This article is arranged according to the following outline:
1. THE TRANSMISSION OF THE BIBLE
1.1. THE SOFERIM
1.2. WRITTEN TRANSMISSION
1.2.1. Methods of Writing
22.214.171.124. THE ORDER OF THE BOOKS
126.96.36.199. SEDARIM AND PARASHIYYOT
188.8.131.52. SECTIONAL DIVISIONS (PETUḤOT AND SETUMOT)
1.2.2. Irregularities In The Writing
184.108.40.206. EXTRAORDINARY POINTS
220.127.116.11. ISOLATED LETTERS
18.104.22.168. SUSPENDED LETTERS
22.214.171.124. LARGE AND SMALL LETTERS
126.96.36.199. OTHER ODD LETTERS
1.3. ORAL TRANSMISSION
1.3.1. Ancient Evidence
188.8.131.52. MIQRAʾ SOFERIM
184.108.40.206. ʿIṬṬUR SOFERIM
220.127.116.11. QERE WE-LAʾ KETIV; KETIV WE-LAʾ QERE
1.3.2. The Verses
1.3.4. The Masorah
2. THE MASORAH AND THE BEGINNINGS OF GRAMMAR
2.1.1. The Indians
2.1.2. The Arabs
2.1.3. The Syrians
2.2. AMONG THE JEWS
2.2.1. The Codex
2.2.3. The Invention of Punctuation
2.2.4. Karaites and Rabbanites
3. THE WRITTEN MASORAH
3.1. THE MASORAH (NARROW SENSE)
3.1.1. The Term
3.1.2. Definition and Scope
3.2 THE MASORAH PARVA (QETANNA)
3.2.1. The Qere and Ketiv
18.104.22.168. METHODS OF NOTATION
22.214.171.124. THE DEVELOPMENT
126.96.36.199. THE SYMBOLS
188.8.131.52. VOCALIZATION OF THE QERE
184.108.40.206. QERE WE-LAʾ KETIV (READ AND NOT WRITTEN)
220.127.116.11. QERE WE-LAʾ QERE (WRITTEN AND NOT READ)
18.104.22.168. THE SCOPE OF QERE
3.2.2. Types of Qere
22.214.171.124. CORRECTION OF FORMS
126.96.36.199. CORRECTION OF ERRORS
188.8.131.52. MALEʾ AND HASER (PLENE AND DEFECTIVE)
184.108.40.206. QERE PERPETUUM
3.2.3. The Masoretic Notes
3.2.4. The Babylonian Masorah
220.127.116.11. CONTAMINATION OF MASORAH
3.2.5. The Palestinian Masorah
3.2.6. Deviating Versions
18.104.22.168. VERSIONS OF PARTICULAR MASORETES AND MANUSCRIPTS
3.3 THE MASORAH MAGNA (GEDOLA)
22.214.171.124 METHOD OF NOTATION
3.3.1. The "Simanim" (Mnemonic Devices)
3.3.2. Accumulative Masorah
3.3.3. The Babylonian Masorah
3.3.4. The Palestinian Masorah
3.3.5. Agreement between the Masorah Magna, the Masorah Parva and the Text
126.96.36.199. LACK OF AGREEMENT
188.8.131.52. METHODS OF COPYING
184.108.40.206. THE NON-CRYSTALLIZATION OF THE MASORAH
220.127.116.11. ORNAMENTATION OF THE TEXT
3.3.6. Jacob ben Ḥayyim ibn Adonijah
18.104.22.168. EDITING AND ARRANGING THE MASORAH
22.214.171.124. CROSS REFERENCES
126.96.36.199. HIS TERMINOLOGY
188.8.131.52. THE ACCEPTED TERMINOLOGY
3.3.7. Summary Lists
3.4. THE INDEPENDENT MASORAH
3.5. THE MASORAH TO TARGUM ONKELOS
4. THE DIACRITICAL POINTS
4.1. GRAETZ'S THEORY
4.1.1. Details of the Proof
184.108.40.206. ANCIENT USAGE OF "MILLEʿEL" AND "MILLERAʿ"
220.127.116.11. THE DIACRITICAL POINT IN SYRIAC
18.104.22.168. DEVELOPMENT IN HEBREW
4.2. MILLEʿEL AND MILLERAʿ
4.2.1. Development Of The Usage
22.214.171.124. TONAL MEANING
126.96.36.199. VOCALIC MEANING
188.8.131.52. CONNECTION BETWEEN THE MEANINGS
4.2.2. The Babylonian Terms
4.2.3. The Parallel Usage of Qameṣ and Pattaḥ
4.3. RELATIVE NOTATION
5. VOCALIZATION AND ACCENTUATION
5.1. THE PALESTINIAN SYSTEM
184.108.40.206. THE TERM
220.127.116.11. THE STATE OF TRANSMISSION
18.104.22.168. TYPES OF TEXTS
5.1.1. The Vowel Signs
22.214.171.124. THE SIGNS
126.96.36.199. HISTORY OF THE SYSTEM
5.1.2. The Diacritical Signs
188.8.131.52. MAPPIQ AND DAGEŠ
5.1.3. The Accentuation Signs
184.108.40.206. FORMATION AND CHRONOLOGY
220.127.116.11. THE (21) PROSE BOOKS
18.104.22.168. THE (3) POETICAL BOOKS
5.2. THE BABYLONIAN SYSTEM
22.214.171.124. THE TERM
126.96.36.199. EXPANSION AND CHRONOLOGY
188.8.131.52. MADINḤAʾE READINGS
5.2.1. The Vowel Signs
184.108.40.206. THE SIMPLE SYSTEM
220.127.116.11.1. The Signs
18.104.22.168.2. The Two Sets and Syriac
22.214.171.124.3. The Antiquity of the Two Sets
126.96.36.199. THE COMPOUND SYSTEM
188.8.131.52.1. The Signs
184.108.40.206.2. Perfect and Non-Perfect
220.127.116.11.3. Tiberian Influence
5.2.2. The Diacritical Signs
18.104.22.168. MAPPIQ, DAGEŠ, RAFEH
5.2.3. The Accentuation Signs
22.214.171.124. THE NATURE OF THE NOTATION
126.96.36.199. TYPES OF ACCENTUATION
188.8.131.52. THE ACCENTS
5.3. THE TIBERIAN SYSTEM
5.3.1. The Vowel Signs
184.108.40.206. THE VOWELS
220.127.116.11. THE ŠEWA AND THE ḤAṬEFS
18.104.22.168. THE NAMES OF THE VOWELS
5.3.2. The Diacritical Signs
22.214.171.124. THE PRONUNCIATION OF CONSONANTS
126.96.36.199. THE GAʿYAH
188.8.131.52.1. The Name
184.108.40.206.2. Minor Gaʿyah
220.127.116.11.3. The Terminology
18.104.22.168.4. Major Gaʿyah
5.3.3. The Accentuation Signs
22.214.171.124.1. The Functions
126.96.36.199.2. The Principles of Parsing
188.8.131.52. THE (21) PROSE BOOKS
184.108.40.206.3. Main Rules of Dichotomy by the Disjunctives
220.127.116.11.4. Rules of Joining the Conjunctives
18.104.22.168. THE (3) POETICAL BOOKS
22.214.171.124.3. Main Rules of Dichotomy by the Disjunctives
126.96.36.199.4. The Use of Conjunctives
188.8.131.52. SPECIAL SIGNS
184.108.40.206.1. Signs for Pause and Not for Melody
220.127.116.11.2. Signs for Melody and Not for Pause
18.104.22.168.2.1. The (21) Prose Books:
22.214.171.124.2.2. The (3) Poetical Books:
5.4. THE NON-CONVENTIONAL TIBERIAN SYSTEM
5.4.1. The Typifying Characteristics
126.96.36.199. THE PRONUNCIATION TRADITION
188.8.131.52. ACCENTUATION OF THE (21) PROSE BOOKS
184.108.40.206. ACCENTUATION OF THE (3) POETICAL BOOKS
220.127.116.11. OTHER SIGNS
5.4.2. An Analysis of the System
18.104.22.168. GEOGRAPHICAL AND CHRONOLOGICAL DISTRIBUTION
5.4.3. The Relationship to the Conventional Tiberian System
22.214.171.124. OTHER NAMES
126.96.36.199. DEFINITION OF THE SYSTEM
5.5. THE CONTAMINATION (MIXING) OF THE SYSTEMS
5.5.2. Process of Tiberianization
5.5.3. Types of Mixture
5.6. THE SAMARITAN SYSTEM
5.6.1. The Vowel Signs
188.8.131.52. THE PROBLEMS
184.108.40.206. THE VOWEL AND DIACRITICAL SIGNS
5.6.2. The Accentuation Signs
6. MASORETES AND GRAMMARIANS
6.1. THE FIRST MASORETES
6.1.1. Dosa ben Eleazar
6.1.2. Moses Moḥeh
6.1.3. Other Masoretes
6.2. AARON BEN-ASHER AND HIS PERIOD
6.2.1. Diqduqe ha-Teʿamim
6.2.2. His Other Works
6.2.3. Biblical Manuscripts
6.2.4. Kitāb al-Ḫulaf
6.3. THE ANONYMOUS CODIFICATION OF THE MASORAH
6.3.1. Hidāyat al-Qāri
220.127.116.11. THE TREATISE AND ITS TRANSFORMATIONS
18.104.22.168.1. Hidāyat al-Qāri
22.214.171.124.2. Horayat ha-Qore – European Branch
126.96.36.199.3. ʿAdat Devorim
188.8.131.52.4. Maḥberet ha-Tījān – Hebrew and Arabic Versions
184.108.40.206.5. Other Works
220.127.116.11. ITS SOURCES AND TRADITION
18.104.22.168.1. Distribution, Chronology, and Pronunciation Tradition
22.214.171.124.2. Influence of Local Elements
6.3.2. Works on the Šewa
6.4 THE PERPETUATORS OF THE WAY OF THE MASORAH
6.4.1. Meir ben Todros ha-Levi Abulafia
6.4.2. Jekuthiel ben Judah ha-Kohen ha-Naqdan
6.4.3. Menahem ben Solomon ha-Meiri
6.4.4. Jacob ben Ḥayyim ibn Adonijah
6.4.5. Elijah Baḥur ben Asher ha-Levi (Levita)
6.4.6. Menahem ben Judah di Lonzano
6.4.7. Minḥat Shay
6.4.8. The Yemenites
6.4.9. Wolf Benjamin Ze'ev ben Samson Heidenheim
6.4.10. Seligmann Isaac Baer
6.4.11. Later Scholars
The transmission of the Bible is as old as the Bible itself, according to the ancient tradition in Avot that "Moses received the Torah from Sinai and handed it on to Joshua and Joshua to the elders and the elders to the prophets and the prophets handed it down to the men of the Great Assembly" (Avot 1:1). This concept of "Torah" which is handed down from generation to generation includes all of the Bible as it developed, with all the components which accompanied it and were added to it and which also shared in its holiness. As the form of the Bible became increasingly canonized and set in all its specific details, the tradition of reading the text and its exact pronunciation grew and became closely attached to it, developing together with it, and being handed down from father to son through the generations.
The work of the transmission of the Bible was by its very nature destined to be in the hands of *scribes (soferim), transcribers who were skilled in the exact copying of the Bible and were therefore legally recognized as people knowledgeable in Torah, and who were accomplished scholars of it. The term soferim, which in the beginning was a term for scholars of the Torah in general (divre soferim, Sanh. 11:3), in time became limited to those scholars who specialized in the Written Law and in its exact transmission. Some were transcribers, and in this capacity they were called also כותבנים (kotvanim; "skilled kotvanim were in Jerusalem," TJ, Meg. 1:11 (71d)) or לבלרים (lavlarim – librarius = libellarius; thus, "R. Meir was a lavlar"; Eruv. 13a), while others were teachers and instructors of school children ("and the sofer (scribe) teaches according to his way"; Tosef. Meg. 4:38). The main interest of these scribes was the preservation of the text of the Bible, and they are credited with a number of rules and regulations which were established for this purpose. It is not known who those scribes were, but some of the scholars of the Talmud are conspicuous by their special interest in every legal discussion dealing with the problem of the text of the Bible, its transcription, and its teaching, such as R. *Meir (TJ, Ta'an. 1:1 (64a); TJ, Meg. 4:1 (74d); Eruv. 13a; Sot. 20a et al.), R. Hananel (TJ, Meg. 1:11 (71c, d); Meg. 18b et al.), and R. *Samuel b. Shilat (TJ, Meg. 71c, d; BB 8b, 21a; Ket. 50a). This preoccupation with the exact transmission of the Bible gradually became important, and the term sofer tended to lose its original connection with sefer ("book") and came to designate all learned people. Thus the original meaning of the term became obscured through its connection with the act of counting by the preservers of the text, as stated in the Talmud (Kid. 30a): "Therefore the ancients were called soferim (סופרים), because they counted (היו סופרים) all the letters in the Torah…." Originally the activity of the soferim and the preservers of the exact version of the Bible was an oral one. The main point of their work was instruction in the reading of a text lacking vocalization and accentuation signs, and passing this reading on orally from generation to generation. Since the text was holy it was not permissible to add anything to the skeleton of the letters of the Bible, and only a small part of what they established as reading aids was noted in the sacred text, that is, the very text which to this day has served for the public reading prescribed by the halakhah. It can be said that those items which did penetrate into the holy text did so during the very earliest period of its development with the result that they too became sanctified. Anything which did not find a place in the text itself, such as the vocalization and the accentuation signs and the various masoretic notes, at first had to be transmitted orally, and even when they were committed to writing they were still not allowed to be introduced into the sacred text.
There are two types of items which penetrated into the holy text itself:
(1) those connected with the methods of writing the text – the pages, the lines, the marking of the lines, the division into sections, the manner of setting out the songs (Shirat ha-Yam, Shirat Ha'azinu, and others), and the order of the books;
(2) irregularities in the script and in the actual writing – dots above the letters, suspended letters, isolated nuns, large letters, small letters, and the like.
Most of the matters connected with the writing of the Bible are closely regulated by the halakhah and the customs of earlier generations. This applies especially to the Torah. Since it serves for the public reading in the synagogue it must comply with exact ritual conditions, without which the reader and the listener do not fulfill the religious duty of reading the Torah. These laws and customs became established during the time of the Talmud and were collected after a time in the tractate Soferim (which was presumably edited not later than the eighth century C.E.), and in the legal compilations of the rabbinic authorities (such as Maim. Yad, Hilkhot Sefer Torah). These instructions deal with the actual form of the book (the scroll, the size of the parchment and the pages), the writing (the size and shape of the letters, the addition of *tagin [tittles,
Since these matters are governed by the halakhah, they are not considered part of that which is usually called "Masorah," although they are also, by their very nature, included among all the matters connected with the writing of the Bible that are handed down from generation to generation. Although the term "masorah" today includes all the matters connected with the writing and recitation of the Bible, it is not permitted to write them in a copy intended for public reading. These items could be written in the margins and even in the text itself only after some time, when people began to make copies of the Bible in the form not of a scroll but of a codex (מצחף) meant for the everyday study and teaching of the Bible.
The order of the books of the Bible and the division of the texts into sections is the same for the scrolls and the codices. The oldest arrangement of the 24 books of the Bible is mentioned in a *baraita (BB 14b) and adopted also by Maimonides (Yad, Hilkhot Sefer Torah 7:15). In it, the order of the Pentateuch and the Early Prophets is the same as it is commonly accepted today, but the order of the Latter Prophets is: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the Minor Prophets – the order which was kept later in the German and the French manuscripts (sometimes also with Isaiah preceding Ezekiel), as opposed to the Oriental and Spanish manuscripts whose order is that which is common today.
The order of the Hagiographa as found in the baraita (and also by Maimonides, Yad, Hilkhot Sefer Torah 7:15) is Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Daniel, Esther, Ezra (and Nehemiah), Chronicles – but this order was followed in only a few isolated manuscripts. In the manuscripts of the Oriental and Spanish masoretes the order is as follows: Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra (and Nehemiah); while in the German-French manuscripts and in most of the printed editions of today the order is: Psalms, Proverbs, Job (the term אמ״ת comes from the initials of these three in reverse order), Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra (and Nehemiah), Chronicles. See *Bible: Canon.
The accepted order of the books rejects the Babylonian tradition, as listed in the baraita, in favor of the Palestinian and other traditions. However, the Babylonian tradition was followed in the division of the Torah into short units for recitation in the synagogue (see *Torah, Reading of the). In Palestine the reading of the Torah was completed once in three years (see *Triennial Cycle) and therefore the Pentateuch was divided into 154 (or, according to another version, 167) weekly portions called סדרים (sedarim). In Babylonia the full cycle of the reading of the Torah was completed in one year, so that the Torah was divided into 54 פרשיות (parashiyyot), weekly portions (סדרות or sedres in Yiddish) and that division is followed today, in continuance of the Babylonian tradition. The sedarim which served in the Torah as units for the (Palestinian) weekly portions for public ritual reading were applied to break also the text of the whole Bible into small units. However, since in the Prophets and Hagiographa this division was hardly necessary for use even in ancient times, except for some definite small parts (haftarot, megillot, etc.), there are differences in manuscripts as to the exact location of the divisions and even in the number of sedarim.
The division of the body of the text into sections is an ancient one, and unlike the above-mentioned division into sedarim and parashiyyot, involves the very copying of the text whether in a scroll or a codex. These sections are of two kinds, with the type of space preceding them varying:
(1) a parashah petuḥah (open parashah) which starts at the beginning of a line, the preceding line being left partly or wholly blank (in some manuscripts and print editions this is indicated by פ);
(2) a parashah setumah (closed parashah) which begins at a point other than the start of a line, whether the preceding section ended in the preceding line (at its end or not) or whether it ends in the same one, in which case a space of approximately nine letters is left between the two sections (in some print editions this is noted by ס). This ancient division is attested to in the Babylonian Talmud (Shab. 103b): "a parashah petuḥah should not be made setumah, a setumah should not be made petuḥah." Sifra to Lev. 1:1; 1:9 asks: "And what purpose did the פיסקות (sections) serve? To give Moses an interval to reflect between parashah and parashah and between issue and issue." Despite their antiquity different traditions or customs developed on the matter of the parashiyyot, as to the placing and number of each type. In printed editions today there is a great degree of uniformity in the Torah due mainly to the halakhic fixing of this issue and that of the shape of the songs by Maimonides following *Ben-Asher (Yad, Sefer Torah 8:4).
Various irregularities in the actual shape of the writing are part of the copied text. These go back to early sources and are discussed here in their assumed chronological order.
There are dots over 15 words in the Bible and sometimes also under them, one dot over each letter of the word or over some of the letters. The words are distributed as follows: ten in the Torah (in the
The isolated letters (מנוזרות אותיות) are the nine signs which appear between verses – in the Torah before and after the section of ויהי בנסע הארן (Num. 10:35–36), and seven in Psalms, chapter 107 (there are differences of opinion as to their exact place and number.) Rather than being referred to by the name אותיות (letters), they are already called סימניות (signs) in a baraita (about the Torah – Shab. 115b: ARN 34, 4; about Psalms – RH 17b). Their form was not fixed in the ancient sources and the scribes were quite liberal in the manner in which they marked them. There is early evidence that these simaniyyot were nothing but simple dots. This is the impression given by Sifre Numbers, ch. 84 (ed. Horovitz, p. 80), already in the name of R. Simeon (second century C.E.). As time passed, these signs assumed various shapes and changed names accordingly. In tractate Soferim (prior to the eighth century) 6: 1, it is called, according to the version of various manuscripts, שיפור (horn) – perhaps the sign really resembled a shofar, "and it appears indeed in the section on travels (ויהי בנסע)" – or שיפוד (spit), which is reminiscent of the sign of the ὀβελός (= spit). In Diqduqe ha-Te'amim (ch. 2) the term אותיות מנוזרות is found, and according to *Dunash b. Labrat it is האותיות המנזרים (Teshuvot al Menaḥem, ed. Filipowski, p. 6a). The term is neutral and does not indicate the shape of the sign, and according to the basic meaning of its root it refers to letters which are separated from the consonantal text. In the manuscripts the sign developed into the shape of a reversed nun. It is not known whether all of it was reversed ׆ (see Okhlah we-Okhlah, §179), or only its top or bottom, and there was much confusion about it in the commentaries (see Minḥat Shai on Num. 10:35; Naḥalat Yaʿakov on tractate Soferim 6:1). There were even those who wrote it into the text itself in the place of regular nuns of the text (see also Ginsburg, The Massorah, vol. 2, p. 259, §15a). Later the names of these signs, too, were interchanged with the name for the regular reversed nun (see below 126.96.36.199). Hence the otiyyot menuzzarot became נוּנין מנוזרות (see Masorah Magna to Ps. 107:23), which was explained, following נָזׁרוּ אחור, "they turned backward" (Isa. 1:4), to mean reversed nun (Minḥat Shai on Ps. 107:23), though there is no linguistic support for this interpretation. If the opinion already expressed in ancient sources regarding the signs in the Torah is generally accepted, that is, that the purpose of these signs is to separate the section "when the ark set forward" as if it were a book by itself, there is no similar consensus of opinion concerning the signs in Psalms (see S. Lieberman, Greek and Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (Jerusalem 1962), 178–181).
There are four suspended letters אותיות תלויות in the Bible: the nun of מנשה (Judg. 18:30), and the ʿayin in the words מיער (Ps. 80: 14), רשעים (Job 38: 13), and מרשעים (Job 38:15). The tradition concerning them is quite ancient, going back to the third century C.E. (see *Samuel b. Naḥman in TJ, Bet. 9:3, 13d: ARN 34, 4) and to later sources. In most instances midrashic explanations on these suspended letters are also mentioned.
The custom of writing some letters differently – smaller or larger than usual – never became halakhically fixed. Thus there are several discrepancies between the various manuscript texts of the Bible. Even the lists of the Masorah are not uniform: Ginsburg compared some ten different lists (The Massorah, vol. 4 (1905), 40–41). The number of large letters is greater than the number of small letters. One of the large letters is already indicated in the Talmud (Meg. 16b) in the name of R. Johanan (third century C.E.). In Soferim 9:1–7 at least four large letters and one small one are mentioned. Their number grew as time passed, but in the older manuscripts, such as those of *Aleppo and Leningrad, there are still relatively few of these letters.
For these there is generally no evidence in ancient sources. The Talmud (Kid. 66b) mentions in the name of R. Naḥman (third century C.E.) a וי״ו קטיעה in the word שלום (Num. 25:12), which is explained as a waw with a crack in the middle, but it is not certain that they did not mean a waw which was cut short, that is, a small waw. Maimonides (Yad, Sefer Torah 7:8) lists "[and] odd letters like winding (לפופות) pes, and the crooked (עקומות) letters." The Masorah Parva mentions a נון עקומה ("crooked nun": ואני, Ex. 3:19), as well as נון הפוכה ("an inverted nun"; בחרן, Gen. 11:32), and קופין דבוקין ("attached qufin": בקמיהם, Ex. 32:25; see also Okhlah we-Okhlah, §161). The Masorah Marginalis of the
Apart from these matters which mainly are connected with the very writing of the Bible – and there could not be copying without their clear establishment – all of the other issues were originally part of oral transmission. The notes concerning the text of the Bible and the instructions for its proper pronunciation and its exact copying were handed down orally from generation to generation before they were set down in writing. It may be assumed that these notes were permitted to be written down and were actually committed to writing with the institution of the use of the codex among the Jews – apparently in the sixth or seventh century C.E. Therefore one must differentiate quite clearly between the oral Masorah which is endless and cannot be defined even though there are allusions to it and evidence thereof, and between the written Masorah whose notations were written in the margins of the codices and which is called simply "the Masorah."
In addition to the main evidence offered by the very existence of the text which was passed down from father to son and from teacher to student, there is an explicit statement about the oral transmission in the name of R. Isaac (about the third generation of Palestinian amoraim, at the end of the 3rd century C.E.): "R. Isaac said, סופרים וקריין ולא כתיבן וכתיבן ולא קריין מקרא סופרים ועטור were handed down as Law to Moses at Sinai" (Ned. 37b–38a). All the items listed there are thus considered as coming from a most ancient period, when it was not yet possible to list the items – there were neither signs to use (vocalization and accentuation) nor permission to write down such signs.
The saying of R. Isaac continues with an explanation: מקרא סופרים – ארץ שמים מצרים. Despite all the explanations which have been given to miqraʾ soferim (see the comment attributed to Rashi which is probably that of *Gershom b. Judah Me'or Ha-Golah and see R. Nissim ad. loc.), it seems that miqraʾ is to be taken in its literal meaning – the correct "reading" of the words as handed down by the scribes. The three words cited above are an example of the possibilities for various readings of words whose pronunciation can be known only by the transmitted reading of the soferim. Similar to this is the principle in the Talmud (Sanh. 4a and elsewhere) that the text as read (with vowels) is authoritative יֵשׁ אֵם לַמִּקְרָא, that is, the accepted pronunciation is to be followed in establishing the meaning of the text (as opposed to יש אם למסורת, i.e., the consonantal text – the actual letters – is authoritative; see below).
The other items listed by R. Isaac are also a very ancient tradition which was not permitted to be written down and which was transmitted orally from generation to generation: ʿiṭṭur soferim are apparently omissions (עטר "to remove" in Aramaic; see He-Arukh S.V., quoting R. *Hai b. Sherira, and additional explanations in Minḥat Shai to Num. 12:14) of the conjunctive waw as evidenced by the examples which are listed there: עיטור סופרים – אַחַר תַּעֲבׁרוּ (Gen. 18:5), אַחַר תֵּלֵךְ (Gen. 24:55), אַחַר תֵּאָסֵף, (Num. 31:2), קִדְּמוּ שָׁרִים אַחַר נׁגְנִים (Ps. 68:26), צִדְקָתְךָ כְּהַרְרֵי אֵל (Ps. 36:7). Possibly other omissions are also to be included.
The last two items – words which are to be read although they are not written (qaryan we-laʾ ketivan) and conversely, words which are not to be read although they are written (ketivan we-laʾ qaryan) – issues which are discussed later on – are also an ancient tradition and could not be written down until long after the statements were made. They are listed thus: – פרת דבלכתו קריין ולא כתיבן (II Sam. 8:3); איש דכאשר ישאל איש בדבר האלהים (II Sam. 16:23); באים דנבנתה (Jer. 31:37); לה דפליטה (Jer. 50:29); את דהגד הוגד (Ruth 2:11); אלי דהגורן (Ruth 3:5); אלי דהשעורים (Ruth 3:17); וכתבן ולא קריין – נא דיסלח .הלין קריין ולא כתבן (II Kings 5:18); זאת דהמצוה (Deut. 6:25); ידרך דהדורך (Jer. 51:3); חמש דפאת נגב (Ezek. 48:16); אם דכי גואל (Ruth 3:12); ולא קריין הלין כתבן. This list in Nedarim, like the two which preceded it, is a sample and not complete. It is also not in complete agreement with the detailed lists of the Masorah for our texts. A correct list is found, for example, in Okhlah we-Okhlah, §97 and in it there are ten qere we-laʾ ketiv (it does not include Ruth 2:11), and eight ketiv we-laʾ qere (and it does not include Deut. 6:25).
Although ordinary qere notes were not explicitly mentioned in the Talmud, it is clear that they too are to be included in miqraʾ soferim, and the tradition of the qere, that is, words which are to be read differently from the form in which they are written, is ancient and returns to oral transmission.
The above also applies to the division into verses. Here too we have an ancient tradition (so ancient that it is generally in agreement with the Samaritan reading) which was handed down orally. This antiquity is evident from the meaning of miqraʾ soferim which really means the complete reading including the transmitted vocalization and the transmitted division. Undoubtedly the division of the text into minimal units – the verses, and even the division of every unit into its parts, the accents – is also part of correct transmitted division. This transmission, like all oral transmission, while it strives for great precision and generally achieves it, still contains some doubtful instances and contradictions between different transmissions which have to be decided.
There is evidence in talmudic literature for the existence of the tradition of division into verses, a division which was handed down orally and was not permitted to be marked in
One statement was repeated in three main versions as seen in the table below.
A comparison of sources in the rabbinic literature on ancient oral traditions regarding the biblical text: division into verses, vocalization, accentuations, etc.
Upon study one clearly sees the difference between the two Babylonian sources (vs. 1) and the two Palestinian sources, TJ and Gen. R. (vs. 2, 3). In the Babylonian sources there is no mention of הכרעים ("decisions") or הכרעות וראיות ("decisions and proofs") and there is a difference between the Babylonians and the Palestinians in the method of study and interpretation of ראשי) פסוקים) and פסקי) טעמים). Their common factor is that in all of them the verses, the accents, and the traditions (masorot) are linked to Ezra the Scribe, i.e., to a very early period.
Regarding the division into verses there is even earlier evidence, from the Mishna: "He that reads in the Torah may not read less than three verses (פסוקים); he may not read to the interpreter more than one verse (at a time), or, in the Prophets, three" (Meg. 4:4); and there is the statement in Kiddushin 30a, that derives from the period of the tannaim (Bacher, 92 ערכי מדרש), which lists, among other things, the middle verse of the Torah (והתגלח; Lev. 13:33).
There is evidence of some confusion as to the verse division in some sections: Rav. Joseph [third century C.E.] asks "to which half does והתגלח belong?" (the reference is to the word we-hitgallaḥ which is considered to be the middle of the Torah with regard to verses; does it belong to the first or the second half?). *Abbaye answered him: "Verses can be counted" (in contrast to what was said before about plene and defective spelling, about which R. Joseph states that in Babylonia they are not experts in it and that it is therefore impossible to establish the number of the letters of the Bible). Rav Joseph replied: "We are also not expert in the division of verses, because when Rav Aha bar Ada came [to Babylonia], he said that in the West [i.e., Ereẓ Israel] they divide this verse into three: And the Lord said to Moses: "Behold I come to you in a thick cloud" (Ex. 19:9)" (Kid. 30a). It follows, therefore, that the Babylonian scholars were also not expert in the division of the text into verses. It can be assumed that the Palestinians were more particular than the Babylonians in the transmission of the text of the Bible. Indeed, there are considerable differences between the number of verses recorded in the Talmud and our texts of the Bible. (See Kid. ibid.: The Rabbis taught: "there are 5,888 verses in the Torah" – according to the Masorah the number is 5,845.) For Psalms and Chronicles the numbers are completely different and there was, apparently an error somewhere. In any event, this statement is the primary source about the difference in the text between the Palestinians and the Babylonians.
The term ראשי פסוקים ("beginnings of the verses") in contrast to פסוקים ("verses") in the above quotation does not indicate a substantive difference between the two countries but is a terminological difference only. The division into verses requires the notation of either the beginnings or the ends of the verses and it makes no difference which. The term "beginnings of the verses" from the Palestinian sources has a continuation in additional, later Western sources, e.g., Soferim 3:7: "A book which he punctuated, wherein he marked the beginnings of
the verses, should not be (publicly) read." Similarly Diqduqe ha-Te'amim, chapter 10, has "the chapter of the beginnings of the verses." In contrast there is an indication for the actual marking of the beginnings of the verses in Babylonia itself (of a later period, of course) as found in texts using the Babylonian vocalization system (see Kahle, M.d.O. text, 35a).
Differences with regard to the details of the verse division existed not only between the West and the East, but within the same tradition itself. Sometimes there are differences between the division into verses and the division into sections, which is older; the פסקא באמצע פסוק ("paragraphs [which end] within verses") are evidence of that (e.g., Gen. 35:22; Num. 26:1 (some texts = 25:19), etc.). However, there are differences in detail between printed texts and manuscripts.
There is evidence for the antiquity of the accents earlier than the above mentioned source (1.3.2.) and again the reference is not to the written signs, which were set relatively later, but to the tradition of reading the verses with the necessary accents and pauses, which was passed from generation to generation. A teacher of children should not receive payment for teaching Torah, but he can take שכר פיסוק טעמים ("a fee for [teaching] accentual division"; Ned. 37a). Even here, as with all oral transmission, doubts developed concerning the parsing and the accentual division and it is possible that the word הכרעות, תנאות) הכרעים) refers to just that in the Palestinian version of the above-mentioned saying. Thus there are words in the biblical text whose syntactical adhesion is undecided; "Issi b. Judah said: there are five verses in the Torah the construction of which is uncertain: שאת (Gen. 4:7); משקדים (Ex. 25:34); מחר (Ex. 17:9); ארור (Gen. 49:7); וקם (Deut. 31:16)" (Yoma 52a/b). For similar doubts, see, for example, TJ, Beẓah 2:4 (61c) for I Chr. 29:21; Yoma 52a for I Kings 6:19; Bava Meẓia 58a for Lev. 5:21; Bava Meẓia 73b for Lev. 25:46. Most instructive is the question of R. *Ḥisda (Hag. 6b; Yoma 52b): "Rav Ḥisda asked: How is this verse (Ex. 24:5) written? 'And he sent the young men of the children of Israel and they offered burnt offerings,' meaning sheep; 'and they sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord'; or were both types of sacrifices of oxen? [i.e., does the word "oxen" refer to the second half of the verse only and thus the peace offerings were oxen but the burnt offerings were not, but sheep, or does the word "oxen" refer to all the verse and thus both the burnt offerings and the peace offerings were oxen?] What difference does it make (what they sacrificed on that occasion in the wilderness)? Mar *Zutra said לפיסוק טעמים (the division of the accents [= punctuation])"; i.e., this question has no practical relevance, other than for the issue of correct punctuation, that is, how one is to read the verse and where to pause in it.
This tradition of reading with stress and pauses involved the tune with which one should read the Bible. According to R. Johanan (Meg. 32a): "He who reads (קורא) without melody (נעימה) and studies (שונה) without a tune (זמרה) is referred to by the verse 'And wherefore I gave them statutes which were not good…' (Ezek. 20:25)." This evidence of reading the Bible and the Mishnah (שונה) with a tune has an even more ancient basis, at least as far as the Bible is concerned. Thus the reason of R. Akiva for the custom of "Why do people not clean themselves with the right hand but rather with the left hand" is "Because one shows the טעמי תורה with it [the right hand]" (Ber. 62a). The טעמי תורה ("accents of the Torah") which are shown by hand are the signs of conducting with the movements of the hand according to the tune, as attested to by Rashi (Ber. 62a): "Taʿame Torah: The tunes of the reading accents of the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa, whether by signs in the book, whether by raising the voice, and with the notes of the melodies of the tune of pashtaʾ and dargaʾ and shofar mahpakh; he (the reader) moves his hand according to the melody; I have seen readers who come from the land of Israel do it." This is, therefore, an ancient custom which was followed in Palestine still in the days of Rashi (the 11th century). There is also explicit evidence of the custom in Maḥberet ha-Tījān (J. Derenbourg, Manuel du lecteur (1871), p. 108): "And know that the grammarians have a hand movement for every accent in addition to the melody articulated by the mouth…" This custom continues among Yemenite Jews to this day.
During the entire period of the Talmud the accents had no written signs and it is generally accepted that the invention of the vocalization signs took place at the same time as the invention of accentuation signs. At the only place where סימני טעמים ("accent signs") are mentioned in the Talmud (Eruv. 21b) the term is usually interpreted according to this assumption: "Rava explained: what is the meaning of 'he also taught the people knowledge; yea, he pondered, and sought out and set in order many proverbs' (Eccl. 12:9)? 'He taught the people knowledge' means he taught them with סימני טעמים (accent signs)." "Accent signs" are explained as not being necessarily written signs (see Rashi ad loc.). Yet, perhaps the term "accent signs" may be understood in its literal meaning? There is no clear evidence either way and it is not impossible. However, if it is to be understood as accent signs, one must date the invention of the accent signs to an earlier period – that of *Rava, about the first half of the fourth century.
The Masorah referred to in the above sources (1.3.2) as masoret or masorot has already been discussed. Undoubtedly, it means the traditions concerned with the writing of the text with regard to plene and defective orthography. There is evidence in talmudic literature to this effect, such as the principle that יש אם למסורת (Sanh. 4a and elsewhere); that is, the spelling as handed down in the tradition (masoret) is decisive, i.e., the tradition of writing with or without the matres lectionis (as opposed to יש אם למקרא "the reading of the text is authoritative" – i.e., the common reading and pronunciation – see above). It seems that the statement of R. Akiva, מסורת סייג לתורה "masoret is a fence for the Torah" (Avot 3:13), also refers to the same thing, i.e., that the written text as handed down with all the details is a fence of defense for
This is the source of the lists of differences between the Palestinians and the Babylonians – the differences between מערבאי (Westerners) and מדנחאי (Easterners) – which are mainly variants in spelling and in the manner of the writing (in one or two words). These lists, which include about 200 to 250 variances – there are differences between the various manuscripts as to number and detail – cover mostly the Prophets and the Hagiographa and less the Pentateuch.
The care about the orthography and the matres lectionis is the justification for the rule יש אם למסורת and opened the way for many homilectical interpretations based on the spelling of the letters (especially when it allows for a reading different from that of the traditional pronunciation). The largest collection of this type of interpretation is in "Midrash Ḥaserot wi-Yterot'" (from the ninth or tenth century) which is devoted completely to it. Even earlier than this the sages had arranged lists for remembering words which are written with and without matres lectionis, e.g., Soferim, ch. 7. They are, in fact, the beginnings of the lists of the written Masorah which are based on the short and sketchy notes on peculiarities of spelling or form in the text, marked in the margins of the books. With that we come to the written Masorah.
The purpose of the Masorah, whether it be oral or written, was clearly and undoubtedly the precise preservation of the holy text. This purpose was the primary thrust for the occupation with grammar after a period of many years. In this respect the development and growth of Hebrew grammar is different than that of other ancient grammars; although it was influenced by them – to a smaller or greater degree – it differs from them in its motivation and its beginnings.
Other peoples also came to occupy themselves systematically with language and grammar because of the need to preserve their holy texts: the Indians on the one hand and the Arabs, to some degree, on the other.
From the time the Indians felt that they were drawing further and further away from their ancient language, Sanskrit, the language of the Vedas, their holy writings, and that they were facing the danger of forgetting that language and that thus the holy writings were liable to be forgotten or – at least – to be corrupted, they turned to the study of the ancient language as a means for preserving the holy writings. Their approach was analytical (the word "grammar" in Sanskrit is wyākarana = analysis) and they analyzed the holy text into small units in order to recognize each unit and to write it down so that it would not be forgotten. This is actually a descriptive method which establishes the minimal units – mainly morphological and phonological – and lists them in all their details. The inventory lists of Sanskrit are in fact the perfect means for realizing the goal which the Indian grammarians had set for themselves, the preservation of their holy texts in the ancient, original language.
The greatest Indian grammarian of the ancient period was Panini, whose descriptive grammar became known in Europe only in the 19th century and greatly influenced modern linguistics and the structural-descriptive school. However, Panini lived in the fourth century B.C.E., and he certainly had no influence on the Hebrew Masorah. The aim was the same – preservation of texts – and such an aim does not stem from foreign influence but is an internal, original need. The means, therefore, for achieving this goal would be completely different in each case.
While the Arabs are much closer to the Jews, both geographically and chronologically, their principal motive was the need to preserve the language, and not particularly their holy writings. The territorial expansion of the Arabs and the consequent dominance of Arabic in all the area of their empire exposed the language to the penetration of foreign influences from the languages of the conquered peoples. The purity and clarity of Arabic was in danger and a call went out in the first years after the Islamic conquests – it mentions the name of the fourth caliph, Ali – to make efforts to maintain its purity (luḡa faṣīḥa). The first Arabic grammarians set the rules of the language on the basis of the language of their ancient poets and the Koran. The religious power of the Koran, which is written in the dialect of the Quraysh tribe, the tribe of the prophet, and its distribution among the believers made its language – with all the adjustments made in it – into the model Arabic language. Thus the preservation of the language of the holy writings was not the main purpose of the grammarians, but rather the preservation of the purity of Arabic against foreign influences of non-Arabs who adopted Arabic as their language and spoke it. Due to the status of the Koran in Islam, knowledge of the Arabic language and grammar became a religious science, one of whose purposes was also the correct interpretation of the Koran and the other holy writs (the *Hadith).
At this point the aims of Hebrew and Arabic grammar have become identical, but the beginnings are completely different, both as far as motivation and early methodology are concerned. The oral Masorah for the preservation of the text of the Hebrew Bible was a living study for the Jews for hundreds of years before their contact with Islam and before the
Alongside these two peoples, the Indians and the Arabs, among whom the science of language developed, mention must be made of the Syrians, who were not very original in their treatment of language but who do have a point in common with the Jews. The Syrians were influenced both by the Arabs and by the Greeks. Next to the Indians, the Greeks are in reality the originators of the science of language, without any connection to a holy text but from a philosophical approach to literature and speech. The first grammatical works of the Syrians are translations from the Greek, yet for all the lack of originality in Syrian literature, including grammar books – and perhaps because of it – a need was felt for preserving the text of the holy writings, the Peshitta, in all details concerning its reading and pronunciation. This aim became intensified all the more when Syriac ceased to be a spoken language and, later, even a literary medium. In this it has something in common with Hebrew, and there are several points of contact between the Syrian Masorah and the Hebrew written Masorah. Like Hebrew, Syriac developed a system, or a set of systems, of dots and other signs to mark vowels, accents, and other diacritical marks. These systems became more and more sophisticated as time passed. One of the challenges of research into the Masorah has been the establishment of the relationship between the two traditions, the Hebrew and the Syrian, i.e., which is the original and influenced the other, and which came later and imitated the other. This applies to the method of notation, to the signs themselves and to the terminology. This question cannot be decided unequivocally, but in any case, it is clear that the beginning of the Hebrew Masorah – that oral system which is as ancient as the public reading of the text of the Bible and which was finally written down – undoubtedly precedes the Syrian Masorah, for the translation of the Peshitta is relatively late. The fact that Syriac manuscripts with diacritical marks from the fifth century have been found and that they therefore precede the dated Hebrew manuscripts which have vocalization and accentuation signs by about 300 years cannot affect this basic consideration.
When did the Masorah begin to be committed to writing? Since we do not have ancient dated manuscripts, one must accept external proofs. As already stated, the prerequisite for writing the Masorah systematically was the institution of a change in the means of writing and the abandonment of the common use of the scroll. The codex is a more sophisticated form for writing than the scroll; it consists of units of leaves of parchment or paper which are placed – bound – between two plates of wood. Every unit had a number of sheets, most often apparently five (hence the Hebrew word קונטרס, qunteres (= quinternus)). The codex was already in use by the Romans in the fourth century C.E. and perhaps earlier. It is first mentioned in Jewish literature in the Halakhot Gedolot, that is, in the eighth century and at the latest in the first half of the ninth century, by the name מיצחף (miẓḥaf) which is borrowed from the Arabic muṣḥaf. A codex is not valid for the public ritual reading of the Torah, and it has wide margins where different notes could be marked.
Despite the fact that actual evidence for the conditions necessary for the writing down of the Masorah is rather late, there is clear evidence from other sources that the Masorah was committed to writing prior to the eighth century. This evidence can be considered reliable in the light of the fact that scrolls which were invalid for ritual reading also served, as it seems, for the noting of Masorah. Scrolls of this type were also found in the Cairo *Genizah. The evidence points to a period of 200 years within which vocalization and accentuation signs were initiated: not before the sixth century nor later than the seventh.
The terminus a quo is based on a number of facts:
(1) Jerome (end of the fourth century-beginning of the fifth) states explicitly (in his commentary on the Bible) that the Jews did not have signs to note the vowels (he does not speak of accents).
(2) In the Jerusalem Talmud (which was completed in the first half of the fifth century) and in the Babylonian Talmud (which was completed at the end of the fifth century) there is no mention of vowel and accentuation signs; similarly there is no mention of them in the earliest Midrashim. This evidence of silence is undisputed, especially in the light of interpretations like that in Song of Songs Rabbah on the sentence (Songs 1:11) תורי זהב נעשה לך עם נקדות הכסף "We will make thee circlets of gold (תורי זהב) with studs (nequddot) of silver (נקדות הכסף)": 'With studs of silver' – R. *Abba b. Kahana said these are the letters. R. *Aḥa said these are the words. Another interpretation: 'We will make thee circlets of gold' means the writing; 'with studs of silver' means the stylus lines (drawn on the parchment)." In this context a homiletic interpretation of נקודות to signify vowel points is obviously called for, yet none is found. Evidence from late Midrashim is obviously not reliable; for example in Exodus Rabbah, ch. 2:6 (to Ex. 3:4) פסק (paseq) is actually mentioned, but this Midrash is later than the tenth century. It follows, therefore, that the use of the vowel and accentuation signs was not instituted before the sixth century.
The terminus ad quem is established by a number of indirect proofs:
(1) Phinehas Rosh ha-Yeshivah is one of the early masoretes about whose work in Masorah and vocalization there is definite knowledge, and he lived in the first half of the ninth century at the latest. This suggests that vocalization and accentuation signs were already in use before then.
(2) Asher b. Nehemiah (the grandfather of Aaron Ben-Asher) lived apparently at the same time as Phinehas, and his grandfather Asher was the "great elder," the founder of the dynasty of famous masoretes who dealt with vocalization and accentuation signs like his descendants. This Asher the Elder must have lived in the second half of the eighth century at the latest, which means that the vowel and accentuation signs were fixed before that time.
(3) In the ninth century there was already no definite knowledge as to who invented the vowel and accentuation signs, and so we hear from Natronai Gaon of Babylonia (d. 858) in his prayer book, Me'ah Berakhot: "The vowel signs (niqqud) were not given at Sinai but the sages marked them for signs." Thus in the first half of the ninth century, although vowel and accent signs were known and accepted, the inventors were already unknown. It can be assumed therefore that the institution of their use preceded that time by several centuries. In the eighth century there were sages dealing with punctuation (see above); the latest possible time for the first use of vocalization and accentuation signs is therefore the seventh century.
Today there is general agreement as to when the use of punctuation (including accentuation signs) was begun, but this was not always so. All scholars agreed that the tradition of pronunciation and the tradition of reading with pauses and melody are ancient, and that (without going into any detailed explanation of the phrase "law handed down to Moses at Sinai") they were handed down by the earliest sages. An allusion to this is the talmudic expression miqraʾ soferim (see above 188.8.131.52.), which is also considered as law handed down to Moses at Sinai.
There was, however, a difference of opinion with regard to the graphic signs, a point which was part of the general controversy between the *Karaites and the *Rabbanites. The Karaites, who did not accept the Oral Law as binding and whose whole heritage stems from the Bible as it stands (חפישו באוריתא שפיר), naturally considered the text of the Bible holy in its entirety – including every detail of vocalization and accentuation. The Karaite view found its most complete expression in Judah *Hadassi's book Eshkol ha-Kofer (written in 1149): "And the Torah scrolls should be pointed with vowels and accents… for without vowels and accents God did not give them… for the writing of our God was 'graven upon the tablets' (Ex. 32: 16) so was their writing full with vowel and accent signs and not lacking in vowel and accent signs" (Judah b. Elijah Hadassi. Eshkol ha-Kofer (1836, repr. 1969), 70a).
But the Rabbanites considered only the consonantal text to be holy, and the inclusion of vowel and accent signs makes a scroll invalid for public ritual reading. Therefore, as far as they are concerned the signs are late. This view is expressed in the statement of Natronai Gaon, "the vowel signs were not given at Sinai but the sages marked them by signs." A fuller statement is that of Simḥah b. Samuel of Vitry, France, a disciple of Rashi, in his Maḥzor Vitry (written about 1100): "for the descriptions of the melodies were said to Moses: which tears out (תולש), stands straight (זוקף), sits (יושב), stands (עומד), goes up (עולה), goes down (יורד), and leans (מונח) [referring to accent names]; but the signs of the melodies (= accents) were set by the soferim" (ed. by S. Hurowitz (Nuremberg, 1923), p. 462).
However, the Rabbanites were not unanimous; some shared the Karaite view, others thought that the punctuation signs were ancient and if Moses did not receive them at Sinai, at least it was Ezra the Scribe who set them. The matter was explicitly decided by Abraham *Ibn Ezra in Sefer Zaḥot (ed. Lippmann, p. 7a): "Thus is the custom of the Tiberian sages, and they are the source, for from them came the masoretes and we received all the punctuation from them." The whole question was again clarified by R. Elijah Baḥur *Levita in Masoret ha-Masoret in the third introduction (ed. Ginsburg, p. 121–31). Following them, it was generally accepted – with the exception of a few dissenters (J. Bachrach, Ishtadalut im Shedal, Warsaw, 1896–97) – that the vocalization and accentuation signs were invented by the masoretes.
The written Masorah can be divided into categories:
(1) the masoretic notes in the margins of the text and the longer lists which accompany the text or are appended to it – the Masorah in the narrow sense;
(2) the graphemes which, by their very nature, are of two types: (a) the vocalization signs; (b) the accentuation signs.
As far as chronology is concerned, it is difficult to differentiate between the two main categories and particularly between the two types of graphemes. It can be assumed that once it was permitted to write on the manuscript of the text itself, signs were permitted to be used. However, for reasons of convenience, we shall treat them here in three separate paragraphs.
The early sages explained the term as deriving from מסר ("to hand over"), i.e., something which was handed down from generation to generation: the text of the Bible which is precisely transmitted (as stated e.g. by Elijah Levita at the beginning of his third introd. to Masoret ha-Masoret; ed. Ginsburg, 102–3). Others explained the term and the related one מָסׁרֶת as derived from the root אסר ("to bind"; cf. commentaries to Ezek. 20:37, *מָסׁרֶת < מַאֲסׁרֶת), that is, something which
Z. Ben-Ḥayyim has suggested a new explanation which seems plausible. He has demonstrated that the verb מָסַר can also mean "to count" (סָפַר) both in Hebrew and in Samaritan Aramaic. Indeed, counting was a large part of the work of the masoretes, according to the Talmud (Kid. 30a): "Therefore the early sages were called soferim for they counted (היו סופרים) all the letters of the Torah…" In the period following the Talmud the term "sofer" more and more came to refer to a skilled scribe and copyist of the Bible, while the wisdom required in the work and the understanding and exact knowledge of the text needed a special name, and for that a noun from the root מסר synonymous to ספר began to be used, i.e., מָסוֹרָה masorah (and this without detracting from the older meaning of masoret = sign). The form מָסוֹרָה which is found in a poem of Hai Gaon (d. 1038) is from Palestinian Aramaic where it serves as a participle, that is in Hebrew מוֹסֶרֶת ("counting"), and it is this name which fits the skill of noting the peculiar details in the biblical text. This form was even translated correctly in various participial forms in Hebrew מָסֵרָה, מוֹסֵרָה (these two in the plural in the Leningrad Codex of 1009) and in Arabic māsira (Kitāb jāmiʿ al'alfāẓ by David b. Abraham Alfāsī in the tenth century). From then on the verb is used in the basic conjugation, qal, מָסַר (in the colophon to the Aleppo Codex and in manuscripts of the second collection of Firkovich in St. Petersburg: no. 9 – the beginning of the tenth century; no. 39 – from the year 989; and no. 144 from the year 1122) and in the piʿel conjugation (in a manuscript in the same collection: no. 17 – from the year 930) with the meaning "to write Masorah."
In the Masorah (in the narrow sense) everything that is written outside of the biblical text, but accompanies it, is included. This is even stated in one of the oldest chapters which describe the Masorah, "and he commanded to write one outside (מבחוץ) and one inside" (Dikduke ha-Teʿamim, ed. Baer-Strack §8, and cf. §63, and Maḥberet ha-Tījān ed. D. Derenbourg, 127, 129–31), and it seems that the term החיצונים ("the external ones" – Diqduqe ha-Te'amim, ed. Dotan, ch. 2) includes all the notes listed outside of the text. These notes vary in their degree of importance to the text, antiquity, trustworthiness, and degree of agreement in various manuscripts. It is therefore convenient to follow here an external-technical division of these notes and not one based on their nature. The modern commonly accepted technical division is the following:
(1) Masorah Parva (Small Masorah);
(2) Masorah Magna (Great Masorah) which is further divided into: (a) Marginal Masorah and (b) Final Masorah (written at the end of the text).
The notes of the Masorah Parva are expressed in extreme brevity and generally by abbreviations. These notes are listed in the manuscripts at the margins of the biblical text, mostly at the right or left. There is a small circle (or star) in the text over the word to which the note of the Masorah is directed. In the fragments of the Bible with Babylonian punctuation, the Masorah Parva is sometimes written in small letters between the lines of the text, each comment above the word to which it refers.
The most important notes in the Masorah Parva for the purpose of the reading are those of qere (including qere we-laʾ ketiv and ketiv we-laʾ qere, "read although not written," and "written but not read," respectively; see above, 184.108.40.206.). Initially all the notes were written together, but in a few manuscripts and especially in printed editions, the notes concerning qere were emphasized more than the others.
Qere קְרֵי (the passive participle in Aramaic = the read [Hebrew קָרוּא]) means the form of the word as it should be read – ignoring the written letters. The vocalization and the accentuation signs which are diacritical marks for correct reading are adjusted, therefore, only to the form which is read and not to the written form. Yet there is an ancient custom, which was followed in most of the printed editions, to write the vowel and accent marks of the qere upon the skeleton of the letters of the ketiv כְּתִיב (= the written) and to write the consonantal skeleton of the form which is read without its vocalization and accentuation signs as a masoretic note in the margin: for instance, inside the text (Josh. 20: 8) גּׁלָ֥ון and in the margin: קרי =) גולן קׁ = "read"); inside the text (Isa. 36:12) שֵיֵנַ֥יְהֵֶ֖ם and in the margin מימי רגליהם קרי. When the change involves only one or two letters sometimes only this difference is shown, e.g., לְכַשְׂדָּיאֵ֔ (Dan. 2:5) and in the margin: לכשדאי קרי =) אי קׁ).
The older method of marking the qere was to note in the margin, or in the Babylonian system to mark sometimes between the lines, only that portion of the word in which there is a change. This method is quite frequently used in the Palestinian system. The full word containing the variant reading is found in relatively later texts.
There is noticeable development also in the manner of notation. In the earliest stage only the letter which was different was noted in the margins (when the qere indicated a change in letter), such as in the Palestinian vocalization
As time passed קרי or its abbreviation קׁ (was written in addition to this sign alongside or under the qere version. In Babylonian manuscripts קרן ("reading") is also found written out. In these texts the sign כתׁ ("ketiv") too is occasionally found written over the forms of the ketiv which are in the text itself. Another notation found in a few manuscripts and used in each of the punctuation systems to note the qere where one letter in the ketiv form is extra, is יתי׳, יתיר, for example, אֲנָושָׁא (Dan. 4: 14) in the margin: יתיר וֹ. A note of this type also may, sometimes does denote a spelling with matres lectionis, such as הֲקֵים (Dan. 3:5, 7) in the margin: יתיר יׁ; also עֲלֶינָא (Ezra 4:18) in the margin: יתיר יׁ.
In the manuscripts there are different methods for attaching the vocalization of the qere to the skeleton of the letters of the ketiv. In some the order of the vowels as they should be is retained and no attention is paid to the letters such as וּמְבַלֲהִים (Ezra 4:4) qere ומבהלים; in others each vowel is attached to its proper letter according to the qere and thus the order of the vowels is distorted: וּמְבַלִהֲים. This, however, does not happen in every instance. Sometimes there is inconsistency within the same manuscript.
The qere we-laʾ ketiv notations indicate the reading of a word which is not in the written text. In the space in the text where the word is to be read, its vowels and accentuation signs are generally written in (although sometimes they are not marked at all). In some manuscripts the word qere alone is written outside of the text.
The ketiv we-laʾ qere notations are those which direct the reader not to read a word which is written in the text, and thus it appears in the text without vowels or accentuation signs. In this case too there are instances where the phrase לא קרי alone is noted. This term or its abbreviation, ׁלׁק, may also refer to individual letters; in other words it is an abbreviated method for noting a qere form which differs from the ketiv only in the omission of letters, for example, אַרְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּא and in the margin: אׁׂלקׁ (Ezra 8:1, Leningrad Ms.) that is, אׁלא קרי (= aleph not read), namely, read אַרְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּ.
There are differences between manuscripts and between printed editions with regard to the number of qere notations; some versions mark the qere very frequently while others do so rarely. This refers of course to those instances where the remark concerning qere is not required and the reading can be understood without it, especially when the difference is with quiescent letters, like בָּנָו (Deut. 33:9), הַמּוֹרִאים (II Sam. 11: 24), etc. Some manuscripts note qere for these and some merely have a masoretic note, חסר (ḥaser), מלא (maleʾ), or יתיר (yattir), etc. Some make no comment at all. Thus there is no fixed number of qere notations in the Bible. Elijah Levita, for example, counts 848 cases (Masoret ha-Masoret, the third introduction, ed. Ginsburg, p. 115), and he is not a maximalist.
Essentially there are four or five main types of qere notations in addition to qere we-laʾ ketiv, which are really words omitted from the text, and in addition to ketiv we-laʾ qere, which is actually not a qere but a laʾ qere instruction ("not read").
Strong language is changed to euphemisms. This is a substitution which dates back to the time when Hebrew was a spoken and understood language. Evidence for this type of change is already found in the Tosefta (Meg. 4:39–41): "Every derogatory written expression is replaced by one of refinement, e.g., 'Thou shalt betroth a wife and another man shall ravish her (ישגלנה)' (Deut. 28: 30): every place where ישגלנה is written, they read יִשְׁכָּבֶנָּה (shall lie with her); 'with the boil of Egypt, and (בעפלים) [unknown disease]' (Deut. 28:27); every place where בעפלים is written, they read it as בַטְּחוֹרִים… (with the hemorroids)." Cf. a better version in Meg. 25b.
Archaic forms or grammatically exceptional forms are substituted by a standard one, e.g., the suffix of the second person feminine – קראתי < קָרָאת (Jer. 3:4), לכי < לָךְ (II Kings 4:2), בניכי < וּבָנַיִךְ (II Kings 4:7), and, e.g., the suffix of the verb in the perfect, plural third person feminine נצתה < נִצְּתוּ (Jer. 2:15), etc.
Errors, or what appeared to the masoretes to be errors, are corrected. These are likely to be of various types, as metathesis, substitution of letters, the omission or addition of letters, changes in the division of the words, the substitution of whole words, and so on, such as ותראנה > וַתָּאׁרְנָה (I Sam. 14:27); יך > יַד (I Sam. 4:13); < וַיַּעַט ויעש (I Sam. 14:32); הזאתה > הַזּׁאת (Jer. 26:6): שלל > הַשָּׁלָל (Sam. 14:32); שם הפלשתים > שָׁמָּה פְּלִשְׁתִּים (II Sam. 21:12); העיר > חָצֵר (II Kings 20:4) and so on.
Changes in the spelling because of matres lectionis. It is with
In addition to the above types of qere there are others which are not noted at all, the qere perpetuum. These were handed down orally from generation to generation and one must observe them even though there is no qere notation concerning them. In these instances the vocalization of the qere is attached to the ketiv. Among there are the name of God, which is read differently from the way in which it is written; in the Torah the feminine third personal pronoun is הִוא (except for 11 places where it is נַעֲרָה ;(הִיא is written in the Torah without the he (except for one place, Deut. 22:19); the name of the city Jerusalem is written without the second yod (except in five places) but it is always read יְרוּשָׁלַיִם; the name יששכר is always read יִשָּׂשכָר (Issachar) – at least in the Ben-Asher version – see below). Some have suggested to consider other forms as examples of qere perpetuum, for example, שְׁנֵים, שְׁתֵּים which are supposed to be שְׁנֵי, שְׁתֵּי, (see *Gesenius §17c, 97d), but there is no evidence for this.
The other notes of the Masorah Parva point out forms in the text concerning which there is some apprehension that the reader or the scribe-copyist will err, that is, spelling with or without the matres lectionis (plene or defective), certain vowels or accentuation signs, certain grammatical forms, the joining of certain particles, the unusual combination of words, and so on. In most of the masoretic notes the view is descriptive-comparative and not normative. In general the question is not what is the standard form and does the item in question deviate from it, but rather what is the common form and is the item in question different from the common form – whether or not it be standard or exceptional itself – and does the item belong to the majority or the minority. This last principle necessitates the constant enumeration of the forms in the various divisions of the text (in the entire Bible, in one of the three parts of the Bible, in a book, or even in a specific section), and reference to this number.
Below is a list of the common terms in the Masorah and their usual abbreviations. From the definitions and examples the nature of the notes of the Masorah Parva will become clear. It is to be noted that most of the terms of the Masorah are Aramaic, which in fact is itself an indication of the time of the creation of this terminology: ליתא, לית = ׂל ("there is none [like it]"): בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ (Gen. 1:27), לׁ (the word in this form does not occur again in the Bible); דׁ, גׁ, בׁ, etc., "enumeration": וְשָׁמָֽיִם (Gen. 2:4), דׁ (this word with the conjunctive waw occurs four times in the Bible); מלא = מ״ל, מׂל ("plene," i.e., with matres lectionis): בְּעִצָּבוֹן (Gen. 3: 17), לית ומלא =), ל׳ ומ״ל; the word does not occur again in the Bible and here it is written with the waw): תּוֹלְדוֹת (Gen. 2:4), ב׳ מלא דמלא =) ב׳ מ״ל דמ״ל; this word is found twice in the Bible with two waws); יתיר ("plene"; see above, 220.127.116.11.): וּמְהָקֵים (Dan. 2:21), לׁ ויתיר יׁ (the word does not occur again and here it is written with yod); חסר = חס׳ (defective, "deficient," i.e., without matres lectionis): גְחׁנְךָ֣ (Gen. 3:14), ל׳ וחס׳ (occurs only here and written without waw); ראש פסוק = ר״פ or ריש פסוקא (the beginning of a verse); אֶל־הָאִשָּׁה (Gen. 3:16), ל׳ ר״פ (this combination appears nowhere else at the beginning of a verse); דסמיכי = דסמיכ׳, דס׳ (together): חַיַּת ° הָאָרֶץ (Gen. 1:25), י׳ דס׳ (these two words are found together 10 times); בתורה = בתו׳ (in the Torah): שֵׁמוֹת (Gen. 2:20), ט׳ מלאי׳ בתורה (this word is written in the Torah nine times with the waw); אורייתא = אוריית׳, אורי׳ (Aramaic for Torah): וּשְׁמׁנֶה (Gen. 5:7), כל אוריית׳ חס׳ (without the waw throughout the whole Torah); בסיפרא = בספ׳, בסי׳ (in this book of the Bible): חָרְבוּ (Gen. 8:13), ב׳ בספ׳ (occurs twice in the Book of Genesis); בנביאי = בנביא׳ or בנביאים (in the Prophets): וַתָּבוֹא (Ezek. 22:4), י׳ מל׳ בנביא׳ (occurs 10 times in the Prophets with the second waw); בכתיביא = בכתיב׳, בכת׳ or בכתובים (in the Hagiographa): הֲלוֹא (Ruth 2:8), ט׳ מל׳ בכת׳ (nine times with waw in the Hagiographa); בענינא, בענין = בעני׳, בעינ׳ (in this context): וַיִּהְיוּ כָּל־יְמֵי (Gen. 5:8), ז׳ בענין (this combination occurs seven times in this section, i.e., in the section of the generations from Adam to Noah. In contrast, וַיְהִי כל־ימי occurs there three times); בלישנא = בלש׳, בליש׳ (in the language, i.e., 1. root, basic form; 2. meaning):
1. הֵינִיקָה (Gen. 21:7), ה׳ מ״ל בליש׳ (there are five words from the same root written with two yods). This is the only occurrence of this form, but there are four others from the same root ינק which are written with two yods: מֵינִיקוֹת (Gen. 32: 16), לְהֵינִיק (I Kings 3:21), מֵינִיקׂתַיִךְ (Isa. 49:23), הֵינִיקוּ (Lam. 4:3), and see Minhat Shai to Ex. 2:9.
2. וַיָּגֶל (Gen. 29:10), ב׳ בתרי ליש׳ (the word occurs twice in this form, with two meanings. Here it means "and he rolled" – the hifʿil of גלל; in Ps. 16:9 it means "and he rejoiced" the qal of בטעמא = בטע׳, בט׳ .(גיל (with the accent): וַיּׂ֡אמֶר (Gen. 22:2), י״ד בטע׳ (this word occurs 14 times with this accent).
In addition to this group of terms there are also basic grammatical expressions: דגש (dageš) and רפי (rafeh), מלעיל (milleʿel) and מלרע (milleraʿ), זכר (masculine) and נקבה (feminine), קמץ (qameṣ) and פתח (pattaḥ), and the names of the other vowels and accentuation signs. For a more comprehensive list of terms see Yeivin, Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah, pp. 80–120.
The Masorah Parva and the Masorah Magna are appended also to texts of the Babylonian system (see 5.2.). They are slightly different from the Tiberian system (see above), but the main difference is in the very paucity of masoretic notes – for most of the parts of the Bible there is no Masorah or there is very little – and in their terminology.
Some of the terms are the same in the two systems; the following are the most important terms which are unique to the Babylonian Masorah: דקרן = דק׳ (Aram. "which is read") = in most cases equal to Tiberian
Some grammatical terms are named differently, such as the following names of vowels: מיצף פומא = מיצ׳ פומא, מיצ׳ (Aram. "contraction of the mouth") = qameṣ; מיקפץ פומא = (ditto) = qameṣ; מיפתח פומא ("opening of the mouth") = פיתחא = pattaḥ; so too some of the names of the accents: סיחפאאתנח = (ʾetnaḥ); סגול = שידיא (segol and other accents with similar pausal value); אוקומי, אוק׳ (a major disjunctive); zaqef. Other grammatical terms named differently are רפה) = קיפיא, קיפ׳ rafeh): מלעיל =) ניגרא = ניג׳ in all its usages); מלרע =) דיגרא in all its usages). For a comprehensive list and discussion of the Babylonian Masoretic terminology see I. Yeivin, Babylonian Masorah, pp. 54–55: Y. Ofer, Babylonian Masorah, pp. 39–59; N. Reich, Shalshelet.
In some cases we find a mixture of the Masorah. Some Tiberian codices show a certain degree of Babylonian influence in terminology or even in essence. The best example of sporadic absorption of Babylonian terms is the Tiberian Pentateuch codex London Or. 4445 (see Dotan, Babylonian Residues), and isolated cases may be found in other manuscripts too (e.g., the Aleppo codex). The best example of a Tiberian codex where the essence, the very readings, of the Masorah is by nature often Babylonian or close to Baylonian is the Pentateuch codex Gottheil 14 (למ), which was apparently an adaptation of the Babylonian Masorah (see Breuer, Masorah Magna למ).
The contamination of Masorah is also found in the opposite direction, where a Babylonian manuscript is mixed with Tiberian Masorah (Tiberianization). The most representative example is the codex Petropolitanus of the Latter Prophets (dated 916).
In the texts vocalized in the Palestinian system there are almost no masoretic notes, except for the qere notations. In the few fragments where there are masoretic notes, they are the same as in the Tiberian system; most common are the basic terms: ל׳, חס׳, מל׳ (מׂלי) ,בט׳, בס׳, דגׁש and also the letters used for numbers. All of these signs are generally written between the lines above the relevant words, but occasionally also in the margins.
Other opinions are also cited in the Masorah. The degree to which they are mentioned obviously depends upon the masorete or transcriber of the manuscript. The most common case is the mention of the Babylonian version מדנחאי (Easterners), as opposed to the מערבאי (Westerners), for example, וּפִנְחָס (I Sam. 1:3) למערבאי חס׳ למדנחאי מ״ל (= defective according to the Westerners [Palestinians], plene [with yod, ופינחס] according to the Easterners [Babylonians]).
Some masoretes are even referred to by name in the Masorah, e.g., in the Leningrad manuscript of 1009: Ben-Asher (Dan. 7: 10), Ben-Naphtali (Isa. 44:20), Rav Phinehas Rosh ha-Yeshivah (Job 32: 3), the Tiberians בעלי טבריה (Prov. 3:12). In some manuscripts Moshe Moḥeh and others are mentioned too. In the margins one finds sometimes variants of Biblical manuscripts which served as exemplary models and upon which it was customary to rely. Thus, for example, in the Leningrad manuscript the (מחזורה רובה (רבה is mentioned and in other manuscripts ספר הללי, ספרי אספמיא, and others (the term ספר מוגה does not apparently refer to a specific manuscript). Citing variant versions was intended either to reinforce the version of the text or to bring to the attention of the reader another version which is, in the opinion of the masorete, also worthy of being considered.
There is another type of variant version which is different from all these in that it is cited in order to be rejected, i.e., in order to prevent possible error by the reader. These variants, which are occasionally more reasonable than the text, are called סבירין, סביר (sevir, sevirin = "there are some who believe [that the text is…]"); סבירין ומטעין ("there are those who believe and err [that the text is…]"); and in the Babylonian Masorah דמשתבשין בהון, מיש׳ (= there are some who err in them), דחזי ליה, דחזי (= which fits it [the text] better). For example, הַשֶמֶש יצָ֯א עַל־הָאָרֶץ (Gen. 19:23): ג׳ סבירין יצאה (in three places יָצָא is written and some think better to read it יָצְאָה; they are not correct and it is not to be read that way). וְנָתַן פִּדְיׂן נַפְשׁוֹ כְּכׂ֩ל אֲשֶׁר יוּשַׁת עָלָיו (Ex. 21:30): ב׳ סבירין בכל ומטעים (in two places some think it should be read בכל instead of ככל and they are wrong). There are also cases where the term מטעים is a warning about a possible error and not a record of a version.
The number of cases of sevirin is not uniform and varies from dozens of sevirin in some of the older manuscripts to about 350 in later editions (such as the C.D. Ginsburg edition of the Bible). These differences stem from the fact that some manuscripts completely ignore the sevirin version in many places, while others bring the errant version, sevirin, as ketiv and the correct version as qere. Although the origin of some of these variants is clearly ancient, it seems that the number of logically possible – but rejected – variants increased with time and the copying of the manuscripts.
A large part of the notations of the Masorah Parva, with the exception of the qere notations and the indications of unique forms (ל׳), etc., occur in greater detail in the Masorah Magna. In principle the Masorah Magna is a detailed explanation and expansion of the Masorah Parva; it does, however, contain additional notes, the abbreviations of which do not occur in the Masorah Parva.
Owing to its length the Masorah magna was not written at the side of the text but in either the upper or lower margin of the page, or in both, and, in a few manuscripts, also in the side margins. The Masorah Magna is a continuous text of a few lines on every page, and not like the Masora parva where letters and abbreviated words are written opposite the relevant word in the text. However, sometimes there was not enough space on the page and the scribes would leave part of it, especially the long lists, for the end of the book.
The details of the Masorah Magna generally include the citation of all the words or parts of the verses which contain a certain form, for which only the number is listed in the Masorah Parva: for example: וְנׂח (Gen. 6:8) – Masorah Parva: ג׳ ר״פ (it occurs three times in this form – with the conjunctive waw – at the beginning of a verse); Masorah Magna: ונח. ג׳ ר״פ וסי׳ ונח מצא חן (Gen. 6:8), ונח בן שש מאות שנה (Gen. 7:6), ונח דניאל ואיוב (Ezek. 14: 20).
The detailing of the verses or parts of verses is often introduced by the term וסימנהון (= "and their sign") or its abbreviation, וסי׳, וסימ׳. This term (in addition to its later use for denoting chapters of the Bible) serves mainly to mark the mnemonic devices which the masoretes fixed for remembering the itemized biblical verses. These devices are of various types. Sometimes they are like the devices in the Talmud which are made up of initials. For example, in order to remember the sequence in which the seven nations are listed the masoretes gave various arrangements of initials as siman:
הכנעני והחתי והאמרי והפרזי והחוי והיבוסי = (Ex. 3:8, 17) הכנעני ממזרח ומים והאמרי והחתי והפרזי כתמפו״ס = (Jos. 11:3) הכנעני החתי האמרי והפרזי והיבוסי והגרגשי והיבוסי בהר והחוי כמתפס״ו = (Neh. 9:8) כתמפס״ג
Likewise the siman for the words וַיְחִי־שֵׁ֕ת (Gen. 5:6), Masorah Magna: ויחי שת ה׳ בטעם וסי׳ שילנ״ע שת ירד למך נח עבר, i.e., in the generations from Adam to Noah (Gen. 5) and from Noah to Abraham (Gen. 11) only five names occur bearing this accent – zaqef gadol – and the mnemonic device for remembering these names is שילנ״ע. The device for listing the daughters of Zelophehad (Num. 26:33 and Jos. 17:3) מחלה ונעה חגלה מלכה ותרצה) מוחמ״ו) is found both in the Tiberian and in the Palestinian Masorah Magna, and it is at variance with other simanim – מנוו״ו (Num. 27:1), and מתוו״ו (Num. 36:11). Another example: יִבְחָר (Josh. 9:27) – Masorah Magna: זכורךיבחר ה׳ קמצין בקריאה וסי׳ שלש פעמים בשנה יראה כל (Deut. 16:16), בבוא כל ישראל לראות את פני (Deut. 31:11), ולמזבח ה׳ עד היום ביהושע (Josh. 9:27), המסכן תרומה עץ לא ירקב (Isa. 40:20), מי זה האיש ירא (Ps. 25:12), וסימ׳ שבז״הם – i.e., יִבְחָר vocalized with qameṣ occurs five times in the Bible, and from those five instances we derive the mnemonic (שלש בבוא ולמזבח המסכן מי :(שבז״הם
Frequently, however, the mnemonic device is not a set of initials, but a full Aramaic sentence, in which each word represents a verse: Thus, on the word וָטוֹב (I Sam. 2:26) the Masorah Magna reads: ויקח בן בקרוטוב ה׳ קמצין בקריאה וסי׳ ואל הבקר רץ אברהם (Gen. 18:7), והנער שמואל (I Sam. 2:26), בחור וטוב ושמו שאול (I Sam. 9:2), וימצאו מרעה שמן (I Chron. 4:40), חכמה וטוב הוספת (I Kings 10:7), ואשכח חכמתא וסי׳ בלשון תרגום שמואל טליא בחירא רהט. Namely, the word וָטוֹב vocalized with qameṣ is found five times in the Bible, and the substitution of an Aramaic word for each of the five verses (not necessarily in the order of occurrence in the Bible) results in an understandable sentence: הנער שמואל =) שמואל טליא, "the lad Samuel"; I Sam. 2:26), בחור =) בחירא "chosen man": I Sam. 9:2), רץ =) רהט "ran"; Gen. 18:7), וימצאו / וימצא =) ואשכח, "and he found / and they found"; I Chron. 4:40), חכמה =) חכמתא, "wisdom"; I Kings 10:7); thus (the siman in Aramaic is: "the chosen lad Samuel ran and found wisdom".
This type of siman is very frequent and there is more than a bit of sophistry and amusement in it. There are even longer simanim, as e.g., the mnemonic for the word לָאוֹר (Micah 7:9) is: צוח סמיא וסבר למיפק בצפרא וקם בלילא (= the blind one called out and hoped to get out in the morning and got up at night). For the word לוּ (Gen. 17:18) there is a sentence of 22 words, and even longer ones are extant. In some manuscripts devices like these were found even in Arabic (A. Dotan, "Masora in Arabic Translation").
The most common notations of Masorah Magna, discussed so far, apply to forms of words which occur a number of times in the Bible. There is another type of Masorah magna notations which list words that occur only once and which are marked in the Masorah Parva by לית. In recent research such lists are termed "Accumulative Masorah" (in Hebrew: מסורה מצרפת), for they list together unique words of a certain common peculiarity, such as a common beginning, e.g., an initial letter teth: טֻבְּעוּ ,טְאֵב ,טָרְחֲכֶם ,טְמוּנֵי etc.; a common ending, e.g., מַשְׁלִיחַ ,מֵגִיחַ ,לְהָנִיחַ :־ִיחַ etc.; a common vocalization, e.g., a qameṣ in words starting with shin: שְׁלָשׁ- ,שְׁכָב ,שְׁלָח ,שֻׁדָּד ,שָׁאָג etc.; or even a common combination of words, e.g., combinations with ותעש הארץ ,ובכל הארץ ,ואלהי הארץ ,כברת הארץ :הארץ etc. Sometimes an Accumulative Masorah may consist of pairs (זוגין) of unique similar words or combination of words differing in only one detail from each other, e.g. words with or without an initial waw: /ונמליך נשאתני/ונשאתני, נדמה/ונדמה, נמליך etc.; or e.g., combinations with or without he in the second word:/אחיכם האחד אנשי שם/אנשי השם, אשרי איש/אשרי האיש, אחיכם אחד etc.; and many more variations of accumulation of unique words or sometimes even pairs of unique words. The items in these lists may have no definite order or they may be arranged by order of their occurrences in the Bible or alphabetically or by the order of some other principle (A. Dotan, The Awakening, pp. 31–44).
The Babylonian Masorah Magna does not differ from the Tiberian in principle, but it is more limited in scope and methods of expression. In contrast to the Babylonian Masorah Parva,
The Palestinian Masorah Magna is even more limited in scope. Its few notes are mainly written in the bottom borders and occasionally at the top, too. The Masorah Parva is written in the side margins or between the lines. In its content – terminology and methods of expression – the Palestinian Masorah is closer to the Tiberian than to the Babylonian, although the influence of the Tiberians must be taken into account. In scope it is closer to the Babylonian Masorah and is even shorter than the latter, which is undoubtedly due to its very early date.
In essence the Masorah Magna complements the Masorah Parva – particularly in the Tiberian Masorah, which has been transmitted to us in sufficient quantity to allow a comprehensive study – and it is entirely logical to expect a fixed relationship between the two, as between any text and its extension. However, only rarely is this the case.
There are many instances where there are notes in the Masorah Parva for which there are no counterparts in the Masorah Magna and vice versa. Furthermore, sometimes there is disagreement between the masoretic notes and the version in the text itself; for example, one finds occasionally the gloss לית מלא (not found elsewhere plene) in the margin, while in the text the word is actually written defectively, without matres lectionis.
These differences between the two Masorahs themselves and between them and the sacred text increased as time passed. In early manuscripts such instances are still rare, but in later manuscripts they become more common. The cause is to be found in the method of copying the manuscripts. The precision was preserved as long as the manuscripts of the Bible text were copied by experts, each one a skilled craftsman – the scribe in the writing of the consonantal text and the learned masorete (המלמד) in the placing of the vowels, the accentuation signs, and the masoretic notes – a division of labor that was maintained generally in the earliest period, the ninth, tenth, and 11th centuries, and perhaps even later. In this way the masorete did his work on a consonantal skeleton which was transcribed for him by an expert scribe. When the consonantal text did not agree in every detail with the Masorah that he followed, he was able to correct the writing (mainly to add or remove waws or yods). Even so there were discrepancies between the text and the Masorah. For the masoretes, even the most expert, generally did not create the Masorah, but merely transmitted it as they had received it from their forerunners, sometimes adding new notes or amending notes that were inadequate. They undoubtedly used older manuscripts and older lists of Masorah from which they transferred the notes – obviously with deep understanding – onto the new copy in front of them. As the years passed the masoretic material increased by virtue of the innovations and additions of each generation, while the selectiveness of the masoretes became less and less severe. The degree of coordination between the various notes of the Masorah itself and between the Masorah and the text of the Bible decreased as the quantity of the masoretic notes grew. Furthermore, the separation between the two types of notes, the Masorah Magna and the Masorah Parva, was not maintained and more and more long notes of the type of the Masorah Magna were recorded in the margins, the place of the Masorah Parva.
It can be said that there never was one single uniform Masorah. One can assume that the early, great masoretes composed an exact Masorah which fitted a specific text of the Bible. A version like this was, therefore, "the Masorah of so-and-so," but not THE Masorah. Even though no such perfect version is extant, we do know that they existed; for example, the Masorah of Ben-Asher וקאל פי מאסרתה ("and he said in his Masorah"). Versions of this type served as exemplary models for later masoretes, but some of them followed the principle that the more models the better, which ultimately had an unfortunate effect.
As time passed copying the text became a less intelligent work, and there were copyists who lacked all understanding of the Masorah, to the extent that some of them used the material of the Masorah for mere ornamentation of the text. They created frames for the text out of the lines of the Masorah; they sketched geometric patterns, pictures of animals in the margins of the pages; they even wrote names, such as the name of the scribe or that of the owner, using masoretic notes as fillers. The masoretic material was not copied to fit each page of text exactly, but according to aesthetic and space criteria. In some places the copyist stopped the copy in the middle of a masoretic note for lack of space, or copied an irrelevant note to fill the space. Manuscripts like these, some of which are most ornate, are worthless for the study of the Masorah.
Jacob b. Ḥayyim ibn Adonijah of Tunis (c. 1470–c. 1538) tried to correct this situation. He was employed as a proofreader in the printing house of Daniel *Bomberg in Venice at the beginning of
Besides his correction of errors, Jacob b. Ḥayyim's innovation was to introduce cross references for parallel comments and to add the systematic list at the end. This was the first attempt to arrange all the masoretical notes alphabetically.
In this arrangement every alphabetical unit is called a מערכת (maʿarekhet) and the whole came to be called מסורה מערכית (Masorah maʿarakhit). Ben Ḥayyim himself named the collection at the end מסורה גדולה or מסורה רבתא while for the marginal notations he used the name מסרה or מסורת alone or מסרה אמצעית (middle Masorah; see his introduction, ed. Ginsburg, pp. 82–83). This terminological differentiation, like his systematic arrangement, is unique to Ben Ḥayyim. Yet he was not the first in moving part of the Masorah Magna to the end of the text. The early Masorah copyists had already preceded him in that in the ancient manuscripts. They had had to draft long lists for which there was no room on the pages; and so they copied them together at the ends of the books. In the manuscripts, therefore, there was no essential difference between the lists of the Masorah Magna on the page and those at the back of the book, but for practical reasons, the lists which were longer and more comprehensive in their content were recorded at the end.
This situation necessitates precision in our concept of the terminology of the Masorah. A differentiation must be made between ancient manuscripts and the codified orderly Masorah of Ben Ḥayyim, which had been for many years the one referred to when one speaks of Masorah. One can say that the Masorah Magna is divided into a marginal Masorah and a final Masorah. In the ancient manuscripts the final Masorah includes summation lists, which deal with complete books or sections of books (see below), and long systematic lists of Masorah for which there was no place in the margins. In Ben Ḥayyim's work the final Masorah includes a lexical arrangement of most of the words, discussed in the Masorah Magna sometimes with the details of the masoretic notations.
The summary lists which are at the end of the books (and sometimes at the beginning) are tallies of the verses, the parashiyyot (weekly portions) and the sedarim of the books and parts of the Bible, and also the totals of words and letters, the mid-point in the count, the quarter point, and so on. In ancient manuscripts there are also general summation lists taken from various sources, like the names of the authors of the books (BB 14b), the chronology of the books ("the number of the years of the books"), a list of the prophets who prophesied about Israel, a list of the 18 emendations of the scribes (תיקוני סופרים; found in different Midrashim), a list of large and small letters in the Bible and other peculiarities, a lists of the paseqs (as opposed to the accent legarmeh), a list of pattaḥs with ʾetnaḥ and with sof pasuq (instead of the pausal form which requires qameṣ) and so on.
Fragments of manuscripts were discovered in the Cairo Genizah which appear to be remnants of independent works of Masorah; that is, works which contain masoretic notes in the order of the books of the Bible but without an accompanying biblical text. It is possible that these works go back to a very ancient period, perhaps even to the time when it was not permitted to write the Masorah in the margins (see above, 2.2.2.). Such fragments were also discovered of the Babylonian Masorah and a few of the Palestinian Masorah. Some of these works contain topical lists of Masorah, i.e., lists arranged according to specific subjects, like exceptional spellings, specific issues about vocalization, unique words, and so on. One independent work in which the notes do not follow the text of the Bible but are arranged systematically according to topics is Okhlah we-Okhlah. This work has the widest scope of all those known to us, comprising almost 400 lists of Masorah. The lists, arranged alphabetically, contain unique words with a common characteristic, or pairs of words which differ from each other in one detail, extraordinary spellings, vocalizations, or accents, and so on. The book gets its name from the first two words of the first list, which enumerates alphabetically pairs of unique words, one occurring with the conjunctive waw and the other without it. This list begins with the pair אָכְלָה ,וְאָכְלָה. The book was also known to the early scholars by the name of מסורת הגדולה (Masoret ha-Gedola), and in Arabic אלמאסרה (al-māsirah – the Masorah) by Saadia Gaon in his Grammar book, and אלמאסרה אלכבירה (al-māsirah al-kabîrah = the great Masorah) by David ben Abraham al-Fāsî in his dictionary. The name Okhlah we-Okhlah is mentioned already by Jonah *Ibn Janāḥ in his dictionary (Sefer ha-Shorashim, entry חלך). The book was first published by S. Frensdorff (Hanover, 1864) according to the Paris manuscript; it was published again by F. Díaz Esteban (Madrid, 1975) according to the first part of the Halle manuscript and later by B. Ognibeni (Madrid-Fribourg, 1995) according to the second part of the Halle manuscript. Most of the lists in this book are known from other sources in the marginal Masorah or from independent manuscripts, but here they are more complete and were apparently taken, in part, from an ancient source. However, the work also contains lists from relatively late periods, and it follows that the
Masoretic notes were also appended to Targum *Onkelos, which was considered the official translation of the Torah for the purpose of public reading and which, therefore, also came to be considered sacred to some extent. The purpose of these notes was to preserve the text of the Targum exactly and to achieve precision in the manner of translation from the Hebrew original: which Aramaic roots are used in translating the same Hebrew root, and the number of times that each translation occurs, etc. It counts the words much less than does the biblical Masorah. It does list changes in vocalization and in pronunciation of the Targum and even discrepancies between various versions of translation, such as the Nehardean and Suran, and it takes a position against other possibilities (possible errors, מטעין ,משתבשין). Since the main interest of this Masorah was the manner of translation, terms such as דמתרגמין and דמיתרגם (= which is translated) and their abbreviations are quite common. An example is שְׁבוּ (Gen. 22:5): שבו") שבו דמתרג׳ אוריכו ג׳ באורי׳ is translated אוריכו (= wait, instead of תיבו = sit) three times in the Torah") – שבו לכם פה (Gen. 22:5); שבו לנו בזה (Ex. 24:14); שבו נא בזה (Num. 22:19).
The Masorah notes of the Targum were sometimes written in manuscripts on the margins of the Targum and sometimes in lists in independent works arranged according to the order of the biblical text. The Targum also has a Tiberian Masorah as well as a Babylonian one with Babylonian vocalization. The terminology of this Masorah, whether Tiberian or Babylonian, does not differ much from the terminology of the biblical Masorah.
The written Masorah was divided here into two categories (see above, 3.). We have dealt with the first – the notes and the abbreviations which accompany the text externally or are appended to it – Masorah in the narrow sense. We now turn to the second category – the graphemes – i.e., the system of signs (the vowel and accentuation signs) which are added to the letters in order to constitute, together with them, a complete orthographic system including all the information necessary for exact reading and recitation.
Just as the Masorah in the narrow sense began with a relatively few early attempts at abbreviated notes and developed into a large sophisticated system of short and long notes and even complete rules, it can be assumed that the graphemes also had their beginning in a few signs which were most necessary for reading and for distinguishing between similar forms, and only in the end, after long development, became a fully crystallized system of vowel and accentuation signs. For this assumption, in the opinion of many scholars, there is proof in vestiges from the ancient period.
According to this opinion, in the period before the invention of vowel signs as they are known, diacritical points were used in Hebrew to distinguish between words which were identical in writing – homographic – but whose pronunciation differed by one vowel. A dot above the word marked the pronunciation with the fuller vowel; a dot under the word noted the pronunciation with the weaker vowel. There are, however, no manuscripts in which there is any trace of these signs, and their very existence is postulated only by the theory of Graetz.
Graetz found in various lists of the Masorah in Okhlah we-Okhlah that the terms מלעיל (milleʿel) and מלרע (milleraʿ) were used, in addition to their regular common meanings, (paroxytone and oxytone), in other meanings as well. These lists (§§ 5, 11, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50) in Frensdorff 's edition contain unique homographic pairs which differ in one vowel only. One member of the pair is called milleʿel and the other milleraʿ. It is evident that these terms do not have a fixed but a changing meaning, and they mark the difference between vowels. Thus the following are so termed:
All of these are in list no. 5 in Okhlah we-Okhlah (which is also cited in the terminal Masorah in the Miqraʾot Gedolot of Jacob b. Ḥayyim, letter ʾalef, list no. 24). It can be seen that forms with qameṣ, for example, are sometimes called milleʿel (-נָפְלוֹ, זָרֻע, נְתָן) and sometimes milleraʿ (לִשׁבָאיִם ,אֲמָר- ,אַדָּן); this is not an indication of a definite marking of the vowel, but only its relation to the vowel which is parallel to it and which can occur in that position. Thus in the list the vowel o is called milleʿel while the milleraʿ is å (this Tiberian vowel is parallel to the two types of qameṣ, called today qameṣ gadol and qameṣ qaṭan, but which in the Tiberian pronunciation constituted one vowel quality – see below), a, and e; the vowel u is contrasted to å, a, e, i; and the å is contrasted to a, e, i.
In some lists of pairs of unique homographs the terms signify other constrasts:
from lists no. 11, 45–50 of Okhlah we-Okhlah (ed. Frensdorff).
Here too the forms with a pattah, for example, are sometimes called milleʿel (וַיִּחְיוּ ,בַּחֶרֶט, etc.) and sometimes milleraʿ (כַּאֲרָזִים, etc.), and here too it only indicates the relationship to the vowel parallel to it which can possibly occur in that position. Consequently, in these lists, the forms called milleʿel are those whose formative letters (ו ,ב ,כ ,ל) have a vowel (a, å, ε), in contrast to those forms called milleraʿ in which the formative letter has a šewa or one of its morpho-phonological substitutes (u, a, i).
These uses of the terms milleʿel and milleraʿ did not seem to Graetz to fit their regular meaning in which they are also used in the lists of the Masorah such as Okhlah we-Okhlah (ed. Frensdorff), lists no. 32, 51, 225, 226, 372 and 373. However, this manner of distinguishing between homographs of different pronunciation did exist in Syriac and a dot was used to mark this distinction: a dot above a word (more precisely, above the letter) marked a fuller, stronger pronunciation, and a dot below it marked a finer, weaker pronunciation or even the complete lack of a vowel; thus, for example, the Syriac words קטל ,מלכא ,טבא ,הו ,הי ,הנון ,מן ,עבדא, when they are marked with a dot above, their (Eastern) pronunciation is ʿev̄aḏā, qāṭεl or qaṭṭεl, malkā, ṭāvā, hau, hāi, hānōn, mān, but when they have a dot beneath them the pronunciation is: ʿavdā, qeṭal, mεlkā, ṭεbbā, hū, hī, hεnnōn, mεn.
By analogy to Syriac, Graetz reached the conclusion that in Hebrew the terms milleʿel and milleraʿ also indicated the place of a dot above or below the word, and that they thus served also in Hebrew to mark the "fuller" vowel in contrast with the "weaker" vowel. The nature of the concepts "full" and "weak" and their synonyms have been explained in various ways by different scholars: some of them considered it to be a quantitative concept (long/short – thus Frendsdorff), others a qualitative one (dull, closed/bright, open – Kahle). This distinguishing dot had in Hebrew the additional function of marking contrasts in stress: on the penultimate syllable and on the ultimate one. This last use was not found in Syriac and constitutes therefore an additional development in Hebrew. However, this use too is ancient, being found in older sources of the Masorah: cf. David b. Abraham (middle of the tenth century), Kitāb Jāmiʿ al-ʾAlfāẓ (ed. Skoss. vol. 1, p. 185, 1. 149f.).
Graetz's theory on the source of the terms milleʿel and milleraʿ, and subsequently as to the origins of the vowel signs in Hebrew, has been unanimously accepted.
However, in the entire inventory of Hebrew manuscripts there is not one example of dots above and below to mark such a distinction, especially not the distinction between different vowels. The very existence of these dots is unproven, based on a supposition which itself is open to doubt. The theory assumes diacritical dots which were borrowed from Syriac but which in fact did not remain in Hebrew; only the terms remained. These, however, do not exist and never did exist in the supposed source language, Syriac. One cannot explain the "disappearance" of the diacritical dots from Hebrew by pointing to the full Tiberian vocalization which made them superfluous, for the same process would apply just as well to Syriac, and yet, there the dots remained alongside the vocalization. Furthermore, a single example was discovered in a manuscript in which the point of stress in a word is noted by a dot under the word even on the penultimate syllable (cf. Rabin's comment in Textus II, p. 106. n. 11). While it is doubtful whether one can learn about a system from one lone example, clearly such an example can serve as evidence to the contrary.
It is possible to offer a satisfactory explanation for the two meanings without involving non-existent diacritical dots, both for the vocalic and tonal meanings. With regard to the tonal meaning, the use of למעלה ,למעלן ,למטה ,למטן, to indicate earlier and later locations in a continuous text is an ancient usage in Hebrew which goes back to rabbinic Hebrew. This use is rooted in general writing practice and is widespread and accepted in most languages (cf., Eng.: below, above; Fr.: ci-dessous, ci-dessus; Lat.: infra, supra) to note different places in the linear sequence of the written text. These terms were actually begging to be used and in any event are self-evident. Certainly there is no need to revert to the Syriac orthographical customs to explain them.
The vocalic meaning of milleʿel/milleraʿ goes back to an ancient idea concerning the theory of vowels in Hebrew which was stated in the fifth chapter (concerning the vowels) of Kitāb Faṣīḥ Luḡat al-ʿIbrāniyyīn by *Saadiah Gaon. According to this theory the vowels are arranged as a scale, at the top of which is the ḥolem and at bottom the ḥireq. Such an arrangement of the vowels fits a certain morphological theory which is not relevant here, and in any event. There were a number of other such arrangements which were based on different principles, as Z. Ben-Ḥayyim has shown. One of them was based on the phonetic principle of the origins of the vowels o, u, å, a, ε, e, i. The vowels are arranged as a scale (from the top to the bottom): each vowel is above (milleʿel) those which follow it and below (milleraʿ) those which precede it. Thus qameṣ is milleraʿ in relation to
Which meaning of this pair of terms preceded the other is still difficult to establish; it is possible that there is a connection between them by way of homographic pairs, such as, וְנִקְּתָ֫ה (Num. 5:28) / וְנִקָּ֫תָה (Isa. 3:26), which appear in the ḥad milleraʿ we-ḥad milleʿel list of pairs (Okhlah we-Okhlah, list no. 51). Although the reference in this list is to the tonal meaning of the terms, in this specific pair the vocalic sense would also be applicable.
The terms ניגרא and דיגרא (of doubtful etmyology), which are used in the Babylonian Masorah as parallel to milleʿel and milleraʿ, have a tonal meaning, that is, paroxytone and oxytone. Yeivin (The Hebrew Language Tradition as Reflected in the Babylonian Vocalization, pp. 246–53) cites additional occurrences of the Babylonian terms with different meanings (some of them doubtful) but none of these cases exhibits a vocalic meaning parallel to the Tiberian terms (Yeivin, p. 253).
However, in place of the pair of terms milleʿel and milleraʿ in the vocalic sense, the terms קמץ and פתח are used. This use is found in a manuscript (published by Ginsburg, The Massorah, 2 (1883), 310–311, §§ 606a, 606b) in which there are two versions of the list of Masorah which appears in a fuller and more precise form also in Okhlah we-Okhlah (§5). Instead of the terms milleʿel and milleraʿ the terms qameṣ and pattaḥ are used: there they are not the names of specific vowels but are used in a relative sense like milleʿel and milleraʿ: i.e., a more contracted (קמוץ) vowel versus a more open (פתוח) vowel.
This use of the terms qameṣ and pattaḥ belongs to a most ancient period in which they did not as yet serve to note definite vowels. The vestiges of this use, both of the terms qameṣ and pattaḥ and the terms milleʿel and milleraʿ, indicate that in the period which preceded the invention of vowel signs a system of relative notation of vowels was followed. In a period when no vowel notation existed it was necessary to indicate the vowels which distinguish between homographs, generally in homographic pairs. There was, however, no need for a complicated system of terms (and there is no evidence for signs); a relative distinction was sufficient: a vowel higher in the scale of vowels (further back in pronunciation), more closed, in contrast to the other possibility, lower, more open.
This custom of relative notation and marking also existed apparently for the accentuation signs; the vestiges of relative terms like אוקומי, which marks a major disjunctive, may serve as an indication. It is possible that the terms שידיא (not שיריא; see N. Reich, Shalshelet) and ניגרא (when used as an accent's name), and others, had this connotation: it is even possible that the origin of the accentuation signs was in signs which had a relative meaning only (see below). In summation: among the Hebrew vocalization signs there are no diacritical dots of the type which were used in Syriac, and it is doubtful if there ever were. The only signs known in Hebrew are the defined marks of vocalization and accentuation.
There are three graphic systems of vocalization and accentuation for Hebrew: Palestinian, Babylonian, and Tiberian. There is no imperative connection between the pronunciation traditions in Hebrew and the graphic systems which were used; one graphic system is not necessarily specific to one of the traditions of pronunciation, and therefore a certain tradition of pronunciation is not necessarily limited to one system of notation. One can assume, though, that each one of the systems developed against the background of one defined tradition of pronunciation. Only graphic systems are relevant to this discussion since they are part of the development of the written Masorah (but see *Pronunciations of Hebrew).
The vocalization and accentuation signs in each system constitute a complete indivisible set of graphemes to guide the reader in exact reading, including not only the correct pronunciation of the words but also the correct intonation of the verses and, as pointed out above, precise cantillation. This being the case, the accentuation and vocalization will be treated together in each one of the systems. The period in which punctuation began has already been discussed above (2.2) and, as has been stated, it is not possible to establish exact dates. However, the postulate of a relative date for each of the systems in relation to the other two has been accepted. The Tiberian system is the most sophisticated and complete in the items which it transmits, and there is no doubt that, in the state in which it is known, it is the most recent (for details, see below). Most scholars tend to believe that the Palestinian is the older of the other two systems. However, since these two systems developed in different countries, Babylonia and Palestine, and since at the beginning of their development there was no contact between them, and since the signs differ in the two systems (letters in the Babylonian and dots in the Palestinian), it is impossible to arrive at a definite decision in this question on the basis of the data available today. In line with the generally accepted opinion the Palestinian system is discussed first; however, this is not meant to indicate a view on the relative dating of the systems.
This system is so named because many of the texts in which it is used show signs of Palestinian origin (mainly the piyyutim). The term נקוד ארץ ישראל is already found in Maḥzor Vitry (ed. Hurwitz, Nuremberg (1923), 462)
The Palestinian is not a crystallized system. Almost every one of the manuscripts has a number of individual and characteristic traits with regard to the use of signs. It is possible to point to the common and similar aspects but not to all the deviations of each manuscript. For what we find in the manuscripts is actually a system in development. Scholars endeavor to fix the date of a text on the basis of the degree of progress shown by the use of the signs in it: the oldest manuscripts (apparently from the eighth century) have generally very few signs, sometimes no more than one or two for a word and sometimes not even that; and even the latest of them never reach the stage of fully marking each vowel and its nuances, as is the case in the Tiberian system.
In this matter a distinction must be made between texts of the Bible, at times including an Aramaic translation, as opposed to texts of *piyyut. The amount of vocalization is generally fuller in the latter, while the biblical texts, which had a strong tradition of reading, have relatively fewer vocalization signs but many accentuation signs. It seems that the precise cantillation was likely to trouble the educated reader more than the pronunciation of the biblical words. Therefore, vowel signs in ancient biblical texts are mainly in places where there was room for error in the reading and at points where the orthography allowed different pronunciations. When the spelling is plene, with waw or yod, one almost never finds vowel signs in ancient manuscripts.
Additional evidence of the fluency of the reader of the Bible text is offered by the סירוגין (intermittences) texts. These are manuscripts written in a system of abbreviation in which generally only the first word of every verse is written in full and of the rest only the important words, or those which cause problems, are indicated by one or there letters of each with the vowel or accentuation sign, or both, as a mnemonic device. Manuscripts of serugin are already mentioned in the Talmud (e.g., Git. 60a). and Rashi certainly saw examples of them, for he comments: "At the beginning of the text [= the verse] was written the full word and at the end initials." It is clear that these texts of serugin with the vowel and accentuation signs served as an aid to the reader when he read from a text complete but unvocalized (because of its sanctity), and to the reader or copyist who knew the text by heart and needed only a few reminders.
As time passed this high standard of knowledge declined and more notations were needed. This need is also evidenced in the later manuscripts where there are more signs and by the fact that in some of the manuscripts signs were added by a second hand. Sometimes there is evidence that signs were added by a third and fourth hand, depending on the transfer of the manuscript to owners whose knowledge of reading was less developed. For that reason there are many Palestinian manuscripts which contain vocalization by several hands, into which signs of other vocalization systems, with more detailed notation, have been mixed (see below, 5.5).
In the presentation and explanation of the signs one must refrain as much as possible from drawing parallels with the Tiberian system, at least as long as the influence of this system or the Tiberian tradition of pronunciation is not being discussed, since at times the signs are anchored in a different reading tradition, i.e., with different grammar, and the comparison is likely to give a distorted impression. The values of each sign will therefore be described by phonetic signs, out of a desire to be faithful – as much as it is possible today – to their original pronunciation. The presentation is schematic, deviations of details, even quite numerous, are neglected for the sake of clarity.
The following are the vowel signs (they are located above the letter and a little to the left of it) and reference here is to quality only. There is no marking for quantity (length) in this system.
מ֔ = i. This is the only sign which has hardly any changes in form or meaning in the different manuscripts.
There is no sign for the šewa and when there is a sign in a place where we would expect šewa – though in most cases there is no sign – it is always a sign of one of the vowels (mostly e or a).
The Palestinian system is basically phonematic and it does not make finer distinctions than to note the five cardinal vowels, at least in its most ancient stage as known to us. There are no nuances of vowels and no notation of quantity. Yet one cannot ignore the fact that six signs are used to denote the five vowels. That is, there are two signs of equal value to mark a. (The two signs for the noting of e are, as stated, the product of a relatively later stage). This is unimaginable in a primitive, economic graphic system such as this. Dietrich's attempt to account for the duplication by reasons of calligraphy (
In addition to the vowel signs there are also a number of diacritical marks to distinguish between different pronunciations of the same letter. These marks occur in the Palestinian texts with even less frequency than the vowel signs.
To distinguish between the two pronunciations of the ש, the marks,
The last sign mentioned, with its variations (
The opposite of the above signs is –̑, which is apparently a development of –̄ in which form it is also found sometimes (and it is thereby close to the Tiberian rafeh sign). This sign denotes the opposite of the dageš, both lene and forte, especially where there is the possibility of error in the
Alongside of the sign
In summation, unlike the relative consistency of the vocalic notation, there was relatively little uniformity in the diacritical marks of the Palestianian system. This is quite natural, since all that was needed was a distinguishing sign, and not necessarily an agreed one, to indicate the other possible pronunciation, generally, the less frequent one, of the letter: šin versus sin, consonantal, waw and yod, consonantal he, etc.
The accentuation signs are apparently more ancient than the other two types of signs, and anyhow older than the vowel signs (some reasons advanced in 1.3.3.). This is substantiated by perhaps the most decisive proof: the use of a single isolated dot to mark some of the accentuation signs. In the notation of the vowels and among the other diacritical marks the single dot is not used at all. It stands to reason that the single dot was already used for another purpose, for the notation of accents.
In addition to this, most of the signs in the oldest extant manuscripts of the Bible are accentuation signs and only here and there is a vowel sign inserted; obviously, one reason – among others – is that the correct punctuation and cantillation of the biblical text posed a more serious problem for the reader than the pronunciation. On the other hand, the set of accentuation signs differs from that of the vowel signs in that it is less uniform, and less governed by rules. It is difficult to generalize from all of the biblical manuscripts, or even the majority of them, that a specific accentuation sign was always used for the same purpose. This means that different signs were used to mark the same accent in different manuscripts – a situation which does not exist among the vowel signs. It follows that what we have is a set of accentuation signs along different stages of development, and we possess neither any manuscript nor any set of accentuation signs about which we can state with certainty that it is the ultimate stage of development, i.e., the set of Palestinian accentuation signs.
In spite of this, one may yet claim that the vowel signs are older than the accentuation signs, since the vowel signs are already fixed and uniform even in the most ancient manuscripts, while the accentuation signs are seen to be continually changing in the manuscripts. This claim, though, is only apparently valid. According to this supposition the abstention from the use of the single dot in vocalization would be unimaginable, since it is a diacritical mark which is just waiting to be used and is quite natural (as found in the writing systems of other languages). Furthermore, the double usage of a few signs, such as –̈, –̄, –̍, which mark both vowels and accents, would not be understandable.
It seems that the two sets of signs had two cycles of growth: (a) the growth cycle of the accentuation signs (the older) in the biblical text; (b) the growth cycle of the vowel signs (relatively later) in non-biblical texts, mainly in piyyutim. The essential difference between the two types of texts, with the different nature of the demands that each made on the reader, as well as the different expectations of the reader from each type of text, evidently brought about the divergent crystallization of the two sets of signs.
(a) The Bible was the first text which required additional signs as reading aids. Chronologically their addition may have preceded even the beginnings of the ancient piyyut. These aids consisted only of the most primitive, simple mark – the single dot – and their function was to guide the educated reader, who was generally fluent in the pronunciation of the words, as to the manner of punctuation and cantillation of the verses. However, this notation did not necessarily have to be unequivocal, since, as is well known, the accentuation signs in the more developed systems, too, are relative, i.e., they designate the measure of pause in one place in a verse in relation to a greater or smaller measure of pause in another place in the same verse. It follows that in the highly developed accentuation systems (not in the Palestinian) each accentuation sign denotes the relativeness of the punctuation. Yet one need not assume that this rule necessarily held in earliest times. It seems likely, and there is evidence for it, that one specific sign served to mark pauses of different strength (see for example
(b) The other growth cycle of signs occurred in non-biblical texts, the piyyut. Here, too, additional signs were needed as reading aids. The main problem with piyyut was however not in the punctuation, but in the actual reading of relatively new texts, which had not been handed down from generation to generation but had recently been written in a difficult language not always understood by the reader. Here a system of vowel signs was imperative, and had to be, by its very nature and for its main purpose, unequivocal: each sign had to have, at least originally, only one function and only one meaning, so that it should note only one vocalic quality (or, to be more precise, one range of a set of vocal nuances which the reader felt to be one vowel – in other words: a phoneme). At the time that these signs were fixed for the vowels – six signs (to denote six qualities; see above, 18.104.22.168.) – they were apparently free of any other significance even in the area of accentuation. These signs remained unchanged, except for slight variations (
Alongside this stability and regularity in the use of the vowel signs there arose in the growth cycle of the biblical texts, sets of accentuation signs which were relatively "free": as they developed and more signs were added, no attention was paid to the other growth cycle, in which rules had already been established concerning the vowel signs. As long as the two systems were not mixed no difficulties were encountered, but when the punctuators of biblical texts added vowel signs to the Bible they sometimes found themselves forced to use vowel signs which had in the meantime come to be used as accentuation signs in the system which they followed. This is the source of the duplicate use of a few signs in some of the biblical texts.
The identification of the Palestinian accent signs with Tiberian equivalents should perhaps prima facie be avoided, as was the case with the vocalization signs. However, with regard to the actual division of the verses of the Bible there are, in general, no major differences between Palestinian manuscripts and the Tiberian text; therefore in this case the Tiberian terminology can be used to identify the accentuation signs. This will, however, be done only after the presentation (independent of the Tiberian system) of the function of each sign.
The largest disjunctive which separates a verse from the one which follows it (henceforth D1) is in most cases not marked at all. The external technical marks (generally two dots – a colon) are sufficient to note the end of a verse. In the few instances where the end of a verse is indicated by an accentuation sign, use is made of the basic sign – the single lower dot מִ, which also notes a number of other pauses. It denotes the main divider of a verse into two, its prelude accent, the divider of the first half of the verse and, placed in different positions, the single dot also indicates a number of other accents.
This can be presented in a schematic way approximately as follows:
An average verse is generally divided into a main division by מִ (henceforth D2, with the function of ʾetnaḥ), its prelude accent (henceforth D2p, in the function of ṭippeḥa and identical with D1p) being מִ. This main disjunctive, D2, is also missing at times, yet less frequently than the last disjunctive in the verse, D1. Generally, however, the scribes show a great degree of consistency with the notation of the prelude accent of both of them, D1p, D2p (henceforth D1–2p). In some manuscripts instead of the lower dot of D2 the sign מַ or מׁ or, in the Tiberianized texts,
A secondary division of each one of the two parts remaining after the first division (henceforth D4 – the function of the zaqef) is sometimes also noted by a lone dot above the word מׄ, but in some manuscripts a specific sign was used for this
When the first part of the verse is very long it is likely to be divided by a special major disjunctive (henceforth D3 – with the function of segol) which is generally noted by a single dot above the word,
When there is a need for an additional division in the domain of the prelude accent D1–2p the accent adjacent to it
An additional division larger than the prelude accents in the domain of the accents D3, D4, D1–2p is designated by D5, (with the function of reviaʿ) which was marked מֿ or מׁ or מׁ. The domain of this accent and the domain of the prelude accents D3p, D4p, D1–2p are likely to be subdivided by a series of accents of lesser pausal strength which have various forms, and they are (in the order of their frequency and their increasing pausal strength):
While the marking of the disjunctive accents was never complete and words which require a pause are quite often found without a pausal sign, the necessary joining of words was never marked regularly but only in relatively rare instances. The sign for joining is either a dot between words (מ · מ) or, infrequently, a short, small slanted stroke (מ
The Palestinian system is also the most primitive of all the systems in that the marks are not placed over the stressed syllable; that is, one of the three functions of the accents had not yet been developed in it. This use of the accentuation signs did not reach even the texts which were already influenced by the Tiberian system. It is, however, customary in the סירוגין (intermittences; see also 5.10.3) texts where the accent is naturally marked on the single letter which represents the word, which is usually a letter of the stressed syllable. (Concerning the use of the Tiberian signs within the Palestinian system, especially in the domain of conjunctives, see below, 5.5.)
The names of the accents in the Palestinian system are not known and there is no way of connecting the names known to us from various masoretic notes with them.
The accentuation signs for Psalms, Proverbs, and Job are very rare in the Palestinian system and occur in very few manuscripts. The following are the signs and their functions in verse division.
The major disjunctive, which separates one verse from the next (D1), is never marked. If it has a prelude accent (D1p), it is marked
The connection between the words is marked even less consistently in the poetical books than in the other 21 books of the Bible. However, when it is marked, a dot between the words in the middle of the line is used (מ · מ) and
This system was called Babylonian in accordance with references by a number of early scholars. The following are the most important and the most unequivocal; they undoubtedly refer to a specific vocalization system and not to a different pronunciation tradition:
(1) *Nissi b. Noah (a Karaite scholar of the 11th century): "to learn points (= vowels), conjunctives, accent pauses, defective and plene spellings of the people of Šinʿar" (= Babylonians; S. Pinsker, Lickute Kadmoniot, Zur Geschichte des Karaismus und der karaeischen Literatur, Vienna, 1860, p. מא);
(2) the colophon of a manuscript of the Torah with Targum Onkelos from 1311 (Parma, De Rossi Library, no. 12): "this Targum was copied from a book which was brought from Babylonia and which was pointed above [the line] with the vocalization of the land of Assyria, and R. Nathan b. R. Machir b. R. Menahem of Ancona… changed it, corrected it, and copied it to the Tiberian vocalization" (Zunz, Zur Geschichte und Literatur, p. 110).
The name "Babylonian vocalization" refers to the birthplace of the system and not to the expansion of its use. There is no doubt that it was used beyond the borders of Babylonia and reached, according to Jacob al-*Kirkisānī (937), Persia, the Arabian Peninsula, and Yemen; Yemenites have used manuscripts with Babylonian vocalization until today. We are not dealing here with the Babylonian tradition of pronunciation, but only with the graphic system.
The most ancient dated manuscripts which are vocalized in the Babylonian system, including accentuation signs, are a Cairo Genizah fragment now in Cambridge which was written in Persia, in 904 (H.P. Rueger, VT, 16 (1966) 65f.), and a complete manuscript of the latter Prophets from the year 916 (Peterburg, the first Firkovich collection, no. B 3 = Petropolitanus). The early date of the latter does necessarily indicate a relatively ancient state of vocalization and accentuation.
The texts with Babylonian vocalization show great development, more than is found in any other system; and they can be classified into a number of groups according to various criteria, such as that of I. Yeivin (The Hebrew Language Tradition as Reflected in the Babylonian Vocalization (1985), pp. 21–23) who discerned three stages: the ancient, the intermediate, and the later; and he divides the linguistic material into five types according to characteristics of pronunciation, beginning with the ancient Babylonian pronunciation (type V) and continuing to the completely Tiberian pronunciation with Babylonian signs (type I).
It would stand to reason that the texts vocalized in the Babylonian system should correspond to the Madinḥaʾe (Eastern) versions of the Masorah, although they include almost no vocalization issues but mostly differences of plene and defective spelling, differences of qere and ketiv and differences in division of words. That is why Elias Levita (Massoreth Ha-Massoreth, edit. C.D. Ginsburg, p. 113) considered the official lists of variants (חילופין) between the Westerners and the Easterners (for Prophets and Hagiographa only) as preceding the invention of the vocalization and accentuation signs. However, there are many manuscripts vocalized in the Babylonian system which contain many readings that correspond to the Western (Maʿarvaʾe) versions and vice versa. Still, in the Babylonian sources a large number of readings, sometimes the majority, correspond to the Eastern (Madinḥaʾe) tradition and they correspond with it more than any Tiberian manuscripts do. It can be assumed that mistakes occurred in the transmission of the lists of variants between Maʿarvaʾe and Madinḥaʾe, and also one cannot ignore the possibility that perhaps the term Madinḥaʾe, like its counterpart, Maʿarvaʾe, was a broad geographical concept, and that a universally accepted, uniform text for all the minute details never did exist, neither in the West nor in the East. It follows therefore that a list of variants based on one of the versions can neither invalidate nor establish the Babylonian nature of any source.
Everything stated above concerning the consolidation and uniformity of the Palestinian system applies also to the Babylonian system, although not to the same degree. This system also came down to us in different stages of development, and in it too there are great differences between the various manuscripts; here, too, the punctuation is not complete, and there are differences between manuscripts with regard to the degree of punctuation in them.
There are two sets of signs in Babylonian vocalization:
(a) the regular Babylonian set, which consists (in part) of lines, whose origin is in letters, and (in part) of dots;
(b) a set which consists entirely of dots and is relatively rare.
The signs are located in each case above the letter and to the left of it:
מׁ = i is used in both sets and it sometimes has the shape of a small yod. ̈מ = e is used in both sets.
The dot set is used exclusively in only a few manuscripts. Generally it was mixed with the signs of the regular set. Both of these sets have counterparts in the two Syriac vocalization systems: the vocalization system of Eastern Syriac, which is one of dots, and that of Western Syriac, which is a system of signs made up of letters (albeit Greek). Two of the signs have the same form in the Babylonian dot set and in the Eastern Syriac system and their functions are surprisingly similar:
Kahle feels that of the two Babylonian sets the dot set is the older, because it is simpler, because it is similar to the vocalization of Eastern Syriac (but see above), and because it is found in its purest state in a relatively early manuscript. The regular set developed, in his opinion, from the dot set. Yeivin does not agree, especially since there are older manuscripts than the one mentioned in which the regular set is used. In his opinion the dot set is just another set, ancient in itself, but not necessarily older than the regular set. It is possible that the two sets were used at the same time and that the dot set was used in a certain geographical area or by a specific school. His opinion seems reasonable. Furthermore, only the regular set, which uses letters, combines with the Babylonian accentuation, which too uses letters, to form a complete system. In any event, the dot set was preserved only briefly and was rejected in favor of the regular set. Two of its signs, however, (
As time passed, the Babylonian vocalization system was improved and signs were added to indicate further differentiations, mainly to note the special nature of the vowel which was influenced by the syllable structure (not, however, quantitative signs). The special signs which were added are, for the most part, graphemes composed of two signs. The system that evolved was the compound Babylonian vocalization system.
There are a few signs under which there is an additional horizontal line when the vowel occurs in an unstressed syllable closed with a šewa, and a horizontal line above them when the vowel occurs in an unstressed syllable, open or closed by dageš forte. The details of the signs are not uniform in all the manuscripts. There are manuscripts which contain special signs and exceptional forms, and it is difficult to find two manuscripts whose use of vowel signs is completely identical. The main signs which occur rather frequently are the following:
(1) a sign to mark a vowel in an open, unstressed syllable (including syllables where the Tiberian vocalization has a ḥataf with a laryngeal consonant) or an unstressed syllable closed by quiescent šewa:
(2) a sign to mark a vowel occurring in an unstressed syllable closed by dageš:
Yeivin differentiates between perfect and non perfect compound vocalization. In the former there are special signs for each type of syllable and they are used consistently. In the latter, the sets of signs are incomplete, that is, there is a special sign for only one type of syllable, or the special signs are used only for certain vowels and not for all of them, or the simple and compound signs are mixed together without differentiation. The phenomenon of lack of perfection is found in three types of manuscripts:
(1) ancient ones, in which the compound vocalization had not yet reached its full maturity;
(2) manuscripts in which there is a mixture of the two systems;
(3) late manuscripts in which only some signs of the compound vocalization were chosen for use.
The increase of Tiberian influence in late manuscripts is evidenced in grammatical forms
Certain additional diacritical marks are used to distinguish between different pronunciations of the same letter.
To mark ש = š a small šin above the letter is used (
The consonantal nature of a he at the end of a word (mappiq) is sometimes marked by a small he above the letter (
A dageš is marked by placing a small gimmel above the letter (
The rafeh nature of a letter is sometimes marked by a small qof above the letter (
These signs are ambiguous, since they show both gemination (dageš forte) or the lack of it and note the plosive pronunciation of בגדכפ״ת (dageš lene) or their pronunciation as fricatives. They are used only infrequently, mainly in places where a misunderstanding might arise. In manuscripts using the dot set exclusively, these marks are not added.
To mark ʾate meraḥiq (or deḥiq) a dot in the center of the line between the words is used in a few manuscripts: ליׄל
Unlike the Palestinian system of accentuation signs, the Babylonian accentuation signs have reached us as a series of fixed marks above the letter, most of which are small letters or parts of them. The division of the verses according to the Babylonian Masorah sometimes differs, especially in ancient manuscripts, from the Tiberian division, and at times a comparison with the Tiberian system is liable to give a false impression. Some of the Babylonian signs have slightly different functions in different manuscripts and it seems that a shift of their pausal strength occurred with the passage of time. This together with the fact that in the relatively late manuscripts, especially in those vocalized with the compound vocalization, accentuation signs are marked over the stressed syllable, make it possible to classify the manuscripts as earlier or later according to their use of the accentuation signs. This classification tallies in general, but not always, with that of the vowel notation.
In the Babylonian system there are no conjunctive accents at all. However, there are manuscripts, mainly those vocalized with compound vocalization, in which the vocalizer or a second hand wrote in the conjunctive Tiberian signs, and they obviously are placed with the stressed syllable.
As opposed to the Tiberian situation there is no difference in principle between Prose and Poetical books. The same signs are used in both, but the degree of subdividing the verses is not as great in the Prose books and the possible arrangements of the accentuation signs are not as numerous because of the brevity of the Poetical verses.
A gross, incomplete classification into three types of manuscripts according to their use of accentuation signs was suggested by A. *Spanier (1927). The functions of the accentuation signs are presented here in a general way according to the most ancient situation (group a) and will be followed by the main changes in the functions of the signs in the groups which Spanier called a, b, and c. A more precise grouping was suggested by R. Shoshani (2003), who maintains a fourfold subdivision: early a, later a as one group; and b and c as parts of the latest group.
There is no accentuation sign for the last word in a verse. Sometimes there is no sign separating the verses but occasionally there is a sign at the end of the verse, in group a mostly: occasionally signs such as: –̊ or
In group a the accentuation signs are not placed over the stressed syllable. The accent
In group b the accentuation signs are placed on the stressed syllable. The accent
In group c everything is the same as in group b except that the accent
As indicated, there is no separate set of accents for the three Poetical books. The same accents are used, but their actual distribution is affected by the constant brevity of the verses in these books. In principle there is no difference. Thus there is no accentuation sign for the final word of the verse. The separation between the verses is marked as in the other books. The main pause is noted by —̂, which is generally omitted, and the notation of the pause preceding it is sufficient. The second half of the verse is divided by
This is not, therefore, a different system of notation, as in the Tiberian, but the utilization of the same signs as in the Prose books in a more limited manner, in accordance with the special conditions required by the short verses of Psalms, Proverbs, and Job.
Unlike its predecessors, the Tiberian vocalization has reached us as a consolidated, uniform, and complete system, although in some isolated and exceptional manuscripts there are remnants of other systems, such as the Palestinian sign
There are seven vowels, for which there are eight signs, and it is clear that they do not indicate quantity in any way. This system, like its predecessors, was used by different communities and by people who had different traditions of pronunciation and who interpreted the signs and read them accordingly. In the Tiberian tradition in which the signs were created, their phonetic values are approximately as follows:
מִ = i; מֵ = e; מֶ = ε; מַ = a, this sign is generally under the letters like the others, but when it serves as a furtive pattaḥ in the ancient manuscripts, it precedes the letter ((מִַ .(גָבַֹהּ = å: the original shape of the sign is a line and a dot under it. Only in printed books were they joined. Some believe (as Abraham ibn Ezra already did in Sefer Ẓaḥot, ed. G.H. Lippmann, p. 3b) that the sign
Besides the eight signs, an additional one is used, מְ, to indicate the furtive nature of the consonant. This furtiveness does not have a fixed value but changes according to the position of the sign within the word. Sometimes it indicates total furtiveness – a "zero" vowel (quiescent šewa) and sometimes it indicates a partial furtiveness of a vowel (mobile šewa). The nature of the furtive vowel changes again according to the position of the sign within the word according to the Tiberian tradition: preceding a laryngeal, it resembles the vowel of the laryngeal; preceding a yod it becomes i; in all the other cases, it is pronounced a. On the rare occasions when this sign is accompanied by a gaʿyah (šewa-gaʿyah; see below 22.214.171.124.6), it is pronounced as a full vowel (according to the above conditions).
This sign therefore has many functions: it can denote the lack of a vowel, a furtive or very short vowel, or any full vowel. In this it differs from the whole Hebrew graphemic system. One can explain its function by the theory that it was first used to divide a word into syllables, that is, as a sign to indicate the boundaries of a syllable. A sign of this type is
When the vocalic nuance of this sign is fixed in one of the three vowels, a, ε, å it combines with the respective vowel sign מֳ ,מֱ ,מֲ and its phonetic value is then the furtive, short pronunciation of these vowels.
For the Tiberian system, more than for any other system, the names of the vowels (the ancient Hebrew term for them is מלכים "kings" and later תנועות as a loan translation of the Arabic ḥaraka = movement) can be traced. Apparently several series of names were applied to them in the beginning (according to the changing needs and conditions). As time passed the names became intermingled and in masoretic notes and in the works of the earliest grammarians we find the terms from different series being used side by side. One can schematically reconstruct the series approximately as follows:
(1) The most primitive series has no names, but a number of sounds which express the vowels: אוּ ,אוֹ ,אָ(ה) ,אַ(ה) ,(אֶה ,אֶ) אֶי ,אֵי ,אִי. One can assume that the vowels were thus called even before the invention of the vowel signs, these names being used orally and could not be written simply for lack of graphic signs for them. Only after the introduction of vocalization did it become possible to use these appellations in writing, and then we do find them, though rarely.
(2) A series in which the vowels are named according to the labial movements, whether closed or open, and the names were therefore derived from קמץ (close, contract) and פתח (open). These terms and their derivatives (such as פתחה ,קמצה and so on) were first used in a broad sense – a closed vowel versus an open vowel. Qameṣ thus applied at first to the vowels å, e, while pattaḥ (sometime also פשט) applied to the vowels a, ε. As time passed special names were determined for e – קמץ קטן and for ε – פתח קטן (also [פשט צבחר [צבחד), while qameṣ and pattaḥ marked only one vowel each, å, a. Later we find these special names: קמץ שלם (kāmil in Arabic), גדול ,רחב and also קמץ פום .פתח גדול also apparently belongs to this series for u, and perhaps also מלָא פום for o (in a later period in Europe מלופום is used to indicate וּ). It is difficult to establish the name of the vowel i in this series; perhaps it was שפילתא (= the low one) because it stands lowest in the scale of the vowels.
These names also are not directly connected with vowel signs. It is therefore possible that, like the above primitive series, they were instituted before the invention of the vowel signs; but some of the names were used in a later period as well.
(3) In the third series the vowels are named according to their symbols: נקודה אחת ("one point"; i), שתי נקודות ("two points"), שלוש נקודות ("three points"), נקודה בתוך הוי״ו ("a point within the waw"; u), נקודה עליונה ("upper point"; o,) and similar names in Aramic and Arabic. Only qameṣ and pattaḥ were employed as before. These names of course, came into use after the invention of vowel signs and while they made for a brevity of language – as for example, when a word was said to have שש נקודות ("six dots") by which term two segols were meant, and so on – there is ambiguity (two dots = מְ ,מֵ, three dots = מֻ ,מֶ) and apparently because of this the series did not prevail.
(4) This series of names, in use until the present day, is based on the type of sound produced (some of the names are in Aramaic): חרק – מִ ("a squeak"); צרי – מֵ (from the Aramaic for "splitting," i.e. "splitting of the lips"); חלם – מׁ (meaning "completeness," i.e., a vowel using the whole mouth, melaʾ pum); שרק – מוּ ,מֻ ("whistle, hiss"). Only סְגוֹל – מֶ ("cluster" in Aramaic) stems from the similarity of the sign to a cluster [of grapes]. Qameṣ and pattaḥ also continued to be used in this system. The orthography of the new names is without matres lectionis, and there has been disagreement as to their forms. Often they were segholate names: שֶׁרֶק ,חֶלֶם ,חֶרֶק, and also צֶרִי ,צְרִי and even צְרֵי. From approximately the 11th century the custom of introducing the indicated vowel within the name began to spread, and from then on the orthography צירי ,שורק ,חולם ,חירק became common. Since the time of the *Kimḥis the name קִבּוּץ שפתיים or קִבּוּץ is specifically used for the sign מֻ. This name was formerly a synonym for šuruq and as a translation of the Arabic damm (contraction), it also indicated the o, u group of vowels.
The name šewa (שְׁוָא known also by the spellings שוה ,שבה ,שבא) for the sign מְ is relatively newer than the other names, for when Saadiah Gaon uses it for the first time he finds it necessary to describe it: šewa ʾaʿni nuqṭatayn qāʾimatayn ("šewa, that is, two upright dots"; commentary to Sefer Yeẓirah, 4:3), which he does not do for the other names. The name חטף is apparently older than šewa, although after a certain time it was used specifically for the šewas which are joined to a vowel, ḥaṭaf pattaḥ, ḥaṭaf segol, ḥaṭaf qameṣ.
The single dot is employed as a diacritical sign to distinguish between the two pronunciations of שׁ ׃ ש = š, this dot sometimes is assimilated into a preceding ḥolem ;(שׂ (משֶׁה = ś, this dot is sometimes assimilated into the ḥolem of the same letter (שׂנֵא).
A dot within the letter marks both a plosive dageš (lene) in בגדכפ״ת and also the geminative dageš (forte) in all of the letters except אהחע״ר. An unusual dageš does occasionally occur in the reš (but there is no connection between it and the various statements concerning the double pronunciation of the reš, in which a reš with dageš is also mentioned). According to the Masorah the dageš occurs also in the ʾalef four times in the Bible (although there are manuscripts in which it
A special type of dageš is that of ʾate meraḥiq (or deḥiq), which in origin is not a geminative dageš but a dot used to mark the separation of two connected words, so that they should not be joined together (cf. Dotan, in Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies, 2 (1968), Hebrew part, 101–5, and see especially n. 23). Because this dot is identical with the sign of the dageš, as time passed it was taken to be a dageš forte, denoting geminate pronunciation, and is so pronounced in various communities.
The sign of the rafeh (בֿ) is the opposite of the dageš lene and indicates the lack of the dageš in the spirant בגדכפ״ת. It does not occur regularly even in ancient manuscripts. In addition to this main function, it is sometimes used in an irregular manner above the letters א and ה to note quiescence, and also, infrequently, to mark the lack of dageš forte, that is, to point out the lack of gemination of certain letters. The frequency of this sign varies in the different manuscripts, and with the passage of time it stopped being used altogether since it was tautological.
Another dot marks the consonantal nature of a final he. Generally this dot is located in the center of the he (הּ), but there are manuscripts in which it is written in the lower part (הּ), or even under it (הִ).
Additional usages of the signs enumerated here, such as dageš lene in letters other than בגדכפ״ת, or a mappiq in the letters alef, waw and yod, etc., are found in exceptional manuscripts, and they must be considered as the influence of a vocalization system which was not accepted (see below 5.4).
The sign מֽ which is generally written to the left of the vocalization sign (in ancient manuscripts also sometimes at the right) is a reading aid that serves various purposes, but basically it can be considered a device to improve the phonetic structure of a word. The condition for such use is sometimes rooted in the musical-accentual context of the word.
The ancient, original name is געה ;גְּעִיָה ,גֵּעֲיָה ,גֵּעְיָה ,גִּעְיָה ,גַּעְיָה) געיה = "to cry aloud") and the masoretes distinguished various types. As time passed its usage changed in the manuscripts; the scribes used to note more of one type and less of another. This situation continued until grammarians tried to organize the method of notation according to rules and norms, part of which were artificial, while others had no basis in the realities of ancient manuscripts. The first to organize the rules of gaʿyah was Jekuthiel b. Judah ha-Nakdan (יהב״י), who lived in the first half of the 13th century.
In the most general way one can distinguish between the main types of gaʿyah as follows:
A minor gaʿyah occurs in a closed syllable. There are many varieties of this type, and the distinction between them is a matter requiring detailed description. One of the most common types, whose definition is already found in Dikduke ha-Te'amim by Aaron Ben-Asher, is the gaʿyah that occurs in a closed syllable which is the third before the stress when the syllable adjacent to the stress is a furtive syllable (that is, a clear mobile šewa or a ḥatef), or the gaʿyah which occurs in a closed syllable that is the fourth before the stress when the syllable adjacent to the stress and also the third before it are furtive syllables: הַֽכְּנַעֲנִי ,וַֽיְדַבְּרוּ.
There is no certainty as to how this gaʿyah was realized but it seems that it marked some delay in the pronunciation or melody, or in both. Its special phonological conditioning was also instrumental in phonetic realization, particularly of the šewa. For example, וְהִֽתְפַּלְלוּ – the gaʿyah in the he also indicates a mobile šewa for the ל.
This type is already called געיה קטנה (minor gaʿyah) in ancient sources connected with Diqduqe ha-Te'amim and is apparently the name for all the gaʿyot of this type. The minor gaʿyah is the most common in the best ancient manuscripts, among them Leningrad B19a and the Aleppo codex, and it has a greater degree of regularity than the other types of gaʿyah. In spite of this, however, the reason for these gaʿyot was not clear, nor apparently were their precise conditions understood, although their connection to the accentuation system was obvious and they occur more often with disjunctive than with conjunctive accents. Because of this lack of clarity, and perhaps also because of uncertainty concerning the realization of the gaʿyot, the scribes disregarded them when they were copying and their frequency diminished as time passed. Unlike the type listed below, which generally did affect pronunciation, the minor gaʿyah seemed without a defined purpose and difficult to understand.
Strangely enough, the confusion as to its purpose led Jekuthiel ha-Nakdan to establish the name of the minor gaʿyah as געיה כבדה ("heavy" [in the sense of: difficult] gaʿyah) as he himself states (Shaʿar ha-Metigot, ed. Gumpertz, in Leshonenu, 22 (1958), 142): "Therefore I called them heavy, for the heart of many sages is heavy for not having understood them and they did not show them in their function … and the second [reason] that I called them heavy and different from the first ones is that the gate which is open for the light ones is closed for these which are heavy…" This name, used by a few scholars even today, thus has no justification, despite Yeivin's opinion (The Aleppo Codex of the Bible (1968), p. 93, n. 3). In fact, there is evidence that such a name in Arabic was used precisely to indicate the following type of gaʿyah.
The process of the decline of the minor gaʿyah was slower in the Sephardi manuscripts, and Jekuthiel ha-Nakdan (apparently of Prague) already declares that it had disappeared from most of the non-Sephardi manuscripts.
This gaʿyah occurs in an open syllable. Here, too, there are several types, and all of them occur in a syllable which is separated from the stress by at least one syllable. In the separating syllable, however, different kinds must be distinguished: it is likely to be a vowel (וְשָֽׁמַרְתָּ ,הֶֽחָכָם), or a compound šewa (פָּֽעֳלוֹ ,אֶֽעֱשֶׁה ,נִֽאֲצוּ ,יַֽעֲקֹב) or a simple mobile šewa (יֵֽרְֽדוּ ,אָֽסְנַת).
There are a number of proofs that this gaʿyah is the one which is called געיה גדולה (major gaʿyah) in ancient sources (Dotan, ed., Diqduqe ha-Te'amim, pp. 286, 302); in the treatise on the šewa (in: Kurt Levy, Zur masoretischen Grammatik (1936), pp. ה ,ד) it is called gaʿyah ṯaqīlah (heavy gaʿyah).
This gaʿyah neither occurs regularly nor follows general rules in the ancient manuscripts. In comparison to the minor gaʿyah, which is found marked with a very great degree of consistency, we can find no full consistency in the notation of the major gaʿyah in the different ancient manuscripts, not even in the best of them. Inconsistency is also found within a single text. Yet, as time passed, the major gaʿyah became more and more common in the manuscripts until it was marked with great regularity and consistency in every open syllable. This adherence of the scribes to the major gaʿyah at the same time that they turned away from the minor gaʿyah is part of the process of systematization of the rules of the gaʿyah, a process whose beginnings were among non-Sephardi scribes but which ultimately became accepted by all. The Sephardi Menahem di Lonzano (second half of the 16th century) complains about it: "I am weary of my life through the abundance of the extra gaʿyot, which are superfluous, which the Ashkenazim put in their books and called them meteg (= bridle), while I have called them bridle (= meteg) for the ass. They are a nuisance to me I am weary to bear their correction for they are more than the grasshoppers and are indeed infinite in number" (Or Torah, Amsterdam, 1659, p. 2b).
One can assume that the origin of the major gaʿyah as a sign to distinguish between the mobile and the quiescent šewa, i.e., the basic location of the sign is in an open syllable preceding a mobile šewa, and from here it spread to other open syllables (as above). However, there was no regularity in the notation of this gaʿyah neither before a simple šewa nor in the other positions. It was only in the late Middle Ages that this sign was used more and more, since the scribes considered it a sign to indicate a necessary phonetic entity which exists in pronunciation, whether the sign points to it or not, according to the statement of Jekuthiel ha-Nakdan (ed. Gumpertz, in Leshonenu, 22 (1958), 141): "And the custom that many followed – not to point them [i.e., the gaʿyot] everywhere because they are very numerous throughout all of the Bible and the vocalizers said [if] we will write them in every instance their number will exceed that of the accents, and perhaps the readers will go astray because of them and will forget the normal accents because of the abundance of metegs (מתיגות) while the wise man will know them by himself even if the vocalizers lightened their burden and did not indicate each of them." This statement practically permits major gaʿyahs to be added to every open syllable even in places where they are not written according to the Masorah.
This situation is completely different from the concept which was common at the start of Hebrew grammar and which is manifest in the ancient manuscripts. Here the major gaʿyah was the main indicator of the mobile šewa. There are quite a number of rules, both in Diqduqe ha-Te'amim and in works of Masorah related to it, from which it is clear that only a šewa which is preceded by a gaʿyah is mobile and a simple šewa in the middle of a word which is not preceded by a gaʿyah is always quiescent (except for known types). There is corroboration for this also in the writings of the early grammarians (Allony collected the evidence for it). If so, the major gaʿyah is not a "self-evident" diacritical mark, but, to the contrary, has phonetic significance. While the above evidence derives from the facts, it is difficult to accept it, for it would mean that the pronunciation of the words, especially those with a šewa, varied according to different manuscripts, even in one single text. Such arbitrariness in the exact pronunciation of biblical Hebrew, which each generation labored to preserve and transmit faultlessly, seems unlikely.
It is difficult to explain this phenomenon, and on the other hand it is easy to understand the tendency of the later masoretes toward unification and systematization. The major gaʿyah became, as time passed, the only gaʿyah. In addition to its function as an indicator of the "mobility" of the šewa or the length of the vowels, it was considered – in order to take into account also the instances in which the gaʿyah did not precede a simple šewa – also a sign indicating the phonetic Gegenton to the main stress, a function which fits all the types of the major gaʿyah. In this capacity it became known more and more as מתג (meteg), and Jekuthiel ha-Nakdan already used this term along with מתיגה (metigah).
his is a gaʿyah which occurs in a furtive syllable, that is, in a syllable with a mobile šewa, or with a ḥaṭaf pattaḥ or a ṭaṭaf segol (henceforth called šewa-gaʿyah). It is generally marked to the left of the šewa or ḥatef (
Nothing is known about the conditioning of this gaʿyah. It is found in manuscripts without any regularity; it is more common in the Poetic books (Psalms, Proverbs, and Job) than in the other books, and it is mainly noted at the beginning of the word. On the other hand, we do know quite clearly its purpose – to indicate the pronunciation of the šewa as an actual full vowel. This is attested to by the rules of pronunciation of the šewa copied in different sources in Masorah literature. In this it has a common feature with the major gaʿyah; for a šewa which is pronounced as a full vowel has ceased to constitute a furtive syllable and has become open, and the gaʿyah which occurs in it is similar to a major gaʿyah. Šewa-gaʿyah never occurs in the syllable before the stress; it requires a separation of
On the other hand, there is rather general agreement in the notation of the šewa-gaʿyah in ancient manuscripts, and in that it bears a similarity to the minor gaʿyah. Yet, unlike the minor gaʿyah, šewa-gaʿyah was not rejected from the text; it is still copied today in most of the editions of the Bible. The reason for this is that because of its relative rareness and because of its special method of notation (next to the šewa and not next to a vowel like the other two types of gaʿyah) it was considered an anomaly and an exceptional sign, and like the other exceptional signs of the Masorah it was treated with special respect.
This is a gaʿyah of a special type which perhaps does not merit the name gaʿyah, though it is noted in the same manner. It is better to call it, for the purpose of differentiation, by the name given by Jekuthiel ha-Nakdan and following him, by Wolf *Heidenheim, העמדה ("causing to stop"; although this name is used also for gaʿyah in other places).
The function of the haʿamadah is to emphasize, perhaps by a slight pause, the pronunciation of a sound which was likely to be swallowed. This danger threatens unstressed sounds at the end of a word which is connected to the following one, and in these instances haʿamadah is likely to occur (and its function is then similar to that of the dageš of ʾate meraḥiq – see above, 126.96.36.199.2.). It is a relatively rare sign and there is no consistency in its notation. In this position, that is, in an unstressed syllable at the end of a word which is connected to the following (whether by a maqqaf or by a conjunctive accent) which is (generally but not always) stressed at the beginning, it is likely to occur before a laryngeal consonant, e.g.,
In ancient manuscripts the haʿamadah is found more than in the recent editions of the Bible. But even in the ancient texts there are no fixed rules and there is disagreement among the manuscripts. Yeivin (The Aleppo Codex of the Bible (1968), 180ff., 271ff.) described and discussed the situation in the Aleppo codex and in related manuscripts.
The Tiberian system, unlike the other two, was a consolidated, complete system of disjunctive accents and conjunctive accents with defined functions, complete orderliness, and a very uniform textual transmission. This is the result of improvement after improvement, and it can be considered the zenith of the development of the graphemes in Hebrew.
In addition to the two functions which the accentuation signs perform in the other systems – dividing the verse, and setting the melody of the reading of the text – in the Tiberian system they also indicate the point of the stress in the word. This is very important not only for the correct reading of the Bible but also for recognizing the grammatical structure of the language: the Tiberian system of accentuation is the only means for establishing the stress structure of ancient Hebrew.
As a musical guide for reading, this system is also more sophisticated than the others: for actually one fixed sign would have been sufficient for indicating the lack of pause; and it was only for musical variation that different signs were established for words which are connected in different contexts, the conjunctive accents.
Its sophistication and completeness as a system of punctuation are manifest also in (1) the fact that its signs are attached to each and every word and they indicate different degrees of pause as well of juncture (= "zero" pause); (2) the fact that the value of each punctuation sign (= accent) is relative, and changes according to its position within the verse, the length of the verse, and the relationship to the other accents within it.
The principles of parsing of the system are varied:
(1) each division is always into two only – a dichotomy, i.e., the result of every division is always only two smaller units and never more;
(2) the dichotomy continues time after time in every one of the resultant units until there remain in each small unit only two words (which do not have to be divided) or until all the accentuation signs have been used and there are technically no more possibilities for indicating another division.
The Tiberian accentuation signs are a system of dots and lines, some simple, others compounded. The names of the signs are in part Aramaic and in part Hebrew, and they sometimes refer to the melody or to the manner of reading, sometimes to the shape of the sign, and at other times to the hand movement which accompanied the melody in the ancient period (see 1.3.3.).
סילוק – מֽ (cessation; also סוף פסוק – end of the verse). It occurs only at the end of a verse and it is located only on the stressed syllable (this is not to be confused with the gaʿyah sign, which does not occur with the stressed syllable). מ֑ (originally אַתְנָחָה ,אֶתְנַחְתָּא ,אַתְנָח – (̭מ ("rest"). זקף) זָקֵף קטן – מ֔ = erect, upright – perhaps referring to a hand movement or to the shape of the sign). זקף גדול – מ֕, a variant of זקף קטן used in specific conditions. סְגוֹלְתָא ,סְגוֹל – מ݅ (Aramaic: a [grape] cluster – refers to its shape). This is a postpositive sign – always written at the end of the word, but in some editions of the Bible it is placed an extra time on the stressed syllable in penultimate words. שַׁלְשֶׁלֶת – מ֓ ׀ (chain; refers to the shape of the sign and perhaps to the melody as well). A rare accent, it appears only seven times in the 21 books. טִפְחָא ,טִפְּחָא – מ֭ (perhaps "handbreadth" – refers to the hand movement, or perhaps to a (musical) stroke). רְבִיעַ – מ֗ (Aramaic:
מונח – מ֣. This is an abbreviation of שופר מונח, which was the name of one of the types of accents that were called by the name שופר (horn, trumpet). The distinction between these types was not preserved, neither in the name nor in the sign. מַהְפָּךְ–מ֤. An abbreviation of שופר מהפך ("inverted horn") or מְהֻפָּךְ or שופר הפוך. It is always placed under the stressed syllable and to the left of the vowel sign, and thus it is differentiated from the disjunctive yetiv. מֵירְכָא – מ֥ (Aramaic: prolonging) and also מְאָרְכָה, and מַאֲרִיךְ. In the ancient manuscripts it had the same shape as the gaʿyah and caused confusion. מֵירְכָא כפולה – מ֦ (double): a rare conjunctive, found only 14 times in the 21 books. דַּרְגָּא–מ֧ ("grade," "scale") referring to the sign and perhaps to the melody (Ar. daraja = "to sing quaveringly"). Its rare name שִׁישְׁלָא ,שַׁלְשֶׁלֶת ("chain") perhaps goes back to a sign similar to a šalšelet (מ֓) from which this sign was shortened. אָזֵל ,אָזְלָא ,אַזְלָא – מ֨ ("going on"), the ancient name of the sign. Another name is קַדְמָא ("antecedent"), perhaps because it very often occurs before gereš. It is always written on the stressed syllable and it is thereby differentiated from the disjunctive paštaʾ. מ֩ (originally
The accentual division of verses is generally logical, its purpose being to guide the reader in his recitation. Therefore it is frequently subordinated to considerations of rhythm and even of melody. The length of the verse and the distance of the dichotomy from the end of the verse are sometimes likely to cause a division at variance with the division required according to the syntactical analysis.
The accent which indicates the end of the verse is always silluq. A verse is usually divided by eʾtnaḥ, sometimes by zaqef, and infrequently even by ṭippeḥa – all according to the length of the verse and the distance between the place of the division and the end of the verse. The further the division occurs from the end of the verse the more likely it is that an ʾetnaḥ will be used.
The two hemistichs which result, that of ʾetnaḥ and that of the silluq, are each likely to be further subdivided by a zaqef (qatan or gadol), at a certain distance from the ʾetnaḥ or the silluq, or by a ṭippeḥa near them. Tippeḥa is used as a prelude accent and must occur in any event after the zaqef. When many divisions are required the zaqef is likely to be repeated a few times. In place of the first zaqef of the hemistich of the ʾetnaḥ, a segol is likely to occur.
The zaqef's hemistich (to its right) is likely to be divided by paštaʾ, and when long by reviʿa, and then a paštaʾ follows.
The hemistich of the segol is always divided by zarqaʾ (as a prelude), and when it is long, by a reviaʿ, and then zarqaʾ will also occur after the reviaʿ.
The hemistich of the ṭippeḥaʾ is likely to be divided by tevir, and when it is long also by reviaʿ, and then the tevir will also come after the reviaʿ.
The hemistich of the reviaʿ is likely to be divided by munaḥ legarmeh, gereš, telišaʾ gedola or pazer, all according to the distance of the division from the end of the hemistich. Munaḥ legarmeh or gereš will occur close to its end and the
The hemistichs of the paštaʾ, zarqaʾ, or tevir are likely to be divided by gereš, telišaʾ gedola or pazer, all according to the distance of the division from the end of the hemistich – gereš in a closer position and pazer at a distance. A pazer can be repeated it necessary.
The hemistichs of pazer, telišaʾ gedola, and munaḥ legarmeh are not subdivided. That of gereš is sometimes divided, irregularly, by a telišaʾ gedola and pazer.
These main rules have many by-rules and laws of transformation of accents causing changes and the use of variant accents conditioned by musical considerations.
For each of the disjunctives there is a specific conjunctive which is joined to it. This joining of the conjunctive is not always imperative and even the number of the conjunctives which are added to a disjunctive depends upon the context and the verse structure. Sometimes only one conjunctive is added, sometimes more, up to a maximum of six conjunctives with certain disjunctives. Below is a list of the conjunctives which can join each disjunctive, arranged in reverse order, from the disjunctive backward:
silluq – its conjunctive is merḵaʾ.
ʾetnaḥ, zaqef qaṭan, segol – conjunctives: munaḥ, munaḥ. tippeḥaʾ – its conjunctive is merḵaʾ (14 times in the Bible: double merḵaʾ, dargaʾ).
reviaʿ – its conjunctives are munaḥ, dargaʾ, munaḥ.
paštaʾ – the conjunctives are mahpaḵ (or merḵaʾ), ʾazlaʾ (or munaḥ), telišaʾ qeṭanna, munaḥ, munaḥ, munaḥ.
zarqaʾ – the conjunctives are munaḥ (or merḵaʾ), ʾazlaʾ(or munaḥ), telišaʾ qeṭanna, munaḥ.
tevir – its conjunctives are dargaʾ (or merḵaʾ), ʾazlaʾ (or munaḥ), telia qeṭanna, munaḥ.
telišaʾ gedola – the conjunctives are munaḥ, munaḥ, munaḥ, munaḥ, munaḥ.
pazer – its conjunctives are munaḥ, munaḥ, munaḥ, munaḥ, munaḥ.
qarne parah – the conjuctives (at least two) are yeraḥ ben yomo, munaḥ, munaḥ, munaḥ, munaḥ, munaḥ.
gereš – its conjunctives are ʾazlaʾ (or munaḥ), telišaʾ qeṭanna, munaḥ, munaḥ, munaḥ.
geršayim – its conjunctive is munaḥ.
munaḥ legarmeh – conjunctives: merḵaʾ, ʾazlaʾ (or munaḥ).
סילוק – מֽ, to mark the end of a verse. עולה ויורד – מ֥֫ ("ascending and descending"), referring to the melody. The upper sign is pretonic. מ֑ (originally
עִלּוּי – מ֬ .מונח – מ֣ .מירכא – מ֥ ("elevation," "raising"), an abbreviation of שופר עילוי. This is the ancient name of one of the types of accents which were called shofar (horn, trumpet), and it was so named because of the ascending melody. Only in a relatively late period did it refer to the sign of the shofar which was written above, that is, upper, superior shofar. Another name is מונח מלמעלה – with the same meaning. טַרְחָא – מ֭ .מהפך–מ֤, a name apparently derived from טֹרַח ("burden") and meaning, consequently, laboring, heaviness. It is sometimes also called טפחא. It is always placed under the stressed syllable and it is thus differentiated from the disjunctive deḥi. Some of the early scholars differentiated between three types of ṭarḥa according to the disjunctive which they join: before silluq – נטויה ("inclined"), מאילא (from the Arabic māʾilah ="inclining," see below, 188.8.131.52.2.1.); before ʾetnaḥ (or its substitute) – דְּחוּיָה (= "thrust back"); before reviaʿ mugraš (or šalšelet gedola) – שׁוֹכֵב ("reclining"). גַּלְגַּל– מ֪ .אזלא – מ֨ ("wheel"). Two different signs merged in this one, but they are still found separately in ancient manuscripts:
The relative brevity and parallel structure of most of the verses in Psalms, Proverbs, and Job were liable to cause monotony in the reading and even in the melody. In order to avoid this, special accents were used which allowed for more variety of tone than in the other books. These different accents based on the context, and even more on the syllable structure of the words themselves, helped reduce the monotony.
Here, too, the sign which marks the end of the verse is always silluq, although a few manuscripts do not mark it at all. A verse is divided by ʿole we-yored, or by ʾetnaḥ and infrequently even by reviaʿ (which in later manuscripts and editions is then marked with additional prepositive gereš) – all according to the length of the verse and the distance of the point of division from the end of the verse. The further the division is from the end of the verse, the more ʿole we-yored is used.
The hemistich of ʿole we-yored is likely to be divided by reviaʿ qaṭan at the first word or by ṣinnor at the second word and by reviaʿ gadol at the third word and further. When the hemistich is divided by reviaʿ gadol, a ṣinnor or reviaʿ qaṭan will be used, in any event, for an additional division between it and ʿole we-yored.
The hemistich of ʾetnaḥ is likely to be divided by deḥi, and when it is long, by reviaʿ gadol, and then it is possible that deḥi will also occur after the reviaʿ gadol.
The hemistich of the silluq which remains after the division by ʾetnaḥ (or by ʿole we-yored), is divided again by reviaʿmugraš; and when reviaʿ mugraš is far from the silluq, there is a second, smaller division made by the disjunctive ʾazlaʾ legarmeh or mahpaḵ legarmeh (according to the structure of the word and the context of the accents). In special situations šalšelet gedola will occur instead of reviaʿ mugraš.
The hemistich of reviʿa mugraš or šalšelet gedola is not further subdivided. However, when reviaʿ mugraš is used instead of ʾetnaḥ (and it is then written in the ancient manuscripts without gereš), it is likely to be divided in the same manner as the hemistich of the ʾetnaḥ (see above).
The hemistichs of the reviaʿ qaṭan and pazer are likely to be subdivided only by ʾazlaʾ legarmeh or mahpaḵ legarmeh. The hemistich of ʾazlaʾ legarmeh is never subdivided.
Often enough these rules, or at least some of them, are not put into effect because of very precise rules of transformation. These rules, which are based upon musical considerations, cause the exchange of one disjunctive for another, or the replacement of a disjunctive by a conjunctive. In most cases of substitution the conjunctive accents of the original division remain in their positions and it happens, therefore, that sometimes the conjunctives of one disjunctive serve another disjunctive, or even another conjunctive. In order to trace a verse's division one must therefore take the rules of transformation into consideration. Sometimes even in a place where there is a conjunctive, the intention of the accentuators was a pause, and only the melody is that of the conjunctive. The opposite phenomenon – a disjunctive occurring for a musical reason in a place where no division is needed (prelude accent) – is very common in the accents of Psalms, Proverbs, and Job, and even more in the accents of the 21 books (see above).
The rules of the conjunctives in Psalms, Proverbs, and Job became very slack with their transmission throughout the generations. While the musical side influenced their selection even more than in the 21 books, these rules were most complex and dependent upon the syllabic structure of the words, the number of conjunctives, and the distances from the disjunctive. Despite all these rules, the exceptions were still quite numerous. Furthermore, the reading tradition for the books of Psalms, Proverbs, and Job was not preserved by the various Jewish communities, and the system of the signs – and even more so, the rules behind them – were not understood by the scribes and printers, and they lacked all meaning for the readers. This accounts for the fact that as time passed the manuscripts – and even more so, the printed editions – differed from one another more and more, until complete confusion was reached in the rules of the conjunctives. The rules of the disjunctives also suffered, but to a lesser degree. Even in ancient manuscripts with an excellent textual tradition, the rules of the conjunctive are very complicated and sometimes there are no rules but different parallel possibilities for the conjunctive accents without any obvious causality. I. Yeivin has described the situation as found in the Aleppo codex (The Aleppo Codex of the Bible (1968), 281–350).
In addition to the accentuation signs, which have been treated until now, each of which indicates both a degree of pause and a melody (the noting of the place of stress in a word is restricted to the Tiberian system), there are a number of other signs used in the Tiberian system of accentuation, each for only one of the following purposes.
The sign | מ (a vertical line between words; originally a small line | פָּסֵק – (מ (Aramaic: cutting off), פְּסִיק (Aramaic: cut off); a symbol for punctuation only and not for melody. It occurs only after conjunctive accents and indicates a pause. One should consider it an additional improvement in the system of accentuation, for it is a sign used to complete the punctuation system after the system of the melody was stabilized. With regard to its phonetic influence upon the pronunciation of the word it is also like a disjunctive in that it voids the fricative nature of בגדכפ״ת at the beginning of the following word; that is, it cancels the fricativeness which is caused by the conjunctive accent near it. A distinction should be made between a paseq which is wont to occur after any one of the conjunctives as opposed to the similar sign which goes with one of the disjunctives: šalšelet, munaḥ legarmeh, šalšelet gedola,
The five paseq rules of Ben-Asher may be sorted into two main categories of means for perfection:
(1) In a unit of mostly two words, which according to the principle of dichotomy needs no further division, the paseq occurs nevertheless to indicate division for a definite, phonetic or punctuational-exegetic, reason:
(a) a phonetic need – to separate between equal or similar consonants at the boundaries of adjacent connected words in order to avoid assimilation and, consequently, wrong joining of the words. Mostly the sonorants נ ,מ ,ל are involved, e.g. בָבֶ֨ל | לְגַלִּ֧ים | מְעוֹן־תַּנִִּ֥ים (Jer. 51:37);
(b) a punctuational need – to separate between a pair of identical or similar words, e.g., י֣וֹם | י֑וֹם (Gen. 39:10), הִמּ֧ וֹל | יִמִּ֥וֹל (Gen. 17:13);
(c) an exegetic need – to separate between words, one of which is a name of God, which are joined according to the accentuation needs, but their conjunction is liable to allow for a different understanding, in which God's name would be profaned, e.g. אִם־תִּקְטֹ֭ל אֱל֥וֹהַּ | רָשָׁ֑ע (Ps. 139:19) – "if Thou shall kill, O God, the wicked," (not "if you kill the wicked God");
(d) an exegetic need – to separate between words in order to avoid an understanding arising from the division of the accentuation and which seems either wrong, impossible or unacceptable, e.g. יִשְׁמַ֤ע | אֵל (Ps. 55:20), עָשׂ֣וּ | כָּלָ֑ה (Gen. 18:21).
(2) in a unit of three words or more to separate words which should be separated according to the context, but for which proper disjunctives do not exist in the accentuation system to show this separation. This refers mainly to an additional division of the hemistichs of the smallest disjunctives – pazer, telišaʾ gedola and sometimes gereš – which cannot be further divided with accent signs: e.g. וּתַ |
Recently another early attempt to formulate rules for the occurrence of paseq was detected in Saadia Gaon's longer commentary to Exodus (Y. Ratzaby, Rav Saadya's Commentary on Exodus (Jerusalem 1998), pp. 224, 394–5), where he formulates five rules of his own, two of which do not coincide with Ben-Asher's rules (see Dotan, Paseq).
However, all the above are not rules for the placement of the paseq, but categories according to which one can classify and understand most of the paseq occurrences. Yet there are many places in the Bible which come under these classifications and a paseq is not found there. A relatively small part of the paseqs are not explained even according to these classifications, and there is no doubt that hidden explanations and exegetical homilies played a part in the placing of the paseq, as with the accentuation signs.
The sign מ־ (originally an extremely small line which joined words) – מַקֵּף ,מַקַּף ("binder"), is only a conjunctive sign and has no melody. It indicates that the word before it is connected to the next word; the first word has no accent of its own, and the melody indicated by the sign occurring with the word that follows it applies to it too. The maqqaf usually connects two words, sometimes three or even four and the dominant melody is indicated by the accent of the last word. The maqqaf can be classified into three main types:
(a) that which connects any type of small word, mostly prepositions and conjunctives, but also nouns, names, and other parts of speech, and makes it proclitic;
(b) that which connects a word whose stress is ultimate, although it is not a short word, to a word whose stress is at the beginning, in order to avoid adjacency of the stresses. By this connection the melody of the first word is voided, but it is doubtful whether its stress is completely cancelled. It seems that in these cases the stress regresses (נָסוֹג אָחוֹר) and is sometimes indicated by a gaʿyah; sometimes it is not indicated but the regression does exist in the pronunciation (la-tent regression);
(c) that which connects words which the accents (the conjunctives) were insufficient to connect, or some other difficulty in the accentuation left unconnected. This is another improvement in the system of accentuation, parallel to the paseq, but for conjunctive needs.
The rules of the maqqaf are only partially fixed (especially for type a), and there are variants with regard to details between different editions of the Bible. There are also principle differences between the Poetic books (Psalms, Proverbs, and Job) and the Prose books of the Bible. In ancient manuscripts the maqqaf was sometimes omitted, apparently through scribal error.
Signs for pause only are common to all 24 books of the Bible since they do not have any special melody. However, the signs for melody only are of necessity different in the two groups of books.
To this category belongs every conjunctive serving as a secondary accent in a word where another accent, disjunctive or conjunctive, marks the main stress. In this case the secondary conjunctive accents have no other function but melody. Signs serving solely for melody are the following:
(a) The sign ֔֙מ (a sign similar in shape to ʾazlaʾ or paštaʾ occurring on a word with zaqef qaṭan) – it is called מַקֵּל (= "stroke," "rod") and also חֹטֶר ("rod"), because of the shape of the sign. Other names are: דָּרְבָן ("spur," "goad"), or its Arabic parallel, hamza, whose Hebrew spelling המזה was understood by copyists, who did not know Arabic, as a Hebrew noun with the article which they pronounced מַזֶּה. We also know of the names מְתִיגָה ("bridling") which was used equally for gʿayah, מַרְאֵה מָקוֹם ("indicator"),
(b). The sign מ֭ (a sign similar to a ṭippeḥaʾ which occurs in the same word with ʾetnaḥ or silluq) is called מאילא and commonly pronounced מְאַיְלָא. Wickes believes that one should pronounce it מָאיְלָא as Ar. māʾilah from māla = to incline, to be inclined, and thus the name parallels the Hebrew names for this sign which are less common (נְטוּיָה and דְּחוּיָה) and have the same meaning.
The meʾayla is one of the peculiarities of the Masorah. It has no rules and occurs under no special conditions 15 or 16 times in the Bible: five times with a silluq, 10 or 11 times with an ʾetnaḥ; and it is located at the position of the major gaʿyah in the word (e.g., לְדֹרֹ֭תֵיכֶֽם – Num. 15:21). Sometimes when the disjunctive applies to two words joined by maqqaf, it is located in the original position of the accentuation sign of the first word (e.g., וַתֹּאמַ֭רְנָה־לָ֑הּ – Ruth 1:10). It thus serves as a secondary accent in a disjunctive word and one can assume that its melody was like that of the ṭippeḥaʾ, and hence the similarity of the signs. Indeed, where a meʾayla is used one never finds a ṭippeḥa, while a conjunctive accent of ṭippeḥaʾ can precede the meʾayla. Yet the opinion that the meʾayla is a disjunctive cannot be accepted. Most of the cases of meʾayla, but not all of them, can be explained as contamination of two versions, one with maqqaf and one with the disjunctive tippeḥaʾ. In the works of the Masorah this sign is considered a conjunctive.
(a) ṣinnorit. The sign מ֮ (originally
(b) Metiga. The sign מ֨, similar to the maqqel, is known from a few manuscripts and from works of Masorah in which it is called hamza in Arabic and מתיגה in Hebrew, names which are also used for maqqel. The metiga is a pretonic sign. It is used in a syllable adjacent to the stress of a word with a merḵaʾ which serves as the conjunctive for either the accent silluq or reviaʿ mugraš, in the first word preceding it. Thus the metiga was used as a prelude melody for merḵaʾ. It disappeared from most manuscripts and from all printed editions of the Bible.
In many Bible manuscripts graphemes of the Tiberian system are used in different manner from that set by the Tiberian vocalizers. This was due to: (1) a tradition of pronounciation which differs from the Tiberian; (2) a different method of notation and different rules for the use of some of the Tiberian graphemes.
The most famous of these manuscripts is the Codex Reuchlinianus of the Prophets, which was written in 1105/6 C.E. There is no uniformity in these manuscripts and this system, unlike the conventional Tiberian system, is not consolidated. Thus, like the Babylonian and Palestinian systems, it came down to us in stages of development and its various characteristics are not found in every manuscript. Inconsistency in details of vocalization is found even in the same manuscript.
This system is distinguished from the regular Tiberian system by elements whose origin is in a different tradition of pronunciation; and by Tiberian symbols which are used according to different principles. No manuscript contains all traits of both these characteristics, especially some of the second category, also occur at times in regular Tiberian texts.
The main traits of a different tradition of pronunciation are as follows:
(1) The lack of distinction between qameṣ and pattaḥ and between ṣere and segol; but even this typifying characteristic is not common to all manuscripts of this type.
(2) –לְיִ – ,בְּיִ– ,וְיִ at the beginning of a word becomes –לִי– ,בִּי– ,וִי.
(3) –יְ at the beginning of a word becomes – ִי.
(4) The lack of furtive pattaḥ before ע ,–ח– (written as עְ ,–חְ–), unless ī (־ִי) and in a number of manuscripts even ū (וּ–) preceded them; also its absence before ה– (written as הְ or הּ only). Whether this characteristic is rooted in a different tradition of pronunciation is doubtful. Perhaps it is only a graphic variant in the system, that is, the consonants ע ,–ח ,–ה– in the final position are always pronounced with the preceding glide vowel, and there is no need to write it in. The pattaḥ
The principles of different notation in vocalization are:
(5) The principle of the dageš lene – that the dageš is placed in a letter at the beginning of a syllable which is preceded by one that ends in a consonant – is extended to the letters ש ,ק ,צ ,ס ,נ ,מ ,ל ,ט ,ז (hence it applies to all the letters except י ,ו ,ר ,ע ,ח ,ה ,א). The notation of the rafeh is correspondingly extended to these letters in an almost regular manner; it is added to a letter which is at the beginning of a syllable preceded by one that ends with a vowel. This characteristic is very frequent although its execution is not always perfect, and the symbols are also found outside the above conditions. In the opinion of Morag its function was to remove the doubt about the šewa: a dageš would indicate that the šewa preceding it (at the end of the preceding syllable) was quiescent, and rafeh would indicate that the šewa preceding it was mobile. From here the distinction was transferred to positions in which there is no šewa at the boundary of the syllables and also to the beginning of a word.
(6) A dageš in א and ה indicates their consonantal nature; rafeh above them (הֿ ,אֿ) indicates that they are matres lectionis.
(7) וֿ – in the middle of a word indicates that the letter is a consonant; וֿ ,וּ ,וְ – indicates its consonantal nature at the end of a word. יֿ indicates its consonantal nature at the beginning and in the middle of a word; יֿ ,יּ ,יִ – a consonant at the end of the word.
(8) The mappiq is written at the bottom of the he - הִ.
(9) שּ = š;
(10) Instead of qameṣ in a closed, unstressed syllable (our qameṣ qaṭan) מֳ is written and in some isolated manuscripts מׂ.
(11) Instead of a mobile šewa preceding a consonantal yod with any type of vowel, a ḥireq is written (בִּיָד), equivalent to actual Tiberian pronunciation.
(12) The consonants ע ,ח are written with šewa even at the end of a word, and sometimes also the consonantal ה.
(13) When ḥatefs occur with ח ,ה, and sometimes א too, the šewa sign is written above the vowel sign and within the letters:
(14) With the letter ח and sometimes also with ע within a word, a ḥaṭaf pattaḥ occurs in place of quiescent šewa. It would seem that this is not a major change in pronunciation but in the notation only (which originated perhaps with the perception of a slight vocal glide adjacent to the ח). The nature of the šewa is established, as in the other cases, by the dageš or rafeh in the adjacent letter: שָּׁמָֿעֲנּוּ before a dageš, quiescent; הַכֹּהְַנִֿים – before a rafeh, mobile. This is not done consistently, however. The opposite tendency is seen in ancient manuscripts: a simple šewa is used everywhere, even in such positions where in the regular Tiberian system we would find definite ḥatefs.
The following characteristics occur in the 21 books:
(15) Two different accents are used as conjunctives before zaqef: the regular munaḥ (מ֣) and the sign
(16) No conjunctive occurs within a word with a zaqef even in cases where it should occur according to the regular Tiberian system.
(17) There is no geršayim (מ֞), and gereš (מ֜) is used instead in every instance.
(18) The sign of the conjunctive darga is similar to the šalšelet below the word (
(19) Instead of the disjunctive deḥi (מ֖), the sign of tevir (מ֛) is used with the same function.
(20) There are distinctions made between the types of reviaʿ: reviaʿ gadol מ֞ (like a doubled gereš, but the first mark is prepositive and the second is above the stressed syllable); reviaʿ (which is not preceded by ʾetnaḥ)
(21) There are deviations from the regular Tiberian system with regard to the rules of the conjunctives, and they are different in the various manuscripts.
(22) The use of ṣinnorit (in words with mahpaḵ and merḵaʾ) is more frequent and more consistent than in the regular Tiberian system, and also the metiga (above 184.108.40.206.2.2.) (in words with a merḵaʾ) is more common.
More sign variations and markings of peculiarities as used in some manuscripts were brought by Yeivin (The Accentuation, 1992).
(23) To distinguish between the legarmeh signs (munaḥ legarmeh, ʾazlaʾ legarmeh, mahpaḵ legarmeh) and the paseq, there is לגׁ or פסׁ written in the margin among the masoretic notes almost regularly.
(24) The omission of the maqqaf is more common than in the regular Tiberian manuscripts and apparently not necessarily because of oversight of the scribes.
(25) There is a much more extensive use of gaʿya than in the ancient Tiberian manuscripts, especially the different types of major gaʿya.
The above is thus a summarized list of the main differences found in most of the manuscripts. There are additional characteristics found in one or another isolated manuscript, which have not been listed above. These characteristics seem to indicate a definite tendency, but this tendency reveals itself
In all fairness it must be said that the variant usage of graphemes, the different graphic method, is in itself insufficient to separate this vocalization system from the Tiberian tradition. Yet, since this method is usually associated with the indication of non-Tiberian pronunciation, especially its substitution of qameṣ for pattaḥ and ṣere for segol, and vice versa (characteristic 1 above) – all the others are not necessarily non-Tiberian characteristics – it is clear that this entire system is non-Tiberian. Even if isolated manuscripts have been found in which the free substitution of these vowel signs does not occur, their very scarceness and even their relative lateness testify to the fact that they constitute something of a further improvement of the system in order to bring it closer to the regular Tiberian system.
The lack of distinction between qameṣ and pattaḥ and between ṣere and segol is common to the Palestinian and to the Sephardi pronunciation traditions. The rest of the characteristics of pronunciation are not necessarily typifying for either of these two traditions. For example, characteristic 2 is also found in the Tiberian tradition itself in the school of *Ben-Naphtali, and vestiges of it can even be discerned in manuscripts and various editions of the accepted Tiberian text, e.g., ָבִּיקְּרוֹתֶיך (Ps. 45:10); וִילְלַת (Jer. 25:36); לִיקְּהַת (Prov. 30:17). It is difficult to decide one way or another even according to the graphic method. Most of the characteristics are neutral; some no doubt reflect ancient Tiberian characteristics (15, for example), while others are not necessarily specific to Palestine but are also found in the Babylonian tradition and sometimes in the Tiberian tradition as well (19, for example). Only two characteristics seem to be common to this system and the Palestinian – the way of noting the diacritical dots in the letters
On the other hand, one must consider the fact that the manuscripts vocalized in this manner are most widespread in European libraries; even those from the Genizah, at least some of them, originated – as N. Allony has emphasized – in Western European countries (especially Germany), and not necessarily in the East. The dated manuscripts among them range from the 11th century to the 14th. The pronunciation of the vowels during that period among the Jews of Western Europe, including the Ashkenazi Jews of Germany and France, was similar to that of the Spanish (Sephardi) Jews. The system under discussion is just a further verification of this fact, which was first pointed out by Yalon (Leshonenu, 3 (1931), 204). Thus the tendency of the system is in this direction, too, toward the Sephardi-Ashkenazi pronunciation tradition, no less and perhaps more than its attraction toward the Palestinian pronunciation tradition.
Various opinions have been expressed concerning the relationship of this system to the conventional Tiberian vocalization system. Different names for this system have also been offered according to these opinions.
Kahle focused on one characteristic (2) which is common to these manuscripts and to the Ben-Naphtali versions of the Tiberian tradition. Although he did not find additional principal characteristics common to this system and to the Ben-Naphtali tradition, and despite the fact that most of these manuscripts do not accord with a large part of the Ben-Naphtali readings, he did not hesitate to name the whole system "the Ben-Naphtali System."
It has become clear that this opinion is unfounded, and other suggestions have been offered in regard to the system. Some consider it a more primitive system than the conventional Tiberian and suggest that it be considered as "proto-masoretic" or "pre-masoretic" (thus Sperber and Díez Macho); others take it to be a more sophisticated system than the Tiberian, trying to reach complex phonetic notation, and therefore they date it later, hence it would be necessarily "post-masoretic." Because of its connection with the pronunciation tradition of the Palestinian vocalization, it has been suggested to call it the "fuller Palestinian" system (Morag) or the "Palestinian-Tiberian" system (Allony and later also Morag). These two names are based on the assumption that the system under discussion is nothing more than an expansion of the Palestinian vocalization, that is, the transmission of the Palestinian pronunciation in a fuller manner with the aid of Tiberian signs. Yet even the theory of the lateness of the system has not universally been accepted, and the idea has formed that these manuscripts are not of a uniform nature. Díez Macho has suggested that the manuscripts be divided
Two other names which have been suggested are based on dissatisfaction with the chronological connotations of the names – which are no more typifying – and from the connection with the Palestinian system of vocalization, which is based on conjecture and interpretation of facts and not on actual facts. Since this is a system which differs from the traditional one, the name "non-masoretic" has been suggested (Yeivin). Yet this too misses the mark, for even if the system does not agree with our Masorah, which was universally accepted, it is still within the range of the concept Masorah, and even these manuscripts have their masoretic notes. A more recent suggestion was "Expanded Tiberian" (Yeivin) indicating the wider range of its graphemes but saying nothing about the nature of the system. According to the term "non-receptus" (Goshen-Gottstein) the system is one of two Tiberian systems which developed at the same time, both representing the same Tiberian reading tradition by different graphic systems. The difference between the two systems is that one was accepted (receptus) and the other was rejected. Following this opinion it is in that minority of manuscripts in which the free interchange of the vowel signs (characteristic 1) does not occur, that we find the main principle of our system; while the vast majority of manuscripts in which this interchange does occur shows no more than a late subsystem with characteristics of Sephardic pronunciation. Not only does such a presentation disagree with the facts, but it is also not fitting to describe a system which was accepted by large Jewish communities for hundreds of years, until the 15th century or perhaps later, as non-receptus only because it is not accepted today. Moreover, this system of vocalization was so thoroughly accepted in Western Europe that it was considered the official system of the Jews there and, as Allony has illustrated, they called it by the name הניקוד שלנו ("our vocalization"), as follows from the commentary to Avot in Maḥzor Vitry (see above, 5.1.). They presented it in explicit contrast to even the conventional Tiberian system as "ours." They vocalized not only the Bible with it, but also prayer books, texts of piyyutim, Mishnah etc.
Without going into the question of the relation of the system to the Palestinian or Sephardi tradition or into the question of the time of its growth and its relation to the accepted Masorah, we remain with one clear fact: this is a system which uses the Tiberian graphemes to denote a non-Tiberian pronunciation; it is a "non-Tiberian" use – that is, not accepted by the Tiberians – of the Tiberian graphemes. Thus the most fitting name is the "Tiberian Non-Conventional" system. This was a system which intended to present a Palestinian-Sephardi pronunciation by means of Tiberian graphemes. The terms "Palestinian" and "Sephardi" are nothing more than different names for a pronunciation tradition of five vowels and from this aspect they are synonymous. They differ from each other only with regard to the origin of the system. From the widespread distribution of most of the manuscripts one can consider this is an attempt of Sephardim and of Ashkenazim whose pronunciation was Sephardic to use Tiberian symbols for their own pronunciation, i.e., "Sephardi vocalization," which first developed in Europe. However, a similar pronunciation is known also in the East, mostly within the boundaries of Palestine; but its special system of notation – the Palestinian vocalization – was not sufficiently developed and when the Tiberian vocalization was instituted, those who practiced the five-vowel pronunciation adopted it for themselves, adapted it to their needs, improved it, and made it even more phonetic. Since this vocalization was fitting for every Sephardi pronunciation, it was transferred afterwards to Europe where it spread. If this was indeed the process, it was something of a repetition of the history of the Palestinian vocalization, which was also an adapted system for a five-vowel pronunciation that was originally set for a six-vowel pronunciation tradition (see above, 220.127.116.11.). Those who followed the Palestinian tradition of pronunciation repeated, therefore, the conduct of their ancestors who adopted a different vocalization system and adapted it to their needs. It follows from this that Hebrew never had a graphic system which was originally intended for a five-vowel pronunciation tradition.
Although the non-conventional Tiberian notation is a mixture of Tiberian signs and non-Tiberian pronunciation, because of its other characteristics, its uniqueness, and the relative systematization of the manuscripts one must define it as a "system" in its own right. But, indeed, the principle of mixing the systems was not strange to the masoretes and the Hebrew scribes. It turns out that the various systems were not limited to closed communities with no contact between them. The cultural connection between the dispersed Jewish communities was close and active throughout the generations, and there is no doubt that this also included mutual influences in the realm of language between communities which were geographically or spiritually close. Of necessity the scribes everywhere were trained in the methods of writing Hebrew, as this language was the connecting link between the scattered Jewish communities. It is not only shapes of letters which are included in the methods of writing, but also the signs of the different vocalization systems. This knowledge of vocalization systems, the initial purpose of which was to gain a passive knowledge so as to understand written records from other places, ultimately led to the use of these signs to a greater or lesser degree, sometimes in order to complete the local method of writing and sometimes for other needs. See also above 18.104.22.168. Contamination of Masora.
One of the most extreme instances of the mixture of systems is seen in extant manuscripts of the Bible in Arabic transcription (Arabic script being in itself quite rare among medieval Jews) with Tiberian vocalization and accentuation signs. These manuscripts were common among the Karaites in the tenth
The major mixing is that of the vowel and accentuation signs. Indeed, most of the mixed manuscripts have as their general trend the increased use and dominance of the Tiberian system, both in pronunciation and in graphic notation. With regard to pronunciation, we see that this is the process of Tiberianization that was ever-increasing in all the vocalization systems (Palestinian as well as Babylonian) and affected the set of signs of the systems themselves. It left its traces also in both the phonology and the morphology of the language in each of the systems. In the appropriate sections above, references were made to the specific stages in both the Palestinian and the Babylonian vocalizations in which the influence of the Tiberian pronunciation increased. As time passed this admixture became part of the actual development of these vocalization systems.
There are several types of mixture in graphic notation:
(1) An a priori mixture made by the first scribe. One must examine the degree of mixture and its purpose:
(a) A systematic mixture for the purpose of completeness, adding a series of graphemes which do not exist in the original system of the scribe. An example is the Leningrad manuscript of the Prophets from 916, which is voweled and accented with the complex Babylonian system with a mixture of Tiberian signs for all the conjunctive accents, the dageš, the rafeh, the maqqaf, and other Tiberian signs. Examples are also found, although to a lesser degree, in the Palestinian system which was mixed with Tiberian symbols, especially the signs of the conjunctive accents.
(b) A random mixture of signs from two systems, for no apparent reason, which sometimes seems to be merely the result of the expertness of the scribe in the two systems. There are examples of Palestinian/Tiberian and Babylonian/Tiberian mixtures.
(c) A mixture of isolated signs from a different vocalization system for the purpose of ornamentation, mostly in masoretic notes, but also in other instances. Examples of that are usually found in Tiberian texts in which isolated Babylonian signs (for example the Aleppo codex), or isolated Palestinian signs, as well as others had been added.
(2) A mixture for the purpose of changing the original writing by a later scribe (second, or third, etc.). Here, too, one must examine the goal:
(a) The correction of pronunciation by a later scribe in a manuscript which was vocalized originally according to a different pronunciation tradition. Manuscripts with Babylonian vocalization in which a later scribe changed the system to a Tiberianized Babylonian are an example of this type. There are also a large number of Yemenite manuscripts of this kind. Non-conventional Tiberian manuscripts which were corrected to the conventional Tiberian are another example. For all of these we do not refer to additions only, but to erasures and major changes as well.
(b) Another purpose was the transition from one tradition of pronunciation to another, in most cases because of the passing of the manuscripts from hand to hand and the request of the new owners to add the vocalization according to their system. Generally, the former one was not erased; a new one was merely added alongside the old. The transition from Palestinian to Tiberian, Babylonian to Tiberian, and rarely from Babylonian to Palestinian, are examples of that. We also know of the systematic transcription from one vocalization system to another in the course of the copying of manuscripts which wandered from one place to another. Apparently there were special experts for this work, according to the testimony of that colophon (see above, 22.214.171.124.): "This targum was copied from a book which was brought from Babylonia and which was vocalized above [the line] with the vocalization of the land of Assyria and R. Nathan changed it … and corrected it and copied it in the Tiberian vocalization." Thus in copying the manuscript, they also "changed" its vocalization. A manuscript from faraway places required an adaptation of the vocalization; but when the entire manuscript was not re-copied, this adaptation already meant a contamination of the vocalization systems.
Changes like these were sometimes the work of several scribes who altered and corrected one after the other until one finds several hands having dealt with the vocalization of a single manuscript. The possibility of consistency would become less and less as more hands handled a manuscript. One who wishes to trace the methods of vocalization of mixed manuscripts such as these will find that he must learn to know the different scripts, the different colors of ink, and other such factors, in order to be able to distinguish between the various notations of each one of the vocalizers. The vocalization of these manuscripts cannot be considered uniform; the notation of each vocalizer must be investigated by itself.
The reading tradition of the Samaritans constitutes a branch of its own among the reading traditions of the Jews, both for Hebrew and Aramaic, and it developed as an independent off-shoot, sometimes in contact with the local Hebrew tradition or traditions. The Samaritans cherished the exact transmission of the language from generation to generation no less, and perhaps even more, than the Jews, as it was a characteristic policy in their attempt at preserving and nurturing everything which had some Samaritan uniqueness in which they differed from the Jews. They also developed an entirely separate and distinct vocalization and accentuation system for themselves. It is possible that the impetus for this came from contact with the Jews and from an attempt to imitate them, but the development of the system and its details are different from the Jewish systems. In this matter, the vocalization system is distinct from the accentuation system; the former is built according to the pattern
The Samaritan vocalization system, like the primitive strata of the Jewish vocalization systems, does not mark all the vowels consistently, but mainly those which are likely to prevent error and especially those in syllables in which there are no matres lectionis. The number of manuscripts containing vocalization is extremely small and their use of signs is not uniform. In any event, it is difficult to establish the exact meaning of the signs, and it is known that their functions changed as time passed. In fact almost every sign refers to more than one vowel quality. Some of the Samaritan grammarians and masoretes already did not know the exact meaning of the signs and did not use them in their works except by rote and as a tradition of their teachers, and thus their testimonies are not uniform and do not agree with the traditional Samaritan pronunciation or with the structure of the language. For hundreds of years now these vowel signs have had no practical use. Only through a comprehensive historical-comparative investigation is it possible to trace the original use of the signs and their later applications and to follow the various layers which are discernible in the set of signs. Such an examination was made by Z. Ben-Ḥayyim and the following description is based upon his conclusions.
As in the other vocalization systems of Hebrew there is no indication of quantity in this system either and the suppositions of scholars who thought that they had found signs for length were based on false premises. Even the similarity of some signs to the Palestinian is only apparent. In fact, the two systems have only two signs in common; the two of one pair have different uses, while the other two are only somewhat similar. Since the two which are alike are basic grapheme signs (–, ׀), which are likely to be adopted independently in any vocalization system, there is no need to assume borrowing or dependence of the Samaritan system upon the Palestinian, even though both of them were native to approximately the same region.
There are ten signs in the Samaritan system: nine signs for vowels and one diacritical sign for the dageš. However, since some of the vowel signs are sometimes used with the function of a diacritical sign or embody within them a combination of a vowel sign and a diacritical sign, it is more convenient to deal with them together. Six of the ten signs belong to the ancient layer, that is, they are assumed to have been used at the beginning of Samaritan vocalization (there are no biblical manuscripts of this layer), and the others are substitutes and later developments. All ten are never used in one and the same manuscript. There are no dots at all in the Samaritan vocalization as known today, and the six basic signs all consist of lines and angles, which are placed above the letter and a little to the left. According to the Samaritan grammarians the signs are parts of Samaritan letters.
מ֫ – i (sometimes a kind of e which is derived from a final post-tonal ī). The grammarians called it by the Arabic names of this vowel, kasr or ḫafḍ, and according to a Samaritan grammarian the sign is part of the letter adjacent to yod – i.e., ṭet (
מֿ – a. This is also one of the three types of fatḥ and was called by grammarians fatḥ al-ʾiḫā (the fatḥ of brotherhood) and sometimes just by the name fatḥ; they believed it to be part of the letter ḥet (
These basic signs were used in a rather ancient period, according to Ben-Ḥayyim even prior to the Arabic-speaking period of the Samaritans. Obviously their Arabic names are later. As Arabic influence increased after the conquest, other signs penetrated the system; they can be seen as direct borrowings from the Arabic system of graphemes. These signs are not listed in the works of the grammarians:
מ׳ – a stylized form of מֿ, perhaps under the influence of the Arabic fatḥa.
For Samaritan as well it can be clearly established – perhaps more clearly than for the other systems – that the accentuation signs are older than the vocalization signs: whereas all the names of the vowels are Arabic, all the names of the accents are Aramaic. Nonetheless, this does not constitute evidence of the origin of the vowel signs in the period of Arabic speech of the Samaritans, but simply that at the time when the accentuation signs already had names – and this was still in the period of Aramaic speech of the Samaritans – the vowel signs did not have names as yet. It follows from this that the set of vowel signs was not yet fixed at the time that the set of accentuation signs was already established and firmly set. The accents are called by the Samaritans סדרי מקרתה (sēdāri maqrāta, "arrangements of the Scripture"); they are ten in number and are listed in the works of Samaritan grammarians (see the edition of Ben-Ḥayyim). They are located always at the end of a group of words to which they apply. These are the signs and their names:
It is clear from the nature of the translations of the terms that the main function of the accents is that of pausal signs which indicate the types of speech in the syntactical units preceding them, and thus also indicate the manner of reading and the melody, but not in the detailed way of the other systems which indicate an accent for almost each word. Needless to say, they do not show the position of the stress in the word. In this function of an exegetical-syntactical guide to the text they are similar to the Syriac accents. The names of some Samaritan accents are etymologically related to the names of Syriac accents, e.g., (according to the order above): משאלנא ,מניחנא ,מנחתא ,פסוקא ,נגודא and others which are close to them in meaning, such as: אתמחו =) אתדמרנא ,מדמרנא ,(זעיקה =) קרויא ,(ארכנו =) פקודא) and perhaps also בעו =) מצלינא).
The division of speech into different types is rooted in the writings of the medieval grammarians (already dating from Saadiah Gaon among the Jews) and goes back to Greek philosophy (Aristotle). It is not, therefore, necessary to consider the Samaritan accentuation system as a borrowing from Syriac, although it might be that it is an imitation.
Already in ancient times the precise functions of the signs were forgotten and there is no regularity in their usage in the Samaritan manuscripts. One grammarian from the end of the tenth century (Ibn Dartha) still knew their exegetical-syntactical functions, but had nothing to say of the melody which accompanies them. No need to say that the reading handed down from generation to generation until today is not connected at all to any written system of accentuation signs, all the more so as there is no extant uniform system.
In the Samaritan orthography a dot is used regularly to separate words. This dot is neither an accentuation sign nor a regular punctuation (or conjunction) sign, but a continuation of the ancient orthographic custom of the Canaanite and Hebrew inscriptions in which the dot is used to separate words.
The entire vast creation of the Masorah and the various systems of vocalization and accentuation are anonymous. The names of a few masoretes and even the works of some of them are indeed known, but there is no possibility of attributing the entire endeavor or even a part of it to any specific sage, in spite of all the attempts to do so. It is even an error to attribute the Tiberian vocalization, for example, to the family of masoretes of Asher the Elder, an opinion sometimes expressed. To the same degree it is an error to speak of the "Ben-Asher text" of the Bible when one is referring to the entire Tiberian version of the Bible.
A survey of the activity of anonymous works and of certain masoretes whose names are known can thus be done parallel to the survey of the development of the Masorah, but not combined with it. Knowing their approximate times a list of masoretes in assumed chronological order can be arranged, but the position of each in the general process of development or his contribution to the general creation of the Masorah cannot be established.
The Masorah concerning the total number of verses in the Bible is attributed in a well-known masoretic note quoted in several sources – among them in a manuscript of Okhlah we-Okhlah – to Dosa ben Eleazar (apparently end of the fourth century-beginning of the fifth). He received it from his teachers from whom it goes back to Rav Hamnuna, the Babylonian amora (end of the third century) whom it reached from Palestinian sources more than one hundred years earlier. This is thus the first testimony, apart from various hints in talmudic literature, about masoretic activity, that mentions the names of sages and points to Palestine as the source and the example for the Babylonian sages.
Primacy is apparently granted by Solomon b. Yeruḥim (Jeroḥam) (a Karaite early in the tenth century) in his Muqaddimah to the decalogue (Pinsker, Likkute Kadmoniot, p. 62) to the sages Rav מוחה (error in the manuscript: אחא) and to his son Moses (ובנו משה) as מתקני הנקוד הטבראני. Pinsker, however, has already pointed out that מתקני does not mean inventors (Einleitung in des Babylonisch-Hebräische Punktationssystem, p. 10). On the other hand, Rav Moses Moḥeh (not Moses ben Moḥeh) is known from a list of masoretes in the "Treatise on the Šewa", and he is later than the eighth century; therefore the testimony of Solomon is open to doubt. There is in any case no evidence about the inventors of vocalization.
Various masoretes are mentioned by name in works of Masorah and in masoretic notes. The details of their activities are not known and it is usually only the details of a reading which are cited with their names. One of the earliest of them is Phinehas Rosh ha-Yeshivah (no later than the first half of the ninth century and perhaps even earlier than that). It is known that he followed a system of marking the mobility of certain šewas by means of a ḥaṭaf pattaḥ. The most famous of the masoretes are the descendants of Asher the Elder (the Great), a family of five generations, the last two of whom were Moses and his son, Aaron Ben-Asher.
A schematic division of the early masoretes into three major generations was suggested by Yeivin (Textus, IX, כג–כד). The first generation (about the second half of the eighth century or even earlier) was still occupied mainly in matters pertaining to plene and defective spelling and qere/ketiv. In this context the schools of מערבאי and מדנחאי, and scholars like Moses Moḥeh and others are mentioned. The scholars of the second generation (not later than the middle of the ninth century) differed mainly in matters of maqqefs and conjunctive accents, and sometimes also in matters of vocalization. Among these scholars are משה מוחה (Moses Moḥeh – again!), Phinehas Rosh ha-Yeshiva and others. In the third generation (about the first half of the tenth century) mainly matters of gaʿya were the issue, rarely letters, vowels, and accents. Here the main actors are Aaron Ben-Asher and Moses Ben-Naphtali and their schools. This division can serve as a tentative outline for a general view.
Precise details about a work of Masorah by the father Moses *Ben-Asher are not known, but his son, Aaron, was the first masorete who in addition to manuscripts of the Bible and readings which are attributed to him also left a well-defined work of Masorah and grammar, ספר דקדוקי הטעמים. Aaron Ben-Asher collected in this book different rules regarding vocalization and accentuation from among the rules of the Masorah which were continuously being copied in the margins of the manuscripts of the Bible and in independent works which were part of the Masorah literature. The collection of Aaron Ben-Asher is the first known by the name of the author. It is also the first such work compiled with a grammatical aim, and not just as a collection of masoretic peculiarities, whose compiler adapted it and added his own rules in order to make it correspond to his readings. The original version of the work was published in the Dotan edition (1967); the previous edition, of Baer and Strack (Leipzig 1879), included a wide collection from masoretic literature but did not pretend to reflect the scope of the authentic, original work. The central subject of the work is the problem of the šewa, its mobility in the context of certain accents and the methods of marking the šewa. However, other rules of vocalization and accentuation, which are not germane to the šewa, also occur.
Other works of his have not reached us, but it is known that he wrote a Masorah, and it is apparently the one which was added to one of the manuscripts of the Bible that he vocalized and to which he added the masoretic notes. He also arranged a list of words, ב׳ בתרי לישני ("two [words] of two meanings"), homophonic pairs from the Bible recently discussed by Dotan (The Awakening of Word Lore, 87ff.). There are also allusions to his having written an additional work concerning grammatical matters.
The manuscripts of the Bible whose vocalization is attributed to Aaron Ben-Asher are as follows:
(1) the Leningrad manuscript B19a, which was written in 1009 and whose vocalization was adjusted to the system of Aaron Ben-Asher, as attested by the colophon at its end;
(2) the Aleppo Codex, of which less than two-thirds of Scripture remain, also has genuine vocalization which corresponds to the system of Ben-Asher, but it, too, was apparently not vocalized by him, although a later colophon which was added to the manuscript attributes the vocalization to him.
The British Library Pentateuch manuscript Or. 4445, which had also been attributed to Aaron Ben-Asher (Kahle and others), was established as a pre-Ben-Asher manuscript (Dotan, Reflections). Likewise the Cairo Codex of the Prophets, written in 895 C.E. by Moses Ben-Asher (father of Aaron), published in Madrid with its Masora, is no longer regarded as part of the Ben-Asher school, but on the contrary represents a text closely related to Ben-Naphtali.
Some of the biblical readings of Aaron Ben-Asher are known from the work of Mishael b. Uzziel, Kitāb al-Ḫulaf allaḏī bayn al-Muʿallimayn ben Asher wa-ben Naftali ("The Book of Differences between the two Masters, Ben-Asher and Ben-Naphtali"). This is a collection of the points of controversy and agreement between the two masters of the Masorah, which was collected – after their death – from manuscripts which they had vocalized. Some of the differences are stated in the form of rules and variants of principle, while the majority are
As a consequence of the decision in favor of the readings of Ben-Asher, as opposed to the readings of Ben-Naphtali, which originated in ancient times and was further strengthened by the support of Maimonides for the Ben-Asher version (albeit only with regard to the division of parashiyyot setumot and parashiyyot petuḥot and for the manner of the writing of the songs in the Pentateuch), the readings of Ben-Naphtali were more and more rejected from most of the accepted versions of the Bible. As time passed even the details of his readings were forgotten, so much so that all exceptional readings which deviate from the accepted version were ascribed to him. For example, Elijah Levita identifies Ben-Naphtali (he calls him Jacob Ben-Naphtali) with the Eastern version ("Madinḥaʾe") (Masoret ha-Masoret, the third introd., ed. C.D. Ginsburg, (1867), 114) and Pinsker still subscribed to that idea. Moreover, recently Kahle identified the non-conventional Tiberian system with Ben-Naphtali (see above, 126.96.36.199.). Actually, Moses Ben-Naphtali too is one of those who shaped the Tiberian version of the Bible and only within this framework are there differences between him and others over the minutest details, mainly over gaʿyot and less over conjunctive accents and so on.
Ben-Asher's work of compilation draws on a vast literature which remains shrouded in anonymity. This literature is presented to us in bits and pieces on the pages of the Bible and in fragments of rules, just as it was handed down from generation to generation. Yet, even in very early times there were those, also anonymous, who collected it into larger works. One product of this type is the book Okhlah we-Okhlah (see above, 3.4.).
Another work of the above nature, originally written in Arabic, is Hidāyat al-Qāri ("The Direction of the Reader"), is a manual of instruction of the correct reading of the Bible and yet another step toward the formulation of grammar since it contains a system of rules based on masoretic notes and tries to introduce order and method into them. It has three main parts: the letters, the vowels, and the accents for the 21 prose books and for the three poetical books, all parts being sets of rules for instructing the proper reading of the Bible – reading in the expanded sense: both pronunciation and melody; hence its name. The work used to be regarded as one of the main examples of the anonymous type of masoretic literature, until Eldar (Art of Correct Reading, p. 40–43) drew attention to a Geniza fragment where the work was ascribed to the eleventh-century Karaite grammarian, Abū al-Faraj Hārūn. This connection has not yet been corroborated by substantial evidence of grammatical affinity by Abū al-Faraj's other works.
Most of the work, which is not extant in its entirety, is still in manuscript, but was extensively discussed by Eldar (ibid.). The manuscripts, however, are not uniform and it seems that the work passed through many transformations: abridgments, adaptations, and translations. An abridgment (al-MuḪtaṣar; partly published by Eldar, Leshonenu, 50 (1986), 214–31) or even abridgments were made from the original Arabic source. The shorter version was translated into Hebrew more than once, and by more than one translator. The abridgments and translations do not always contain the same parts of the work; even the original order of the parts changes and differs in the various versions. Moreover, parts of the work were adapted, especially from the Hebrew version, and were incorporated into other works as citations or as an integral part of new works. An attempt to reconstruct the history of the text of the work has been made by Eldar (Art of Correct Reading, 15–19) who tried to establish the precise relationship of all the transformations to one another and to the original.
As matters seem, the abridgement (al-Muḫtaṣar) wandered to various countries, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Yemen, and was translated into Hebrew several times independently, and adapted respectively in different ways. One abridgement brought to Mainz and translated into Hebrew also kept the Hebrew equivalent of the original title Horayat ha-Qore ("The Guidance of the Reader"). The abridgement that reached Italy came down to us in two Hebrew copies, the earlier one as Toḵen Ezra, and the later one bearing the name Taʿame ha-Miqra ("The Accents of the Bible"). The latter attributed, undoubtedly by mistake, to R. Judah *Ibn Balʿam (end of the 11th century). It is only this version that was published; in two parts (Poetical Accents and Prose Accents) in the middle of the 16th century by J. Mercerus (Mercier).
One transformation of the Muḫtaṣar is found in the Hebrew compilation ʿAdat Devorim ("A Swarm of Bees") which was written by Joseph ha-Qostandini ("from Constantinople") not earlier than the second half of the 11th century. In it he incorporated large parts of the original work in Hebrew translation. It was published by R. Peretz (1984).
The original Arabic work wandered also to Yemen where two abridgements were made, one in Arabic and one in Hebrew.
These most important adaptations, which went beyond the original to a certain degree and are copied together with Yemenite Pentateuchs (tāj), are usually named Maḥberet ha-Tījān (in Hebrew and in Arabic), which were both published: the first Hebrew version by Derenbourg with the mistaken title of Manuel du lecteur (1870), which is a translation of the name of the original work, but which certainly was not the title of the adaption; and the second, an abridged version in Arabic, by Neubauer, under the title Petite grammaire hébraïque provenant de Yemen (1891).
There are quotations from the offspring of the work also in Ḥibbur ha-Qonim by R. Samson ha-Naqdan (first half of the 13th century); Darkhe ha-Niqqud we-ha-Neginot (attributed to R. Moses ha-Naqdan) as well as in other works also dependent remotely on Hidāyat al-Qāri.
The various adaptations and translations of the work were found throughout the dispersed Jewish communities; among them are translations which were made in Germany, such as one of the versions of Horayat ha-Qore; some of the adaptations were made in Byzantium, as ʿAdat Devorim by Joseph ha-Qostandini, and some apparently in distant Yemen e.g., Maḥberet ha-Tījān (concerning the assumed Yemenite origin of the Hebrew treatise, see Dotan, ed., Dikduke ha-Teʿamim, p. 334, note 9). Undoubtely these are not the only countries to which the work was brought. Adaptations of a work like this, by their very nature, leave an impression of their locale upon it, and sometimes the adaptation itself was made only in order to adjust the work to the local pronunciation and reading customs, etc. As it became clear after Eldar's studies, the original Hidāyat al-Qāri stems from Palestine and follows the Tiberian pronunciation and vocalization. There is no real basis to determine the exact date, but from one of the Arabic fragments it appears to have been written in Palestine, in the atmosphere of the conflict between the various traditions of pronunciation for dominance over the language. The author came to prove the superiority of his Tiberian tradition and its ancient roots. This fact is probably enough to make it necessary not to date him any later than the tenth century. From the stand he adopts in his readings and rules between the schools of Ben-Asher and Ben-Naphtali, it seems that he is indifferent to both of them, a fact which strengthens the dating suggested. Sometimes he goes his own way, although at times he reveals a closer affinity to the rules and detailed readings of Ben-Naphtali than to those of Ben-Asher.
These statements do not apply to the offsprings and adaptations of the original work, certainly not with respect to date and, apparently, not even with regard to pronunciation tradition. There remains room for investigation whether or not other elements penetrated it – the Sephardi, for example (as per Yalon's view). One should not look for a common denominator between the original and its adaptations, nor even between the adaptations themselves. While every adapter, translator, and person who made an abridgment stressed that which was preferable to him and included it in his version – whether particularly the letters and the vowels or the accentuation, etc. – he sometimes omitted that which contradicted his own custom and even added, when necessary, material from the Masorah and from other sources. The result was that the original work, Hidāyat al-Qāri, branched out and became a large number of works whose common denominator was the systematization and codification of the minutiae of Masorah and their crystallization into clear rules for the reader – an important step toward systematic grammar.
Another work of the above type, although apparently unconnected genetically with these works, is the Arabic treatise which deals with the rules of the šewa, which was published by Kurt Levy (1936), and is known in modern research as the "Treatise on the šewa." In this case not only is the author anonymous, but the work has no title. The assumption is that it was written approximately in the middle of the tenth century. This work also contains directions to the reader, and more than any of the adaptations of Hidāyat al-Qāri it literally integrates quotations from the rules of the Masorah, and even their rhymes – some of those which were used by the author of Dikduke ha-Te'amim. Unlike the other works this is a deep, comprehensive treatise on a subject which though narrow is central to the field of Tiberian pronunciation. It contains most of the information which we have on the šewa. A fragment in Arabic entitled סדר הסימנים, dealing with rules of vowel alternation (published by Allony, HUCA. 35 (1964)) was suggested by Eldar (Te'uda, 6 (1988)) to have been part of one and the same anonymous grammatical treatise in which the šewa and the Hebrew vowels were discussed, perhaps together with other grammatical issues. Anonymous works of this type are rather numerous and most of them are still in manuscript and scattered in libraries. Only a few have been published, such as the anonymous treatise in Arabic on the šewa which Allony published (Leshonenu 12 (1943/44). This anonymous literature is thus still far from being exhausted.
Although most of the above works have a grammatical approach they are only on the threshhold of grammar and can still be classified as Masorah literature. They do however constitute a start and the beginnings of grammatical works. Many grammarians in the Middle Ages had to depend, if albeit reluctantly, upon these works and they drew upon them. In almost every one of their writings one finds a connection to the Masorah and its literature. At the same time however there were sages who continued their work on the Masorah for its own sake, whether for the clarification of versions or
In his book Masoret Seyag la-Torah Meir ben Todros ha-Levi *Abulafia (רמ״ה; D. 1244) deals mainly with plene and defective spelling in the Torah. His comments are arranged alphabetically in dictionary form according to the roots of the words. After them he adds excerpts from the Masorah which deal with various particles and the peculiarities in the writing of a Torah scroll, the form of the Songs, and the open and closed parashiyyot. His book was a basic work for scribes and for publishers in following generations.
Jekuthiel's (abbr. as יהב״י; first half of the 13th century) book ʿEn ha-Qore is a collection of masoretic-grammatical notes dealing with vocalization and accentuation for the Pentateuch and the Book of Esther. The work is arranged according to the order of the verses and includes a general introduction which deals with various methodological questions, such as the rules of the gaʾyot. This book, with its rules and its vocalization variants, was the basis for a whole school of grammarians and editors of the text of the Bible.
Ha-*Meiri (1249–1316) was considered one of the posekim ("deciders") for everything connected with the writing of the Bible and scribal customs. His book Kiryat Sefer consists of two parts. The first contains the halakhic laws for writing a Torah scroll, and the second is a collection of Masorah issues having rules on reading and pronunciation, plene and defective spelling, open and closed parashiyyot, and various other matters of Masorah.
*Jacob ben Ḥayyim ibn Adonijah (15th/16th century) was the first to publish a text of the Bible which had been selected carefully from a large number of manuscripts and was accompanied by the notes of Masorah Parva, Masorah Magna, and Masorah Finalis (see 188.8.131.52.) which were likewise gathered and selected from many manuscripts. This text is the Mikra'ot Gedolot edition of the Bible which was published in Venice, in 1524–25, by Daniel Bomberg, who employed Ben Ḥayyim as a proofreader. This edition became known as the "accepted" version of the Bible, "the Masoretic Text," upon which everyone has relied and which all have copied and imitated. Even the Masorah which was published in this edition has been unjustly recognized ever since as the exclusive text of the Masorah. In fact Ben Ḥayyim's work has been considered as the codification of the Masorah, and for generations has been the only complete Masorah in print, up to the 20th century when the Ben-Asher codices (Leningrad and Aleppo) started to appear in print. Ben Ḥayyim also printed for the first time other works together with the Masorah Finalis: the Diqduqe ha-Teʿamim of Aaron Ben-Asher (see 6.2.1); דרכי הנקוד והנגינות attributed to Moses ha-Naqdan; various lists of Masorah, some of them resembling those in Okhlah we-Okhlah, as well as lists of variants between the Western and Eastern traditions and between Ben-Asher and Ben-Naphtali for the Torah.
Elijah *Levita (1468/9–1549), a grammarian and lexicographer, is also worthy of being considered a masorete because of his book Masoret ha-Masoret which was published in Venice, in 1538. He presents a historical survey of the Masorah, the vocalization and the accentuation, and proves that they were not given at Sinai but were fixed by the masoretes. He also describes the Masorah, its methods, types and terminology along with examples. This book can be considered the prime work of the Masorah and a clear, convenient guidebook for the student.
In his Or Torah, Menahem ben Judah di Lonzano (end of the 16th century), gives masoretic comments only on the Pentateuch. The work is arranged in the order of the biblical text. Apparently he uses the text of Ben Ḥayyim as his base and adds comments to make the text more precise also with regard to matters of orthography, but mostly on issues of vocalization, accentuation, and gaʿyahs; this was done on the basis of many manuscripts and works of earlier scholars. Jedidiah Solomon Raphael of *Norzi (see below) valued his opinion highly.
Jedidiah Solomon Raphael b. Abraham of Norzi (16/17th century) wrote the most important and the most comprehensive book dealing with Masorah. It contains an introduction and comments upon the entire Bible in the order of the text with regard to matters of Masorah, orthography, vocalization, accentuation, gaʿyahs, the form of the Songs and the parashiyyot, even the tittles (tagin) of the letters and other exceptional items in the text. At times he even discusses questions of grammar and meaning. His comments bear upon almost every word about which there is room for error, a variant reading, or any other problem. Although his remarks are based mainly on the Bomberg Bible edition of 1546–48 and as Bester (Addenda to Minḥat Shay, 33–37) has shown, his book in fact constitutes a type of correction to and improvement of the Ben Ḥayyim text of the Bible. From his time on editors of the Bible have considered themselves permitted to make corrections in the text of the Mikra'ot Gedolot according to him. He called his book, which was finished in 1626, גּׂדֵר פֶּרֶץ ("the repairer of the breach"), but the title was changed by its first publisher (only in 1740–42 was it printed for the first time) to מִנְחַת שַׁי Minḥat Shay (שי being the initials of Solomon Jedidiah) and it remains known by that name. This book is the most famous of all the works of Masorah. A critical edition of
Two Yemenite scholars who were active at about the same period should be mentioned. Yaḥya *Bashiri (abbr. מהרי״ב or מהריב״ש; end of the 17th century), was a well-known sage, scribe, copyist, and calligrapher; his work Ḥavaẓẓelet ha-Sharon on the letters of the alphabet and matters of Masorah, vocalization, and accentuation is extant in manuscript form. Comments in his name are also incorporated in the work of Yaḥya b. Joseph *Ṣāliḥ (abbr. מהרי״ץ, second half of the 18th century), the other Yemenite scholar, who in his Ḥeleq ha-Diqduq comments upon the whole Torah in the order of the text on matters of vocalization and accentuation, on other issues of Masorah and even, sometimes, on actual grammatic issues. The book is based upon the comparison of manuscripts, mostly Yemenite, and printed editions. This book holds the same position among the Jews of Yemen as Minḥat Shai among the other communities.
Wolf Benjamin Ze'ev ben Samson Heidenheim (abbr. רוו״ה; 1757–1832) marks a turning point in the chain of those who dealt with Masorah, in that besides working on the text of the Bible itself and producing new editions thereof he also systematically discussed problems of Masorah and its rules. He edited five different editions of the Pentateuch: Torat Elohim (only the beginning), Me'or ʿEnayim, ʿEzrat ha-Sofer, Modaʿ la-Bina, and Torat Moshe, as well as the Book of Psalms and others. His editions are outstanding for their precision and his choice of the text is based upon ancient sources, both manuscript and print, especially on Jekuthiel ha-Kohen, Menahem di Lonzano, and Jedidiah Norzi. Very important textual and masoretic comments of his own accompany the text. In the Pentateuch Meʾor ʿEnayim he even printed the text of Jekuthiel's ʿEn ha-Qore in the margins. No less important is his contribution to the study of the Masorah and the rules of the accentuation in his book Mishpete ha-Teʿamim, in which he lists, in great detail, the rules of the accentuation of the 21 books, in general according to citations from early sources beginning with Ben-Asher. He thereby consciously withdraws from the analytical approach of the Christian and Jewish scholars of accentuation and returns to the methods of the early sages, in his method of discussing accentuation and in the importance which he ascribes to a clear and well-established text. He laid down the foundations of the rules of the gaʿyah and the maqqaf in the last chapter of his book.
*Baer (1825–1897) continued the way of Heidenheim and completed his activity. Baer continued in the area of clarification of the text of the Bible and edited a new version of the text for almost every book of Scripture, mainly for those which his predecessor did not publish: Genesis, all the Prophets and the Hagiographa (called the Baer-*Delitzsch edition, although the latter only added prefaces). In the investigation of the Masorah he completed the work of his predecessor and wrote precise rules for the accentuation of Psalms, Proverbs, and Job, in his book Torat Emet. This book is arranged on the pattern of Mishpete ha-Teʿamim, but unlike it, it is almost entirely the work of the author and does not draw on earlier sources. Baer elaborated a rather consolidated system for the rules of accentuation and gaʿyahs and other masoretic issues on the basis of early works and manuscripts. This study brought him to the conclusion that he was closely approaching the original "correct" version of the Bible. He edited the text of the Bible in the light of that conclusion and many of his readings are based exclusively on his own views. He did not hesitate to alter manuscript readings to fit his ideas, for example in the list of variances between the western and eastern traditions and between Ben-Asher and Ben-Naphtali, which he published from manuscripts in the appendices to his editions of the Bible, he adapted the Western readings and those of Ben-Asher which were in the manuscripts to the readings of his edition of the biblical text, since he was certain that he had succeeded in establishing the Ben-Asher version and that on the strength of it he could correct even the manuscripts' readings.
The Baer version was used for a long time, especially because of Delitzsch, as the accepted, "scientific" version, and the scientific grammars, such as *Gesenius-*Kautzsch, were based on it. Even the rules of accentuation in his Torat Emet are based, first and foremost, upon his own version of the Bible. This also applies to the detailed rules of the meteg which he published in German. Although taken from his predecessors, especially from Jekuthiel ha-Kohen and Heidenheim, and supplemented, these rules are actually a near-complete development of the theory of the meteg as Baer saw it. His approach to manuscripts is manifest in his edition of various texts including the Diqduqe ha-Ṭeʿamim of Aaron Ben-Asher. His treatment of the manuscripts and his corrections (without any indications to the reader) do not accord with modern methods of textual criticism. In his edition of Diqduqe ha-Ṭeʿamim he made little attempt to define the work or its scope. His main aim was to collect Masorah texts in order to clarify the "correct" text of the Bible.
Despite Baer's shortcomings (as stated above), his erudition and great expertness in the Masorah should not be underestimated. Other scholars of his time did not encompass the entire range in which Baer was active, and it is doubtful whether one should properly consider them along with the masoretes. S.D. *Luzzatto and, more than he, W. Wickes, made a significant contribution to the study of accentuation and to the consolidation of its theory with regard to its grammatical description. In contrast to them, C.D. Ginsburg and P. Kahle played a major role primarily in publishing ancient texts from manuscripts: Ginsburg mainly published many texts of all types of Masorah; and Kahle, biblical texts in Tiberian vocalization (the Leningrad
[Aron Dotan (2nd ed.)]
SECTION 1. K. Albrecht, in: ZAW, 39 (1921), 160–9; W. Bacher, Die Anfaenge der hebraeischen Grammatik (1895), 3–12; D. Barthelemy, in: VT (Suppl.), 9 (1963), 285 304; L. Blau, Masoretische Untersuchungen (1891); idem, Zur Einleitung in die Heilige Schrift-17. Jahresbericht der Landes-Rabbinerschule in Budapest (1894); R. Butin, The Ten Nequdoth of the Torah (1906, repr. 1969); C.D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible (1897, repr. 1966 with introd. by H.M. Orlinsky); R. Gordis, in: Tarbiz, 27 (1958), 444–69; I. Harris, in: JQR, 1 (1889), 128–42, 223–57; M. Higger (ed.), Massekhet Soferim (1937); H. Hyvernat, in: RB, 11 (1902) 551–63; 12 (1903), 529–49; 13 (1904), 521–46; 14 (1905), 203–34, 515–42; P. Kahle apud Bauer-Leander, Historische Grammatik der hebraeischen Sprache des Alten Testamentes (1922, repr. 1965), pars. 6–9, 71–161; S. Krauss, in: ZAW, 22 (1902), 57–65; S. Lieberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (1950), 28–46; D.S. Loewinger, in: Beit Mikra, 15 (1970), 237–63; J. Mann, The Bible as Read and Preached in the Old Synagogue, 1 (1940), 3–8; J. Miller (ed.), Massekhet Soferim (1878); B.J. Roberts, The OT Text and Versions (1951), 1–74; C. Rothmueller, Masoretische Eigentaemlichkeiten (1927); M.Z. Segal, Mevo ha-Mikra, 4 (1950), 842–910; A. Sperber, in: HUCA, 17 (1942–43), 293–394; Midrash Ḥaserot vi-Yterot, in: Battei Midrashot, 2 (1968), 203–322. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Ahrend, "The Mnemotechnical Notes of the Numbers of Verses in the Torah Portions," in: Rabbi Mordechai Breuer Festschrift, 1 (1992), 157–71; S. Lieberman, Greek and Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (1962), 164–84; S. Naeh, "The Torah Reading Cycle in Early Palestine: A Re-Examination," in: Tarbiz, 67 (1998), 167–87; Y. Ofer, "The Masoretic Divisions (Sedarim) in the Books of the Prophets and Hagiographa," in: Tarbiz, 58 (1989), 155–89; C. Perrot, "Petuhot et Setumot – Etude sur les alinéas du Pentateuque," in: RB, 76 (1969), 50–91. SECTION 2. H. Arens, Sprachwissenschaft-Der Gang ihrer Entwicklung yon der Antike bis zur Gegenwart (1955); J. Bachrach, Das alter biblischen Vocalisation und Accentuation, 2 vols. (Heb., 1896); idem, Ishtadalut im Shedal (1896); L. Blau, Studien zum althebraeischen Buchwesen und zur biblischen Literaturgeschichte (1902); B. Klar, Meḥkarim ve-Iyyunim ba-Lashon, ba-Shirah u-va-Sifrut (1954), 1–7; S.D. Luzzatto, Dialogues sur la Kabbale et le Zohar et sur l'antiquité de la ponctuation et de l'accentuation dans la langue hébraïque (1852); J.P. Martin, in: JA (1875); A. Merx, Historia artis grammaticae apud Syros (1889), 141–53; R.H. Robbins, Ancient and Medieval Grammatical Theory in Europe (1951); J.B. Segal, The Diacritical Point and the Accents in Syriac (1953). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: N. Allony, "The Torah Scroll and the Codex in the Rabbanite and the Karaite Ritual Torah Reading," Studies in Medieval Philology and Literature – Collected Papers, 5 (1992), 271–84; A. Dotan, Ben Asher's Creed – A Study of the History of the Controversy (The Society of Biblical Literature, ed. H.M. Orlinsky), in: Masoretic Studies, 3 (1977); idem, "The Relative Chronology of the Hebrew Vocalization and Accentuation," in: PAAJR, 48 (1981), 87–99; idem, "Masoretic Rubrics of Indicated Origin in Codex Leningrad (B19a)," in: Masoretic Studies, 6 (1990), 37–44; idem, "De la Massora à la grammaire – Les débuts de la pensée grammaticale dans l'hébreu," in: Journal Asiatique, 278 (1990), 13–30. SECTION 3. W. Bacher, in: JQR, 3 (1891), 785–90; S. Bamberger, in: Jahrbuch der Juedisch-Literarischen Gesellschaft, 15 (1923), 217–65; 21 (1930), 39–88; Z. Ben-Ḥayyim, in: Leshonenu, 21 (1957), 283–92; A. Berliner, Die Massorah zum Targum Onkelos (1877); L. Blau, in Studies in Jewish Bibliography and Related Subjects in Memory of A.S. Freidus (1929), 431–62; F. Díaz Esteban, in: Sefarad, 14 (1954), 315–21; E. Ehrentreu, Untersuchungen ueber die Massorah (1925); S. Frensdorff, Das Buch Ochlah W'ochlah (1864); idem, The Massora Magna (1876); M. Gertner, in: VT, 10 (1960), 241–72; C.D. Ginsburg, Recueil des travaux rédigés en mémoire du Jubilé Scientifique de D. Chwolson (1899), 149–88; idem, The Massorah, 4 vols. (18801905); R. Gordis, The Biblical Text in the Making – A Study of the Kethib-Qere (1937); H. Graetz, in: MGWJ, 36 (1887), 1–34, 299–309; H. Hupfeld, in: ZDMG, 21 (1867), 201–20; P. Kahle, Der masoretische Text des AT nach der Ueberlieferung der babylonischen Juden (1902, repr. 1966), 13–18, 83–9; idem. Masoreten des Ostens (1913, repr. 1966), 177–9; S. Landauer, Die Mâsôrâh zum Onkelos (1896); J. Mann, in: Oriental Studies Dedicated to Paul Haupt (1926), 437–45; H.M. Orlinsky, in: JAOS, 60 (1940), 30–45; idem, in: VT, 7 (1960), 184–92 (suppl.); J. Pa'or, in: Sinai, 60 (1966–67), 17–27: F. Pérez Castro, in: Sefarad, 23 (1963), 223–35; S. Pinsker, Einleitung in das Babylonisch-Hebraeische Punktationssystem (1863), 121–32; J. Reach, Die Sebirin der Masoreten von Tiberias (1895); S. Rosenfeld, Ma'amar bi-Keri u-Khetiv (1866); A. Rubinstein, in: VT, 10 (1960), 198–212; H. Strack, Codex babylonius petropolitanus (1876); G.E. Weil, in: Textus, 2 (1962), 103–19; 3 (1963), 74–120, 163–70; 4 (1964), 30–54; 6 (1968), 75–105; idem, in: In Memoriam Paul Kahle (1968), 241–53; idem, in: VT, 9 (1963), 266–84 (suppl.); idem, in: Annual of the Leeds University Oriental Society, 3 (1961–62), 68–80; I. Yeivin, in: Textus, 2 (1962), 146–9; idem, in: Leshonenu, 30 (1966), 25–8. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M.J. de Azcárraga-Servert, "Les notes Ma'arva'ē-Madinḥa'ē dans le manuscrit du Caire," in: Masoretic Studies, 7 (1992), 1–13; idem, "El kĕtīb / qĕrē en el libro de Josué del Códice de Profetas de El Cairo," in: Proceedings of the Eleventh Congress of IOMS (1994), 7–14; S. Baer and H.L. Strack, Die Dikduke Ha-Teamim des Ahron ben Moscheh ben Ascher und andere alte grammatisch-massoretische Lehrstücke zur Festsellung eines richtigen Textes der hebräischen Bibel (1879); M. Breuer, The Masorah Magna to the Pentateuch by Shemuel ben Ya'aqov (Ms. לם), 1–2 (1992); Ch. Carmiel, "The Palestinian Masoretic Notes – Characteristics and Relation to the Tiberian Masora" (M.A. Thesis submitted to Bar-Ilan University, 1996); P. Cassuto, Qeré-Ketib et lists massorétiques dans le manuscrit B19a (1989); idem, "Qeré / ketiv dans le manuscrit Londres Or. 4445," in: Proceedings of the Eleventh Congress of IOMS (1994), 15–24; J. Dérenbourg, Manuel du lecteur d'un auteur inconnu (Paris 1871) [= JA, 16 (1870), 309–550]; F. Díaz Esteban, "References to Ben Asher and Ben Naftali in the Massora Magna Written in the Margins of MS Leningrad B19A," in: Textus, 6 (1968), 62–74; idem, Sefer 'Oklah wĕ-'Oklah (1975); A. Dotan, The Diqduqé Haṭṭeʿamim of Ahăron ben Moše ben Ašér, with a Critical Edition of the Original Text from New Manuscripts (The Academy of the Hebrew Language, Texts and Studies, 7) (1967); idem, Thesaurus of the Tiberian Masora – A Comprehensive Alphabetical Collection of Masoretic Notes to the Tiberian Bible Text of the Aaron Ben Asher School. Sample Volume: The Masora to the Book of Genesis in the Leningrad Codex (1977); idem, "Masora in Arabic Translation," in: Studies on the Hebrew Language throughout its History – Dedicated to Gad B. Sarfatti on his 75th Anniversary, Hebrew Linguistics, 33–35 (1992), 179–83; idem, "Babylonian Residues in the London Pentateuch Codex," in: S. Vargon, Y. Ofer, J.S. Penkower, J. Klein (eds.), Studies in Bible and Exegesis, 7 – Presented to Menachem Cohen (2005), 33–40; idem, The Awakening of Word Lore: From the Masora to the Beginnings of Hebrew Lexicography (The Academy of the Hebrew Language, Sources and Studies, 7 – A New Series) (2005), 24–115; R. Gordis, "The Origin of the Kethib-Qere System, A New Approach," in: VT Supplement, 7 (1960), 184–92; A.A. Lieberman, "loʾ / low: An Analysis of a Kethib-Qere Phenomenon," in: Masoretic Studies, 6 (1990), 79–86; D. Lyons, The Cumulative Masora – Text, Form and Transmission with a Facsimile Critical
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