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  • Symposium:Does Archaic Biblical Hebrew Exist? Pamela Barmash
  • Pamela Barmash

Much ink has been spilled on whether a distinction can be drawn between the Hebrew of the First Temple period (Classical Biblical Hebrew) and the Hebrew of the Second Temple period (Late Biblical Hebrew). This journal has recently devoted sections of two issues to this debate, Hebrew Studies 46 (2005) and Hebrew Studies 47 (2006), and a review essay on this topic was published in Hebrew Studies 54 (2013). This extensive interest has been mainly due to the question of whether texts can be dated by means of chronological levels of Hebrew they manifest: whether this methodology is valid and accurate has profound significance for the reconstruction of Israelite history, religion, and culture as well as for the history of the Hebrew language.

Archaic Biblical Hebrew has attracted far less attention, and as the editor of Hebrew Studies, I commissioned essays on this topic with the intention to inspire new thinking and a reevaluation of past assumptions and techniques. The three scholars who are part of this issue's symposium on whether Archaic Biblical Hebrew exists grapple with the fact that the texts manifesting Archaic Biblical Hebrew display different sets of archaisms and different proportions of archaisms. They take distinct approaches, whether based on new linguistic understandings or innovative use of philological techniques traditionally employed in the study of Biblical Hebrew. Paul Korchin utilizes a new form of grammar to isolate a new set of archaic elements, Tania Notarius identifies a set of elements that distinguishes the corpus of Archaic Biblical Hebrew, and Ian Young examines whether the grammatical forms linked to Archaic Biblical Hebrew result from historical development or characterize a literary genre and whether linguistic dating needs to be more cognizant of scribal practices that may have resulted in the retention or introduction of elements linked to differing strata of Biblical Hebrew. [End Page 47]

Pamela Barmash
Washington University in St. Louis


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