Conference URTEX

Urtext, Archetype, Fluidity or Textual Convergence
The Quest for the Texts of the Hebrew Bible
International Conference, Metz, 5-7 November, Metz


Jennifer Andruska

Urtext or Textual Plurality? Early Versions of the Song of Songs

The early versions of the Song of Songs are divergent in a number of ways.  It has recently been suggested that the Qumran manuscripts of the Song reflect the earliest original version, the so-called Urtext of the Song of Songs.  There are several problems associated with this theory.  A number of other biblical books appear to be reliant on the Song of Songs and the very idea of an Urtext has been brought into question.  This paper will survey these ideas and suggest that perhaps it is better to allow the early divergent textual forms and versions of the Song of Songs to stand as separate but related entities reflecting the plurality of early texts, traditions and interpretations of the Song.


Verónica Moreno Arjona

Linguistic Peculiarities of 4Q383-4Q391: Between the Aramaic Influence and the Ideological Lexical Innovations

To the complexity of the quest for the texts of the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls offers “a parade of surprise that greatly enhances our knowledge of how the sacred texts came to be” (Ulrich, 2015). In this respect, the collection of manuscripts 4Q383-4Q391, subdivided into two distinct works Pseudo-Ezekiel and Apocryphon of Jeremiah, stands as a fascinating example of the textual plurality and traditions contained at Qumran. At a theoretical, methodological and practical level, the collection is here referred to in its reunited form as “Miscellaneous Pseudo-Ezekiel” (MPE).

The scope of the present discussion focuses on the multifaceted language of MPE, made up of a well-balanced dichotomy between Aramaisms and “pseudo-classicisms” (Joosten, 2016) of  biblicizing style, and the crystallization of a code-terminology (גדפן, בן בליעל, מלאכי המשטמות...), as part of “an idiolect for some kind of community” (Schniedewind, 1999). Arguably, among these distinguishable components of MPE, the most puzzling linguistic feature is the Aramaic substratum or superstratum (Fassberg, 2015), permeating primarily the vocabulary and the morphology and to a lesser extent, the orthography and syntax.  Particular attention is paid to the special case of three roots conjugated apparently in hitpaʿel stem, ויתקרע  (4Q387, 3), ויתבהלו (4Q385 4 2) and  ישתלמו (4Q385 2 3, 4Q386 1i 2 and 4Q388 7 5), unattested at all in Biblical Hebrew. Its passive meaning may be reflecting the Aramaic influence of the “hit-stems” (hitpeʿel and hitpaʿal) or also, the existence of the rare conjugation of Nitpaʿel  (Nitpaʿal -following the Aramaic vocalization-), a fusion of nipʿal and hitpeʿel  (cf. Ez. 23:48 and Dt. 21:88), more widely represented in Mishnaic Hebrew.

Thus, the special linguistic nature of this collection yields not only a picture of perplexing questions on the process of transmission, affecting the mere concept of rewriting but that paves the way for further postulates of a presumed Aramaic source of MPE, (written, oral or combination of both) and perhaps, of the existence of some vernacular language, stemmed from a particular socio-religious group.


Eléonore Cellard

La transmission du Coran dans les premiers siècles de l’Islam: les variantes des manuscrits et la question de l’archétype

Comment le texte du Coran a-t-il été transmis dans les premiers siècles de son existence ? Peut-on exploiter les manuscrits dans cette perspective ? Quelle est la nature des variantes qu’ils comportent ? Cette intervention vise à présenter le corpus des plus anciens manuscrits du Coran et donner un aperçu de l’état du texte à l’appui de ce témoignage.


Ralf Elger

Scribes as authors. Arabic manuscripts

In many cases manuscripts are simply copied. But there are also interventions in the text made by a scribe. This person is not a only a copyist but also an author. It is hard to find out why he interfered because the scribes usually do not display their motives. It is the task of the researcher and interpreter to find what motivated the scribe. I will present some examples from my own research and from that of of others.  


Ron Hendel

Open and Closed Books in Ancient Israel: Two Kinds of Scribal Practice

In many book cultures – including medieval Judaism and Christianity – we can identify a typology of scribal practice that differs according to what Israel Ta-Shma calls “open” versus “closed” books.  Open books, characteristically written in the vernacular, allow a wide range of scribal rewriting, while closed books, often in classical languages or dialects, tend to be copied precisely.  This typology illuminates many aspects of scribal practice in ancient Israel, including Fortschreibung, variant editions, rewritten books, and the hermeneutics of scribal schools.


Innocent Himbaza

Faut-il postuler un archétype en amont de la diversité textuelle du Pentateuque ? Should We Assume One Archetype Behind the Textual Diversity of the Pentateuch?

Les manuscrits de la mer Morte ont confirmé la diversité textuelle du Pentateuque, bien que les chercheurs ne soient pas toujours unanimes sur l’étendue qu’il faut reconnaître à cette diversité. En effet, certains manuscrits vont bien au-delà des trois types de textes traditionnellement reconnus : Texte massorétique, le Pentateuque Samaritain et la Septante.
Les recherches récentes ont également mis en évidence l’enchevêtrement de la critique textuelle et de la critique rédactionnelle. Cela implique que les données de cette deuxième soient également prises en considération dans les discussions liées à la postulation d’un archétype ou non pour le Pentateuque. Les analyses démontrent qu’en plus des erreurs de toutes sortes, bon nombre de variantes textuelles du Pentateuque proviennent des développements littéraires voulus par les scribes rédacteurs.
Les observations philologiques, notamment les statistiques des variantes, selon leur nature, et surtout celles des textes en commun, devraient également contribuer à la recherche de la réponse à la question d’un archétype en amont de la diversité des textes du Pentateuque. Ces observations pourraient même être décisives, puisqu’elles s’orientent vers une réponse positive à la même question.
La contribution présentée ici tente de prendre en considération ces différents éléments pour avancer sur un sujet qui influence grandement les principes des éditions actuelles de la Bible hébraïque.


Jan Joosten

Parallel Editions and the Question of the Urtext. Evidence from 1 Kings

When textual evidence indicates the existence of distinct editions, the HBCE allows to edit the text in more than one column. This format may seem to negate the principle of an eclectic edition, but in actual fact it is a major expedient facilitating the presentation of textual history. In the HBCE, two columns will be printed in many places. The present paper will address the question what parallel editions can tell us about textual history in the period before the evidence at our disposal. Do they negate the principle of an Urtext, or confirm it? Or are there perhaps different types of parallel editions each with a different set of implications for the question of the Urtext.


Ingrid Lilly

Empirical Data and a Disciplined Imagination: Hebrew Editing in the Textual History of Ezekiel

With only 340 words of the Hebrew book of Ezekiel in antiquity, we must thoughtfully and cautiously approach a largely unknown history of its text. The special significance of p967, a Greek codex and the earliest copy of Ezekiel in any language, has been discussed and is largely understood. However, most proposals about the history of Ezekiel's archetypal text rest on slim empirical evidence and overstate the power of text types. This paper makes the case for using a disciplined imagination in the empirical endeavor to understand the Hebrew textual history of Ezekiel. Freshly examining the War Scroll and Pseudo-Ezekiel, I suggest fruitful models that shed light on Ezekiel's late Hebrew composition history.


Gary Martin

Constructing and Evaluating Textual Histories and Text-Critical Editions of Decalogue Texts, with Applications to the Interests of Non-Specialists

In this paper I evaluate my earlier text-critical investigations published in my 2010 book Multiple Originals to broaden the scope of my textual selections, and to refine and expand the textual data. In this paper I ask probing questions about how methods of data analysis and presentation affect our notions about the origins of our texts, and how those notions then drive our constructions of textual criticism.
I engage two additional topics to frame my discussion: (1) How models of ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian texts might impact the efficacy of categories and methods we employ in our engagement with Hebrew Bible texts; (2) how we might effectively communicate results and ideas born from the technical complexities of our craft to a general audience.


Corrado Martone

In Praise of the Conjecture. The Emendatio Ope Ingenii after Qumran

The Emendatio Ope Ingenii (emendation based on subjective criteria), although widely used in the past centuries by scholars such as Louis Cappel (1585-1658), Brian Walton (1600-1661), Richard Simon (1638-1712), Charles François Houbigant (1686-1783), is infrequently used in current textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. The reason for this is the general distrust in the possibility that the “original” text of the Bible may be reconstructed. This can be seen, to give just one example, in the massive Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible where the chapter devoted to textual criticism begins with a lapidary preventive attack against what should be the main aim of the subject matter: “[i]n the third millennium the aim of textual criticism neither need nor can be the establishing of the original text of the Scriptures.
The Dead Sea discoveries mark a turning point in the way that we comprehend the making of the Hebrew Bible since these texts are a first-hand witness to a period for which there was virtually no manuscript evidence. From this perspective, the present paper analyzes a few of the conjectures on the Biblical text, put forward in the past by different scholars, in order to determine whether the evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls can confirm them or not. Moreover, it shall be explored whether the Dead Sea Scrolls may somehow play the role the papyri played (and play) in classical literature where a number of speculations have been confirmed by the emergence of papyri or other new sources.


Noam Mizrahi

Paradise Lost and Regained: Redefining the Urtext and the Goals of Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible

This paper will discuss the theoretical implications of the contrast between two different notions of Urtext, which motivate, in turn, two widely divergent agendas for the art of textual criticism: The Urtext is either construed as a faithful reconstruction of a "real" text that existed in the past, or as a synthetic product, a mathematical-like function of known textual data, which does not necessarily approximate any historical text, on the other hand. These conflicting notions also inform one's approach to the nature of the interaction between textual and literary criticism, as will be demonstrated with some concrete case studies.


Pablo Torijano Morales & Andres Piquer Otero

2 Kings 4: Between Typology and Redaction

The text of 2 Kings 4 is an ideal playground for the study and testing of models of edition of the Hebrew Bible. A literary approach indicates that there was a meaningful growth and transformation of the text, which, in turns, led to a plurality of types or “editions” of the Hebrew of the episode, as reflected in the text-types of the Septuagint.  The chapter is even more interesting as some of the differences between text types: 1. hearken back to the redaction processes of the prophetic narrative; and 2. reflect meaningful ideological choices in portraying the prophetic figure of Elisha. This paper tries to present all these rich problems and how (hopefully) they can be reflected in a modern critical edition.


Matthieu Richelle

Theoretical and Practical Reflections on P. Kahle’s Model

In 1915, P. Kahle offered an alternative model, compared to traditional “Urtext model”, regarding the textual history of biblical books. In a chapter of the recent multi-volume work /Textual History of the Hebrew Bible/ ( “Textual theories”) E. Tov and E. Ulrich call it “theory of early parallel texts” and note that it remains a minority view among scholars. Moreover, they criticize Kahle’s theory for two main reasons. First, Kahle did not explain clearly how parallel texts were produced and how they developped, and to some extent converged, being content to refer to a very few analogies (notably the development of some targumim). Second, Tov and Ulrich claim that all the textual data available to us for the biblical books can also be satisfactorily explained by way of a linear, genealogical model according to which all the witnesses stem from an /Urtext/. <br\> This paper is an attempt to think more deeply about these two aspects. First, it explores possible cases in ancient and modern literature where the very notion of an original text is problematic, and where parallel texts developed from the beginning. Indeed, the theory of early parallel texts sounds counter-intuitive to many modern scholars. Yet their intuition is largely built on modern conceptions of book production, and even then, the reality sometimes is more complicated. Thus this paper investigates both ancient and modern situations where this intuition does not seem to correspond to what happened. Second, this paper explores the notion that all the textual data regarding the Hebrew Bible can satisfactorily be explained by recourse to the Urtext model. In particular, can it explain the complicated situation in the Books of Samuel-Kings and Chronicles? Building on J. Trebolle Barrera's work, R.J. Person argues that it is not the case, and that a model akin to Kahle’s theory is more credible (/The Deuteronomistic History and the Book of Chronicles: Scribal Works in an Oral World/ [SBL Ancient Israel and Its Literature, 6; Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2010]). Furthermore, should Tov and Ulrich’s second criticism lead us to think that one of the two competing models is necessarily to be preferred? Or should we rather accept the notion that both models prove to be valid but in different situations?


Kirsten Maria Schäfers

Dealing with the Elusive „Urtext“ in Pentateuchal Research. Recent Developments in the Textual History of the Book of Numbers and How to Implement Them into Pentateuchal Exegesis

Integrating recent debates and findings from textual research into the day-to-day business of historical-critical oriented Pentateuchal exegesis is a need that is both frequently advocated for and seldom accomplished. The paper addresses this desideratum by a) reviewing the most recent developments in the textual history of the book of Numbers, b) engaging exemplarily with one specific variant pattern from 4QNumb against the background of the “Urtext” principle in both recent text historical research and contemporary methodologies of textual criticism, and c) proposing ways how to deal with findings from textual history in Pentateuchal research by taking Num 25 as a case in point.


Stefan Schorch

Le manuscrit à l’époque de sa reproduction numérique

Editions aim to replace the manuscript (or other textual witnesses like recordings) as the basis for the perception of a given oeuvre. Hence they mirror, and also influence, the editor's perception of textual history. As any material representation of a text, however, the design of an edition is not a completely free and independent choice of the editor, but it depends on the material and technical means at hand at the time when the edition is conceived and created. Consequently, these historical circumstances also influence the perception of textual history. - The paper analyses this interplay, with a special focus on the "Urtext"-theory versus the concept of an irreducible textual plurality of Biblical texts, and it explores how the permanent availability and accessibility of images of manuscripts influences the ways in which biblical texts and their history may be conceived in the digital age.


Emanuel Tov

The Search for an Original Text Form of the Hebrew Bible: Theory and Praxis

In their search for the original text(s) of the Hebrew and/or translated Bible, scholars formulated many theories about that original text (these original texts). Many scholars limit themselves to theoretical statements about the original text, but others were also involved in its reconstruction. The time is ripe for examining the relation between theory and praxis regarding the original text. How do these theoretical statements relate to the actual reconstructions.


Martin Tscheu

How Many Books of Ezekiel?

The paper questions the premise of the text historical concept, which is articulated in the expressions “Two Books”[1], “Two Editions”[2] or “The shorter and longer version” [3] of the Book of Ezekiel. A comparative textual analysis of Ezek 43,10–12  reveals, that the text traditions of the MT, the LXX and the Peshitta represent at least three different Hebrew text types. Each of them is constituted by substantially differing tendencies, which affect both the pragmatics of the text of the Temple vision as well as its genre.

[1] Ingrid Lilly: Two books of Ezekiel: Papyrus 967 and the Masoretic text as variant literary editions, Leiden 2012.
[2] Emanuel Tov
[3] Hector Patmore: Adam, Satan, and the King of Tyre: the interpretation of Ezekiel 28:11-19 in late antiquity, Leiden 2012.


Franck Ueberschaer

The Difference is not "Small" – But What is Distinguished from What?

In his Prologue Ben Sira's grandson both excuses himself for possible variations and emphasizes his own dedication and effort in translating his grandfather's book. In doing so he clearly presupposes the model of a parent text and its translation. It cannot be denied that scholarship followed him almost uncritically. However facing the many variants in the transmission of the Book of Ben Sira, the question arises if indeed what might have been sufficient for his work is still suitable for our approach. In this paper, examples for many possible ways of dependence and influencing within the  textual traditions of the Book of Ben Sira will be surveyed and discussed to contribute to the debate about the search for an Urtext.


Annette Weissenrieder

Tabernacular testimonii in Exodus Vetus Latina [Manuscript 104 (Munich Clm 6225)] and Romans 3:28



Benjamin Ziemer

The Stemmatic Method – A Useful Tool to Evaluate Assumptions on Literary Growth

Every biblical manuscript known to us is dependent on at least one other biblical manuscript. In this sense, all known and unknown manuscripts of a certain biblical book are "related". A "stemma codicum" is the attempt to describe these "genealogical" relations in a clearly defined way. However, there have been revisions and cross-influences, so one manuscript may have got more than one "parent text". In my paper, I like to show how considering stemmatic relations nevertheless may help to define what may have been the "original" Hebrew and Greek texts at the end of the Book of Jeremiah and of the Book of Kings. Beside the Hebrew and Greek evidence, the Old Latin and Ethiopic translations will be discussed.