Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 18 (2018) - Review

Tov, Emanuel, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, Qumran, Septuagint: Collected Essays Volume 3 (VTSup, 167; Leiden: Brill, 2015). Pp. xxiv + 540. Hardback. US$222.00. ISBN: 9789004270138.

Emanuel Tov's book, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, Qumran, Septuagint is a collection of thirty-three updated and revised essays that were published between 2008 and 2014. This compilation brings together and underscores many of the important contributions of Emanuel Tov's scholarship in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In this third volume, Tov provides a renewed look at the field of textual criticism in light of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Judean Desert discoveries. The book is divided into three parts: textual criticism, Qumran, and Septuagint.

The first part is comprised of eighteen articles and examines the formation of the Masoretic text, the Septuagint, and the Samaritan Pentateuch in light of the discovery of the Qumran scrolls. Tov presents a thorough analysis of scribal activity in the Second Temple period and reveals how the scrolls shed light on the supposed sanctity of Torah-texts during this era. He concludes this section with a survey of practical tools used in the field of textual criticism today.

Tov's discussion of textual criticism predominantly focuses on the possibility of recovering traces of Urtexts. His first article, entitled “Reflections on the Many Forms of Hebrew Scripture in Light of the LXX and 4QReworked Pentateuch,” accentuates the textual diversity between the MT on the one hand, and the Qumran discoveries, LXX and the SP on the other. Through an analysis of 3 Kingdoms, Esther, and Daniel, he asserts that “these Greek books reflect Hebrew compositions that were very different from the ones included in the MT” (p. 13). By contrast, the textual similarities between Reworked Pentateuch and LXX, which both include small and large exegetical additions and changes, were likely considered authoritative for the early community “to the same extent as the mentioned Greek texts and their Vorlagen were considered Scripture” (p. 18).

In his analysis of scribal habits, he explains the diversity in spellings, revisions, and translations between texts by noting how “ancients did not strive for consistency” (p. 44). Tov also underscores the function of scribal activity in the textual formation of ancient books. In his article “The Chapter and Section Divisions in Esther,” he attributes the differences in chapter divisions between medieval manuscripts to scribes, claiming that they functioned as copyists and editors. Indeed, by comparing the book of Joshua in the MT, the LXX, and 4QJosha, Tov concludes that scribal editors were thoroughly “involved in the final stages of the formulation of the book” and thereby created different literary traditions (p. 146).

In the article “The Scribal and Textual Transmission of the Torah Analyzed in Light of its Sanctity,” Tov grapples with how the Torah's authoritative status likely influenced scribal editorial work. Following a short analysis of scribal habits in the Torah scrolls (i.e., orthographic and textual features, the scripts used, and the degree of variation between the different texts), he reveals how these texts in the Judean Desert and Qumran caves have “a smaller range of textual variation…[than] other books” by highlighting the unequal distribution of cancellation dots (which signify corrections) and Qere notes in the texts (p. 157).

This section concludes with Tov's examination of practical tools for students in the field of textual criticism, which is an invaluable asset for his readers. In “Computer-Assisted Tools for Textual Criticism,” he contends that “textual criticism is virtually impossible in the twenty-first century without the aid of electronic tools,” noting their use in textual analysis, linguistic analysis, and the study of orthography (p. 95). To illustrate this point, he compares the findings of specific text-searches in Accordance software with Andersen-Forbes' Spelling in the Hebrew Bible to demonstrate the superiority of computer-assisted tools. Additionally, he provides a review of Biblia Hebraica Quinta, vol. 7, Judges, which was released in 2011, and also includes some minor corrections for the book. For example, he argues that the phrase “for the Greek book of Judges there still is no critical edition” should be read “for the Greek book of Judges there is still no critical edition according to the Göttingen system,” in light of Rahlfs' Septuaginta (p. 259).

Part two contains nine articles which focus specifically on studies pertaining to Qumran literature, including analyses of scientific approaches for dating manuscripts, scribal features in Qumran scrolls, and the contributions of Israeli scholarship to this field. Additionally, Tov incorporates didactic advice for instructors who teach about the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Scientific studies are often employed when attempting to date certain scrolls or to determine whether two fragments were originally from the same parchment. Tov explores the significant contributions of science to the Dead Sea Scrolls, notably how photographic techniques have allowed scholars to retrieve “complete letters, and in rare cases complete words” that were previously unreadable (p. 278).

Tov also focuses on how the Judean Desert texts have influenced our understanding of the textual formation of the MT, noting that “all the texts that were found at sites in the Judean Desert other than Qumran display virtually complete identity with the medieval tradition of MT” (p. 314). While certain Dead Sea Scroll documents show some similarities with the MT (i.e., layouts in poetic texts, stichographic layouts), Tov highlights the significance of the Judean Desert discoveries as they “postulate a stage before the earliest available [MT] manuscript evidence” (p. 320). From this, he proposes that the manuscripts of MT likely go back to a single source.

One major breakthrough in the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls was finding Hebrew texts that resembled the LXX in the Qumran caves. Through a study of 4QSama, Tov deemed retroversion as a potentially valid mode of textual criticism: “In our view, the discovery of the Hebrew Qumran scrolls provided much-needed support for the procedure of reconstructing the Vorlage of the LXX” (p. 367).

Tov also considers the numerous similarities between the Torah scrolls found at Qumran and the Samaritan Pentateuch. He looks specifically at 4QpaleoExodm, 4QExod-Levf, 4QNumb, 4QRPa, and 4QRPb, stating how they “include all the editorial additions and rearrangements found in SP, in the exact same places” (p. 394). Finding Samaritan-like scrolls in the Dead Sea caves has implications on understanding the origins of Qumran and Samaritan communities, potentially lending itself to the thesis that the inhabitants of Qumran were Samaritan Essenes.

Tov includes some instructional advice for teaching about the scrolls to his readers, whether their audience comprises scholars, students or the general public (p. 297). He claims that one should begin by surveying the available scrolls prior to 1947 (MT, SP, LXX, Vulgate, Targumim, Peshiṭta) in order to portray the immense contribution of the Dead Sea Scrolls to this field. Next, instructors should emphasize the similarities between the Proto-MT texts and MT, and then continue outward to “MT-Like” manuscripts from Qumran. Finally, they should expose their students to texts that are close to the presumed Hebrew source of the LXX, and then the non-aligned (independent) scrolls. This model of teaching begins by exploring familiar and popular texts, and then slowly moves towards more sectarian or unknown scrolls.

The third and final section includes six articles that focus on Septuagint studies, most notably the scribal activity in the LXX (i.e. translations, harmonizations). Tov also highlights the sociological development of the LXX, discussing whether it should be considered a Jewish or Christian document.

Tov provides an analysis on the “translational, exegetical, and linguistic aspects” of the LXX by looking at personal names in LXX-Isaiah. He claims that scribes may have had a difficult time establishing whether they should translate some portions of the Hebrew text as a proper name or to utilize transliteration. For example, “For Maher-shalal-hash-baz” in Isa 8:1 (MT) is translated as “Swiftly Spoil, Quickly Plunder” in the LXX. Tov also focuses on actualizations in the LXX, which are imperative for determining the geographical and historical milieu of the translator. When the MT would speak of Aram or Philistia, for example, the LXX sometimes changed the names to “Syria” and “the Greeks” (p. 420).

Tov focuses specifically on Gen 49 LXX to examine how difficult translations were managed. From this, he concludes that scribes may either leave a term untranslated, provide a translation contingent on lexical exegesis, appeal to the larger context, or manipulate the Hebrew letters (p. 503). According to Tov, all of these options are utilized in Gen 49 LXX. As a result, it is often difficult to understand the rationale behind the LXX translation.

Tov concludes this section by noting how the LXX was never a “Jewish and Christian” text simultaneously, since Jews were abandoning it prior to the birth of Christianity: “Whether or not rabbinic Judaism officially rejected the LXX is unclear, but it was definitely disregarded since the rabbis did not quote from it” (p. 451). The LXX, however, should be considered a Jewish translation (p. 453).

Emanuel Tov's Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, Qumran, Septuagint is an important resource for understanding the contribution of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Judean Desert discoveries to the field of textual criticism. This book would be a great aid for students and scholars alike in so far as it provides a thorough understanding of the impact of textual criticism in the literature of the Second Temple period, and more specifically, the formation of MT, LXX and SP.

One benefit of Tov's work is the clarity with which he structures his essays. For example, Tov begins most chapters with a clear thesis, providing an outline for his readers to follow. A second advantage is the author's fair and honest analysis of the evidence, demonstrated by his acknowledgment of any subjectivity in his own conclusions. For example, when providing a summary of Gen 49 LXX, he writes: “All renderings can be explained in different ways, and what appears to be logical to one scholar, is illogical to another one” (p. 491). Finally, the didactic advice provided by Tov for teaching the Dead Sea Scrolls is a practical and insightful portion that would be beneficial for instructors who wrestle with effective ways to introduce this important material to students in a comprehensible manner.

Michael Gabizon, McMaster University