The pre-exilic (First Temple) Hebrew writing system used the Old Hebrew script, the earliest example of which we currently have is the Gezer Calendar, and a later example of which is the Lachish Letters.
This writing system used a consonantal alphabet of 22 characters that are essentially the same as the Hebrew alphabet today. There were
- no vocalization marks (vowels)
- no spaces between words
- no spaces between sentences
- no other punctuation marks
Literacy in the time of the Lachish letters was a profession unto itself. The earliest biblical material was written using this system.
The sacred texts were unusable without the accompanying oral tradition of pronunciation that included word and verse separation, phrase markers, consonantal accents and vocalizations (vowels). This tradition was passed down by memorization through listening to a teacher's recitation.
A post exilic reform, traditionally attributed to Ezra, saw the replacement of the Old Hebrew alphabet with the Aramaic script, from which our modern Hebrew script is derived, and more importantly, the use of spaces to separate words. Verses were still not marked. The biblical scrolls used by the Jews to this day retain this form. In order to read from one of these scrolls correctly you need to first memorize the text from a printed edition that includes the verse and phrase punctuation, the vocalization and the accent marks. There is also a tonal tradition that you need to know in order to do a public reading. It takes me about three hours to learn 10 to 20 verses and read them correctly in public from a scroll in the Yemenite Jewish tradition, for passages that I have not read publicly within the last five years.
The traditions of verse and phrase separation, vocalizations, accents and intonations were collected, compiled and published by the Masoretes from the sixth to tenth centuries of the common era.
The modern punctuation symbols such as the quotation marks used in the translations are derived the Masorete tradition, with some exceptions where later scholars have felt the tradition to be in error. So, the punctuation is in fact part and parcel of the interpretation of the text that the translator performs.
Another member will provide the story of the Greek scriptures.