Critique textuelle de l’Ancien Testament Online

Charles Jones posted notice that the University of Zurich has made available all five volumes of Dominique Barthélemy’s Critique textuelle de l’ancien Testament.

There is nothing quite like this work. I’ve posted in the past on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, which led to these volumes, and on the unique role Bathélemy played in the committee’s work. These five volumes are the most comprehensive treatment of the textual problems in the Hebrew Bible ever produced.

In print, each volume is very expensive. I’ve always wanted to own copies, but with the price — a couple hundred bucks a piece if I remember correctly — there was just no way. To have each volume in a quality PDF is so fantastic.

Give them time to download. The files aren’t that big, but they took a bit longer to download than I expected. I should note that they are all in French. Here’s the permalinks:

  • Volume 1 (1982) Josué, Juges, Ruth, Samuel, Rois, Chroniques, Esdras, Néhémie, Esther
  • Volume 2 (1986) Isaïe, Jérémie, Lamentations
  • Volume 3 (1992) Ézéchiel, Daniel et les 12 Prophètes
  • Volume 4 (2005) Psaumes
  • Volume 5 (2015) Job, Proverbes, Qohélet et Cantique des Cantiques

Comparing OT Texts in Accordance

After saving a workspace, you can launch it with just a couple clicks. This is one of my favorite features in Accordance. As I show below, it only takes a minute to set up, and a second or two to launch. I regularly use this feature to quickly see several ancient versions of the Old Testament in parallel.

Set up the texts

Open your Hebrew Bible, and use the Add Parallel button to add the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls and all the other ancient versions you have in your library.

Save the workspace

Order the columns however you like, and then go to File > Open Workspace > Add Workspace and name it something like OT Texts.

Next time

Now, the next time you are in an OT text and want to check the readings of other ancient witnesses, simply two-finger click (or right-click) on the verse reference and go to My Workspaces > OT Texts. This will open a new workspace in a separate window with all the ancient versions in parallel. When you are finished, close that window and your back to your text.

Video Example

Bible Odyssey: What is the Oldest Bible?

I wrote an article for Bible Odyssey answering this question.

Bible Odyssey is an online initiative of SBL intended to communicate the results of scholarship to a popular audience.

The article is a response to several user questions related to the issue of “oldest Bible.” I tried to explain that the answer depends on what one means by “oldest” (materially? textually?) and by “Bible” (a bound book? Protestant? Catholic?).

On the bottom right of the page there is also a related links section where I provide links to a few of the manuscripts and editions mentioned in the article.

Check it out.

SBTS at SBL 2015

There are a handful of SBTS associated people presenting at SBL this year:

Sunday, November 22

  • Michael T. Graham, Jr., “An Examination of Paul’s Use of Ps 51:4 in Rom 3:4 and Its Implications on Rom 3:1-8” – 1:30-2:00pm, Hilton-303
  • Shawn J. Wilhite, “Atonement in the Heavenly Holy of Holies: Early Reception of Atonement in Origen of Alexandria’s Reading of Hebrews” – Sunday, 5:40-6:05pm, Hilton-403

Monday, November 23

  • Jonathan Pennington, “Theological Epistemology in the Gospel according to Matthew: a Watsonian ‘Canonical Perspective'” – 1:40-2:0opm, Hilton-210
  • Shawn J. Wilhite is presiding over the History of Interpretation section focusing on “Apocalyptic Texts and the Psalter in Early and Medieval Interpretation,” – 4:00-6:30pm, Hilton-207
  • Jarvis J. Williams, “Rarely Will Someone Die for a Righteous Man: the Means and the Significance of Atonement in Rom 5:6-11 and the (Ig)Noble Jewish Martyrological Background” – 4:50-5:15pm, Hilton 306
  • Coleman M. Ford, “Eschatology and Ethics: Basil of Caesarea’s Use of Matthew in His Homilies on Wealth and Proverty” – 6:00-6:30pm, Hilton 209

Tuesday, November 24

  • Brian W. Davidson, “‘Warning’ or ‘Turning’ in Isa 8.11 & the Qumran Communities” – 10:00-10:25am, Hyatt-Embassy G

OT Textual Criticism LibGuide

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Students in Old Testament exegesis classes at SBTS regularly have to work through textual criticism projects. Gathering all the resources to make a table of witnesses is one of their biggest obstacles.
I made this LibGuide to show them exactly what they need and where to find it in the library. Have a look if you like, but for whatever reason, at the moment none of our LibGuides are displaying well in Safari on a Mac. You might have to use Chrome or another browser.

Features:

  • There is a tab for each language of the most important witnesses.
  • There is a lexicons tab, where you can find the most important lexicons for each language.
  • There are two tabs that link to introductions to the field and OT textual commentaries.

Andrew Perrin on the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls

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Ancient Jew Review has posted an interview I did recently with Andrew Perrin on his new book The Dynamics of Dream-Vision Revelation in the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls (V&R, 2015).
Here’s a portion of the interview where Andrew is explaining the topic of the book and its intersection with modern scholarship:

Highlighting the centrality of dream-visions to the thought world of the Aramaic texts was simply a departure point that lead to a host of new questions and implications. What interested me most was not just the arresting concentration of “new” revelation in the Aramaic texts, but how dream-visions were composed and what purposes they served. What we see happening in the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls is that dream-visions are structured and presented using what appears to be a common stock of literary features and linguistic idioms. That is, there are close similarities in form across the collection.

In tandem with this, the writers of the Aramaic texts utilized the dream-vision as a vehicle to advance or address a rather limited set of concerns: exegesis of the Hebrew Scriptures, endorsing priestly practices or theology, and as a historiographical tool for claiming that history is predetermined and directed by the God of Israel. That is, there are analogies in function across the collection. In view of these parallel findings, I conclude that the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls do hang together as a group, making the term “corpus” an adequate descriptor for these materials.

Throughout the interview, Andrew does a great job discussing the relevance of his work even for those outside DSS studies. You can read more in the AJR interview.

Ken Penner on the Hebrew Verbal System of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Center for Ancient Christian Studies (SBTS) has posted an interview I did with Ken Penner on his forthcoming book The Verbal System of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Here are the questions he addresses:

  1. What is the argument of the book?
  2. What piqued your interest in the verbal system of the Dead Sea Scrolls?
  3. How has the work developed between dissertation and publication? Any advice for students who hope to publish their dissertation?
  4. What tools or methodologies did you find most useful in your research?
  5. How does your analysis of the verbal system shed light on interpretive debates in the broader field of Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship?
  6. How does the verbal system of the Dead Sea Scrolls compare and contrast with the the verbal system(s) of the Hebrew Bible?
  7. Do you plan to extend your research and publish on the verbal system of the Hebrew Bible?
  8. Where does your view of the verbal system of the Hebrew Bible fit within the spectrum of recent debates?
  9. How accurately do the written sources reflect the spoken Hebrew of the time? Does the verbal system of the Dead Sea Scrolls result from natural linguistic development or intentional archaism? Do the Dead Sea Scrolls attest to a single common verbal system, or are there numerous parallel systems evident in the sources?

You can read the full interview here.

HB in the DSS using Accordance 11

Here is a video showing how you can use the INFER-search to find direct or indirect references to the Hebrew Bible in the DSS. The steps are the same as those listed yesterday for the NT in the Didache post. There is audio in this one. Steps:

  1. Open a tagged Hebrew Bible, limit your search as you would like, type an asterisk and press ENTER to find all the words in the range you prefer.
  2. Open your non-biblical DSS and run an INFER-search. You can also right-click and use the search back feature, as I showed yesterday, but that isn’t relevant for this video since I limited it to one verse in the Hebrew Bible.

The Committee’s Goal & Guiding Principles

This post provides some reading notes on chapter 2 of Dominique Barthélemy’s Studies in the Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, trans. Stephen Pisano et al., Textual Criticism and the Translator 3 (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2012). Earlier posts provide notes on the Introduction and part 1, chapter 1.

Chapter 2 of part 1 overviews the committee’s understanding of the goal of textual criticism and the guiding principles with which they worked. Finally, Barthélemy surveys the committee’s understanding of how the Old Testament canon developed.

J. D. Michaelis had planned to gather a committee of scholars to assess all the textual difficulties in the Bible, but this plan was never brought to fruition. The Seven Years’ War intervened. In 1935 Paul Volz, who had recently done work on the text of Jeremiah, expressed the desire to carry Michaelis’ vision forward. World War II intervened. The need for a thorough study of textual variants in the Old Testament became even more pressing after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In 1969 the United Bible Societies successfully gathered a world-renown committee, and they began to meet annually for four week sessions.

The goal of textual criticism

In recent years, the goal of textual criticism has been a hot topic of debate. There is plenty of talk in print and at the annual meetings about theories of textual criticism so this comment from Barthélemy is especially interesting: “Rather than debating theoretical positions, they [the committee] deemed it more worthwhile to focus on the critical task itself, and only thereafter to analyze the methodological implications of their common work” (84).

The committee sought to reconstruct the earliest attested text, a text that might be dated to roughly 300 BC. They worked with the presupposition that they could “on the basis of extant textual witnesses recover that text type which lay behind all the ancient variations,” and according to Barthélemy, this belief rested “in part on the hypothesis that the various textual traditions had not begun to diverge until after their content had come to be recognized as sacred, or — to use a convenient phrase, albeit ambiguous — until after they had become canonical” (87). The earliest attested text is that phase in the literary development of a biblical book that marked “the end of its literary development and the beginning of its textual history” (88).

Exceptions to the rule

The committee recognized in the course of its work that Proverbs, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were exceptions to the rule. In these cases, they decided to follow MT, wherever it differed from the OG at a literary level. They committee regarded textual emendation outside the bounds of textual criticism primarily because their goal was to recover “the earliest attested text” — the second phase of the text’s development. Contextual emendation aims at recovering a pristine original (1st phase) reading.

Guiding principles

Barthélemy summarizes 15 factors the committee turned to as causes of textual corruption. He also discusses the way in which the committee handled inner biblical reworkings of earlier material, euphemisms, tiqqune sopherim, kethiv-qere readings, and the weight given by the committee to other scribal marks. These principles guided the committee’s evaluation of over 5,000 variants:

  1. Narrow basis for a variant form of the text: If a variant occurs in only one textual tradition, this should be a red flag, but one must weigh the witnesses, not just count them.
  2. Deceptively broad basis fora variant form of the text tradition: One can have several witnesses to a reading, but all of them could be dependent on an early interpretation of an obscure textual difficulty.
  3. Dependence of a variety of text forms upon one earlier form: Sometimes several variant readings can be explained as various scribal responses to an obscure textual problem.
  4. Simplification of the text (easier reading): The tendency of scribes is to simply the text, not make it more difficult.
  5. Assimilation to parallel passages: Some variants arose because scribes or translators made the passage more clear or detailed based on similar biblical passages. In these cases, the unassimilated form is, presumably, earlier.
  6. Translational adjustments to the text: Some variants arise based on the linguistic requirements of languages into which the text was translated. This factor is important in assessing whether or not a variant is based on different Hebrew Vorlage.
  7. Interpretive modifications: Variants can be due to theological interpretation on the part of a translator.
  8. Misunderstanding of linguistic data: Variants can arise do to a scribe’s or translator’s misunderstanding of biblical grammar and lexicography.
  9. Misunderstanding of historical data: Knowledge of a text’s historical and cultural setting disappeared, and therefore a scribe adjusted the text to make it more clear.
  10. Accidental omission of similar letters, words, or sentences: For example, ד or י can be confused with ר or ו.
  11. Accidental repetition of identical sequences: Sometimes a word or phrase or letter is accidentally written twice.
  12. Other scribal errors: This is the catch-all-the-rest category.
  13. Conflated readings or doublets: Short explanatory notes — written in the margin or above or below the line — were sometimes incorporated into the text itself.
  14. Conjectural emendation doesn’t fit with the committee’s understanding of the goal of textual criticism.
  15. Later, corrupt readings are better than a conjectured forms.

The developing “canon”

Finally, Barthélemy lays out the perspective on the process of OT canonization with which the committee worked. A few key quotes:

As we will see, the direction and extent of dispersion of textual forms varies from book to book. It is remarkable that at Qumran, as in the Christian church before Origen, this pluralism within which the sacred books were read seems to have been accepted without difficulty (128).

We have had to conclude from this that the stable point which we had believed (with Kittel) could be fixed around 300 B.C. continues to elude our grasp. In that era, certain portions of the Joshua-Judges-Samuel-Kings corpus were already transmitted in several distinct textual forms, and these continued to undergo literary innovations of limited extent throughout their transmission in Hebrew … In fact, the mirage of a text that was stable and unified (because of its canonical function) before the intervention of the Greek translators vanished before the committee’s eyes (132).

It seems, finally, that the only fixed point in the history of the Hebrew text which can serve as a base of reference is represented by the standard edition of the consonantal text that was produced by the rabbis at the end of the first century A.D. … We can then regard the Tiberian MT — at least for the books it contains — as an essentially faithful witness to the Bible that Paul read at the feet of Gamaliel. Even if this Bible does not constitute the only form of the Christian Old Testament, it does at least represent a particularly venerable form of it (137).

That is why this report devotes so much space to the history of interpretation. Because recent commentaries and dictionaries too often show little interest in those difficult texts that they eliminate through correction, it was essential to take a fairly large inventory of the syntactic analyses and interpretations that the most conscientious early Jewish and Christian interpreters offered for these texts. We hope that a given syntactic comparison or an original Judeo-Arab interpretation (even though 1,000 years old) will occasionally be able to remind us that the situation of some of these texts is not as desperate as a lazy critic may claim in order to justify the proliferation or the mediocrity of his conjectures (138).

The Early History of OT Textual Criticism

This post provides some reading notes on chapter 1 of on Dominique Barthélemy’s Studies in the Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, trans. Stephen Pisano et al., Textual Criticism and the Translator 3 (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2012).

An earlier post provides notes on the Introduction.

Chapter 1 surveys the history of OT textual criticism from its origin in the Early Middle Ages to J. D. Michaelis. Barthélemy states that most scholars know hardly anything about textual criticism prior to the advent of modern critical studies. The chapter is intended to fill this information gap.

The status of the vowel points in the 16th–17th centuries

Barthélemy begins by surveying the debates among sixteenth and seventeenth century scholars concerning the antiquity of the vowel points. Two works were at the center of the debate: Louis Cappel’s Arcanum and Critica Sacra, both of which argued against to J. Buxtorf’s Tiberias. Buxtorf argued that the accents preceded the Masoretes. In Aracanum Cappel argued that the Masorah was a highly composite work compiled over the centuries and the vowel points were a relatively recent addition. Concerning the validity of Cappel’s arguments, Barthélemy states, “They reveal a well-informed and quasi-prophetic understanding for his time of the progressive development of vocalization” (16). According to Cappel, the vowel points were not necessary to maintain a stable text.

Though Buxtorf read Cappel’s work, neither he nor anyone else responded to Cappel for nearly 20 years. After Buxtorf died, his son wrote a response to Cappel, but at this point Cappel’s arguments had won the day. Cappel further developed his approach to the text of the Old Testament, when in 1650 he published his Critica Sacra. Barthélemy writes, “This work definitively established the legitimacy and necessity of submitting the Hebrew test of the Old Testament to a criticism analogous to that used for any ancient secular literature.”

At the end of the seventeenth century critics were in agreement on two things:

1. The available Hebrew witnesses to the text of the Old Testament were remarkably unified.

2. If the autographs of the biblical books were accessible, these would have been considered normative (29).

Kennicott and de Rossi

The first conviction was tested and proven true by work of Benjamin Kennicott and Giovanni Bernardo de Rossi. Kennicott raised funds and organized a team of 315 people throughout Great Britain to collate hundreds of medieval Hebrew manuscripts. The project even gained financial support from King George III. The second and last volume was published in 1780. The methodology and execution of the work was criticized by J. D. Michaelis and many others, but all were, nonetheless, supportive of Kennicott’s massive endeavor.

De Rossi was a wealthy priest who was able to greatly enhance Kennicott’s collations, and unlike Kennicott, de Rossi did all of his additional collations himself. The final verdict on the work of Kennicott and de Rossi was less then sensational: The medieval manuscripts contain variants attributable almost exclusively to scribal error. The status of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament was not further developed until the work of Paul Kahle in the middle of the twentieth century.

… With regard to [MT] manuscripts, it is often stated that there are this many Kennicott manuscripts and that many de Rossi manuscripts, even though serious confusion exists regarding the identification of these manuscripts. What, in fact, was Kennicott’s work and what was de Rossi’s? It seems that much is obscure when one attempts to look back before the end of the eighteenth century outside of Germany (2).

Spinoza

The second conviction of seventeenth century critics was taken to task by the work of Spinoza. The stage was set by Thomas Hobbes and Isaac de La Peyrère. These authors demonstrated that portions of the Pentateuch showed signs of editorial activity that could not be attributed to Moses. Spinoza’s Tractatus developed this stream of thought into a systematic approach to biblical criticism. In order to properly interpret Scripture, one must first understand the Hebrew language and have a proper understanding of the situation in which each biblical book was originally written. Neither of these these are completely attainable therefore, according to Spinoza, the “author’s intention” concerning every detail is beyond our grasp. Spinoza believed that the big ideas concerning morality and salvation are plain enough in the text itself; the deficiency in our knowledge of Hebrew and the history of the biblical books only called into question “matters beyond normal comprehension, which can merely be imagined.”[1]

Spinoza was excommunicated and his views denounced, but his ideas were carried forward by Richard Simon. Simon took Spinoza’s questions seriously and attempted to write the literary history of the Old Testament Spinoza required. In 1678 Simon published Histoire Critique du Vieux Testament. Barthélemy Argues persuasively that Richard Simon was dependent on Spinoza in the first nine chapters of his Histoire Critique, the portion that proved to be foundational for the development of higher criticism. Simon deliberately concealed his dependence on Spinoza because  he wanted to avoid being criticized simply for his work’s association with Spinoza (60–62).

Spinoza’s argument that the Old Testament as we have it is not equal to the autographs made a lasting impact.  Simon argued that Jesus’ and the apostles’ interpretation of the Old Testament was in line with Jewish hermeneutics. Barthélemy notes that Simon “had no idea that pesharim of Qumran would one day provide us with re-readings in an eschatological vein which clearly predated our own era” (74).

Simon considered a prophet “any person appointed by the leaders of the ‘Hebrew Republic’ who carries out a redactional role with regard to the sacred books and who, because of that, possesses an inspired authority which enables him to fulfill it…” (75). He called them “public scribes.” Because these public scribes were inspired, it is a waste of time to search for the “authors” of each book. Regarding the Pentateuch, Simon considered Moses the author, but he recognized that changes and additions had been made to the book after the time of Moses. The historical books are summaries and compilations of ancient memoirs. The people who compiled these memoirs sometimes left in their composite products discrepancies found in their sources. They left these discrepancies because they were insignificant — for example discrepancies in the lists found in Nehemiah 7 and Ezra 2 (78). This perspective opens the door for Jean Astruc and the development of source and redaction criticism.

The “final form”

The only valid response to Spinoza’s sharp criticism is the one which Simon’s hermeneutic contributes to orienting prophecy … Spinoza, in fact, made the possibility or impossibility of interpreting prophecy authentically entirely dependent upon our capacity or incapacity to reconstitute the contents of the prophet’s thought, and to identify the circumstances and hearers  of his word. For Simon, none of that was of any importance … The most important thing is to be able to arrive at the second meaning principally intended by the prophetic Spirit, beyond the historical meaning which criticism helps to determine … Thus the contemporaries of the fulfillment as opposed to those of the prophet, find themselves in a privileged position for interpreting the prophecies. It is clear that this revolution had important consequences for the textual criticism of the Old Testament. The textual form which must serve as a point of reference is not the one constituted by ‘the autographs of Moses and the Prophets,’ but is constituted rather by the state of divinely guided maturation in which the books of Scripture are found at the time of the fulfillment, that is, at the time when the Messiah reveals himself in order to renew all things (80–81).

  1. 57, taken from Barthélemy’s quotation of Spinoza’s Tractatus in his Complete Works pp. 465–467.