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It is well-known that the Masoretes worked in the latter centuries of the first millennium to produce (among other things) a system of accents to indicate syntactic/logical disjunction in the text of the Hebrew Bible.

But how far back does this tradition itself go? A thread...
Students of the Hebrew Bible usually ignore the many extraneous little accents in the text beside the nequddot (vowel signs), and indeed, much of the system is arcane and complicated. But a few accents are quite important for exegesis, and can often assist in reading Hebrew.
An overview/review of significant accents:

• silluq + soph pasuq: This most important pair of signs is used to divide the text into verses. A vertical line (silluq) is placed under the accented syllable of the last word in the verse, accompanied by two dots (soph pasuq).
• atnaḥ: The main sense division within a verse. In a few rare cases, it is interrupted by the minor section break (ס = setumah). BHS, for example, records a setumah within 1 Sam 16:2.
The most famous Masoretic codices differ here, however, with Leningrad including the break, and Aleppo omitting it.

(This phenomenon is called pisqah be'emṣa' pasuq 'division within a verse'.)
• zaqeph (qaṭon and gadol): The next major disjunctive after atnaḥ. Its importance can be illustrated with a famous example from Isaiah 40:3:

'A voice crying [zaqeph qaṭon] in the wilderness [zaqeph gadol] prepare the way of the LORD.'
How is the verse to be understood?

• Option #1: 'A voice crying, "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;" '
• Option #2: 'A voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the LORD;" '
An interesting case illustrating the interplay between textual criticism (specifically qere/ketiv readings) and the accent system is found at 1 Chron 22:7:

Here we have a qere בְּנִי 'my son' and a ketiv בנו 'his son'.
1 Chron 22:7: וַיֹּ֥אמֶר דָּוִ֖יד לִשְׁלֹמֹ֑ה בְּנִ֕ו

Option #1: "And David said to Solomon his son, '...' "
Option #2: "And David said to Solomon, 'My son...' "
Interestingly, a few verses back (1 Chron 22:5), an almost identical wording is found (with בְנִי):

1 Chron 22:5: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר דָּוִ֗יד שְׁלֹמֹ֣ה בְנִי֮
"And David said, 'Solomon my son...' "
When we notice the atnaḥ immediately preceding בְּנִ֕ו in verse 7, however, the qere בְּנִי 'my son' must be adopted, since it is intended to be part of David's direct speech.

Notice the qere/ketiv reading, the circulus, and the atnaḥ in Codex Aleppo.
So...how old is the Masoretic accentuation system? Is it simply the product of the learned exegesis on the part of the Masoretes themselves, or does it reflect an ancient tradition?
Papyrus Rylands 458, dated to the second century, B.C., is a famous manuscript containing fragments from the Old Greek translation of the Pentateuch. Although otherwise written in 'scriptio continua', it contains several curious spaces and gaps.
In a 1971 article, E. J. Revell argued that some of these gaps closely match the disjunctive Masoretic accents, constituting part of the evidence that the oral reading tradition dating back to the Second Temple period must have included information about disjunctions in the text.
Here are some examples:

• silluq + soph pasuq:
Deut 24:1 מִבֵּיתֽוֹ׃ = [ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας] αυτου
'from his house'

4mm gap
• atnaḥ:
Deut 25:2 הָרָשָׁ֑ע = [ἀσεβή]ς
'the guilty one'

2.5mm gap
• zaqeph:
Deut 25:1 הַצַּדִּ֔יק = [δι]καιον
'the innocent one'

2.5mm gap
Conclusion: Biblical studies, especially in the area of philology/linguistics, is a never-ending pursuit, but one that is well worth one's effort.

Noticing the details is important for exegesis, and ultimately, theology.
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