Evangelical Textual Criticism

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Original Text, Canon, Editiorial Process

This week's discussion "Do we contribute to being misunderstood?" focused on terminological issues. A significant thread is submerged in that discussion that I would like to see addressed more directly. The issue of "edition", a.k.a. "publication", in connection with 'original' whatever, and both in connection with canon.

As is well known, there are editiorial notes in the Tora "e.g., "... up to this day". Even taking the most conservative view of the Tora minus one, that Moses wrote the "whole" Tora [the absolute most conservative would be that Moses wrote the Tora and prophesied the future annotations, too] we still have the question of "editions". Our Hebrew Bible editions include the annotations. Is the 'annotated' edition the "original"?
At the other end of the spectrum we have Jeremiah. We appear to have multiple editions (I don't think that textual criticism alone can adequately deal with this.)

To this we could inject a theological starting point, e.g., the words of Yeshua recorded acc. to Mt 5:18 'not one iota or projection will pass from the law' and John 10:35 'scripture cannot be broken'.

Was Yeshua claiming that the 'first edition' was recoverable in the first century down to the exact spelling? Or are we asking the wrong questions? Was he accepting a "canonical text"?

These are rather typical questions of boundaries. At what point does the text become, or stop becoming, "the original text". It may not be too different from defining 'person', or 'life'. At what point? Today most evangelicals tend toward 'conception' as the neat, logical way to define 'become alive'. Something similar is taking place with this 'inspired original' idea. It cannot be easily defined or linked to any one specific hard copy of a text. It is the 'inspired code', the message '(to be) written down', not the ink on any one parchment. Like DNA, it is the code, not any one set of molecules.

If multiple editions were not enough, the Hebrew Bible also raises the question of potential multiple readings. There are points of ambiguity in the unvocalized Hebrew text. Yes, it is true that someone fluently conversant with the language can read most of the text unambiguously. But there remain points of ambiguity. [A related, earlier blog on the Hebrew Bible is: Signficance of Hebrew Pointing]

Writing systems are not the issue here and the unvocalized Hebrew Bible can still include an authorical intention, an 'inspired code' that is only partially recorded in pre-Masoretic periods. That was part of the purpose of having readers in the synagogue with ten 'critics'. The received code remained true. (Ultimately, this was recorded in our MT.) The MT is part of what may be called 'the oral law'. That is part of the reason that the oral law and written law are entwined within Judaism. You can't have one without the other. (cf. Mt 23:3 'do and keep whatever they tell you'.)

Anyway, I think that the way to approach these questions is through bifurication. To posit an 'idealistic' viewpoint and a 'practical' viewpoint. Idealistically, we can posit that there was an official inspired edition, a.k.a. the autograph, the inspired code. [Hopefully, that wouldn't be a fourth revised draft that already included a misspelling or scribal elipsis. Though one could accomate this with an inspiration theory that stretches through various editions.] Practically, we can accept a canonical text that God has given us to orient our lives around.

The NT and OT are inverted here.

The NT 'idealistic' text is almost visable through our rich textual data. (It is visable but there are points of doubt on details and the question of multiple editions is not addressed and unrecoverable.) But the canonical text is less clear. Is it NA27, 28, WH, or the best Byzantine edition? (The Orthodox churches would choose the last item.) Does the canonical text change? Maybe. And as previous discussions on this blog attest, there is a temptation when only looking at the NT to equate the canonical text with the idealistic text.

For the OT, most text critics frankly admit that any 'original' is unrecoverable and that there were probably layers of editions that we cannot penetrate. The 'idealistic' can only be dreamed, though in faith we assume that the practical text sufficiently relates to this idealistic text. Ironically, the canonical text may be clearer than a NT "canonical text". The MT, if accepted as canoncial, is very very 'tight'. (More problems develop if either the LXX or other composites of Hebrew tradition are chosen for the canonical text.)

Where do evangelicals stand? Does the acceptance of a "canonical text", warts and all, help or hinder? (Maybe 'blog' format isn't suitable for this. Pls shorten or redirect as others wish.)

18 comments:

  1. I think that modern notions of logical positivism have skewed our understandings of inspiration.

    For me, I don't really care whether or not the later scribal in-text footnotes are inspired or not, or 100% accurate or not. It just doesn't seem to be a big issue. Especially if we acknowledge that we don't have and never will have an "idealized" version, then the point of arguing over such small things, while interesting, I think misses the heart of inspiration.

    The heart of inspiration is this: God, in certain times and places, gave special inspiration to certain individuals, usually authenticated through signs, to be able to write into the cannon. From then, we continually footnote and try to make sense of it, and perhaps there is a minor detail wrong here or there. But I think that is irrelevant from the main issue of inspiration, and that is a historical one of God giving special inspiration to writers that are authenticated by both the Church and by signs.

    As for which version of the OT, I am particularly partial to the LXX, being a little wary of a Hebrew text that is adopted when Jews were facing a crisis in front of the Christians and just so happened to adopt a text missing so many prooftexts of Christianity.

    I've heard, but don't have the information to verify, that the Qumran texts that are B.C. follow the Septuagint almost exactly, and only the later Qumran texts follow the Masoretic.

    Anyway, the historical situation leading to the Masoretic, combined with the fact that the apostles themselves used the LXX, leads me to favor the LXX over the Masoretic generally.

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  2. Crevo, what you heard about the Qumran mss is completely false. Both Isaiah scrolls from cave 1 are BC and both are closer to MT than LXX. IsaiahB is extremely close to the MT. And, while IsaiahA does differ from the MT more, and does have some agreements with the LXX, some people tend to pay more attention to it's divergences from the MT than it's overall closeness. The most sensational scroll as far as the LXX text is concerned is the 4Q Jeremiah B scroll, which does have some major agreements with the LXX, which in Jeremiah is quite different from the MT (at least apparently--but we only have a fairly small portion of it extant). But the same scroll also contains about as many agreements with the MT against the LXX as vice versa. And, if age is what you're after, the 4Q JeremiahA scroll is older (around 200 BC--one of the oldest of all); it is also much larger; and it follows the MT quite closely.

    If a person is really interested in the inspired words that came from the prophets themselves, I don't see how he could really favor the LXX, after all it is still only a translation (the exception to this may be in the case of Jeremiah where a person may sincerely believe the longer MT is secondary). Really the only good reason I could see from someone prefering the LXX is if they view it as a "canonical text" (I don't like this term-I'll post on that later). Someone might say that since it held favored status in the early church, we should choose it over the alternative text of the synagogue (which seems to be the heart of your argument). But, then why look particularly at that part of early Christianity that used the LXX? Why not the Vulgate, which established itself as the text of the church to a greater degree than the LXX ever had? You might say the LXX is to be chosen over the Vulgate because it was used by the apostles. And it's true that the NT sometimes quotes the LXX, but not always. There are alot of NT citations of Scripture that agree with the MT against the LXX (albeit in Greek, of course). And if you want to go back to the text of the apostles, why not go all the way back to the text of Jesus, which was the text of the synagogue (for that matter, I would guess that the synagogue text dominated among all first generation Christians of Palestine)?

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  3. I better clarify. The Greek text was used in certain Palestinian synagogues too at one time. There is even a tradition of a rabbi complaining that in Caesarea Maratima some recited the shema in Greek. But I gather that this was far from the norm. The evidence from Qumran (and Nahal Hever, etc.) would suggest that Hebrew was the norm for biblical scrolls and that most were close to the MT (see Tov's chart in his TC of the Hebrew Bible).

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  4. When Jesus talked about every iota of the Law in Mat 5:18, he was refering to the words themselves. If every single written copy of the Torah in every single edition of every single language were gathered up and destroyed, Jesus' claim would still be a true claim because he was talking about the immaterial things which are words. Granted, these are words which were known to Him and his audience via written transmission, on physical scrolls that they had either seen or (more likely) heard being read. And so they naturally did have something in mind that may have reflected the wording of what you or I might associate with a particular edition. But then, I'm not so sure that they had the same awareness and concern over textual variants that you and I do either. The fact that Qumran had variant editions of some books may suggest that they were comfortable with whatever Bible they could get their hands on.

    But if there is any one edition which most faithfully preserves the words of which every iota cannot be broken, isn't it likely that it must have been around in Jesus' own day? Shouldn't our goal in OT TC be to recover the Bible of Jesus, not the Bible of Moses or Maimonedes? Frankly, I think the MT is the best witness (or group of witnesses) we have for that edition anyway, so in practice you and I are pretty close. But as a hypothetical matter, if there is something identifiable in the MT that reflects editorial work done by the synagogue some time after the concrete division between Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism, then I don't see how we can accept it over the words which Jesus so revered.

    Also, when discussing this concept, can't we come up with a better term than "canonical text"? There is no such thing as a canonical text. The term "canon" refers to a delimitation of books, not to particular wordings within various copies of them. I realize that this is the term used by Brevard Childs in advocating ideas similar to what Buth expresses. But historically, that is not what the term "canon" has meant.

    There are alot of other better options:
    1) The term with the most historical weight is "received text" or in Latin "textus receptus." I can understand why this term is not acceptable because many (I think wrongly) think this term is the name for one particular edition of the Greek Bible, such as that of ERasmus or the text behind the KJV. This is too bad, because this term would be the best if not for being recently appropriated in this way.
    2) Letis opted for the term "Ecclesiastical Text." I like this. But for our discussion here it doesn't work because part of the question Buth has posed is precisely whether we should favor the OT text of the church (i.e. ecclesiastical), which may for some be the LXX, or the text of the synagogue. The latter option should not suffer the label "ecclesiastical".
    3) I suggest any of the following options as preferable to "canonical text": "traditional text," "authorized text," "established text," "the inspired form of the text" (the last may be too much of question begging though).

    This issue of definition is dealt with fairly thoroughly, and with appeal to a good number of dictionaries, in the chapter on definition in the book The Canon Debate.

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  5. maurice a robinson6:48 pm, September 28, 2006

    Buth: " ... though in faith we assume that the practical text sufficiently relates to this idealistic text."

    My question is whether such a statement simply opens matters up to mere fideism.

    For example, the KJV-only advocates do precisely the same when "in faith" they declare their otherwise evidence-less theological presupposition that the KJV represents the "only" accurate or authoritative written word of God in English.

    Others -- the Greek Othodox church in particular -- "in faith" equally claim the LXX to be the "practical text" that corresponds to the "idealistic text" (even in Jeremiah!).

    Some others perhaps will claim "in faith" that Ivan Panin's "numeric" Greek NT should be the final authority, even though his choices among variants depend more upon adding the numeric values of letters together and dividing by seven than anything otherwise representing textual criticism.

    So the question remains: can fideism be of any help in resolving text-critical problems? I suggest not.

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  6. MR:"So the question remains: can fideism be of any help in resolving text-critical problems? I suggest not."

    What is the basis of this suggestion? Is it not itself an axiom to TC that is based on faith--and thus self-defeating?

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  7. maurice a robinson7:25 pm, September 28, 2006

    Rowe: "What is the basis of this suggestion? Is it not itself an axiom to TC that is based on faith--and thus self-defeating?"

    Perhaps this is one of the reasons why W-H avoided any presumed appeal to inspiration or its theoretical consequences when writing their Introduction volume.

    Their appeal (as well as my own) is primarily to the evidence that we have available, and to a scientific approach toward the evaluation of that evidence -- a process which fideism normally eschews.

    Where our particular interpretations of that evidence might differ, there is no fideistic solution that will of itself satisfactorily resolve the matter.

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  8. Eric, I really appreciate your discussion above on the term “canonical text.” It seems the more I learn about the transmission of the Bible in all its various forms, the harder it gets for me to give good definitions for some of the terms used in such discussions. Two of the toughest to define for me currently are “canonical text” and “original text.” The meaning of these terms seems so important, yet so elusive. Maybe that’s the attraction of TC for me; it forces me to wrestle with things I wouldn’t have to otherwise. I love Karen Jobes’s comment in the preface to Invitation to the Septuagint where she describes a doctoral class she took with Moisés Silva on the LXX. She says, “So many of my naive assumptions about texts, manuscripts, and the Scriptures I hold dear were quickly shattered.”

    In any case, discussions like this are wonderful for young students like me who are just discovering the tip of the iceberg that is the history of the Bible we hold dear. Thanks for providing this forum for discussion. It is a blessing.

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  9. Eric wrote:
    >... Shouldn't our goal in OT TC be to recover the Bible of Jesus, not the Bible of Moses or Maimonedes?

    That is an interesting line, because it explicitly states OT TC is not interested in the "autographs"!
    I like your style. Of course, this can become a "slippery road" that may lead to the MT! (last line is meant both humorously and seriously.)

    eric wrote
    > ... But as a hypothetical matter, if there is something identifiable in the MT that reflects editorial work done by the synagogue some time after the concrete division between Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism, then I don't see how we can accept it over the words which Jesus so revered.>

    Do you have any examples?
    I would really like one or two, in order to ponder the weight of this possibility.
    (It sounds reminiscent of ancient church accusations. It might be a nice project for someone to collect these ancient "disputable texts" and via Qumran at least put the textually resolvable ones to rest.)

    Eric wrote:
    >Also, when discussing this concept, can't we come up with a better term than "canonical text"? ...
    There are alot of other better options:
    ...
    3) I suggest any of the following options as preferable to "canonical text": "traditional text," "authorized text," "established text," "the inspired form of the text" (the last may be too much of question begging though).>

    RB: I am happy with most of these. For the Hebrew Bible these would/could all refer primarily to the MT. I only added "canonical" to help Christians pose the question within the context of the Church.
    And of course, we need to live with a real/authoritative text whatever the 'ideal code' was.

    As I've mentioned, I consider the MT to be the most stable, reliable Hebrew eclectic text (they even preserved known mistakes, and recorded tiqqune soferim) and am more open on the NT, currently changing from edition to edition of NA :-).

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  10. Maurice wrote
    >...So the question remains: can fideism be of any help in resolving text-critical problems? I suggest not.>

    I would agree. 100%. Faith only enters when connecting the 'canonical' text to the 'ideal original code'.

    You will note Eric's comments above that he is interested in Jesus' Bible, not Moses' (nor, presumably, Isaiah's, or Ezra's). With the OT there is a substantial gap between the 'recoverable text' and 'original'.

    Recognizing the relative closeness of the 'recoverable text' to the MT versus the relatively larger gap between the 'recoverable text' and the 'original', I am happy to live with the MT as my 'canonical' text (I still don't have a satisfactory name for this).

    There is also a valid point in the relative stability of MT over the fluctuations in any 'recovered text'. I think the non-Hebrew using Church could live quite well with translating the MT in the main text and footnoting probable 'recoverable texts'. In a sense this mimics the current practice of the so-called critical editions of the Hebrew Bible, whether BHS or the Hebrew Bible project (due out this century, pending funding).

    From your perspective, that might mean that the 'MT main text' of a Hebrew Bible (or translation thereof) is a 'faith' position (but remarkably well-documented!), and the footnotes would be "evidence, just the TC evidence" (yet remarkably more subjective in outcome). Ironic in my eyes.

    Of course, bottom line is that TC is done on the evidence. Period.

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  11. I don't have an example of a passage that was clearly changed by the Masoretes. And that's the main reason why I am very comfortable with the MT; the Masoretes were great at what they did. But it's because of the quality of the MT as a witness to the Bible of Jesus, not because I choose to give the Masoretes authority to determine the canon a priori. The reason I am not after the Bible of Moses is because, even in the Torah, there are significant differences between what belongs to that Law of which no iota pass and whatever it may be that Moses wrote. We're not just talking about a few phrases, "until this day." We at least have the entire final chapter of Deuteronomy and several other full paragraphs (though I fully accept that everything in it actually attributed to Moses must have come from him). This situation does not hold with the prophets. All 66 chapters of Isaiah are attributed to him. Either they are authentic and should be accepted, or some of them are not, and should be rejected. Jesus accepted all 66 chapters as Divinely inspired and Isaianic; so I'm in good company when I do the same. But, given that starting point, I am after the inspired words that came from the prophet Isaiah.

    Also, while I can't charge the Masoretes with transmitting something that only arose after the division between Church and Synagogue, I can charge them with transmitting something false, which can be improved through comparison in light of the DSS. The MT (along with the LXX) has failed to transmit an entire paragraph at the beginning of 1 Samuel 11. It exists in 1 SamuelA. It existed in Josephus's Bible. The internal evidence in its favor is a homerun. So we should accept this long reading against the MT. (I've commented on this before and PJ strongly disagrees. So I'm sure the burden will be on me to present something with more evidence some time, unfortunately not today).

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  12. Thanks, Randall. I think that the term 'original' is useless for discussion of OT.

    We need to distinguish between 'inspired' and 'canonical'. If canonical means authoritative then all canonical text must be inspired, but it does not follow that all inspired text must be canonical.

    Many prophecies of Elijah may have been inspired, but it also appears that God had no intention of giving them as part of the canon for later generations.

    If we think of the Pentateuch, whether we allow for large- or only small-scale post-Mosaica, it was probably 'inspired' through all its phases, but only canonical when the final text that God intended for future generations was reached.

    I would say therefore that for the OT we are looking for the final inspired text. If earlier forms should turn up they are interesting, but should not replace the final text.

    To be 'inspired' text it must be able to be the product of God's action such that God may be said to be author of the words. But such text cannot be produced for ever. At some stage merely human scribal transmission takes over, and Christians and Jews generally appeal only to secondary divine causation (see Bill Combs on Preservation) to describe what is going on.

    Of course, I am talking in dogmatic terms here. One would need to see whether dogma and empirical data correlate.

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  13. This issue of the final inspired form of the text--excluding both the preliminary (also inspired, but not final)forms that preceeded it, as well as the later forms that exhibit non-inspired changes by scribes, editors, and would-be-authors--is very important.

    This is no mere academic clarification, particularly with the Torah. I think a high view of Scripture demands that a major part of it did come from Moses. While some might call this early prophetic work a mere source of our Torah, it could also have been the very kernel on which the rest is built--the first edition if you will. Surely, this irrecoverable work is not our goal. We should not excise the inspired end of Deuteronomy or any other inspired parts of the final Torah.

    On the other hand, the process of editorial work on the Torah went on for very long, and it can be hard to know where exactly it ends and something else begins. The edition of the Torah now used by the Samaritans is the result of dogmatic editing in the 2nd Temple period. We should reject their edition because Jesus did (John 4). However, at Qumran there is a version of the Torah so highly editted that it is considered a different work altogether, commonly called the Reworked Penteteuch (perhaps analogous to what the Diatessaron is to the 4 Gospel Codex). This work also reflects a later stage of editting that I assume evangelicals will not consider our goal. This too, was not the Torah of Jesus. An extreme case might even go so far as to mention the book of Jubilees here, another version of Torah we can reject as we can safely say that Jesus followed the same calendar for festival dates as the Temple authorities did.

    And, yes, of course we have no choice but to be dogmatic at this stage of determining our goals (the very term "canonical text" betrays a theological concern, not just an evidential one). The truth is, all text critics begin their work guided by their dogma, including Burgon, Ehrman, and everyone in between.

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  14. I think we need to allow a period between the 'final inspired OT text' and the NT. This is a period when it was often perceived amongst Jews that prophecy in some sense had ceased, when 'rewritten' biblical texts, and parabiblical texts appeared, and probably also when sectarian Samaritan variants arose. We also need to work this notion out in more detail.

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  15. PJW:
    >
    ... I would say therefore that for the OT we are looking for the final inspired text. If earlier forms should turn up they are interesting, but should not replace the final text.
    >

    and Eric:
    >
    ...On the other hand, the process of editorial work on the Torah went on for very long, and it can be hard to know where exactly it ends and something else begins. ...
    And, yes, of course we have no choice but to be dogmatic at this stage of determining our goals (the very term "canonical text" betrays a theological concern, not just an evidential one).
    >

    Here, we are finally talking about the issues and problem. There is a substantial gap between what we can reconstruct and whatever/wherever was the 'final inspired text'. The growth processes were active throughout the first and second temple in various 'canonical' and 'non-canonical' forms, a veritable slippery slope. And yes, it is only a faith community that wants a 'canon'. We can consider a solution after mixing in one more issue.

    As for the charge that the MT passed on something 'false', this cuts the other way, too. First, except for the famous 18 tiqunne soferim, the "proto-MT" did not theologically edit the text. I do not like to hear theological bias charges brought against someone or a group without evidence. It can be a kind of historical slander.
    Secondly, that supposed 'falseness' is actually evidence of faithful, "evidential" TC praxis.

    Apparently around the time of Jesus there was a very conservative 'tight' Hebrew text. An effort was made to preserve "the best text", but at the same time, no emendations were allowed. They did not feel justified in producing a wide ranging eclectic text, adding a nice reading here and a nice reading there. That was the very process that was threatening the 'tight' text! Much of what we see collected at Qumran is a process of producing 'smooth' texts. The protoMT was the opposite process, preserving the best, non-subjective, attested, 'evidential' text that they could. And the sometimes-tongue-in-cheek midrashic exegetical comments "don't read A, read B" show that there was an accepted traditional reading of these texts from close to the same period.

    From an earlier blog DBuck wrote that PJW wrote
    >> "That's why if editing 1 Samuel 13:1 I would simply preserve MT."
    [DB continued-RB]
    'Saul was a year old when he became king, and he reigned two years over Israel'

    You'd be the first one to put it in print without even a footnote to provide conjectures based on Acts 13:21 and a marginal reading in Josephus.>>

    I agree with PJWilliams here. It's the best text that we have. It is arguably Jesus' Bible, though that still leaves plenty of room for expanded and historicizing exegesis>>midrash.
    More importantly, DBuck is inverted in the charge of 'novelism'. While it may be true that current English versions do not translate 1Sm 13:1 MT as is, it is the only Hebrew text, published all over the world for a millenium, no footnote. If Jesus could live with it, the Masoretes could live with it, and millions of users throughout the centuries could live it, I can live with it. (Aside: I am happy with footnotes, just not changing the text.) It puts some challenge in our reading and in our grappeling with God's word in our lives. It brings uncertainty. It is my canonical text.

    Yes, that last line is a faith-community statement. And yes, it comes from the synagogue. But only because the church pretty much dropped the Hebrew Bible after the the great rebellion in the first century. We should be in bonded gratitude to the Masoretes. "They" preserved what "we" abandoned or at least neglected.

    Qumran allows us to better understand the process, it also allows people to conjecture earlier readings here and there, but it cannot substitute for the MT. That is why I speak of a dual viewpoint, a bifurication, a canonical text and an 'ideal code'.

    An unintended example of this interesting kind of equalibrium is the Bible Societies HOTTP Hebrew Old Testament Text Project. Committee notes were produced 30 years ago. They probably dropped 90% of popular "solutions" to OT text problems, returning to the MT. But there is no rush to produce an eclectic Hebrew text. Such a text would be philologically poorer than the MT, reflecting the editorial choices of moderns with much less skill in Hebrew than the MT scribes (people arn't aware of how poorly many modern text critics control this language), lacking the te`amim, subjectively changing every year. (You will note that the Hebrew University Bible project does not substitute or restore an eclectic text.)

    The MT is an achievement that will endure, and it will at least remain canonical for the synagogue. If I may be permitted the anachronism, I think that Jesus would recognize it as his Bible.

    I think that English Bibles would benefit from this situation and bring the churches closer to biblical reality if they would translate the MT and only footnote any desired textual proposals. (By all means include the footnotes as footnotes, what do you think was going on in the first century with afternoon Tora discussions and the various 'smooth' traditions?)

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  16. Randall, we need to give the MT the respect it deserves for the reasons you have outlined. It certainly does faithfully preserve a text that was used in the 2nd Temple. And we certainly have no hope for producing a standard ecclectic OT text that has as its goal some long lost original with textual and redactional criticisms mixing together in its decisions. But it seems to me that we can give it this respect without declaring that it can never be improved. We can approach the OT with the MT as our default text together with a set of conservative principles that allow for it to be adjusted to accomodate textual evidence from non-Masoretic sources.
    I know it's premature to cite 1 Samuel 11 as an example, since I may be the only one here who thinks the long reading preserved at Qumran is the primary reading. But let me ask hypothetically, if you could be convinced that the extra paragraph there is primary, why wouldn't you consider it an improvement on the MT to include this paragraph in our Bibles?

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  17. Eric
    >I know it's premature to cite 1 Samuel 11 as an example, since I may be the only one here who thinks the long reading preserved at Qumran is the primary reading. But let me ask hypothetically, if you could be convinced that the extra paragraph there is primary, why wouldn't you consider it an improvement on the MT to include this paragraph in our Bibles?>

    I think this passage might be part of Tsipi Talshir's monograph on another recension (don't have my library with me, not even BHS). I don't remember. By all means, footnote this paragraph. There are lots of potential improvements on the MT, but they are not the MT and were not part of the tightest first century text. I tend toward 'both and' -- once we have our anchors and parameters delineated.

    This may be similar to the text of Acts in the GNT. I am very allergic to accepting Bezan readings into the "text" of alef-A-B in Acts, even when they may reflect better information. Once someone sees them as stemming from two different processes, it is hard to use one to edit the other. Having said that, I don't want to lose dear old D. I think we should footnote D, and footnote Qumran.

    A side question that I sometimes wonder about concerns the layer of language to footnote.

    I would probably be inclined to impose a masoretic niqqud on the Qumran footnote, if only to help modern readers. (Yes, even over obviously dialectally divergeant Hebrew or non-masoretic spellings. Let the reader know in the intro what is happening.) Likewise, and similarly, we should add accents and punctuation to Greek readings, perhaps preserving original itacisms in a smaller fontsize. If and when I can fluently converse with trained readers, in Hebrew and ancient Greek, I would be happy to drop such scaffolding. Let's just say that I don't see that happening for very many this generation. So I vote for Hebrew niqqud and Greek accents in footnotes.

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  18. Thanks Randall, I feel like I'm pretty close to where you are now. But I still want to quibble with what might be a pretty major point to your position.

    You say, "There are lots of potential improvements on the MT, but they are not the MT and were not part of the tightest first century text."

    When you call the MT (or the proto-MT) the tightest first-century text, that implies (I think) that scribes of the first century and before kept text-types for their scrolls of the Hebrew Bible separate. It is possible that this happened (after all the actual mss we have from that time come from a fairly limitted array of the variety of Jewish groups that then existed). But this idea that scribes consciously kept their text-types separate doesn't jive too well with the evidence we do have. At Qumran it appears that they had differing texts side-by-side, allowing the texts to mix with one another freely. The fact that one type of text went on to be standardized as the MT doesn't require that it was so well distinguished from the others as far back as the first century.

    And we must be cautious when we evaluate this paradigm not to group all books of the OT together, as though the text-types evidenced for one must be the same across the board. There are some books for which the text that Tov calls proto-MT was the only text that existed. There are others (like Samuel) where greater variety existed. While I can agree with the possibility that the proto-MT was already the tightest form for every book, I don't see it as proven to the point that we can make it an axiom in our decision making.

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