Was There an Old Testament Before the New Testament? A Guest Post from Jason Parry

There is an ongoing debate about when the books of the Old Testament were recognized as Scripture and when, or whether, there was a closed circle of books that were recognized to be inspired by the Holy Spirit prior to the time of Jesus. Related questions include where the additional material found in the Greek translations of books such as Daniel and Esther came from, why it was added, and what this material might indicate about the status of these books.

Jason Parry is doing his dissertation here at SBTS under Peter Gentry on “The Character of the Greek Version of Daniel Attributed to Theodotion.” As we corresponded on his prospectus, I asked his thoughts on the deuterocanonical material in Daniel. His reply was so good I asked him if he would reformat it for a blog post, which he graciously did.

Here’s Jason Parry’s take on the evidence:

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The arguments for textual pluralism and literary development of biblical texts in Hellenistic Judaism, and for standardization of the text and formation of the Hebrew canon in the second century AD, often seem impressive because much evidence can be cited to demonstrate that the Jews were developing various versions of biblical texts in the period prior to the second century AD.

The Old Greek version of Daniel, for example, not only departs significantly from the MT in several chapters, but even inserts an apocryphal side-story right into the middle of the plot in chapter 3. The Greek version of Daniel attributed to Theodotion is much closer to the MT than the Old Greek version, but nevertheless retains this apocryphal story found in the Old Greek.

The fact that the translators felt free to deviate from the Hebrew-Aramaic text and to insert apocryphal material could be considered evidence that textual pluralism was in the air and that no canonical boundaries were known to these translators.

However, this same evidence could be interpreted differently.  It is possible that the translators were well aware of a standard, authoritative version of the text and of canonical boundaries, but felt free to deviate from that canonical text on account of its official preservation at the Temple. The goal of the Temple scribes was to preserve the authoritative textual tradition of the canonical text in its original language, while the scribes and translators outside of Temple circles were free to develop popular alternative versions of the texts which potentially deviated from the original in language, narrative style, and even in some content, with the goal of appealing to the Jewish and Gentile masses. The distinction between the standard canonical text and the popular deviating versions was not subject to confusion in the period prior to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, since the standard text was in all probability stored at the Temple.

The latter explanation of the textual plurality of the Hellenistic period is more probable than the claim of a late date for the standardization and canonization of the text, because it accounts not only for the evidence of multiple versions of texts, but also for the evidence of a canonical consciousness prior to the second century AD.

Thus the fact of textual plurality does not necessarily imply a philosophy of textual pluralism among Hellenistic Jews, since they could simultaneously preserve a canonical textual tradition at the Temple while producing accessible and appealing popular texts for the masses. After the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, however, the Jews had to become more intentional about articulating their canonical boundaries and guarding their textual tradition in order to avoid confusion between the two types of texts.

My understanding of the period, then, could be summarized as follows:

2nd/1st century BC – Diverse Jewish groups, some of whom (like OG-Dan) are interested in popularizing the stories and texts and creating new literature which was loosely connected to the canonical material.  Perhaps this reflects a “seeker-friendly” approach to promoting Judaism. Other Jews are more interested in preserving the textual tradition and sticking close to the proto-MT. The official canonical texts are guarded in the Temple so there’s no confusion as to what’s what in any case.

Late 1st century BC and early 1st century AD – At least some Jews are editing their Greek texts towards the proto-MT, the prime example of which is the oft-cited Greek Minor Prophet Scroll from Nahal Hever which Barthélemy published and analyzed in Les Devanciers d’Aquila. The scroll can be dated to the 50 BC to AD 50 range.  However, there’s probably still a willingness to retain apocryphal (or deuterocanonical) material during this period, which has become popular in the preceding two centuries, and there’s still no confusion as to the official text since the Temple is standing. Theodotion, or at least the Greek version attributed to him, probably belongs to this period.

Late 1st century AD and 2nd century AD – Jews as a whole become more intentional about declaring their canonical boundaries and textual tradition since the Temple is lost and the Christians are gaining ground using Jewish writings and Scripture. The Jews discuss their canonical boundaries by asking themselves which books have always been in their canon; these discussions were previously unnecessary because the canonical text had been stored at the Temple.  The Temple text presumably is preserved from destruction in AD 70 and is handed down to become what we now call the MT.

It is thus possible to account for diversity and even literary development in biblical texts of Hellenistic Judaism without abandoning the long-held belief that our MT for the most part preserves a reliable tradition from before the Hellenistic period.

31 Responses to Was There an Old Testament Before the New Testament? A Guest Post from Jason Parry

  1. Curtis Sheidler October 16, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Fascinating! So it sounds like “textual pluralism” in the pre-Christian era would be more analogous to scribal glosses on NT texts (normally occurring in the margins so as not to be confused with inspired writ) than they would be to truly apocryphal texts like the so-called Gospel of Judas.

    Could a similar strategy–appealing to material the writer knows isn’t truly According-to-Hoyle canonical Scripture–be at work in Jude’s use of 1 Enoch in Jude 14-15?

    • JMH October 16, 2013 at 8:59 am #

      Actually I think a better analogy today would be something like Eugene Peterson’s “Message,” the Living Bible, or even some of the retellings that you get in storybook Bibles for kids . . . no one thinks those are intended to present what you find in standard translation of the Bible. . .

  2. dr. james willingham October 16, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    When I was a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the standard and standing rule seem to be to follow the RSV, in holding that Almah in Isa.7:14 should be translated “young woman.” It was helpful to learn of the fact that the LXX translators had seen fit to use a term, Parthenon, which clearly means virgin. Such usage leaves no doubt that that meaning was attached to the word almah before the Christian Era. While I am far removed from being an Old Testament scholar, it is helpful to know such things.

  3. Charles Halton October 17, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    This argument seems to me to be based upon special pleading and logic that you would not accept if it did not affirm your preexisting belief.

    “However, this same evidence could be interpreted differently [just because it *could* be interpreted differently doesn’t mean it *should* be. We should go with the most compelling cumulative case not merely rest upon a low probability, unsubstantiated hypothetical possibility]. It is possible that the translators were well aware of a standard [a possibility without evidence; it’s possible I could spontaneously combust], authoritative version of the text and of canonical boundaries, but felt free to deviate from that canonical text on account of its official preservation at the Temple. The goal of the Temple scribes was to preserve the authoritative textual tradition of the canonical text in its original language [an assertion without evidence; basically retrojecting the mentality of the Masoretes onto temple scribes without any kind of evidence given], while the scribes and translators outside of Temple circles were free to develop popular alternative versions of the texts which potentially deviated from the original in language [again, assertion without evidence], narrative style, and even in some content, with the goal of appealing to the Jewish and Gentile masses [is there any evidence for discerning the internal motivations, such as, an ancient text that explains this method? I am not aware of one.]. The distinction between the standard canonical text and the popular deviating versions was not subject to confusion in the period prior to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 [Where does this assertion without support come from? Are we ignoring the *reality* of textual diversity between Greek and at least a couple DSS versions? Really what he is doing is getting into the mind of ancient readers and discerning their thoughts on this topic. Is there evidential reason to support this?], since the standard text was in all probability stored at the Temple [the concluding evidence given for all of this–the “since”–is based upon an unsubstantiated and unproven assumption that this is actually the very discussion that is ongoing. This is the definition of begging the question.]”

    • JMH October 17, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

      No, Charles, this isn’t begging the question. This post synthesizes the argument from the sources put forth in detail by Roger Beckwith, who cites the primary source evidence for the authoritative temple scroll, the Ezra scroll/Book of Ezra (See OT Canon of the NT Church, 84, 167 n. 10). In addition to that evidence, there is the evidence of canonical consciousness cited by John Meade in the post linked above, evidence which is treated exhaustively by Beckwith and which convinces Hanhart that Hengel is wrong (see the Hanhart essay in Hengel’s The Septuagint as Christian Scripture).

      This evidence makes the suggestion put forward here far more plausible than the one you appear to have embraced.

      Try this analogy.

      Two thousand years from now someone looks at the debates now taking place among different groups of Christians and concludes that the evangelicals had a debate about sexual morality in which they tried to impose the new conclusion that marriage was only to be defined as the union of one man and one woman, not as a union of two members of the same sex. Prior to the second decade of the 21C that conclusion, this person claims, was not held.

      Someone else steps forward with an alternative explanation: evangelicals had always held the view marriage was an exclusive, comprehensive interpersonal covenantal union of one man and one woman, and it was only the vastly changed cultural environment that required them to state their view of the matter. Their view, however, had not changed.

      This latter explanation is analogous to the one advocated by Beckwith on the canon. Hanhart takes a similar view, and in the post above Jason Parry has admirably crystalized the hypothesis and used it to explain the existence of bits of deutero-canonical material that found their way into Greek translations.

      So I reject your suggestion that the logic above is special pleading that I would not accept. I think your reasoning on this issue is poor, and you don’t seem to be aware of the evidence that leads to Beckwith’s conclusions and arguments.

      Thanks for the interaction!

      • Joseph Ryan Kelly October 18, 2013 at 9:11 am #

        Perhaps you can help clarify something for me. When prompted for evidence, you reference Beckwith, a book published 28 years ago. Certainly you recognize that there has been 28 years of scholarship since Beckwith that has engaged the questions surrounding the canon, so I think one thing Charles, Law, and others want to see is some indication that Beckwith’s arguments withstand critiques of his book and remain persuasive despite subsequent proposals by canon scholars. Are they merely supposed to trust you that his work is the most authoritative argument to date?

        For example, consider Beckwith’s use of Josephus. Since 2007, there have been three significant studies that I am aware of that have argued Josephus cannot be used reliably the way that Beckwith has used him (see below). Moreover, these studies argue that Josephus, if we take him seriously, demonstrates a trajectory toward fixity and standardization, that these were not ideas about the canon that can be taken for granted before his own day.

        Borchardt, F. “The LXX Myth and the Rise of Textual Fixity.” Journal for the Study of Judaism 43 (2012): 1–21.
        Campbell, J. G. “Josephus’ Twenty-two Book Canon and the Qumran Scrolls.” In The Scrolls and Biblical Traditions: Proceedings of the Seventh Meeting of the IOQS in Helsinki, edited by G. J. Brooke, D. K. Falk, E. J. C. Tigchelaar, and M. M. Zahn, 19–45. Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 103. Leiden: Brill, 2012.
        Lange, A. “‘Nobody Dared to Add to Them, to Take from Them, or to Make Changes’ (Josephus, AG. AP. 1.42): The Textual Standardization of Jewish Scriptures in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls.” In Flores Florentino: Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Early Jewish Studies in Honour of Florentino García Martínez, edited by A. Hilhorst, É Puech, and E. J. C. Tigchelaar, 105–26. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 122. Leiden: Brill, 2007.

        Let me try my own analogy. Let us say that someone argued that the evangelical approach to Old Testament Theology was conclusively articulated by John Sailhamer. This person doesn’t engage House, Demster, Goldingay, Merrill, Waltke, Routledge, Boda, Gentry and Wellum, or your own work, much less the many articles published since 1995. Would you allow the students whose dissertations you supervise to make this kind of argument?

        If not, then this raises a some important questions. Why should Charles, Law, and others take a reference to Beckwith and one other source (an introduction to a book) as conclusive proof of your position, despite significant and, for some, persuasive scholarly arguments to the contrary? Why are Evangelicals defending this position on blog posts and through Evangelical presses, and why are they not developing the argument in academic peer-reviewed literature?

        • John Meade October 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

          Joseph,
          A few comments.
          (1) I think we are all waiting for Timothy Lim’s book on the canon to see what response he will have to Beckwith’s now aging but still comprehensive volume with respect to presenting the primary evidence. There have been no comprehensive treatments of the Canon of the Old Testament (except McDonald’s lengthy Part 2 in his book The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority). There may be articles on the subject, such as McDonalds own article in BBR which interacts with some points of Beckwith’s argument but at this point a thorough rebuttal and refutation has yet to appear. Already, Lim’s book is being considered the response to Beckwith’s book (http://www.timothymichaellaw.com/you-dont-need-jesus-reading-bhs-for-your-faith-to-survive/). So it is not quite fair to level this charge at Jim. Should we be more aware of the literature you present in your comment, absolutely. Fair point.

          (2) You make a claim that Evangelicals need to be writing for peer reviewed publications, but then you cite only one journal article, a Festshrift, and a Congress volume. I will give you the article, but the other two are by no means a collection of articles of similar academic caliber (at least in your own eyes). I have noticed that you drop the A. Lange article on threads around the blogosphere. No doubt this is an interesting article which I have read and re-read, but it is in a Festshrift alongside of an equally interesting article by E. Tov “3 Kingdoms Compared with Similar Rewritten Compositions,” in which Tov argues that the LXX translation of 1 Kings represents a Hebrew text written after the text of MT, a conclusion which many Evangelicals would hold and the forming consensus rejects. Furthermore, if you can bring these articles/essays/congress papers to the discussion, why must Arie Van der Kooij’s, “Preservation and Promulgation: The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Textual History of the Hebrew Bible” published by an academic publisher such as Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht be left out? This paper, too, reflects some of the views of Evangelicals, but I do not think Van der Kooij is an Evangelical. Again, Joseph, I want also to admit that Evangelicals should be trying harder in the area of publishing with top tier journals. Again, I think this is a fair point. What is not fair, is when you limit what is considered to be academic.

          (3) This discussion is a bit of a smoke screen in my estimation. Jim, I and other Evangelicals have to do better than simply cite Beckwith and others. We must stop parroting the views of others and incorporate their views into our own forming opinion. But, Joseph, I would encourage you to do the same. It cannot be: Lange said it. I believe it. That settles it. To engage scholarship, we must be dealing with the primary sources and we need to be careful to avoid one-sidedness in our presentations of the evidence and arguments.

          • Charles Halton October 21, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

            John, don’t hold your breath for Lim’s book–we had a very senior scholar lined up to review Lim’s book for MRB and he backed out once he read the galleys. He said it was so methodologically flawed and factually inaccurate that he didn’t even feel good writing a take down review.

            And, I have to say, I’m a bit surprised that you say there are not any books on canon between Beckwith and McDonald. What about David Carr’s two book, and Bill Scheniedewind’s, and Karel van der Toorn, just to name a few off hand–we are talking about the formation of the OT here, right? There are many books that treat this topic; to say that Beckwith and McDonald are our only two choices

          • Joseph Kelly October 21, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

            Charles, I’m sorry to hear that about Lim’s book. But as you point out, there are plenty other books relevant to this discussion. I think the books by Scheniedewind, van der Toorn, and Carr (and we could multiply this list, e.g., Niditch, Schmid, and Baden also come to mind) often fall off the radar for those whose interests lie primarily with canon formation because they see these books as more relevant to questions of literary formation, which of course they are. The problem that I see, and the one I think you may be hinting at, is that one’s conclusions about literary history have a profound impact on how one will assess questions of canon formation. You can’t claim to be interested in canon formation and bracket out the academic discussion of literary formation, as though this would little impact questions of canon. Literary formation impacts the discussion of canon formation, as the subsequent post on this blog confirms.

          • John Meade October 21, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

            Charles, I had such high hopes for the book by Lim.

            I don’t usually think of books on textual formation when discussing comprehensive treatments of the OT canon. I’m sure I have much to learn on this topic, but right now I am not persuaded literary growth studies have much to do with the textual transmission of canonical texts. Rightly or wrongly, I am working from the perspective that there is a concept of a fixed text which eventually became the canonical text. There is much evidence for the concept of a fixed text in the ancient world (e.g. Hammurabi; Hittite treaties etc.). Where the OT has clear evidence of redaction history (e.g. Psalms, Proverbs, Book of the 12 et al.) I am inclined to attempt to reconstruct that history and evaluate its formation from the standpoint of the documentary evidence. I’m not too interested in theories based on hypothetical sources.

          • Joseph Kelly October 22, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

            John, David Carr’s book, /The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction/ deals squarely with issues of canon. He cites Beckwith favorably on one occasion (despite ultimately disagreeing with him) and interacts with the texts that seem to be relevant to this thread, 2 Macc 2:13-14; 4 Ezra 14:38-47; Sir Prologue 15; 4QMMT C10, and even Luke 24:44. Again, anyone citing Beckwith as an uncontested authority on this topic makes their scholarship appear irrelevant to those familiar with broader discussions in our guild.

          • John Meade October 22, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

            Thanks Joseph. I will look into it. Those texts certainly are important but there are more relevant citations to the discussion. If there can be any take away from this discussion, it has to be that we cannot simply cite secondary literature, more recent or not. Of course it is good to attempt to determine where the guild is, but if this is the end goal we will never push back the frontiers of knowledge. Do you agree?

          • Joseph Kelly October 22, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

            It seems you and I hold opposite positions. I am maintaining that we cannot simply cite the primary literature. You seem more or less comfortable with this, even if you aren’t opposed to citing secondary sources outright. My position is that the primary literature is not self interpreting and that the scholarly literature eliminates for us many poor interpretations while displaying other poor interpretations for us to critique. By critiquing these interpretations and proposing alternatives is how we push back the frontiers of knowledge. (We might even find something worthwhile in the secondary literature!) Let me be clear that I am not advocating we focus solely on secondary literature. That said, I believe critical engagement requires both a close reading of the primary literature and an informed perspective on the scholarly discussion surrounding them. Citing the primary literature alone strikes me as an attempt to reinvent the wheel, seemingly unnecessary and likely to fail. Better to join in to an ongoing scholarly dialogue. But I think you and I will ultimately differ on this.

          • John Meade October 23, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

            Joseph, you say, “My position is that the primary literature is not self interpreting and that the scholarly literature eliminates for us many poor interpretations while displaying other poor interpretations for us to critique. By critiquing these interpretations and proposing alternatives is how we push back the frontiers of knowledge.”

            No one is arguing that there is such a thing as self interpreting evidence. Nor, as you point out, am I against the citing (and I will add incorporating) of secondary literature. How do you propose to critique poor interpretations? On what basis will you propose an alternative viewpoint? Historically, the humanist cry of ad fontes meant going back to the primary sources so that tradition and traditional explanations of evidence could be critiqued by fresh analyses of the very same evidence (or new primary evidence) not parroting the newest explanations of the same evidence. I’m not going to tell you what to do, but since you have commented on what those in our guild should know, I thought I might make a few suggestions.

            First, we must obtain competency in the Bible’s languages. Probably no debate here.

            Second, we must gain control over the sources of the Bible. If we are going to comment on the textual history of the Bible, we must know the sources. MT, DSS, LXX, Hexaplaric versions, Vulgate, Peshitta, and Targums. Not that we will be experts equally in all of these sources, but I would certainly say that a textual scholar must have much first hand experience with the first four sources on this list. Know the translation techniques of the various Greek translators, at least that the translation of Qoheleth is vastly different than the translation of Proverbs. Know the character of the DSS manuscripts, actually read a few of them to gain experience with them. Obviously, if one is going to be the expert in a particular book, know the text in all of the Versions. Yes, this is a lifetime of study.

            Third, be acquainted with the best of secondary literature. When one knows the primary sources, one then actually might have a substantive critique of the views in the secondary literature.

            Perhaps an anecdote will clarify how I try to operate. I have been studying the redaction history of the Psalter over the past couple months. I already had a good knowledge of MT-Psalms and LXX-Psalms. I then worked through the Masada materials vis-a-vis the Aleppo codex. I learned a number of things first hand, and then I worked through S. Talmon’s article on the same fragments. I learned more by not reading Talmon’s description first. I then started to read Peter Flint’s materials on the matter (articles from 1998 and 2013). I then undertook my own analysis of 4QPs-b by comparing it with the Aleppo codex. I learned more about this piece of evidence than I ever could have learned by reading Skehan’s description of it in DJD (which of course I read). I then read a lot on 11QPs-a (Sanders, Skehan, Vermes, and Flint; I still need to work through this piece in more detail, but I have more than a passing understanding of it). I then looked at 4QPs-a. I still want to look at 4QPs-e in more detail. Only after working through all of these materials, did I start to think through the arguments of Flint more seriously. I even emailed him my questions so as not to misrepresent him (he has not responded yet). I will not go into the details here, but I find his arguments for three Scriptural Editions of the Psalter in the Second Temple Period less than persuasive. I could only come to this conclusion after examining the evidence first. Otherwise I would simply be nodding my head in agreement as I read his presentation of the evidence and his conclusions. It is precisely because the evidence is not self-interpreting that we need more scholars from various viewpoints examining it for themselves.

            I’m not an expert on all of the materials of the biblical text, but I attempt to immerse myself in them. I then look at the secondary literature and seek to incorporate what I can of it. I’m trying to take the long view on this. I will not have these issues wrapped up in my mind for a while. There is simply too much evidence for any one person to grasp quickly (this includes Beckwith, Carr or anyone else), but it is crucial to wrestle with as much of it as we can.

            I don’t expect you to agree with me, but hopefully you can understand my philosophy a little better now.

    • JMH October 17, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

      Also Charles, you speak of “the *reality* of textual diversity between Greek and at least a couple DSS versions.” I think this evidence is not as strong as it’s sometimes made out to be. When you look at DJD 15, the evidence that Jonah follows Malachi is so fragmentary as to be speculative, and the variant Psalms scroll is easily explained as a text used for liturgical purposes never intended as a copy of the canonical form of the Psalter–similar to the way that churches print portions of Scripture on worship guides which no one supposes are intended as a new edition of the Bible.

      So I question “the *reality* of textual diversity between Greek and at least a couple DSS versions.” The evidence for that is pretty thin.

      • Charles Halton October 21, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

        Hi Jim,
        Thanks for this. I do think there is a textual diversity between the various versions–I don’t think John Meade or other textual scholars would dispute this. What I think you are assuming–and this is one of the things I was implying with my comment–is that people in this period thought that there was one and only one “autograph” version of the OT text. And then you are again assuming that the “liturgical” versions were not intended to be copies of the “canonical form of the Psalter.”

        What is strange to me in your response is that you address the issue of textual diversity with a comparison not of texts but of orders of texts and cite one particular instance to do so–Jonah following Malachi. Then, after you say that this textual diversity issue is not strong you then point to the Psalter which does exhibit textual diversity and you create a hypothetical assertion to address it–the “canonical” documents versus “liturgical.” I don’t doubt that there were liturgical texts but weren’t these texts usually psalms? If communities didn’t feel bound to use the “canonical” versions of the Psalter, and could adapt their own, then functionally, there was not lock-solid “canonical” text at this point, right?

        • JMH October 21, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

          I don’t see how a group of people creating something like a hymn book or even a worship guide indicates that they weren’t committed to the canon.

          Lots of people who are lock solid committed to the canon today use parts of Scripture, reprintings, abstracts, retellings, etc., and none of these things indicate any swerving from their intention to submit to the canonical Scriptures.

          • Charles Halton October 22, 2013 at 11:00 am #

            Hi John, above you say:

            “Rightly or wrongly, I am working from the perspective that there is a concept of a fixed text which eventually became the canonical text. There is much evidence for the concept of a fixed text in the ancient world (e.g. Hammurabi; Hittite treaties etc.). Where the OT has clear evidence of redaction history (e.g. Psalms, Proverbs, Book of the 12 et al.) I am inclined to attempt to reconstruct that history and evaluate its formation from the standpoint of the documentary evidence. I’m not too interested in theories based on hypothetical sources.”

            I think this is the issue. Literary development and canon formation go hand in hand. You can’t talk about one without talking about the other. I also think the idea of a fixed text from the beginning which then becomes canonical with respect to status is an anachronistic idea–see John Van Seters’ The Edited Bible, Ben Foster’s article on authorship in the Akkadian literary texts which I know you’ve read, and so on. And, they are not talking about hypothetical sources–either you don’t understand what the scholars talking about literary development are doing or you are misrepresenting it. They are looking at the biblical texts themselves and from their internal features they are discerning compositional patterns. Then, some of these critics look to cognate texts that do have forerunner exemplars that chart literary development to confirm the traits and tendencies of ancient scribes and the traces they left in the Bible. This is not something you can just ignore out of hand.

            With respect to the two examples that you gave to provide contextual support for fixed texts becoming canonical–I am unsure about what you mean with the citation of Hittite treaties; are these recopied through the centuries? As far as the Laws of Hammurapi go, here are two quotes:

            “The numerous manuscripts suggest more than one original exemplar, and what are sometimes viewed as discrepancies and errors in some manuscripts may be the results of different traditions” (Martha Roth, Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, 74).

            “The manuscript tradition is interesting because many of the late Assyrian copes from Kouyunjik seem to reflect a text that is earlier than the Stele itself…Three passages in the Prologue are omitted by the Old Babylonian manuscript A, and since they can be excluded without disturbing the grammar or the sense (in fact, the grammar may be improved by omitting them), it is sensible to conclude that Stele evolved from the shorter text exemplified by manuscript A” (M.E.J. Richardson, Hammurabi’s Laws, 16.)

            Just because a text is authoritative (or in ANE context, it is in the scribal curriculum) does not mean that it exists in only one form or is fixed. This is my point with the OT. It seems that the decalogue appears in more than one form. This is okay. The authors of Scripture were comfortable with this and both forms are authoritative but they were not rigidly fixed.

            It is curious to me that you looked for parallels to support your assumption of the fixity of texts in the Laws of Hammurapi and Hittite laws but did not mention the Gilgamesh Epic which is a far better parallel both in terms of abundance and clarity of textual evidence and type of literature. But then again, as Tigay has shown, the Gilgamesh Epic is not “fixed” until very late in its development.

          • Charles Halton October 22, 2013 at 11:04 am #

            Hi Jim, I agree with you on this. I still am unsure what you mean about “committed to the canon,” though. What time frame are we talking about what what do you think these people you mention thought by being committed to “canon”?

  4. Richard Lucas October 18, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    Jason, I appreciated your post. It did spark a question on a tangential point you made.

    You located Theodotion during your second period, the late 1st century BC and early 1st century AD. Can you expand on your reasons for dating Theodotion to this period and not the 2nd century AD?

    Also, if Theodotion is 1st century, what is the relationship with “Proto-Theodotion” and/or “Kaige-Theodotion”?

    I’m particularly interested in what role Theodotion might have had in influencing any of the divergent textual forms in the NT’s use of the OT.

    If you could point me to any works detailing your position here too, that would be helpful. Thanks!

    • John Meade October 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

      Rich,
      Feel free to call me and we can discuss this point.

    • Jason Parry October 18, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

      Richard,

      Thanks for your questions. Various translation/revision technique studies have drawn the conclusion that texts attributed to Theodotion probably belong to the first century AD or earlier. A few examples:

      Dominique Barthélemy, Les Devanciers d’Aquila (1963), esp. pages 144-57
      Kevin G. O’Connell, The Theodotionic Revision of the Book of Exodus (1972), p. 5
      Peter J. Gentry, The Asterisked Materials in the Greek Job (1995), p. 495-98
      Tim McLay, The OG and Th Versions of Daniel (1996), p. 240

      The question of whether Theodotion himself belongs to the first century (like the texts attributed to him), or whether Theodotion belongs to the second century and somehow first-century texts became associated with his name through the Hexapla, is a debated question and the scholars listed above are split on the answer. I tend to think that the former option is the more probable solution, but more exhaustive studies of the problem are needed before a consensus will be reached.

      The term “proto-Theodotion” presupposes that the person named Theodotion slightly revised an already existing text which was produced earlier by someone else. If Theodotion was second-century, then “proto-Theodotion” would be first-century. If Theodotion was first-century AD, then “proto-Theodotion” would be first-century BC. But “proto-Theodotion” may not be a valid term in the first place if Theodotion lived and produced the texts attributed to him in the first century, which is still a viable solution, although more work needs to be done. The term “kaige-Theodotion” refers to the group of texts which have been identified as translations or revisions made during the period when “kaige” was being used to render the Hebrew particle “gam,” but the translation and revision practices in these texts are better understood in terms of a spectrum than as a monolithic recension (see Gentry 495-98).

      As far as the divergent textual forms in the NT’s use of the OT, I think that it is fair to say that there were at least two Greek text forms in the first century available to the NT authors, namely the OG and the texts which are attributed to Theodotion, regardless of whether the person named Theodotion produced them in the first century or merely revised them in the second century. There were a number of other first-century text forms as well, if you count revisions of the OG such as the Greek Minor Prophets scroll. I’d recommend taking John Meade up on his offer to chat with you on this point, since he’s done more thinking about the NT use of these text forms than I have.

      • Charles Halton October 21, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

        Hi Jason, given that you say that “it is fair to say that there were at least two Greek text forms in the first century available to the NT authors” would you disagree with Jim’s comment: “Also Charles, you speak of “the *reality* of textual diversity between Greek and at least a couple DSS versions.” I think this evidence is not as strong as it’s sometimes made out to be.”?

        • John Meade October 21, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

          Charles, Jason can chime in on this as well, but I will offer my two cents. I would encourage you to look at Paul’s citation of Isa 25:8 in I Corinthians 15:54: Death is swallowed up in victory. Examine that text in MT, LXX, and the Three Hexaplaric versions listed in Ziegler’s edition. What you will find is that one fixed Hebrew consonantal text can yield different text forms in Greek due to different vocalizations and translation techniques. I think it was Jonathan Norton’s book (title escapes me at the moment) which made a helpful distinction between textual plurality and interpretational plurality. This is an example of the latter, not the former.

        • Jason Parry October 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

          Charles,
          I think that the key word in Jim’s comment is “sometimes.” I understand Jim to be saying that *sometimes* scholars draw unwarranted conclusions from too few data and emphasize the differences between texts without taking into account various possible explanations for those differences. If this accurately describes Jim’s point, then I agree with him.
          However, I would add that we need to avoid the opposite extreme as well, namely emphasizing the similarities and sweeping the differences under the rug. I am convinced that there was a spectrum of texts in Hellenistic Judaism which deviated from the proto-MT to varying degrees and for various reasons (see John Meade’s comment for one reason), and therefore I would agree with you that textual diversity was a reality. I’m not convinced, however, that the existence of a diversity of text forms in itself proves an ignorance of an official text and a general philosophy of textual pluralism among Hellenistic Jews. There are other probable explanations of the diversity which need to be explored before we conclude that ignorance of an official text is the only or even the most probable explanation.
          I would compare the NT use of the various Greek versions of the OT to the situation which we see today in many English-speaking churches. Many congregations use a multiplicity of English versions and very few would claim that only one of the English versions is the official, standardized, canonical text. Preachers usually favor a certain English version but often cite other versions when the other versions more accurately reflect the canonical text. So when I say that there were multiple Greek versions available to the NT authors, I am not disagreeing with Jim’s comment. I’m simply suggesting that the NT authors were not necessarily limited to OG if they wanted to cite an existing Greek version to make their point.

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  1. LXXI | Biblioblog Carnival—October 2013 - November 1, 2013

    […] Hamilton posted some thoughts from Jason Parry on the development of the OT canon, and a fascinating discussion ensued. The conversation continued with a follow-up post, which has […]

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