Saturday, October 15, 2005
I suppose that one of the first things that any group that is seeking to define their own perspective does is to undertake a review of language. The question I have is about the language we generally use for textual criticism. Of course one must maintain a certain parity between one's own language and that of the wider scholarly community if one wants to dialogue with that community. At the same time, we also need to look critically at the vocabulary that is used to see whether it is the most helpful. My little challenge here is to see whether anyone can improve on the terms 'Septuagint' and 'Masoretic Text' (or 'Proto-Masoretic Text'). The problem with the term 'Septuagint' is that is probably gives to many minds the impression of a uniform translation and can often lead to fuzzy thinking about the whole 'Septuagint' as an authoritative entity in the first century AD. The second term, the 'Masoretic Text' strikes me as potentially problematic because its consonants were fixed well before the Masoretes, and the term might therefore give the impression of something formed later. Am I unique in finding these terms unsatisfactory? I can't yet think of better ones. I suppose that we could reserve 'Septuagint' for the Greek Pentateuch and then give names to the other translation groups within something like Rahlfs. We would then need a generic name for them all, preferably a plural. For the Proto-Masoretic Text I'd like something that observes a universal aspect of its spelling in which it differs from other Second Temple texts. Any ideas? Is this a blind alley?