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[textualcriticism] Deuteronomy 32:8 - circularity in modern Masoretic Text emendation methodology

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  • schmuel
    Hi, Deuteronomy 32:8 (AV) When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people
    Message 1 of 40 , May 6, 2012

      Deuteronomy 32:8  (AV)
      When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance,
      when he separated the sons of Adam,
      he set the bounds of the people
      according to the number of the children of Israel.

      One tweak and a discussion of circularity and motives.

           The external evidence is an absolute landslide here. Why one would risk their "good" reputation on account of the testimony of one Dead Sea Scroll manuscript is beyond me. I would reconsider taking that bet? It is a longshot built upon a foundation of guesswork and conjecture, unwarranted conjecture at that. All Hebrew manuscripts save one (4Q37) read "sons of Israel", the Targums follow suit (as Mr. Avery has pointed out). The Samaritan Pent., some LXX mss., the Syriac and the Vulgate of Jerome all support the traditional reading. Against this mountain of evidence we have one Heb. manuscript and "Some texts of the Greek Version" (F.C. Cook comm.).

      These Greek MSS (noting that some early Greek mss simply agree with the MT) do not have the DSS "sons of God".  They specifically have "angels of God". This is why the alternate new theory, apparently so heartily embraced in some scholarship circles, is actually one of a double alteration. From the DSS "sons of God" to the majority, later LXX "angels of God" to the Masoretic Text "children of Israel".

      The theory was given to me, by Daniel O. McClellan, as explained in the first post.

      Deuteronomy 32:8 - according to the number of the children of Israel
      .... your Bible has numerous spurious texts and interpolations. Your Bible's version of Deut 32:8, for instance, has a tertiary alteration that was effected in the Common Era. The verse originally ended "according to the number of the sons of God" (cf. 4QDeut-j). Some Septuagint manuscripts changed it in the late Greco-Roman period to "angels of God," and the Masoretic texts centuries later finally removed the reference to divine beings by changing it to "sons of Israel." .

      Which I put into this readable form.

      original Hebrew Bible-----> ....................................... "according to the number of the sons of God" (cf. 4QDeut-j).
      some LXX mss-----------> late Greco-Roman period --> "angels of God,"
      Masoretic Text----------> centuries later............. ---> "sons of Israel."

      this actually placed the MT reading as beginning at about 400-500 AD. 

      Which is obviously absurd, considering the mountain of evidence from hundreds of years earlier (even in Greek.. and definitively in Syriac, Aramaic and Latin). Beyond the fact that there is no evidence for a Masoretic Text text-flip, and if there was such a change it should create a majority/minority situation.

      Once the scenario given by Daniel is rejected, someone could  try to rehabilitate a type of alternate theory. It would be necessary to say that there were two competing ancient lines in the BC period, not that it was a new complex emendation.  However, than you simply have the type of evidence that can be called 100-->1, the landslide referenced above.  One manuscript against full text-lines. 

      Generally the people proposing the emendation like to keep things very vague, because close examination would destroy the emendation theory.  Helpfully, Daniel gave some specifics as to what was conjectured to occur when, so we did not just have jelly nailed to a tree.

      What I find more interesting than the "facts on the ground" of Deuteronomy 32:8 is how these theories (in this case a double alteration) get floated without any method of harmonizing with the actual evidence.  And I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg of such absurd claims.


      A lot of this stuff is based on a circularity.
      And here is my 1-2-3 representation of how the circularity works.



      1) It is claimed that the Syriac Peshitta, the Vulgate and the Targumim are not very important evidences for textual criticism precisely because they are considered "pre-Masoretic".  (The implied idea is that the only significance of OT textual criticism is to attack the Masoretic Text, not find the true Bible reading.)

      The way this was put in the CARM discussion was :

      There's no need to present information when it's been fully discussed in the past and that info has no bearing on the conclusions. Several years ago, for instance, Emanuel Tov gave an SBL paper here he showed the Syriac, the Latin, and SP have little text-critical value in light of their general subordination to the pre-Masoretic tradition.   (Daniel O. McClellan)

      2) Then a theory is floated as to why the Masoretic Text is not original, on a specific variant.  This could be complex alterations, or wild Ugaritic or Akkadian cognates, or just about anything.

      3) Then when the evidences that effectively destroy the new theory are mentioned (Samaritan Penateuch, Targumim, Syriac, Latin) it is claimed that those evidences have been shown to be not important textually (1).  Therefore the emendation (2) should stand.

      The circularity is assuming that Masoretic supporting evidences are not relevant, in order to claim that Masoretic readings are not original.  (Granted, technically you might call this a fallacy of flawed presuppositions, rather than circularity, but I definitely see it as a circular argument.)


      Here are a few quotes directly involving the Samaritan Pentateuch.

      "it is easy to recognize the relatively few harmonizing and clarifying expansions in the pre-Samaritan DSS [Dead Sea Scrolls) and the SP. When those are discounted, the SP agrees substantially with the text behind the MT" (Judith Sanderson, "Ancient Texts and Versions of the Old Testament," in New Interpreter''s Bible [Nashville: Abingdon, 1994, 1:299.)

      "The chief textual value of the Sam Pent. is its indirect witness that MT is a superb disciplined text" (Waltke, citing Cross) - Face Of Old Testament Studies: A Survey Of Contemporary Approaches By David W. Baker, Bill T. Arnold

      'The Samaritans had simply chosen one of the circulating Jewish texts and minimally revised it in accord with their own beliefs.' ´┐ŻOur Sharper Focus on the Bible and Theology Thanks to the. Dead Sea Scrolls", Eugene Ulrich


      Taking to mind the obvious fact that the LXX is saturated with omissions, interpolations, scribal errors and the like. This variant should have never have been given quarter past the margin of a hyper critical edition of the Torah. How the NRSV, NLT, MSG, ESV, etc. have put this one over on the general public is almost dishonest.

          The internal evidence in no way changes this. The context and subject of the section (Deut.32) is "Israel" and God's plan concerning them. Not the angelic host! God had Israel in mind when he "divided to the nations their inheritance". "Now the LORD had said to Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation" And again..."he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them: and they shall afflict them four hundred years...But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." 


      Thanks for adding some good solid stuff on the internals.

      Steven Avery
      Queens, NY

    • Dave Washburn
      No problem. The dual cataloging system for the DSS is absurdly confusing to everybody, probably including the good folks who devised it. Dave Washburn
      Message 40 of 40 , May 12, 2012
        No problem. The dual cataloging system for the DSS is absurdly confusing to everybody, probably including the good folks who devised it.

        Dave Washburn
        Check out my review show, No Life With Irving

        To: textualcriticism@yahoogroups.com
        From: bucksburg@...
        Date: Fri, 11 May 2012 08:32:49 -0700
        Subject: Re: [textualcriticism] Re: 4Q37 and "sons of God"


        Apparently 4Q37 was the 37th mss recovered from Cave 4, now cataloged as 4QDeut-j, and conflated by none other than yours truly as 4QDeut37. So we can remove that ID number from the list right off! and are back to two DSS mss that contain the phrase in question.
        Daniel Buck

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