Textual Growth in Isaiah 40:7-8? (Part 1)

This series of posts may be too ambitious for a blog, but I hope to present some of the key issues and the scholars involved with this textual problem and the other significant textual problems in Isaiah generally. I will present the texts in this post and the two theories used to explain the textual situation. In a second post, I will present the interpretation of Eugene Ulrich, “The Developmental Composition of the Book of Isaiah: Light from 1QIsaa on Additions in the MT,” Dead Sea Discoveries 8,3 (2001): 288-305. In a third post, I want to convey some of the main ideas in a recent article by Drew Longacre, “Developmental Stage, Scribal Lapse, or Physical Defect? 1QIsaa’s Damaged Exemplar for Isaiah Chapters 34-66,” Dead Sea Discoveries 20 (2013): 17-50. In a fourth post, I will offer my own conclusion to this textual problem. These texts are the most relevant to this problem but I will comment on all of the evidence in post four.

MT:  יָבֵ֤שׁ חָצִיר֙ נָ֣בֵֽל צִ֔יץ כִּ֛י ר֥וּחַ יְהוָ֖ה נָ֣שְׁבָה בֹּ֑ו אָכֵ֥ן חָצִ֖יר הָעָֽם ׃יָבֵ֥שׁ חָצִ֖יר נָ֣בֵֽל צִ֑יץ וּדְבַר־אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יָק֥וּם לְעֹולָֽם׃ ס. The text in red is what is under consideration.

NRSV: The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.

LXX: ἐξηράνθη ὁ χόρτος, καὶ τὸ ἄνθος ἐξέπεσεν, […] τὸ δὲ ῥῆμα τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.

NETS: The grass has withered, and the flower has fallen, […] but the word of our God remains forever.

1QIsaa: יבשׁ חציר נבל ציצ כי רוח ֑֑֑֑ נשׁבה בוא הכן חציר העם יבשׁ חציל נבל ציצ ודבר אלהינו יקום לעולם. The text in red represents a later addition to this text, perhaps written in a different handwriting by a later scribe. I provide the image from the manuscript (see here for the whole digital scroll).


As one can see, the Masoretic text is longer than the text of the LXX. Furthermore, 1QIsaa has an interesting and perhaps a mixed text. The image above shows that originally 1QIsaa had a shorter text similar to the LXX and that another hand added the longer reading of MT above the line and then continued the longer text down the left margin.

In order to describe this text and the factors involved one needs a theory which can explain these kinds of problems. Currently, the two theories on this problem and others like them are (1) 1QIsaa represents the shorter original and MT represents a growing and expanding text of Isaiah and (2) 1QIsaa and LXX represent a text that became shorter by a scribal error during the transmission of the longer text. In addition to a theory, one also needs an understanding of the character of these textual witnesses in order to describe the factors involved. For example, (1) would need to show that 1QIsaa usually has a shorter text than MT and the reason for MT’s longer text is due to intentional scribal additions. (2) would need to show that an unintentional scribal error is probable in 1QIsaa and would have to supply an equally probable solution for the rest of the shorter texts in that manuscript. In other words, a global knowledge of the textual character of 1QIsaa combined with a theory of its transmission is prerequisite to deciding between the two theories.

As we unpack this problem, I want to keep an eye on the theory which most simply explains the difference between these texts. Both theories are plausible from the outset, but which one will offer the simpler solution in the final analysis?


Upcoming IOSCS in Munich

A light post for the weekend. The congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) meets August 1-3 in Munich. The program is posted here. The complete list of abstracts is here.

I will be presenting a paper for the section on manuscripts. I post the abstract below. I also want to highlight other papers to be presented. Natia Dundua is presenting a paper on the Old Georgian of Ecclesiastes, “The Textual Value of the Old Georgian Version of Ecclesiastes.” Here is the abstract:

Ecclesiastes will be the first Göttingen Volume for which the Old Georgian Version was collated as a daughter version. Our paper briefly describes the task of collating this version and an assessment of these data for the history of the textual transmission of the Greek Ecclesiastes.

Amazing that Ecclesiastes will be the first edition to include this version. I look forward to learning about the textual character of this version.

My presentation will be on the significance of manuscript RA 788 for a a critical edition of the Hexaplaric Fragments of Job. Here is the abstract:

Ra 788 (Tyrnavos 25) is a tenth century Greek catena manuscript containing the book of Job and the three Solomonic books. Dieter and Ursula Hagedorn were not aware of it and therefore it was not included in their magisterial work Die Älteren Griechischen Katenen zum Buch Hiob or the Nachlese. Before commenting on the hexaplaric fragments, it is necessary to determine the manuscript’s place in the stemma. This paper seeks to show that 788 is a member of oldest Greek catena (Hagedorns’ Γʹ) and in particular that it is the ancestor of the important ms 250. Once its place in the manuscript stemma has been determined, the paper will comment on the significant hexaplaric fragments within the manuscript in comparison with the recent dissertations on the hexaplaric fragments of Job by Nancy Woods and John Meade.

Comments on “Multiple Originals” by Gary D. Martin (part 1)

[Caveat: the following is not a review since I am not attempting to summarize the book. I’m simply recording some of the more salient points in the book and I hope to interact with them.]

Multiple Originals: New Approaches to Hebrew Bible Textual Criticism by Gary D. Martin (SBL, 2010) is one of the most recent monographs treating methodologies of text criticism of the Hebrew Bible. As the title suggests, Martin does not find the search for the Urtext or original text of the Hebrew Bible as the proper goal of text criticism. He concludes chapter one, “In Search of the Original,” with a paragraph containing massive implications:

In recent years, at both scholarly conventions and in published works on textual issues of the Hebrew Bible and its versions, the term “fluidity” has become a household expression. To what extent are the texts fluid, and what does one do with such a preponderance of fluid texts? These questions have become the current focus for textual critics of the Hebrew Bible. There is much work to do in moving forward with the mass of new textual data at our disposal. Scholars are increasingly less inclined to look to the past for answers. If a trifaria varietas ever existed, it is no longer evident, and is therefore no longer a useful model for the analysis of extant manuscripts. Perhaps, however, the earliest testimony [Letter of Aristeas, Prologue to Sirach] I have examined in regard to the state of our texts, taken at face value, tell us that the situation we face now is as they described it then. Aristeas said manuscripts had been “carelessly copied” [ἀμελέστερον σεσήμανται Arist. 30-31a] and Ben Sirach was concerned that translations often miss the sense of the original. Removing the pejorative adverb “carelessly,” the implication is that there were a variety of biblical Hebrew texts in circulation. Aristeas sees that as a problem to be resolved. For the most part, modern textual critics agree, although their numbers are diminishing.

It seems to me that although Aristeas acknowledges that Hebrew mss have been copied carelessly so that in his day there were differing texts, he also acknowledges that this resulted from “carelessness” in transcription, not multiple originals. Martin has a difficult way forward if he is to show that the texts of the Hebrew Bible resulted from anything more than carelessness or translation technique deviating from the original text (difficult to define, but I favor the final canonical form of the text for my definition. See here and here for my view of the closed canon.). I doubt “multiple originals” can account for the evidence with the simplest explanation, but I will continue to give Martin a fair reading.

I will interact next with his chapter 4, “Split Visual-Aural/Oral Tradition in the Song of Songs,” which will occupy a couple of posts at least.

TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, Relaunched

On the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, Tommy Wasserman has announced that TC has been relaunched. This journal is a peer-reviewed, electronic journal, and an on-line publication of the SBL, which is  listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. See the post here for all of the details.

I’m excited about this announcement, since hopefully, the journal will continue to publicize the results of scholarly study of the biblical text and the history of its transmission. It should continue to advance knowledge in a much disputed field of study.

My only *gripe* is that there is not a Septuagintalist or a Hebrew Bible text critic among the editors. There are scholars of these stripes on the editorial board of course, but for a journal which claims to be one of “Biblical Textual Criticism,” it would have been nice to have had an OT/LXX scholar among the editors.

This is minor complaint, but one I thought should be registered.

SBL on Faith and Reason or Upholding “Critical” Standards


I’m too much of a coward to post an official comment on the SBL site regarding this current issue in the life of the SBL, but I will post a few observations on my own blog :). For those who do not know to what I refer, see the following link, which is SBL’s initial summary and response to the claims of Ron Hendel that the SBL has lost its way and it no longer seeks to be a society steered by its critical aims: http://www.sbl-site.org/membership/farewell.aspx.

Hendel’s letter has caused quite a stir among many in the SBL, some sympathetic and many not so. I’m only a student member of the SBL, so I realize that I have little clout here, but since Hendel is suggesting that the SBL has diluted its critical standards and now there is a discussion of making more strict the standards of membership (e.g. the work of students may come under tougher scrutiny), perhaps a student member’s response is appropriate. I want to respond to the “dilution of standards” as it affects student participation and the charges of “proselytizing.” Continue reading “SBL on Faith and Reason or Upholding “Critical” Standards”