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Cambridge University Library

Article: T-S A43.1+ and the Imitation of the Tiberian Reading Tradition

T-S A43.1
T-S A43.1 (f. 1r): a shorthand serugin Bible.
Ben Outhwaite
Wed 2 Mar 2022

The newly published article in the Journal of Semitic Studies by Dr Kim Phillips, ‘T-S A43.1+ and the Imitation of the Tiberian Reading Tradition’, is a significant piece of research whose title belies its potentially far-reaching repercussions for our understanding of the relationship between the Tiberian and the Palestinian (‘Eretz-Yisraeli’) reading traditions and their systems of vocalisation.

Kim’s article is just one of several that have been or soon will be published from his four-year Rothschild Foundation for Higher Education-funded project to examine the Palestinian-vocalised manuscripts in the Cairo Genizah.

A particular focus of his work has been on the enigmatic serugin fragments – shorthand manuscripts that abbreviate the biblical text in various different ways. The article in JSS takes a look at one such manuscript, which is composed of several fragments including T-S A43.1, and demonstrates convincingly that the Palestinian vocalisation signs in the manuscript have a clear purpose: to ensure the accurate reading of the text according to the Tiberian reading tradition – Tiberian, not Palestinian. This is a significant discovery, and one whose repercussions, as I said above, reach beyond the mechanics of the Palestinian system itself, or the motivation for its particular use in this manuscript. Indeed, Kim suggests that one natural corollary of the argument he presents is that the Palestinian vowel sign system itself might have been developed specifically to communicate the prestige reading tradition, the Tiberian pronunciation: 'What if [...] we posit the desire to emulate the Tiberian reading tradition as the motivating force behind the development of the Palestinian vowel sign system' (p. 94, emphasis mine).

The article is available here (for subscribers to JSS):

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