Saturday, March 14, 2015

Daniel (Pt 14): Dead Sea Scroll Evidence for Masoretic Text of Daniel

A few have complained about the general nature of our charts.

But these are provided for educational and illustrative purposes only.

When we delve into the real detailed evidence,
we find an abundance of evidence for the authenticity of
Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel.

Take for instance the impact of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls
has had on the dating and timelines for the Hebrew Canon:

I will here quote Dr. James Price's excellent summary of the
detailed evidence and its meaning and impact on evaluating
Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel.

Price is responding to an overly skeptical extremist rant by Till:

 The Skeptical Review Online (1998)

The Book of Isaiah

A complete manuscript of the book of Isaiah (1QIsaA) exists from the second century B. C., and it has about 95% agreement with the Masoretic text. Another manuscript of Isaiah (1QIsaB) contains much of the text of 46 chapters of the book. This manuscript is almost identical with the current form of the Masoretic text. Tov (pp. 31-32) listed a catalogue of the types of differences between 1QIsaB and BHS (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia), the accepted form of the Masoretic text today: (1) Orthography (spelling differences), 107; (2) Added waw conjunctive, 16; (3) Lack of waw conjunctive, 13; (4) Article (added/ omitted), 4; (5) Difference in consonants 10; (6) Missing letter, 5; (7) Different grammatical number, 14; (8) Differences in pronouns, 6; (9) Different grammatical form, 24; (10) Different proposition, 9; (11) Different words, 11; (12) Omission of words, 5; (13) Addition of words, 6; (14) Different sequence, 4.
That amounts to 234 differences of any kind "all of which concern minutiae" (Tov, p. 31). However, items 1, 2, 3, 4 and 14 have little or no effect on meaning, so they may be disregarded as insignificant. This leaves only 90 differences that may be regarded as of any possible significance.
There are 66 chapters in the book of Isaiah, 1291 verses, 16,930 words, and 66,884 letters in the current Masoretic text of Isaiah. If the number of words in 1QIsaB is estimated as 16,930 x 46/66 x .66 = 7,788 words, then 1QIsaB agrees with BHS (7,788 - 234) / 7,788 = 97.0%; or if the insignificant variations are excluded, the texts agree (7,788 - 90)/ 7,788 = 98.8%. That is about the kind of agreement that any manuscript of the Masoretic text has.

The Masoretic Text of the Hebrew O.T.

Regarding the Masoretic text in the era of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Tov, who is liberal in his approach the Biblical text, wrote:

  • "Similar analysis is suggested by Andersen-Freedman... in their analysis of 4QSamB, one of the earliest Qumran texts: `(I)nsofar as there is nothing un-Masoretic about the spelling in 4QSamB, we can infer that the Masoretic system and set of spelling rules were firmly in place in all principles and particulars by the third century BCE.'"Because of the meticulous care of those who were involved in the copying of [the Masoretic text], the range of differences between the members of the [Masoretic] group was from the outset very small. One should remember that the temple employed professional magihim, "correctors" or "revisers," whose task it was to safeguard precision in the writing and transmission of the text (Tov, p. 32).
Such correctors or revisers were not responsible for altering the text, but for correcting or revising manuscript copies that varied from the official exemplar in their care. It was this meticulous care of the text that led scholars like these in the next generation to confirm that the Masoretic text was the authentic tradition. This places the textual tradition behind the Masoretic text at least in the fourth and likely in the fifth century.

The Aramaic Targum of Jeremiah

But the witness of the Aramaic translation known as the Targum gives good reason to place the Masoretic text of Jeremiah in at least the sixth century. Concerning the Aramaic Targum, Ernst Wurthwein, a recognized authority on Old Testament textual criticism, stated: "The Jewish tradition associating it (the Targum) with Ezra (cf. Neh. 8:8) may well be correct" (The Text of the Old Testament, Trans. by Erroll F. Rhodes Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979, p. 75). Now the importance of the Aramaic Targum of the book of Jeremiah is that it was translated from a Hebrew text of the Masoretic tradition (Tov, p. 149). If Wurthwein is correct, and there is no reason to doubt him, then the Masoretic tradition of Jeremiah was already well established as authoritative in the fifth century B. C. This gives reason to accept the sixth-century origin of the book with little reason to doubt it. Not a shred of textual evidence exists that suggests that the date of Jeremiah's prophecy was ever altered.


If such evidence exists I'm sure Mr. Till would have called it to our attention.

Multiple Corroboration of Historical Witnesses and Texts

This is supported by several fifth- or sixth-century witnesses to the existence of the book, and the prophecy under debate in particular:

(1) the author of the Chronicles (2 Chron. 36:22-23),
(2) the author of Ezra-Nehemiah (Ezra 1:1-5),
(3) the prophet Zechariah (Zech. 1:12; 7:5), and
(4) the sixth-century prophet Daniel (Dan. 9:2).

These very early witnesses knew Jeremiah's book, and the prophecy under debate in particular. All of these witnesses accepted Jeremiah as a historical person and the author of the prophecy. All regarded the prophecy as genuine, not fraudulent.

The Witness and Date for Daniel

In fact, Daniel read Jeremiah's prophecy before it was fulfilled (Dan. 9:1-2). This is evident from the fact that Daniel did not record the fulfillment of the prophecy--something that would have been significant to the content of his ninth chapter. I know Mr. Till rejects the date and authorship of Daniel, and I am not interested in debating that question. But there is no reason to late-date Daniel except Mr. Till's anti-supernatural presupposition. In my own opinion, Daniel is a valid witness because his contemporary, the prophet Ezekiel, validated his date and existence (Ezek. 14:14, 20; 28:3). This does not include the mention of the prophet Jeremiah by the historian Josephus, the authors of some of the Apocryphal books (Sirach 49:6; 2 Macc 2:1, 5, 7; 15:14, 15; 1 Esdras 1:28, 32, 47, 57; 2:1; 4 Esdras 2:18), the Mishnah and the Talmud. All these ancient sources regarded the prophet and his writings to be authentic.

No comments: