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Thursday, 19 August 2010

Example #4, Joshua 21:36-37 ( Part III, Case Studies in Interpolation in the series: Is 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 an interpolation?)


Case #2: Joshua 21:34-40 KJV
34-35 And unto the families of the children of Merari, the rest of the Levites, out of the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with her suburbs, and Kartah with her suburbs, Dimnah with her suburbs, Nahalal with her suburbs; four cities.
36-37 And out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with her suburbs, and Jahazah with her suburbs, Kedemoth with her suburbs, and Mephaath with her suburbs; four cities.
38-39 And out of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Mahanaim with her suburbs, Heshbon with her suburbs, Jazer with her suburbs; four cities in all.
40 So all the cities for the children of Merari by their families, which were remaining of the families of the Levites, were by their lot twelve cities.

1 Chronicles 6:77-81 KJV
77-78a Unto the rest of the children of Merari were given out of the tribe of Zebulun, Rimmon with her suburbs, Tabor with her suburbs: And on the other side Jordan by Jericho, on the east side of Jordan, were given them
78b-79 out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer in the wilderness with her suburbs, and Jahzah with her suburbs, Kedemoth also with her suburbs, and Mephaath with her suburbs:
80-81 And out of the tribe of Gad; Ramoth in Gilead with her suburbs, and Mahanaim with her suburbs, and Heshbon with her suburbs, and Jazer with her suburbs.

In today's example, we at last arrive at a situation very similar to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. The alleged interpolation in question is a two-verse passage in the printed Hebrew Bible, but found only as a marginal note in most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text. In other words, it's something that has been brought into the text from the margin--the very thing that's been alleged of the Corinthian passage. It's not hard to see where this interpolation originated: it was lifted word-for word from 1 Chronicles 6:78-79. The only difference is the word b'midbar (in the wilderness) in the latter (but this is present in the Greek and Latin versions of the former).  But there are good reasons not to treat this as an interpolation, as we shall see once we run it through our checklist:

1. - abrupt changes in the subject matter or interruptions in an otherwise continuous train of thought;
2. - seeming inconsistencies or contradictions that conflict with other material in the document;
3. - the presence of certain formulae in supposedly inappropriate or uncustomary contexts;
4. - repetition of redundant elements or perceived changes in tone or style;
5. - the supposed assumption by the writer of different circumstances on the part of the intended audience;
6 - the perceived character of the manuscripts that don't contain the alleged interpolation;
7 - the variety of readings in the manuscripts that do contain the alleged interpolation.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5. No. If anything, it is the absence of the alleged interpolation from the context that creates a jarring effect. Note that the total of towns given in v. 40 depends on the presence of the information in vv. 36-37. 
6. Interestingly enough, even though the Masoretes faithfully transmitted a text without the interpolation, they weren't able to keep hundreds of scribes from moving them back into the text from the margin. But the Targums don't have it, so the omission, if there was one, goes back quite a ways.
7. Looking at other textual traditions, we see that the Greek and Latin copies have the interpolation--but it clearly wasn't translated directly from the Hebrew margin into either one.

The printed LXX reads (but with verses 36-45 renumbered as in the printed Masoretic Text),

34-35 And to the family of the sons of Merari the Levites that remained, out of the tribe of Zabulon, Maan and its suburbs; and Kades and its suburbs, and Sella and its suburbs: three cities. And beyond the Jordan by Jericho,
36  out of the tribe of Rouben, the city of the refuge for the slayer, Bosor in the wilderness; Miso and its suburbs; and Jazer and its suburbs; and Dekmon, and its suburbs; and Mafa, and its suburbs; four cities.
37 And out of the tribe of Gad the city of refuge for the slayer, both Ramoth in Galaad, and its suburbs; Kamin and its suburbs; and Esbon and its suburbs; and Jazer and its suburbs: the cities four in all. 
38 All cities to the sons of Merari according to the families of them that were left out of the tribe of Levi; and their limits were the twelve cities.

The printed Vulgate follows the Hebrew text, but with 2 verses in the margin and the rest renumbered:

34-35 And to the children of Merari, Levites of the inferior degree, by their families were given of the tribe of Zabulon, Jecnam and Cartha, And Damna and Naalol, four cities with their suburbs. Of the tribe of Ruben beyond the Jordan over against Jericho,  
36 Bosor in the wilderness, one of the cities of refuge, Misor and Jaser and Jethson and Mephaath, four cities with their suburbs.
37 Of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Galaad, one of the cities of refuge, and Manaim  and Hesebon and Jaser, four cities with their suburbs,
38 All the cities of the children of Merari, by their families and kindreds, were twelve.


Wycliffe located the two verses after verse 39 (the last location in which the math would still work), which indicates that they were brought in from the margin of his vorlage. His translation reads:

34-35 Sotheli to the sones of Merary, dekenes of the lowere degree, bi her meynees, was govun Getheran, of the linage of Zabulon, and Charcha, and Demna, and Nalol; foure citees, with her subarbis.
38-39 And of the lynage of Gad, he gaf the citee of refugt, Ramoth in Galaad, and Manaym, and Esebon, and Jaser; foure citees, with her subarbis.
36-37 And of the lynage of Ruben, biyende Jordan, agens Jerico, he gaf the citee of refugt, Bosor in the wildirnesse of Mysor, and Jazer, and Jecson, and Maspha; foure citees, with her subarbis.
40 Alle the citees of Merary, bi her meynees and kynredis, weren twelve.

This alleged interpolation is an excellent example of what happens when a reading thought to have been original gets put into the margin of one manuscript, and thence into the margin of some of its copies, and into the text of others. It's also possible for some copies to have both, although I'm not yet aware of such a situation with this interpolation. But we have an advantage in this case, because due to a couple of factors, we can be absolutely sure that this passage was original to the book of Joshua.

Note, first of all, the math story problem. Four cities plus four cities equals twelve cities--true or false? True, if you leave out verses 36-37. But including the four cities of the alleged interpolation yields the correct answer of twelve, given in v.7 and v. 40. Note that of the parallel passages, only Joshua includes the check-sums--with a grand total of 48 also given in v. 41. 

Secondly, note how verses 35 and 37 end:  "with her suburbs; four cities." And again, note how verses 36 and 38 begin: "and out of the tribe of." This is a rare combination of homoioarcton and homoioteleuton, the two causes of parablepsis leading to haplography. To translate that into simple English, this was an omission just waiting to happen, as the eye of the scribe jumped from just before the omitted passage to just after it. And happen it did: so early on in the stream of manuscript transmission that the exact wording of these two verses may have been lost forever. But rest assured--the basic text can be reconstructed with the help of the parallel passage, and that is in fact what appears to have happened. 

On the one hand, scribes were loathe to transmit a text that violated the principles of mathematics. But on the other hand, they were reluctant to so boldly interpolate with text from a parallel passage that may not be verbatim what was missing. So we have a lot of one or the other, and sometimes a little of both--resulting in the entire passage being re-inserted a little farther down the page. This can easily be accounted for by the fact that a marginal reading would take up enough of the margin that, should it be inserted into the text adjacent to the beginning of the marginal note, it would enter the text at one location, but should it be inserted next to the end of the interpolation, it would enter the text some verses later in the text. Scribes didn't always know which was which, which would sometimes result in a slight dislocation of the interpolation upon re-insertion.  Another scribe, however, may be convinced that another location, perhaps many pages away, would be more suitable due to a perceived better fit to the context. There are examples of this phenomenon in both Testaments.

To re-cap: Sometimes, due to predicable scribal errors, a passage of various length can be deleted from the text in the course of transmission from one manuscript to another. Upon discovery of this error, the text will be written into the margin of the deficient manuscript, approximately adjacent to its proper location. Finally, this manuscript is then copied by a scribe who takes it upon himself to re-insert the deleted material into where he thinks it belongs in the text--which may be the right spot, may be a few verses off, or may possibly even be many pages away, but in a parallel passage where it seems to fit the context. To determine whether the material in question has been recovered, reconstructed, or interpolated out of whole cloth, one must seek for a clear verdict from the internal and external evidence.

And NOW we are finally ready to take a direct look at the alleged interpolation in First Corinthians Fourteen. Maybe. 

1 comment:

  1. For more detail on the textual support for this passage, see Ronald Hendel's article at


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