Saturday, July 08, 2006

Isaiah 53:5: canon and text issues

A followup example for the text and canon question raised in a diferent post.
What would it mean to accept the MT as a canon?

I have a nice example for illustration. Most might follow the LXX in this example and would not think that the MT would need a footnote, even when going against the MT.

Isaiah 53:5 has an interesting reading in the MT uvaHavurato
ובחֲבֻרתוׂ 'and in his joining, in his group'.

Translations and even Hb lexica (!) will list this as "bruise, weal, wound, 'stripe'". However, in Hebrew that word would be uvaHabburato

I read the MT as distinct and different from the "wound" reading. Of course, the LXX and 1Pet read according to a "wound"-tradition: τω μωλωπι.

If I were reading an unvocalized text here, I would go with the "bruise, wound" reading, Habbura, like the LXX and 1 Peter.

However, I do not believe that that is the MT reading. If I were going to present the MT reading, I might translate as "we are healed in association with him".
I would happily footnote, even "demand" a footnote, along the lines of "we are healed by his wound, according to old Greek and a different vocalization of the Hebrew."

The point here in this post is that the MT is a distinct textual entity and should be respected on its own right. In addition, one may argue that this is a canon. It is certainly a canon within the synagogue.



  1. How do the Syriac and Vulgate read?

  2. shalom daniel,
    your questions are good ones, but on a different subject. whatever the syriac and vulgate read, they do not define the MT.
    The point is, do we want to represent the MT? and then, do we want the MT as canon, or something else? If something else, what then?

  3. I suppose that I'd be interested to know how one can be sure that Havurah does not mean 'his wound'.

  4. I'm glad for this question.
    How, why do we conclude that Havura is not 'wound'?
    because Habbura means 'wound' and Havura is not Habbura.
    Also, Havura is an attested word with a meaning company, group, joining. (Havur is in MT Hoshea, Havura shows up in the continuation of the language.)
    the massoretes were aware of these words, of course. they did not point Habbura.
    On the otherhand, one might propose that Havura is an (ancient?) dialectical variant of Habbura, but there is no evidence. zilch. are we happy with ignoring MT distinctions?

  5. Randall -

    You make a very good point here. I think the only other place in Isaiah the consonants are found is in 1:6. Here the Massoretes recognize the wounds of Israel and point accordingly: Habburah.

    Do you think the Massoretes intentionally changed the text here?

    Thanks for the insight.

    - John M