Tag Archives: Textual criticism

Scribal Transpositions in the Biblical Text May Indicate Changes in Theology

By Ville Mäkipelto, Timo Tekoniemi, and Miika Tucker

Many texts in the Bible have been preserved in manuscripts that hold different sequences for the same texts. These differences are due to the ancient scribal practice of transposing textual units during the copying of texts. Our collaborative article concludes that these transpositions were often motivated by changes in the ideology and theology of the scribes and their communities. 

Our article presents a text-critical study of three documented cases of large-scale transpositions in the textual witnesses to the Hebrew Bible. The method used by scribes to transpose textual units was either by swapping two adjacent units with each other or by relocating a single unit into an entirely different location in the text. Transpositions would often create textual discrepancies at the seams of the intrusion. Sometimes these were left to be, but sometimes they occasioned a series of compensatory revisions to smoothen out the rough edges left in the text. The transpositions vary in their length and nature, but all are in some way related to theological reasons.  

The book of Joshua preserves a tradition which claims that, after the conquest of the city of Ai, Joshua built an altar at Mt. Ebal and undertook a ritual reading of the law with the Israelites (Josh 8:30–35). The position of this tradition after the destruction of Ai is due to secondary swapping of the text with the following verses (Josh 9:1–2). It can be shown from textual details that, in the last centuries BCE, theologically motivated rewriting took place behind the Hebrew textual tradition that is now usually held as the authoritative Hebrew Bible (Masoretic text = MT). The swapping was likely related to this rewriting motivated by the growing importance attributed to Gilgal as the central camp of Joshua and the wish to present the capture of Ai as a more divinely led campaign. The earlier sequence is preserved by the Septuagint (LXX). Moreover, in one Qumran scroll parts of the text are transposed earlier in the narrative of Joshua in order to fulfill commandments found in the book of Deuteronomy. 

In 1 Kings, the relocating transposition of the regnal narrative of Judah’s pious king Jehoshaphat (22:41-51 MT/16:28a-h LXX) has incited debate for over a century. While many have noted that the transposition is linked to chronological changes between the two versions, less attention has been given to the theological changes this relocation reflects. In 2 Kgs 3:14 there is a remarkable difference between the LXX and MT editions concerning the name of the Judahite king, whom the prophet Elisha is said to “hold in high regard.” In MT this king of Judah is the unproblematic Jehoshaphat, but in the original LXX this king is the evil Ahazyah, grandson of Ahab (2 Kgs 8:18). It is likely that this theologically awkward LXX reading was noticed by a reviser behind MT, who saw it as inapproppriate for a revered prophet and pupil of Elijah, the greatest prophet of all time, to respect an evil king. However, since in the more original LXX chronology Jehoshaphat dies already before the story told in 2 Kgs 3, the later reviser was forced to also move Jehoshaphat’s reign closer to this story.  

The relocating transposition of the oracles against the nations (OAN) in Jeremiah from the middle of the book (LXX) to the end (MT) reflects a shift in the text towards a more favorable outlook for the exiled community of Judean refugees in Babylon. The sequence of texts in the LXX ends dismally for the Judean refugees: Jerusalem is destroyed and its people exiled; The remaining refugees flee to Egypt against the will of YHWH, who subsequently condemns them; And finally the book ends with another retelling of the destruction of Jerusalem. By transposing the OAN to the end of the book, the MT shifts the focus away from the condemnation of the Judeans towards the condemnation of the other nations. The oracle against Babylon assumes a climactic role in the text that hightens expectations for the salvation of Israel and the demise of its conqueror. The relocation of the oracles from the middle of the book to its end has brought about a series of compensatory revisions. The most obvious of these is Jer 25:14 in the MT, which stands as a “patch” in the place where the OAN used to be located. Other such revisions are found both in Jer 25 and within the OAN themselves. 

“Transposition was one of the key editorial techniques in the repertoire of the creative ancient Jewish scribes.”

As shown by the article, scribal interventions have left their traces in the variant manuscript traditions witnessing to the many books of the Hebrew Bible. By studying these traces carefully, we can gain a better understanding of changes that took place in the history of the Bible. Transposition was one of the key editorial techniques in the repertoire of the creative ancient Jewish scribes. When one analyzes the traces of transpositions, together with other scribal changes, it is possible to formulate plausible hypotheses on the early history and changes in Jewish and Christian thought and traditions. 

The articleLarge-Scale Transposition as an Editorial Technique in the Textual History of the Hebrew Biblewas published in the newest volume of the peer-reviewed journal TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism. The article is open access and can be read here: http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/v22/TC-2017-M%C3%A4kipelto-Tekoniemi-Tucker.pdf. 

Sisälle Septuagintaan -symposium (ke 28.9. – to 29.9.2016)

Ke 28.9. – to 29.9.2016 (Helsingin yliopiston päärakennuksessa)

Sisälle Septuagintaan -symposium on kaikille maailman ensimmäisestä raamatunkäännöksestä kiinnostuneille tarkoitettu kaksipäiväinen tapahtuma. Luvassa on ajankohtaista tietoa Septuagintan kielestä, tutkimuksesta sekä tapauskertomuksia eri kirjoista. Esitelmien pitäjät ovat alan erityisasiantuntijoita professoreista tohtorikoulutettaviin, oman yliopistomme edustajia muutamin kansainvälisin vahvistuksin. Symposiumin päättää Anneli Aejmelaeuksen jäähyväisluento. Continue reading Sisälle Septuagintaan -symposium (ke 28.9. – to 29.9.2016)

Collaboration is the Key for Preparing a Critical Septuagint Edition: An Interview with Tuukka Kauhanen

(for a Finnish version of this interview, please click here)

The research of changes in ancient texts can be compared to diagnostics. The differences observed in manuscripts are symptoms of conditions or diseases. By observing these symptoms one can reach the causes and find a cure, that is, an answer for the question: what has happened to the text? Continue reading Collaboration is the Key for Preparing a Critical Septuagint Edition: An Interview with Tuukka Kauhanen

Septuagintan Kriittinen Editio Syntyy Yhteistyössä: Haastattelussa Tuukka Kauhanen

(for an English version of this interview, please click here)

Muinaisten tekstien muutosten tutkimusta voi verrata diagnostiikkaan. Käsikirjoituksissa havaitut erot ovat oireita ja merkkejä tiloista tai sairauksista. Oireita tarkkailemalla voi päästä käsiksi erojen syihin ja löytää hoitokeinon eli vastauksen kysymykseen: mitä tekstille on tapahtunut? Continue reading Septuagintan Kriittinen Editio Syntyy Yhteistyössä: Haastattelussa Tuukka Kauhanen

CSTT Doctoral Students Won Prizes with Papers on Paul’s Rhetorics and the Textual History of the Book of Joshua

For Finnish, click here: CSTT:n Tohtorikoulutettaville Palkinnot Paavalin Retoriikkaa ja Joosuan Kirjan Tekstihistoriaa Käsittelevistä Esitelmistä.

The European Association of Biblical Studies gave out its yearly prizes to the best student papers held in its annual meeting in Cordoba, Spain (12.–15.7.). This year, the prizes in both categories went to doctoral students in the Centre of Excellence in Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions (CSTT). According to the organizers, a record number of papers attended the competition.  Continue reading CSTT Doctoral Students Won Prizes with Papers on Paul’s Rhetorics and the Textual History of the Book of Joshua

CSTT:n tohtorikoulutettaville palkinnot Paavalin retoriikkaa ja Joosuan kirjan tekstihistoriaa käsittelevistä esitelmistä

Euroopan raamatuntutkijoiden liiton vuosikonferenssissa 12.–15.7. Espanjan Cordobassa myönnettiin jokavuotiset palkinnot parhaista opiskelijan pitämistä esitelmistä. Tänä vuonna molempien kilpailukategorioiden palkinnot menivät Helsingin yliopiston teologisessa tiedekunnassa toimivan ”Pyhät tekstit ja traditiot muutoksessa” -huippuyksikön tohtorikoulutettaville. Järjestäjien mukaan kilpailuun osallistui tänä vuonna ennätysmäärä opiskelijoita.  Continue reading CSTT:n tohtorikoulutettaville palkinnot Paavalin retoriikkaa ja Joosuan kirjan tekstihistoriaa käsittelevistä esitelmistä

Why the Septuagint Can No Longer Be Ignored in Redaction Criticism

by Ville Mäkipelto

The Hebrew Bible is a collection of layered works. Its books in their various forms have been creatively edited and interwoven by ancient redactor-scribes in various historical situations using multiple sources from different time periods. In order to understand these editorial processes and use the texts in reconstructing history, scholars use the method of redaction criticism. Building on the observations of literary criticism (that is ”source criticism”), redaction criticism asks, for example: what is the ideology/theology behind the editing? What has been included or left out in the work and why? What is the community behind the editor(s)? How can the different textual layers be dated?  Continue reading Why the Septuagint Can No Longer Be Ignored in Redaction Criticism

Diagnostics and Textual Studies

by Tuukka Kauhanen

Intuition and Its Limitations

Decision-making in textual studies is largely based on intuition. The scholar is expected to know the sources and the approach very well and it is assumed that when all the relevant information concerning a given problem is poured into the scholar’s head, eventually the right solution will come out. The truth of the solution is then tested first by the scholar’s personal conviction and subsequently by the scholarly community: the more of your colleagues you manage to convince, the better your solution.  Continue reading Diagnostics and Textual Studies

Looking for Job in Helsinki

by Urmas Nõmmik

I already got a research job in Helsinki, at the CSTT. But is that all? No, in another sense I am still looking for Job …

Research on the book of Job can be a risky business – one can be stuck there for decades. I have been more or less dealing with Job since the mid-1990s. The book of Job is fascinating because of its highly complex theological-philosophical-existential content, and because of its complex philological and textual history. Hence, there is no end in sight to the study of the book of Job. One has still to look for Job.  Continue reading Looking for Job in Helsinki

Professor Anna Kharanauli (Tbilisi) ends her research stay in Helsinki

by Anneli Aejmelaeus

Anna Kharanauli, Professor of Old Georgian Language and Textual Criticism at Tbilisi Javakhishvili State University, ended her research stay in Helsinki July 1, 2014, after five months as a KONE Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. Continue reading Professor Anna Kharanauli (Tbilisi) ends her research stay in Helsinki