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orion-list Orion-List: Exodus (5-12 screens)
This is the second of the 3 promised mini-articles on the Hebraic
writing system in use at Qumran. While finding documents using stress
and durational notation is easy - putting them on line in a readable
format is not. As I'm getting cross-eyed from proofing, I'll risk missing
an error in transcription and notation... if someone spots something,
please let me know so I can send out an erratum. Once again, I'm copy-
righting the post for the purpose of citation.
Limit Systems and the Hebrew Square Aramic Writing System:
Two fragments of Exodus from Murabba'at
(c) R.I.S. Altman, August 1999
In the Yadi stele, we examined the trilinear structural basis and looked
at one of the variant forms used in the Phoenician-Hebraic writing
systems. We can see that variant forms are just that, variations on a
basic graph; we also saw that these variations can be quite subtle - as
small as a straight-back or closely spaced "legs." The Yadi stele shows us
how trilinear limit systems work: durational information is indicated by
movement (clumping and spacing) on the horizontal plane; stress notation
is indicated by movement (up and down) on the vertical plane.
The textbooks tell us that stress is gramatically determined in Hebrew,
and this is true. What the textbooks do not tell us is that what is true
in theory is not always true in practice. Stress is very flexible and a
specific syllable may receive none, secondary (medial), or primary stress -
even in Hebrew. Stress can either be intrinsic, that is, the normal
(textbook) pronunciation of the word, or extrinsic, that is, impressed by
musical, poetic, or rhetorical requirements - of which emphasis is the most
common. In other words, any document that records quoted statements may or
may not follow the intrinsic (normal) rules for pronunciation. This is an
important point to remember when examining these two fragments from
Murabba'at: both Exodus fragments are quoting statements: the first spoken
by Moses to Aaron and the second spoken by God to Moses. Fragment number 4
(above on the scan) contains part of Ex 4:28-31 and fragment number 5
(below on the scan) contains the last syllable of Ex 6:5 and most of Ex 6:6.
(DJD II, Plate 1 - for those with access to the DJD.) What is written on the
fragments is what is termed 'content'.
As has already been noted, content determines the correct script, size,
and format of a document - whether inscribed or written. Content, in
turn, is constrained by political and religious affiliation. For these
reasons, once the content has been examined to create a context - cultural,
political, or religious (or any combination of the three) - content is
thence forth relegated to a part of the writing system as a whole.
While formulae that may be used to reconstruct the original size of a
damaged document are recorded in scribal handbooks<1>, we need at least one
full margin (any of top, bottom, or inner) plus one full sentence to apply
them. These fragments are too small and neither size nor format can be
retrieved. On the other hand, the script is there for us to see. These
fragments are written in a very formal script. Content tells us that
this formal script is an authoritative/official biblical font, _but so do
the large number of graphs requiring multiple strokes_ (pen lifts). Formal
authoritative and/or official script designs incorporate many pen lifts;
these pen lifts have one primary purpose - to slow the scribes down to
protect the authoritative words from being garbled in transmission.
There is one other point that should be mentioned about this type of formal
script design. Ductus _cannot_ be used to isolate scribal hands in these
scripts and fonts. Unlike cursive designs, where ductus (the direction of
a pen or brush stroke) may be determined for a given scriptorium (but not
necessarily for one scribe), the ductus on formal scripts and fonts is
constrained by the design of the script. The only way to isolate hands on
documents written in an official script or font is by scribal ideographs.
These two fragments of Exodus display scribal ideographs, some of which
have already been mentioned; each fragment was written by a different
scribe. Although there are clear differences among graphs in both fragments,
particularly on the aleph, vav, and shin/sin, - suggesting variant phones -
the fragments are too small for us to map graph-to-phone. Both scribes,
however, use the Phoenician-Hebraic trilinear limit system that we saw
demonstrated on the Yadi stele, and both use stress and durational notation.
As we go through the fragments marking the notations, it may be amusing to
compare the reality of the words as spoken with the printed "textbook"
record in the BHS.
Note the clumping and spacing of durational notation - graphs run together
ligatured, or space inserted between graphs that are normally part of
a word. Primary stress graphs are noted by a carat (^) under the graph,
secondary stress by a plus (+), ligature by an underline (_). As too few
people know Michigan-Claremont to use in a general posting, 'X' = chet,
's' = samech, Sh = shin, 'n' = nun-sofi, Tz = tzadi, 'a' = ayin.
Fragment 4: Ex 4:28-31
The first graph on this fragment is the nun-sofi in the name 'Aaron'.
Line 1: n A_TKL DB_RI IHVI A (part of the aleph in AShR, the next word)
(BHS: AT KL-DBRI IHVI)
Line 2: ShLXV VA_T KL HA_T_T AShR Tz_VHV VILX MSh H (part of heh missing)
+ + +
(BHS: ShLXV VAT KL-HATT AShR TzVHV (29) VILX MShH
Line 3: VAHRn VIAs_P V AT_KL ZKNIBNI ISRAL VIDBR (part of resh missing)
^ * + + ^ ^ +
*Note the primary stress on the 'yod' and the extra
space between the 'pe' and the 'vav' indicating a
"held" sound on VIAs_P V
(BHS: VAHRn VIAsPV AT-KL-ZKNI BNI ISRAEL (30)VIDBR
Line 4: AHRn A_T KL HDB_RIM AShR DB_R YHVHAL M (part of mem missing)
^ ^ +
(BHS: AHRn AT KL-HDBRIM AShR-DBR YHVH AL-M[WH]
Line 5: [VIa]S HATT La_INI Ha_M VI[MAn] [missing parts]
^ + ^ +
VIaS HATT LaINI HaM: (31)VIMAn
Line 6:  IHVH A_T BNII[SRAL] [missing]
(BHS IHVH AT BNI-ISRAL
Fragment 5: Ex 6:5 and most of Ex 6:6
Line 1: TI LKnAMR LB_NI ISRAL ANI YHVH [missing]
+ + ^ ^^
(BHS: TI LKn AMR LBNI-ISRAL ANI YHVH
Line 2: Tz_ATI A_TKM M_T_X T sBLT MITz_RIM [missing]
(BHS:TzATI ATKM MTXT sBLT MITzRIM
Line 3: L_TI A_TKM Ma[BD]T_M VG_ALTI A_TKM [letters cut off at bottom]
(BHS: [VGAL]LTI ATKM MaBDTM VNALTI ATKM
Note: As the system calls for extension downwards, we cannot determine the
stress notation for most of line 3.
It may be noticed that the extra stress on "Ani" in line 1 makes sense.
Another point worth mentioning is that whether words are separated or run
together depends upon the parsing rhythms of the speaker and whether he or
she is emphasizing something for rhetorical effect.
While the system does take some time to adjust to, once we can read the
words as spoken, we will have a much better idea of the phonology as well
as auctorial intent. In addition, it is also a great deal of fun to see
the words literally 'speak' to us from the past. The pages have voices -
IF we will listen to them.
The proportions of margin to white space to text space in quality "books"
have not changed in more than 2500 years. See Jan Tschichold, _The form of
the book: esssays on the morality of good design_. Trans. by Hajo Hadeler;
ed., with an introduction, by Robert Bringhurst. London: Lund Humphries,
1991. Tschichold worked out the formulae for himself; the 9th century
handbook containing the pertinent information was not discovered until after
his death. The handbook verifies the accuracy of Tschichold's calculations.
Dr. Rochelle I. Altman, co-coordinator IOUDAIOS-L firstname.lastname@example.org
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