lethargic_man: (capel)
[personal profile] lethargic_man

My Orthodox upbringing taught that the text of the Torah we use today, the Masoretic Text, goes back to Sinai in its present form, apparent misspellings and all, including the various small, large, inverted and broken letters incorporated by tradition. I was aware there were other texts, but was taught that they represented deviations.

It's only in the last few years that I have discovered the whole concept of a textus receptus, along with the significance attached to the smallest parts of it, only goes back to R. Akiva in the second century. Prior to him there were a whole family of manuscript traditions radiating out from a common origin: There was the proto-Masoretic text, there was the text that was used to translate the Septuagint, there was the Samaritan text, and there were a number of other texts used by the Dead Sea Scrolls sect in addition to the above. Furthermore, when rabbis of the Talmud quoted the Bible, the text they used is often not that we have today.

Of the above textual variations, the one that interested me most was the Samaritan text. According to the Jews, the Samaritans split from the Jews two and a half thousand years ago; according to the Samaritans, they split over three thousand years ago. If the Masoretic and Samaritan texts of the Torah also diverged this early, I thought, they could reveal some very interesting things.

(I later discovered that Wikipedia claims the Samaritan community, as an entity completely distinct from the Jewish one, to have a much later divergence point, either in the time of Alexander the Great (based on Josephus' conflation of Sanballaṭ I and Sanballaṭ III), or in the second century BCE. That notwithstanding, there are Samaritan textual family Torah texts to be found in the second century BCE, and Wikipedia recognises that the text may have had a history prior to its Samaritanisation.)

I therefore procured myself a chumash with the Masoretic and Samaritan texts set alongside each other with the differences highlighted. This was not a critical edition: The editor published it because he could find no other, and simply selected one of the six odd thousand variants of the Samaritan texts (the Samaritans not having taken the care to make sure transmission was uncorrupted the Jews do) and laid it alongside the Masoretic text without commentary. As he said, this book was not intended to answer questions about the text; it was intended to ask them.

For the following year (now approaching completion), every week I would read the week's פָּרָשָׁה in this chumash and observe the differences between the two texts. Many of them are very minor; often merely the presence of absence of matres lectionis, the subtitution of אֶל for Masoretic עַל, minor differences reflecting the grammar of Samaritan Hebrew (e.g. צוי for צִוָה), and so forth. Nevertheless, that leaves many differences of real interest.

Judith WINOLJ/DW says the differences in the Samaritan text represent an attempt to harmonise the internal contradictions in the Masoretic text, and indeed this is the case for many of the differences, but not all of them, and I do not believe this precludes other, more significant, differences underlying this layer of conflict resolution.

It was actually [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m who had the idea that the following yearly cycle I could blog my findings, week by week, of the more interesting discrepancies between the two texts. At a rough count there's about three per סֶדְרָה, though some weeks there's as many as seven and some as few as one. Obviously, that would represent a substantial blogging commitment, so before I plunge into it, I thought I should assess potential readership first: If I did go ahead and blog this, how many of you would be interested in reading it?

Date: 2012-08-26 07:39 pm (UTC)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatam_soferet
Probably, but can you not put nikud in the Hebrew? It doesn't display properly anyway.

Date: 2012-08-27 01:21 pm (UTC)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatam_soferet
FF 14.0.1, W7. It's all spaced out.

Also, if you're blogging pesukim and talking about comparisons between versions of the Torah text, it's not even historically sensible to include nikud :P

Date: 2012-09-23 11:26 am (UTC)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatam_soferet
I updated to firefox 15 and both of them lay out properly now.

Date: 2012-08-27 10:29 pm (UTC)
green_knight: (Default)
From: [personal profile] green_knight
I'll read. As usual, on Jewish studies, Iam unlikely to comment, but I'll read.

Date: 2012-08-28 03:18 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] bluepork
I think it sounds like a worthwhile work of scholarship. But rather than blog it, where it might be seen (but not necessarily read) by a dozen people plus the occasional web-searcher, I think you should approach a publisher and ask if they would be interested. I don't think you would make more than a tiny bit of money from the exercise, but at least it would be a way of getting the results out to a wider audience of people who would be likely to find it useful.

Date: 2012-09-02 10:26 am (UTC)
dog: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dog
I'll read it.


lethargic_man: (Default)
Lethargic Man (anag.)

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