The more I study individual manuscripts, the more appreciation I have for editions, which weed out the idiosyncracies of the various manuscripts and establish a text based either on the common reading of most manuscripts, or a reading found in a few but that best explains the existence of the usual one.
The Great Isaiah Scroll (GIS) is an example of a manuscript with its own idiosyncracies. Among these are places where the eye of the scribe skipped over a series of letters before coming to rest further down the line or page. This is one of the most common scribal errors, and it has three possible results:
1) The scribe catches himself and goes back to replace the missing letters. If they consist of one word in a list, he may insert if further down the list, resulting in the common feature of transposition. This also occurrs in any clause where the skipped word will also fit
grammatically further into the clause. I'm not aware that anyone has named this phenomenon, but based on its occurrence I would tend to favor the reading in which a word is found in its normal place in a clause--for example, in Hebrew a verb found ahead of the subject and object.
2) The scribe doesn't catch himself, but a later editor does, and makes a marginal notation of the missing word. We then have two readings in the one manuscript. If a further scribe erases the correction, we are up to three.
3) No one notices the missing word(s), and the manuscript is copied as defective. Thus may arise a new family of manuscripts featuring the omission.
In the Great Isaiah Scroll we are most interested in finding a reading which was dropped later on in the transmission stream--as it were, looking past the parablepsis of a different scribe, who made a mistake of the third sort, and rediscovering a text
which had been lost for centuries to readers of the Hebrew Scriptures. This is in fact what we are able to do with the words AOR V in 53:11. The Masoretic text translates as "from the labor of his soul, he will see, he will be satisfied". The GIS translates as "from the labor of his soul, he will see light and he will be satisfied." From a look at the LXX reading DEIXAI AUTW FWS, we have to either conclude that the scribe of the GIS was influenced by the Greek, or that the Greek preserved a text that included AOR where the Masoretic Text (MT) perpetuates a parableptic omission. Inasmuch as the former is hardly possible, we must go with the latter.
So much for parablepsis downstream (or in a side stream) of that of the GIS. We now turn to parablepsis that either occurred in the making of the GIS, or that of a manuscript further up the transmission stream.
We start with an h.t.
in 2:2 AL . . . AL, in which the phrase AL HR YHWH, 'to the mountain of Yahowah,' is skipped over. It's in parallel with "to the house of the God of Jacob," so the omission was not readily recognized. This may well date back to a precursor of the GIS.
The next h.t. is rather substantial, going from 4:5 to 4:6 YMM . . . YMM, omitting "and smoke, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory a canopy. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow by day. . ." Clearly this omission badly damaged the sense, but even though the omission is located just above a large gap in the text where all 14 words could have been written in using a smaller script, it apparently was never caught. This sort of thing did not happen under the scrupulous care of the Masoretes.
The first word of 5:15 in the MT consists of the single letter W, which is missing in the GIS. There are many such small omissions in the GIS, which could be chalked up to stylistic changes as much as inadvertent error. We shall, in general, continue looking only for what appear to be cases of h.t. But first we alight on another omission of a single letter, the article which begins line 23 of column 10, Isaiah 11:4. Without it, the MT can hardly be translated. With it, we easily translate the phrase as "he shall strike the earth." Again, this may have been a stylistic change, but for all intents and purposes this is being done every time the MT is translated.
While we are on this topic, I have gone ahead and modified the title of this post to add "and Stylistic Changes" because it is hard to know sometimes where parablepsis leaves off and stylistic changes pick up. I take up in a later post a case where an incipient h.t. was corrected back to the text, when it may well have led to a transposition instead. For now we will look at 15:7, where the MT reads OL NXL HORBIM YShAWM (over the river of the poplars they shall bear them). The scribe behind the reading in the GIS changed the meaning to "over an arabian river they shall be borne" by inscribing OL NXL ORBI ThShAWM. This required two changes: loss of the article, and moving the M from the end of ORBIM to the beginning of YShAWM, and reading it as a Th. This is one of the best examples out of several unique readings in the GIS which seem to indicate
an exemplar written in scripta continua.
Well, that is probably enough for one post. Perhaps there are alrady a couple of applications we can made to Hebrew textual criticism from this information:
1) Single-letter prefixes and suffixes are easily dropped or misplaced, especially in scripta continua, where reading a suffix as a prefix changes the meaning.
2) A dropped one-letter morpheme in one manuscript, resulting in an odd-sounding reading, may lead to a stylistic change in a later manuscript, with a different meaning entirely.