Monday, June 13, 2016

EAJS Workshop: Research Approaches in Hebrew Bible Manuscript Studies

From 6-8 June, I had the opportunity to attend the EAJS Lab Research Approaches in Hebrew Bible Manuscript Studies in Aix-en-Provence. The workshop--organized by Élodie Attia-Kay, Samuel Blapp, and Antony Perrot--was a great success. We were graciously hosted by the Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l'Homme and Aix-Marseille University, with generous funding from the European Association of Jewish Studies.

The workshop brought together researchers on Hebrew Bible manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls, Cairo Genizah, and those studying European fragments (the so-called "European Genizah") with the intent of sharing methodological approaches utilized in the study of these different corpora.

For the Dead Sea Scrolls section, Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra started us off with a stimulating lecture about general trends in the study of the biblical manuscripts from the DSS, paying special attention to questions of textual typology, editorial development, and the contents of small and large manuscripts. Gilles Dorival surveyed the field of Septuagint studies, reflecting a general disposition to prefer explanation of textual differences between the Greek and Hebrew texts as interpretive moves by the translators, an idea which some might have difficulties with. Matthew Monger stressed the need to consider the DSS from the perspective of New/Material Philology, using the interesting example of 4Q216, which apparently only contained the creation account according to Jubilees. I presented a paper on the methods for reconstructing large literary (sc)rolls, summarizing methods used in the study of the DSS and the Herculaneum papyri, and providing mathematical and practical tools for materially reconstructing fragmentary scrolls. I concluded with an example from 4Q14 (4QExod-c), which I suggest should be reconstructed as a complete Torah scroll. Anna Busa analyzed the phylacteries from the Judean Desert, suggesting that they do not fit neatly into two distinct categories such as Tov's "Qumran Scribal Practice" and those in agreement with rabbinic prescriptions. And finally, Antony Perrot and Matthieu Richelle presented a fresh paleographical analysis of the paleo-Hebrew scripts from the Second Temple period, largely confirming the relative chronology of McLean, but suggesting that far more caution is necessary in proposing absolute datings, because of the extremely minimal amount of evidence.

Geoffrey Khan started out the Cairo Genizah section with an interesting survey of recent advances in the study of the Tiberian reading tradition, that stressed its relevance for those studying the Second Temple period. In particular, he suggested a development of the Tiberian and Babylonian vocalizations from a common proto-Masoretic reading tradition, whereas the Palestinian (and Samaritan) vocalizations branched from a different tradition influenced by the Aramaic vernacular. He also showed some of the variety in the Tiberian tradition and the "orthoepic" means that the Masoretes used to disambiguate and further develop their own traditions. Samuel Blapp showed elements in Tiberian Masoretic manuscripts that he considers to be "non-standard." Kim Phillips made a pretty convincing case that two Bible fragments from the Cairo Genizah should be attributed to Samuel ben Jacob (the scribe of Codex Leningradensis), based primarily on paratextual features. Viktor Golinets gave a helpful survey of the Hebrew biblical manuscripts in the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg. Elvira Martin-Contreras suggested that the Masoretic commentary T.S.D. 1, 61, was not as original as its editor thought, based on similar parallels. And Philippe Cassuto reviewed some of his past work on comparing the four great Oriental manuscripts.

For the European Genizah section, unfortunately Judith Olszowy-Schlanger was not able to make it, but she had a short paper read in absentia surveying the results of the Books within Books project. Javier del Barco gave a brief history of cataloguing Hebrew manuscripts, emphasizing the trend to include more codicological information parallel to the New Philology and the distinction between cataloguing complete manuscripts and fragments. Judith Kogel examined a Pentateuch with fragments in Colmar and Strasbourg to find other manuscripts that are most closely related to it. Mauro Perani gave a summary of his findings on the 12th century Bologna Torah scroll, noting the use of final nun in vacats to indicate awareness of different traditions of segementation and patterns of usage of taggin (decorations on letters in Torah scrolls). Roberta Tonnarelli and Élodie Attia-Kay then discussed their work on differentiating between Italian and Ashkenazi manuscripts in the early periods when they are not necessarily clearly distinguished.

The workshop also included introductions to ongoing projects. Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra presented an exciting overview of the Scripta Qumranica Electronica Project, which promises to be a revolution in DSS studies. Ben Outhwaite presented an interesting research project focusing on the Bibles of the Cairo Genizah. Javier del Barco expressed his intention to work from the perspective of New Philology to study Hebrew Bible manuscripts in the 14th-15th centuries. Hannah Liss showcased her project on documenting the Masoretic material in Western European manuscripts. And Élodie Attia-Kay presented her new project Manuscripta Bibliae Hebraicae studying European biblical manuscripts.

The workshop concluded with a chance to discuss methodological questions across corpora in small groups, which was a helpful conclusion. I understand that the organizers plan to publish the proceedings, which should make for a good book for those interested on the topic. I personally had a great time meeting and talking with the many medievalists there, and I learned a lot. The only critique I might offer is that many of the medievalists seemed to be doing their normal research, rather than specifically tailoring their papers for a mixed audience. But the organizers are making a conscious effort to tie the papers together so scholars in different research areas are able to learn more from each other, which will hopefully make the finished product even better. All in all, I would say it was a very successful workshop, and I would once again like to thank the organizers and the hosts for their labors and hospitality.

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