Some Types of Corruption in the Text of the Old Testament (Part 1/2)

Some Types of Corruption in the Text of the Old Testament (Part 1/2)


Scriptures

Some excerpts are being quoted below from some authorities to afford the reader a first hand knowledge of corruption and interpolation in the Old Testament. Encyclopaedia Britannica, under the article 'Bible', explains that the books of the Bible are younger by almost 1,000 years than its earliest text and during this gap (i.e. prior to the 2nd century AD), owing to various causes, a larger number of corruptions indisputably were introduced into the Hebrew text:

The form in which the Hebrew text of the OT [Old Testament of the Bible] is presented in most manuscripts and printed editions is that of the Masoretic text, the date of which is usually placed somewhere between the 6th and 8th centuries AD. It is probable that the present text became fixed as early as the 2nd century AD [i.e. ca. one thousand four hundred years after Moses], but even this early date leaves a long interval between the original autographs of the OT writers and the present text. Since the fixing of the Masoretic text [the 2nd century AD] the task of preserving and transmitting the sacred books has been carried out with the greatest care and fidelity, with the result that the text has undergone practically no change of real importance; but before that date [the 2nd century AD], owing to various causes, a larger number of corruptions indisputably were introduced into the Hebrew text. Originally the text consisted only of consonants, since the Hebrew language had an alphabet without vowels. It is also likely that in the earliest texts the words and sentences were not divided [stress added]. The evolution of the Masoretic text was an attempt to make up for both these deficiencies. It supplied vowels by adding marks to the consonantal text, and it divided the words and sentences. For many centuries it was believed that these vowel points formed part of the original text; some theologians argued that the points were inspired by the Holy Spirit. But subsequently research has proved beyond doubt that they are younger by almost 1,000 years than the text itself.[1]

The Encyclopedia Britannica asserts that the credibility of even the Massoretic text is not above board and it is obvious that the text has been tampered with in some places:

On the basis of a variety of evidence it is possible to show that the Masoretic text is not a completely reliable index to the readings of the autographs of the OT. Even a superficial comparison between its readings and the Septuagint[2] translation discloses many passages in which the translators of the OT into Greek ascribed different vowels to the consonantal text or divided the words differently from the way they are now divided in the Hebrew text [stress added]. In other passages, they simply had another text before them. Considering that the Septuagint translation antedates the Masoretes by so long a span, we are forced to admit that the Hebrew text underlying it sometimes comes closer to the original reading of a particular passage than does the Masoretic. Other evidence, too, renders an uncritical acceptance of Masoretic readings impossible; it is obvious that the text has been tampered with in some places. [3]

According to this article of the Enc. Britannica, the case of the Septuagint (LXX) is also very disappointing. Some of its texts are confused:

What complicates the task is, among other things, the sorry state of the Septuagint text itself. Parts of it are well attested and may form the basis for judgements about the Hebrew, but other parts are so confused textually that in some instances scholars are inclined to posit two or more translations. After all, without a reliable text of the translation, the translation cannot very well be used to emend the text of the original. What is more, a study of the Septuagint also reveals many passages in which the translators purposely paraphrased the text or changed its meaning when the original was either embarrassing to them or unclear; for example, certain concrete terms in Hebrew are translated into abstract terms in Greek to avoid the charge of anthropomorphism.[4]

The Encyclopedia Britannica indicates that the Dead Sea Scrolls provide the evidence of the existence of several textual traditions even in Hebrew:

They [The Dead Sea Scrolls] make clear the existence of several textual traditions even in Hebrew; they have therefore made important contributions to the textual criticism of the OT, but they have not solved its fundamental problem. Barring a major discovery of manuscript materials, this problem is probably insoluble, and the best that can be achieved is an approximation of the text of the OT.[5]

To sum up the above article of the Encyclopedia Britannica, it is presented as follows. Attempt has been made to remain as close to the writer's words as possible:

1. Probably the present text became fixed [canonized] in the 2nd century AD [ca. 1400 years after Moses].

2. Before the 2nd century AD, owing to various causes, a number of corruptions indisputably were introduced into the Hebrew text.

3. The original text consisted only of consonants, without vocalization or vowel signs, which was a large source of confusion.

4. The words and sentences were not divided in the earlier texts.

5. Even a superficial comparison between the Hebrew Masoretic text and its Greek translation (Septuagint or the LXX) discloses that in many passages of the LXX the words are differently divided from the present Hebrew text.

6. As the texts have obviously been tampered with in some places, the task of arriving at a reliable text is very complicated.

7. The sorry state of the Septuagint text itself also complicates the task.

8. The translators of the LXX purposely paraphrased the text or changed its meaning when the original was either embarrassing to them or unclear.

9. The Dead Sea Scrolls make clear the existence of several textual traditions even in Hebrew.

10. The best that can be achieved is an approximation of the text of the OT.

AD 1988 Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica has afforded a 104 page article on 'Biblical Literature'. It has explained the theme under the sub-heading 'Textual Criticism: Manuscript Problems.' Some of the relevant passages are reproduced hereunder. It asserts that the vowel signs were introduced to the Bible text between the 7th and 9th centuries CE:

The text of the Hebrew printed Bible consists of consonants, vowel signs, and cantillation (musical or tonal) marks. The two latter components are the product of the school of Masoretes (Traditionalists) that flourished in Tiberias (in Palestine) between the 7th and 9th centuries CE. The history of the bare consonantal text stretches back into hoary antiquity and can be only partially traced. (….); there is much evidence for the existence of a period when more than one Hebrew text-form of a given book was current. In fact, both the variety of witnesses and the degree of textual divergence between them increase in proportion to their antiquity.[6]

According to the writer of this article of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the biblical text must have endured a long period of oral transmission before its committal to writing:

In the case of some biblical literature, there exists the real possibility, though it cannot be proven, that it must have endured a long period of oral transmission before its committal to writing. In the interval, the material might well have undergone abridgement, amplification, and alteration at the hands of transmitters so that not only would the original have been transformed, but the process of transmission would have engendered more than one recension from the very beginning of its written, literary career. (….), the possibility of inadvertent and deliberate change, something that effects all manuscript copying, was always present.

The evidence that such, indeed, took place is rich and varied. First there are numerous divergences between the many passages duplicated within the Hebrew Bible itself — e.g. the parallels between Samuel-Kings and Chronicles. (…). There are also rabbinic traditions about the text-critical activities of the scribes (soferim) in Second Temple times. These tell of divergent readings in Temple scrolls of the Pentateuch, of official 'book-correctors' in Jerusalem, of textual emendations on the part of scribes, and of the utilization of sigla (signs or abbreviations) for marking suspect readings and disarranged verses. The Samaritan Pentateuch and the pre-Masoretic versions of the OT made directly from the Hebrew originals are all replete with divergences from current Masoretic Bibles. Finally, the scrolls from the Judaean desert, especially those from the caves of Qumran, have provided, at least, illustrations of many of the scribal processes by which deviant texts came into being. The variants and their respective causes may be classified as follows: aurally conditioned, visual in origin, exegetical, and deliberate.[7]

According to it the 'Problems resulting from Aural Conditioning', 'Problems Visual in Origin', 'Exegetical Problems', and 'Deliberate Changes' are as follows:

1. Aural Conditioning

These would result from a mishearing of similar sounding consonants when a text is dictated to the copyist. Negative particle lo', for example, could be confused with the prepositionallo, 'to him', or guttural het with spirant kaf so that ah 'brother' might be written for akh 'surely'.

2. Problems Visual in Origin

The confusion of graphically similar letters, whether in paleo-Hebrew or Aramaic script, is another cause for variations. Thus, the prepositions bet ('in') and kaf ('like') are interchanged in the Masoretic and Dead Sea Scroll texts of Isaiah.

i. The Order of Letters also might be Inverted. Such 'Metathesis',as it is called, appears in Psalms, in which qirbam ('their inward thoughts') stands for qibram ('their grave').

ii. Dittography, or the inadvertent duplication of one or more letters or words, also occurs, as, for example, in the DSS (Dead Sea Scroll) text of Isaiah and in the Masoretic text of Ezkiel.

iii. Haplography, or the accidental omission of a letter or word that occurs twice in close proximity, can be found, for example, in the DSS text of Isaiah.

iv. Homoeoteleuton occurs when two separate phrases or lines have identical endings and the copyist's eye slips from one to the other and omits the intervening words. A comparison of the Masoretic text I Samuel, chapter 14 verse 41, with the Septuagint and the Vulgate versions clearly identifies such an aberration.

3. Exegetical Problems

This third category does not involve any consonantal alteration but results solely from the different possibilities inherent in the consonantal spelling. Thus the lack of vowel signs may permit the word DBR to be read as a verb DiBeR ('he spoke', as in the Masoretic text of Hosea) or as a noun DeBaR ('the word of', as in the Septuagint). The absence of word dividers could lead to different divisions of the consonants. Thus, BBQRYM in Amos could be understood as either BaBeQaRYM ('with oxen', as in the Masoretic text) or as BaBaQaR YaM ('the sea with an ox'). The incorrect solution by later copyists of abbreviations is another source of error. That such occurred is proved by a comparison of the Hebrew text with the Septuagint version in, for example, II Samuel, chapter 1 verse 12; Ezkiel, chapter 12 verse 23; and Amos, chapter 3 verse 9.

4. Deliberate Changes

Apart from mechanical alterations of a text, many variants must have been consciously introduced by scribes, some by way of glossing—i.e. the insertion of a more common word to explain a rare one—and others by explanatory comments incorporated into the text. Furthermore, a scribe who had before him two manuscripts of a single work containing variant readings, and unable to decide between them, might incorporate both readings into his scroll and thus create a 'conflate text'.[8]

After pointing out the forms of corruption in the text of the OT, the writer of the article describes the difficulties in the reconstruction of the original text:

The situation so far described poses two major scholarly problems. The first involves the history of the Hebrew text, the second deals with attempts to reconstruct its "original" form.

As to when and how a single text type gained hegemony and then displaced all others, it is clear that the early and widespread public reading of the scriptures in the synagogues of Palestine, Alexandria, and Babylon was bound to lead to a heightened sensitivity of the idea of a 'correct' text and to give prestige to the particular text form selected for reading. Also, the natural conservatism of ritual would tend to perpetuate the form of such a text. The letter of Aristeas, a document derived from the middle of the 2nd century BCE that describes the origin of the Septuagint, recognizes the distinction between carelessly copied scrolls of the Pentateuch and an authoritative Temple scroll in the hands of the high priest in Jerusalem. The rabbinic traditions about the textual criticism of Temple-based scribes actually reflect a movement towards the final stabilization of the text in the Second Temple period. (…).

In regard to an attempt to recover the original text of a biblical passage―especially an unintelligible one―in the light of variants among different versions and manuscripts [MSS] and known causes of corruption, it should be understood that all reconstruction must necessarily be conjectural and perforce tentative because of the irretrievable loss of the original edition. But not all textual difficulties need presuppose underlying mutilation. (…) Furthermore, each version, indeed each biblical book within it, has its own history, and the translation techniques and stylistic characteristics must be examined and taken into account. (…). None of this means that a Hebrew MS, an ancient version, or a conjectural emendation cannot yield a reading superior to that in the received Hebrew text. It does mean, however, that these tools have to be employed with great caution and proper methodology.

Texts and manuscripts. Sources of the Septuagint. A Greek translation of the OT, known as the Septuagint [LXX] because there allegedly were 70 or 72 translators, six from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, and designated LXX, is a composite of the work of many translators labouring for well over 100 years. It was made directly from Hebrew originals that frequently differed considerably from the present Masoretic text. Apart from other limitations attendant upon the use of a translation for such purposes, the identification of the parent text used by the Greek translators is still an unsettled question [stress added].[9]

The salient features of the above quotation are being afforded hereunder as a recapitulation to make the concept clear. Attempt has been made to remain as close to the writer's words as possible:

1. Vowel signs were introduced into the Heb. Bible by Masoretes between the 7th and 9th centuries CE [AD]. They did not exist before it.

2. More than one Hebrew Text-forms of the books of the Bible existed for a long time.

3. Some Bible books must have endured a long period of oral transmission before their committal to writing.

4. Between its oral transmission and committal to writing the material might well have undergone abridgement, amplification, and alteration at the hands of the transmitters.

5. The possibility of inadvertent and deliberate change was always present. The variants and their respective causes may be classified as follows: (a) Aurally conditioned; (b) Visual in origin; (c) Exegetical; and (d) Deliberate.

6. Problems resulting from aural conditioning occurred due to mishearing of similar sounding consonants when a text was dictated to a copyist.

7. Problems visual in origin: (a) The confusion of graphically similar letters, e.g. 'B' and 'K', which respectively mean 'in' and 'like'; (b) Metathesis, i.e. inversion in the order of letters in a word, e.g. 'qibram' [their grave] was changed as 'qirbam' [their inward thoughts]; (c) Dittography, i.e. Duplication of one or more letters or words; (d) Haplography, i.e. Omission of a letter or word that occurs twice in close proximity; (e) Homoeoteleuton, which occurs when two separate phrases or lines have identical endings and the copyist's eye slips from one to the other and omits the intervening words.

8. Exegetical Problems: (a) due to different possibilities inherent in the consonantal spelling in the absence of the vowel signs; (b) the incorrect solution of the abbreviations by the later copyists.

9. Deliberate Changes: Glosses and explanatory comments consciously introduced by the scribes and subsequently incorporated in the text.

10. In regard to an attempt to recover the original text of a biblical passage―especially an unintelligible one―in the light of variants among different versions and MSS and known causes of corruption, it should be understood that all reconstruction must necessarily be conjectural and perforce tentative because of the irretrievable loss of the original edition.

The Cambridge History of the Bible is a reliable reference book and an excellent source of knowledge. It has dealt with the theme in a number of articles. Some excerpts from only one of them, 'The Old Testament Text', written by Shemaryahu Talmon, Professor of Bible, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem are afforded below:

Any account of the development of the text prior to c. 300 B.C., i.e. in the Persian period, not to mention the periods of the Babylonian exile or the first Temple, must perforce rely upon conjecture and, at best, upon deductions and analogies derived from later literature and later manuscripts. (….).

The absence of vowels meant that many a Hebrew consonant group could be differently pronounced [stress added], and from this resulted the fact that a variety of meanings could be attached to one and the same word in the original. When ultimately vowels were introduced into the Hebrew text of the Bible, these pronunciation variants sometimes became the basis of variae lectiones.[10]

The lack of any system of interpunctuation in written Hebrew at that time was another factor which gave rise to different interpretations of many passages. These diverging interpretations may also in the end turn up as variants in versions which are based on fully interpunctuated manuscripts.[11]

The learned writer of this article asserts that 'In fact not one single verse of this ancient literature has come to us in an original MS, written by a biblical author or by a contemporary of his, or even by a scribe who lived immediately after the time of the author'. He asserts:

There is probably no other extant text, ancient or modern, which is witnessed to by so many diverse types of sources, and the history of which is so difficult to elucidate as that of the text of the OT. The task of the scholar who endeavours to trace the antecedents of the text as we know it today is further complicated by the fact that he is concerned with sacred literature, every word of which is considered to be divinely inspired and therefore infallible. However, having been handed down by human agents for more than two millennia, the text of the scriptures suffered from the shortcomings of man. It becomes faulty to a greater or less degree and even at times distorted. It must therefore be subjected to scholarly critical analysis like any other ancient literary document [stress added].

The OT books were handed down, as has been said, not only in their original Hebrew or, in some passages, Aramaic tongue, but also in a variety of translations into Semitic or non-Semitic languages. All these textual traditions, as we know them today, differ from one another. What is more, even the witnesses to one tradition, in the original language or in a translation, often diverge from one another. As a result, the scholar who takes a synoptic view of all the sources at his disposal is confronted with a plethora of variae lectiones in the extant versions of the OT books. This fact obviously does not become apparent in the common editions of the OT, in Hebrew or in translation, which are in every-day use. However, it should be borne in mind that the printed editions represent the end of a long chain of textual development and of editorial activities which were aimed at unifying the sacred texts. These late editions can in no way be taken to exhibit faithfully the autographs of the biblical authors. In fact not one single verse of this ancient literature has come to us in an original MS, written by a biblical author or by a contemporary of his, or even by a scribe who lived immediately after the time of the author. Even the very earliest manuscripts at our disposal, in Hebrew or in any translation language, are removed by hundreds of years from the date of origin of the literature recorded in them [stress added].

Even a cursory perusal of the sources available immediately reveals that not one tradition and not one MS is without fault. Each and every one patently exhibits errors which crept into it during the long period of its transmission in the oral stage, when written by hand, and even, though to a lesser degree, when handed down in the form of printed books. [stress added][12]

In spite of all his above findings the writer of the article has stressed that these errors and textual divergences between the versions materially affect the intrinsic message only in relatively few instances. He asserts:

It should, however, be stressed that these errors and textual divergences between the versions materially effect the intrinsic message only in relatively few instances. Nevertheless this may occur. Some examples of variants significant from a theological or ideo-historical angle may in fact be found. In most instances the differences are of a linguistic or grammatical nature, which resulted either from the unpremeditated impact of the linguistic peculiarities of successive generations of copyists, or from their intentional attempts to adjust the wording of scripture to changing concepts of linguistic and stylist norms.[13]

The writer of the article has admitted that the older the biblical MSS (manuscripts) be, the wider is the over-all range of textual divergence between them. He says:

The above remarks do not, however, absolve us from accounting for the fact that the further back the textual tradition of the OT is followed, i.e. the older the biblical MSS perused, and the more ancient the records which come to the knowledge of scholars, the wider is the over-all range of textual divergence between them. The existing variants, therefore, cannot be simply explained as having arisen solely from the cumulative effect of imperfect copying and recopying of the text over many centuries. The very earliest biblical MSS known―and in this respect the biblical scrolls from Qumran are of decisive importance ― exhibit practically all types of variants found in later witnesses. [14]

According to the learned writer of the article, Prof. Shemaryahu Talmon, it is almost impossible to trace back the original text of some book of the OT:

Even if by retracing the steps of textual development we may be able to arrive at the Ur-text[15] of this version or that, the question still remains open whether we shall ever be able to recover the ipsissima verba[16] of a biblical author.[17]

Prof. Shemaryahu Talmon points out that originally oral variations may ultimately turn up as textual variants. He further states that by the early third century B.C., the written transmission of biblical literature had completely replaced the oral tradition:

It should, however, be pointed out that originally oral variations may ultimately turn up as textual variants between duplicate texts within the OT. Such instances are found in two versions of one and the same Psalm embedded in a book of the Former Prophets and Psalms (e.g. 2 Sam. 22 = Ps. 18), in Chronicles and Psalms (e.g. 1 Chron. 16:8-36 = Ps. 105:1-15; 96: 1-13; 106: 1, 47-8), or in the Book of Psalms itself (e.g. Ps. 31: 2-4b = 71: 1-3; 60: 7-14 = 108: 8-14). Again, we meet with two or even three presentations of a piece of biblical literature in parallel passages in the Former and Latter Prophets (2 Kings 18:13 - 20:19 = Isa. 36:1 - 38:22 = 2 Chron. 32:1-20; 2 Kings 25:1-22 = Jer. 39:1-10 = 52:4-27; 2 Kings 25:27-30 = Jer. 52:31-4). To some extent also quotations from an earlier book in a later one may exhibit textual variants. However, in these cases literary license and a possible tendency towards intentional variation or rephrasing on the part of the writer who is borrowing may lie at the root of the present divergences. (…). The definite shift of emphasis from oral to written transmission of the biblical books would thus have become clearly apparent during the period of Return, i.e. at the end of the sixth and in the fifth century B.C., in what, from a wider historical viewpoint, may be termed the Persian period. (….) at this stage [i.e. the early third century B.C.], the written transmission of biblical literature finally and, to all intents and purposes, completely replaced oral tradition.[18]

The writer of the article under study, Prof. Shemaryahu Talmon, asserts that while translating the Hebrew text of the OT neither proper care had been observed nor authorized supervision:

At first, the translation of the scriptures into Aramaic was most probably sporadic and undirected. (…). Lacking authorized supervision, the resulting translation often assumed the form of a somewhat free paraphrase of the original, rather than of an accurate rendering into the translator's language. But even when a word-by-word translation was attempted, divergence from the Hebrew Vorlage[19] was inevitable. Translation from one language into another always produces inaccuracies since there is no exact correspondence between the vocabulary and the syntax of the two, even if they belong to the same language family. Moreover, the probably divergent first renderings of the Hebrew scriptures into Aramaic were based on originals which may well have differed among themselves to a smaller or larger degree, for reasons set out above.

The same considerations apply with additional force to the translation of the OT books into Greek, a non-Semitic language. This translation was required, for reasons similar to those mentioned above, by Jews living within the sphere of Hellenistic culture, whether in Ptolemaic Egypt, where the Jewish community of Alexandria was the focal point, or in Palestine. Tradition maintains that in this case official non-Jewish agents also showed interest in rendering the OT into Greek, and instigated a properly supervised scholarly translation. This tradition will be further discussed subsequently. The Pseudepigraphic letter of Aristeas credits King Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 B.C.) with having inaugurated the translation of the Pentateuch into Greek by seventy sages. As a result of their concerted effort, the Septuagint, commonly designated LXX, was in the Pentateuch less open to the controlled impact of translators' idiosyncrasies. It contains indeed fewer deviations from the Hebrew text here than in the renderings of the other books. But it is still open to discussion that this reputedly official undertaking is to be considered the first attempt at translating the OT or parts of it into Greek and to have provided the impetus to further ventures of the same kind, or whether it should rather be viewed as an event which crowned a long series of previous diffuse attempts with a standardized version. (…). The ensuing embarrassing textual diversity of the versions of the sacred books soon called for the application of the methods of textual analysis and textual criticism to remedy this deficiency. As stated above, the ground for this new approach had been laid by the conjunction of scholarly norms borrowed from the Greeks with the care for the accurate transmission of the inspired literature which had been developed within Judaism.[20]

The writer notes that deviations of the Samaritan Hebrew text―rediscovered by Pietro della Valle in 1616 and printed in 1632 by Morinus in Paris alongside the other versions―from the Massoretic text were estimated at about six thousand:

The Samaritan text [the Samaritan Hebrew Pentateuch was rediscovered by Pietro della Valle in 1616] was made available to scholars shortly afterwards when Morinus first printed it in 1632 alongside the other versions in the Paris Polyglot. Its many deviations from the Massoretic text, later estimated at about six thousand, were soon observed [stress added]. It was further established that approximately one third [i.e. about two thousand] of these variae lectiones could be traced also in the LXX. This concurrence enhanced the doubts which had been raised concerning the veracity of the Massoretic text. It was maintained that, having been revised by the rabbis after the destruction of the Temple, in the first half of the second century A.D., it did not represent the ipsissima verba[21] of the divinely inspired message, but a faulty text, resulting from incuria librariorum or from wilful malicious tampering with it on the part of the Jews. (…). The rich crop of individual variants which were recorded in the apparatus of these works at first sight appeared to disprove the compactness and stability of the Hebrew text. However, closer scrutiny more and more strengthened the conviction that almost all of them can and should be classified as intentional or unintentional secondary scribal alterations. (….), the Greek tradition was deemed especially valuable for the purpose of purging the OT of anti-Christ falsifications which allegedly had been introduced into the Massoretic text by the rabbis.[22]

The worthy writer has also elucidated the impact of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are the oldest extant MSS of Bible, on the credibility of the text of the OT. He asserts, 'The Hebrew scrolls from Qumran prove beyond doubt the actual existence of variant readings in the biblical books of the Hellenistic or Roman periods.' He concludes, 'the very notion of an exclusive textus receptus had not yet taken root at Qumran:

This (the First Isaiah Scroll, IQIsa), like many other MSS from Qumran, precedes the oldest extant MSS of any part of the OT in the Hebrew Massoretic tradition by more than a millennium, and those in Greek or any other translation by several centuries. (…). [p.183] Because of their diversity, the kaleidoscope of the textual traditions exhibited in them, their concurrence here with one, here with another of the known versions, or again in other cases their exclusive textual individuality, the biblical MSS found at Qumran, in their totality, present in a nutshell, as it were, the intricate and variegated problems of the Hebrew text and versions. (….) [p. 184ff].

The coexistence of diverse text types in the numerically, geographically and temporally restricted Covenanters' community, the fact that some or most of the conflicting MSS had very probably been copied in the Qumran scriptorium and that no obvious attempts at the suppression of divergent MSS or of individual variants can be discovered in that voluminous literature, proves beyond doubt that the very notion of an exclusive textus receptus had not yet taken root at Qumran [stress added]. (p.185)

We have no reason to doubt that this 'liberal' attitude towards divergent textual traditions of the OT prevailed also in 'normative' Jewish circles of the second and first centuries B.C. According to rabbinic testimony, even the model codices that were kept in the Temple precincts―the 'azarah―not only exhibited divergent readings, but represented conflicting text-types. [p.185] (…). The difference consists in the fact that in the end the Temple codices were collated, probably in the first century A.D. and, what is more important, that rabbinic Judaism ultimately established a model text and strove to banish deviant MSS from circulation. [p.185,86] (…). However, even the latest MSS from Qumran which provide evidence of the local history of the text in the crucial period, the last decades before the destruction of the Temple, do not give the slightest indication that even an incipient textus receptus emerged there, or that the very notion of a model recension was ever conceived by the Covenanters.[23]

The writer says that mostly the textual variations involved are of the simplest and most common types:

In a majority of cases the textual variations involved are of the simplest and most common types: interchange of graphically similar letters or auricularly close consonants; haplography or dittography; continuous writing of separate words or division of one word into two; plene[24] or defective spelling (as in the cases adduced above); metathesis; differences of vocalisation, sometimes entailing a change of verb conjugations.[25]

He observes that the deliberate alterations into the text of scripture for various reasons of style and dogma have been incorporated in both: the MSS of Qumran and the Jewish MSS alike. He further says that the development of biblical text-transmission may be considered prototypes of phenomena that emerge concurrently and subsequently in the text-history of the OT in Jewish and Christian tradition:

(….), the deliberate insertion of textual alterations into scripture for various reasons of style and dogma, and uncontrolled infiltration of haphazard changes due to linguistic peculiarities of copyist or to their characteristic concepts and ideas, which may be observed in the wider transmission of the text, have their counterparts in the 'Qumran Bible' [p.190] (…). We thus encounter in the Qumran writings development of biblical text-transmission which may be considered prototypes of phenomena that emerge concurrently and subsequently in the text-history of the OT in Jewish and Christian tradition, albeit in less concentrated form, and at different grades of variations.[26]

It is important to note that the worthy writer admits the actual existence of variant readings in the biblical books:

The Hebrew scrolls from Qumran prove beyond doubt the actual existence of variant readings in the biblical books of the Hellenistic or Roman periods which until their discovery had been beyond the scope of textual research proper.[27]

To conclude and sum up the esteemed observations of Prof. Shemaryahu Talmon, Professor of Bible, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, they are presented as under:

1 Any account of the development of the text prior to c. 300 B.C. rely upon mere conjecture.

2 The absence of vowels meant that many Hebrew consonant groups could be differently pronounced and, consequently, a variety of meanings and interpretations could be attached to one and the same word in the original. When vowels were introduced into the Hebrew text of the Bible, they sometimes became the basis of variae lectiones.

3 Having been handed down by human agents for more than two millennia, the text of the Scriptures suffered from the shortcomings of man. It becomes faulty to a greater or less degree and even at times distorted.

4 In fact not one single verse has come to us in an original MS, written by a biblical author or by a contemporary of his, or even by a scribe who lived immediately after the time of the author.

5 Even a cursory perusal of the sources reveals that not one tradition or MS is without fault. Each and every one patently exhibits errors which crept into it during the long period of its transmission in the oral stage, when written by hand, and to a lesser degree, when handed down in the form of printed books.

6 These errors and textual divergences effect the intrinsic message only in relatively few instances.

7 The older the biblical MSS be, the wider is the over-all range of textual divergence between them.

8 It is almost impossible to trace back the original text of some book of the OT.

9 Originally oral variations may ultimately turn up as textual variants.

10 While translating the Hebrew text of the OT neither proper care had been observed nor authorized supervision.

11 Deviations of the Samaritan Hebrew text from the Massoretic text were estimated at about six thousand.

12 The Hebrew scrolls from Qumran prove beyond doubt the actual existence of variant readings in the biblical books of the Hellenistic or Roman periods.

13 Textual variations involved are of the simplest and most common types: interchange of graphically similar letters or auricularly close consonants; haplography or dittography; continuous writing of separate words or division of one word into two; plene or defective spelling; metathesis; differences of vocalisation.