In the current debate concerning theories of chronology accounting for the varieties of Hebrew within the Bible, Avi Hurvitzs proposal is representative of one end in the spectrum of views: the language of Samuel-Kings (Standard Biblical Hebrew [SBH]) represents an earlier form of Biblical Hebrew, and the language of Chronicles represents Late Biblical Hebrew (LBH).
Is it possible that social, geographical, dialectal and literary influences could account for the linguistic variety of BH, thus negating the need to resort to explanations of an historical nature?
Hurvitz proceeds by creating a typology of characteristics that defines the language of each corpus, defining the points of change through time.
This proposition stands on a general recognition, based upon factors apart from linguistic matters, that Samuel-Kings (First Temple period) is prior to Chronicles (post-exilic period).
The authors are trying to put diachronic Hebrew linguistics on a careful scientific footing, which is a worthy enterprise.
But as all of us in biblical studies know all too well, there have been and continue to be a great many ideas about what constitute “scientific” biblical studies.
Recent scholarship, however, has posed a challenge to this proposal.
Support for this proposed development of the language is found in linguistic similarities (and, therefore, temporal proximity) between Samuel-Kings and Chronicles, and Old Hebrew inscriptions (pre-exilic) and texts from Qumran (post-exilic) respectively.
Similarly, I’m not entirely optimistic that Rezetko and Young will end up being persuasive. First, their methods treat the Bible as a strictly human book like any other.
Its contents are assumed to have evolved over multiple and complex stages of composition, redaction, and re-redaction, both major and minor, until they reached the stage called the Masoretic Text as exemplified in the Leningrad Codex—the basis for all modern editions of the Hebrew Bible.
To cite an example of their skepticism, the authors argue that “neither the Masoretic Text nor any other biblical text is likely to preserve the authentic details of the language of any biblical author” (p. That’s a pretty radical conclusion, as much pre-suppositional as it is empirical.
No less a text specialist than Emanuel Tov notes that the wording of that scroll, dated to the third century AD or earlier, is “100 percent identical” to the medieval MT version.
That’s proof of nearly a millennium of accurate copying, recopying, and lack of change, whether purposeful or accidental.
It might work, however, as part of the reading for an advanced Hebrew language seminar or the like.