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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 17

§17. Of the Qerê and Kethîbh. Masora marginalis and finalis..

On Qerê and Kethîbh see Ginsburg, Intr., p. 183 ff.

1. The margin of Biblical MSS. and editions exhibits variants a of an early date (§3c), called קְרֵי‎[1] to be read, since, according to the opinion of the Jewish critics, they are to be preferred to the כְּתִיב‎, i.e. what is written in the text, and are actually to be read instead of it.

On this account the vowels of the marginal reading (the Qerê) are placed under the consonants of the text, and in order to understand both readings properly, the vowels in the text must be applied to the marginal reading, while for the reading of the text (the Kethîbh) its own vowels are to be used. Thus in Jeremiah 42:6 אֲנַוְּ‎ occurs in the text, in the margin אנחנו קרי‎. Read אֲנוּ‎ we (or according to Jewish tradition אָנוּ‎) in the text, in the margin אֲנַ֫חְנוּ‎. A small circle or asterisk in the text always refers to the marginal reading.

2. Words or consonants which are to be passed over in reading, and are therefore left unpointed, are called כְּתִיב וְלֹא קְרֵי‎ (scriptum et non legendum), e.g. את‎ Jeremiah 38:16, אם‎ Jeremiah 39:12, ידרך‎ Jeremiah 51:3. Conversely, words not contained in the text, but required by the Masora (as indicated by the insertion of their vowels), are called קְרֵי וְלֹא כְּתִיב‎, e.g. 2 Samuel 8:3, Jeremiah 31:38. See further Strack, Prolegomena Critica, p. 85; Dikduke ha-ṭeamim, §§ 62, 64; Blau, Masoretische Untersuchungen, p. 49 ff.

3. In the case of some very common words, which are always to be read otherwise than according to the Kethîbh, it has not been considered necessary to place the Qerê in the margin, but its vowels are simply attached to the word in the text. This Qerê perpetuum occurs in the Pentateuch in הִוא‎ (Qeהִיא‎) wherever הוא‎ stands for the feminine (§32l), and in נַֽעֲרָ‎ (Kethîbh נער‎, Qeנַֽעֲרָה‎) always, except in Deuteronomy 22:19 (but the Sam. text always has היא‎, נערה‎). The ordinary explanation of this supposed archaism, on the analogy of Greek ὁ παῖς and ἡ παῖς, our child, is inadequate, since there is no trace elsewhere of this epicene use; נער‎ for נערה‎ is rather a survival of a system of orthography in which a final vowel was written defectively, as in קָטַלְתָּ‎; cf. §2n.—Other instances are: יִשָּׂשכָר‎ (Q. יִשָּׂכָר‎) Genesis 30:18 &c., see the Lexicon, and Baer and Delitzsch, Genesis, p. 84, and below, note to §47b; יְרֽוּשָׁלַ͏ִם‎ (Q. יְרֽוּשָׁלַ֫יִם‎), properly יְרֽוּשָׁלֵם‎; יְהֹוָה‎ (Q. אֲדֹנָי‎ the Lord), or (after אֲדֹנָי‎) יֱהֹוִה‎; (Q. אֱלֹהִים‎) properly יַהְוֶה‎ Yahwè (cf. §102m, and §135q, note); on שְׁנֵים‎, שְׁתֵּים‎ for שְׁנֵי‎, שְׁתֵּי‎, see §97d, end.

4. The masoretic apparatus accompanying the biblical text is divided into (a) Masora marginalis, consisting of (α) Masora (marginalis) magna on the upper and lower margins of MSS.; (β) Masora (marginalis) parva between and on the right and left of the columns; (b) Massora finalis at the end of the several books, counting Samuel, Kings, Minor Prophets, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles, each as one book. On all three varieties see especially Ginsburg, Introd., p. 423 ff., and the appendices containing (p. 983 ff.) the masoretic treatise from the St. Petersburg MS. of a.d. 1009, and (p. 1000 ff.) specimens of the Masora parva and magna on two chapters.

In nearly all printed editions only the Masora finalis is found, indicating the number of verses, the middle point of the book, &c., and a scanty selection from the Masora parva. The following alphabetical list of technical expressions (some of them Aramaic) and abbreviations, may suffice with the help of the lexicon to elucidate the subject. Further details will be found in the appendix to Teile’s edition of the Hebrew O.T., p. 1222 ff.

אוֹת‎ letter. אֶלָּא‎ nisi, except. אֶמְצַע‎ middle. אס״ף‎=אַתְנַח סוֹף פָּסוּק‎ in the formula בְּלֹא אס״ף‎ without ʾAthnaḥ or Soph-pasuq i.e. although no ʾAthnaḥ or Soph-pasuq is written.

בְּ‎ with, before names of vowels or accents, as קָ֫מֶץ בְּזָקֵף‎ Qameṣ with Zaqeph used instead of Pathaḥ (§29i).–ב׳‎ as a numeral=two, as in ב׳ טְעָמִים‎ two accents. במקצת‎, see מִקְצָת‎. בנ״א‎ = בְּנוּסְחָא אַֽחֲרֵינָא‎ (Aramaic) in another copy; pl. בְּנוּסְחָן אַֽחֲרֵינָן‎.בס״א־‎=בִּסְפָרִים אֲחֵרִים‎ in other books. בָּתַר‎ (Aram.) after.

דָּגּוּשׁ‎ fem. דְּגוּשָׁה‎ marked with Dageš (or Mappiq). דַּף‎ leaf, page.

זְעֵיר‎ fem. זְעֵירָא‎ (Aram.) small.

חוֹל‎ profane, not sacred, e.g. אֲדֹנַי‎ Genesis 19:2 because not referring to God. חוּץ‎ except. חָסֵר‎ written defectively, also wanting as ח׳ א׳‎ ʾaleph is omitted.

טַ֫עַם‎ accent (see ב‎); טָעַם‎ in Hiphil to chant an accent.

יַתִּיר‎ superfluous.

כַּאן‎ here. כְּלָל‎ (Aram.) total, as adv. in general.

ל׳‎=לֵית‎ (Aram., from לָא אִית‎ non est)=the form is not found elsewhere.

מְדוּיָּק‎ accurately corrected. מָלֵא‎ full i.e. written plene. מִלְּמַ֫טָּה‎ below=מִלְרַע‎ (§15c). מִלְמַ֫עְלָה‎=מִלְעֵיל‎ (§15c). מְנוּזָּרוֹת‎ separated, the name of the strangely formed Nûns before Psalms 107:23 ff. (§5n). מִקְרָא‎ that which is read, the name for all the O.T. scriptures. מִקְצָת‎ part.

נָח‎ fem. נָחָה‎ quiescent, i.e. not sounded. נֶעְלָם‎ concealed, i.e. only retained orthographically. נִקּוּד‎ a point. נָקוּד‎ pointed.

ס״א‎ see בְּ‎. סִימָן‎ σημεῖον, sign, esp. a mnemonic word or, frequently, sentence. סך׳‎ = סְכוּם‎ total. ס״ף‎ = סוֹף פָּסוּק‎ (§15f).

עַמּוּד‎ column of a page.

פָּסוּק‎ a masoretic verse. פִּסְקָא‎ a space, esp. in the phrase פ׳ בְאֶמְצַע פָּסוּק‎ a space within a verse, e.g. Genesis 35:22; cf. H. Grätz, Monatschrift für Gesch. u. Wiss. des Judentums, 1878, p. 481 ff., and H. Strack, ibid. 1879, p. 26 ff.

ק׳‎=קְרֵי‎, see above, c. קודם‎ properly קֳדָם‎ before. קָמוּץ‎ fem. קְמוּצָה‎ pointed with Qameṣ. קוֹרֵא‎ reader of the sacred text.

רַבְּתָא‎, רַבְּתָה‎, רַבָּתִי‎ (Aram., all fem. sing.) large.

תֵּיבָה‎ word (consisting of more than one letter). תְּלוּיָה‎ suspensa (§5n, 3). תְּרֵי‎ (Aram.) two.

  1. On the necessity of the punctuation קְרֵי‎ as passive participle ( = legendum) instead of קְרֵי‎ Qeri, which was formerly common but is properly a past tense (lectum est), see Kautzsch, Gramm. des Bibl.-Aram., p. 81, note.
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