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[textualcriticism] Joshua 21:36-37 - scripture or interpolation ?

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  • schmuel
    Hi Folks, Joshua 21:36-37 (AV) And out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with her suburbs, and Jahazah with her suburbs, Kedemoth with her suburbs, and Mephaath
    Message 1 of 4 , Feb 23, 2011
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      Hi Folks,

      Joshua 21:36-37  (AV)
      And out of the tribe of Reuben,
      Bezer with her suburbs,
      and Jahazah with her suburbs,
      Kedemoth with her suburbs,
      and Mephaath with her suburbs;
      four cities.

      Daniel Buck
      Joshua 21:36-37 was interpolated into the printed text of the Hebrew Bible by way of a footnote at that location carried in many manuscripts of the Masoretic text.

      We have a bit of a cart and horse problem.

      There is lots of historical evidence that these verses are the common manuscript reading ,and with support from traditional Hebraics. The verses are found in the majority of Masoretic manuscripts and all the early printed editions.

      Samuel Davidson is the most read, below, for summary and clarity.
      And Christian David Ginsburg for manuscript specifics and lots of backdrop.



      Back in 2005 Martin Arhelger very courteously sent me a copy of the Ben Hayim printed page,
      "2nd Bomberg edition 1524-25" which I placed online at:

      what a friend,  familiar with these Hebrew scripts shared (he likes to read the Mikra'ot Gedolot and other writings).

      "This is the best I can do with that marginal note at the moment. There are about three primary uncertainties in my rendition, all of which I have indicated with a question mark > ( ? ) "

      There are books in which are reckoned : "And of the tribe of Reven, Bezer {?} {?}...etc.. But in all the old, critical texts, it isn't found.. See the commentary of Kimchi. See as well as the {Greater} Mesorah . For in eight {variants?} of {verse} 38 {the phrase beginning with} .."eth {reuven}" isn't found among them. This is a convincing proof,


      Memoirs of the life and writings of the Right Rev. Brian Walton (1821)
      John Henry Todd
      .... Jos. xxi. 36,37. where two verses were left out in the second Venice Edition and in Jonathan's Paraphrase, and in the margin the Masoretical note is, "that in no ancient and corrected Copies these verses are to be found, nor in the famous copy of R. Hillel; yet in some later Copies they are found;"


      JOHN GILL COMMENTARY  (c. 1760)

      Verse 36.
      And out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with her suburbs,.... Which was a city of refuge, and the fifth of them in this account, though not observed as such here, but is in the Greek version; see Joshua 20:8;

      and Jahazah with her suburbs; called Jahaz, See Gill on "Nu 21:23."

      Verse 37.
      "four cities, Joshua 21:35, are not in some ancient copies of the Hebrew Bible, as is noted by the Masorites; but are in some others, as Kimchi owns, and stand in the Targum, in the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, and in a manuscript referred to by Hottinger {e}; and the same words are to be, found in 1 Chronicles 6:78, and are absolutely necessary to be retained, since without them there would be but eight cities for the Merarites, whereas they are expressly said to be twelve, Joshua 21:40.

      {e} Thesaur. Philolog. l. 1. c. 2. p. 181, &c."


      BENJAMIN KENNICOTT (1718-1783) from Adam Clarke (1835)

      The holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments (1835)
      Adam Clarke
      ... Between critics there is no small controversy relative to the authenticity of these verses—and those who wish to see the arguments at large on both sides, must consult the Variae Lectiones of De Rossi, on this place. Dr. Kennicott, who is a strenuous advocate for their authenticity argues thus in their behalf:

      "Verses 41 and 42 of this chapter tell us that the Levitical cities were forty-eight, and that they had been all as such described; so that they must have been all specified in this chapter: whereas now in all the Hebrew copies printed in full obedience to the Masora, which excludes two verses containing four of these cities, the number amounts only to forty-four. "The cities are first mentioned, in the general, as being thirteen and ten, with thirteen and twelve, which are certainly forty-eight. And yet when they are particularly named, ver. 13-19 gives thirteen cities; ver. 20-26 gives ten cities; ver. 27-33 gives thirteen; ver. 34-36 gives four cities; and ver. 35-36 gives four more, all which can make but forty-four. And what still increases the wonder is, that ver. 40 infers from the verses immediately preceding, that the cities allowed to the Merarites were twelve, though they here make eight only, unless we admit the four other cities expressed in those two verses, which have been rejected by that blind guide the Masora. In defiance of this authority these two verses, thus absolutely necessary, were inserted in the most early editions of the Hebrew text, and are found in Walton's Polyglot, as well as in our English Bible. But they have scarce ever been as yet printed completely, thus, And out of the tribe or Reuben, A CITY OF REFUGE FOR THE SLAYER, BEZER, IN THE WILDERNESS, with her suburbs, and Jahazah with her suburbs, Kedemoth with her suburbs, and Mephaath with her suburbs; four cities. See on this place my edition of the Hebrew Bible, where no less than one hundred and forty-nine copies are described, which happily preserve these verses, most clearly essential to the truth and consistency of this chapter. See also General Discourse, pp. 19, 26, 54."

      Though this reasoning of Dr. Kennicott appears very conclusive, yet there are so many and important variations among the MSS. that retain, and those that reject these verses, as to render the question of their authenticity very difficult to be determined. To Dr. Kennicott's one hundred and forty-nine MSS. which have these two verses, may be added upwards of forty collated by Dr, Rossi. Those who deny their authenticity say they have been inserted here from 1 Chron. vi. 78, 79, where they are found it is true, in general, but not exactly as they stand here, and in Dr. Kennicott's Hebrew Bible. 



      A treatise on Biblical criticism: exhibiting a systematic view of that science, Volume 1  (1853)
      Samuel Davidson

      I. The verses as now given are supported by many authorities.

      1. Ninety-two MSS. of Kennicottand De Rossi have them.
      A few of these however have them a prima manu, or now only not at first; or in the margin.

      2. They are in sixty-six printed editions enumerated by De Rossi.

      3. They are in the Syriac, Chaldee and Arabic versions.

      4. A few MSS. in the time of Kimchi which he quotes on Joshua xxi. 7, had them.



      1. The greater number of MSS. contain them. One hundred and sixty-four collated by Kennicott and De Rossi have them; while from seventy they are absent. Nor are those that have them inferior copies. They are of the best quality, and many of them Spanish. And they are found in several of great antiquity.

      2. Most editions have them. Of twenty-six editions collated by Kennicott twenty-three have the verses, three wanting them. And seventy-nine editions examined by De Rossi have them. Among these editions are all of the fifteenth century prepared in Italy or Spain, all indeed  before the Rabbinical Bible of Bomberg in 1525, where they were expunged by Rabbi Jacob Ben Chayim. These editions include such as were taken from the more accurate and better MSS., from Spanish and even from Masoretic exemplars. Thus an ancient edition of the Bible without place or date which De Rossi describes as superior in correctness to the Soncino edition of 1488, and as probably about the same age; the Pisaurian Bible, the Complutensian Polyglott, the Leirian, Pisaurian, and Thessalonian editions of the prophets contain the verses. Even after Ben Chayim had expelled them from the text, they were retained in many excellent editions as those of Robert  Stephens at Paris, the Plantin editions, the Polyglotts, many of the Venetian editions, those superintended by Manassch Ben Israel and Rabbi David Nunnes Torres at Amsterdam, and the important critical apparatus of Norzi.

      3. All the ancient versions have them—the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Chaldee, the Vulgate, Arabic, Ethiopic, and some MSS. of the Chaldee paraphrase. The variety of reading which appears in the Septuagint shews, that they were not taken from the parallel passage in Chronicles and inserted in Joshua; but that the translators followed Hebrew MSS. in both places. The same is the case with the Syriac version, whose rendering of the verses differs in Joshua and Chronicles.

      4. The parallel passage in 1 Chron. vi. 63, 64 has them. It is true that their existence here has been urged as a reason why they should not be in Joshua; yet there are reasons against their having been transferred from the later to the earlier book. One of the most obvious is, that the same words are not in Joshua as in Chronicles. There are as many variations as shew an independent origin.

      5. The context is in favour of their authenticity. In the seventh verse it is stated that the Merarites had certain cities out of the tribe of Reuben, and out of the tribe of Gad, and out of the tribe of Zebulon, twelve cities in all. In the fortieth verse the same number is repeated. But unless these two verses be in the text, the number twelve is wrong. With the omission of them, the number of cities is but eight. With
      them, the whole number twelve is made up. So too the number forty-eight in the forty-first verse is wrong, without the verses before us.   It is only forty-four without them.

      6. It is more likely that the verses were omitted in a few MSS..than that they were inserted in the great majority of them. The former proceeding is easier and more frequent than the latter. Besides, the cause of their omission here may be discovered. The thirty-fifth verse ends with the same words Emacs! as the thirty-seventh; and the thirty-sixth begins with the same word as the thirty-eighth   Emacs! Thus Emacs!
      would readily lead a scribe to omit the two verses.

      These considerations are sufficient to shew that the verses are a constituent part of the text, and were omitted at first by mistake. They formed an integral portion of the chapter of Joshua, in which many editions present them.

      The chief reasons against their authenticity may be readily disposed of.

      (snip ... continues)

      Believing that the proof in favour of these verses is sufficient, we cannot but blame Ben Chayim in expunging them from the text. Doubtless he was induced to do so by the authority of Kimchi; for he cites him as well as the Masorah. It was the more recent Masorah here which Kimchi adopted. After Ben Chayim had rejected them, other editors followed, such as Buxtorf, Moses Ben Simeon of Frankfort, Jablonski,
      Van der Hooght, &c.

      (snip ... continues)



      "Suzugos" - 08-22-2008
      In connection with the earliest printed versions G. V. Wigram had an interesting article that appeared in his “A Handy Hebrew Concordance; hitherto called The Hebraist’s Vade Mecum; A Complete Verbal Index to the Contents of the Hebrew and Chaldee Scriptures”. Wigram points out that Cardinal Ximenes de Cisneros’ 1522 “Complutensian Polyglot” has the verses in it’s printed Hebrew column. Wigram lists six other polyglot Bibles that have the verses in Hebrew. These are Plantin, 1569; Vatablus, 1586; Wolder and Hutter, 1596; Le Jay. 1645; Walton, 1657; and Reineccus, 1750. Wigram also reports that the verses were included in the first Hebrew Bible printed in Soncino, Italy in 1488.

      Among important printed Hebrew Bibles that do not have our Joshua 21:36-37 are the 1525 Second Rabinical Bible (Bomberg) edited by the fabled Jacob ben Chayim in Venice. The Bomberg edition has long been considered the “Received Text” among Hebrew Bibles. Two other important Hebrew editions that followed the Bomberg also lack Joshua 21:36-37. These are Everardi Van der Hooght’s 1707edition, and Augustus Hahn’s 1839 revision of Van der Hooght’s text. The 1839 Hahn was one of the most widely circulated Hebrew Bibles of the nineteenth century.

      The Hebraist’s Vade Mecum (1867)
      George V. Wigram



      Joshua, Judges, Ruth (1869)
      Carl Friedrich Keil, Franz Delitzsch
      R. Jacob ben Chajim has omitted vv. 36 and 37 from his Rabbinical Bible of the year 1525 as spurious, upon the authority of Kimchi and the larger Masora; but upon insufficient grounds, as these verses are to be found in many good MSS and old editions of an earlier date than 1525, as well as in all the ancient versions, and could not possibly have been wanting from the very first, since the Merarites received twelve towns, which included the four that belonged to Reuben. In those MSS in which they are wanting, the omission was, no doubt, a copyist's error, occasioned by the Emacs! (homoioteleuton) (see de Rossi variae lectt. ad h. l. , and J. H. Michaelis' Note to his Hebrew Bible).


      CHRISTIAN DAVID GINSBURG - Massoretico-Critical Edition (1897)

      Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible (1897 & 1966)
      Christian D. Ginsburg, L. L. D.

      i. The Text itself is based upon that of the First Edition of Jacob ben Chayim's Massoretic Recension, printed by Bomberg, at Venice, in the year 1524-5. Existing Hebrew Bibles, which profess to follow Jacob ben Chayim's text, have admitted in the course of years many unwarranted variations from it and many errors.

      Those important glosses are no part of the Massorah, but record the result of Jacob b. Chayim's own collation. They disclose the fact that some of the model Codices and the Massoretic Annotators not unfrequently differed in their readings, and that Jacob b. Chayim had to exercise his own judgment as to which was the better reading. In this respect a modern editor is not bound to abide by Jacob b. Chayim's decision. A striking illustration of this fact we have in the two verses of Joshua XXI, vit. 36, 37. We have seen that some of the best MSS. and all the early editions without exception have these two verses. Jacob b. Chayim, however, decided to omit them in accordance with a certain School of Massorites, but we are perfectly justified in restoring them on the authority which we have adduced *.
      * Vide supra. Part. II, chap. VI, p. 178 &c. (p. 965)

      As has already been stated, this is the first printed edition of the Hebrew Bible in which the two verses are omitted in Josh. XXI, viz. 36, 37; neither has it Neh. VIII 68. (p. 973)

      p 478 - No. 4 - ms Harley 1528 - 2 verses included, revisor margin note added

      p. 483 - No. 4 - ms Harley 5710-5711 - verses omitted

      p. 514 - No. 9 - Kings 1 - verses included, with note

      p. 528 - No. 11 - Add. 9398 - verses included, no note

      p. 585 - No. 21 - add 15250, verses in a more complete form and a Masoretic note

      p. 677 - No. 38 - Oriental 2210 - verses missing, no remark

      p. 702 - No. 46 - Oriental 2370 - verses missing, supplied in upper margin

      p. 737 - No. 52 - G.1 - two verses included, Masoretic note that marks genuineness

      p. 746  - No. 53 - G.2  - carefully written codex, verses included

      p. 752 - No. 54 - G.3 - two verses included, no note

      p. 775 - No. 59 - Madrid University Library, Codex No. 1 - two verses included

      p 830 - No. 6 - editio princeps - Soncino 1488, with the verses.

      p. 854 - No. 9 - Second Edition - Naples 1491-1493 - verses included

      p. 873 - No. 12 - Third Edition - Brescia 1494 - verses included

      p 883 - No. 14 - Former Prophets with commentary of Abravanel - Pesaro 1510-1511, with the verses.


      From this point on.. all editions included:

      p. 917 - No. 19 - Complutensian Polyglot, Alcala 1514-1517 - verses included

      p. 943 - No. 20 - First edition of the Rabbinic Bible (Bomberg-Felix Pratensis) 1516-1517 - verses included, various readings in margin

      p. 948 - No. 21 - First edition - David Bomberg, Venice 1516,1517 - same text as No.20

      p. 955 - No. 22 - Second edition - David Bomberg, Venice 1521 - Two verses included

      p. 965 - No. 23 - Second Edition - Rabbinic Bible - Jacob b. Chayim - Venice 1524-1525 (not included, see note above)

      p. 975 - No. 24 - Bomberg Bible - 1525-28 - "from the text of Felix Pratensis he reinstated the two verses"



      The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, emphasizes how the author would have to be off in three  separate counts ! 

      "This and the following verse are wholly omitted by the Masora, and many Hebrew Bibles which are esteemed very highly; though, without them, neither the twelve cities of the Merarites in particular (ver. 40,) nor the forty-eight Levitical cities in general (ver. 41), nor the six cities of refuge, can be made up. But these two verses, are thus absolutely necessary for the truth and consistency of this chapter, are happily preserved in no less than 149; MSS. collated by Dr. Kennicott, and upwards of 40; collated by De Rossi."



      TEXTUS Vol. XV

      Stephen A Reed - "A Puzzling Masoretic Note in Joshua 21:35." Textus 15 (1990) 77-85.

      A Graeme Auld – "The cities in Joshua 21: The contribution of textual criticism"



      Textual criticism: recovering the text of the Hebrew Bible (1986)
      Peter Kyle McCarter
      Verses 36-37 are entirely missing in the Leningrad Codex and other major manuscripts of MT. They can be restored from other manuscripts of MT and the versions. The cause of their omission in MT was homoioteleuton: ....

      Hebrew for biblical interpretation (2003)
      Arthur Walker-Jones


      At the very least, I believe it is safe to say that there are strong and compelling evidences for the two verses as autographic scripture.


      A number of modern writers have stumbled over these verses.
      Especially when folks have strained to attack the Authorized Version, they tend to make factual blunders :

      King James Onlyism: A New Sect
      James D. Price
      Joshua 21:36-37—The MT omits the verses, as does the Tgm. However, the King James Version added the verses because they are contained in three ancient versions. LXX, Vgt., and Syr.; and the inclusion of the verses is supported by the parallel passage in I Chronicles 6:63-64. The MT evidently lost these verses by scribal omission. The text was restored from the ancient versions and a parallel passage.

      So James Price was attacking the AV decisions, without even realizing that this was a Masoretic Text majority reading !
      He had even the most basic fact wrong, wrongly claiming
      (The MT omits the verses) .
      Similarly Arthur Farstad claimed that:

       "Joshua 21:36-37 is lacking in the Masoretic text," (The New King James Version: In the Great Tradition, p. 96, 2003).

      Steven Avery
      Queens, NY

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