Friday, October 07, 2016

Word Magazine # 59: The En-Gedi Scroll and the Traditional Text of the Hebrew Bible

Image:  Close-up of image from En-Gedi Scroll 
with transliteration of Hebrew text from Leviticus 1:3.

I posted Word Magazine # 59:  The En-Gedi Scroll and the Traditional Text of the Hebrew Bible to

In this episode I discuss a recent NYT article announcing the use of new technology called “virtual unwrapping” by a computer scientist at the University of Kentucky, in conjunction with Hebrew Bible text critics in Israel, to reveal the text of a charred scroll discovered in 1970 in a synagogue at En-Gedi on the Western shore of the Dead Sea.  The now legible text is from the opening chapters of Leviticus and has been dated to c. A. D. 100-300.  Most striking is the fact that the text is “identical to those of the Masoretic text, the authoritative version of the Hebrew Bible and the one often used as the basis for translations of the Old Testament in the Hebrew Bible.”  It proves that the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible is an ancient text and was used from a very early time in the land of Israel.

Here is a video showing how the new technology works:

This article reminds us that text criticism involves not only the NT but also the OT.  Just as we advocate for the TR as the traditional text of the Greek NT, we also advocate for the Masoretic text of the Hebrew OT.

The Masoretic text has been challenged in modern times.  This can be seen in the way modern translations have tended to prefer renderings based on texts that vary from the Masoretic text.  Here are some examples from 1 Samuel:

Brief Survey of manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible:

Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, the oldest ms. of the Hebrew Bible was the Leningrad Codex (c. A. D. 1008).  It represents the Masoretic Text.

Scholars had been intrigued, however, by different readings in various versions, especially the Septuagint (LXX) and by the readings in the Samaritan Pentateuch.

When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 it demonstrated that textual diversity in the Hebrew Bible existed.  Most of the over 200 ms. followed the traditional text and so were deemed “proto-Masoretic.”  These included the Isaiah scroll.

A minority were similar to the Samaritan text (“pre-Samaritan”) and fewer still the Septuagint (“proto-LXX”).

All in all, it affirmed the Masoretic text’s antiquity and early predominance.

Brief Survey of Printed Hebrew Bibles:

Daniel Bomberg printed the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible in 1524-25.  This was the basis for Reformation translations.

David Christian Ginsberg published an edition of the Masoretic Text in 1894.  This is reprinted by the Trinitarian Bible Society.

BHK (1st ed.):  Rudolph Kittel published a Hebrew Bible based on Bomberg in 1906.

BHK (2nd ed.):  Second edition in 1913.

BHK (3rd ed.):  Kittel and Paul Kahle publish this edition based on the Leningrad Codex.

BHS (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia):  Karl Ellinger and Wilhelm Rudolph edited this edition in 1967 also based on the Leningrad Codex.  The fifth edition was printed in 1990.  It has become the standard modern critical or academic text for study of the Hebrew Bible (OT).

A Diplomatic rather than Eclectic Text:

It is noteworthy that the modern text of the Hebrew Bible is based on a “diplomatic text” (reprinting one ms.) rather than an eclectic text (one reconstructed from various mss.).  This is in contrast to the eclectic method of the modern critical Greek NT.

Modern reconstruction efforts of the Hebrew OT are evident in modern translations.

The unlocking of the En-Gedi Scroll, however, buttresses the antiquity and the authority of the traditional (Masoretic) text of the OT.


No comments: