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Seventeen reasons

posted Nov 28, 2016, 12:53 PM by David Mitchell
My forthcoming talk at the Society of Old Testament/Tanakh Studies Conference in Nottingham (January 2017) is called ‘The Origins of the Masoretic Cantillation’. There are several views on the origin of the cantillation signs in the Masoretic text, but they all credit the invention of the signs and symbols themselves to the Masoretes, and believe that the Masoretes in some way were recorded the form of biblical cantillation which they knew in medieval Palestine. 
    I shall propose that the signs do not represent medieval synagogue chant, which had already diverged considerably from its temple origin. Instead, the Masoretic signs were not invented by the Masoretes at all, but are musical notation from temple times, recording temple-period chant, which were codified and authorized by the Sanhedrin in the Persian and Greek periods. 
    I shall offer seventeen pieces of evidence why I think this is so, including the testimony of the Talmud and the Masoretes and much else. Seventeen is good, by my reckoning.