Monday, January 30, 2012

2 Kings 4 and Qumran Orthography?

In reading 2 Kings 4 recently, I was struck by the unusual number of Kethib-Qere readings and their consistent pattern. Throughout the chapter, feminine pronouns commonly have an additional י at the end, as in Aramaic. This spelling is also commonly found in manuscripts from Qumran. Under other circumstances, the MT of 2 Kings 4 could have been said to have exhibited "Qumran orthography." Because there are so many examples in 2 Kings 4, Kutscher (Isaiah Scroll: 211) says this might be a remnant of the Northern Hebrew (Israelite) dialect, though these readings are not consistent even in 2 Kings 4. It is equally possible that the MT here has experienced the same type of textual corruption as is commonly found at Qumran, namely, the influence of the Aramaic-influenced dialect of later scribes. A number of cautions come to mind from these results.

1) It should not be lightly assumed that the orthography and peculiarities of the Qumran MSS are unique to this community. Their scribal practices almost certainly shared common characteristics with their non-sectarian peers.

2) Even the MT (despite its normally conservative orthography) is not entirely immune to influences from the dialects of later scribes.

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