Monday, July 13, 2009

Williamson on the Oxford Hebrew Bible

Hugh Williamson has an interesting article on the Oxford Hebrew Bible—a proposal to produce an eclectic text of the Hebrew Bible (rather than the more customary diplomatic edition). It also offers a general update on other Hebrew Bible projects. His conclusion: a detailed textual commentary would be of more scholarly value and usefulness than a new edition.

H.G.M. Williamson, ‘Do We Need A New Bible? Reflections on the Proposed Oxford Hebrew Bible’ Biblica 90.2 (2009), 153-175


  1. Sounds interesting indeed, but I couldn't get further than the abstract. Clicking on "access article" got me a blank page.

  2. Really? I go straight to the pdf. Try going here: and then click on the pdf/file icon.

  3. Exactly what I did to get to the abstract. But for some reason the pdf file icon doesn't work for me. For some articles in the list it works, for some it doesn't. Am I the only one having this trouble?

  4. "And so what we find is that we effectively have a reprint of Leningradensis but that where for good reason a variant reading or emendation is preferred, the word or words appear in an unvocalized form.
    "Apart from obvious possible objections that this results in a totally un-unified text, which seems contrary to the very notion of a critical edition, I believe that more fundamentally it glosses over serious issues which arise from the fact that the so-called copy-text is itself the
    combination of linguistic levels that are as much as a millennium apart." –p. 165

    On the one hand, printed editions of the OT and NT differ markedly in that while the OT editions are based a single medieval ms, basing a printed edition of the NT on a single medieval would not even be considered by the typical TC scholar. Even the famed Textus Receptus was compiled from only about half a dozen different mss, but representing all of three different subfamilies: Kx, Kr, and Ieta. Beza's edition added at least one more ms from another textual family, Ialpha.

    On the other hand, NT printed editions are far from free of anachronistic tendencies corresponding to the one noted in the above quote. For instance, even though uncial mss are the supposed base for the new received text, it is nonetheless set forth in punctuated minuscule, following capitalization rules that didn't even yet exist in medieval times. Thus from one printed edition to another, Romans 16:7 was changed from one form of IOUNIAN not found in any ancient ms to another, with the very medieval mss which had actually supplied both variants of punctuation not being allowed to provide testimony for either side of the change.

  5. "...we find that the column purporting to have the Hebrew Vorlage of the Greek text is printed, wherever it runs parallel with MT (which is mostly the case), as a fully vocalized and punctuated text. Only those words or phrases which are judged to differ from MT are printed unpointed. This policy seems to me to be grossly irresponsible. Not only does it fall foul of all the remarks already made above about the problems of confusing two historical levels within the text, but in this case it further compounds the problem by presenting a text which we know simply never existed." –p. 169

    We see a similar problem in the Critical Apparatus of the typical NT edition. Versional citations are given, not in their own respective languages, but in the reconstructed Greek Vorlage. As recent studies especially in Syriac have borne out, differences in the versions are very often translational differences and not textual differences, so in many cases a vorlage is being reconstructed that never did exist.

    I'm glad to have recently noticed a tendency to at least give the Latin variants in their original language (though not in the original orthography).

  6. OK, I finally solved my problem by resetting the viewing magnification. I must have some software incompatibility, perhaps due to moving to a new version of Acrobat Reader. Sorry!

  7. In one sense, the MT already is our best eclectic text, though compiled over a thousand year period and with principles that are now deduced from the result rather than stipulated from the beginning. As such it could deserve the status of 'canon', a discussion that we had on this forum in a couple of threads in the past.

    See "Do we really want an eclectic Hebrew Bible?" and the more diverging "Does Pointing Matter?", among other threads. Those could be updated.