Developmental Stage, Scribal Lapse, or Physical Defect? 1QIsaa’s Damaged Exemplar for Isaiah Chapters 34–66

in Dead Sea Discoveries
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The Great Isaiah Scroll from Qumran (1QIsaa) does not generally reflect a text form earlier than the Masoretic text. Instead, the convergence in 1QIsaa of patterns of spacing irregularities, literary and textual problems, and secondary supplementations, as well as a consistent pattern of distribution, are best explained on the basis of the hypothesis of an exemplar for chapters 34–66 with a damaged bottom edge. Upon reaching the defective edge in each column of his exemplar, the scribe dealt with any lacunose or illegible text in one of two ways before continuing with the unaffected text at the top of the subsequent exemplar column. Sometimes he left blank spaces in his new copy to be filled in with the correct text from other manuscripts at a later time. At other times he attempted full or partial reconstructions of the text based on whatever text remained legible in the damaged exemplar, memory, and contextual clues.

Developmental Stage, Scribal Lapse, or Physical Defect? 1QIsaa’s Damaged Exemplar for Isaiah Chapters 34–66

in Dead Sea Discoveries




Ulrich“Developmental Composition” 289–90.


Ulrich“Developmental Composition” 304–5.


W. H. Brownlee“The Manuscripts of Isaiah from Which DSIa Was Copied,” BASOR 127 (1952): 16–21.


Cf. Ulrich“Developmental Composition” 301–2.


Ulrich“Developmental Composition” 302. Kutscher Language 551 likewise noticed this and attributed it either to an unclear exemplar text before the scribe or (similar to Ulrich) a desire to supplement the text from another manuscript.


So Brownlee“Manuscripts,” 16, and Curt Kuhl, “Schreibereigentümlichkeiten—Bemerkungen zur Jesajarolle (DSIa),” Vetus Testamentum 2/4 (1952): 307–33 311. Compare the similar situation for 4Q252 II 4–5 in Tov Scribal Practices 28 and T. H. Lim “The Chronology of the Flood Story in a Qumran Text (4Q252)” Journal of Jewish Studies 43 (1992): 288–98 294.


Brownlee“Manuscripts” 17; Tigchelaar “Review” 8 11; Ulrich and Flint DJD 32/2:111 115; Williamson “Review” 233.


Ulrich“Developmental Composition” 297–8; Ulrich and Flint DJD 32/2:109–10.


So also Brownlee“Manuscripts” 20. The lack of evidence for exemplar damage in the first half of 1QIsaa is especially significant when we note that the damage gets progressively more extensive as we regress from the end of the book towards chapter 34. It is most unlikely that this consistent pattern would have reversed abruptly at chapter 33 in a single exemplar. The heavy weighting of major textual problems to the second half of the scroll is further confirmation of our theory of a damaged exemplar. It is difficult to explain on Ulrich’s theory why the supposed MT expansions relative to 1QIsaa should be so heavily concentrated in the second half of the scroll rather than more evenly spread out throughout the entire book. Of Ulrich’s supporting examples of significant minuses in 1QIsaa only one (2:9b-10) is in the first half of the scroll; cf. Ulrich “Developmental Composition” 291–2.


Brownlee“Manuscripts” 20. If the first utilized column had been narrower than the average the text of chapter 34 could have been sufficient to fill the entire column thus allowing the interpretation that the exemplar for the second half of the scroll only contained chapters 34–66. Given the average amount of text per column however it is more likely that the first utilized exemplar column also contained text from chapter 33. This would imply either that the second exemplar contained the entire book of Isaiah or if it contained only the second half of Isaiah it bisected Isaiah at a point earlier than that reflected in 1QIsaa. If the damage was along the central tie there would be no problem with arguing that the second exemplar began with chapter 34.


Ulrich“Developmental Composition” 294.


Emanuel Tov“Letters of the Cryptic A Script and Paleo-Hebrew Letters Used as Scribal Marks in Some Qumran Scrolls,” Dead Sea Discoveries 2/3 (1995): 330–9 332–3.


Shemaryahu Talmon“Aspects of the Textual Transmission of the Bible in the Light of Qumran Manuscripts,” in Qumran and the History of the Biblical Text (eds. Frank Moore Cross and Shemaryahu Talmon; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press1975) 226–63236–7 argues that עמנו is a notation of a variant to עם עבדיך not intended to be incorporated into the text. Alternatively the marginal notation may be intended to be understood in connection with the ואל תדבר later on the same line parallel to 2 Kings 18:26. Neither of these theories is problematic for our argument though the latter seems more likely.


Millar Burrows“Variant Readings in the Isaiah Manuscript (Continued from No. 111),” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 113 (1949): 24–3228 says “One is inclined to regard this as a very bad guess at something which was illegible.”


So also Brownlee“Manuscripts” 19.


Millar Burrows“Variant Readings in the Isaiah Manuscript,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 111 (1948): 16–2417 argues similarly for this text.


Ulrich“Developmental Composition” 304.


Contra Harry M. Orlinsky“Studies in the St. Mark’s Isaiah Scroll,” Journal of Biblical Literature 69/2 (1950): 149–66 165; Burrows “Variant Readings (Continued from No. 111)” 25; and Millar Burrows “Orthography Morphology and Syntax of the St. Mark’s Isaiah Manuscript” Journal of Biblical Literature 68/3 (1949): 195–211 196.


So G. Thomas Tanselle“Classical, Biblical, and Medieval Textual Criticism and Modern Editing,” Studies in Bibliography 36 (1983): 21–6838. Eibert Tigchelaar “Constructing Deconstructing and Reconstructing Fragmentary Manuscripts: Illustrated by a Study of 4Q184 (4QWiles of the Wicked Woman)” in Rediscovering the Dead Sea Scrolls: An Assessment of Old and New Approaches and Methods (ed. Maxine L. Grossman; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 2010) 26–47 similarly claims “One cannot assess the constructions and reconstructions of manuscripts on the basis of transcriptions. One must turn to images of the fragments and sometimes to the fragments themselves (28).” He concludes that “the most important thing for all students and scholars who work with the scrolls is to gain an awareness of the nature of the material we are working on. All too often students and even scholars confuse fragment and text manuscript scroll and composition betraying a lack of differentiation between physical evidence and scholarly interpretation. Students of the scrolls should be encouraged or trained to examine and interpret the plates in the DJD editions or the photographs in the CD-Roms (46–47).”


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