Call for Papers

Urtext, Archetype, Fluidity or Textual Convergence
The Quest for the Texts of the Hebrew Bible
International Conference

5-7 November, 2019, Metz - France

Proposal: 1,000-2,000 words
Dead Line: 15 mai, 2019

The response to the question “What is the text of the Hebrew Bible?” is today, one of the most complex but also most fundamental epistemological issues faced by Hebrew philologists and Biblical theologians. The Dead Sea discoveries, the resurfacing of divergent textual forms in medieval manuscripts (e.g., in the Cairo Genizah), and the reevaluation of textual traditions preserved in ancient translations like the Septuagint or the Samaritan Pentateuch exhibit a textual plurality that challenges, and often even seems to contradict the concept of a linear relation between the different textual witnesses. Moreover, new approaches like the so-called “new philology” raise new questions and challenges. It imposes to reevaluate the textual history of the Hebrew Bible and very basic concepts of textual criticism, like “original,” “Urtext,” “archetype,” “authorship,” “redaction,” or even “text.”

Generally, in textual criticism, the aim is “to produce a text as close as possible to the original” (Maas, 2003, 1). However, the traditional definitions of concepts like “original” and “Urtext,” that are applied as points of departure, are far from being clear and often highly problematic. For Avalle, the concept of “original” is “l’un des concepts les plus fuyants et les plus ambigus de la critique textuelle” (Avalle, 1972, 33). Moreover, the observation that the concepts often seem to have been shaped by 19th century romanticism rather than by textual evidences, raises many questions: Is the original “the text that goes back to the author” (Dain, 1975, 103)? Is the original an autograph? Is the original an authentic text that represents the “volonté de l’auteur” (Avalle, 1972, 33), or even the latter’s “inner speech” before he starts to write (Froger, 1968, 6, for all these references, see Duval, 2015, 208-210).

The answers to these general questions are all the more complex with respect to the literature of Ancient Israel and ancient Judaism, especially in light of the observation that we cannot pinpoint a single author of any Biblical book, and insofar as the texts are generally the product of long and complex literary processes interwoven with oral traditions that span over several centuries. In this context, Emanuel Tov defines the original as “the written text or edition (or a number of consecutive editions) that contained the finished literary product […] that stood at the beginning of the textual transmission process” (Tov, 2012, 165). However, as Tov acknowledges, this definition is not without difficulties that have been extensively discussed in the scholarship these last decades, e.g., what is the difference between text and edition (or consecutive editions)? What distinguishes a text that involves scribal changes from a new edition? When can a text be determined as a finished literary product? And how can we clearly distinguish between production of literature and the transmission process? Facing these problems, several scholars have suggested to renounce the quest of the original and to focus on the archetype. E.g., Ronald Hendel, in his description of the objectives of the “Hebrew Bible Critical Edition” project, points out that “the idea of the original of a biblical book is a problematic concept. It is necessary in theory, but it remains an abstract concept in the absence of autographs. More important, it is not the goal of a critical edition. The archetype, that is, the manuscript that is latest common ancestor of the extant manuscripts, is the practical goal of textual criticism, not the original” (Hendel, 2016, 49). Unfortunately, in the given context, i.e. the textual history of the Hebrew bible, the concept of “archetype” (and “hyperarchetype”), as defined by Hendel, is neither clearer than the concepts of “original” or “Urtext,” nor does it seem to be more productive heuristically.

While Tov’s and Hendel’s suggestions largely follow in the tracks of the method of manuscript genealogies, as famously developed by Karl Lachmann (see Timpanaro, 2005, 50) and first applied in Biblical studies by Paul de Lagarde (1863), a different model was introduced by Paul Kahle already in 1915, in opposition to the Lachmann-de Lagarde approach. According to Kahle, the textual history of the Hebrew Bible is not to be described in terms of one original text that in the course of its transmission was changed through scribal interventions or mistakes and became corrupted, thereby evolving into a multitude of manuscripts that contain in fact diverging texts, but the opposite: An original multitude of diverging textual witnesses was reduced through the imposition of a selective principle that favored one of these texts, which hereby became the textus receptus. Looking back at roughly 100 years of Biblical research since Kahle’s hypothesis, it seems safe to state that it has received much less scholarly attention than the one of Lachmann-de Lagarde, even if it was further developed by Shemaryahu Talmon, into a model that accommodates divergent pristine texts, hereby explicitly crossing the borders of textual history in the traditional sense and engaging with questions generally associated with literary history. Apart from the fields of textual and literary history, the assumption of an Urtext or its negation is also an important problem for editions of Biblical texts, especially in relation to the question, which text is provided in what way, and how textual divergency is represented. As can be observed in the different editorial enterprises (see e.g. the Göttingen Septuagint, the BHQ, Hebrew University Bible Project or the new editio maior of the Samaritan Pentateuch), very different solutions were proposed in this regard.

The conference aims to engage with the different models that were explicitly suggested for being applied to either tacitly underly the different reconstructions of the textual history of texts from the world of the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism, both from a theoretical and methodological perspective as well as in light of the evidence attested in textual witnesses.

We invite paper proposals from advanced doctoral students, recent PhDs, and postdocs, whose work addresses the questions of our colloquium. Of these, up to six will be selected to participate in the colloquium. Proposals of 1,000–2,000 words, based on projects that are well under way, should be sent to Jean-Sebastien Rey (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and Stefan Schorch (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). The deadline for paper proposals is 15 Mai, 2019.