I'm finally back at this subject, which has, I admit, ended up being more complicated than I anticipated (what else is new?). These posts are my attempt to get a handle on the evidence and arguments for a temple collection of scripture, especially as that relates to the development of the biblical canon. The first post
surveyed some of the ancient testimonia
for such a collection, and the second post
presented the argument put forward by Emanuel Tov in regard to the textual data arising from the Judean Desert scrolls.
I did promise some evaluation of Tov's arguments for our present purposes (biblical canon), so here goes.
First of all, Tov's views are shared by other scholars. For example, David Carr:
The proto-Masoretic texts that start to appear in the late Hasmonean period probably linked back to reference exemplars stored there [= the Jerusalem temple]. (Formation, p. 163)
Armin Lange also believes that a standard text was created in the second half of the first century BCE by priests in the Jerusalem temple ("They Confirmed the Reading," p. 79). Lange (Flores Florentino): accepts much of Tov's presentation, but adds: (1) diversity of biblical quotations (see now his book and the review of same at JHS); (2) Greek recensions; (3) Greek textual scholarship (but precisely this third argument was refuted in 1978 by Bertil Albrektson, pp. 48-51, citing Lieberman before him). Lange thinks Jewish standardization began in Egypt (evidence: Alexandrian pagan scholarship; LXX mss earliest examples of Jewish standardization; Aristeas) and thence influenced Palestine after 63 BCE. Originally it was not aimed at MT exclusively--"The proto-Lucianic recension as well as the supralinear corrections of 5QDeut demonstrate that originally other texttypes were also favored as standard texts" (p. 126)--but eventually the MT was housed in the temple, perhaps by the late 1st cent. BCE.
But Tov's hypothesis is speculative, as he admits. This is how I summarized his position in my previous post.
If the non-Qumran Judean Desert texts reflect exclusively MT and if those who used these scrolls can be reasonably considered to have recognized the authority of the Jerusalem temple and its leaders--and to have obtained their biblical texts in reliance on this Jerusalem leadership--and if rabbinic writings testify to the existence within the temple of a scroll of the Torah and possibly other biblical books used for corrections, then perhaps the manuscript evidence confirms these rabbinic statements and we should connect the non-Qumran textual uniformity to the temple.
Tov here says "This is a mere hypothesis" (p. 9) and he goes on in the same passage to admit that the rabbinic evidence really concerns only a Torah scroll in the temple, "but it stands to reason that other Scripture books were also found in the temple." There's the rub for our question (= canon): exactly which scripture books does it stand to reason were to be found in the temple?
So, it's a 'mere hypothesis'. On the other hand:
The textual unity described above has to start somewhere and the assumption of master copies is therefore necessary. (same article, p. 8; a nearly identical sentence at TCHB p. 31)
So, the assumption of master copies is an assumption, but a necessary one. The location of these master copies in the temple is more of a guess, but a guess based on good sense and on the ancient testimonia that we surveyed in the first post.
That doesn't mean everyone has to like the guess. Eugene Ulrich, for instance:
Despite suggestions to the contrary, the future still awaits demonstration that the texts preserved in the medieval MT transmit the texts guarded by the priests in the Jerusalem temple as opposed to other popular or "vulgar" texts that were less well preserved by less well qualified people. Nor has a line of succession--from temple priests to Pharisees to rabbis--been convincingly shown. (here, p. 155)
In the footnote on the same page, he writes:
Moreover, to my knowledge, no one has demonstrated how we could know either the textual nature of the priests' manuscripts in the Jerusalem temple, or how the Pharisees/rabbis, usually considered a lay group, would have received them in contrast to the (probably priestly) LXX translators and the Qumran leaders who were presumably very strict priests. (p. 155 n. 18)
What does that leave us with?
First, Ulrich seems to accept the idea that the temple in Jerusalem housed some scrolls of scriptural books. The ancient statements
affirming this point--and the comparative evidence from other cultures--put the matter beyond dispute to my mind. That is to say, I think it would be very hard to argue that the temple contained no scriptural scrolls, and I'm not sure why someone would want to deny it. The exact content of this temple library can certainly be disputed: besides the Pentateuch, which other scriptures were included? The entire Tanak? More than the Tanak? And which textual form were these scrolls? Just one form or multiple?
Second, Tov seems to have established that there were master copies of some scriptural books that led to the production of scrolls textually equivalent to the later MT. As he says, the idea of master copies is an assumption but a necessary one. While Ulrich does in another essay
question to what extent the Masada scrolls actually reflect later MT, he must also admit in regard to his principal example (MasGen, a fragment with 8 complete and 3 broken words, containing 3 variants vis-a-vis the MT): "such small variants are to be expected even within the Masoretic group" (p. 456). Lange also says that MasGen cannot be classified, and he says the same about seven Bar Kokhba era mss (Handbuch
, p. 24). Nevertheless, Lange basically agrees that all of these non-Qumran texts are protomasoretic and that they thus stand apart from the texts at Qumran (ibid.).
Granted the existence of master copies (though I'm not positive that Ulrich would grant this point), where would these master copies be housed? The Rabbis possessed MT-like scrolls, and their predecessors are usually thought to have been the Pharisees. Ulrich seems to accept this in the quotation above, so let's go with it. I guess it's possible that the Pharisees were the ones at Masada leaving behind the biblical scrolls, and at Wadi Murabba'at and elsewhere (especially if a wing of Pharisees really were into violent revolution, as Wright has argued here
, pp. 185-86, and here
, pp. 190-95).
But what about all those 'second-circle' texts (as Tov calls them) at Qumran? These 'second-circle' texts are copies of the proto-MT (I know Ulrich rolls his eyes when he reads that--because I'm sure he reads my blog!--sorry, it's a useful though anachronistic term) that are not quite as precise representations of the MT as are the non-Qumran Judean Desert scrolls, but they seem to have been copied from one of these latter 'inner-circle' texts. That is, they were not copied from the master scrolls themselves but from copies of the master scrolls. While the actual scrolls are earlier than the 'inner-circle' scrolls, they are typologically later. (See the summary of Tov's argument in my previous post
Does not the presence of the 'second-circle' texts at Qumran indicate that the master scrolls, or at least the text represented by them, must have been important, or, let's say, available, to groups beyond the Pharisees? What's more, I think the numbers in which they are represented at Qumran would indicate not just their availability but truly their importance. While Qumran undoubtedly exhibits textual pluriformity, it is equally undoubted that the textual form that became the MT was important there.
I don't know that the master scrolls were housed in the temple, but that is a pretty good guess. I'm basing this on the previous two points: (1) the 'necessary assumption' of master scrolls that provided the model for (a) the non-Qumran Judean Desert scrolls, (b) the biblical text adopted by the Rabbis and apparently earlier used by the Pharisees, and (c) many of the Qumran scriptural scrolls at a secondary level (second-circle texts); (2) the presence in the temple of some scriptural scrolls, at least the Pentateuch if not more. Moreover, the Rabbis thought that the temple Torah scroll was used for correcting other scrolls that were more-or-less proto-MT (since that is the only text form the Rabbis seem to attest), so we apparently have some ancient evidence (granted, it's later rabbinic testimony and so open to doubt) connecting the temple Torah scroll to the proto-MT. But, given the presence of proto-MT texts at Qumran and the apparent animosity of the Qumran group to the Pharisees, they probably weren't adopting this text from each other. It seems necessary to imagine that the text was disseminated from another authoritative source.
In light of these 'second-circle' texts at Qumran, I would also want to call into question Ulrich's statement quoted above that the Pharisees somehow ended up with these standard scrolls and the group at Qumran did not. Or, again, from Ulrich:
If any group had temple texts that they preserved and copied, the Qumran group would seem to be the most likely candidate. Their early members are widely believed to have been priests in the temple who separated themselves because they believed the temple had been defiled. (here, pp. 155-56)
It's true that scrolls of the inner-circle were not found at Qumran (except for 4QGen-b; Tov, TCHB
, p. 31), but plenty of 'second-circle' texts were. I don't know why the 'inner-circle' is almost completely absent, but the presence of the 'second-circle' is still significant.
[By the way, Armin Lange has his own classification of the Qumran scrolls (Handbuch
, 16-17): he counts 20 semimasoretische Handschriften
and 7 protomasoretische Handschriften
, along with the other text types: pre-SP (2 scrolls), scrolls equally near MT and SP (11), LXX Vorlage
(4), independent (47), non-classifiable (83), and some which might not actually attest biblical books (35).]
What biblical books are represented by the 'inner-circle' and 'second-circle'?
(See my previous post
, especially the 'update' at the bottom. The following list of biblical books represents the books attested by the non-Qumran Judean Desert scrolls as give in Tov's Revised Lists
, pp. 126-29. )
- Twelve Prophets
Some of these are of course more impressive specimens than others. Not all of them have enough text to say for sure that they absolutely represent proto-MT and not other textual editions (see the doubts about MasGen expressed by Ulrich and Lange, noted earlier).
(The following list names the biblical books of the Qumran scrolls with exclusive closeness to MT as given by Tov here
, pp. 154-57.)
- Twelve Prophets
(Once again, I have a bit of a problem with Tov's statistics. Here
, p. 22, he mentions "the exclusive closeness of fifty-seven Qumran texts to the medieval texts," but he doesn't list them. In the article cited above, he does list them but they only total 24 texts. He goes on to list other scrolls that are equally close to MT and either SP or LXX, which account for the remaining 33 texts.)
(Another caveat: some of these Qumran scrolls still present problems, even if the extant portions exclusively reflect MT. For example, the Book of Psalms is listed above in the 'second-circle,' but anyone familiar with the attestation of the Psalter at Qumran will know that it's more complicated than that. See Flint
If we put these two lists together, we find that all of the Torah is attested in this "standard" MT-like form, all of the Nevi'im
, and five of the eleven Ketuvim
. The books missing are the Five Megilloth (Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, Qoheleth, Song of Songs) and Chronicles.
If the books represented here--18 of the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible--were copied from master scrolls ('inner-circle') or from copies of the master scrolls ('second-circle'), then we can say that the text form represented by the master scrolls was available and important to the Qumran group and the Pharisees.
It seems to me that the most likely location for such master scrolls to be housed is the Jerusalem temple, especially given the ancient testimonia
on precisely that point.
The textual diversity presents some difficulties, especially as Ulrich
argues it. Not only does he point to Qumran, but he also argues that the SP, the LXX, the NT quotations, and Josephus "all resoundingly confirm this widely accepted state of pluriformity" (p. 155). That means that the evidence from Qumran is "representative of the Jewish scriptures generally in that period." I don't see that this overturns the possibility of a standard text, though it would limit the reception enjoyed by this standard text. Whereas we don't necessarily know what the Qumran group thought about the available textual options--we don't know, in other words, that they valued all these texts the same, as Ulrich wants us to think (p. 155)--the textual diversity exhibited by the LXX vis-a-vis the MT presumably meant that the translator valued his Vorlage
over other options (though maybe even here other scenarios could be imagined; and for which books is there a real difference between LXX Vorlage
and MT?). But there might still be a standard text promoted by an influential group, even if not all Jewish groups or individuals accepted or had access to this standard text.
Another problem is that MT is textually inferior in some books. This is especially true for Samuel, which is the typical example given in these discussions.
Is it at all plausible to picture the MT of the Books of Samuel as the outcome of a careful comparison of manuscripts and textual traditions, when it is obvious that it is an inferior text, full of errors and lacunae which could easily have been remedied with the aid of contemporary manuscript material? (Albrektson, p. 57)
[...] it is at the same time a good text--as a whole it is clearly superior to other textual traditions like the LXX or the Samaritan--and an uneven text with obvious and in places rather embarrassing defects. (Albrektson, p. 60)
The specific texts for each book in the rabbinic collection as reflected in the MT are, as far as we can tell, not selected or chosen but chance or coincidental. The poor state of the text, for example, of Samuel and Hosea, would seem to preclude conscious textual preference and selection; and the criteria for the choices of the MT versus the Hebrew Vorlage of the LXX could not have been the same for all books (cf., e.g., Jeremiah and Daniel). (Ulrich, p. 156)
I am not sure what to do with this fact. There were scrolls of Samuel circulating in antiquity with a higher quality of text than that of the MT. Why did not one of these higher quality scrolls become the standard text of later generations (i.e., the MT)? It is tempting to say, with other scholars (such as Albrektson and Ulrich) that this simply resulted from chance, that following the desolation of Judah enacted by the Romans, only this defective text of Samuel survived among the Pharisees/Rabbis. Does this undermine the entire idea of a standard text prior to the destruction? I don't think so, because Tov's assumption of master scrolls would still be a necessary assumption. How the text of Samuel works within this assumption requires further thought.
How does this relate to the canon of Hebrew scripture? To quote myself from the first post in this series:
the evidence makes it probable that the temple housed a collection of scripture, but it is hard (impossible) to know the exact contents of this collection, and it seems unlikely that it contained precisely the Jewish canonical books, no more and no less.
A collection of scripture in the Jerusalem temple that may have served the function of housing master scrolls for the dissemination of a particular text form of various scriptural books does give us a possible
way of thinking about how the canon (to use again an anachronistic term) might have functioned in antiquity and how the ancient Jews might have conceptualized the canon. Since we are not in a position to know the precise contents of the temple collection, we cannot determine from this line of argument exactly which books counted as canonical or, indeed, whether anyone had given any thought to delimiting the scriptural collection in such a way.