Haplography in the Hebrew Vorlage of LXX Jeremiah

By Lundbom, Jack R. | Hebrew Studies Journal, Annual 2005 | Go to article overview

Haplography in the Hebrew Vorlage of LXX Jeremiah


Lundbom, Jack R., Hebrew Studies Journal


Opinions of nineteenth century scholars assessing the text of Jeremiah, where the LXX is one-eighth shorter than MT, were divided. Movers (1837) favored the shorter LXX text, while Graf (1862) favored the longer MT, believing that LXX Jeremiah had been abridged and corrupted by its translator. Since Duhm (1901) the shorter text of Jeremiah has been given consistent preference, and the MT seen as an expansionist text. The discovery of a fragment of the short Hebrew text of Jeremiah at Qumran (4Q[Jer.sup.b]) led Janzen (1963) and others to conclude that the LXX translator did not abridge his Vorlage, but translated a Hebrew text of comparable length, localized in Egypt where the translation was made. While Janzen did not believe that shorter is always better, he nevertheless supported the consensus view that MT is by and large an expansionist text. The present article challenges this view, arguing that the LXX translated from a seriously flawed Hebrew text of Jeremiah, one containing more than 300 arguable cases of haplography, accounting for 64% of its word loss. The article also presents evidence to show that Biblia Hebraica failed to cite many LXX omissions, and was unjustly biased in favor of the shorter LXX readings. The longer MT of Jeremiah is far and away the better text, comparable to LXX Samuel, which is also longer and better. What we have then in Jeremiah is not so much proto-MT expansion by busy scribes in Babylon, but proto LXX loss by careless and inattentive scribes in Egypt.

For more than two centuries, the text of Jeremiah has been the subject of much scholarly discussion. It could hardly have been otherwise, with the LXX text being one-eighth shorter than MT and ordering its materials differently after 25:13a. A survey of the discussion up through the early 1960s is contained in Gerald Janzen's 1963 Harvard dissertation, which was published a decade later. (1) Janzen's work also included transcriptions of two Jeremiah fragments found among the Dead Sea Scrolls at Khirbet Qumran, 4Q[Jer.sup.a] and 4Q[Jer.sup.b], and reported how these witnesses--particularly 4Q[Jer.sup.b]--had come to impact the study of the Jeremiah text. (2) 4Q[Jer.sup.a] was the longer text represented in MT; 4Q[Jer.sup.b] was the shorter text represented in the LXX. These two ancient fragments, together with another from Cave IV, 4Q[Jer.sup.c], are now published with photos in Discoveries in the Judean Desert 15, edited by Emanuel Tov. (3) A Cave II fragment, 2QJer, was published earlier in Discoveries in the Judean Desert 3, edited by M. Baillet. (4) Both of these latter texts are proto-Masoretic, like 4Q[Jer.sup.a].

Opinions among nineteenth century scholars assessing the two text traditions were divided, with Movers (5) favoring the shorter LXX text, and Graf (6) favoring the longer MT. Graf believed that LXX Jeremiah had been corrupted by its translator. Hitzig (7) and Giesebrecht (8) were more or less eclectic in their commentaries, with Giesebrecht being particularly even-handed in judging between the two text traditions. Giesebrecht recognized that there was secondary material in MT, but he also thought the LXX had a tendency to abridge verbose passages and omit doublets, and that in places it suffered from scribal ignorance and scribal error. Even when he did go with the LXX, he would cite what was often broad support for MT in the other ancient versions (Origen, Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, Lucian, Syriac, Targum Jonathan, and Vulgate). Things changed, however, with Duhm (9) whose brilliance in interpreting Jeremiah was exceeded only by his wild excesses on a range of issues. Duhm showed consistent preference for the shorter LXX, and his willingness to freely emend led to retroverted readings from the Greek that he judged superior to readings in MT. Also, his view that the majority of Jeremianic prose was secondary and postexilic went well with the assumption that MT was an expanded text. Cornill (10) worked along the same lines as Duhm, and a preference for LXX readings was expressed also in the textual studies of H. …

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