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orion Spoken DSS Hebrew (Long)
Another thing to come out of my reading of Qimron's analysis of DSS
Hebrew was the fact that, from the evidence he puts forward, it seems
that it was DSS Hebrew that was the basic *spoken* language of the
writers of the DSS. Writing on the fact that MMT has a form of Hebrew
quite similar to Mishnaic Hebrew, he states that it must have
represented the language that the writers spoke -- this is because it is
so similar to the later language.
He notes in DSS Hebrew the wide use of digraphs combining aleph & waw or
aleph & yod to represent vowels. This should be seen as an innovation
attempting to render the spoken language -- otherwise why change a
system for describing a fundamentally written language?
When he says "The most characteristic feature of the orthography of the
DSS is the extensive use of waw as a vowel letter", the same conclusion
as the previous paragraph seems the only logical one. Why add
indications of how a word was spoken if it wasn't being spoken?
In his chapter on phonology, he deals with the "weakening of guttarals",
"weakening of the resh", "pronunciation of the qutl pattern", and other
topics. These named items each deal with aspects of phological change in
certain contexts that are to be found in the DSS corpus. Phonological
change being represented in written texts should be clear proof of
spoken language changing.
The DSS Hebrew that Qimron has presented was a living spoken language
that demonstrates that it had undergone changes and that the writers
wanted to represent those changes. Seeing that the majority of DSS were
written in this variety of Hebrew, it would seem most likely, despite
Qimron's statement to the contrary, that DSS Hebrew was the operating
language of the writers.
This leaves one with the necessity of dealing with the implications of
MMT -- and the copper scroll -- being in the midst of the DSS. How can
such a text be produced by a group that spoke a different form of the
language? Strugnell and Qimron were working on the idea that MMT was a
late sectarian production. This view is similar to that of Eisenman and
Wise -- I gather it was Eisenman who conjectured the possible recipient
of the letter being Agrippa I!
Late production is one possibility, though it doesn't seem too credible.
There are other -- just as credible -- explanations: that MMT was early
and represented more the language of Lamentations, Qohelet, etc; it may
represent a document written by some other entity/group than that which
produced the bulk of the DSS.
What conclusions have other people come to regarding the place of MMT in
the corpus? Have I misread Qimron's data to come to the conclusion that
DSS Hebrew was a living language? Does it seem strange that this living
language changes dramatically to accommodate a new form of language (as
that shown in MMT)?
I look forward to your ideas.
John J. Hays
I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto!