[b-hebrew] Dahood on `ecah, derek, mow$ab

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Thu Oct 2 07:31:48 EDT 2003

On 02/10/2003 03:35, jucci wrote:

> see also
> http://www.shef.ac.uk/uni/academic/A-C/biblst/DJACcurrres/WhatRemains.pdf
> David J.A. Clines, What Remains of the Old Testament?Its Text and 
> Language in a Postmodern Age
> p. 18   B. The Language of the Hebrew Bible
> p. 23    c. The Language of the Hebrew Bible in a Postmodern Age
> At 14.42 01/10/03 -0400, you wrote:
>> >Why is it that Dahood's work on Psalms (Anchor, 1965!) is not impacting
>> >recent translations, commentaries, lexicons?
> Elio Jucci
>  SETH - Semitica et Theologica
>  http://dobc.unipv.it/SETH/index.htm
> "Ex magno amoris incendio tantus uirtutis decor in animo crescit ..."
>                         (Richard Rolle, Incendium Amoris)
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This is an interesting paper. But in the first part there does seem to 
be one big assumption, that 2 Samuel 22 || Psalm  18 is a text "where 
the variants seem to be wholly or almost wholly due to the usual 
processes of scribal transmission." This is probably true of some of the 
variants e.g. the "was seen"/"flew" variant in v.11. But there is no 
argument at all to reject the alternative hypothesis, that most of these 
variants are due to deliberate editorial changes made when the psalm was 
incorporated into its current contexts. The DSS evidence reveals one 
more variant in v.49 (the one in v.48 is insignificant as a vowel mater 
is dropped), and the LXX evidence suggests simply that LXX L was 
translated carelessly or from a damaged text. And I assume that Clines 
has put his strongest examples in the main text. So the number of 
transmission variants worth considering falls from 177 to 2 - quite a 
significant improvement in the reliability of the text!

Clines' argument against Dahood is interesting, but it is not mine. 
Clines seems to say that if you find the text hard to understand you 
should emend it (and that in the post-modern world any emendation is 
valid), rather than seek a meaning from Ugaritic etc. My argument is 
that if you find the text hard to understand you should expect that, 
because it is from a remote language and culture, and you should use 
some imagination to understand it in terms of well-attested Hebrew 
vocabulary. Maybe that gets you only to the Masoretes' understanding of 
the text rather than the true original, although this is often  
confirmed by ancient versions, DSS commentaries etc, but in most cases 
there is insufficient evidence to do more than speculate that the text 
may have originally had a meaning different from that understood by the 

Clines' article does give me the details of the James Barr book I was 
referring to: not so much "Semantics of Biblical Language" (1961), 
although this is also relevant, as "Comparative Philology and the Text 
of the Old Testament" (1968) in which he explicitly engages with Dahood.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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