OT Textual Criticism LibGuide


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.


  • 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.

Published: Letters of Ignatius Greek Reader

GlossaHouse has published a book to which I and several others contributed —  The Letters of Ignatius: Apostolic Fathers Greek Reader.
Brian Renshaw and Shawn Wilhite did the herculean task of editing and typesetting the book. Both Brian and Shawn have posted about how the project came about. The remaining volumes in the series should be out within six months or so.

You can purchase the book for less than $10 on Amazon.

‘Warning’ or ‘Turning’ in Isaiah 8.11

This text-critical problem has been my hobby horse for a while now. I’ve posted on the problem before, but since then I have changed my mind and completely reworked my paper as a critique of the solution offered by the Comité pour l’analyse textuelle de l’Ancien Testament hébru. I presented this last semester in the Isaiah seminar at SBTS, and I am posting it here for feedback. Though I have revised and rewritten the paper several times, it is still technically under construction. So whether you agree or disagree, your comments are welcome.
You can access the paper here. Below, I’ve included a portion of my introduction and conclusion without the footnotes:

In 1969 the United Bible Society launched the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project (HOTTP). As an aid to their translators, six scholars were commissioned to analyze roughly 5,000 of the most significant text critical problems in the Hebrew Bible. Dominique Barthélemy drafted the committee’s “final report” in his magisterial four-volume Critique textuelle de l’Ancien Testament. This paper is a critique of the committee’s report on וְיִסְּרֵנִי in Isaiah 8:11. The Masoretic Text reads as follows:

כִּי כֹה אָמַר יְהוָה אֵלַי כְּחֶזְקַת הַיָּד וְיִסְּרֵנִי מִלֶּכֶת בְּדֶרֶךְ הָעָם־הַזֶּה לֵאמֹר

The HOTTP committee proposed repointing the form as a hiphil wayyiqtol from סור (“and he turned me”). Barthélemy concludes as follows: “The reading וַיְסִירֵנִי, read here by Symmachus, appeared preferable to the committee, as holding an intermediate position between that of MT and those of 1Q-a and G…”

I propose, against Barthélemy, that MT’s וְיִסְּרֵנִי is the more original reading—a qalwəyiqtol 3ms of יסר, “to warn, instruct”… Reading ויסרני as a form of יסר allows one to better explain how the alternative readings might have arisen, and the form וְיִסְּרֵנִי, a qal wəyiqtol, can be translated in the context of Isaiah 8:11 in a way that fits with the conventions of Classical Hebrew syntax.

OT Exegesis LibGuide

I created an Old Testament Exegesis LibGuide for the library at SBTS. The guide is intended to help students find resources in the library as they work on their exegesis papers.  Clicking on the title of any book on the LibGuide will take you to a WorldCat page where you can see the book’s call number and more.
Some exegetical assignments require students to work through a text-critical problem. The Text Criticism page should be particularly helpful as it lists the resources students need to consult in order to put together a table of witnesses. The Hebrew Bible Texts page links to electronic copies of the Leningrad codex (B19a) and the Aleppo codex. Note that I have also listed a table of contents to help students navigate the pdf of Leningrad. The Academic Journals and Old Testament Background pages were adapted from Joseph Kelly’s Old Testament Resources LibGuide.

It’s a work in progress, but if you see any glaring omissions please let me know. All of our library LibGuides can be accessed via the LibGuides link on the left side of the library homepage.

Related Post: Dead Sea Scrolls LibGuide.

Dead Sea Scrolls LibGuide

I created a Dead Sea Scrolls LibGuide for the library at SBTS.

A LibGuide is a webpage that highlights key resources on a particular topic and guides students as to where they can find these resources in the library. For instance, if you click on Discoveries in the Judaean Desert under the “Texts” tab, you will be directed to a WorldCat list of all 40 volumes, and there you can see each call number. The home page highlights Fitzmyer’s Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls, a book that will help students navigate the major publications. I added a brief annotation to each featured resource.

I will continue to build up the guide as time permits. For future reference, there is a LibGuides link (second one) on the left side of the library home page. There you can see several other LibGuides on topics such as Baptist history, Patristics and Early Christianity, etc. Several others are in the works. I’m currently working on one for Old Testament exegesis and one for Septuagint studies. I hope this is helpful for at least a few curious students!

Related Post: OT Exegesis LibGuide

Teaching My First Hebrew Class | R3-א Verbs

Dr. Hamilton graciously gave me the opportunity to teach my first Hebrew class today, and it was a blast. In the first half of this post, I share a quote that carried me through my tumultuous first year of Hebrew study; in the second half, I give an overview of the material we covered today. The second half is laden with technical terminology, some of which is unique to the grammar we are using this semester.
The quote below is written on the first page of my copy of Invitation to Biblical Hebrew.

“This is the kind of thing that takes more endurance than intelligence.” Dr. Hamilton said these encouraging words a few weeks into my second semester of Hebrew study. For many at SBTS, the second semester of Hebrew is all about weak verb morphology. Unless you are gifted with an exceptional memory, the only way to master the details of weak verb morphology is to keep coming back to it over and over. You don’t have to be “smart,” just determined. It was a joy to share this–and a couple other lessons I’ve learned along the way–with the class before diving into chapter 33.

Chapter 33 introduces the Green Lantern of Hebrew weak verbs, R3-Alef (ל״א) verbs. I tried to make the details of the chapter a little more memorable with a couple colorful illustrations.

As Russell Fuller quips, with R3-Alef verbs “the Hebrew world goes green.” As a mneumonic device, Fuller associates particular colors with common “theme vowels.” Essentially, verbs that take a holem are orange; those that take a patah are red; and those that take a sere are green.

R3-Alef verbs deviate from the “normal” vowel pattern in the perfect conjugation. In standard (i.e. not stative) Qal perfect verbs, there are two situations in which R3-Alef verbs are deviant. When the R3-Alef is (1) in the silent shewa position and when it is (2) at the end of a word, the Alef quiesces and lengthens the preceding short vowel. For example, in the 1cs, instead of seeing מָצַאְתִּי, we see מָצָאתִי; in the 3ms, instead of מָצַא, we see מָצָא.

I’m from Gastonia, NC, so I thought a Sun Drop illustration would be particularly appropriate. Sun Drop has just begun to be distributed nationally, but for over 50 years it has been bottled and sold in Gastonia, NC. Whether or not we are justified in claiming it as our own, we certainly do. When the Dr. Pepper-Snapple Group decided to distribute the beverage nationwide in 2011 (info from Wiki), they produced a quirky, but memorable, commercial set to Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” We could say the R3-Alef “quiesces” in the silent shewa position and at the end of a word, or we could say it “drops it like it’s hot.” Whatever helps you remember the pattern!

But the “weaknesses” of the R3-Alef are not limited to standard verbs in the Qal stem. A unifying green tide of sere theme vowels washes over “mixed conjugations,” verbs that take various theme vowels. For instance, the Piel and Hithpael stems normally take an sere in the perfect 3ms, but in all other perfect conjugations they an a-class vowel. Not so with R3-Alef verbs! When the green wave crashes on Piel, Hithpael, Hiphil, and Qal-stative perfects, they all come out with sere theme vowels. Similarly, sere theme vowels are predominant in perfect R3-Alef verbs in the Pual, Hophal, and Niphal stems, all of which normally take a-class (red) vowels. The picture to the right is another hometown illustration. The mascot of Ashbrook High School is the Green Wave.

Of course there are a few exceptions and a couple more details to be discussed, but this summarizes the big idea. For all the details you can check out chapter 33 of Dr. Fuller’s Invitation to Biblical Hebrew: A Beginning Grammar.

Free Unicode Hebrew Fonts

58 of them to be exact, and some of them are very cool: cursive, Paleo-Hebrew, fonts mimicking the writing style of particular Dead Sea Scrolls, etc. They are available here, via the Open Siddur Project. See the bottom of the linked page for installation instructions and examples of the fonts. From the Open Siddur page:

To aid in the dissemination of free/libre Hebrew fonts, the Open Siddur Project now offers, gratis, a FONT PACK. Fifty-eight free/libre and open source licensed, Unicode Hebrew fonts, ready to install. Enjoy them. Share them. Learn from them. Modify them.

6 fonts supporting the full set of diacritical marks (vowels/nikkud and cantillation/ta’amim).
11 fonts supporting niqud (w/out ta’amim)
42 fonts (not intended for use with niqud)
1 font of dingbats
7 Non-Hebrew Open Source Unicode Fonts

They should work on a Mac or PC. If you already have a unicode Hebrew keyboard installed, you don’t need to install the one that comes with the font pack. The fonts will work just fine with your current keyboard. I use Logos’ keyboards.

SBL Hebrew font is also unicode compliant and available here; the font license is only slightly more restrictive. Tyndale House’s Ezra SIL and Cardo fonts are nice as well (Cardo is especially nice for Greek). Tyndale House’s fonts are included in the Open Siddur font pack, or you can download them here.

Keep in mind that some of these files download as compressed (zipped) folders. After the zipped folder has downloaded, you have to right click it and click “extract all.” When the files are extracted, look for the actual font file (usually a .ttf file). Drag and drop that file into your system’s font folder (usually labeled “Fonts”). I added this folder to my “Favorites” in Windows Explorer for easy access.

If you are a part of the SBTS community and want more information about how to type in Greek and Hebrew, contact the Center for Student Success about the upcoming 1-day workshop “Word Processing for Biblical Studies.” It is currently scheduled for Friday, September 7, 1:00-3:00pm. It will be two hours long (1 hour, break, one hour), and those who attend will be split into two groups based on what operating system you use. I will be leading the workshop for the handful of you that use Windows computers; Jonathan Kiel will lead the workshop for Mac peeps. More info to come.

4Q174 and Isaiah 8:11

What value have the non-biblical Dead Sea Scrolls for the biblical scholar? The document linked below provides just one example.

While researching for a paper on Isaiah 8:11-22, I became quite captivated by a textual problem in Isaiah 8:11 (BHS 8:11 “b”). Working on this problem piqued within me an interest in the non-biblical Dead Sea Scrolls because though the quotation of Isaiah 8:11 in 4Q174 is not extant, the preceding lines are instructive as to how the author understood the phrase ויסרני. See the linked document for my explanation of how 4Q174 is relevant to our understanding of Isaiah 8:11. [UPDATE: DOC PULLED FOR A FULL REVISION] Here are a few lines of introduction to the issue:

The second half of verse 11 opens with a much disputed verbal form, וְיִסְּרֵנִי. As it is pointed in the MT, the verb should be read as a piel wəqatal from the verb יסר, “to admonish”… Nevertheless, there is support for reading סור, instead. If יִסְּרֵנִי is a piel wəqatal from יסר, the pointing is irregular… One witness that is not often brought to bear on this text critical problem is 4Q174 (4QFlorilegium)…

UPDATE 10/2012 – In the conclusion of this document I say that I think one should read a verbal form from the root סור. Shortly after posting this I changed my mind. I will soon post my updated “final report,” interacting with Dominique Barthélemy’s Critique textuelle de l’Ancien Testament.
ianwdavidson.squarespace.com/blog/2013/06/30/warning-or-turning-in-isaiah-8-11″>revised paper is available here.

Spring 2012 in Review

Spring 2012 was challenging to say the least. Here is where my head was from January through May:

Targumic Aramaic

There were about ten of us in this seminar. Last semester we went through Dr. Russell Fuller‘s outlines of Aramaic grammar and then read all of Aramaic in the Bible. This semester we read and compared several passages (Genesis 3-4:10; 6:1-9; 15:1-6; 22; Isaiah 6, 12, 19, 40; Song of Songs 1:1-3) in every language that we were able to read, focusing primarily on the relationship between the text of Targum Onqelos/Jonathan and BHS.

One of the highlights of my entire first year of PhD studies came during the class “discussion” over different linguistic methodologies. I know that is a vague description, but let’s leave it at that. It boiled down to Reggie Clark and I versus Dr. Fuller. Reggie and I walked away from this sparring match with plenty of bumps and bruises, but it was a blast. I’m so thankful Dr. Fuller was willing to hear us out and respond. I walk away from these two semesters with Dr. Fuller full of respect and gratitude for his presence at Southern.

On a side note, if you use Logos Bible Software and you can work with Aramaic, please go place your bid for their electronic edition of Jastrow. It has been stuck in Community Pricing limbo for quite a while. The edition pictured above is nice to have in print, but it would be really nice to have the Logos edition as well.

Isaiah: Hebrew Poetry, Textual Criticism, and Exegesis

The core of the class was reading Isaiah 1-27 and 53-55 and writing a 50 page exegesis paper. The highlight? Sitting with 5 or 6 other students packed inside Dr. Gentry’s office once a week, reading together, asking questions, and discussing problems in the text. The walls and most of the floor in his office are filled with the best books in the world (faximiles of manuscripts, DJD volumes, lexica, grammars, etc.). No question was off limits during this time. So thankful for Dr. Gentry’s patience and the hard work each of my colleagues put into this class.

Here are the three main books that were required reading:

I’ll put up at least a portion of my exegesis paper in an upcoming post. One of the biggest surprises from the semester was the interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls that was kindled during the my research for the  paper. More on that to come. (UPDATE 7/21/12: see this post)

Old Testament Colloquium

This semester Dr. Jim Hamilton chose for us to discuss the use of the Old Testament in 1 Enoch. It was my job to speak to the class about 1 Enoch 106-108. There were about 20 OT students and faculty present. John Meade, who was preparing to defend his dissertation at the time, and Jason Parry joined us for the day though neither of them were required to be there. I was very grateful for their attendance and the comments they made throughout the day. I hope when I am past the classwork phase I will remember how encouraging this was to me, set aside my own personal study, and attend colloquium as often as I can, as well.

Joseph Kelly started a lively discussion of the legitimacy of speaking of “literary dependence” between 1 Enoch and the OT. The conversation dominated most of his time, and I wish we  could have heard more of his actual presentation. Nevertheless, the interaction was very interesting and informative, and interaction with colleagues is what colloquium is all about. I’ll post my presentation notes soon. (UPDATE 7/19/12: see this post)

Until next semester

Over the summer I’ve been shoring up my understanding of Hebrew morphology by re-working through Dr. Fuller’s grammar and reading through a few comparative Semitic grammars in preparation for next semester. I am also learning to read German with April Wilson’s fantastic German Quickly. Prayers appreciated.