Monday, January 11, 2016

Keep this in mind when reading

Reading usually proceeds from a written record. The written record of [Ta], however, is obviously not quite identical with [Ta] itself, since most writing systems, the Hebrew script included, only partially encode the information by which texts are determined. Therefore, in order to retrieve a text from a given written document, the reader is expected and required to provide additional information not found in the written record, but to be drawn from his own experience and cultural knowledge. If a specific reader is fully aware of the cultural codes and horizons of [Ta], he might be able to supply the necessary details and to apply them on the written document in the way required to (re-)create [Ta(1)] as a full equivalent of the original [Ta]. If this is not the case, however, he is likely to produce [Tb] in a way only partially compliant with [Ta].

This problem, inherent to script and the written transmission of documents in general as mentioned before, seems to have been even more grave with regard to the Hebrew Bible. The reason is that the Hebrew script is not able to record vowels, with the exception of the so-called vowel letters (matres lectionis), although the distinctiveness of a certain vocalization may carry important semantic information. As a result, the Hebrew Bible contains in fact a large number of words with different meaning, which had been homographs before the invention of the Masoretic pointing.—Stefan Schorch in Empirical Models Challenging Biblical Criticism, edited by Raymond F. Person, Jr. and Robert Rezetko, forthcoming from SBL Press

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