [ ] after­
wards (?). A man (?)...’.6 3 And Balaam arose the next day [ ] from
[ ] and he was not ab[le (?)...]. And he w e p t4 bitterly. And his people
came to him [and said to] him: ‘Balaam son of Beor, why do you fast and
weep?’ and he said 5 to them: ‘Sit down. I will make known to you what
the Shadda[yin have done (?)]. Now come, see the works of the gods. The
g[od]s gathered together 6 the Shaddayin took their places in the
assembly, and they said...’.

(1) (line 1; ‘man’). As we have discussed in 6.4.2, ancient inscriptions

use medial vowel letters to a lesser degree than our biblical texts. Hence
words like ‘man’, spelled ETK in the MT, appear simply as (cf. 6.4.2
[point 5]). This of course increases the possible ways of interpreting
them. The consonants 108 in Hebrew could, for instance, also be inter­
preted as W (‘fire’). In this context we have translated the phrase HTPf ttfN
as ‘seer’ on analogy with biblical phrases such as (‘prophet’;
Judg. 6 .8). Other scholars interpret it as the relative pronoun I2}K, known
from Phoenician and usually considered cognate to Hebrew # (cf. 9.2
[point 5]), hence ‘[Balaam son of Beo]r who was a seer’ (Hackett 1984:
29, 31). This would be a link, therefore, with Canaanite dialects against
the Aramaic relative pronoun 'T/H. However, no generally accepted case
of a relative pronoun is found in the extant text.
(2) jil^K (line 1; ‘the gods’). No definite article is indisputably
evidenced in the D eircAlla dialect, neither the prefixed Canaanite -n nor
the suffixed Aramaic 8 ;. If in fact the Deir cAlla dialect had no definite
article, this would be an archaism setting it apart from most varieties of
first-millennium BCE Northwest Semitic, and linking with second-
millennium sources such as Ugaritic. The development of the definite

6. For a detailed discussion of this broken section, see Schmitz 1994. Schmitz
proposes the translation ‘He who shall experience what you have heard will be made
without his excrement’ (Schmitz 1994: 84).
8. Aramaic 205

article is considered a characteristic of first-millennium Northwest

Semitic. The absence of a definite article is also one of the archaisms
distinguishing the roughly contemporary Samalian dialect of Aramaic .7
The suffixed definite article is one of the distinctive innovations separat­
ing Old Aramaic from Canaanite (Huehnergard 1995: 275).
The masculine plural with nun rather than mem is a characteristic
feature of Aramaic. However, in Samalian Aramaic the plural termina­
tion developed quite differently, retaining the archaic case vowels 8 for
nominative plural (-w), and for oblique plural (-z), but dropping the final
consonant memlnun (Tropper 1993: 202-204). Thus, ‘the gods’, as the
subject of the sentence, i.e. in the nominative case, would be with
final -u. Within Canaanite, nun is the regular form for the masculine
plural in Moabite, a language otherwise generally close to BH. Within
BH, GKC lists 25 cases of masculine plural with nun (GKC §87e, p.
242), albeit 15 of them in the heavily Aramaising book of Job (cf. Young
2001b: 124-25). Finally, the non-biblical dialect we call MH regularly
has the nun form alongside mem (cf. 9.2 [point 2]).
(3) (line 1; ‘and they came’). These forms, which appear regu­
larly in the text, seem analogous to the waw consecutive (wayyiqtol)
construction characteristic of Hebrew and Moabite, and considered thus
characteristically Canaanite. Note such forms as T!"H (‘and he saw’) later
in this line where the waw is attached to the short form of the III-He root
(nm) as is typical of the waw consecutive in BH (e.g. ]3*1 from HDH).
However, note the possible appearance of waw consecutives in the
standard Old Aramaic Zakkur inscription and Tel Dan inscription .9
The root nnK (‘come’) is characteristic of Aramaic. Hebrew prefers
8*0 (cf. 8.3.7), though nnfc is not uncommon in Hebrew poetry. The
appearance o f ‘Aramaisms’ in Hebrew poetry is discussed further below.
(4) m (line 1; ‘to him’). This is the same spelling of the third person
masculine singular suffix on plural nouns and some suffixes as in Old
Aramaic where it probably stands for -awh(i), BA Til-. This is consid­
ered one of the important innovations distinguishing Old Aramaic from
Canaanite (Huehnergard 1995: 275). Contrast BH (and cf.
(5) n m n n (line 2; ‘son of Beor’). The full name Balaam son of Beor,
the latter element written without word division, is preserved in line 4.
Note the typically Aramaic word for son nil, BA n?, as opposed to the

7. If indeed it is helpful to categorise Samalian as 4Aramaic’ (cf. 8.2 [n. 2]).

8. For more on case vowels, see 12.2.1.
9. Although this is questioned by, for example, Athas (2003), Muraoka and
Rogland (for discussion and references to Muraoka and Rogland see Hagelia 2006:
206 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Hebrew ]3. The change of n > r in the words for ‘son’, ‘daughter’ and
‘two’ (BA ,p*in; BH D\]0) is considered one of the distinctive innova­
tions that marks Old Aramaic apart from Canaanite (Huehnergard 1995:
(6 ) bVE' (line 2; ‘he will do’; cf. line 5, [‘works’]). The root
for ‘do, make’ is common in Canaanite. It is the main verb in that
semantic field in Phoenician, whereas Hebrew uses Hto as the primary
verb. However, as a verb or a noun is common in Hebrew poetry. In
contrast, the Aramaic root for ‘do, make’ is *11117.
(7) ]nn 12 ]D (line 3; ‘the next day’). Note the freestanding use of the
preposition |B, considered typical of Aramaic. Hebrew normally assimi­
lates this preposition to a word without the definite article (e.g. rnnftft in
Gen. 19.34). On the situation in LBH, see, for example, 4.5 (point 5) and
5.3.3 (point 3).
(8 ) rDIT ro in (line 4; ‘and he wept bitterly’). This seems to be the use
of the infinitive absolute to emphasise a following finite verb, which is
typical of Canaanite, not Aramaic. There are no traces of the infinitive
absolute in most Aramaic texts, for example, the large Official Aramaic
corpus from Persian-period Egypt (Muraoka and Porten 2003: 110). In
common with many other distinctively ‘Canaanite’ features, it is attested
in some Old Aramaic inscriptions (Fitzmyer 1995: 144^5).
(9) (line 4; ‘and he [his people] came’). This verb could be under­
stood to be the Canaanite nbu (‘go up’) or Aramaic bbv (‘enter’) (cf.
(10) HDI7 (line 4; ‘his people’). The spelling of the third person mascu­
line singular suffix on a singular noun with he is typical of both Aramaic
and Canaanite in this period (cf. 6.4.2). However, the 55 cases of il- for
this suffix in the MT (Young 2001c) are vocalised H- in accordance with
the regular BH 1 -, whereas the Aramaic suffix is vocalised quite differ­
ently. Thus ‘his people’ in standard BH would be 1EI?, in Aramaic fifty.
(11) ub (line 4; ‘why’). We have translated this word as if it is a short
variant form related to Hebrew n&b, Aramaic HQ1? (Hackett 1984: 38),
rather than the speech-introducing known from some Aramaic texts
(Hoftijzer and van der Kooij 1976: 222).
(12) DDinN (line 5; ‘I will make known to you’). The root mn meaning
‘tell, declare’ is considered an Aramaic loanword when it occurs in Job,
Ps. 19.3 and Ben Sira (Wagner 1966: 53).
(13) 18"! (line 5; ‘see’). The root ilKI for ‘see’ is normal in Canaanite,
whereas Aramaic instead uses J1 TI1 for the same function. In Hebrew, mn
is generally reserved for seeing visions, and this is how it is used in this
text (cf. line 1 ).
8. Aramaic 207

(14) n r r n s (line 5; ‘they gathered themselves together’). This appears

to be the use of the Ethpeel stem as in Aramaic. Ancient Aramaic has six
major stems, which are tabulated below with their Hebrew equivalents.
Aramaic Hebrew
Peal Qal
Ethpeel Niphal (Hithpael)
Pael Piel
Ethpaal Pual (Hithpael)
Haphel Hiphil
Hophal Hophal

The Eth- stems can express both passive and reflexive meanings, and
hence can overlap in function with Niphal, Pual or Hithpael , as the table
(15) (line 6 ; ‘and they took their places’). The corresponding
Hebrew verb appears in the Niphal stem, and hence this verb, immedi­
ately following the non-Canaanite Ethpeel stem, seems to represent the
non-Aramaic Niphal stem, found elsewhere in the text (Hackett 1984:
40, 117). The loss of the Niphal stem is considered one of the important
innovations that distinguish Old Aramaic from Canaanite (Huehnergard
1995: 275).
Although we have seen several verb forms earlier in the text which
seem analogous to the waw consecutive forms with prefix verbs in BH
(wayyiqtol; see point 3, above), other verbs such as this and the follow­
ing one seem to have the simple conjunction waw with the perfect. In BH
one might expect and
(16) ‘[‘HIE (line 6 ; ‘the Shaddai gods’). Scholars have connected this
designation for a group of gods to the divine epithet El Shaddai, usually
translated as ‘God Almighty’. In Num. 24.4 it is noteworthy that Balaam
is said to have seen the vision of Shaddai. In other contexts, the plural
U'lV) is used to designate foreign gods or demons (cf. Deut. 32.17 and
Ps. 106.32).
In summary, we see that the Deir cAlla text exhibits linguistic forms
both typically‘Canaanite’ (points 3 , 6 , 8,13,15) and typically‘Aramaic’
(points 2, 3,4, 5, 7,12,14). The significance of the Deir cAlla dialect for
the current discussion is, however, not its relationship with either
Canaanite or Aramaic, but its separateness. Deir cAlla is a Northwest
Semitic dialect that is neither Canaanite nor Aramaic (Young 1993a: 50­
54). In light of the Deir cAlla and Samalian dialects Young argued that
only in the standard forms of Aramaic and Canaanite was an attempt
made to sustain a clear distinction between the two branches of North­
west Semitic. ‘Early Standard Aramaic is an artificial construct in its
208 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

rejection of “Canaanizing”. The isoglosses shared by Samalian with

Canaanite are more true to the actual relationship between Aramaic and
the Canaanite dialects. It is highly unlikely that an Aramaic/Canaanite
language border existed at the lower levels of the language’ (Young
2002b: 102). Beneath the surface, or beyond the influence of the standard
languages, the clear distinction between Aramaic and Canaanite begins
to blur and dissolve. ‘Deir Alla reminds us, therefore, that just as Aramaic
always had the potential to be Canaanizing, so Hebrew always had the
potential to be Aramaizing, and so-called Aramaic influence was on the
doorstep of Hebrew long before the exile’ (Young 1993a: 54).

8.3. Aramaisms in Biblical Hebrew

‘Aramaisms’, that is, forms considered typical of Aramaic, but unusual
in Hebrew, occur in all genres and supposed chronological strata in BH.
The following eight examples illustrate this point.

8.3.1. ABH Poetry: Judges 5.11a

Wns ripis mrr nip-pj urr Dtp o-atseta pin D-sara ^ipn

To the sound of musicians at the watering places, there they repeat the
triumphs of the L o r d , the triumphs of his peasantry in Israel.

The word (‘they repeat’), from the root rnn, is considered equivalent
to standard Hebrew HDto. After the Old Aramaic period, many Aramaic
words are distinguishable from their Hebrew cognates due to the spelling
of certain consonantal phonemes. All first-millennium Northwest Semitic
dialects share the 22-consonant alphabet familiar from the Hebrew Bible.
However, both Hebrew and Aramaic actually had more than 22 con­
sonantal phonemes.10Rather than creating new letters, they both made do
by letting some letters stand for two different phonemes. This practice is
well known to BH students due to the use of one consonant sign E? to
stand for both sin (to) and sin (to). In ancient Hebrew, it is likely that heth
and ayin also stood for more than one phoneme (Blau 1982, Steiner

10. A phoneme is defined as ‘[t]he smallest +contrastive unit in the sound system
of a language’ (Crystal 1987: 427). In other words, a phoneme is a sound which
changes the meaning of a word or phrase. Thus ‘pig’ and ‘big’ demonstrate that ‘p ’
and ‘b’ are phonemes (Crystal 1987: 160).
8. Aramaic 209

Ancient Aramaic too has sin/sin , as can be seen in BA. However,

other phonemes are involved. For our case see the following table:
Arabic 11 Hebrew O ld Aramaic Biblical Aramaic
t 0 ©(=/) n
s V I0(=ti) 0
t n n n
The ‘extra’ phoneme/ (cf. English ‘th’ in ‘thing’) has merged with sin in
standard Hebrew, but with taw in Aramaic. Thus, the number ‘three’ in
Hebrew is but in BA it is because the ancestral root of the
word was tit (cf. Ugaritic in 12.3), which also preserves this phoneme.
In our case here, the form in the BH of Judges follows what is
expected of Aramaic (Wagner 1966: 119). However, note that within
Aramaic the spelling with taw is only regularly attested in the Persian
period .12 Thus, if one wanted to connect the form in the Song of Deborah
directly with the Aramaic development, it would raise chronological
questions about the commonly supposed second-millennium BCE date of
the biblical poem.

8.3.2. SBH 13 Poetry: 2 Samuel 23.2

r’jiti'r1?? i r t o mir rrn

The spirit of the L ord speaks through me, his word is upon my tongue.

The verb bbft (‘speak’) and the noun (‘word’) are regular in
Aramaic, but uncommon in Hebrew (Wagner 1966: 77-78; Rendsburg
1988: 117-18). In Hebrew, the regular form for ‘word’ is “Q l (cf. “Q"l

8.3.3. LBH Poetry: Psalm 145.4 14

:iTr Tirnain raer D ib "rn
One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your
mighty acts.

11. In these cases, Classical Arabic attests all of the extra phonemes, and thus is
used as a point of comparison.
12. Earlier examples have been suggested in a couple of cases in the eighth-
century Sefire treaties, and in the Ashur Ostracon from c. 650 BCE (Degen 1969: 32­
3 6 ,43; Segert 1990: 92; Muraoka and Porten 2003: 7-8). However, these forms are
exceptions to the common spelling with sin.
13. SBH is used here in contrast to ABH Judg. 5.11 (above) and LBH Ps. 145.4
14. This psalm is classified as LBH by Hurvitz 1972a: 70-107.
210 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

The root l"Q0 (‘laud, praise’) is common in Aramaic dialects, but rare in
Hebrew, which usually uses the root bbn (Wagner 1966: 111; Hurvitz
1972a: 88-91).

8.3.4. Song o f Songs 1.17

:crrrn:i w m c r n $ ir r a rrrip

The beams of our house are cedar, our rafters are pine.

The form ni“Q (‘pine, juniper’; HALOT , I: 155) occurs only here in the
Hebrew Bible, in place of the regular form (Wagner 1966: 38). It
exhibits thus the Aramaic shift of t > t instead of the Hebrew t > s,
discussed above (8.3.1). (Note Qere IDBTH for Kethib IDDTT].)

8.3.5. Wisdom (Poetry): Job 32.10-11

'VI (l) ni™ ''r n v n ti 'r r m p*? 10
:(3) (2 ) □ 3 ,n'3nn"ii? ym m n rn 1? *,n‘?nin ]n 11

10 Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me; let me also declare my opinion.11 See, I

waited for your words, I listened for your wise sayings, while you
searched out what to say.’

(1) niflK (‘I will declare’). As we have mentioned (8.2.2 [point 12]), the
verb mn (‘tell, declare’) is rare in the Hebrew Bible, occurring only in
Ps. 19.3 outside several occurrences in Job. In contrast, it is common in
Aramaic (Wagner 1966: 53).
(2) ]n p n n (‘you searched out [words]’). While found in archaic
sources and in various places in BH, it is in Aramaic where the distinc­
tion between imperfect and jussive verbs is consistently distinguished by
the addition of the final nun. Thus the second and third person masculine
plural prefix forms are jussive if ending in V (‘may you search out
words’), but imperfect when ending in ]!-. In this Aramaising context,
this may count as another Aramaism.
(3) I*’1?? (‘words’). Above (8.3.2), we have already encountered the
Aramaism nbp (‘word’) in place of standard Hebrew “Q T In addition,
here we note the masculine plural nominal ending with nun, rather than
mem as is regular in Hebrew, i.e. The form with the nun is the
regular form in Aramaic .15

15. However, the plural with nun can also occur in Canaanite (see point 2 on the
Deir cAlla text in 8.2.2).
8. Aramaic 211

8.3.6. EBH Prophecy: Jeremiah 21.13

n n r ’Q o'HDKn iergn t s pern n3?r ■’jjn
T .irni3ii?Q3 kit "bi i r t a
See, I am against you, O inhabitant of the valley, O rock of the plain, says
the L o rd ; you who say, ‘Who can come down against us, or who can
enter our places of refuge?’

Here we find the verb fin'' (‘he will come down’). The standard Hebrew
word for ‘descend’ is I T , whereas in Aramaic the standard equivalent is
nm (Wagner 1966: 82-83; see further 8.3.7).

8.3.7. EBH Narrative: 1 Samuel 9.7

ir t a o bin on^n '3 era*? trn rnai -\b: nsm ini?;1? bvnti
na k tr1? K'nntapK rnitini
Then Saul replied to the boy, ‘But if we go, what can we bring the man?
For the bread in our sacks is gone, and there is no present to bring to the
man of God. What have we?’

The verb that interests us here is (‘is gone’). As the previous exam­
ple has shown, the regular Hebrew and Aramaic words for movement are
all different. Thus:
Hebrew Aramaic Translation
bin ‘go’
IT nm ‘go down’
n ta pb o ‘go up’
Kin bbo ‘go in’
kit pS3 ‘go out’

The Qal of the verb is also found in the ABH poetry of Deut. 32.36
(cf. 12.5 [point 1]) and the Wisdom poetry of Prov. 20.14 and Job 14.11
(Wagner 1966: 22).

8.3.8. LBH Narrative: Nehemiah 3.15

lajrr Kin ns^Qn -ito ni'rrtar]? p p i n n ~\uv ntji
ntan nrrp n&in v n n n i vbmn vrinbi t d i h i-i^tan
T in tj?d ninnvn nitaE T nyi

And Shallun16 son of Col-hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah, repaired

the Fountain Gate; he rebuilt it and covered it and set up its doors, its
bolts, and its bars; and he built the wall of the Pool of Shelah of the
king’s garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the City of David.

16. So MT (cf. 9.2 [n. 15]). NRSV: Shallum.

212 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

The verb (‘and he covered it’) seems clearly related to the

Aramaic noun (‘shadow’; Wagner 1966: 60). The regular Hebrew
word for shadow is and the related verb is bbx. Also observe the
textual variation in Cant. 2.17, where the MT has (‘the shad­
ows’), while 4QCantb has CP^CDn (Young 2001b: 124). Note the
following table of correspondences:
Sade / Teth
Arabic Hebrew Old Aramaic Biblical Aramaic
z S X( = ? ) tD
9 X ^(=*0 a
t E D ft

The ‘extra’ phoneme z merged with sade in Hebrew, but teth in Aramaic.
An additional example is BA “11CD(‘mountain’; Dan. 2.35,45), cognate to
BH "AH (‘rock, cliff, mountain’; e.g. Num. 23.9).

8.4. Concentrations o f Aramaisms in BH

8 .4.1. Introduction. Although Aramaisms are found in biblical litera­
ture of all genres and dates, scholars have suggested that they are more
characteristic of certain types of literature. One of these is LBH. Hurvitz
argues that the critical meeting point of Aramaic and Hebrew is to be
assigned to the Babylonian exile in the sixth century BCE. Under the
impact of the Imperial Aramaic of the Persian period, such LBH works
as Esther, Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles abound in linguistic innova­
tions attributable to Aramaic influence (e.g. Hurvitz 2003b: 34; cf. Chap­
ters 2-4 in this book). However, Hurvitz has been the leading scholar in
emphasising that Aramaisms are certainly not confined to LBH. In fact,
Rendsburg, building on the work of Hurvitz, has recently identified seven
other contexts in which Aramaisms regularly occur (Rendsburg 2003b:

8.4.2. Hebrew Poetry. G. R. Driver found that much of the distinctive

colouring of Hebrew poetry is related to Aramaic, giving a long list of
Hebrew words whose poetic parallels are attested in Aramaic. Driver
himself concludes that we are not dealing with loanwords from Aramaic,
but with old Semitic words which can only, or mostly, be traced in

17. Rendsburg notes that the categories are not mutually exclusive. Thus Job is at
the same time a Wisdom book, mostly poetry, and is set in Transjordan and hence
the characters are foreigners.
8. Aramaic 213

Aramaic. That is, the Hebrew poets used an extensive vocabulary, includ­
ing many words and forms native to Hebrew that are otherwise rarely
used in standard literary Hebrew. These are in fact words and forms from
Hebrew dialects, words which quite often are cognate with similar forms
standard in Aramaic (G. R. Driver 1953; cf. Hurvitz 1968: 234; 2003b:
29-30; Young 1993a: 61; Rendsburg 2003b: 105).

8.4.3. Wisdom Texts. It has been suggested that Aramaic colouring is

part and parcel of the Wisdom tradition (Kutscher 1982: 72). Hurvitz, for
example, states that ‘it is legitimate to assume that certain compositions
within biblical Wisdom Literature (Job, Proverbs) may have absorbed
words and forms from Wisdom Literature whose language was ancient
Aramaic’ (Hurvitz 2003b: 33; his emphasis). In other words, use of
Aramaising language was in this case a function of genre, not date of
composition (Young 1993a: 62-63).

8.4.4. Texts o f Northern Provenance. We have surveyed Rendsburg’s

contributions to the question of dialects in ancient Hebrew in the
previous chapter ( Even long before Rendsburg’s work, scholars
had suggested that one of the characteristic features o f ‘northern’ Hebrew
was its closer links with Aramaic. Thus, S. R. Driver thought that the
Aramaisms of the Song of Songs might be due to its being composed in a
northern dialect (S. R. Driver 1913a: 448-50; cf. Hurvitz 1968: 236;
2003b: 30-32; Rendsburg 2003b). As we saw in the previous chapter,
Young has suggested that such dialect forms could also be characteristic
of southern dialects (Young 1997). Again we are dealing with Hebrew
elements that are ‘Aramaic-like’ (Rendsburg 2003b: 104; 2006a: 164)
rather than actual Aramaic loans in Hebrew.

8.4.5. Stories Involving Aramaean Characters. In the previous chapter

we discussed the phenomenon that biblical authors may use non-standard
linguistic elements as a way of characterising foreigners or people of
particular dialect backgrounds ( We cited the example of 2 Kgs.
5.18 where Aramaisms are placed in the mouth of the Aramaean charac­
ter Na 5aman. These may be genuine Aramaic forms, reflecting the fact
that the elite audience of this literature were expected to know enough
Aramaic to understand the reference (see below [8.4.9] on 2 Kgs. 18.26).
However, there is some evidence that Israelite authors sometimes simply
used non-standard Hebrew forms to characterise foreigners, even if they
were not strictly appropriate for the characters being portrayed. Thus in
2 Kgs. 6 .11 the non-standard relative pronoun #, instead of appears
214 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

in the mouth of the Aramaean king. However, to is not known as an

Aramaic form. Instead, the authors seem to be drawing more broadly
on a body of cliched ‘non-standard’ forms in characterising foreigners
(Young 1995: 65-66). Thus, even the Aramaic-like elements in narra­
tives about foreigners might come from Hebrew dialects, not directly
from Aramaic.

8.4.6. Other Israelian Hebrew Texts. Rendsburg adds to the third

category (8.4.4) other texts which, although not linked to a northern
provenance by content, are marked out as Israelian by their language
(Rendsburg 2003b: 106; cf.

8.4.7. Prophetic Speeches to Foreign Nations. Oracles addressing

foreign nations display non-standard linguistic elements, often those
which would be considered typical of the addressees (Rendsburg 1992f;
1995; 2003b: 106; cf. Young 1992a). Thus, oracles to Aramaic-using
groups such as Aram, Assyria and Babylon contain Aramaisms. This
phenomenon is clearly related to the fourth category (8.4.5).

8.4.8. Alliteration. Rendsburg suggests that biblical authors chose non­

standard, Aramaic-like dialect features for literary reasons. For example,
he explains the appearance of the Aramaism bbft (‘speak’) in Gen. 21.7
as due to alliteration with the roots ‘TIE (‘circumcise’) and bft) (‘wean’)
which appear in the passage (Rendsburg 2003b: 106-107).

8.4.9. Discussion. It will have been noticed that most of the categories
of Aramaisms discussed above are commonly explained not as actual
Aramaic loanwords into Hebrew, but rather Aramaic-like linguistic
elements from Hebrew dialects. Further, these dialectal Aramaisms do
not occur only in texts considered to be ‘late’. Rendsburg in particular
has argued against efforts to date texts commonly considered early to the
postexilic period on the basis of the appearance of Aramaisms in them
(Rendsburg 2002b, 2003b). Thus, scholars such as Hurvitz and Rends­
burg raise the idea that Aramaisms were part of Hebrew throughout its
history, only appearing in certain literary genres at various times due to
special circumstances.
In this context it is worth asking whether the Aramaisms in LBH
sources are solely due to the influence of Imperial Aramaic after the
exile, as has commonly been suggested. Polzin, for one, argued that
Aramaic influence on shaping LBH was overstated (Polzin 1976: 2, 13­
14; cf. If an ‘Aramaic stratum’ was always present in Hebrew
dialects, only appearing under special circumstances, might it not also be
8. Aramaic 215

the case that the Aramaisms in LBH are native Hebrew forms that appear
due to special circumstances? Along these lines Young argued that while
AJBH exhibited a notable number of Aramaisms, the standard BH of the
monarchy was characterised by an attempt to emphasise those elements
of BH that were non-Aramaic in an attempt to define Hebrew as distinct
from the Aramaic language of their enemies. The Aramaic element in
LBH re-emerges simply because this set of circumstances no longer
existed (Young 1993a: 86 , 88 ).
There is therefore a strong case that can be made that much of what
appears ‘Aramaic’ in BH actually represents native Hebrew dialect
elements. However, we should not thereby ignore the likelihood of direct
contact and influence of Aramaic on BH.
2 Kings 1 8 2 6

a rn in npKrrrr1^ navi rratf] ^rrp^rrp ngtn

MiTsrn rr-nrr m v m rrqna
nonn-bs -im nvr\
Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah, and Joah said to the Rab-
shakeh, ‘Please speak to your servants in the Aramaic language, for we
understand it; do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the
hearing of the people who are on the wall’.

This story, if historical, gives us several pieces of linguistic evidence.

First, we see that Aramaic is presupposed as a diplomatic language by
the Assyrians and the Judahite officials of the time of King Hezekiah c.
700 BCE. This fits in with what we know about the use of Aramaic in the
Neo-Assyrian empire (Tadmor 1982: 451-55). Second, there is the
surprising fact that an Assyrian official is said to be able to speak
Judahite Hebrew. Scholars have wondered whether perhaps he was, in
origin, a captive Israelite (Tadmor 1976; Cogan and Tadmor 1988: 230).
Third, and most important for our current purposes, we learn about the
use of Aramaic in the kingdom of Judah. It is implied that the ordinary
people in this period could not understand Aramaic itself, but that the
officials already were conversant with it. The influence of prestigious
Aramaic was thus potentially present well before the exile in those
circles most connected with literature and literacy (cf. Young 1998a).
After the exile, in the Persian period, it is reasonable to suggest that
Aramaic influence could be even stronger on the literate segment of the
community, since Aramaic was the sole official language of the Persian
empire. Presumably Aramaic influence would be much stronger in the
eastern diaspora where many if not all of the LBH works were composed
(Young 2003d: 315-16). However, we should not underestimate the
potential deep influence of Aramaic on the colloquial as well as literary
216 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

dialects in many phases of the history of ancient Hebrew. Thus, to give

but one example, Hazael, king of Damascus, is said to have dominated
the kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the late ninth century BCE (2 Kgs.
10.32-33; 12.17-18; 13.3-7).

8.5. Aramaisms and Dating Biblical Texts

8.5.1. Introduction. Aramaisms have been used in three different ways to
date biblical texts. First, and most commonly, the appearance of Arama­
isms in a text has been taken as evidence of a late date for that text.
Second, it has been claimed that absence of Aramaisms or particular
varieties of Aramaisms demonstrates that a text is early. Third, Aramaic
has been claimed to aid in understanding the chronological development
of Hebrew.

8.5.2. Aramaisms as Evidence o f LBH. That the mere appearance of

Aramaisms in a text was a symptom of late Aramaic influence, and hence
a strong indicator of a late date for that text, has been a pervasive concept
in modem critical scholarship. Thus, Hurvitz quotes a statement from the
classic study of Aramaisms by Kautzsch published in 1902 to the effect
that ‘apart from a few indisputable Aramaism is always a
strong argument for the placing of the relevant passage in the exilic or
postexilic period’ (Hurvitz 1968: 234 n. 5).18 Similar sentiments are
consistently expressed in Eissfeldt’s classic introduction to the Old
Testament from the mid-twentieth century (Eissfeldt 1965). Thus, on
Ruth, he says ‘that we should...go down to about the fourth century
follows also from the many Aramaisms which the book has’ (Eissfeldt
1965: 483), and on Proverbs he comments: ‘The Aramaisms which are to
be found here [10.1-22.16] as in the other parts of the book...make it
clear that the collection can hardly be traced to the pre-exilic period...’
(Eissfeldt 1965: 474 ).19
The idea that the appearance of Aramaisms is a sure sign of a late date
for a text is still found as a presumption in many scholars’ dating of
biblical texts. However, as we have seen above, those scholars who have
dealt with the issue explicitly, especially Hurvitz and Rendsburg, have
raised serious questions about an uncritical use of Aramaisms in dating

18. ‘Abgesehen von einigen wenigen ein zweifelloser Aramais-

mus immer eine starke Instanz fur die Ansetzung des betr. Abschnitts in exilischer
oder nachexilischer Zeit’ (Kautzsch 1902: 104; English translation by the authors).
19. See also his comments regarding Joel (Eissfeldt 1965:394), Jonah (Eissfeldt
1965: 405) and Job (Eissfeldt 1965: 470).
8. Aramaic 217

(Hurvitz 1968; 2003b; Rendsburg 2003b; cf. Young 1993a: 59-63;

Eskhult 2003a: 14-19). First, there is the problem that we cannot say
with confidence that a word or a form is really an Aramaism in the strict
sense, that is, a loan from Aramaic into Hebrew. The two languages
share too many common features at various levels to be readily dis­
tinguishable. We can point to forms of words that are more common in
attested Aramaic. However, just because a form is not normally used in
literary Hebrew does not mean that it was not a form native to some
Hebrew dialects. In any case, Aramaic-like elements and the possibility
of genuine Aramaic influence were available long before the late period.
Thus, for example, in 6.5.8 we saw the attestation of the root n in in the
sense o f ‘want’ in Arad Ostracon 40.6-7, dated usually to the late eighth
century BCE. It is suggested that the sense ‘want’ rather than the regular
BH sense ‘take pleasure in, be favourable to’ developed under the
influence of Aramaic HIT) and hence is an Aramaism (Hurvitz 1972a:
73-78; cf. Wright 2005: 75-78).
As we have seen also, Aramaisms are found in all types of biblical
texts, whether conventionally classified as EBH (both ABH and SBH) or
LBH. The presence of Aramaisms in a text therefore has no bearing on
the date of that text in so far as the significant point is that they are
Aramaisms. Hurvitz came to the same conclusion, although he expressed
it more positively and in terms of his system. Aramaisms can only serve
as evidence for late language when a ‘linguistic opposition’ can be
observed, that is, the replacement of a native Hebrew element by an
Aramaic element in unquestionably late strata of the language (Hurvitz
1968: 239). Thus, for Hurvitz also, the issue is not that the new element
is Aramaic, but that we see a linguistic opposition between early and late
BH. The same result would be reached in Hurvitz’s system whether the
new term was Aramaic or not. We cannot clarify Aramaic well enough
apart from Hebrew, however, to use Aramaisms as a criterion in their
own right for defining late language. In fact, as Hurvitz points out, an
apparent linguistic opposition involving an Aramaic term may not be
valid. We must also take into account such distinctions as genre (e.g.
Wisdom) and dialect (e.g. Song of Songs) (Hurvitz 1968: 240). Thus, the
replacement of a common EBH term need not reflect a chronological
difference, but rather that in, say, the Wisdom literature, an Aramaic
equivalent was the correct usage. To return to an illustration we used in
the previous chapter, it is significant that Hurvitz, the leading scholar of
LBH, has been unwilling to declare the Song of Songs to be unequivo­
cally late, despite the very high concentration of Aramaisms (and
Mishnaisms) it contains (e.g. Hurvitz 1968: 240; 2003b: 31; cf. 7.4).
218 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Thus, despite the practice of even some modem scholars to assume

that Aramaisms are a symptom of late language, the work of modem
scholars on Hebrew language is explicitly opposed to this false assump­

8.5.3. Absence o f Aramaisms as a Criterion fo r Early Dating. Although

a tireless opponent of the idea that the appearance of Aramaisms in a text
necessarily implies a late date for that text, Rendsburg has in fact
recently argued that Aramaisms can have chronological significance. He
argues that ‘if the Pentateuch were the product of Persian-period Jewish would expect Aramaisms or Aramaic-like features to appear
throughout its 187 chapters in significant concentrations, and not, as per
the main conclusion of this essay, in select chapters for specific pur­
poses’ (Rendsburg 2006a: 175-76, cf. 173).
Rendsburg’s argument seems to be based on the observation that the
core LBH books have a noticeable Aramaic (or Aramaic-like) element in
them. He makes the common assumption that these core LBH books
show us the only possible variety of postexilic Hebrew, and since they
have a prominent Aramaic element therefore all postexilic texts must
have been characterised by such a prominent Aramaic element. On this
logic, it is inconceivable that texts without such a large Aramaic element
could have been composed in the postexilic period. The problem that has
been emerging in this study with this line of argumentation, however, is
that it is in fact demonstrably not the case that the core LBH books repre­
sent the only sort of Hebrew in the postexilic period. Earlier, in Chapters
3-5, we saw that there are various postexilic texts, such as Zechariah (cf.
4.5, 5.4), which neither have a clustering of Aramaisms nor are char­
acterised by a high accumulation of LBH features. In subsequent
chapters we will see additional postexilic texts that exhibit neither a clus­
tering of Aramaisms nor a high accumulation of LBH forms, a prominent
example being the first-century BCE Qumran Pesher Habakkuk (see
Chapter 10).
Rendsburg’s work demonstrates that EBH texts, such as some sections
of the Torah, can have concentrations of Aramaisms. Thus, if these texts
are preexilic as Rendsburg supposes, just as we have argued here that
some texts can be postexilic with no concentration of Aramaisms, so too
texts can be preexilic yet have concentrations of Aramaisms. Thus, the
presence or absence of clusters of Aramaisms is not related to chronol­
ogy. Rather, some authors, early or late, such as the LBH authors, were
more open to the use of Aramaic or Aramaic-like features in the works
that they produced.
8. Aramaic 219

8.5.4. Aramaic and the Criterion o f External Attestation. Aramaic has

been claimed to aid in understanding the chronological development of
Hebrew. One of the criteria of Hurvitz’s methodology for isolating LBH
elements in BH is the criterion of ‘extra-biblical attestation’. He says:
‘The element in question should be vital (in regular use) in post-exilic
sources other than LBH...for instance, in BA (= Biblical Aramaic)’
(Hurvitz 1973: 76; cf., 4.2.3). Hurvitz regularly has appealed to
the Aramaic of a wide variety of sources from the Second Temple period
and later, ranging from Imperial Aramaic of the Persian period, through
Qumran Aramaic to rabbinic-period Aramaic such as the Targums. The
appearance of a suspected LBH form in any of these sources is said to
add to the case that it is in fact chronologically late. In more recent work,
Hurvitz, aware of the absence of any extra-biblical evidence of Hebrew
from the Persian period, has tried to fill this gap by using the much better
represented Aramaic evidence. In particular he mentions the fifth-century
BCE Elephantine Papyri, which he notes ‘display numerous linguistic
features which, within BH, are exclusively attested in...“Late Biblical
Hebrew’” (Hurvitz 1999a: 27*).
It is certainly valid, in principle, to refer to the Aramaic evidence,
given the strong interrelationship between Hebrew and Aramaic. How­
ever, a number of criticisms may be offered of the approach. One impor­
tant point to make is that the vast majority of our evidence for the
Aramaic dialects dates to the postexilic period and later.20 V. Sasson
makes the point that the corpus of Old Aramaic texts is less than one
percent of the size of the Hebrew Bible (V. Sasson 1997: 115). Because
of this fact, it is almost inevitable that BH forms, whether early or late, if
attested in Aramaic at all, will be found in a ‘late’ source. It is easy to
find late Aramaic parallels for a vast array of BH linguistic features, but
this is a discovery of no significance for BH chronology .21 It is an espe­
cially weak argument from silence to claim that if a form is unattested in
our limited Old Aramaic sources, it therefore did not exist in that period.
As we have indicated earlier, what we know of earlier Aramaic hints at a
great diversity in the preexilic period, but our sources are patchy. Indeed,
‘none of the attested early dialects is the direct ancestor of Official
Aramaic; the latter represents a dialect strain that, so far, remains

20. The same point, about the lateness of virtually all the extra-biblical evidence,
can be made about the Hebrew material which Hurvitz mentions above.
21. To give an absurd example, Aramaic and Hebrew are distinguished against
other Northwest Semitic languages by their use of the root !Tn/mn for ‘be’. Is this
an Aramaism?
220 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

unattested in the Old Aramaic period’ (Huehnergard 1995: 274). There­

fore when arguing from the chronology of Aramaic to the chronology
of Hebrew we are not arguing from something we have extensive
knowledge about.
Given these circumstances, Aramaic could only conceivably contrib­
ute to the study of Hebrew chronology if there is a chronological distinc­
tion between an early (= Old Aramaic) vs. late feature in Aramaic .22
However, in practice, there is often a failure in the literature on LBH
even to argue that an Aramaism is in fact late within Aramaic. It is some­
times as if the old, discredited assumption that ‘Aramaism equals late
text’ has merely moved into a new form. For example, Hurvitz argues
that the word rn |R for ‘letter’ is LBH. Within the Hebrew Bible the word
is limited to the core LBH books of Esther, Nehemiah and Chronicles.
Then, however, he states: ‘Outside the Hebrew Bible, Hggeret is
frequently employed in Aramaic sources (BA [= biblical Aramaic]; EA
[= Egyptian Aramaic]) contemporary with LBH; i.e., in the Persian
period. The word is also widely documented in the post-biblical (=
Hellenistic/Roman) sources, both in Aramaic (BK [= Bar Kochba]
letters; Palmfyrene]; JA [= Jewish Aramaic]; etc.) in [sic] MH...’
(Hurvitz 1997a: 312). What Hurvitz does not mention, however, is that
the word is attested already in Aramaic texts from the Neo-Assyrian
period (Fales 1986: 185, passim ; Folmer 1995: 629-32; cf. Rezetko
2007a: 399-400), i.e. contemporary with EBH. Therefore, the evidence
from Aramaic does not indicate this to be a word exclusively of the
postexilic period. The Aramaic evidence is thus strictly irrelevant to the
question of the word’s chronology within Hebrew.
Even more revealing are those instances where the evidence from
Aramaic seems to contradict the accepted Hebrew chronology. We
mentioned above (8.3.1) the form H3D (‘repeat’) in Judg. 5.11 instead of
the normal Hebrew root HDB). We also mentioned that the supposed date
of the Song of Deborah in Judges 5 (c. 1100 BCE) is much earlier than
any attestation of the letter taw for this phoneme in Aramaic. Is this an
indication that Judges 5 is composed at a much later date, in line with the
Aramaic evidence? Or is it evidence that this is a native Hebrew form
which, while Aramaic-like, is independent of the analogous development
within Aramaic?
As another example, Levine argues that there is linguistic evidence
which, contrary to Hurvitz, indicates the postexilic date of the P docu­
ment in the Pentateuch. He argues that the word (‘military unit’),

22. Even then, multiple Old Aramaic dialects would make it hard to construct
any direct chronological sequence (see Chapter 7).
8. Aramaic 221

found in the book of Numbers, is the late equivalent of HpTO. As a major

part of his argument, he points out that bYl is a common word in Persian-
period and later Aramaic, but is not attested before the Persian period in
Aramaic (Levine 1982: 127-29; cf. Hoftijzer and Jongeling 1995, I:
240-41). In response, Hurvitz has pointed out the pitfalls of using
Persian-period texts like the fifth-century BCE Elephantine Papyri to
argue about the chronology of Hebrew words:
[W]e must always bear in mind that although the Elephantine papyri were
written down in the fifth century B.C.E., the language employed in these
texts was not created suddenly in the Persian period.... It is, therefore,
perfectly clear that Elephantine Aramaic on the one hand and Biblical
Hebrew on the other, even when exhibiting similar (or identical) linguis­
tic usages, could have drawn, independently and at different times, on a
common third source, earlier than both (Hurvitz 1983a: 92; his emphasis).

The case of is not alone. Young has documented a number of cases

where the attestation of forms in Aramaic causes problems for the tradi­
tional chronology of Hebrew if pressed too hard (Young 2003c: 280 n. 5,
295 n. 15,301,304).

8 .6 . Conclusion

The pre-eminent position of Aramaic within the Persian empire would

likely have facilitated Aramaic influence on Hebrew and other languages.
However, Aramaic was an important language in other periods too. We
cannot restrict the interaction between Hebrew and Aramaic to just one
era and set of conditions. Even in the Persian period, the evidence indi­
cates that we cannot assume that Imperial Aramaic influence penetrated
all varieties of literary Hebrew to the same degree. Some scribes or
scribal schools seem to have been more open or exposed to Aramaic
influence than others.
Very important is the point stressed by experts such as Rendsburg, that
a large proportion of the forms considered ‘Aramaisms’ by scholars are
very likely to be, rather, native Aramaic-like features of Hebrew dialects.
These Aramaic-like features were part of Hebrew from the beginning,
and it depended on factors such as authorial preference to what degree
they are represented in various literary works from a range of historical
Thus, while Aramaic and Aramaisms have figured prominently in
linguistic dating attempts throughout modem scholarship, it is generally
accepted among Hebrew language scholars that the value of Aramaisms
as a chronological marker is extremely dubious.
222 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

8.7. For Further Reading


Fitzmyer, J. A., ‘Aramaic’, in L. H. Schiffman and J. C. VanderKam (eds.), Encyclopedia

o f the Dead Sea Scrolls (2 vols; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000): I, pp.
Greenfield, J. C., ‘The Dialects of Early Aramaic’, Journal o f Near Eastern Studies 37
(1978), pp. 93-99.
Huehnergard, J., ‘What is Aramaic?’, Aram 7 (1995), pp. 261-82.
Kaufman, S. A., ‘Languages (Aramaic)’, in Anchor Bible Dictionary, IV, pp. 173-78.

Eskhult, M., ‘The Importance of Loanwords for Dating Biblical Hebrew Texts’, in
I. Young (ed.), Biblical Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and Typology (JSOTSup,
369; London: T&T Clark International, 2003), pp. 8-23.
Hurvitz, A., ‘The Chronological Significance of “Aramaisms” in Biblical Hebrew’, Israel
Exploration Journal 18 (1968), pp. 234^10.
— ‘Hebrew and Aramaic in the Biblical Period: The Problem of “Aramaisms” in
Linguistic Research on the Hebrew Bible’, in I. Young (ed.), Biblical Hebrew:
Studies in Chronology and Typology (JSOTSup, 369; London: T&T Clark Inter­
national, 2003), pp. 24-37.
Rendsburg, G. A., ‘Hurvitz Redux: On the Continued Scholarly Inattention to a Simple
Principle of Hebrew Philology’, in I. Young (ed.), Biblical Hebrew: Studies in
Chronology and Typology (JSOTSup, 369; London: T&T Clark International,
2003), pp. 104-28.
Chapter 9

M is h n a ic H e b r e w

9.1. Introduction
The Mishnah is a codification of rabbinic oral law compiled c. 200 CE by
Rabbi Judah the Prince. The language of the Mishnah is clearly a differ­
ent variety of Hebrew to BH. It is often called Mishnaic Hebrew, in the
same way that the language of the Hebrew Bible is called BH. Also, just
as BH can refer to similar types of Hebrew found outside the Hebrew
Bible, so too MH can be used as a term for similar sorts of Hebrew found
outside the Mishnah. Other scholars prefer the terms Rabbinic Hebrew or
Tannaitic Hebrew.
MH is widely considered to represent a living, spoken dialect that
survived until c. 200 CE (Bar-Asher 1999: 116). Scholars relate this fact
to a major division within MH. MH1 is the designation given to those
texts composed by the Tannaim, the name given to the teachers of the
Mishnaic period ,1 which reflect living MH. MH2 is the label given to
those texts produced later by the Amoraim, the name given to the teach­
ers of the post-Tannaitic period, the composers of, for example, the
Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds, which do not reflect the living
language. Therefore, forms found only in MH2, for example, certain
biblicisms, are considered unlikely to reflect a living language (Kutscher
1982: 116; Saenz Badillos 1993: 171-72; Bar-Asher 1999: 126-27;
Perez Fernandez 1999: 1-2).
As mentioned above, the designation MH can be used for a number of
texts in addition to the Mishnah. The Mishnah itself is made up of six
orders, each of which contains between seven and twelve tractates which
summarise rabbinic law on specific topics .2 Other MH1 texts include
the Tosefta, traditionally understood as a ‘supplement’ (the meaning of
Tosefta) related to the Mishnah, containing Tannaitic traditions, and

1. Hence the label mentioned above, ‘Tannaitic Hebrew’.

2. For an example see the introduction to Mishnah Berakoth in 9.2.
224 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

early Midrashim (‘expositions’) such as Sifra on Leviticus and Sifre on

Numbers and Deuteronomy .3
Our mediaeval Mishnah manuscripts and the printed editions differ in
certain linguistic details. It is thought that the earlier manuscripts more
faithfully represent the original language, whereas the later manuscripts
and the printed editions are less faithful (Kutscher 1971-72: cols. 1593—
95; 1982: 118-19; Bar-Asher 1999: 130-31). One of the forces at work
is the influence of BH as represented in the Tiberian tradition of pointing
which established itself in the Middle Ages as the standard form of
biblical text. Thus, in Berakoth 1.1 the printed editions point the infini­
tive construct of as as in modem printed Hebrew Bibles.
However, the Kaufman manuscript has b'DVib, a case of the assimilation
of the l-Aleph pattern to the I -Waw pattern considered more faithful to
the living MH language (see further point 7 on the text below in 9.2).
It seems unlikely that any spoken language would be uniform. Bar-
Asher outlines linguistic variations in the era of the Tannaim, and in the
oldest manuscripts of the Mishnah, which he classifies into Palestinian
and Babylonian branches, further subdividing the Palestinian branch into
western and eastern (Bar-Asher 1999: 127-30, 132-33).

9.2. Mishnah Berakoth 1.1

According to Manuscript Kaufman A504
As mentioned above, the Mishnah is divided into six orders: Zeraim
(Seeds), Moed (Appointed Times), Nashim (Women), Nezikin (Dam­
ages), Qodashim (Holy Things) and Tohoroth (Purity). The first tractate
of the first order, Zeraim, is Berakoth (Blessings). As its title implies, it
deals with important prayers such as the Shema, the eighteen benedic­
tions (nitor njocp) and the grace after meals (]iTI3n n3“Q). The first
section, presented below, discusses the topic of the Shema, specifically
the question of when in the evening one should recite it. The Shema
comprises Deut. 6.4-9; 11.13-21; Num. 15.37-41, and takes its name
from the opening of Deut. 6.4: 7n$ m rr irn'bK HlIT btnfer ra ti,
‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone’.

3. For an introduction to all this literature, see Neusner 1994.

4. Facsimile edition: Beer 1929. Kutscher based his description of MH on the
Kaufman manuscript (Kutscher 1971-72: col. 1594). More recent work on the
manuscript, and its limitations, are discussed in Saenz Badillos 1993: 176, 178-79;
cf. Bar-Asher 1998: 30-31, 35. We have filled out the various abbreviated words
in the manuscript into full words. Thus, for example, the Kaufman manuscript has
'Dm as an abbreviation for □“’ODrn. We have also included various helpful punctu­
ation marks from the printed editions.
9. Mishnaic Hebrew 225

(3) vnv) (2) p i p (l) ^na^a l

(8) in a n r q (7) taaS (6) n 'o m (5) (4) n vm 2
,n:nt^nn mioeton (9) ^ o i v 3
(10) nrn 4
(l l) .rnan i ? a n a is □•’arpm 5
.iro n m ar n^iriy nr naiK fan 6
,nrniwn n^D v n ( i2 ) ’n to o 7
.raid nij (13) u n p «S :i*? n a s 8
□n« (14) ]n n io ir o n m ar n^r vib □* rnn'p la a 9
(15) .rfnjr1?
nr □’•QDn n asty (18) (17) (16) it vib) 10
nntyn m ar n^irty nr ]niisq ninn
nbv'JB I? lrniso - ^ n o s nnn^i crn'pri (i9) ntspn 11
.-ran n a r
.iro n m ar n^r’.ty nr in i^ a - nra d v ^ r ta w n ta i 12
Tnisn nr D'arin n a a na9 ]? d« 13
.(22) nmnrn ]a (21) Dnsn n$ p’rnn1? (20) 14

1 From what time may they recite the Shema in the evening?2 From the
hour that the priests enter [their homes]6 to eat their heave offering, 3
‘until the end of the first watch’— 4 the words of Rabbi Eliezer. 5 But
sages say, ‘Until midnight’. 6 Rabban Gamaliel says, ‘Until the rise of
dawn’.7 7 It happened that:8 His [Gamaliel’s] sons returned from a
banquet hall [after m idnight].8 They said to him, ‘We did not [yet] recite
the S hem a\ 9 He said to them, ‘If the dawn has not yet risen, you are
permitted9 to recite [the Shema]. 10 And [this applies] not only [in] this
[case]. Rather [as regards] all [commandments] which sages said [may be
performed] “until midnight,” the obligation10 [to perform them persists]
until the rise of dawn’. 11 [For example,] the offering of the fats and
entrails and the consumption of Passover11—their obligation [persists]
until the rise o f daw n....12 And all [sacrifices] which must be eaten within
one day, the obligation [to eat them persists] until the rise of dawn. 13 If
so, why did sages say [that these actions may be performed only] until
midnight? 14 Rather12 to protect man from sin.13

5. These words are unpointed in the Kaufman manuscript, and are missing in
standard printed editions of the Mishnah. See the translation below, with n. 11.
6. The square brackets in this text are supplied by the translators, Zahavy and
Avery-Peck, inNeusner 1988.
7. Literally: ‘the pillar of the dawn’.
8. The editors transliterate these letters: M CSH S.
9. Neusner 1988: 3: ‘obligated’. See point 14 on the text, below.
10. Literally:‘their commandment’.
11. An extra couple of words in the Kaufman manuscript not translated in
Neusner 1988: 3. See n. 5.
12. Neusner 1988: 3: ‘In order’. For the variant see point 20 on the text, below.
13. The English translation is from Neusner 1988: 3.
226 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Our aim in this section is to concentrate on the features of MH in relation

to BH. In other words, in what ways is MH similar to BH and in what
ways are they different? Since it is assumed that readers are familiar with
common BH features, the commentary will concentrate on divergences
from BH. One point to note immediately is that some common BH
features are completely or nearly completely absent from MH, such as
the waw consecutive construction (e.g. [‘and he killed’]), the
infinitive absolute (e.g. [‘he will indeed kill’]), and the
special forms for the cohortative (e.g. n*?Bp$ [‘I would like to kill’]) and
jussive of certain weak verbs (e.g. nrP [‘let it be’]). The infinitive con­
struct only appears with lamed (^ftp1?) in standard MH (Perez Fernandez
1999: 144).
(1) (line 1; ‘from when’). BH has the word ’’HD (‘when’), and
**8 as an interrogative particle, but does not attest the combined form.
Aramaic has the combined form. One of the basic issues in the study of
MH is to what extent the Aramaic-like features represent the actual influ­
ence of Aramaic, and to what extent they represent natural developments
in Hebrew which parallel developments in Aramaic (cf. the following
(2) ] n ip (line 1; ‘[we] read/recite’). The active participle in the Mish-
nah often refers to customary or obligatory action.
The root of the word is K“lp as in BH. However, we see the confusion
of Ill-Aleph with lll-H e verbs attested from an early period in Aramaic.
The BH form would normally retain the final aleph , i.e. DnK"ip.
So too the masculine plural termination of nouns and participles with
nun rather than mem is the regular form in Aramaic. However, as we saw
in 8.2.2 (point 2), various Canaanite dialects also use the nun plural.14
Scholars are divided over whether such Aramaic-looking features of
MH are true Aramaisms, i.e. forms directly influenced by the prestigious
Aramaic language, or whether they are native Hebrew elements inde­
pendent of Aramaic (cf. the discussion of ‘Aramaic-like’ BH forms in
8.4). The extent of Aramaic influence on MH is one of the basic ques­
tions which scholars have debated. Thus, in regard to the masculine
plural nominal termination with nun instead of mem, as well as related
cases, scholars are divided. Some see it as due to Aramaic influence
(Naeh 1993: 384-88). Others argue that it is due to phonological law
relating to the neutralisation of the distinction between mem/nun in word

14. Naveh recently published a Hebrew inscription from Jerusalem, which he

dated to the fourth/third century BCE, with the masculine plural noun formed with
nun (Naveh 2000: 9-10).
9. Mishnaic Hebrew 227

terminal position (Bar-Asher 1985: 84; 1999: 119-20). This latter expla­
nation is better able to comprehend variations such as for DIK
(‘man’) (Perez Fernandez 1999: 8).15
(3) CTITlxn (line 1; ‘in the evening’). The Kaufman manuscript has the
regular form for a plural segholate in BH. Note, however, that only the
dual, not the plural, of ‘evening’ is attested in our biblical manuscripts.
Other texts of the Mishnah read here the even more distinctively MH
form o f ‘evening’: rvnitf (Kutscher 1982: 33).
(4) (line 2; ‘from the hour’). In the Hebrew Bible, 7112® is only
found in the Aramaic section of Daniel (3.6,15; 4.16,30; 5.5). It is there­
fore often considered an Aramaic loanword (Kutscher 1982: 133; Perez
Fernandez 1999: 5).
(5) □'■jnantp (line 2; ‘that the priests’). Note the spelling of the
masculine plural with mem , rather than the potentially Aramaising nun
(contrast this with point 2, above). Final mem and nun inter­
change freely in this form and other related forms such as pronominal
A very noticeable difference between BH and MH is that the BH
relative pronoun is not used. Instead, # appears. In view of the fact
that $ is a very ancient form (cf. Akkadian sa ), and that it appears in vari­
ous contexts in biblical texts, it seems best to take the contrast between
in BH and ® in MH as evidence that MH is simply a different dialect
of Hebrew (Bar-Asher 1985: 89-93). The appearances of # in BH gen­
erally support the impression that it was considered a non-standard form
by most biblical authors (Young 1995: 66- 68 ). It is routinely labelled an
LBH element in BH, yet it actually occurs more often in core EBH than
core LBH books .16
(6) HfDpD!) (line 2; ‘enter’). In BH, the root ODD means ‘gather,
collect’ .17 The Niphal is not attested in BH, nor is the meaning ‘enter’.

15. Kutscher mentions other evidence for m/n (which he understands as a shift
m > n), e.g., the name in Neh. 3.15 for (Kutscher 1982: 121-22).
16. Seven times in core EBH: Gen. 6.3; Judg. 5.7, 7; 6.17; 7.12; 8.26; 2 Kgs.
6.11; against just three in core LBH: Ezra 8.20; 1 Chron. 5.20; 27.27. Note also an
additional occurrence in Judg. 6.13 in 4QJudga. The relative pronoun $ therefore
hardly fulfils the criterion of distribution that ‘the linguistic feature in question
should occur exclusively or predominantly in core LBH books’ ( The
balance is tipped decisively the other way by the circular argumentation that since
Qoheleth and the Song of Songs are late (due to their use of late language such as 0),
the common use of 0 by these books proves that it is a late linguistic feature (cf.
9.6.3, 9.7).
17. On its connection to LBH see, e.g., Hurvitz 1982a: 123-25; Bergey 1983:
129-31; Rooker 1990a: 156-58; Wright 2005: 92-95, 130. For the development
228 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

According to scholars, about half of the vocabulary of MH1 corresponds

to BH (Perez Fernandez 1999: 4). In BH, Kin covers both ‘come’ and
‘enter’. However, in MH was restricted to ‘come’, while ODD] fills
the role ‘enter’ (Kutscher 1982: 134).
(7) b'DVib (line 2; ‘to eat’). As mentioned above, in MH the infinitive
construct is almost always found with lamed. The Kaufman manuscript
form b^tiib represents a tendency in MH to bring the pattern of the
infinitive construct of l-Nun, l-Yod and I-Aleph verbs into conformity
with the imperfect. Thus, while in BH the imperfect of a strong verb
tajT corresponds to the infinitive b^fib, the l-Aleph has in the
imperfect but b3\kb in the infinitive (the form attested here in printed
editions of the Mishnah). In contrast to BH, MH attests the form of the
infinitive b'Dtiib corresponding to b'DW (Perez Fernandez 1999: 144-46).
(8) in o n n g (line 2; ‘their heave offering’). Note the nun of the suffix
instead of the usual BH mem for the third person masculine plural. It is
clearly a related phenomenon to the mem/nun interchanges in regard to
the masculine plural termination of the noun, discussed under point 2
(9) *|i0 (line 3; ‘end’). Rare in the Hebrew Bible, the noun is only
attested in the Mishnaising dialect of LBH-related Qoh. 3.11; 7.2; 12.13
as well as core LBH 2 Chron. 20.16; and (probably) postexilic EBH Joel
2.20. However, the verb occurs also in EBH contexts such as Amos 3.15
(cf. 5.3.2 [point 1]).
(10) (line 4; ‘Rabbi’). Note the variant form of this word, rather
than the fam iliarn3"] (Kutscher 1971-72: col. 1606).
(11) niim (line 5; ‘midnight’). In BH, the form only occurs in con­
struct with Tlb'bTl (‘the night’; Exod. 11.4; Ps. 119.62; Job 34.20).
(12) HiDV12 (line 7; ‘it happened’). BH attests this word in the sense
‘deed, work’ but does not attest this specific rabbinic meaning, literally
‘a happening’. The MH form is argued to have developed under Aramaic
influence (Kutscher 1982: 135).
(13) (line 8 ; ‘we did [not yet] recite’). Note again the treatment
of a III-Aleph root as III -He. In BH we would expect U tvp.
(14) ‘['HHID (line 9; ‘permitted’). The root in ] in the Hiphil in BH can
have the sense ‘loosen’, as in, for example, Isa. 58.6.18 However, the

‘gather’ > ‘enter’, Kutscher suggests an analogy with the use o f ( ‘gather’) in the
Niphal in BH in Num. 11.30, which he translates as ‘he entered’ ( n r s v : ‘returned’;
Kutscher 1971-72: col. 1598).
18. So n r s v ‘to undo’; cf. BDB, 684; but contrast HALOT , II: 737: ‘allowing to
9. Mishnaic Hebrew 229

Hophal participle in the sense ‘be permitted’ is not attested in BH. Other
texts of the Mishnah read here 1’3’n (‘obliged’). The root Din is rare in
the MT Bible, appearing as a verb in Dan. 1.10 (cf. Sir. 11.18), and as
a noun in Ezek. 18.7 (HALOT, I: 295). The word is in a pattern often
used for ‘offices, professions, and verbal actions’, hence ‘debtor’ (Perez
Fernandez 1999: 58).
(15) JfnjT 1? (line 9; ‘to recite’). This is again a lll-Aleph verb con­
forming to the III -He pattern. The Hi - ending is characteristic of a III-He
infinitive construct. Contrast BH N ip 1?.
(16) IT (line 10; ‘this’). The BH feminine singular demonstrative
pronoun is DNT. In contrast, MH consistently uses IT. Since this represents
a typologically older form than the BH form with the extra taw (Hurvitz
1972a: 41), and since it appears as a rare, non-standard form in some BH
texts (Young 1995:66, and see below [9.7]), it seems best to explain this
as further evidence that MH represents a different dialect of Hebrew to
BH, with ancient roots (cf. Kutscher 1971-72: col. 1607; Bar-Asher
1985: 89-93; 1999: 121).
Note that while the masculine singular demonstrative is the same as
BH HT, the plural form is rather than BH probably on analogy
with the plural of verbs, for example, (Perez Fernandez 1999: 22).
(17) "Q1?? (line 10; ‘only’). The construction with the preposition beth
is unattested in BH.
(18) N1?# (line 10; ‘rather’). This seems to be a contraction of Aramaic
K1? ]$, in contrast to the BH K1? DK (Kutscher 1971-72: col. 1606; 1982:
140; Perez Fernandez 1999: 6).
(19) "itSpn (line 11; ‘offering’). Although not unknown in BH (GKC
§85c, p. 236), the nominalised Hiphil infinitive is a common MH noun
pattern (Perez Fernandez 1999:57-58,64). Further, BH vocalises Hiphil
infinitives with -H in the first syllable.
(20) (line 14; ‘rather’). See above, point 18. Other texts of the
Mishnah read here (‘in order to’). Common in MH, the combina­
tion of 5 + ’I + b is unattested in BH (cf. Kutscher 1971-72: col. 1602).
(21) OIKH (line 14; ‘man’). MH commonly uses as an indefinite
‘someone’. See 6.4.3 (point 8 ).
(22) rtTDIJn (line 14; ‘sin’). Although attested in BH (D. Talshir
2003: 271), the qetilah noun pattern is much more common in MH
(Perez Fernandez 1999: 57).
230 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

9.3. Further Differences between MH and BH

Thus, while students of BH will see many points of similarity between
BH and MH, the many differences stand out. Apart from the many points
already noted above, we may mention briefly some other notable distinc­
tions between BH and MH. The Pual conjugation is almost totally absent
from MH, except in the participle. In the perfect the Hithpael is replaced
by the Nithpaal , apparently a cross between the Niphal and Hithpael
(Kutscher 1982: 127; Saenz Badillos 1993: 190). The third person femi­
nine singular perfect of III -He verbs is often of a form like rrn (‘she
was’) as opposed to BH HPTH (Perez Fernandez 1999: 115). As pointed
out in 6.4.2 (point 8), the MH form is more archaic than the BH one,
indicating once again that it is better to see MH as an independent dialect
from BH, not a development out of it. The use of rrn + participle, used
for continuous or iterative actions, is much more common in MH than in
BH (Perez Fernandez 1999: 137). MH has an independent possessive
suffix $ + b (literally: ‘that which belongs to’) > *?#, for example,
CfiQ (‘my horse’), in addition to the use of possessive suffixes, for
example, ’’DID (‘my horse’). can also be used (often with an anticipa­
tory pronoun) in place of a construct chain, a construction found in BH
in the heavily Mishnaising Song of Songs (3.7): (‘the
litter of Solomon’; literally: ‘his litter which belongs to Solomon’) (Perez
Fernandez 1999: 30-33). As already mentioned in 7.2.1, the normal MH
first person plural independent pronoun is rather than BH Note
too important differences of vocabulary, such as “ITfl (‘return’) instead of
BH me? (cf. Kutscher 1982: 135-36).

9.4. A Real or an Artificial Language?

9.4.1. Introduction. The current scholarly consensus that MH is a natural,
living language was framed in response to the claim that it was in fact an
artificial language. Thus, in 1845 Geiger argued that the spoken lan­
guage of the period was Aramaic and that MH was merely Hebraised
Aramaic, constructed using components from BH and Aramaic (Saenz
Badillos 1993: 162). In reply, Segal made a strong case that MH’s
‘vocabulary and grammar both bear the stamp of colloquial usage and
popular development’ (Segal 1927: 6). For instance, he pointed to ‘a
group of over thirty verbs of undoubted Semitic origin which are peculiar
to MH, and which are not found even in Aramfaic]’ and asked: ‘How is
one to explain the origin of these verbs, if MH was but an artificial
9. Mishnaic Hebrew 231

mongrel, made up of BH and Aramfaic]?’ (Segal 1927: 9). The differ­

ences between BH and MH, Segal argued, could largely be seen as the
result of the development of a natural language. While some scholars
have criticised Segal for too severely minimising the influence of
Aramaic on MH—Kutscher, for example was ‘tempted to say that MH
was a mixed Aramaic-Hebrew language’ (Kutscher 1982: 119)— it is
generally agreed that Segal is right that MH is in origin a colloquial
dialect. The discovery of texts from the Bar Kochba era and Qumran
which display MH-like features confirm that MH is not merely an
artificial rabbinic jargon.

9.4.2. Murabbacat Papyrus 43. Simon bar Kosiba was the leader of the
Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans c. 132-135 CE. In rabbinic
sources he is called Koziba, perhaps a play on the meaning ‘liar, dis­
appointment’. Among the church fathers we hear of the name ‘Bar
Kochba’, which means ‘son of the star’. This is illuminated by the rab­
binic tradition that Rabbi Aqiba applied the prophecy of Num. 24.17 to
him, ‘a star shall come out of Jacob’, indicating that Simon bar Kosiba
was the Messiah (Reinhartz 1989: 178-81).19
Texts from the era of the Bar Kochba revolt, including letters from the
leader of the revolt himself, were discovered in the 1950s and 1960s in
the Wadi Murabbacat, Nahal Hever and other sites in the Judaean desert
(Cotton 2000, E. Eshel 2000 ).’20
(1) vv'b m oiD p ]ii?am l
(2) -pnn 'wxb'i nbib: p 2
(5) craft (4) n 'by ■ok (3) Ti?a 3
(8) (7) n'&bbyn p (6) p]D5r 4
n (10) ]pd (9) dtk 5
( 12) n n o :w (l l) nan u n b m 6
b ^ y pb 1
(13) [rnra nnoin j p paaflD] 8

1 From Shimon ben Kosiba to Yeshua 2 ben Galgula and to the men of
your company: 3 Greetings. I swear by the heavens: 4 Should harm
co[me] to any one of the Galilaeans5 who are with you, I’ll put your feet
6 in fetters as I d i[d ]7 to ben Aflul.8 Shimon b[en Kosiba, writer].21

19. For recent scholarship on the Bar Kochba revolt, see Schafer 2003.
20. A recent edition of the texts is Yardeni 2000.
21. The English translation is from Pardee 1982: 130.
232 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

( 1 ) D V b (line 1; ‘to Yeshua’). Note the tendency toward defective

spelling in many words in the text.22 See also (line 2),
(line 4), |D3 (line 5), □3*%n3 (line 6 , if not singular). The appearance of
the short form ‘Yeshua’ rather than ‘Yehoshua’ contrasts with MH of the
Tannaitic era (D. Talshir 1998: 375).
(2) “[“On (line 2; ‘your company’). Other readings have been
suggested for these letters. Milik took “[“a n as short for the name of a
village, Kaphar ha-Baruk (Benoit et al. 1961:160).23 Yardeni reads “p u n
(Yardeni 2000,1 :157), which could be translated as ‘the fort’ (cf. Pardee
1982: 130).
(3) TUO (line 3; ‘[I] swear’; literally: ‘call as witness’). This is a
Hiphil participle of “ITU. The participle here is generally understood as
performative: ‘I hereby swear’ (Rogland 2003: 130; Gzella 2007: 93).
BH expresses the performative instead with the perfect (6 .5.3.1).
Performative participles are well attested in MH (Rogland 2003: 130)
and in Aramaic (Gzella 2007: 93-94).
(4) -n (line 3). This is the object marker with loss of aleph (pre­
sumably the first vowel) and syncope of the following definite article.
Compare the prepositions 3, 3 and in BH. This form is unique to
the Bar Kochba letters among our ancient Hebrew sources. An analo­
gous development may be found in Punic (late Phoenician; Segert 1976:
164, 205-206) and colloquial Modem Hebrew. See also line 5 of this
(5) D’DO (line 3; ‘the heavens’). Note the consistent spelling of final
mem in this letter in contrast to the mixed spelling with mem/nun in the
sample of MH, above, and in Murabbacat Papyrus 42, discussed below
(6 ) [l]D S n (line 4; ‘should harm come’) (Pardee 1982: 129-30; cf.
Yardeni 2000, I: 157). "IDS is a MH root unattested in BH. In the Qal
stem it means ‘lose its value, cut, diminish’. Several other -DS roots
could also be considered, since they have senses like ‘split, divide’. The
phrase is commonly taken as the protasis of a conditional sentence with
no introductory particle (Benoit et al. 1961:161; but see point 10, below).
Compare MH (Segal 1927: 228; Azar 1998: 58-59; Perez Fernandez
1999: 214) although there not usually with the imperfect.

22. On defective and plene spelling, see

23. Milik edited the Hebrew and Aramaic texts in DJD 2 (= Benoit et al. 1961).
9. Mishnaic Hebrew 233

(7) c r K ^ n (line 4; ‘the Galilaeans’). The spelling of the gentilic

masculine plural as -'S - is found also in some Qumran texts. MH sources
tend to use -‘n -. Qimron suggests that the function of the aleph is to mark
two consecutive vowels, i.e. galili-im (Qimron 1986: 31-33).
( 8) (line 4; ‘who are with you’). As in MH, the relative
pronoun used is $ and not BH "1$K. See also lines 5 and 6 of the present
bxn is understood to be the word with a confusion of gutturals.
Confusion of gutturals is attested in a number of sources from the
Second Temple period and later, including MH, and has often been
considered as due to the influence of Greek (Segal 1927: 28; Kutscher
1962: 12, 15; 1974: 57-60, 91-95, 505-11). Scholars generally under­
stand this word here to mean ‘next to you’ = ‘with you’. If this is correct,
note that in MH never means ‘near’ (Qimron 2000: 235), but rather,
its function is expanded to take over BH (‘to’).
(9) DIN bo (line 5; ‘any one’). The use of Dltjt for the indefinite
‘someone’ is typical of MH (Sarfatti 1992: 58-60; cf. 1982: 74-75; see
above, 9.2 [point 21], and in Hebrew inscriptions, 6.4.3 [point 8 ]).
(10) ]n] (line 5; ‘I will put’). Segal says in his grammar of MH: ‘When
the condition has not been fulfilled, but is capable of fulfillment in the
present or the future, the protasis takes the participle, or less frequently,
an imperfect.... The apodosis takes a participle’ (Segal 1927: 229).
Against the common understanding of this phrase as a conditional clause,
Gzella argues that the participle is used here to express the immediate
future: ‘Bar Kosiba announces an immediate punishment of anybody
who dares to desert’ (Gzella 2007: 95). This usage of the participle is
found in MH as well as BH (Perez Fernandez 1999: 137—38) and
Aramaic (Gzella 2007: 94-95).
(11) HED (line 6 ; ‘as, like that which’). The collocation D + HE + V
is found in MH (Kutscher 1962: 15).
(12) 'r\OVW (line 6 ; ‘[which] I did’). The writing of samekh for sin is
found sporadically in BH (Young 1993a: 190-91), QH (Qimron 1986:
24; Qimron and Strugnell 1994: 69), Ben Sira, MH and Punic, and
becomes common in later Aramaic. This root is found spelled with
samekh in MH manuscripts (Kutscher 1962: 15).
(13) rQnD (line 8 ; ‘writer’). Both this, or the alternative bv
(‘principal party, for his interests’), are Aramaic formulas (Pardee 1982:
234 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

9.4.3. Murabbacat Papyrus 42

(3) p i mer p mro rrn (2) bw (l) i-onsn p l
ir r e (5) m ran (4) e n p vw'b 2
(8) npir p *piv (7) np^e m ane (6) -[*? ^ 3
(12) mniD (11) i^e (10) ■ ’ne? (9) men rrna n ere n n v in 4
(16) >Hsm< "r\bv (15) i3*?a □"mp cr:n e (14) 'bb& (13) ^ki 5
(20) Tnen p (19) -not* "nn sbe (18) nnn (17) “praam 6
*?*ner rrn bn\ (22) cnbe mna (21) -\bx* 7
(23) nnnn ]n xner 8
nnnn ^Din” p 9
(24) nes] bv min- p npir 10
-itb*?k p biae 11
nr sp m nn ■pin*1 12
tub ^Din- in mpir 13
1 From the village managers of Beth-Mashko, from Yeshua and Elazar,
2 to Yeshua son of Galgula, camp commander: Greetings. We (hereby)
apprise3 you that the cow which Yehosef son of Ariston took from Yaaqov
4 son of Yehuda, whose residence is in Beth-Mashko, is his (Yehosef’s)
through purchase.24 5 If the ‘Gentiles’ were not so close to us, I would
have gone up 6 and declared you free of obligation on this account. For I
don’t want you to say that it is through neglect th a t7 I have not come up
to see you. Best wishes to you and to all Beth-Israel. 8 Yeshua son of
Elazar, writer. 9 Elazar son of Yehosef, w riter.10 Yaaqov son of Yehuda,
principal party. 11 Shaul son of Elazar, witness. 12 Yehosef son of Yeho­
sef, witness. 13 Yaaqov son of Yehosef, notary25.26

(1) ’p o n s (line 1; ‘village managers’). The noun, D3HS) (‘manager,

administrator’) is well attested in MH. The verb D3“1S (‘supply, sustain’)
is explained by Perez Fernandez as a P ircel stem of the root D]S. MH
developed a series of such intensive quadriliteral stems, he argues, under
Aramaic influence (Perez Fernandez 1999: 96).
In contrast to the consistent representation of final mem in Murabbacat
Papyrus 43, we note the spelling of the masculine plural with nun here.
We saw above (9.2 [point 2]), that the variation of mem/nun in final
position is a characteristic of MH manuscripts.
(2) bw (line 1; ‘o f’). As discussed above (9.3), bp in MH is used both
as an independent possessive suffix and in place of a construct chain. In
these letters blD is written separate from the following word as in later

24. ‘Through purchase’ is from Yardeni 2000, II: 64. See point 12 on the text
25. Yardeni 2000, II: 64: ‘testifying’.
26. The English translation is from Pardee 1982: 124.
9. Mishnaic Hebrew 235

printed editions of the Mishnah, but against the earlier manuscript

tradition where is joined to the following word. When joined to a
word with the definite article, the lamed assimilates the definite article,
hence (‘of the king’). The divergence of the dialect of the Bar
Kochba letters from this MH practice is confirmed by the writing
■pKUn b v (‘of the Gentiles’) in another letter with the definite article
unassimilated (Kutscher 1962: 10-11).
(3) DW |0 (line 1; ‘from Yeshua and Elazar’). Note the
non-assimilation of the nun of ]D to the following word, considered an
LBH feature on the basis of its frequent occurrence in core LBH
Chronicles and Daniel (cf. 4.5 [point 5] and 5.3 [point 3]). The non­
assimilation is characteristic of Aramaic. MH printed editions assimilate
the nun, but there is evidence of non-assimilation in MH manuscripts
(Kutscher 1962: 8). As with all Aramaic-related features in Hebrew, the
question is whether they appear due to Aramaic influence or are simply
‘Aramaic-like’ features of Hebrew (see 9.2 [point 2] and Chapter 8).
(4) C/n (line 2; ‘commander, head’). Note the spelling without the
aleph (BH !0K“i), common in the DSS.
(5) m n o n (line 2; ‘the camp’). Note the unusual spelling of ‘camp’
(BH njniD). Milik explains it as a mixture of historical (nino) and
phonetic (’JrtO) spellings (Benoit et al. 1961: 157).
( 6) ~\b TP UTtO (line 3; ‘We [hereby] apprise you/Let it be known to
you’). Note the use of tDto introduce the body of the letter, in contrast to
the use of EUJ1 (‘and now’) in monarchic-era inscriptions (see 6.4.4 [point
2 ]). I7T is a passive participle written defectively (IHT), as with many
spellings we have seen in these letters. Gzella sees the repeated use of
‘let it be known to you’ as a feature drawn ultimately from the style of
official Aramaic letters (Gzella 2007: 96).
(7) T\pbw (line 3; ‘which he took’). The verb n pb in MH often has the
sense ‘buy, acquire’ (Perez Fernandez 1999:5), which is quite likely the
sense here (Kutscher 1962: 16; Pardee 1982: 124).
( 8) 3 p ir ]Q (line 3; ‘from Yaaqov [Jacob]’). Note again the non­
assimilation of the nun of )Q (see point 3).
(9) IDtDQ EVUN (line 4; ‘in Beth-Mashko’). This writing with initial
aleph in place of the preposition 2 is found in rabbinic texts and at
Qumran (Pesher Habakkuk 11.6 ; cf. Nitzan 1986:190). The aleph seems
to have been prefixed to “ ’HZ to avoid an initial consonant cluster
(Qimron 1986: 39), then the first beth assimilated to the second, leaving
just ETON (Morag 1996: 213).
236 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

(10) TIC? (line 4; ‘that she’). Note the spelling of the pronoun (BH KTI)
without aleph, a spelling attested in various Aramaic sources (e.g.
Muraoka and Porten 2003: 42, 45).
(11) 1 *?E? (line 4; ‘his’). As mentioned above, point 2, and in 9.3, bp in
MH is used as an independent possessive suffix.
(12) m]DTI2 (line 4; ‘through purchase’). This is Yardeni’s translation
(Yardeni 2000, II: 64; cf. Benoit et al. 1961: 157-58). This would be a
noun from the Aramaic root pT (‘buy’). Note in this case the assimila­
tion of the nun of ]Q. Other scholars read the letters differently; for
example, Pardee reads P13D p without translating it (Pardee 1982:124).
(13) (line 5; ‘and also, furthermore’). is rare in BH and QH, D3
being much more common in this function. In contrast, in MH (and in
4QMMT, see 9.4.5 [point 4]) only is used (Qimron and Strugnell
1994: 97).
(14) (line 5; ‘if it were not’). Apparently this is a defective
spelling of MH which, as here, is followed generally by 0 .
(15) , TN (line 5; ‘then’). The BH word TK (‘then’) is not used in MH
(Segal 1927: 134; Kutscher 1962: 17; Perez Fernandez 1999: 172). The
form ’IS is found in BH only in Ps. 124.3, 4, 5. The form in the
Murabbacat text is thus in contrast with MH, but also with standard BH.
(16) USiH (line 5). The scribe began to write the word now found at
the beginning of the following line. Kutscher discusses other evidence
for this practice (Kutscher 1962: 17).
(17)"pn}£Sm (line 6 ; ‘and declared you free of obligation’). There are
various interpretations of this word. For the interpretation adopted here,
thq Hiphil of Has, see Pardee 1982: 124-25.
(18) HDD bv (line 6 ; ‘on this account/concerning this matter’). HD3
(‘thus’) is rare in MH (Kutscher 1962: 17), but occurs 37 times in BH
(BDB, 462). The exact phrase, rCG-1?!?, is found in core LBH Est. 9.26.
As we will discuss below (9.6.2), Esther is one BH book which, while
written in a classical form of Hebrew, has a higher than average number
of links with MH. The case of “ DD bv, however, reminds us that
Esther’s link is not necessarily with the direct ancestor of MH as attested
in rabbinic sources.
(19) “PON Tin K^E? (line 6 ; ‘for I don’t want you to say’). “1108 could
be a passive participle “HQK (‘[it will] be said’). However, Kutscher
argues that “HON is used in some Aramaic dialects and possibly some
MH manuscripts as a participle, and thus we would have the equivalent
of the common MH use of HTI + participle (Kutscher 1962: 17; cf. 9.3
and Gzella 2007: 93 n. 6).
9. Mishnaic Hebrew 237

(20) ]*n£Q |D (line 6; ‘through neglect’). Once again we have ]D with

nun unassimilated. The root of this noun seems to be related to the
Aramaic verb “IDD (‘be negligent’) found in an Aramaic letter of Simon
bar Kosiba (Nahal Hever 54.15) (Sokoloff 2003: 36).
(21) (line 7; ‘to [see] you’). See point 8 in 9.4.2 on Murabbacat
Papyrus 43.
(22) mnfc (line 7; ‘best wishes/be well’). mnt* seems to be a
writing of rnn with prosthetic aleph (cf. point 9 on fTDK). MH forms the
imperative of T n (‘be’) from the root m n, which corresponds to the
Aramaic form (Perez Fernandez 1999: 152).
(23) n n r a (line 8; ‘writer’) and nt£0] bv (line 10; ‘principal party, on
his life’). For these Aramaic formulas, see point 13 in 9.4.2 on Murab-
bacat Papyrus 43, and also Pardee 1982: 125-26.

9.4.4. Summary o f Murabbacat Papyri 42 and 43. Murabbacat Papyri

42 and 43, therefore, show how the Bar Kochba letters evidence the use
of salient linguistic features of MH (like the relative pronoun #, and bp
as an independent possessive suffix or in place of a construct chain)27
outside the confines of rabbinic scholarship. While the language of letters
is unlikely to be identical with a colloquial dialect, nevertheless the
appearance of MH-like forms makes it likely that MH draws on living,
not artificial language.
On the other hand, we notice that the dialect of the Bar Kochba letters
is not simply MH as known to us from rabbinic sources. It contains
forms that are unattested in MH, such as the definite direct object marker
spelled as -n, blD separate before a word with definite article,11TK(‘then’),
etc. Therefore one must be cautious of baldly stating that the Bar Kochba
letters ‘are written in MH’ (Kutscher 1971-72: col. 1593). More accept­
able is the claim that MH, broadly defined, existed in multiple dialects
(Bar-Asher 1999: 127; cf. Kutscher 1971-72: cols. 1606-1607; 1982:
142). The Bar Kochba letters, therefore, remind us of the important fact
that, despite the size of the corpus, the rabbinic texts do not show us all
of the varieties of Hebrew in the Tannaitic era.
The appearance of MH-like forms alongside linguistic features not
typical of MH also characterises various Qumran documents, in par­
ticular the Copper Scroll and 4QMMT, to which we now turn.28

27. Other features are discussed in Kutscher 1961-62; Qimron and Strugnell
1994: 105 n. 98; cf. Bar-Asher 1999: 117 n. 5.
28. For other sources related to MH, Bar-Asher notes some synagogue inscrip­
tions and later letters (Bar-Asher 1999: 117).
238 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

9.4.5. 4QMMT Final Exhortation (4QMMTf), Lines 25-28. For a

general introduction to Qumran, see Chapter 10. In regard to 4QMMT,
the editors have suggested an original date of composition 159-152 BCE
(Qimron and Strugnell 1994: 121). The earliest manuscript has been
dated to c. 75 BCE (Qimron and Strugnell 1994: 109). Thus we are
dealing with a document from well before the time of the Bar Kochba
letters and the publication of the Mishnah.
Most Qumran documents in Hebrew are written in a biblical-style
Hebrew, as we will see in the next chapter. However, other documents,
notably the Copper Scroll and 4QMMT, have often been declared by
scholars to be in MH. More recently Qimron has argued strongly that,
although there are MH-like features in these texts, there are also strong
contrasts between their language and MH as it appears in Tannaitic
sources (Qimron and Strugnell 1994: 65-108; Qimron 2000: 234-35).
The abbreviation 4QMMT first indicates that all the fragments of this
document came from cave 4 at Qumran (‘4Q’). MMT stands for Miqsat
Macase Ha-Torah (‘some of the precepts of the Torah’), a phrase which
occurs in the text selection below and has been chosen by modem
scholars as the designation of the whole work.
MMT is reconstructed on the basis of six highly fragmentary manu­
scripts. It may begin with a calendar, although it is not certain whether
this is part of the original MMT or merely copied on the same scroll. The
rest of 4QMMT is written as a second person appeal to a group and
particularly their leader. The bulk of it concerns matters of legal inter­
pretation. The group responsible for the document (‘we’) seems to be
trying to persuade the addressees (‘you’, singular and plural) to depart
from the teaching of another group (‘they’). More specific historical
reconstructions,29such as that the author of the document is the leader of
a Qumran sect, the Teacher of Righteousness, are debated. The section
presented here comes from near the end of the reconstructed document.
Here the ‘we’ group are appealing to ‘you’, singular, presumably the
leader of the ‘you’ group. The mention of David and ‘your people’ have
suggested that the addressee is a leader of the people, even one of the
Hasmonaean kings, but again this is not certain.30
(4) ^ [ i ] (3) m o n era (2) wnv (l) t h [ns] -tot 25
(7) vnm (6) -6 m m rm^a (5) ^ p ] trn 26
(8) unra
(10) -j*? y\ob m en ft m inn 'mn (9) ra p s 27
rrnn (12) man (l l) hqiu -px? 28

29. See, e.g., Qimron and Strugnell 1994 and Kampen and Bernstein 1996.
30. The following text is based on Qimron and Strugnell 1994.
9. Mishnaic Hebrew 239

25 Think o f David who was a man o f righteous deeds and 26 who was
(therefore) delivered from many troubles and was forgiven. We have
(indeed) sent you 27 some o f the precepts o f the Torah according to our
decision, for your welfare and the welfare o f your people. For we have
seen (that) 28 you have wisdom and knowledge o f the Torah.

(1) T H (line 25; ‘David’). Note the plene spelling characteristic, for
example, of Chronicles in the MT.
(2) KTTO (line 25; ‘who was’). Note the characteristic relative pronoun
of MH, See further point 10, below. Note also the spelling of final he
with final aleph (ITH in BH), characteristic of manuscript (c) of 4QMMT
(Qimron and Strugnell 1994: 68).
(3) m o n ETK (line 25; ‘a man of righteous/pious deeds’). Note the
spelling of the masculine plural with mem. Unlike MH, MMT never
attests nun for mem in final position (Qimron and Strugnell 1994: 75).
There is a clear reference to D'Hpn as ‘pious deeds’ inNeh. 13.14. It is
possible that this is the sense also of 2 Chron. 32.32 and 35.26: ‘and the
rest of the acts of Hezekiah/Josiah and his pious deeds’. This may thus
be a term characteristic of core LBH (Qimron and Strugnell 1994: 91).
However, in other places the TH HQD are understood as God’s faithful
acts toward David (Isa. 55.3; 2 Chron. 6.42). The only occurrence of the
non-suffixed form □’HDlin in Gen. 32.11 clearly seems to be referring to
God’s actions. Thus MMT may be understood as saying that David was a
man who received many acts of favour from God. In a similar way, the
references in Chronicles to Hezekiah and Josiah could be translated as
‘the rest of the acts of Hezekiah/Josiah and the acts of divine favour
shown to him’. Yet another biblical sense of □'HDn is adopted in the
translation of MMT as ‘a man of the pious ones’ (Garcia Martinez and
Tigchelaar 1997-98, II: 803). In any case, note that the MH sense
‘charity’ for D'HDn is not attested in 4QMMT (Qimron and Strugnell
1994: 91).
Kutscher claims that ‘the plural of IDil appears almost exclusively in
the later books’ and also MH (Kutscher 1974: 399^100). In fact, the only
core LBH appearances are in Neh. 13.4; 2 Chron. 6.42; 32.32; 35.26.
Against this, note the appearance in Gen. 32.1 and in a number of psalms
written in EBH (Pss. 17.7; 25.6; 89.2).
(4) ^ [ l ] (line 25; ‘and also, indeed, therefore’). As we mentioned
above (9.4.3 [point 13]), *|K is rare in BH and regular QH, D? being
preferred instead. In MMT, as in MH, only is used (Qimron and
Strugnell 1994: 97).
(5) ^ 3 KT! (line 26; ‘[who] was delivered’). Note the use of ITH +
participle expressing continuous or habitual action, found in BH (cf.
240 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

point 13 in 2.11.3 and 3.3; point 2 in 4.4), but very characteristic ofM H
(Qimron and Strugnell 1994: 79; cf. 9.3).
(6) l 1? (line 26; ‘and he was forgiven’). The infinitive absolute
is not attested in MH. Its use in place of a finite verb is considered
slightly more common in LBH than in EBH (Eskhult 2000a: 90; cf.
Qimron and Strugnell 1994: 81), but is still well attested in EBH
(Rendsburg 2002b: 37-38). Its appearance in MMT is a good example
where MMT’s Hebrew is not equivalent to MH.
(7) IDriDN (line 26; ‘w e’). There is a clear contrast between the BH
form 13TON and the MH form 1]N.31 Despite its generally ‘biblical’ style,
QH actually prefers TDK (Qimron and Strugnell 1994: 73; Abegg 1998:
330-31). Strangely, in contrast, the ‘MH-like’ 4QMMT uses only the BH
form un_3$ ten times (Abegg 1998: 331). This is another good example
where 4QMMT Hebrew is not equivalent to MH.
(8) ”l]3n3 (line 26; ‘we have written to you’). The use of
contrasts with the supposed LBH tendency to write bv, and the rarity of
** in MH (Segal 1927: 142; Bergey 1983: 46-49).
(9) HlipD (line 27; ‘some of’). In the sense o f ‘some of’ this expression
only occurs in Dan. 1.2 and Neh. 7.69. Three other occurrences of H^pD
in ch. 1 of Daniel (Dan. 1.5, 15, 18) have the sense ‘end, extremity’,
which is also attested in EBH, albeit not with the preposition ]Q attached.
The sense ‘some o f’ is considered an Aramaism (cf. nyp~[Q [‘part o f ] in
Dan. 2.42), and is also attested in MH (Qimron and Strugnell 1994: 93).
(10) ID’KID (line 27; ‘for we have seen’). Qimron argues that the
predominance of the use of 2?(“li-'N is used just once) gives MMT its MH
appearance. However, he argues that the use of D differs between MMT
and MH. In MH, $ is equivalent to "itpN + ’3 initiating an object or causal
clause. In MMT, however, E? is equivalent to "IDN + '3 initiating an object
clause only (Qimron and Strugnell 1994: 74). However, he has to admit
that the form here seems to be an exception where 0 is used also in a
causal clause (‘for, because’) (Qimron and Strugnell 1994: 74 n. 34).
(11) riQiy (line 28; ‘wisdom’). The word is found in BH, but not MH.
In our Hebrew Bible the word is vocalised cormah, but despite the
tendency of Qumran orthography to mark all o-vowels with a waw, there
is never a waw in this form at Qumran, indicating thus a different
pronunciation to the Tiberian tradition in our Hebrew Bible (Qimron and
Strugnell 1994: 62, 66, 86).
(12) IHD (line 28; ‘knowledge’). The form is found in LBH (Qoh.
10.20; Dan. 1.4, 17; 2 Chron. 1.10, 11, 12), but not in MH.

31. On the sole appearance o f 138 in the MT Bible in Jer. 42.6 (Kethib), see 7.2.1
and 9.7.
9. Mishnaic Hebrew 241

In summary, in 4QMMT, as with the Bar Kochba letters, so too it is

the case that while 4QMMT displays a number of MH-like elements in
its language, it is not identical to MH. Indeed, in many cases it strongly
diverges from MH, for example, in the use of the infinitive absolute
(point 6) and the use of for ‘we’ instead of 1]K (point 7). Other
notable contrasts with MH not found in our text are the use of rather
than 1*?$ for ‘these’, some uses of the infinitive construct, for example,
with beth, and a whole range of lexical contrasts (Qimron and Strugnell
1994: 74, 76, 83-88).

9.4.6. Conclusion: MH Elements Outside Rabbinic Sources. Although

statements to the effect that sources such as the Bar Kochba letters
‘establish beyond any shred of doubt that MH was a spoken language’
(Kutscher 1982: 117) are somewhat incautious, nevertheless the evidence
of many characteristic MH elements outside rabbinic sources serves to
demonstrate further the plausibility of Segal’s case that MH cannot be an
artificial language. It is generally accepted that Segal was right that MH
is the literary manifestation of a dialect of Hebrew which existed long
before the Tannaitic period.

9.5. The Relationship Between BH and MH

in the Second Temple Period
The majority of recent scholars in fact have seen MH as the vernacular
language of the Second Temple period. For example, Kutscher states:
‘During the last centuries before the Common Era, Classical Biblical
Hebrew ceased to exist as a spoken language. Hebrew, as far as it was
spoken, was no longer Biblical Hebrew but Mishnaic Hebrew’ (Kutscher
1982: 94).32 Thus, while literature in the Second Temple period, for
example, the DSS, was still being written primarily in a biblical-style
Hebrew, most scholars consider that the spoken language was a form of
MH. This situation is often described as diglossia (see Chapter 7).
Recently, some scholars have attacked this consensus. Both Qimron
and D. Talshir have argued that LBH and QH were spoken languages in
Jerusalem (Qimron 2000, D. Talshir 2003). Mentioning these two schol­
ars together, we should not overlook differences in their theories. Thus,
Talshir sees MH ousting BH from Jerusalem with the rise of the
Hasmonaean dynasty in the second century BCE (D. Talshir 2003: 263­
64), whereas Qimron argues that there is ‘no epigraphic evidence of MH

32. Qimron 1992: 350-52 n. 5 provides extensive documentation o f other

scholars who hold this view.
242 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

in the vicinity of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period... [and MH]

became the literary language only several generations after the destruc­
tion of Jerusalem’ (Qimron 2000: 235-36). According to theories of this
nature, MH would still be an independent dialect, but one that existed in
another region to spoken BH. Thus Qimron states: ‘MH is basically the
language of the Sages of Lod’ (Qimron 2000: 235; cf. D. Talshir 2003:
262-64). In this connection we note also the theory of Rendsburg that
MH is a northern, Galilaean dialect, a descendant of ancient Israelian
Hebrew (see and Rendsburg 1992c).

9.6. The Relevance o f MH to the Study o f BH

9.6.1. Introduction. Despite the variety of theories on the original role of
MH in various social contexts, it will be clear from the discussion so far
that there is a consensus that MH is in essence a living dialect. Further,
the consensus accepts that at least in the late Second Temple period MH
was independent of BH and existed at the same time as BH was still
being written. Thus, it is accepted that MH is the descendent of a spoken
dialect or spoken dialects that existed in the biblical period. In fact, as we
have seen, what are considered typically MH linguistic features were
probably characteristic of a variety of ancient Hebrew dialects, some the
direct ancestor(s) of MH, others not. Furthermore, the various cases
where MH exhibits independent, typologically older linguistic features
than BH show that we can no longer consider BH as the ultimate ances­
tor of MH. ‘We have to think, rather, of two simultaneous but distinct
states, reflecting two different dialects. In other words, MH is the con­
tinuation not of BH itself but of a related dialect’ (Bar-Asher 1999: 122;
cf. 1985: 86-93; 1998: 16; Perez Fernandez 1999: 8). There is no simple
chronological progression from BH to MH, but rather, co-existing
An important question is how far back in the biblical period the ances­
to rs) of MH co-existed with BH. It is virtually universally acknowl­
edged that MH co-existed with BH for a considerable time in the Second
Temple period. In Chapter 7 (especially 7.2) we saw that Rendsburg and
Young have argued that the ancestor(s) of MH were already functioning
as a colloquial in the preexilic period, i.e. contemporary with EBH. In
fact, the preexilic origin of MH is widely held among scholars of the
Hebrew language. Thus: ‘It stands to reason that the dialects underlying
both DSS Hebrew and MH already existed in the First Temple period’
(Qimron 1992: 361 n. 49). So also: ‘Certain phenomena are best explained
by assuming that R[abbinic] H[ebrew] was a living dialect even before
9. Mishnaic Hebrew 243

the exile’ (Perez Fernandez 1999: 8; cf. Bar-Asher 1985: 93-94; 1998:
12; 1999: 118-19; Steiner 1992; Saenz Badillos 1993: 166; Qimron and
Strugnell 1994: 105; D. Talshir 2003: 262-63 n. 40; note the references
to other scholars who agree with this view, and see 7.2 for the views of
Rendsburg, Young and others on the topic of ‘diglossia’).
It is clear, therefore, that many elements of MH, even though only
attested after the biblical period, are in fact elements of very early
Hebrew. Thus, for example, it is widely acknowledged that the Hebrew
Bible only preserves a fragment of the ancient language (Ullendorff
1977: 3-17). Young documented 48 linguistic forms appearing in monar-
chic-era inscriptions that are unattested in the language of the Hebrew
Bible (Young 2003c: 299-306; and see Chapter 6 in this book). It is
likely, for example, that words from the biblical period for things which
never happen to be mentioned in the Hebrew Bible are preserved in MH.
Thus, while an ‘upper millstone’ (H3 “l) is mentioned three times in the
Hebrew Bible (twice because one drops on Abimelech’s head!), the word
for ‘lower millstone’ is never attested. However, it does appear in MH

MH thus expands our database about the language existing in the

biblical period. O f course, we must be cautious not to assume that MH as
we now know it existed in an earlier period. Some forms in Rabbinic
Hebrew presumably are postbiblical developments, such as the profusion
of Greek and Latin loanwords. Nevertheless, aside from vocabulary, we
can prove that some MH forms existed in an early biblical period, yet are
never attested in the Hebrew Bible. Thus in Arad Ostracon 40, from c.
700 BCE, we read in lines 13—14: n t a 4? □ta*’ 'D ], ‘we are not able
to send’. The participle of t a ' is not attested in BH, but is typical of MH
(Perez Fernandez 1999: 114). Similarly, the negation of the participle by
is typical of MH (Segal 1927: 162-63). In BH we would normally
expect tan] ^ instead of the Arad form (Aharoni 1981: 73; cf. Sarfatti
1992: 55-56).33

9.6.2. Esther. While all BH texts can benefit from acquaintance with
MH, there are some biblical texts that have a closer relationship with
MH, or at least a dialect sharing MH-like features. The book of Esther is
an example of a text written in a classical form of Hebrew, yet with a
significant number of forms more typical of MH than BH in general.34

33. Also see Levine’s treatment o f several terms attested in Ugaritic and the
Mishnah that are not found in biblical literature (Levine 1962).
34. On the language o f Esther, see especially Bergey 1983, 1984, 1988.
244 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Esther 7.3-4

■jbgn ytj?3 ]n tikhctdn -\m m roban -r r # jj?rn 3

:(i) ’neijiga 'c r, ’n ^ t p -ce: ’‘rjnan nio ^en'^ircK i
o ’-q ij1? (2) ~ 3 « ^ tfT?1? TQcpn1? ’qij-i ’]« unaqj ’3 4
qW: (3) pm rne ~k~ ]-« '3 "nonnn unaqj ninstz?1?]
3 Then Queen Esther answered, ‘If I have won your favour, O king, and if
it pleases the king, let my life be given me— that is my petition— and the
lives o f my people— that is my request.4’ For we have been sold, I and
my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had
been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my
peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.’

(1) ’ntpjp?? (7.3; ‘that is [at] my request’). The noun ntpp3 (‘request’) is
rare in the Hebrew Bible, only occurring in Esther (5.3, 6, 7, 8; 7.2, 3;
9.12) and once in Ezra (7.6). Esther uses it alongside the synonymous
word which also occurs in core EBH texts. In contrast to the rarity
of ntpj53 in BH, it is ‘well represented in rabbinic literature’ (Hurvitz
1965: 226; Bergey 1983: 133-34).
(2) 1*?$] (7.4; ‘and if’). This form occurs only here in Esther and in
Qoh. 6.6. Bergey argues that it is the equivalent of standard BH lb, and
points to MH where 1 vWt has completely taken over the role of BH 1*7
(Bergey 1983: 37-38; 1988: 163). is analysed as a compound ofDK
and lb (Perez Fernandez 1999: 213). Possible evidence for the earliness
of this form, even though mostly only attested late in Hebrew, is the
suggested appearance of in the Phoenician Ahirom inscription,
usually dated to the tenth century BCE (see, e.g., Hoftijzer and Jongeling
1995,1: 57; Lehmann 2005: 30).
(3) pTD3 (7. 4; ‘for [this] damage’). The word pT] (‘damage’) occurs
only here in the Hebrew Bible, but is well known in MH, where it con­
tributes the name of the fourth order of the Mishnah, Nezikin (Damages).
Since it is attested in all periods of Aramaic, it is possible that it is an
example of Aramaic influence on early MH (Wagner 1966: 82). Alter­
natively, it may be an Aramaic-like native feature of Hebrew (see
Chapter 8).

9.6.3. Song o f Songs. Some books in the Hebrew Bible are written in a
non-classical form of Hebrew. One example is the book of Qoheleth,
which contains a significant number of forms rare in BH, but well
attested in MH. Probably the biblical book whose language is most
commonly linked with MH is the Song of Songs. Thus, for example, Fox
says: ‘The language of the Song resembles Mishnaic Hebrew in many
ways’ (Fox 1985: 187).
9. Mishnaic Hebrew 245

Song o f Songs 3.4

rn rra ’Ob; nanst? ns ’nrcsa# tij nrio T ” ^ aaaa

rnnia ■"irr^Ki -cr rrz'bx rn a ’ansTrj; vb\
Scarcely had I passed them, when I found him whom my soul loves. I
held him, and would not let him go until I brought him into my mother’s
house, and into the chamber o f her that conceived me.

Apart from the title, Cant. 1.1, the relative pronoun tp is used throughout
the Song of Songs to the exclusion of “l#R. This linguistic feature not
only gives the Song a distinctly MH feel, it also sets the language of the
book apart from the rest of the Hebrew Bible. Even Qoheleth, the other
significant user of $ in the Hebrew Bible, still has more uses of “ltp$ than
tp (89 to 68, respectively; BDB, 979).

Song o f Songs 2.9-10

ito nrnsrr D,1T«n -ib'u1? is "ay1? ’n i l n o n 9

crainn'p f ’lio rm^nrriO rrapa
^ ' ’a1?! tib’ ’rrin ’Dip 'b (2) "oki ’t n 10
9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look, there he stands
behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice.10
My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and
come away’.

(1) 13*7^3 (2.9; ‘our wall’). The word (‘wall’) is used only here in
the Hebrew Bible, whereas it is well attested in MH. Fox suggests it is
used in place of the BH equivalent T p (Fox 1985: 187). Since it is well
attested in Aramaic dialects it could be considered an Aramaic loanword
(Wagner 1966: 69). Alternatively, it is an Aramaic-like native feature of
Hebrew (see Chapter 8).
(2) “iDtJfi ’TH n]y (2.10; ‘my beloved speaks and says/my beloved
spoke and said’). Note the appearance of weqatalti in parallel to qatal. In
other words, the waw consecutive construction, typical of standard BH,
is not operative in the Song of Songs. The only waw consecutives in the
whole book appear in Cant. 6.9. The absence of the waw consecutive is
also a feature of MH.
Features such as the absence of the waw consecutive and the use of the
relative © mark off the dialect of the Song of Songs in contrast to what is
normal in BH. One might say that Song of Songs is in BH only in the
sense that it is in Hebrew and is in the Bible!
246 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

9.7. Mishnaic Hebrew and Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

The fact that MH is attested in late, postbiblical sources, i.e. the Mishnah
and other Tannaitic literature, has often been treated as providing a fixed
point in plotting the linguistic evolution of Hebrew. In older scholarship,
MH was assumed to be what Hebrew became in the postbiblical period,
showing us the end point of the linguistic developments of the biblical
period. The appearance of linguistic links with MH, therefore, on this
model, obviously point to late developments in Hebrew.
We have pointed out that modem scholars, most notably Hurvitz, have
moved well beyond such an uncritical view. In 7.4 we emphasised that
despite the heavily Mishnaising and Aramaising language of the Song
of Songs, Hurvitz has consistently refused to declare Song of Songs
unequivocally late. Nevertheless, even much more sophisticated linguis­
tic methodologies such as that of Hurvitz do not seem to have completely
escaped from the basic presumption that MH-like linguistic elements
must therefore be late. Thus, we note that when describing ‘the extra-
biblical sources related to the Second Temple phase of BH, i.e. to LBH’,
he includes ‘of course, Mishnaic Hebrew’ (Hurvitz 1997a: 310). That
Hurvitz’s method sees MH primarily in terms of its lateness comes
through in his use of it as part of the criterion of ‘external attestation’,
which is supposed to demonstrate that a linguistic form was current in
the postexilic period (see Note for example the statement of
Bergey, who follows Hurvitz’s methodology (2.3), in his argument that
in Esther and Qoheleth is a late linguistic feature: ‘Another line of
evidence and no doubt the more convincing in view of the sole LBH
prose occurrence, is brought by the Mishnah’ (Bergey 1983: 38; our
emphasis). He concludes that Esther’s linguistic ‘proximity to the
Mishnah’s Hebrew suggestfs] that the position of this composition, in the
post-exilic milieu, rests in the later part of that period rather than the
earlier’ (Bergey 1983: 181). The Mishnah is, for him, simply ‘the latest
source employed in this analysis’ (Bergey 1983: 185).
However, we have seen in fact that MH is widely considered to be
descended from (a) dialect(s) which date(s) back to the preexilic period
(9.6). In view of this, and also of the discussion of dialects in Chapter 7,
it is clearly an unprovable assumption that the appearance of character­
istic MH elements in BH texts is evidence of a late date. If MH is an
independent dialect from BH, whose ancestor co-existed with BH for an
unknown length of time in the biblical period, non-chronological expla­
nations for the appearance of Mishnaisms are equally plausible.
9. Mishnaic Hebrew 247

Let us consider three of the most characteristic elements of MH, which

provide a clear contrast with BH: the relative pronoun 0 (BH “!$$), the
first person common plural independent pronoun 138 (BH 131138), and the
feminine singular demonstrative pronoun lT/il'T (BH DNT). All three are
attested in EBH sources that are widely considered to date from the
preexilic period. The relative # appears in the MT in EBH sources in Gen.
6.3; Judg. 5.7 (x2); 6.17; 7.12; 8.26; 2 Kgs. 6.11; the first person plural
138, as discussed above, in Jer. 42.6 (Kethib); and the feminine demon­
strative HI (or IT) in Judg. 18.4; 2 Sam. 11.25; 1 Kgs. 14.5; 2 Kgs. 6.19;
Hos. 7.16; Ps. 132.12.35
The attempt to date biblical books or passages on the basis of their
language necessarily rests on the assumption that the language of our
current texts is substantially identical with the language of the original
authors (see Chapter 13). The inescapable conclusion from this would
then be that the key elements of MH discussed above were available to at
least some authors of EBH. The fact that they occur only sporadically
indicates that the EBH authors generally chose not to use them.
Therefore the appearance or non-appearance of MH elements in biblical
texts is a matter of style rather than chronology. The authors of Song of
Songs and Qoheleth, on the contrary, in whatever chronological period
they were writing, chose to write in a non-standard dialect which had
many key elements in common with MH. Their dialects cannot be con­
sidered standard in any historical period known to us (see 7.4). Other
authors contemporary with them or later (e.g. authors of QH) chose to
use drastically less of these MH elements or none at all. The author of
Esther, too, considered it appropriate to use elements of vocabulary later
attested in MH, while other authors of LBH as well as EBH did not use
those elements. At the same time, Esther avoids using other key elements
of MH, such as 138 and HT. The most important element is therefore
stylistic choice, not chronological necessity. That this is demonstrably so
follows especially from those cases, like the example from Arad
Ostracon 40 discussed earlier (9.6.1), where MH elements unattested in
biblical texts occur in Hebrew inscriptions from the monarchic period.
Finally, we should not overlook the strong contrasts between LBH and
MH. D. Talshir demonstrates that two-thirds of the cases where LBH
contrasts with EBH are not paralleled by MH (D. Talshir 1987; cf. 2003:
266-68). The nineteenth-century model of a steady development from
EBH to LBH to MH is in conflict with the evidence.

35. Alternatively, one could interpret IT in Psalm 132 as a relative pronoun. See
the discussion o f the alternatives in Rendsburg 1990b: 89.
248 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

In conclusion, we must be very careful to avoid the trap of assuming

that since most of our evidence for MH is late, that therefore MH is late.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that scholars are still influenced by this
late attestation of MH. Is it not more likely, it might be asked, that, say,
Qoheleth’s MH-like forms indicate that he is writing close to the date
when these MH forms are widely attested? In actual fact, this is a more
appropriate argument for dating Qoheleth to the first century BCE/CE than
the commonly accepted date c. 250 BCE (e.g. Collins 2004: 519). The
third-century BCE date, however, represents an acknowledgment that the
dating of a Qumran Qoheleth manuscript to 175-150 BCE (Ulrich 2000:
221) means that a date much later than the third century BCE is ruled out.
Once a date c. 250 BCE is chosen, however, we must remember that this
already puts us 450 years before the compilation of the Mishnah in 200
CE. Already by dating Qoheleth to 250 BCE we must suggest the
existence of these MH features about half a millennium earlier than their
regular attestation in the Mishnah. Other scholars argue for a Persian-
period Qoheleth (e.g. Seow 1996), which would take us, say, 600 to 650
years before the Mishnah. Put in these terms, an 800-year gap back to the
preexilic period is hardly more incredible. Many examples are known of
languages that are only attested millennia after they came into existence.36
MH provides valuable additional evidence for the language of the
biblical period. It provides us with evidence of linguistic choices that
were available to biblical authors. Mostly the variant forms of the
ancestor(s) of MH existed ‘below the surface’ of literary Hebrew in the
biblical period, but occasionally, due to factors which go well beyond
mere chronology, they rise to the surface and impact on the BH of the
biblical authors.

9.8. For Further Reading


Bar-Asher, M., ‘Mishnaic Hebrew: An Introductory Survey’, Hebrew Studies 40 (1999),

pp. 115-51.
Kutscher, E. Y., ‘Hebrew Language, Mishnaic Hebrew’, in C. Roth and G. Wigoder
(eds.), Encyclopaedia Judaica (16 vols; Jerusalem: Keter, 1971-72), XVI, cols.
— A History o f the Hebrew Language (ed. R. Kutscher; Jerusalem: Magnes/Hebrew
University; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1982), pp. 115^47.

36. For example, Finnish is considered to have emerged as a distinct language

some 10,000 years ago, yet was only written down in the sixteenth century CE
(Alinei 2004: 5).
9. Mishnaic Hebrew 249

Perez Fernandez, M., An Introductory Grammar o f Rabbinic Hebrew (trans. J. Elwolde;

Leiden: Brill, 1999).
Saenz Badillos, A., A History o f the Hebrew Language (trans. J. Elwolde; Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 161-201.
Segal, M. H., A Grammar o f Mishnaic Hebrew (Oxford: Clarendon, 1927).

MH dictionaries:

Jastrow, M., A Dictionary o f the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the
Midrashic Literature (2 vols in 1; repr. 1992; New York: Judaica, 1886-1903).


Qimron, E., and J. Strugnell, Qumran Cave 4. Volume 5. Miqsat Macase Ha-Torah (DJD,
10; Oxford: Clarendon, 1994).
Chapter 10

Qumran H ebrew and B e n S ir a

10.1. Introduction to Qumran

Outside the Hebrew Bible, the Qumran or Dead Sea Scrolls present us
with the largest corpus of Hebrew from the biblical period. Scholars have
now identified the remains of over 900 scrolls, most of them extremely
fragmentary (Tov 2005a: 70). O f these, over 200 represent copies of
books found in the Hebrew Bible. O f the others, all but about 150 manu­
scripts in Aramaic and Greek are written in Hebrew. Mostly this Hebrew
is identifiable as a form of BH. We have looked at the unusual language
of 4QMMT already in 9.4.5.
The only really certain thing about the Qumran texts is that some
people put some scrolls into some caves. There are disputes about who
these people were, why they put scrolls into caves, and when exactly this
The dominant theory on the group responsible for the deposit of the
DSS is that they are identical with the Essenes mentioned in Greek and
Latin sources (VanderKam 1999). However, this theory has moved away
from the idea that all the scrolls were written at Qumran to seeing that
some, many or all of them were brought to Qumran from outside (Tov
1986c; cf. Young 2002a: 368). From a linguistic point of view, also, it
seems likely that a group like the Essenes would have drawn members
from various locations and social settings, and that therefore no uniform
linguistic background for the group need be presupposed. In contrast to
the Essene theory, numerous scholars have proposed other theories as to
the circumstances of deposit of the scrolls. Among many proposals are
that the scrolls belonged to a non-Essene group (Schiffman 1995: 88-89),
or represent multiple libraries from Jerusalem (Golb 1995), the library of
the High Priest (Doudna 2001), or the library of a way station for
pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem (Crown 2005).
10. Qumran Hebrew and Ben Sira 251

Scholars agree that the scrolls date to the last centuries of the Second
Temple period. Historical allusions in the scrolls, radiocarbon dating, the
style of script used, and the archaeology of the artefacts related to the
scrolls all converge on this general period. The earliest scrolls are con­
sidered to date to approximately the mid-third century BCE (Cross 1998:
387). Of course, the date of any given manuscript does not tell us the
date of the composition written on that manuscript. Nevertheless, it is the
case that most of the Hebrew non-biblical compositions are universally
acknowledged to date no earlier than the last centuries BCE. At the end of
the chronology of Qumran, the majority of scholars date the final deposit
of the scrolls to 68 CE. However, on the basis of the lack of historical
references to anything after c. 40 BCE, the incompatibility of the Qumran
biblical texts with other biblical text deposits of the first and second
centuries CE, and other factors, other scholars consider it more likely that
the Qumran scrolls were deposited in the caves in the mid-first century
BCE (Hutchesson 1999, Doudna 2001, 2006, Young 2002a, 2005a).
There are thus a number of issues about the origin of the Qumran
scrolls still being debated by scholars. Fortunately, however, we need not
resolve these questions here. For our purposes, what is important is the
general agreement among scholars that the Hebrew of the DSS represents
a biblical-style Hebrew dating to the last centuries BCE.

10.2. Views on the Nature o f Qumran Hebrew1

Scholars have expressed a variety of views on the nature of QH. A
common idea has been that QH is an attempt to write Classical BH by
people whose native linguistic background of MH or Aramaic occasion­
ally shows through. Thus, Rabin says ‘the writers of the Dead Sea
Scrolls...employed a Hebrew which that of the Bible, and has
only a few traits of the spoken language’ (Rabin 1973: 37; cf. 1958).
Others see the features of QH as to some measure reflecting the back­
ground of a living language quite separate from MH or Aramaic. Thus
Morag points to the existence within QH of ‘non-LBH features, possibly
Old Hebrew isoglosses’ (Morag 1988: 162). Qimron argues that QH
‘reflects the Hebrew of the period spoken in Jerusalem or in its vicinity’
(Qimron 2000: 232; our emphasis). Similarly, D. Talshir says ‘QH must
have been a living language rather than an artificial creation of a number
of dedicated scribes.... QH was the language of the local inhabitants, and

1. For general surveys o f the features o f QH, see Qimron 1986, Abegg 1998,
Muraoka 2000b.
252 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

possibly also that of Judea in the (Persian and) Hellenistic period until
the Hasmonean revolt’ (D. Talshir 2003: 265; cf. 9.5). Unlike Qimron,
however, Talshir argues that QH was displaced by MH in Jerusalem in
the Hasmonaean era, QH being preserved by dissidents like the Qumran
group. In response to this, Hurvitz argues: ‘The existence of such spoken
elements, however, by no means implies that QH— as a whole— should
be defined in terms of a spoken language’ (Hurvitz 2000b: 113). Blau
emphasises the literary non-spoken nature of BH and argues:
...Qumran Hebrew reflects basically the latest stage o f artificial (literary)
biblical language, exposed to some extent, to the influence o f the spoken
vernaculars, viz. Aramaic and some sort o f Middle Hebrew, which later
crystallized as Mishnaic Hebrew, but also representing various traditions,
genres, fashions, scribal schools, and personal inclinations, which
introduced changes into the language o f the Dead Sea Scrolls... (Blau
2000: 22).2
Schniedewind argues that QH was a specially created artificial literary
dialect. Thus he says: ‘QH is an “anti language” created by conscious
linguistic choices intended to set the speakers and their language apart
from others’ (Schniedewind 1999b: 235). He also says: ‘The Qumran
community patterned their language after what they perceived to be the
very language of God, used in the creation of the world’ (Schniedewind
2000: 245). Schniedewind’s fascinating theory is of course dependent on
the existence of a Qumran sectarian group, which wished to set itself
linguistically apart from others (see 10.1). Reservations about the theory
come about since it seems to arise partly because ‘it remains difficult to
neatly place QH on a historical continuum from late Biblical Hebrew to
Mishnaic Hebrew’ (Schniedewind 1999b: 236). In other words, Schniede­
wind’s problem arises from an attempt to see the history of Hebrew in a
linear fashion. He gives as a key example the QH preference for UTDN
(‘his father’) and liTnN (‘his brother’) as opposed to the BH preference
for the forms V3 K and vn$. The longer forms preferred at Qumran are
the typologically older while the shorter forms preferred in BH are
typologically later, reflecting the elision of the he. Schniedewind com­
ments: ‘Although we understand the historical linguistic process that
led to the elision of the he in Classical Hebrew, it remains difficult to
explain the reappearance in QH’ (Schniedewind 1999b: 238). However,
the use of both forms side by side in BH, even in the same passage (see

2. For the theory that BH is, in essence, a non-spoken literary language, see
especially 7.2.
10. Qumran Hebrew and Ben Sira 253

especially the fluctuation between the two forms o f ‘his father’ through­
out Judges 14) would seem to render a linear explanation (‘reappear­
ance’) unlikely.3 Rather, both forms evidently existed as options in
various Hebrew dialects of the biblical period. Schniedewind poses the
question: ‘Are we to believe that... [QH]...preserved this form against the
natural linguistic tendencies as a result of a direct development of an
earlier yet unknown Hebrew dialect? Or is it more likely that these
peculiar forms result from the ideological creation of an idiolect for the
community?’ (Schniedewind 1999b: 238). In light of the extremely frag­
mentary evidence for Hebrew, and yet of the clear evidence for dialectal
diversity in ancient Hebrew, we would at present answer Schniedewind’s
question with a decided preference for the former option (cf. Qimron

10.3. Views on the Relationship o f QH with LBH

The variety of views on the nature of QH is matched by a variety of
views about the relationship between QH and LBH.
The simplest reconstruction would be in terms of the theory of a
chronological development within BH. It would be natural to assume that
since, according to the theory, EBH after the exile developed into LBH,
and that since QH is manifested in works generally considered later than
the period of LBH, then it must represent a continuation and further
development of LBH. This was a view expressed in early studies. Thus
Rabin, in a classic study in 1958, stated that ‘the many traits connecting
the style of the scrolls specifically with the post-exilic books of the Bible
show there was a continuous tradition’ (Rabin 1958: 149), and, ‘[t]he
development during the latter part of the Second Temple period thus took
the perfectly natural course of gradual transition towards later parts of
the language’ (Rabin 1958: 158). Such an approach seems to have been a
basic assumption in earlier work on LBH. Thus Hurvitz emphasised the
closeness of QH to LBH in many features (Hurvitz 1972a: 36-40). Even
in 1990 Rooker could still say, after identifying a case of linguistic
change in LBH, that ‘the literature of the DSS and Tannaitic sources will
be examined to determine if the linguistic change which began in LBH
literature continued in later sources’ (Rooker 1990a: 56; our emphasis).4

3. Schniedewind tries to explain the long forms in BH as ‘scribal errors’ or the

like (Schniedewind 1999b: 237 n. 13).
4. As we saw in 9.7, Rooker’s statement is equally problematic in regard to the
Tannaitic sources, i.e. MH.
254 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

In recent decades, however, there has been a growing awareness that

the relationship of QH to LBH is more problematic than a simple direct
development. Already Polzin was disturbed enough about the nature of
QH to write: ‘Certainly Qumran contains many similarities to LBH, but
on the other hand it is actually more archaistic than the language of Chr.
Ezr., and N2. We have in reality a language that is closer in many
respects to that of the Torah than is the language of Chr., Ezr., and N 2’
(Polzin 1976: 6-7).5 The problems have only increased as scholars have
become more and more aware of the independent nature of some QH
linguistic features from other varieties of Hebrew. Indeed, some QH
features are typologically older than the corresponding BH forms. We
recall Morag’s discussion of ‘non-LBH features, possibly Old Hebrew
isoglosses’ (Morag 1988: 162). He concludes: ‘Such features...can in no
way be indicating a linear development of LBH [into QH]’
(Morag 1988: 163). The problem for linguistic dating is brought out
clearly in the recent work of Wright. Wright is aware that ‘it is no longer
correct to describe Qumran Hebrew as a stage between late Biblical
Hebrew and Tannaitic Hebrew [i.e. MH]’, yet he asserts that QH ‘still is
important for elucidating the character of LBH’ (Wright 2005: 15). After
quoting with approval a statement of Qimron that ‘[a]ll attempts to fit the
surviving fragments of early Hebrew into a single historical sequence are
misguided and misleading’, Wright admits: ‘This would appear to refute
the chronological schema employed in this study’ (Wright 2005: 15 n.
77). Nevertheless Wright draws back from this conclusion (which would
have undermined the argument of his book) and, quoting Qimron again
to the effect that ‘the contrast between classical BH and Palestinian MH
can help to delineate those same processes elsewhere’, he comments: ‘I
would add that QH can help to delineate the development from SBH
[= EBH] to LBH’ (Wright 2005: 15 n. 77; quoting Qimron 1992: 360).
Wright is one of the few scholars working with the chronological
approach to BH who explicitly notes the problem of QH. In practice,
most scholars simply assume that QH is self-evidently relevant for the
delineation of LBH. Hurvitz in fact views QH as one of the twin pillars
of the chronological approach to BH. We quote again his statement that
the chronological distinction between a preexilic EBH and a postexilic
is based, by and large, on two important corpora o f extra-biblical
sources... on the one hand, the Dead Sea Scrolls — dated to the end o f the
biblical period — which betray numerous isoglosses specifically with

5. N 2 refers to Neh. 7.6-12.26.

10. Qumran Hebrew and Ben Sira 255

Late BH; on the other hand, an increasing number o f Hebrew epigraphi-

cal inscriptions — dated to the pre-exilic period — which largely
conform to the linguistic profile o f Classical BH (Hurvitz 1999a: 30*).6

The assumption that QH is directly relevant to LBH is evident in all

discussions of Hebrew chronology. It often seems as if the mere appear­
ance of an LBH form in a Qumran scroll is enough to confirm the
lateness of that form. Thus, Rooker argues that ta p is the late equivalent
of the early term rni? for ‘congregation’ (Rooker 1990a: 1 4 3 ^ 6 ; cf.
Hurvitz 1982a: 65-67). In the course of his discussion Rooker mentions
that ‘ta p continued to be employed in post-biblical sources. Here are
some examples from the numerous occurrences of this term in the DSS
and Ben Sira...’ (Rooker 1990a: 144). However, in a footnote Rooker
acknowledges that ‘the earlier equivalent T11V is actually more abundant
in this literature’, but nevertheless, following Hurvitz, he dismisses the
use of nil? at Qumran, taking it as evidence of archaising (Rooker
1990a: 144 n. 64; cf. Hurvitz 1982a: 66 n. 33).

10.4. Pesher Habakkuk 6.8-7.51

1QpHab, the pesher commentary on the biblical book of Habakkuk, from
cave 1 at Qumran, is generally held to refer to the Roman invasion of
Judaea in the first century BCE. The sole manuscript copy is also dated to
the first century BCE (Bernstein 2000: 647, 649). The essence of the
pesher genre is such that, in this text, the ancient prophecy of Habakkuk
is understood to refer to events of the author’s own day (Berrin 2005).
The work is structured so that the biblical text of Habakkuk (chs. 1-2) is
quoted one section at a time, followed by an interpretation introduced by
a formula such as ‘its interpretation (“ICB53) is...’. Thus we have a first-
century BCE work commenting on an older work. Due to the mention of
the Chaldaeans (Hab. 1.6), the book of Habakkuk, on which the com­
mentary is based, is usually dated to the late preexilic period, c. 600 BCE
(e.g. Sweeney 1992: 2).8 It is thus accepted by most scholars as an
example of preexilic EBH.

6. We have already cast doubt on the validity o f one o f these pillars— the
Hebrew inscriptions— in Chapter 6.
7. For a basic introduction to Pesher Habakkuk, see Bernstein 2000. For exten­
sive commentaries, see Brownlee 1979 and Nitzan 1986.
8. See our survey o f Habakkuk in Volume 2,
256 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Pesher Habakkuk: Column 6 9

T o n i:n n p n ; p b y 8b
( l) bbrr D^ia ann*? 9
r n r a D-gn ngt*; ™ (4) D ^ r a n (3) (2) n ip s 10
n s (7) (6) *P) D^D CHpTI (5) onw 11
rnioxH* ’rnotip *?J? lo n T (8) jeg 12
“q t no n it n 1? n istji n iH p *?? nnjpntji 13
(10) mrr nnnrhri (9) ^[i? rrizr] noi ^ 14
p iT ir a 1? nimVn ^ nfarn p m ning -rcyri] 15
[...13 tn ip n ] 16a
[continuation o f quote from Hab. 2.1-2] 16b—17

Pesher Habakkuk: Column 7

by niann n ir a 1? pipnn (12) * (l l) i s t i l

(15) iin in Ki1? (14) ppn nga n*i ]i“irmn -rnn (13) <*?u> 2
in tn ip n "rn: ]unb “igtj np*i 3
n$ ^ (16) i i r iin -\m p-jsn rn io n tp s 4
□"Man v i n r n : n (17) , n bi s 5a

68b Hab. 1.17 ‘For this he continually unsheathes his sword 9 to kill
peoples without pity.’ 10 Its interpretation concerns the Kittim who will
cause many to die by the edge o f the sword, 11 youths, adults and old
people, women and children; not even 12 children at the breast will they
pity. Hab. 2 .1 -2 ‘I will stand firm in my sentry-post, 13 I will position
m yself in my fortress, and I will look out to see what he says 14 to me,
and what [he ( mt : I) answers t]o my reproof. Y hwh answered me 15 [and
said: “Write the vision; inscribe it on tablets so that may run16 [the one
who reads it... 17 ...]” ’....71 And God told Habakkuk to write what was
going to happen t o 2 <to> the last generation, but he did not let him know
the consummation o f the era.3 And as for what he says: Hab. 2.2 ‘So that
/may run/ the one who reads it.’ 4 Its interpretation concerns the Teacher
o f Righteousness, to whom God has made know n5a all the mysteries o f
the words o f his servants, the prophets.

For a more detailed discussion of the language of Pesher Habakkuk, see

Young, ‘Pesher’, forthcoming.
(1) As indicated in the translation, the quotation in 6.9 is from Hab.
1.17. Note that the text of Habakkuk that is commented upon varies in
a number of details from the MT version of Habakkuk available in mod­
em Hebrew Bibles. Thus in this passage in the MT there is an extra

9. The text and translation are from Garcia Martinez and Tigchelaar 1 9 9 7 -9 8 ,1:
14-17. For convenience the vocalisation proposed by Brownlee 1979: 104, 107 is
included. This, o f course, is merely a modem addition, based on the Tiberian
vocalisation o f BH, and hence not to be taken as necessarily reflecting the actual
pronunciation o f QH (Brownlee 1979: 17).
10. Qumran Hebrew and Ben Sira 251

interrogative on the first word (*?J?n [‘is he then...?’]), a conjunction on

T o n (TQrn), but not on Ki*71 (8 *?). A very interesting variant involves
the phrase ‘he unsheathes his sword (13"in)’ in the quote in Pesher
Habakkuk, whereas the MT reads ‘he empties his net (iftin )’. Textual
variants are extremely common in Qumran biblical manuscripts (cf.
Chapter 13), but scholars discuss whether in addition sometimes the
pesher commentators doctored the text in order to fit their commentary
(Brooke 1987; Doudna 2001: 67-70; Lim 2002: 18, 54-63). In any case,
our main focus is on the language of the pesher sections of Pesher
Habakkuk. It is presumed that the biblical text of Habakkuk was a given
for the author and does not reflect his own language.
(2) 1*1^2 (6.10; ‘its interpretation’). It is debatable whether this term
appears due to the free linguistic choice of the author. After all, one
cannot write a pesher without using the word pesher! In any case, the
word "ito? is not attested in core LBH, but is found in the LBH-related
Qoh. 8.1,10 as well as in the Aramaic sections of the core LBH book of
Daniel. It is often considered cognate with the root HHS in EBH Genesis
40-41. “10S is commonly considered derived from the Akkadian root
pasaru, typically via Aramaic, although this is not a necessary assump­
tion. Horgan suggested that a proto-Semitic root *ptr would account for
both the Akkadian form and the form “IPS, which would then be an
Aramaic version of the root with the Aramaic shift *t > t (Horgan 1979:
236; on the shift see 8.3.1). If so, it is interesting that it is the EBH text
which displays the more obviously Aramaic form. Furthermore the
representation of proto-Semitic t with taw is only a regular feature in
Persian-period Aramaic, i.e. in the postexilic period (Folmer 1995: 70­
74). The criterion of external attestation might lead us to see "IDS in
Genesis as the postexilic form, and "ltoS in Qoheleth, on the basis of its
Akkadian attestation, as potentially preexilic.11 Horgan suggests further
that the author of Genesis consciously avoided using "lltia because of its
magical connotations (Horgan 1979: 235). Finally, in regard to external
sources, note that it is the root “IHS which is favoured in rabbinic sources
(Berrin 2005: 113). At Qumran, while HtoS is much more common (due
to its use in the Pesharim), the root "IDS is also attested (Abegg et al.
2003, II: 629). In summary, HtoS is not a link with LBH. It exhibits no
distribution, being unattested in core LBH, and only once in LBH-related
books; is without a clear linguistic opposition to "IDS in Genesis; and is

10. Its precise meaning in Qoheleth is not clear from the context. For a recent
study, see Jones 2006.
11. For Qoheleth as preexilic, see Young 1993a: 140-57; 2005b: 347-48; cf.
Rabin 1973-74: 216.
258 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

unlikely in any case to represent the free linguistic choice of the author.
These factors together mean that we cannot designate this form as LBH,
even under our loose definition of it.
(3) bv i“l02 (6.10; ‘its interpretation concerns’). At other times in
Pesher Habakkuk (e.g. 6.2) the author uses the introductory formula
1*102 (‘its interpretation [is] that’). The use of for ‘that’ is
considered a feature of LBH (e.g. Rooker 1990a: 111-12). As is typical
with LBH features, “ip* for ‘that’ is also well attested in EBH sources.
According to the work of Holmstedt, of 47 certain cases of what he
designates as ‘complement clause introduced by >asher\ 19 appear in
the core LBH books, and 11 in the LBH-related books of Ezekiel and
Qoheleth, whereas 17 appear in EBH sources (Holmstedt 2006b: 10; cf.
2002: 294 n. 25). Thus, while we have a form that is attested in EBH, it
may be considered particularly characteristic of some LBH sources,
especially Esther (x6) and Nehemiah (x7).12 Hence using our loose
definition of LBH outlined in 5.4.2, we may count this as an LBH
(4) D 'W ran (6.10; ‘the Kittim’). Generally scholars identify the
Kittim of Pesher Habakkuk with the Romans (Bernstein 2000: 649).
Note the spelling of the plural gentilic with an extra aleph (cf. MT forms
like D^rO in Jer. 2.10). Qimron explains that the Qumran form was
pronounced Kit-ti-im and that the aleph served as an orthographic device
to designate two consecutive vowels (Qimron 1986: 32).
(5) U'&UiX (6.11; ‘adults’). This word seems to occur in Isa. 16.7 in
the MT (HALOT, I: 95: ‘man’; DCH, I: 413: ‘adult’). Apart from this
occurrence in Pesher Habakkuk, the word occurs four times in 4Q502
(DCH, I: 413).
(6) □*’0] (6.11; ‘women and children’). Pesher Habakkuk’s word
order, ‘women and children’, is found 14 times in EBH sources,13 and
never in LBH. In contrast, the reverse ‘children and women’ is found
eight times in BH, four times in core LBH, one in LBH related, and three
times in EBH.14 This is thus one of the many cases where Pesher
Habakkuk follows EBH practice against LBH (see Young, ‘Pesher’,

12. See also the LBH-related Qoheleth with nine occurrences. However, also
note four cases in EBH Samuel.
13. Num. 14.3; 31.9; 32.26; Deut. 2.34; 3.6, 19; 20.14; 31.12; Josh. 1.14; 8.35;
Judg. 21.10; Jer. 40.7; 41.16; 43.6.
14. Gen. 34.29; 46.25; Deut. 29.10; Ezek. 9.6; Est. 3.13; 8.11; 2 Chron. 20.13;
10. Qumran Hebrew and Ben Sira 259

(7) lEFTT Mb ]93 by) (6.11; ‘not even [upon] children at the
breast will they show pity’). It is argued that LBH shows a growing
preference for the preposition by, in particular at the expense of (e.g.
Hurvitz 1972a: 22; Rooker 1990a: 127-31). Pesher Habakkuk certainly
displays a strong preference for b v 9 using it 39 times, whereas only
occurs twice.15 The figures for by are inflated by 19 cases of formulas
such as b y ilKte (‘its interpretation concerns’).16 Disregarding these we
still have 20 uses of by against just two of b$.
More than just the sheer volume of Pesher Habakkuk’s usage of b y is
the fact that bv is used a number of times in co-ordination with verbs
which normally in BH are used in different collocations. Thus Dm
(‘pity’) plus by is only paralleled in the LBH-related Ps. 103.13 (x2;
Hurvitz 1972a: 107-109). Sometimes the use of a particular verb with b y
in Pesher Habakkuk is paralleled in core LBH texts. Thus, the verb M b
(‘deride’; 4.2) is in the MT only used with b y in Neh. 3.33, whereas
elsewhere it is used with the preposition b or sometimes 3- A full
discussion of examples of Pesher Habakkuk’s preference for b y is pro­
vided in Young, ‘Pesher’, forthcoming.
At this point, however, it is important to note the language of the EBH
biblical book of Habakkuk upon which the pesher is commenting. Here
too, just like Pesher Habakkuk, Habakkuk itself exhibits a strong
preference for by. It uses by 19 times, as against just three cases of b§.
Furthermore, just as with Pesher Habakkuk, the biblical book of Habak­
kuk displays a series of cases where b y is coordinated with verbs which
in BH normally coordinate with other prepositions or the direct object.
For example HDD (‘cover’) plus b y in Hab. 2.14 is found in the core LBH
texts Neh. 3.37 and 2 Chron. 5.8 and the LBH related Ezek. 24.7; 31.15
among its 13 occurrences (see Young, ‘Pesher’, forthcoming, for further
The LBH preference for the preposition b y is thus clearly attested not
only in the Habakkuk pesher, but is present also in the biblical book of
Habakkuk. This raises the possibility that the author of Pesher Habakkuk
was influenced to use this linguistic feature by its prominence in the text
he was commenting on. A further motivation for avoiding the preposition
b $ may be suggested. This is that the author has a strong preference for

15. bV: 1.3,4; 2 .3,10,12; 3.4 (x2), 9; 4.2 (x2), 5 (x2), 6; 5.9,11; 6.7 ,1 0 ,1 1 ; 7.1,
4 ,7 , 10,12, 15; 8.1, 8 ,9 ,1 2 ; 9 .4 ,9 ,1 2 , 16; 10.9; 11.4, 12; 12.2,3, 12; 13.1. Note in
addition that ^[D] is restored in 4.10, and is repeated due to dittography in 7.2. b\k:
7.1; 11.8.
16. 2.12; 3.4,9; 4.5; 5.9; 6.10; 7.4,10; 8.1, 8; 9 .4 ,9 ,1 6 ; 10.9; 11.4,12; 12.2,12;
260 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

using a word for ‘God’ also spelled Perhaps he chose to use by as

frequently as he did in order to avoid graphical (and phonetic?) con­
fusion with the divine name.17
(8) ]£Q H S (6.12; ‘children at the breast’; literally: ‘fruit of the
womb’). This expression is found 11 times in BH, but never in LBH or
LBH-related texts. As with the expression ‘women and children’ above
(point 6), the expression ‘fruit of the womb’ is one in a long list of cases
where Pesher Habakkuk sides with EBH against LBH (Young, ‘Pesher’,
(9) Square brackets in 6.14 indicate broken and reconstructed text. The
MT at this point actually reads TI2RJ.
(10) The divine name in 6.14 is written in paleo-Hebrew, related to the
script used in the inscriptions discussed in Chapter 6, a common practice
at Qumran.
(11) “Q T l (7.1; ‘and [God] told’; literally: ‘and he spoke’). Some
scholars have claimed a breakdown of the Classical Hebrew verbal
system in LBH, including the breakdown of the use of ‘converted’
tenses. Pesher Habakkuk, on the contrary, consistently uses ‘converted’
verbs, in accordance with EBH practice. Note the following quotes from
M. S. Smith: ‘The Pesharim contain no clear cases of unconverted imper­
fect with waw, but exhibit at least ten cases of converted imperfects’ (M.
S. Smith 1991: 39); ‘The Pesharim have at least eleven converted perfect
forms and no cases of unconverted perfect forms’ (M. S. Smith 1991:
40). See further below in 10.8 on the work of Penner and Holst.
(12) (7.1; ‘to’). Note one of the rare uses of rather than bl? in
Pesher Habakkuk (cf. point 7). The second b$ in the line was written
above the line by a second scribe; see also ]HT just below in the text in
column 7.3 (Nitzan 1986: 171). Presumably if the original writing
b& "DTI was not simply a mistake, this bft was ‘to’ and not ‘God’ since
the preposition is required by the context.
(13) <bv> (7.2). The preposition was accidentally written twice.
(14) fjpn "103 (7.1; ‘the consummation of the era’). Neither of these
words is used in a way paralleled in any part of the biblical corpus. The
root “IQJ is attested in Old Aramaic (Hoftijzer and Jongeling 1995, I:
226), and in BH as a verb ‘come to an end’ (e.g. Ps. 12.2); however, it is
attested as a noun only in MH and the vowel pattern suggests an Aramaic
origin (Qimron 1986: 66, 99). As we have seen in Chapters 8 and 9,
Aramaisms and Mishnaisms are not necessarily limited to a late period in

17. Thus, Pesher Habakkuk 9.11-12 could have been read ‘God condemned his
chosen’ if had been used rather than bv.
10. Qumran Hebrew and Ben Sira 261

the history of BH. No one of course denies that Pesher Habakkuk is a

late composition. We wish to emphasise, however, that non-biblical
forms like these are not links with LBH.
The word f p in BH generally refers to ‘the end5 of something. The
developed sense of ‘era, epoch’ is not attested in BH, but again can be
found in rabbinic sources (Jastrow 1886-1903, II: 1403-1404; Ginzberg
1976: 29-30). In addition, it is found in Ben Sira (e.g. 43.6; Kister 1989-
90b: 14), and seemingly it is reflected in some LXX translations of BH fj?
(Joosten 2001: 179).
(15) and (16) IITTH (7.2, 4; ‘he made him know’). The radically
reduced use of the object marker DK with pronominal suffixes is
considered a mark of LBH (e.g. Polzin 1976: 28-31; Rooker 1990a: 86­
87; Wright 2005: 37— 41). Note, for example, that Daniel never uses HK
plus suffix. Polzin claims that non-synoptic Chronicles prefers verbal
suffixes over HK plus suffix at a ratio of 10 to 1. Thus he makes a contrast
with EBH sections from the Pentateuch and Samuel where he claims the
ratio is 12 to 7, still in favour of verbal suffixes (Polzin 1976: 28-31).
Pesher Habakkuk uses 18 verbal suffixes, with not a single case of DK
plus suffix.18 This seems, therefore, to be a strong LBH feature in Pesher
Habakkuk. It is interesting to note, however, that the EBH book of
Habakkuk as it is fully preserved in the MT, exhibits 15 verbal suffixes, 5
in each chapter, and as in Pesher Habakkuk has no examples of HN plus
suffix.19 The pesher in this case shares this LBH feature with the EBH
text upon which it is commenting, and is thus possibly influenced by the
style of the lemma text.
We may thus include this as a feature of LBH found in Pesher
Habakkuk, but we find that this LBH feature is also found in EBH texts.
Habakkuk is in fact not the only EBH text with a radically reduced use of
n$ plus pronominal suffix. Nahum, likewise an EBH prophetic book with
a preexilic setting, has 10 verb suffixes without any occurrences of HK
plus suffix.20 It might be argued that Pesher Habakkuk is itself close to
the prophetic genre of these two works. Nevertheless, we may also point
to EBH narratives sharing the same aversion to DK plus suffix. Thus the
core EBH text, 1 Kings 2, has 12 verb suffixes with no use of DK plus
suffix. The next chapter, 1 Kings 3, has another 4 suffixes with no n$
plus suffix.21 In this long stretch of EBH text, longer than the whole of

18. 4.7 (x2), 8; 5.11; 7.2,4; 8.2; 9.10; 10.4, 5 (x2); 11.7, 8,15; 12.5, 13 (x2), 14.
19. Hab. 1.3, 12 (x2), 15 (x2); 2.2, 8, 11, 17, 18; 3.2, 10, 14, 16, 19.
20. Nah. 1.4, 12 (x2); 2.3, 4; 3.6 (x2), 15 (x3).
21. 1 Kgs. 2.5, 8 (x2), 9, 24 (x2), 26, 30, 31, 32, 34, 42; 3.1, 20, 27 (x2).
262 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

Pesher Habakkuk, there are thus 16 verb suffixes and no cases of HK plus
suffix. Polzin’s statistics therefore do not reflect the variegated reality of
EBH. Also relevant to note is that the generally EBH book of Ruth has
13 examples of verbal object suffixes and no examples of n$ plus
suffix.22 Note, finally, that the ninth-century Mesha inscription from
Moab, which is cited in the literature as evidence for EBH (e.g. Rooker
1990a: 115 n. 167; Polak 1998: 104-105; Rainey 2001), contains 11 or
12 verbal object suffixes and no case of plus suffix.23 Thus, as is
typical, this LBH feature is well attested in EBH texts also.
(17) " n (7.5; ‘the mysteries/secrets o f’). Three times in column 7 of
the Habakkuk Pesher we find the plural of the word H (‘secret’). We
hear of ‘the secrets of the words of his servants the prophets’ (7.5); ‘the
secrets of God’ (7.8); and ‘the secrets of his [God’s] wisdom’ (7.14). The
word H is generally considered to have entered Hebrew (from Persian)
via Aramaic. We will deal with this word in more detail in the next
chapter ( For the present, note that within BH, the word T"1
occurs twice in Isa. 24.16 in the form ’H (‘my secret’). While Isaiah 24­
27, ‘the Isaiah Apocalypse’, is often considered a ‘later’ section in the
book of Isaiah (e.g. Kaiser 1980: 173-79), it is not considered to
represent LBH. The word H in Pesher Habakkuk is thus not strictly a
link with LBH. However, H is considered a Persian loanword, and
Persian loanwords are considered a feature of LBH (e.g. Seow 1996:
646-50; Eskhult 2003a: 12-14). Hence, in line with our loose definition
of LBH features we accept this word as LBH in Pesher Habakkuk.
In summary, the section from the Pesher Habakkuk we have examined
exhibits a number of LBH features. In fact, we have had opportunity to
mention most of the LBH forms found in the pesher. The one other
prominent LBH feature of the text not yet mentioned is the tendency to
pluralise expressions more usually found in the singular in BH, for
example DHi Qn ''^3 (‘their weapons of war’) as opposed to the normal
BH non bo ,l?3 . However, as with other prominent LBH features of
Pesher Habakkuk, we find that the EBH book of Habakkuk similarly
exhibits a tendency toward pluralisation, for example, HIDEO (‘booty’;
2.7), the only attested plural of HD03.
There are thus a number of LBH forms in Pesher Habakkuk. Whether
this confirms a linear chronological model of BH we will defer until later

22. Ruth 1.16, 21; 2.4, 9, 10, 15; 3.6, 13 (x3); 4.15 (x2), 16.
23. Mesha inscription, lines 4 (x2), 5, 8-9, 11, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 18?, 19, 20
10. Qumran Hebrew and Ben Sira 263

10.5. Temple Scroll 57.1 lb-19a24

The Temple Scroll is primarily known from a well-preserved copy from
cave 11 at Qumran (11 QTa). This is the longest preserved scroll of all the
Qumran scrolls, stretching over eight metres. It represents a rewritten
version of the Torah, focusing on the legal materials of the Pentateuch. It
was presumably presented as revelation to Moses, although this is not
certain since the beginning of the Scroll is missing. A striking charac­
teristic of many (but not all) sections of the Temple Scroll as opposed to
the Pentateuch is that here God is presented as speaking in the first
person ( T ) rather than the third person (‘he’).
The text discussed here comes from a section scholars call ‘The Law
of the King’, which stretches from columns 56 to 59 of the Scroll.25
Column 56.12ff. is a rewriting of the law relating to the king in Deut.
17.14ff, whereas columns 57-59 present material on the king which is
not known from any other source. Generally, the Temple Scroll is con­
sidered to be a composite work made up of earlier documents. There are
some differences in the linguistic forms used in various sections (A. M.
Wilson and Wills 1982). In addition, some scholars who accept that
Qumran was a sectarian library do not consider the Temple Scroll to
belong with sectarian literature like the Pesharim (Stegemann 1992;
1998: 96). This divergence is considered to involve the language also
(Schiffman 1980: 147-49). For our purposes we need not resolve these
questions because the Hebrew of the Temple Scroll is universally con­
sidered ‘late’. While Stegemann puts the composition as early as the late
fifth century BCE (Stegemann 1992: 134-36; 1998: 96), it is more often
dated to the last two centuries BCE, with the second century BCE being
preferred (Schiffman 1992: 349-50; Garcia Martinez 2000: 931-32).
-m? cnen lib
□"i^n p i D'W tn m an p i idi? is r (l) "tra 12
Bara1? "nr ibu (3) crnitfr vrr nm (2) -ibx? o-db 13
n m “to r w 81*71 (4) nona i m 1? d it ki^i nmn^i 14
*tdd (6) ner (5) nana fin nxv ‘t d 1? 15
r\m i 1? np" (7) m ’na rrno "3 □ " in n m 16
(8) mm* nm n ^ r np- 81*71 m-na nnsran 17
(10) nnn oki n^n "ir lax* nsnn nm b (9) ntrn 18
innsron in’OK rrno mm* ib 19a

24. Basic references on the Temple Scroll include Y. Yadin 1983, 1985,
Schiffman 1992, Garcia Martinez 2000. An extensive bibliography can be found in
Qimron and Garcia Martinez 1996. For commentary, see D. D. Swanson 1995.
25. The text and translation are from Garcia Martinez and Tigchelaar 1997-98,
II: 1278-79.
264 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

"b ...And twelve 12 princes o f his people shall be with him, and twelve
priests13 and twelve levites, who shall sit together with him for judgment
14 and for the law. And he shall not rise his heart above them nor shall he
do anything15 in all his councils outside o f them. And he shall not take a
wife from among a l l 16 the daughters o f the nations, but instead take for
him self a w ife from his father’s h ou se17 from his father’s family. And he
shall take no other w ife in addition to her for 18 she alone will be with
him all the days o f her life. And if she dies, he shall take l9a for him self
another from his father’s house, from his family.

(1) ■” ©] (57.12; ‘princes o f’). Note the spelling of BH tO'ED (‘prince’)

without the aleph, a very common phenomenon in many Qumran scrolls
(Qimron 1986: 25).
(2) ~\W D’DE? D'Dnon (57.12; ‘the priests, twelve’) and D’32; D,,,1IXI
“IE7I7 (57.12-13; ‘the Levites, twelve’). Polzin argues that LBH has a
tendency to place the substantive before the numeral in apposition,
whereas EBH uses the opposite word order (Polzin 1976: 58-60). In
6.4.4 (point 8) we noted that the LBH word order is attested in the
preexilic inscriptions. Nevertheless, using a necessarily loose definition
of what constitutes an LBH feature this is still a link between the Scroll
and LBH.
(3) VIT “ItOK (57.13; ‘who will be sitting’). In 2.11.3 and 3.3
(point 13) we saw that ITH + participle is used more often in LBH, even
though it is attested in EBH. On this basis we may consider this form,
which is very frequent in the Temple Scroll (Qimron 1978b: 96), as
(4) naniD (57.14; ‘above [literally: “from”] them’). The form DHD
(‘from them’) appears 98 times in the MT Bible, whereas the long form
HQHD appears only in Jer. 10.2 and Qoh. 12.12. The long form of the
suffix non- is common in certain Qumran documents but not in others.
Thus in the Community Rule (IQS), by our count, the common MT form
DPI- occurs 31 times, with only one case of non- in our form HOHE,
which we have seen attested as a rare form even in MT Hebrew. There is
a similar variation in QH between the alternate third person masculine
plural suffixes no-/D-. IQS has 69 cases of D- and none of HQ-. This
contrasts starkly with the situation in columns 56-59 of the Temple
Scroll where the long forms predominate: nan- 23 times against only
one on-; and no- 10 times (on nouns and prepositions) against D- 8
times (on verbs). Variations like this indicate the linguistic variety that is
QH, or rather that we should speak of several ‘Qumran Hebrews’.
10. Qumran Hebrew and Ben Sira 265

The long third person plural suffixed pronoun is one of the features
that Morag argues could be considered ‘an old Hebrew dialectal isogloss’
(Morag 1988: 159). Qimron argues that ‘the forms with final vowel in
the DSS should be considered typologically older than those of BH’
(Qimron 2000:241). It is important also to note the link between this and
other QH forms with the Samaritan oral tradition which always has the
long forms -imma and -iyyimma (Ben Hayyim 2000:235). In BH there is
a similar pair of forms in the third person masculine plural independent
pronouns DH and rtDH.
(5) nono f in (57.15; ‘apart from them’). We note again the use of the
long suffix non-. The expression |Q yin (‘apart from’) is only attested in
the MT Bible in Qoh. 2.25, but is common in MH (Y. Yadin 1983, II:
258; cf. Perez Fernandez 1999: 250). On this basis it is better to see it as
an intersection with MH shared by the Mishnaising Qoheleth rather than
a link with LBH.
(6) KET 81 ^ nEJKl (57.15; ‘and a wife he will not marry’). The use of
the verb NtW rather than Upb for ‘marry’ a wife is considered a feature of
LBH (see Wright 2005: 71-74 with references). As is normal with LBH
features, the EBH form continues in LBH texts and the LBH form
appears in EBH texts. We note, for example, the appearance of Upb in
lines 16 and 17 of this text. Nevertheless, since the majority of occur­
rences are in core LBH books, we may count this as an LBH feature.
(7) m ’DK (57.16; ‘his father’). As we mentioned above in 10.2, in the
MT Bible the contracted form TDK predominates, appearing 221 times, as
opposed to just seven occurrences of in'OK.26 In Qumran texts, however,
the uncontracted form is common (Qimron 1986: 60; cf. 1978b: 93).
According to Morag, this ‘is probably an old feature of Hebrew’ (Morag
1988: 158).
(8) m n » n o s n ^ u np" K1*7l (57.17; ‘and he shall take no other wife
in addition to her’). The similarity with Lev. 18.18, nnnK'^K nCKl
npn K / (‘and you shall not take a woman as a rival to her sister’), seems
to indicate that the Temple Scroll exhibits the LBH tendency to prefer
the preposition bv over other prepositions, especially b$, (cf. 10.4 [point
7]), here as in other places (e.g. 58.4).
(9) n trn (57.18; ‘she’). The long forms of the third person independ­
ent pronouns n sm (‘he’; vs. Kin) and n ^ n (‘she’; vs. tt'H) are unattested
in Hebrew outside Qumran. Nevertheless, Morag argues that they ‘may
be traced back to the morphological structure of some old dialects’
(Morag 1988: 157). Indeed ‘Brockelmann...holds hWa to be the earliest

26. Judg. 14.10, 19; 16.31; 1 Kgs. 5.15; Zech. 13.3; 1 Chron. 26.10; 2 Chron.
266 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

proto-Semitic form for “he” ’ (Muraoka 2000b: 342). Thus we would

have another feature of QH typologically older than the BH known to us
in the MT. The distribution of the short and long forms again is variable
in different parts of the Qumran corpus. This long form is the only
example of the third person feminine singular independent pronoun in
the Law of the King section of the Temple Scroll. However, the short
masculine form Kin appears four times in this section with no long
forms. In contrast, the Community Rule (IQS) has, by our count, 15 long
masculine forms and no short ones, as well as five long feminine forms
and no short ones.
(10) NtOT (57.18; ‘he shall take/marry’). The verbal system of the
Temple Scroll is distinct not only from standard BH, but also from other
major Qumran documents such as the Pesharim, the War Scroll or the
Community Rule (M. S. Smith 1991: 60). Whereas we have quoted
Smith earlier (10.4 [point 11 ]) to the effect that in texts like the Pesharim
the waw consecutive forms are fully in operation, in the Temple Scroll,
especially in certain sections (A. M. Wilson and Wills 1982: 284-86;
M. S. Smith 1991: 61-62), this is not the case. Thus, while the Temple
Scroll has many cases o f ‘converted’ perfects (weqatalti), as in our exam­
ple here, with no examples of ‘unconverted’ perfects (weqatalti) (M. S.
Smith 1991: 50-58), there are many cases o f ‘unconverted’ imperfects
(■weyiqtol) with almost no cases of ‘converted’ imperfects (wayyiqtol)
(Brin 1978: 21-23; M. S. Smith 1991: 47-50). Smith points out that ‘the
distribution of converted forms within the Temple Scroll corresponds
more closely to that of Ecclesiastes than to any of the major sectarian
works [from Qumran]’ (M. S. Smith 1991: 60). Thus, although the Tem­
ple Scroll is often seen as earlier than the other texts, its verbal system is
‘later’ than the other Qumran texts (M. S. Smith 1991: 62). Thus, once
again, the issue is not chronology but stylistic preference.
In summary, as with Pesher Habakkuk, so too with the Temple Scroll,
we have seen a number of links with LBH. In fact, there are noticeably
more LBH forms in the Temple Scroll than Pesher Habakkuk (see 10.7
below). Whether this confirms a linear chronological model of BH we
will again defer until after our discussion of the language of Ben Sira.

10.6. Ben Sira

10.6.1. Introduction.27 The book of Ben Sira, also called Ecclesiasticus or
Sirach, gives its author’s name as ‘Jesus, son of Eleazar son of Sirach
(Hebrew: KTD [‘Sira’]) of Jerusalem’ (Sir. 50.27). Ben Sira’s lack of

27. On Ben Sira in general, see Skehan and Di Leila 1987.

10. Qumran Hebrew and Ben Sira 267

anonymity is very unusual for a Jewish literary work written in Hebrew

or Aramaic in the Second Temple period. Also unusual is that most
scholars consider the dating of the book quite certain. Ben Sira’s
grandson translated the work into Greek and left a prologue which is
usually understood to imply that the grandson came to Egypt in 132 BCE.
Ben Sira’s mention of having seen a high priest named Simon (c. 200
BCE; Sir. 50.1), and his non-mention of the Maccabaean crisis of the
170s and especially 160s BCE indicate to most scholars a date 190-180
BCE for the completion of Ben Sira’s original work. Most scholars also
take the reference to Jerusalem mentioned above to indicate that Ben Sira
was a resident of Jerusalem during the early second century BCE (Skehan
and Di Leila 1987: 8-10, 12; van Peursen 2004: 9).
Although the book exists in various translations, including the impor­
tant Greek translation, it is the fact that some two-thirds of the book is
extant in Hebrew that is important for us. Longest known have been
quotes of Ben Sira in various rabbinic sources. Then, in 1896, five manu­
scripts dating to around the eleventh century CE were found in the Geniza
of the Karaite synagogue in Cairo. These comprise the most substantial
witnesses to the Hebrew text. At Qumran, fragments of a Ben Sira manu­
script were found in cave 2, and parts of ch. 51 are included in the
Psalms scroll 1lQPsaa. Finally, and very importantly, the remains of a
scroll of Ben Sira were discovered at Masada containing substantial parts
of Sir. 39.27^44.17. The latest date for this manuscript is provided by the
fall of Masada in 73 CE, and the original editor in fact argued that the
Ben Sira manuscript dates to the early first century BCE (Y. Yadin 1965:
4; cf. ia te second or early first century BCE’ in Harrington 1994: 164).
Although there are many variants among the witnesses, and there is no
likelihood that even the Masada text represents the original in all its
details, nevertheless it is generally considered a very important witness
to the original Hebrew edition of the book (van Peursen 2004: 19).
The Hebrew of Ben Sira is thus, like the Qumran scrolls, an important
witness to Hebrew of the late Second Temple period. A good survey of
scholarly opinions on the nature of Ben Sira’s language is found in the
recent book by van Peursen (van Peursen 2004: 52-64). Van Peursen
notes that it has often been assumed that Ben Sira was trying to imitate
Classical BH, and that the strong MH and Aramaic component was
evidence of his poor command of the language (van Peursen 2004: 52­
53). For example, Buttenwieser commented: ‘As a matter of fact, Ben
Sira’s style, or I should rather say, his writing of Hebrew, is exceedingly
faulty.... Apart from the grammatical errors, the wrong use of words,
showing a misunderstanding on the part of the writer, may be pointed
268 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

out, also the still more frequent occurrence of improper combinations of

words and phrases, especially biblical phrases’ (Buttenwieser 1917:
227).28 In contrast to this view, more recent scholarship has a much
higher evaluation of Ben Sira’s language. Rabin, for instance, argued that
rather than linguistic errors, the Mishnaic elements are used intention­
ally— reflecting a change of taste toward a literary use of MH elements
(Rabin 1958: 152). More recently, Kister has described Ben Sira as a
‘linguistic virtuoso’ (Kister 1989-90a: ii). In regard to chronological
questions, Hurvitz emphasises the role of Ben Sira as a link between BH
and MH (Hurvitz 1997c) and stresses the links between Ben Sira and
LBH (Hurvitz 1997c, 1999b).

10.6.2. Ben Sira 42.15-17 (Masada ms. Col. V. 1-5).29 This passage is
the beginning of a lengthy poem praising God, the creator (42.15-
43.33).30 Ben Sira begins by recalling God’s glory in creation.
n m w (4) "mri (3) nn ' w n (2) vc ( l) h -d tk i
(8) inpb (7) u rn (6) b v s i v w a "dik (5) 2
tw o ■,n « " in p i] [ n p b n b i by (9) m m m v 3
vriK*7S3 b j ~\zob bn 'w ip (10) ip*1s e n 4
i t d d (12) "Dsb pm n n b r a p s ] 'nt* (11) p a 5

1 I will now make mention o f the works o f God

And what I have seen shall I repeat
2 By the word o f God — His works
And His doctrine — an act o f His grace
3 The shining sun over all is revealed
[And the gl]ory o f the Lord doth fill His works
4 God’s holy ones have not the power
To recount all His wonders
5 God [sic] hath strengthened His hosts
To endure before His glory.

(1) n*"DTK (5.1; ‘I will make mention’). Cairo Geniza manuscript B has
"DTK without the final he (van Peursen 2004: 97, 104), illustrating the
difficulty of utilising the extant evidence for reconstructing the language

28. To be fair to Ben Sira, it should be noted that he can hardly win on Butten­
wieser’s terms. If he departs from a biblical idiom, he is accused o f making an error;
if he reproduces it, o f ‘no originality’ (Buttenwieser 1917: 226). For a detailed
critical response to Buttenwieser’s claim o f errors in Ben Sira’s Hebrew, see van
Peursen 2004: 60-62.
29. The Hebrew text is based on Beentjes 1997 with reference to Y. Yadin 1965
and Ben Hayyim 1973. The English translation is from Y. Yadin 1965: 45.
30. For commentary, see Skehan and Di Leila 1987: 484-96.
10. Qumran Hebrew and Ben Sira 269

of Ben Sira.31 Polzin argues that ‘the original cohortative sense of the
lengthened imperfect was no longer used in the Hebrew of [Nehemiah’s]
time’ (Polzin 1976: 55). The use of the cohortative here, however, seems
Van Peursen argues that Ben Sira’s use of the long first person forms
(‘cohortatives’) in initial position and the short equivalent in non-initial
position links in with LBH and QH (van Peursen 2004: 96-97). How­
ever, van Peursen’s discussion seems to lump together two separate
issues: the use of wa’eqtlah, i.e. waw consecutive with cohortative, and
the use of the cohortative proper. Wa^eqtlah is well attested in EBH
sources, but is more common in some, but certainly not all LBH books
(Rezetko 2003: 227-28). However, it is not found consistently in clause-
initial position anywhere in BH and hence is in contrast with the QH
system outlined by Qimron where ‘nbttpN...[is] mostly used in initial
position...whereas *?ttpK...[is] used in non-initial position’ (Qimron 2000:
237). Qimron claims that the Qumran use of imperfect verb forms ‘differs
from that of BH or any other type of Hebrew’ (Qimron 2000: 237).
It is in regard to non-wa’eqtlah cohortatives in particular that one may
raise some questions about van Peursen’s data. Most important is that
clause-initial position would be common for a first person volitive. ‘In
LBH, Ben Sira and Qumran, most volitive forms occur at the head of the
clause, as in CBH [= EBH]’ (Joosten 2007a: 56). In other words, initial
position for volitives is normal throughout BH. Therefore we may
wonder how much we should make of Ben Sira’s preference for this
position. Note also possible exceptions to the pattern van Peursen claims
to have found. We have already seen the alternative “DTK for our form. In
addition note the second verb in this line, HDDWl. Van Peursen argues
that this too is a first person cohortative from ]W (‘teach incisively’),
rather than a form of H3IZ) (van Peursen 2004: 90). Although this form is
preceded by a waw, this does not mean the verb is in initial position.
Rather, this is the waw apodosis found, for example, in a very similar
context in the Wisdom book Job 15.17 (GKC § 143d, p. 458; S. R. Driver
and G. B. Gray 1921, II: 97). These two verbs are the sum total of the
Masada evidence for the cohortative.
Thus, the distribution of cohortative forms in Ben Sira is possibly a
link with QH, and rather less likely, LBH, where it is the prominence of
wa’eqtlah in some books that should be stressed. More likely still is that
Ben Sira simply follows normal BH practice. In any case, the supposed
loss of the cohortative sense of the form in LBH is not in evidence here.

31. Or indeed, any ancient book; see Chapter 13. On Ben Sira, see van Peursen
2004: 410: ‘What the mass o f variants demonstrates, however, is that the text has
undergone many alterations in the course o f its transmission’.
270 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

(2) K] (5.1; ‘now, please’). Polzin argues that ‘the rarity [of KD-] in
Chronicles is indicative of the late language in general’ (Polzin 1976:
145). Here again, then, Ben Sira conforms to EBH not LBH.
Van Peursen notes that KD- occurs only four times in Ben Sira (van
Peursen 2004: 193) and concludes that ‘the low frequency of the particle
N] links it to LBH and P[ost]BH’ (van Peursen 2004: 199). In Volume 2,
3.7 we provide a full study of the particle ND-. There we note wide
variations in the frequency of N]- in various books which undermine a
clear EBH vs. LBH dichotomy. Ben Sira, for example, by having four
cases of K]-, is ahead of such core EBH books as Leviticus and
Deuteronomy and equal with Joshua. Very significantly for the Wisdom
book of Ben Sira is that Proverbs has no examples of fcW-. Contrary to
van Peursen’s suggestion, Ben Sira’s use of KD- does not link with LBH.
(3) mi (5.1; ‘and what’). Van Peursen notes the use of HT to introduce
an independent relative clause as an ancient feature found in poetry (van
Peursen 2004: 317; cf. Fassberg 1997: 62).
(4) nrTTn (5.1; ‘I have seen’). Although an ‘Aramaism’, the verb HTil
rather than 18“! for ‘see’ is never attested in the Hebrew of core LBH
books. It is widely used in EBH, especially in poetry. Most importantly
for Ben Sira, it is used a number of times in the Wisdom books of Job
and Proverbs.
(5) “IBK (5.2; ‘word’). The noun “ip’K / for ‘word’ is used in EBH
poetry, but is especially prominent in the Wisdom books of Job and
(6) (5.2; ‘and an act’).32 The verb (‘do’) is found 56 times in
BH, never in core LBH, and only once each in LBH-related psalms:
Ps. 119.3 and Ps. 125.5. Related nouns are used twice in Chronicles
(1 Chron. 11.22//2 Sam. 23.20; 2 Chron. 15.7). Thus, out of 111 occur­
rences of the root only four at most relate to LBH contexts. LBH
instead merely utilises the more common BH root 7WV. Ben Sira’s use of
bus therefore is another link with EBH.
(7) 1]*lin (5.2; ‘his grace’). A possible alternative translation would be
to take this as meaning ‘his will’ (Skehan and Di Leila 1987: 487). The
use o f p in for ‘will’ is a feature of LBH (Hurvitz 1972a: 73-78). How­
ever, the EBH sense o f ‘favour’ or ‘grace’ is entirely appropriate here.
(8) m pb (5.2; ‘His doctrine’).33 The noun Upb (‘teaching’) is
unattested in LBH, being found in EBH (Deut. 32.2; Isa. 29.24) and

32. Skehan and Di Leila 1987: 484, 487 take this as a participle, rendering the
line ‘he accepts the one who does his w ill’.
33. Skehan and Di Leila 1987: 484, 487 take this as a form o f the verb npb,
hence ‘he accepts the one who does his w ill’.
10. Qumran Hebrew and Ben Sira 271

particularly in the Wisdom books of Job and Proverbs (Job 11.4; Prov.
1.5; 4.2; 7.21; 9.9; 16.21,23).
(9) m m (5.3; ‘shining’). The only derivatives of the root m i (‘shine’)
attested in the MT Bible are in LBH Dan. 12.3 (x2), and LBH-related
Ezek. 8.2. This therefore does not fulfil the criterion of distribution. It is
an Aramaism, and hence its appearance in Ben Sira may have less to do
with its rare appearance in LBH, and more to do with the Aramaising of
the Wisdom genre (Young 1993a: 62-63; cf. 8.4.3). ‘The large number
of Aramaic grammatical features in Ben Sira gives the impression that in
grammar, as in the vocabulary, Ben Sira intentionally gave his book, like
other sapiential literature, an Aramaising style’ (van Peursen 2004: 409,
referring to Bendavid 1967-71,1: 73-74). Alternatively, note the reading
of Geniza manuscript B: n[n]"TU from the common root m i (‘rise,
shine’) (Skehan and Di Leila 1987: 487).
(10)l|TSCn (5.4; ‘have [not] the power’). The Qal of this root appears
as an Aramaism in the mouth of the Aramaean king in 1 Kgs. 20.10.
Apart from the Aramaic evidence for this root, we note also its appear­
ance in MH (as pSD) (van Peursen 2004: 260). Thus this word may be
due to the Aramaising of the Wisdom genre, or Ben Sira’s openness to
linguistic forms later attested in MH.
(11) fQK (5.5; ‘he strengthened’). Van Peursen studied the use of
perfect (qatal) verbs in initial position in Ben Sira and determined that
there is only one possible case (11.13) where a wayyiqtol verb would
have been expected in ‘classical usage’ (van Peursen 2004: 148-50).
(12) 'DS1? p m n n 1? (5.5; ‘to endure before’). At first glance, the
Hithpael of the root pin is very common in LBH. However, this is due to
the fact that it occurs very commonly in Chronicles (15 times). Outside
Chronicles it occurs no more frequently in LBH than in EBH.34 The use
with in the sense of ‘endure’ is found only in 2 Chron. 13.7, 8.
However, it is not clear what other options were available for Ben Sira’s
unique context of enduring in the presence of God.

10.7. Accumulation in Qumran and Ben Sira?

In the two passages we looked at from the DSS, above, from Pesher
Habakkuk and the Temple Scroll, alongside forms characteristic of QH,
we have seen a number of LBH forms. Does this therefore mean that the
consensus is right, and the language of the Qumran scrolls fits the late
date of their composition? QH is later than LBH, and hence does QH

34. It occurs twice in Daniel, once in Ezra, and nine times in EBH, including
four in Samuel.
272 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

continue the linguistic developments already evidenced in LBH? From

what we have seen in earlier chapters, this conclusion is not borne out by
the facts, because the mere presence of LBH features cannot be a marker
o f ‘late’ BH since typically EBH texts exhibit LBH linguistic features.
We noted this already in this chapter in that the most prominent LBH
features of Pesher Habakkuk are shared by the EBH book of Habakkuk.
The issue is, then, not whether Qumran texts exhibit LBH forms at all,
but whether they show an accumulation of these comparable to LBH
texts. In fact, if there was a continuous development from EBH through
LBH to QH, one might reasonably expect the Qumran texts to exhibit an
even greater accumulation of LBH features than the LBH texts due to
their even greater dominance over the older forms in a later period.
The language of Ben Sira also evidently contains some links with
LBH. Once again, however, it is not the mere appearance of LBH
linguistic features that marks a text as ‘late’ BH, but a high degree of
accumulation of those features. Thus, to say that Ben Sira contains LBH
features need be no more significant than pointing out that EBH Kings
contains LBH features.
Scholarship on Ben Sira has not, to our knowledge, addressed the
criterion of accumulation. It has simply been assumed that Ben Sira
represents late Hebrew, and therefore any LBH features discovered are
merely symptoms of that. It is interesting to note that Hurvitz’s two
articles mentioned earlier deal with a total of three linguistic forms
(Hurvitz 1997c, 1999b). In this regard also, there has likely been a confu­
sion over what exactly LBH linguistic items are. We have seen that Ben
Sira clearly has a fair number of elements that link more closely with
Aramaic or MH than with BH. These are important features of Ben
Sira’s language and worthy of note. However, these Aramaisms and
Mishnaisms are not necessarily symptoms of LBH. One might argue that
Ben Sira’s taste for Aramaic and MH linguistic items reflects his late
date, but this is not the same as making links with the specific and well-
attested features of LBH as attested first of all in the core LBH books.
Preference for Aramaising linguistic forms is part of the Wisdom genre
to which Ben Sira belongs, and in any case, in Chapters 8 and 9 we have
argued that the assumption that Aramaisms and Mishnaisms are straight­
forward evidence of LBH is contrary to the evidence.
The following table re-presents the number of LBH features found in
our 500-word samples to place the accumulations from Ben Sira and well
preserved Qumran texts in context.35

35. For the full table see 5.4.3. Here we only detail again the LBH features found
in our Qumran and Ben Sira samples.
10. Qumran Hebrew and Ben Sira 273

LBH Features in Biblical and Extra-Biblical Hebrew Texts

(500-Word Samples; Descending Order o f Frequency)

Text Number o f
LBH Features
1 Ezra 1.1-1 l;9 .1 -1 0 .2 a 25
2 Daniel 1.1-20; 11.44-12.13 24
3 2 Chronicles 30.1-31.3 (non-synoptic) 22
4 Nehemiah 1.1-2.17 20
5 Esther 5 .1 -6 .13a 17
6 Qoheleth 1.1-2.9; 6.1-12 15
7 Temple Scroll (1 lQTa) 57.7-59.21 1336
8 1 Chronicles 13.5-14; 15.25-16.3; 16.43-17.12 (synoptic) 12
9 Damascus Document (4QDa) 2 , 1; 1 0 ,1; 11 1237
10 Arad Ostraca 9
11 Community Rule (IQS) 1.1-3.2
12 War Scroll (1QM) 1.1-2.1 la; 2.16-3.6 939
13 1 Kings 22.6-35 8
14 Ezekiel 18.1-19.3 7
15 2 Chronicles 18.5-34 (synoptic) 7
16 1 Samuel 13.1-14.9 6
17 2 Samuel 6.1-20a; 7.1-12 6
18 2 Samuel 22.1-51 6 (7.940)
19 1 Kings 2.1-29 6

36. as ‘chosen men’ (57.8); rrn + participle (57.10, 13; 58.8; 59.4-5);
nun o f ]D unassimilated (57.11); substantive before numeral (57.12, 12-13); as
‘marry’ (57.15,18); by instead o f another preposition (57.17; 58.3,4 [x2]); 1#R for
'3 (58.9 [Holmstedt does not accept this example; cf. Holmstedt 2002: 294 n. 25;
2006b: 10 n. 10]; 59.8); (58.14); locative he without locative sense (59.3);
ptfT Hiphil for Qal (59.6); rrO^Q with m - afformative (59.17, 21); p in as ‘w ill’
(59.20); preference for verb suffixes 10 to 1 (58.12 [x2]; 59.2, 11 [x3], 12 [x2], 18,
20 vs. 59.7).
37. C hi as ‘study’ (2,1.4); 3 p 3 (2,1.5-6, 7, 12); (u)b/keqotld temporal clause
(2, 1.9); substantive before numeral (2, 1.10, 13); 10V for Dip (2, 1.18; 10, 1.12);
T by (10,1.6; 11.16); weyiqtol instead o f weqatalti (\ 0,1.13; 11.8, 14); bup (11.1);
p H l as ‘w ill’ (11.1); □rrrh- (11.10); 1T1 long for nl (11.12); preference for verb
suffixes 13 to 0 (2 ,1 .3 ,8 , 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 1 8 ,2 1 ,2 5 ; 10,1.1, 14; 11.10).
38. Pluralisation (1.9,22; 2 .1 ,6 -7 ,1 7 ); D'FiH (1-14); (u)b/keqotld temporal clause
(1.18); I" ! + participle (1.18-19); UEh Hiphil for Q a l{ \2 5 ) \ by instead o f another
preposition (2.1); □,’D,7U7 (2.3, 4, 8, 15, 17, 23, 25); pK1? (2.7, 14); preference for
verb suffixes 6 to 0 (2.2, 3 [x2], 5, 8, 16).
39. □ 113X7 (1.2); M h Hiphil for Qal (12); D'tib'lV (1.5, 12); ]'$ b (1.6); Persian
word (1.9, 10, 13); substantive before numeral (2.1 [x2], 2 [x2]); t ft n i ]13 (2.1);
I*1! + participle (2.1); pluralisation (2.8).
40. Since 2 Samuel 22 contains only 382 words, the figure in parentheses gives
the projected number o f LBH features in a 500-word sample.
274 Linguistic Dating o f Biblical Texts

20 Joel 1.1-2.19 6
21 Psalm 18.1-51 6 (7.641)
22 Job 1.1-2.1 la 6
23 Pesher Habakkuk (lQpHab) 5.3-12.13 642
24 Habakkuk 1.1-3.4 5
25 Genesis 24.1-36 (J) 4
26 Ben Sira 41.13-44.17 (cols. 3.15-7.24) 443
27 Zechariah 1.1-3. la 3
28 Exodus 6.2-12; 7.1-13; 9.8-12; 12.1—7b (P) 1

The table presents a clear picture. One of the Qumran text samples,
Pesher Habakkuk, falls squarely in the middle of the EBH books. This
low accumulation of LBH forms is coupled with a large number of
linguistic forms where Pesher Habakkuk sides with EBH against LBH
(Young, ‘Pesher’, forthcoming), some of which we saw above. Ben Sira,
to our surprise, scores lower than most of our core EBH samples, having
only four LBH features. The War Scroll and Community Rule have
slightly more LBH forms than the EBH texts sampled above, and the
Damascus Document and Temple Scroll samples stand out even more.
Yet even the Damascus Document and Temple Scroll are some distance
below even the sample from Esther, which exhibits by some distance the
lowest accumulation of any core LBH book. In other words, none of the
Qumran or Ben Sira texts sampled share the sort of accumulation of
LBH features found in all core LBH texts. In fact, the majority of them is
within or close to the normal range of accumulation found in EBH
books. It is sobering to realise that Ben Sira and Pesher Habakkuk, from
the end o f the Second Temple period, have fewer LBH elements than the
Arad Ostraca, from the end o f the First Temple period.

41. Since Psalm 18 contains only 394 words, the figure in parentheses gives the
projected number o f LBH features in a 500-word sample.
42. Biblical quotes are excluded from the sample. for'3 (5.3, 7; 6.3, 6; 7.7,
15); UEh Hiphil for Qal (9.11); b^/bv interchange/^^ instead o f another preposition
(5.11; 6.11; 7.7, 12, 15; 9.12; 12.3); pluralisation (6.4; cf. 8.12-13; 12.8); Persian
word (7.5, 8, 14); preference for verb suffixes 17 to 0 (5.11; 7.2, 4; 8.2; 9.10 [x2];
10.4,5 [x2], 11; 11.5,7, 8, 15; 12.5, 13 [x2]).
43. by instead o f another preposition (42.25 [col. 5.16]); ...b...]'3 (damaged
context; 42.4 [col. 4.10]); 2T)3 (42.7 [col. 4.13]); ntjnp (partially restored; 44.3 [col.
7.8]). We do not accept as LBH "[^n P iel (42.5 [col. 4.11]) since this is never
attested in core LBH and is strictly a Mishnaism (cf. Hurvitz 1982a: 48-52). In
addition, we do not accept as LBH 3 p Hithpolel (42.18 [col. 5.6]) or ]'3 Hiphil
(42.21 [col. 5.11]) since the distinctive LBH idiom is 3 ]'3 Hiphil (Hurvitz 1972a:
136, 138-39; Polzin 1976: 142^ 3; Qimron 1986: 88; Qimron and Strugnell 1994:
89; contra S. R. Driver 1913a: 536).
10. Qumran Hebrew and Ben Sira 275

Once we give full weight to the criterion of accumulation we realise it

is mistaken to take the appearance of a few LBH features as a sign of a
text’s LBH status. Instead, we see that far from continuing the linguistic
trend of the LBH books, the Qumran scrolls and Ben Sira do not
represent LBH, and are in fact more closely aligned with EBH than LBH.
This is not to say that we might not find any Qumran texts written in
LBH. Although the core LBH books of Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah and
Chronicles are absent or nearly absent from Qumran,44 the book of
Daniel is well attested, being found in eight manuscripts. One might
expect some reflection of the LBH of Daniel somewhere among the
scrolls. Yet, it is interesting that the War Scroll, even though echoing
themes of Daniel, has fewer than half the number of LBH features as
How did late authors like Ben Sira or the authors of the Qumran
documents write in a late form of EBH? We have seen scholars such as
Qimron stress that QH is by nature a spoken dialect, independent of BH
(see 10.2 and 10.3). Another perspective comes from consideration of the
methods of scribal education in antiquity. The question of whether Ben
Sira and the Qumran authors wrote in EBH due to imitation of biblical
works in EBH or due to a continuation of the EBH style is in fact asking
about two aspects of the same phenomenon. Education in the ancient
world focused on mastering a standard curriculum of ancient texts (Carr
2005). It is widely acknowledged that well before the end of the Second
Temple period, the Jewish educational curriculum was based on biblical
texts (Carr 2005: 168, 253-54), and that the core texts were EBH texts
such as the Pentateuch, Isaiah, the Twelve Prophets, and Psalms, with the
Wisdom books of Job and Proverbs.45 Education thus involved mastery
and memorisation of core EBH books, with a corresponding mastery of
their language.46 Thus, to say that Ben Sira and Qumran represent a
continuation of the EBH style is to acknowledge that they, like their
predecessors, mastered EBH style by mastering the language of earlier
works written in EBH. Ben Sira and the Qumran authors could write
EBH successfully because they were trained to do so by mastery of

44. No copies were found o f Esther or Nehemiah, and one copy only o f Ezra and
Chronicles. Scholars commonly consider Ezra-Nehemiah to represent a single work.
45. Trebolle Barrera 2000a. Carr 2005: 155 points out the peripheral role o f the
core LBH books o f Chronicles, Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah.
46. Carr 2005: 16, 230 emphasises the ability o f Second Temple-period Jewish
authors to produce various registers o f BH. Qimron says: ‘The [Qumran] sectarians
studied the Bible day and night so that its phraseology became a living component o f