11 October 2012

More on Qumran, Isaiah, and the NJPS


This post is another follow-up to my post, "Qumran, Isaiah, and the NJPS," covering some possible unnoted Qumran influences.

In my earlier post, I said

It is possible that the Qumran influenced the NJPS Isaiah in ways that were not noted, but that is more difficult or even impossible to know.

But it occurred to me later that I might be able to find some unnoted influences by looking at verses where other translations were influenced. In particular, I might be able to find some unnoted influences by looking at all verses mentioned in Scanlin, since his coverage of the NJPS (which he calls the NJV) is not exhaustive.

Doing this, indeed I did discover at least one unnoted influence, but I also discovered some other things of interest in these verses, which I allowed myself to digress into.

Executive summary

The only verse in which I'm pretty sure there is an unnoted Qumran influence is 8.2. Possible influences include 19.18, 45.2, and 45.8. Things of non-Qumran interest show up in 14.30 and 33.8.

The Details

Isaiah 8.2

The NJPS appears to be using the imperative form of 1QIsa-a without note.

[[8.1] The LORD said to me, “Get yourself a large sheet and write on it in common script ‘For Maher-shalal-hash-baz’;] and call reliable witnesses, the priest Uriah and Zechariah son of Jeberechiah, to witness for Me.”
[no footnotes relevant to the issue at hand]

Here's what Scanlin has to say about it (p. 127).

The MT and 4QIsa-e have a first person future verb for "I will call as witness(es)," [wə·’ā·‘î·ḏāh] [וְאָעִ֣ידָה] [concordance] while 1QIsa-a reads wh`d, an imperative form, "and have it attested," as in NRSV. The NIV translates the MT (with 4QIsa-e), "And I will call in Uriah the priest and Zechariah ... as reliable witnesses for me." Some translations translate the consonants of the MT, but change the vowel of the first letter from we [wə] [וְ] to wa, [wā] [וָ] changing it to the past tense [concordance]. The future tense of the NIV, however, is a legitimate tense shift in prophetic literature, reflecting the prophet's certainty that he will be the agent of God's message. In any case, it does not seem necessary to resort to the 1QIsa-a reading.

Isaiah 14.30

Here the NJPS is not influenced by Qumran, in that it chooses "it will slay" instead of "I will slay." But, in a footnote, it offers an emendation of unspecified source.

[[14.29] Rejoice not, all Philistia,
Because the staff of him that beat you is broken.
For from the stock of a snake there sprouts an asp,
A flying seraph branches out from it.]
The first-born of the poor shall graze
And the destitute lie down secure.
I will kill your stock by famine,
And it shall slay the very last of you.
[footnote:] Emendation yields “It shall kill your offspring with its venom (zar‘ekh berosho) [zar‘ekh: זַרְעֵ֑ךְ concordance.] [berosho: ?].”

Here's what Scanlin has to say about it (p. 128).

The RSV and NRSV follow 1QIsa-a in translating, "I will slay," instead of "he/it will slay." The Isaiah scroll seems to better fit the context in which this passage is preceded by another first person singular verb. Among the ancient versions, only the Latin agrees with 1QIsa-a. Burrows finds the Qumran reading quite convincing (1955:307), and the NEB/REB concur. However, HOTTP prefers the MT, explaining the shift to third person as a reference back to "the venomous serpent" of 14:29.

Primarily, the emendation in the NJPS note substitutes offspring for stock and venom for famine. But, secondarily, the emendation would bring the last two lines into "person agreement." I.e. it would read

It shall kill [...]
And it shall slay [...]
It is perhaps interesting to note that the 1QIsa-a variant also has such "person agreement," albeit in the opposite direction (changing both lines to first person), i.e.
I will kill [...]
I will slay [...]

Isaiah 19.18

It is unclear whether one or more of the "many Hebrew manuscripts" referred to in the footnote is from Qumran. I.e. there is some Masoretic as well as Qumran support for "Sun City."

In that day, there shall be several towns in the land of Egypt speaking the language of Canaan and swearing loyalty to the LORD of Hosts; one shall be called Town of Heres.
[footnote:] Meaning uncertain. Many Heb. mss. read ḥeres, [חֶרֶס] “sun,” which may refer to Heliopolis, i.e., Sun City, in Egypt. Targum’s “Beth Shemesh” (cf. Jer. 43.13) has the same meaning.

Here's what Scanlin has to say about it (p. 129).

In a note, NIV cites Q (= Qumran) along with some MSS of the MT in support of the reading "City of the Sun." Other versions, including RSV and NRSV, read "City of the Sun" in the text without adding a textual note. This follows the general practice of many translations that do not cite textual variants if there is any manuscript support in the Masoretic tradition.

In the body text, the NJPS has chosen to transliterate rather than translate "Heres," whereas most Bibles choose to translate, either to "destruction" (from הֶ֫רֶס) (concordance) or “sun” (from חֶרֶס). It is slightly surprising that the NJPS does not note the possibility of "destruction."

Isaiah 33.8

I mentioned this verse in my original post but bring it up again here because the note is odd. It is odd because the alternative that 1QIsa-a offers for "cities" is usually understood to be "witnesses," not "a pact."

Highways are desolate,
Wayfarers have ceased.
A covenant has been renounced,
Cities rejected
Mortal man despised.
[footnote:] 1QIs-a reads “A pact.”

Here's what Scanlin has to say about it (p. 130).

The RSV, NRSV, NAB, and NIV follow 1QIsa-a in reading ʾdym [‘ê·ḏîm] [עֵדִ֔ים] [concordance] “witnesses” instead of the MT ʾrym [‘ā·rîm] [עָרִ֔ים] [concordance] “cities.” “Witnesses” seems appropriate to the meaning of the passage, and the interchange of resh for daleth is understandable in light of the similarity of the letter shapes. The NJV also calls attention to this reading in a footnote.

Isaiah 45.2

Here the NJPS implicitly disavows Qumran influence, in that the note says that the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain, and only the meaning of the MT Hebrew is uncertain. Yet, the NJPS chooses "hills," which is close to the "mountains" of 1QIsa-a.

I will march before you
And level the hills that loom up;
I will shatter doors of bronze
And cut down iron bars.
[footnote:] Meaning of Heb. uncertain.

Here's what Scanlin has to say about it (p. 130).

The second line in the MT reads, "I will level the swellings/rough places." The Hebrew word rendered "swellings" [wa·hă·ḏū·rîm] [וַהֲדוּרִ֖ים] [concordance] occurs only here in the OT. 1QIsa-a reads hrrym "mountains," which is followed by the NIV, NAB, and RSV/NRSV.

Isaiah 45.8

The NJPS notes no Qumran influence, yet its use of "sprout" instead of something like "be brought forth" is the kind of thing one would expect from Qumran influence.

Pour down, O skies, from above!
Let the heavens rain down victory!
Let the earth open up and triumph sprout,
Yes, let vindication spring up:
I the LORD have created it.
[no footnote]

Here's what Scanlin has to say about it (p. 130).

The RSV and NRSV follow the 1QIsa-a reading wyprch [ויפרח] for the MT wyprw, [ויפרו concordance] a difference of only one letter, cheth [ח] for waw, [ו] which yields the translation, "that salvation may sprout forth [RSV]/spring up [NRSV]," instead of "that they may bring forth salvation." The NAB follows the same Qumran reading. The NEB and GNB, in dynamic equivalent renderings, demonstrate that both the MT and Qumran express a common idea. The NEB translates, "that it may bear the fruit of salvation," and the GNB has "[it] will blossom with freedom and justice." Neither translation has a textual note here. HOTTP prefers the Qumran reading, but as can be seen, there may be little difference in the translation of the MT or Qumran.

To me, the most notable thing has nothing to do with Qumran, but rather that translations that are part of Christian Bibles seem to universally use "salvation" where the NJPS uses "triumph." Whether it is brought forth or sprouts seems secondary.

This is just speculation, but I wonder if what we're seeing here is a case of harmonization of Isaiah with Christian ideas. Or, on the other hand, a reluctance on the part of the NJPS to use a word like "salvation" that has such strong Christian resonances.

For what it's worth, the NJPS does not shy away from using the word "salvation," for instance in the following four verses of Isaiah.

49.6 For He has said:
“It is too little that you should be My servant
In that I raise up the tribes of Jacob
And restore the survivors of Israel:
I will also make you a light of nations,
That My salvation may reach the ends of the earth.”
49.8 Thus said the LORD:
In an hour of favor I answer you,
And on a day of salvation I help you—
I created you and appointed you a covenant people—
Restoring the land,
Allotting anew the desolate holdings,
51.8 For the moth shall eat them up like a garment,
The worm shall eat them up like wool.
But My triumph shall endure forever,
My salvation through all the ages.
56.1 Thus said the LORD:
Observe what is right and do what is just;
For soon My salvation shall come,
And my deliverance be revealed.

Here's a possible explanation for the use of "salvation" in the verses above as opposed to its non-use in 45:8. In the verses above, "salvation" is being used as the translation of words rooted in יְשׁוּעָה (yeshuah) (concordance), whereas in 45:8, the word is rooted in יֵ֫שַׁע (yesha) (concordance).


The only verse in which I'm pretty sure there is an unnoted Qumran influence is 8.2. I discovered some other interesting stuff along the way, though.


I was excited to learn that Scanlin is available in electronic form through Logos Bible Software.

1 comment:

  1. Big B, I just was talking with a rabbi friend who is leading a class about Isaiah. I sent this along so that her students can be impressed too. -💙rB