The text-critical paradigm of Hebrew historical linguistics provides a new way of approaching the Archaic Biblical Hebrew poetry in the Hebrew Bible. Scholarship has generally proceeded on the assumption that certain non-standard linguistic features of these texts have been preserved over the course of 1000 years from the period when they were living linguistic forms, even though they were no longer used in the language after that very early time. This is not very likely, based on what we know of the history of the text of the Hebrew Bible. Detailed study of the textual evidence strongly supports the conclusion that distinctive, less common linguistic features, such as the archaisms of these poems, were not copied carefully or precisely in the textual tradition. A much more likely theory would be one that explains how such forms were included or continued to be included in the more recent transmission of these texts which led up to the current manuscripts in our possession. I use the analogy with Homeric poetry and South Slavic oral epic poetry, which exhibit a similar mixture of both archaisms and dialect forms alongside more contemporary language forms, to describe a register that is similar to the one that the Archaic Biblical Hebrew poems use


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pp. 99-118
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