Dating archaic biblical hebrew poetry
The presence or absence of “loanwords” from Aramaic, Persian and Greek and “pseudoclassicisms” can be used as a kind of linguistic fingerprint to identify the era when a particular passage was first composed or later redacted.The use of Late Biblical Hebrew, by way of example, betrays the claims of ancient authorship that have come to be associated with some books of the Bible.In biblical poetry rare morphological forms, syntactical constructions, and lexemes form a distinct subset of poetic language that is referred to by some as Archaic Biblical Hebrew (ABH).Though it is generally agreed that this subset of poetic language exists, ongoing debates regarding the use of linguistic features to date Biblical Hebrew greatly influence the dating and analysis of these forms. But it is also a kind of whodunit in which words serve as clues and a lens through which we can learn new and wonderful things about the ancient writings the world regards as sacred scripture.The poetry of the Hebrew Bible makes up a central part of the scriptural heritage of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and has been a foundational source for poetry throughout history, and especially for later traditions of Hebrew verse. This includes the books of Job, Proverbs, and Psalms, and the several festival songs embedded in prose texts (Exodus 15, Deuteronomy 32, Judges 5, 2 Samuel 22); Lamentations and Song of Songs; and other poems or fragments embedded within blocks of prose (e.g., Genesis –24).But they also point out outliers, including fragments of genuinely archaic language preserved in passages that were composed in Classical Bible Hebrew, and intentionally “archaized” fragments appearing in texts that were composed in Late Biblical Hebrew.The Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written in “Qumran Hebrew,” and the early Greek and Aramaic translations of the Bible allow scholars to triangulate on the age and origins of the Masoretic Text, which has long been regarded as the definitive version of the Hebrew Bible.
Some passages represent “the oldest age of biblical literature,” predating the period when King David and his successors reigned in ancient Israel, perhaps as early as 3,000 years ago. The most recent books of the Bible are dated as late as the second century B. ” The authors point out that the Bible “is a brittle text, fracturing under the slightest pressure,” and they point out the “strata and fragments” that serve as dating tools to place a particular passage at a specific point in history.” Spelling, vocabulary, “conscious archaizing” of late texts, and even scribal mistakes show “how the language and text change over time.” Hendel is the Norma and Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joosten is the Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford.This particularly lean style is characterized by short lines, consisting of only two to six words per line, lending the impression of a heightened, dense form of discourse, achieved by bringing semantically important words together.As with other bodies of poetry, it routinely involves higher concentrations of words and phrases with rare meanings or usages, bold ellipses, sudden transitions, and other stylistic complexity.In quite a different vein, although written at about the same time, O’Connor 1997 (originally published in 1980) presents a minute syntactic description of Hebrew poetry that has been met with mixed reviews, in part due to its demanding nature, though for the patient reader, the book contains many insights.Recent short introductory survey articles, such as Berlin 1996 and Dobbs-Allsopp 2009, offer concise evaluations of the current state of the conversation.