Ulrich, Eugene, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Developmental Composition of the Bible, VTSup 169 (Leiden: Brill, 2015).
Eugene Ulrich is one of the few scholars in the field of Hebrew Bible textual criticism with enough erudition and first-hand knowledge of the Qumran manuscripts to present a broad, yet insightful synthesis of what their discovery has showed us regarding the textual development of the Hebrew Bible, and what their implications and significance are for the field at large. This volume is a sequel to The Biblical Qumran Scrolls, which presents all the Hebrew “biblical” manuscripts discovered at Qumran, with transcriptions and textual variants cited. Thus, it presents a general map of the territory of the various paths that the ideal form we call the Hebrew Bible has taken over centuries of textual transmission from its literary origins to its final forms (with attention on the plural forms).
This volume consists of 19 chapters, divided into four parts. The first part, titled “Introduction,” contains two chapters that anticipate the evidence presented in later chapters, namely, “The Developmental Composition of the Biblical Text” and “Post-Qumran Thinking: A Paradigm Shift.” In the former chapter Ulrich articulates the volume’s primary thesis, which is that the Qumran evidence evinces how the traditional dichotomy between the composition or formation of the text (often called “higher criticism”) and the period of transmission (often called “lower criticism”) must be studied together since throughout the centuries the text has been an organic, adaptable, and developing entity, itself being the scribal product of oral communities that experienced times of great social, cultural, and political upheavals, which necessitated periods of fresh readings for the community's ongoing life. Thus, Ulrich describes how “variant literary editions,” as extant in the Qumran corpus, provide documentary evidence for the final phases of compositional development, which, as the tip of ice-berg betrays its large, unseen mass, validates previously only hypothesized theories of the compositional stages of most biblical books.
In the latter chapter Ulrich contrasts post-Qumran thinking regarding the text with some current views that were inherited (and understandably so) from pre-Qumran thinking, but have not been sufficiently re-evaluated in light of the new Qumran evidence. Thus, he calls for an updated conceptualization or lens through which to view the textual history of the Hebrew Bible in his goal to accurately describe the nature of these scriptural texts in antiquity. This paradigm shift is focused on how to view the Tiberian Masoretic Text (=MT) in comparison to other witnesses (e.g., the Samaritan Pentateuch, Old Greek, Peshitta, and other ancient versions). Ulrich calls for viewing the MT as simply one of the many Hebrew forms that existed, and argues that it was coincidentally (that is, not deliberately) selected by later Judaism, and thereby at the time was not consciously considered or recognized as the authoritative or dominant form of the text. Thus, Ulrich advocates de-centralizing the MT as the biblical text since there was no standard text (in a normative sense) in antiquity before, what Shemaryahu Talmon has termed, “the Great Divide.”
The second part, entitled, “The Scriptures Found at Qumran," contains eight chapters, which present the evidence for Ulrich's thesis of pluriformity by surveying readings in key Qumran "biblical" manuscripts.
Chapter 3 surveys witnesses to the Pentateuch, and in it Ulrich notably lays out “four categories of textual variation,” which logically stem from his thesis, namely:
1) patterned sets of similar substantial revisions or expansions forming new editions,
2) isolated insertions of information, commentary, halakah, piety, etc.,
3) individual textual variants and,
Ulrich contends that these four principal types of variations worked on unrelated levels so that one type did not influence or coordinate with another.
Chapter 4 focuses on witnesses to passages in the Book of Joshua that indicate where Joshua’s first altar in the Promised Land was built, which remains a debated issue. Ulrich proposes a three-stage schema on the basis of a careful comparison of 4QJosha, the MT, the LXX, and other sources. In it he cites other views, and notes that a serious monograph is still required for a satisfactory solution.
Chapter 5 concerns a shorter text of Judges and a longer text of Kings. First, Ulrich explores how Judg 6:7-10, which was long suspected to be a later “deuteronomistically-inspired” literary addition in critical scholarship, was concluded to be as such with the testimony of 4QJudga (which contains Judges 6:1-6 followed directly by verses 7-10. Then he presents a reading in 4QKgs that is lacking in MT 1 Kgs 8:16, possibly due to homoioteleuton), but preserved in the parallel MT 2 Chr 6:5b-6a and partially so in the Old Greek text of 1 Kgs 8:16.
Chapter 6 is dedicated to the Samuel scrolls. In it Ulrich analyzes and evaluates the four different levels of variation (see chapter 3 above) extant in the texts of Samuel, comparing these readings with the MT, LXX editions, and the OL (at times), while commenting on the interplay of literary, textual, and redaction critical concerns. Ulrich also explores the possibility of variant literary editions of certain passages of Samuel that scholars have proposed, where he himself concludes that there were two exemplars of the same general edition, rather than intentionally produced variant literary editions.
Chapter 7 focuses on the “Great Isaiah Scroll,” which is the only intact scriptural manuscript that has been preserved for more than two millennia. Ulrich again analyzes and evaluates the four different levels of variation (see chapter 3 above) extant in the Great Isaiah Scroll (namely, 1QIsaa). He emphasizes how one must distinguish between the philological stratum of a given witness and its textual character, since 1QIsaa arguably preserves many superior readings, even though its linguistic character is demonstrably later than the MT, and how many of the isolated insertions are arguably quite late, dating, perhaps, from the third, second, or even first centuries B.C.E.
Chapter 8 analyzes 1QIsab in comparison to the MT to show how text-family groupings can be determined by means of Ulrich's four categories of variation. Ulrich concludes that 1QIsaa and the LXX should be classified as a different text-family than 1QIsab within a singular literary edition, and that 1QIsab is a fortuitously preserved ancient witness to the form of the text later preserved in the MT.
Chapter 9 concerns “Additions and Editions in Jeremiah,” where Ulrich shows how the Qumran scrolls provide documentation of two examples of Jeremiah's long recognized developmental growth. In it the Old Greek of Jeremiah is proved to be a “faithful translation of a current alternate Hebrew edition of Jeremiah.”
Chapter 10, which concerns the Qumran “Septuagint Scrolls,” logically follows. In it Ulrich demonstrates how the scrolls have enhanced our understanding of the Septuagint, and vice versa, through a cursory analysis of ten Septuagint scrolls. Overall, Ulrich focuses on how these scrolls often attest to a variant Hebrew Vorlage, while generally confirming the approach of Paul de Lagarde (as opposed to that of Paul Kahle), and the evident penetration of the Greek language into Palestinian Judaism in the late Second Temple period.
In the third part, titled “Learnings from the Scrolls,” Ulrich explores what the scrolls have taught us regarding various contentious and other issues related to the use and recognition of scripture in the late Second Temple period.
Chapter 11 addresses the question of whether or not the Qumran scriptural manuscripts contain sectarian motivated variants. Throughout the chapter Ulrich retraces the quest for sectarian variants by addressing issues with the idea of a sectarian variant, demonstrating true examples of sectarian variant in the Samaritan Pentateuch, and analyzing alleged cases of Qumran sectarian variants among both “biblical” and “non-biblical” manuscripts. Ulrich famously concludes that no Qumran textual variant is “sectarian” in origin or motivation (note that his analysis does not include variant literary editions or disputed compositions). Key to Ulrich's conclusion is that 1) the text was pluriform, and widely accepted and recognized as so in antiquity (so that there was no standard, e.g., “proto-MT,” by which to make a comparison); 2) the Pharisees (or Essenes, Sadducees, Qumranites, Covenanters, Christians, etc.) did not constitute mainstream “normative Judaism,” but there were rather many groups competing for influence; and 3) rare cases of apparently theologically motivated variants were in line with general Jewish views or impulses. At the end he provides four criteria that he argues would constitute a true, sectarian variant.
Chapter 12 charts the realization that certain manuscripts originally considered “non-biblical” should instead be considered “scriptural,” namely, 4QPentateuch and 11QPsalmsa (note that Ulrich carefully lays out arguments made for and against the acceptance of 11QPsalmsa as scriptural). His reasoning stems from the epistemological growth of gaining a post-Qumran mindset.
Chapter 13 addresses the question of how to discern the borders between three types of literature that Ulrich calls “pre-Scripture,” “Scripture (rewritten),” and “rewritten Scripture,” and gives a brief survey of examples. In addition, Ulrich suggests a correlation between “pre-Scripture” and “rewritten Scripture,” while noting that virtually all scriptural compositions are rewritten.
Chapter 14 concerns the fresh perspective that a post-Qumran mindset has given to studies of the Samaritans in general, and the Samaritan Pentateuch in particular since it is now clear that its variations from the MT are not presumed to be a priori secondary or sectarian. In it crucial passages are analyzed.
Chapter 15, similar to the previous one, concerns how it is now clear that the Septuagint bears witness to variant editions from that of the MT of certain compositions, as Ulrich analyzes key passages and notes the difference between what may be called “simple interpretation” (whether “literal” or “free”) and “intentional re-interpretation.”
Chapter 16 challenges the “prevailing view” that the seven scriptural manuscripts found at Masada display a close relationship to the proto-MT text form. After a close analysis of each one, he argues that if one has an historically preferable “post-Qumran” perspective, then the Masada scrolls do not particularly agree with the proto-MT any more than other textual traditions (such as the SP or the LXX).
The fourth part, titled “The Road Toward Canon: From Collection of Scrolls to Canon,” applies Ulrich’s thesis of textual pluriformity to issues related to canon. Chapter 17 focuses on how to define and understand the term “canon,” and advocates for clarification when the term is used. Among many helpful considerations, Ulrich highlights that it is the book, and not a specific textual form, that is properly called “canonical.”
Chapter 18 is a study of the transformation involved when literature becomes acknowledged to be Sacred Scripture. Overall, Ulrich highlights the need to have an ancient mindset regarding the text so as to avoid the anachronistic imposition of terms like “canon” or “scripture” on texts which were not conceived of as such at the time.
Chapter 19 examines the evidence that Qumran provides concerning the process of collecting authoritative Scriptures that would eventually become the canon of the Hebrew Bible. Ulrich provides indicative criteria for which books were considered scriptural at Qumran, and at the end gives his assessment of the relative strength of scriptural status for books among the Qumran community.
The conclusion gives a summary review, an overview of post-Qumran theories of the textual history of the Hebrew Bible with suggestive critiques, and a table of the evidence for “successive editions” of certain biblical books.
All in all, this monograph is intended for specialists in the field of Hebrew Bible Textual Criticism, though the style is lucid and readable for any biblical scholar with a strong philological foundation, that is, a knowledge of the languages, technical terms, and aims of the discipline. The footnotes contain sufficient bibliographic information and nuances to broad statements. At the end the volume also includes a chart of “Scriptural Scrolls from the Judaean Desert,” which lays out the number of copies (so not necessarily number of manuscripts) found in each location at and around Qumran for each biblical compositional and final tallies, in addition to indices of ancient sources, authors, and subjects.
For any advanced student or scholar in the field of Hebrew Bible Textual Criticism, this volume is without a doubt a must-have, which will serve well to articulate the implications and significance of the post-Qumran paradigm shift for years to come.
The Ancient Jew Review and Trinity Western University Dead Sea Scrolls Institute forums and reviews commemorating the 70th anniversary of the discovery of the Qumran scrolls were edited by Dr. Andrew Perrin (Trinity Western University), Dr. Andrew Krause (University of Münster), Dr. Jessica Keady (University of Chester), and Spencer Jones (Trinity Western University).
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