Monday, December 17, 2018

New Dissertation on the ‘Non-Aligned’ Dead Sea Scrolls

1QIsaa, col. XXXIII
Last month, Anthony Ferguson (recent PhD graduate from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) successfully defended his doctoral thesis entitled “A Comparison of the Non-Aligned Texts of Qumran to the Masoretic Text.” Russel Fuller, Peter Gentry, and Terry Betts were on his committee, and Emanuel Tov served as the external examiner of the thesis.

Thesis and Object of Study

Ferguson defined a non-aligned text according to Tov’s and others’ definition:
[A]s [texts] exhibiting the greatest amount of diversity because they are inconsistent in their agreement with the MT, LXX, and Samaritan Pentateuch while preserving unique readings (p. 1).
In his dissertation, Ferguson analyzed the following fifty-five texts and current scholarship on them, which Tov identified as non-aligned:
4Q10 (4QGenk), 2Q2 (2QExoda), 2Q3 (2QExodb), 4Q15 (4QExodd), 4Q16 (4QExode), 11Q1 (11QpaleoLeva), 11Q2 (11QLevb), 4Q29 (4QDeutb), 4Q30 (4QDeutc), 4Q35 (4QDeuth), 4Q37 (4QDeutj), 4Q38 (4QDeutk1), 4Q38a (4QDeutk2), 4Q40 (4QDeutm), 4Q41 (4QDeutn), 5Q1 (5QDeut), 4Q47 (4QJosha), 4Q49 (4QJuda), 6Q4 (6QpapKgs), 1QIsaa, 4Q57 (4QIsac), 4Q64 (4QIsak), 2Q13 (2QJer), 4Q73 (4QEzeka), 4Q76 (4QXIIa), 4Q78 (4QXIIc), 4Q79 (4QXIId), 4Q80 (4QXIIe), 4Q82 (4QXIIg), 4Q83 (4QPsa), 4Q84 (4QPsb), 4Q86 (4QPsd), 4Q87 (4QPse), 4Q88 (4QPsf), 4Q92 (4QPsk), 4Q93 (4QPsl), 4Q95 (4QPsn), 4Q98 (4QPsq), 4Q98a (4QPsr), 4Q98g (4QPsx), 11Q5 (11QPsa), 11Q6 (11QPsb), 11Q7 (11QPsc), 11Q8 (11QPsd), 4Q106 (4QCanta), 4Q107 (4QCantb), 6Q6 (6QCanta), 4Q109 (4QQoha), 4Q111 (4QLam), 4Q112 (4QDana), 4Q113 (4QDanb), 4Q114 (4QDanc), 4Q115 (4QDand), 6Q7 (6QpapDan), and 4Q118 (4QChron).

In the 606 pages of his dissertation, Ferguson went on to defend the following thesis:
Contrary to Emanuel Tov’s analysis that fifty-five texts from Qumran are exclusively identified as textually non-aligned, a more cautious analysis of each text demonstrates that once the few ambiguous texts are excluded from the category, the remaining texts can reasonably be explained as belonging to the Masoretic tradition (p. 3).
When it comes to determining a textual variant, Ferguson removes (1) reconstructed readings; that is, readings not actually visible in the material fragments but in reconstructions of them. In practice though, he entertains a few of the scholarly reconstructions but does not base much of them. (2) Partial reconstructions. (3) Spelling differences. (4) Kethiv Qere. These kinds of textual phenomena are discussed, but due to his qualitative approach (weighing not counting variants), Ferguson did not include them in his quantitative/statistical analysis.

After eliminating these types of variants, he groups the rest under three categories: (1) variants that do not necessitate any change in meaning (e.g. synonymous constructions and lexemes), (2) variants that can be reasonably explained as deriving from the MT although the readings are not synonymous with it (e.g. variants that offer slight change of perspective or meaning), and (3) variants that imply a meaning irreconcilable to the MT. Once these measures are taken, Ferguson concluded that the majority of these texts had high statistical agreement with MT-like texts (i.e. 90.00%–100.00%).

Conclusions and Implications

And the conclusions? Regarding the Pentateuch and the Prophets, he says:
Only two texts from the Pentateuch (i.e., 2Q2 and 4Q16) and three texts from the Prophets (i.e., 4Q47, 4Q49, 4Q64) exhibit a statistical relationship between 80 percent and 89.99 percent in the first set of statistics [Ferguson’s analysis of categories 1, 2, & 3]. In the second set of statistics [Ferguson’s analysis of categories 2 & 3], only one text aligns with the MT between 80 percent and 89.99 percent in the Pentateuch (i.e., 4Q16) and one from the Prophets (i.e., 4Q47). The only text to exhibit category 3 variants from the Pentateuch and the Prophets is 1QIsaa (p. 458).
Regarding the Writings, he says:
The writings exhibit a slightly different picture. In the first set of statistics, two texts align with the MT between 70 percent and 79.99 percent of their readings (i.e., 4Q98g and 4Q111), while eight texts align with the MT between 80 percent to 89.99 (i.e., 4Q83, 4Q86, 4Q88, 4Q92, 4Q95, 4Q106, 6Q6, 4Q109) percent of the readings. In the second set of statistics, the same two texts that aligned with the MT between 70 percent and 79.99 percent in the first set of statistics again align with the MT between 70 percent and 79.99 percent (i.e., 4Q98g and 4Q111). Two others align with the MT between 80 percent and 89.99 percent of the readings (i.e., 4Q92, 4Q95). Two texts preserve category 3 variants from the Writings: 11Q5 and 4Q111 (p. 459).
He offers an explanation for why the Psalms scrolls exhibit the features they do.

The final implication of his study is worthy of consideration:
Fifth, the theory that the OT text existed in a fluid state prior to the first century AD does not necessarily find support from those texts that Tov labels non-aligned. A diversity of readings is preserved in the non-aligned texts and a few scrolls can be interpreted in different ways (e.g., 11Q5), but this diversity does not necessitate textual fluidity. Rather, a goal of this study has been to demonstrate the reasonableness of a unity in the midst of the diversity: that unity being the MT. If one postulates the MT as the exemplar to each non-aligned text, then the differences among these texts can reasonably be ascribed to the scribal process with few exceptions (i.e., 4Q47, 4Q49, 4Q95, and 4Q98g). This approach demonstrates that the diversity of readings among the nonaligned texts does not necessarily indicate the absence of unity (p. 462).
I’ve not read the entire thesis yet, but Ferguson is to be commended for his work in this area. I’ve asked him to be a guest blogger for us so look for his post or two in the near future.


  1. Drew Longacre12/17/2018 2:18 pm

    Congratulations, Anthony! I look forward to reading it.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Congratulations Andrew! This dissertation looks to be a worthy read. I look forward to your "guest" Blog posts in the near future.

  4. Is this going to be published?

  5. Stephen, I'm not sure what Anthony's plan is. I hope he will pursue publication.

  6. Very Interesting. I'm curious what Tov's comments were in response.