The datings of other Biblical fragments that we possess today also need attentive additional analysis.
Attempts to read most of the old manuscripts, such as the Biblical and the Ancient Egyptian ones, often confront historians with severe difficulties.
"The first steps of our research into the primordial language of the Old Testament bring us to the fact of a paramount importance, which is that written Hebrew neither had signs for vowels originally, nor the ones to replace them... The books of the Old Testament were written in nothing but consonants." (, page 155)
The situation is a typical one. Ancient Slavonic texts, for instance, also come shaped as chains of consonants, often even lacking the vocalization symbols and separation of individual words from one another - just an endless stream of consonants.
Ancient Egyptian texts also contained nothing but consonants.
"The names of the [Egyptian - A. F.] kings... are rendered [in modern literature - A. F.] in a perfectly arbitrary manner, a la primary school textbook content... There is a plethora of significant variations that defy all attempts of classification, being a result of arbitrary interpretation [! - A. F.] that became tra-dition."(, page 176)
It is possible that the scarcity and the high cost of writing materials made the ancient scribes extremely frugal, and the vowels were eliminated as a result.
"It is true that if we take a Hebraic Bible or a manuscript nowadays, we shall find a skeleton of consonants filled with dots and other signs that are supposed to refer to the missing vowels. Such signs were not included in the ancient Hebraic Bible... The books were written in consonants exclusively, being filled with vowels by the readers to the best of their ability and in accordance with the apparent demands made by sense and oral tradition."(, page 155)
Imagine how precise the kind of writing that con sisted of nothing but consonants would be today, when the combination BLD, for instance, could mean blood, bled, bold, build, boiled, bald, etc.; RVR could stand for river, rover, or raver, etc. The vocalization aleatory quotient in ancient Hebraic and other old languages is exceptionally high. Many consonant combinations may be vocalized in dozens of ways (). Gesenius wrote that "it was easily understood how imperfect and unclear such writing method had been" (quoted in ).
T. F. Curtis also noted that "even for the priests the meaning of the scriptures remained extremely doubtful and could only be understood with the aid of the tradition and its authority" (quoted in, p. 155). Robertson Smith adds that "the scholars had no other guide but the actual text, that was often ambiguous, and oral tradition. They had no grammatical rules to follow; the Hebraic that they wrote in often allowed for verbal constructions that were impossible in the ancient language" (quoted in , page 156). Sca-ligerian history considers such a status quo to have prevailed for many centuries ().
It is furthermore assumed that "this great paucity of the Hebraic Bible had only been remedied in the VII or VIII century of our era," when the Massorets had processed the Bible and "added... symbols that stood for vowels, but they had no other guides but their own intuition and very fragmentary oral tradition, and this fact is common knowledge for every expert in the Hebraic language" (, pages 156-157).
Driver points out that:
"Since... the Massorets and their efforts in the VII and VIII centuries, the Jews started to protect their holy books with the utmost zeal and vigour when it had already been too late to mitigate... the damage done to them in any way. The result of this overzeal-ous protection had been the immanetization of the distortions that had been made equal to the original text in authority." (Text given by , page 157.)
"The common opinion used to be that the vowels were introduced to the Hebraic text by Esdra in the V century b.c... When Levita and Capellus proved this wrong in XVI and XVII century France, having demonstrated that the vowels had only been introduced by the Massorets, the discovery had made a great sensation in the entire Protestant Europe. Many were of the opinion that this new theory might lead to the complete dethronement of religion. If the vowels weren't received in an Epiphany of divine inspiration, being merely a human creation, and a relatively recent one, at that, how could one rely on the text of the Holy Writ?... The debate that followed had been amongst the most heated in the history of the new Biblical criticism, and had lasted for over a century. It had finally ended when the veracity of the new opinion had been acknowledged by everyone." (, pages 157-158)
If such fierce dispute flared up around the Biblical vocalizations in the XVI-XVII century, mightn't this mean these very vocalizations were introduced very recently? Could this have happened in the XV-XVI century? And since this vocalization version was far from the commonly accepted version, it had to encounter opposition, which may have been quite vehement. And only after that was this Massoret deciphering of the Bible shifted (by Levita and Capellus?) into the VII-VIII century a.d. in order to give the Biblical text the authority of antiquity.
The situation with the Koran must have been similar. We are informed that:
"Arabic writing... becomes developed further in the middle of the VII century, when the first transcription of the Koran had occurred (651 a.d.). The additional diacritical marks on, above, or beneath the letter were introduced in the 2nd half of the VII century for differentiating between similarly written letters, for... vowels and doubled vowels." (, page 41) Other sources tell us that the vocalizations were only introduced in the 2nd half of the VIII century by Al-Khalil Ibn Ahmed (, page 39). Could all of this activity have taken place in the XV-XVI century?
Was this article helpful?