Friday, September 23, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Septuagint and Qumran

As you will see if you look at the bibliography, the DJD work was edited by Dr. Emanuel Tov.  He has also published his own studies of the scrolls and I want to call out one of them for a number of reasons.
The first reason is that when I was googling around for material on the Greek fragments found at Qumran – and it took several iterations of different searches – I came across Dr. Tov’s article.  A first reading seemed to show it was more detailed and so I read it carefully.
The article evaluates several Greek fragments from Qumran as “close” to Septuagint.  Both Dr. Tov and scholars to whom he refers were excited to find such material.   The article fails, however, to quantify some important information and that is the second reason.
One piece of information it does quantify is that 7 books of Torah have Greek fragments at Qumran.  It’s not clear whether that is in addition to the 225 scrolls I mentioned last week or among the 225, but it is not a large number.   It suggests that the Qumranists were not interested enough in Greek to collect Greek versions of all the books of the Tannakh.
The fragments are from Jeremiah, Psalms, Numbers, Samuel, Deuteronomy, Exodus and Leviticus.  That doesn’t allow a comprehensive conclusion even for Torah.
Tov reports that these 7 scrolls are not whole but fragmentary.  He does not quantify the amount of fragmentation.  Fragments of Qumran Greek cannot support the categorical urban legend that Qumran proves Septuagint is closer than the Masoretic text, to the Hebrew.   Too much material from Tannakh is  missing.  That’s the third reason this article was important.
Tov admits that in places the Qumran Greek texts disagree with Septuagint.  He doesn’t quantify this either, but it shows that the Septuagint was not the only Greek version around at the time.  It suggests that Septuagint did not eclipse all other Greek works about Jewish scripture from before 100 BCE.
Tov does say that the scholars who have worked on the issue give no objective definition for what they mean by “close” and neither does he say what he means by it.  Without that objective definition, and without quantification, we have no idea how close “close” is to the modern Septuagint, and so there’s no validity to the urban legend that Qumran shows that Septuagint is close to the Masoretic Hebrew we now have.
After I found Dr. Eugene Ulrich’s book on Qumran Hebrew texts online, I emailed him and asked if there was (or was going to be) something similar to his book for the Greek from Qumran.  He basically said that there would be no book, because the fragments of Greek are not large enough or numerous enough to justify an entire book.  Long journal articles, maybe.  People interested in the subject and issues are better off going to the Leon Levy archive website and studying the Greek fragments in the photos there, than waiting for those articles, let alone a book.
Qumran is never going to prove anything about Septuagint as a whole.  It won’t even prove anything about Septuagint in part, because there is too little Greek material and what relates to Jewish scripture does not all come from Septuagint.
But there is one thing you still might think Qumran would settle, since it contains a lot of material in Hebrew.  And that is for next week.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment