I have noticed that quotations are not always interchanged among the different translations.

For example:

NKJV Psalm, 16:2 O my soul, you have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, My goodness is nothing apart from You.” 3 As for the saints who are on the earth, “They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”


KJV Psalm 16:2 O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee;

3 But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.

How do we know, or not know, when the quotations are used properly? Were there no quotations in Hebrew? (Or Greek?) Is this simply up to the translators? Should I just delete the quotations and look for context myself since basically, if the translators are in fact the ones determining this then perhaps they are wrong?

closed as too broad by Dɑvïd, curiousdannii, Dan, Steve Taylor, Nathaniel Nov 30 '16 at 0:02

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Placement of quotation marks in translations is done according to the policy of the given version. But we're a little different from a forum, so do take the site tour if you haven't already, and also see what we’re looking for in questions. Questions without a text to interpret are "off-topic", so do edit your question if you think it can be formulated appropriately, otherwise it's likely to be closed. – Dɑvïd Nov 26 '16 at 23:40
  • 1
    Consider adding the tag "translation-methodology". In fact, neither the OT nor NT manuscripts have quotation marks. Punctuation of any sort is a late addition. IMHO most of the commonly accepted translations (of the OT at least, as I am a Hebrew speaker) do a pretty good job with the punctuation and quotation marks. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Nov 27 '16 at 0:43
  • So, if punctuation is a late addition, does that mean that the semicolons used and periods are all additions as well? I can delete them and try to piece it together myself? This seems messy. – Watrhous Nov 27 '16 at 1:04
  • @Watrhous Its only messy because you and I are strangers in a foreign land when it comes to Hebrew. It seems to me that ancient Hebrew was a language where meaning was conveyed by two factors: the sound of the words and the gestures of the speaker. It's only from those who have grown up with the language that we foreigners have any hope of extracting meaning from the text of scripture. Since it is an ancient tongue we are totally dependent upon those who lived during the time that articulation of voice and gesture found its way into the written text. – enegue Nov 27 '16 at 1:18

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

  1. no vocalization marks (vowels)
  2. no spaces between words
  3. no spaces between sentences
  4. 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.

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