A Brief History of Hebrew Vowels

Beginning Biblical Hebrew Ever wonder how the transcribing/copying of the Hebrew Bible developed over time?  Mark Futato has a helpful summary:

1) During the original phase, Hebrew was written without any vowels indicated in the script.  The letters qdoc could have meant ‘righteousness,’ ‘his righteousness,’ they are righteous,’ etc.  This phase was before King David, ca. 1,400 B.C. to 1,000 B.C.

2) During the middle phase, several letters of the alphabet came to be used to indicate certain vowels.  The letters wqdoc could have meant ‘his righteousness,’ or ‘they are righteous,’ but not ‘righteousness.’  …This phase was after King David, ca. 1,000 B.C. to 300 B.C.

3) During the final phase, ‘points’ were added to the text to eliminate ambiguity.  The word AqïD>c; could only have meant ‘they are righteous.’  This phase was c.a. 700 A.D. to 1000 A.D.

The scholars responsible for adding the vowel signs to the text are called Masoretes [Jewish scribes – spl].  The text of the Bible produced by the Mastoretes is called the ‘Masoretic Text,’ abbreviated MT.

Mark D. Futato, Beginning Biblical Hebrew (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2003), 7.

shane lems

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