Thursday, June 20, 2024

Podcast on the HBCE Psalms Edition

I had the privilege of being interviewed on Andrew Case's podcast about the HBCE Psalms edition, digital and eclectic editions, and textual criticism of the Psalms.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Manuscripta Bibliae Hebraicae

I just saw the Manuscripta Bibliae Hebraicae project has a nice website up. From the website, "MBH is an ACHN ANR project which supports the systematic study of Hebrew biblical manuscripts produced in Western Europe before 1300, with a view to establishing their typology on the basis of their form and content."

MBH is an ACHN ANR project which supports the systematic study of Hebrew biblical manuscripts produced in Western Europe before 1300, with a view to establishing their typology on the basis of their form and content."

Thursday, May 2, 2024

HBCE Psalms Call for Transcribers

The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition (HBCE) Psalms 1-50 project aims to produce the first born-digital critical edition of the Hebrew text of Psalms 1-50 (including ancient translations), as well as the first eclectic critical edition of these Hebrew poems. The digital edition will also be used to produce the standard printed HBCE volume. The online workflow and output include:
  1. digital images of included manuscripts where permissible; 
  2. full electronic transcriptions of included manuscripts and versions;
  3. semi-automatic collation of manuscripts and versions in multiple languages;
  4. eclectic critical text and extensive textual apparatus.
A preliminary sample of what the edition would like from Psalm 22 can be seen at:

In order to accomplish this milestone in Hebrew Bible textual scholarship, we are calling for volunteer transcribers with an interest in the texts and manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament to help record the data from the most important ancient and medieval witnesses. No previous experience working with manuscripts is required, but some knowledge of one or more of the relevant languages is essential (specifically Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, Aramaic, and/or Latin). We will provide volunteers with the necessary introductory training in manuscript studiespaleography, and digital text encoding.

In return, we ask volunteers for a 25-hour commitment spread flexibly over 2 months (an average of 3–4 hours per week) from May through June 2024, including group training sessions. During this time, volunteers will take responsibility for transcribing several Psalms according to an assigned manuscript, which will then be incorporated into the critical edition. Transcribers will gain valuable expertise and experience working with manuscripts and cutting-edge methods of digital editing while contributing meaningfully to a major scholarly enterprise in the field. Transcribers will also be recognized for their contributions by name in the edition.

To sign up, fill out this Google form

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Perceptions of Writing in Papyri Recordings Online

The video recordings of presentations from the Perceptions of Writing in Papyri conference are now available online. This is a great overview of current work on how digital tools have impacted the study of ancient manuscripts.

HT Isabelle Marthot-Santaniello

Monday, February 5, 2024

Kantor on the Pronunciation of the Name Jesus

Ben Kantor has a useful article/video on the pronunciation of the name Jesus/Yeshua in Greek and Hebrew/Aramaic sources in the time of Jesus. This is a helpful resource for those confused by the pseudo-scientific discussions of Jesus's name that are abundant on the internet.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Isaiah 9:6 and the Antiquity of the Masoretic Tradition

Today I was reading Isaiah 9:6 (Eng. v. 7) with some colleagues and came across a textual variant I had never noticed before.

5 וַיִּקְרָ֨א שְׁמ֜וֹ פֶּ֠לֶא 
יוֹעֵץ֙ אֵ֣ל גִּבּ֔וֹר אֲבִיעַ֖ד שַׂר־
שָׁלֽוֹם׃   6 לַם רַבָּה הַמִּשְׂרָ֜ה 
וּלְשָׁל֣וֹם אֵֽין־קֵ֗ץ 
and he is named Wonderful 
Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of 
Peace.  7 His authority shall grow continually, 
and there shall be endless peace (NRSV)

In the Aleppo and Leningrad codices, the second letter of v. 6 is a final mem yielding לם רבה, whereas a Qere note in the margin (marked with קׄ) says to read למרבה as one word with a non-final mem.

Detail of Leningrad Codex. Photographer: Bruce E. Zuckerman.

My first instinct was to explain this away as a scribal error in the Aleppo codex I was reading from. This kind of confusion is common in the Dead Sea Scrolls, but I noted that it most commonly occurs on the archaic ־מו prefix (meaning "them") rather than in the middle of a word. A little more digging showed that the Leningrad codex has the same exact peculiarity, so this is certainly no accidental innovation in these manuscripts. 

In 1QIsa-a, the scribe does not use a distinct form of final mem, but does leave a space between למ and רבה. It is worth noting that the scribe does not always write a distinct final form, as is evident in the second detail below from just a few lines above our verse. Thus, it appears that our scribe here likely read למ רבה as two words rather than one.

Details of 1QIsa-a. © The Israel Museum.

Looking at the Septuagint, Ziegler reconstructs the Greek text as:

καὶ καλεῖται τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Μεγάλης βουλῆς ἄγγελος·

ἐγὼ γὰρ ἄξω εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τοὺς ἄρχοντας, 

εἰρήνην καὶ ὑγίειαν αὐτῷ (some mss αυτων). 

(6) 7 μεγάλη ἡ ἀρχὴ αὐτοῦ, 

καὶ τῆς εἰρήνης αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν ὅριον

and he is named Messenger of Great Counsel, 

for I will bring peace upon the rulers, 

peace and health to him (some mss them). 

7(6)  His sovereignty is great, 

and his peace has no boundary (NETS)

For our verse, the Greek translator--who often translates rather freely--is clearly struggling to make sense of a difficult text, reading something like:

אבי(א) עד שר(ים) שלום (שלום ובורי/בריאות?) למ(ו) רבה המשרה

The extra "peace and health to him" may have been added by the translator for some reason, or it could have been a Hebrew reading known to him or at least supposed by him. Note the similarity between a conjenctured retroversion like שלום שלום ובורי and שלום למו רבה. If so, the translation could perhaps reflect a double translation of the Hebrew representing two possible readings of the difficult Hebrew text before him. Either way, the translation αὐτῷ μεγάλη seems to imply a source text that read לם רבה as two separate words.

Thus, the final mem in the medieval Masoretic codices is no accident, but an accurate record of a textual variant that can be traced back to the 2nd century BCE in 1QIsa-a and the LXX! The inherited reading tradition preferred to read למרבה as one word (cf. the similar noun form in Isa 33:23), a tradition which can be traced at least as far back as the 2nd century CE (see Theodotion's translation τω πληθυνειν την παιδειαν; so also το εβρʹ λεμαρβη αμμισρα according to Chrysostum). But for over 1000 years, some (not all) Jewish scribes faithfully copied the alternative text with two words לם רבה inherited from their exemplars. This variant then gives us a remarkable window into the deep roots of the (sometimes multiple and conflicting) readings embedded in the traditional Masoretic text in one of the most famous passages in all of the Hebrew Bible.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Studies on Book Bindings

De Gruyter has published a new edited volume on manuscript bindings in comparative perspective.

Bausi, Alessandro and Friedrich, Michael, eds. Tied and Bound: A Comparative View on Manuscript Binding, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2023.


The present volume contains twelve chapters authored by specialists of Asian, African and European manuscript cultures reflecting on the cohesion of written artefacts, particularly manuscripts. Assuming that ‘codicological units’ exist in every manuscript culture and that they are usually composed of discrete elements (such as clay tablets, papyrus sheets, bamboo slips, parchment bifolios, palm leaves), the issue of the cohesion of the constituents is a general one. The volume presents a series of case studies on devices and strategies adopted to achieve this cohesion by manuscript cultures distant in space (from China to West Africa) and time (from the third millennium bce to the present). This comparative view provides the frame for the understanding of a phenomenon that appears to be of essential importance for the study of the structure of written artefacts. Regardless of the way in which cohesion is realised, all strategies and devices that allow the constituents to be kept together are subsumed under the term ‘binding’. Thus, it is possible to highlight similarities, convergences, and unique physical and technical methods adopted by various manuscript cultures to face a common challenge.