Pericope: Scripture as written and read in antiquity









Paul Sanders' Thesis 2

Only if a distinctive Masoretic accent is preceded by a weaker distinctive accent (for instance zaqef qaton preceded by pashta), the Masoretes assumed the end of a colon after the word bearing the stronger distinctive accent (in this case after zaqef qaton).

Reaction Johannes de Moor and Marjo Korpel

We agree with Prof. Revell and others that the second of Sanders' theses (which he may have introduced to elicit a discussion on De Hoop's early opinion on this matter) represents, at best, a general rule. In our later publications we have adopted the policy to always argue why we feel that we have to deviate from this 'general' rule. Not only 'enjambment' but also ellipsis proves that a colon is not always a distinctive 'sense unit' with a meaning independent from its context. Yet we are less sceptical than Prof. Revell about the role of the major Masoretic accents as colon dividers. Where the ancient scribes from the Judaean Wilderness allowed themselves to waste precious writing material in order to write portions of text colometrically, for example 1QIsa with regard to Isa. 61:1--62:9, their delimitation of cola agrees to an astounding degree with the placing of the major distinctive Masoretic accents. True, these accents were meant primarily to help the cantor with his performance. They delimit breathing units rather than sense units. But we have to grow accustomed to the fact that these breathing units did not obey to any metrical rule and could vary from 1 to even 8 or 9 words, or combinations of words united by the maqqef. If one word, the cantor had to use all his breath on it, either by volume or by drawing it out, thus lending special emphasis. If 9 words, he had to hurry, lending the performance a sense of quickening.
In any case it seems preferable to base a colometric analysis of the biblical text primarily on markers like pausal forms and distinctive Masoretic accents rather than to deviate from these venerable traditions at will, as has been the practice in BHK, BHS, BHQ and countless commentaries.

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