Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Place Where God's Name Dwells

In his recent book on The Formation of the Hebrew Bible, David Carr makes use of recent work by Adrian Schenker in arguing that the Masoretic Text (MT) of Deuteronomy exhibits Hasmonean-era editing in two main ways: (1) the frequently-occurring formula, "the place where God will choose for his name to dwell" originally had the past tense "has chosen"; and (2) the reference to Mount Ebal in Deut. 27:4 originally read Mount Gerizim. Thus, in the original text of Deuteronomy, the place that the Lord "has chosen" is Gerizim, and it was only in the late editing of the book that the formula became future and looked forward to the selection of Jerusalem as the sacred site, as the MT has it. The original text is now preserved in the Samaritan Pentateuch and in some Greek, Latin, and Coptic witnesses (see below). According to Carr:
The original referents to Gerizim in Deuteronomy make sense as relatively early portions of the text, centering the inscription of the Torah in the heartland of the Israelite tribes and ultimately leading to a covenant ceremony at Gerizim and Ebal (Deut 27:12-13). The apparent alterations in the proto-MT of Deuteronomy, in turn, are best set in the context of the destruction of the sanctuary at Mount Gerizim by the Hasmonean John Hyrcanus in 128 BCE. (p. 168)
Now, this idea is fairly new. The standard view is that the Samaritan Pentateuch changed the tense of the verb "choose" to past tense, whereas the original reading in the future was preserved in the MT. The Samaritans did this to turn the focus of Deuteronomy away from Jerusalem and toward their sacred site of Shechem, near Gerizim. This latter idea is the one endorsed, for instance, by Emanuel Tov in the latest edition of his Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible: the Samaritans made this change because, "from the Samaritan perspective, Schechem had already been chosen at the time of the patriarchs (Gen 12:6; Gen 33:18-20), and therefore they felt a need to change the tense" away from the future of the Masoretic Text, which alludes to Jerusalem. (See p. 88 of Tov's 3rd ed.; the wording is only slightly changed from the 2nd ed. [2001], p. 94.) Note that Tov does accept the reading "Gerizim" in Deut. 27:4, or, at least, he says "it should probably be considered non-sectarian and possibly original" (3rd ed., p. 88 n. 140). On this point, see also Carmel McCarthy's BHQ edition of Deuteronomy (pp. 122*-123*) and this monograph by Magnar Kartveit, pp. 300-5.

What is the evidence adduced by Schenker as he seeks to overturn scholarly orthodoxy about the original tense of the verb in the deuteronomic formula? In this post I will summarize Schenker's argument found in his first essay on the topic cited at the bottom of this post. There I also cite a few other works where the idea is discussed and accepted. All page references in this post refer to Schenker's first essay.

Summary of Schenker's Argument

According to Schenker, there are 21 total occurrences in the Book of Deuteornomy of the formula about God's choosing a place to cause his name to dwell. This is how Schenker breaks down the various ways the formula is worded:
  1. the place which the Lord will choose [or: has chosen] to cause his name to dwell (12:11; 14:23; 16:2, 6, 11; 26:2)
  2. the place which the Lord will choose [or: has chosen] to place his name (12:21; 14:24; cf. 12:5, combining both of these formulations)
  3. the place which the Lord will choose [or: has chosen] (12:14, 18, 26; 14:25; 15:20; 16:7, 15, 16; 17:8, 10; 18:6; 31:11). 
As I mentioned earlier, scholars have long known that the Samaritan Pentateuch exhibits the past tense "has chosen" in every occurrence of this formula, but scholars have typically seen that as a characteristic "Samaritan" feature of their text reflecting their peculiar ideology. It is this idea that Schenker wants to challenge. He does this by looking at some important versional evidence and finding it rather more complicated than previous analysis would allow. Unfortunately, examination of the Dead Sea Scrolls does not help since not a single one of these 21 passages is extant among the 30 or so Deuteronomy scrolls from Qumran. (The only one that's close is 14:25, but the beginning of the word for "choose" is missing so it is unclear if it's perfect or imperfect.)

The Gottingen edition of Greek Deuteronomy, edited by John William Wevers, always gives the future of "choose" in the text, but it occasionally cites variant readings attesting the aorist or similar.

The following evidence is assembled by Schenker in support of the originality of the past tense reading reflected now in the Samaritan Pentateuch.
  • Nehemiah 1:9, which combines a citation of Deut. 30:4 with the formula under examination, and attests that formula in the past tense (has chosen).
  • Deut 12:5--LXX ms 72 and Bohairic version of LXX
  • 12:11, 26--Bohairic editions
  • 12:14--one Bohairic ms
  • 12:21--two Sahidic witnesses. Schenker stresses that of the five occurrences of our formula in Deut. 12, these same mss attest the future for the other four, but for this one occurrence, the formula is not assimilated to the future but is left in the past. 
  • 14:23(22)--LXX ms 72, four Bohairic mss.
  • 14:24(23) and 14:25(24)--LXX ms 72 and all Bohairic mss. 
  • 16:2--LXX ms 16, one ms of the Vetus Latina (VL)
  • 16:7--two Bohairic mss and a ms of the VL
  • 17:8--all but one Bohairic ms
  • 17:10--VL, according to Lucifer of Calgari, and a Sahidic ms.
Schenker summarizes this evidence with the following points (pp. 345-7):
  1. Of the 21 appearances of the formula in Deuteronomy, 11 are attested in the past tense by one or two witnesses. [Actually, I count 12 such cases. For some reason Schenker omits from the reckoning here 12:14, which he had earlier discussed on pp. 342-3. It seems to be the only case in which only a single manuscript attests the reading, but Schenker says in his summary that he is talking about situations in which "un ou deux témoins offrent le verbe au passé" (p. 345). UPDATE: I notice that this is corrected in Schenker's second article listed below, where he does talk about 12 passages (p. 114).]
  2. In five of these cases there is the support of 2 witnesses (12:5; 14:24(23), 25(24); 16:2; 17:10). Schenker would also add 14:23(22) and 16:7. 
  3. In each witness, "the passages offering the verb conjugated in the preterite are the minority in the face of others with the future" (p. 345). For instance, for LXX ms 72, the formula has the future in all but four occurrences, where it has the past. Similarly, LXX ms 16 attests the preterite only once. The VL gives the perfect elegit three times (16:2, 7; 17:10). Schenker also gives statistics for the Bohairic and Sahidic. He concludes this point: "Thus this reading has a good chance of being original in each of the cases where it is encountered" (p. 346). 
  4. The relevant textual witnesses (i.e., the Bohairic, Sahadic, and VL) often exhibit an early, pre-Origenian text. LXX ms 72 gives a mixed text, and LXX ms 16 gives a text characteristic of the catenae
  5. These five witnesses (LXX mss 72 and 16, VL, Bohairic, Sahadic) are not dependent on the Samaritan Pentateuch but reflect the LXX. 
This leads to five further points about the tense of the verb in our deuteronomic formula in the LXX(pp. 347-8).
  1. The 11 readings of the verb in the past tense are attested by five independent witnesses. 
  2. Because the reading is always the minority among its 21 appearances in whatever textual witness, it has a good chance of being more original than the majority reading. "In fact, because of the formulaic character of the context, pressure is exerted on the copyists in the direction of identical formulation each time and not toward diversification, for which the context offers no motive whatsoever" (p. 347). 
  3. The minority reading diverges from the Masoretic Text, whereas the tendency in the transmission of the LXX was to assimilate its readings to the MT. 
  4. The Samaritan Pentateuch exerted no influence on the LXX or on the five witnesses attesting the past tense, so that these witnesses and the Samaritan Pentateuch confirm one another. 
  5. The semi-quotation of the formula in Nehemiah 1:9 supports seeing the past tense as original. 
En résumé, la  lxx originale a probablement lu au 3e s. av. J.-Chr. le verbe à l’accompli : « le lieu que le Seigneur a choisi », puisqu’elle a trouvé cette forme du verbe dans son modèle hébreu. Elle atteste ainsi la leçon du Sam comme présamaritaine. L’accompli du verbe dans cette formule deutéronomique n’est pas une leçon secondaire créée par les Samaritains. (p. 348)
Since Schenker thus concludes that the original LXX and its Vorlage contained the past tense form, he now investigates whether this was the original form of the Hebrew text. Connecting the "law of centralization" in Deuteronomy (i.e., the law of which our formula is an intimate part; cf. Deut. 12:5) to the command to build an altar on a mountain within the Promise Land in Deut. 27:4-7 (whether that mountain is Ebal or, as Schenker thinks, Gerizim; see beginning of this post), he concludes that the past tense makes most sense because within the context of Deuteronomy, the place that the Lord puts his name is not Jerusalem (which will become the sacred city only in 2Sam 24) but this particular mountain mentioned in the book itself.

Thus, the MT's future tense in our formula is the ideological correction (and not the Samaritan Pentateuch's past tense) to allow for the reference to now be to Jerusalem, chosen by God in the future from the perspective of Deuteronomy. This change in the MT would have taken place, according to Schenker, after the translation of the LXX in the early third century, since this Alexandrian translation probably used Hebrew Vorlagen from Jerusalem and approved by the Jewish leadership there (p. 350). Very early the LXX was revised toward the revised Hebrew text, so that the non-revised Greek wording survived in only a few marginal witnesses.

For the idea discussed above, see especially the first essay by Schenker. He and Stefan Schorch have developed the idea in further essays, and it has been accepted by David Carr, as noted above.

Adrian Schenker, "Le Seigneur choisira-t-il le lieu de son nom ou l’a-t-il choisi? l’apport de la Bible grecque ancienne à l’histoire du texte samaritain et massorétique.” Pages 339–51 in Scripture in Transition: Essays on Septuagint, Hebrew Bible, and Dead Sea Scrolls in Honour of Raija Sollamo. Edited by Anssi Voitila and Jutta Jokiranta. Leiden: Brill, 2008. (full text available here)

---. “Textgeschichtliches zum Samaritanischen Pentateuch und Samareitikon: Zur Textgeschichte des Pentateuchs im 2. Jh. v.Chr.” Pages 105–21 in Samaritans: Past and Present. Current Studies. Edited by Menahem Mor and Friederich V. Reiterer. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2010. (book preview here)

Stefan Schorch. “The Samaritan Version of Deuteronomy and the Origin of Deuteronomy.” Pages 23–37 in Samaria, Samarians, Samaritans: Studies on Bible, History and Linguistics. Edited by József Zsengellér. Berling: de Gruyter, 2011. (full text available here)

David Carr, The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.(book preview here)

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