Book Notes: Tov, “The Textual Use of the Septuagint”


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Most Relevant Audience: Anyone interested in the Septuagint and textual criticism.

Date: 1/26/2016

Emanuel Tov, The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2015),

Models of “originals”:

  1. Original Text
  2. Multiple pristine texts; “The assumption of pristine texts involves the further assumption that all/several early texts were of equal authority.” 6
  3. An original text or a series of determinative (original) texts.
    1. Focuses on written, not oral editions.

“Scholars involved in textual comparisons cannot afford themselves the ‘luxury’ of not having an opinion on the original text of Hebrew Scripture.” 7

“…the early development of the biblical text is summarized as follows. At the end of the composition process of a biblical book stood a text that was finished at a literary level and subsequently was considered authoritative, even if only by a limited group of people. Scribal activity preceding the completion of the literary composition is disregarded in the textual analysis, while literary activity preceding that state is not. Indeed, earlier compositional stages that were intended to be disregarded by each subsequent literary reviser could not be eradicated. This assumption is complicated since each of these compositional stages was accepted as authoritative when it was produced, as recognized by their preservation in some textual sources. In these cases, the textual evidence does not point to a single ‘original’ text, but to a series of subsequent authoritative texts produced by the same or different authors. Each of these stages may be considered a type of original text. As far as we know, no literary rewriting took place when the transmission was simple, such as evidenced in the case of some individual Psalms, allowing us to aim for a single ‘original’ text. The assumption of parallel pristine texts provides a possible alternative model, but at present is not supported by textual evidence. The finished composition stood at the beginning of a process of copying and textual transmission, creating genetic variants in a linear way. We suggest that textual criticism keeps in mind the original text as defined here or a series of determinative (original) texts. This formulation involves the understanding that the original text(s) remain(s) an evasive entity that cannot be reconstructed, although each assumed scribal error requires the determination of original/secondary status. This model reflects the understanding that some textual witnesses evidence vestiges of a chain of literary activity. If ever fond, that (those) text(s) would probably contain errors and inconsistencies.” 7-8

Variants of MT “should not be called correction or emendation of MT, because MT is merely one of the witnesses of the biblical text, even if the major one” 5, fn 2

Again, p 7, “MT is but one witness of the biblical text, and its original form was not identical to the original text of the Bible as a whole.” 7

“…one Greek translation must be presupposed as the base of the manuscripts of most, if not all, the books of the LXX. The original wording of this translation was not long preserved in pure form. With the beginning of the textual transmission of the original translation in different scrolls, it split into several secondary textual traditions, since various types of corrections (mainly towards the Hebrew) were inserted in individual scrolls.” 11

“…the ‘LXX’ corpus contains translations of different types, early and late, original and revised, official and private. These differences can sometimes be expressed in terms to the degree of freedom or literalness…in very few cases can more than one book be ascribed to a given translator. Most books were produced by different individuals, though probably one person translated Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets…and different individuals probably translated 1 Esdras and Daniel…and Job and Proverbs.” 16

“The ultimate purpose of the text-critical analysis of the LXX is to isolate deviations in that translation that presumably were based on a Hebrew Vorlage different from the MT and, accordingly, to reconstruct elements in that Vorlage. That is a complicated process, and the more one recognizes the problems involved, the more one realizes how hazardous the undertaking is.” 18

“When analyzing the text-critical value of deviations from MT in the LXX, one constantly oscillates between the assumption of inner-Septuagintal factors (exegesis and textual corruption) and underlying Hebrew variants.” 48

“retroversions are based either on vocabulary equivalences between the LXX and the MT which are found elsewhere in the LXX and which are not problematic…or they are based on the scholar’s intuition.” 64

“Much depends on one’s textual judgment, much on one’s linguistic feeling, and even more on the analysis of the translation techniques involved.” 66

“Too often and without justification scholars assumed that the parent text of the LXX translation always represented its Vorlage in a literal fashion….Such retroversions are commonly called automatic or mechanical…BH has elicited a great deal of criticism for failing to exercise enough caution in this matter.” 73-74

“…even if a retroverted variant bears all the marks of a well-supported reading, such a reading may never have existed anywhere but in the translator’s mind….This applies in particular to retroverted variants that resulted from textual corruption, for, as a rule, one cannot know whether the mistake was made by the translator who misread his Vorlage, or was already found in his Hebrew source….even the most reliable retroversions of variants refer to readings that may not have existed in writing. Due to lack of suitable controls, retroverted variants that existed only in the mind of a translator are also called variants.” 99

These are “pseudo-variants” (p 178)


Corrects overemphasis on idea that translator’s exegetical concerns got in the way.  112-113

On vocalization and words. 118

“…correctness of the retroversion should not be confused with the originality of the readings themselves (cf. p. 84). Even when the retroversion is reliable, the retroverted variant itself may be secondary in the development of the Hebrew text.” 170

Pseudo-variants 178

“The Alexandrian background of [post-Pentateuchal] books is presupposed by many, if not most scholars, but the assumption is unlikely….The default assumption for the post-Pentateuchal books should be that they were produced in Palestine, and not in Alexandria or any other part of the Jewish Diaspora.” 202, 3

“Except for the arguments produced by Albright, no proof has been offered in favor of the assumption that the Hebrew parent text of the LXX is somehow connected with Egypt.” 206

Regarding Qumran, “The idea that we would ever get close to the Hebrew texts from which the Greek translation was rendered had never entered anyone’s mind.” 207

“In sum, 4QSama is often very close to the OG (the LXX and/or LXXLuc) when disagreeing with MT, leading to the assumption that these two sources were closely related at an early stage.” 210

“Septuagintal” and “Septuagintal text-type” “is misleading,” “unrealistic,” and “not on the basis of any evidence.” 217

Yet, “The special character of the Vorlage of the LXX seems to be related to two factors or a combination of them: (1) the idiosyncratic Hebrew manuscripts used for the Greek translation were not embraced by the circles that fostered MT; and (2) the relatively early date of the translation enterprise vestiges of earlier editorial stages of the biblical books. The earlier the date assigned to the Vorlage of the LXX, the more likely the text was to reflect early redactional stages of the biblical books.” 219

“the fact remains that none of the MT texts was [sic] used for the Greek translation.” 220

“…the long editions of MT in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and 1 Samuel 16-18 probably developed from earlier shorter editions such as reflected in the LXX And 4QJerb, d…a linear development between the LXX and MT editions or vice versa may be assumed, with the later edition mainly expanding on the earlier one, while at times also shortening and changing it s message.” 221

Proverbs may be a case of parallel LXX and MT. No one knows that textual history. Bottom 221

“When evaluating readings, scholars usually attempt to determine which of two or more readings reflects the ‘original’ or ‘archetypal’ reading, because their ultimate goal is often phrased as the reconstruction of elements in the ‘original’ text of the Bible. However, as indicated on pp. 2-4, such reconstruction is problematic. Nevertheless, in individual instances it is probably legitimate to reconstruct the ‘original’ reading that is superior to all the other readings. This applies especially to readings that have been corrupted in the course of scribal transmission. In such cases, one indicates as ‘original’ that reading which was presumably contained in the text, the reconstruction of which is aimed at by textual criticism. A more moderate version of this procedure is often phrased as the search for the reading that, in the most natural way, explains the origin of the other readings, or the reading from which all others developed. It goes without saying that all evaluations of readings are subjective.” 228

“…to a large extent textual evaluation cannot be bound by any fixed rules. It is an art in the full sense of the word, a faculty that can be developed, guided by intuition based on wide experience….Common sense, rather than textual theories, is the main guide, although abstract rules are sometimes helpful. In modern times, scholars are often reluctant to admit the subjective nature of textual evaluation, and, as a consequence, an attempt is often made, consciously or unconsciously, to create an artificial level of objectivity by the frequent application of abstract rules.” 232

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