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Scribal Errors or Phonetic Spellings? Samuel as an Aural Text

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image of Vetus Testamentum

The purpose of this paper is to establish the "phonic" nature of some of the socalled "corrupt" passages in the MT of Samuel. We are particularly interested in Samuel's "aural" characteristics which might be represented in the phonetic spellings. This aural aspect of the narrative is clearly attested in cases where the Ketib and the Qere give two variant forms of the same word or phrase. In such cases, the K. usually represent "phonic" reality by a phonetic spelling. By contrast, the Q. points to the "correct" historical spelling.

Such aural features can be demonstrated in other ways in the MT of Samuel, especially when 2 Sam. xxii is compared with its duplicate text, Ps. xviii. These variant forms are caused by phonological phenomena such as assimilation, metathesis, palatalization, vowel sandhi, consonantal sandhi, and glide.

These examples are not exhaustive, but they are sufficient to show that many of the often-asserted "scribal errors" are actually rather phonetic spellings and do reflect the "economy" of pronunciation. Such phonic realization in writing is attested not simply in poetic texts but also in prose sections of 1-2 Samuel. Hence, our topic is not so much a problem of literary-linguistic composition as a matter of the method of writing, i.e. graphic and graphemic representation of an aural text.


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