Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible.
2nd revised edition; Minneapolis, MI.: Augsburg Fortress, 2001), xxxvii, 456 pp.
Reviewed by Scott B. Noegel
University of Washington

The appearance in 1992 of Emanuel Tov’s masterful work, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, offered scholars and interested lay readers the first exhaustive reference work for undertaking textual critical study of the Hebrew Bible. Its organization, thoroughness, comprehensiveness, and accessible style quickly made it a standard in the field. Today it appears in German and Russian editions as well, and can (or should) be found on the shelves of every serious scholar of the Hebrew Bible.

Though this work has retained its importance over the nearly ten years since it first appeared, a great deal has occurred since then in field of Qumran Studies. Indeed, all of the remaining biblical manuscripts from Qumran have been published, scores of new and important publications have appeared, and a number of new insights have been gained. Hence, the appearance of second edition.

Not surprisingly, this edition is as monumental as the first. It retains the original organization and clarity of the first book, but integrates a number of revisions. Since the reader will doubtless be familiar with the first edition, or will have access to reviews on it, I shall concentrate my remarks only on what is new in the second.

Most of the changes that one finds are relatively minor in import, and can be detected only by undertaking a careful comparative textual analysis of the two editions! Such changes include altered wording and the removal or addition of particular manuscript references (usually found in lists of examples). One finds, for example, that Tov has changed the line “The hundreds of fragments found near Hirbet-Qumran … ” (p. 101, 1st ed.) to “The thousands of fragments … ” (p. 101, 2nd ed.) in the section on the biblical texts discovered at Qumran. The number of biblical texts found at Qumran is said to be “more than 190” in the first edition (p. 107), but “over 200” in the second (p. 107). See also the section on paragraphing in which the first edition cites “… the beginning of the line in 1QIsaa and other texts” as containing paragraphing marks, whereas the second edition reads “… the beginning of the line of some twenty Qumran texts, among them 1QIsaa” (p. 216). Such details are of minor significance and comprise the brunt of the changes made to the book.

Other changes, like those found in the section on Pre-Samaritan texts (pp. 97–100), involve the addition of a number of new textual references and updated bibliographic information. Indeed, the bibliographies that precede every major topical unit in the book have been judiciously expanded (as have the book’s indices). Tov’s treatment of “The Copying of the Biblical Text” (pp. 201–219), also is expanded, especially his list of the scrolls written in longer columns (p. 205)—again, mostly representing an updating of source materials.

In addition to these changes, two entirely new, albeit brief, sections have been added: “A Different Recension of Joshua Reflected in 4QJosha” (pp. 345–46) and “Rearranged and Shorter Texts (?)” (p. 346). The former section compares the altar building sequence of Josh 8:30–35, as found in the Masoretic text, with the Qumran manuscript 4QJosha, where it appears just before 5:1. The new section, therefore, draws attention to additional evidence for “a third independent text of Joshua,” besides the Masoretic text and Septuagint (p. 346).

The second added unit discusses those biblical texts found at Qumran that omit entire pericopes or that order the materials in significantly different ways, such as various manuscripts of the Psalms, Song, and Exodus. Elsewhere Tov has treated such texts as excerpted materials used for liturgical or personal functions, but here, he raises the possibility that they may simply represent differing conceptions of the textual tradition.

The only place where one will find an alteration in the Tov’s position on a subject (as he informs the reader on p. xxxv) is in the section on “The Original Shape of the Biblical Text (pp. 171–172, 177–180). Here one finds a subtle, but meaningful change in the Tov’s definition of what is meant by “a single original text.” The previous edition understood the expression as referencing “the copy (or textual tradition) that contained the finished literary product and which stood at the beginning of the process of textual transmission (pp. 171).” The second edition sharpens this as “the text or edition (or a number of consecutive literary editions) that contained the finished literary product and which stood at the beginning of the process of textual transmission” (p. 171).

In reference to the hypothesis that parallel literary compositions other than those attested in actual manuscript form existed and had an impact on the manuscripts that have survived Tov has similarly sharpened his approach. In the first edition, Tov stated “It is not impossible that there once existed parallel literary compositions, which may have influenced each other, but textual criticism mainly takes into consideration the one composition which is reflected in all the known textual sources and which has been accepted as authoritative by Judaism. (p. 172; emphasis mine)” In the second edition Tov wrote, “It is not impossible that there once existed parallel literary compositions, which may have influenced each other, but such editions have not been found and are therefore disregarded” (p. 172; emphasis mine).

Tov similarly alters his definition of the “original text” by removing the former emphasis he had placed on the distinction between the process of textual transmission and the literary development of the biblical books (p. 177). He also has nuanced his argument by factoring in the relationship between canonization and authority. Thus, in the first edition Tov had stated that “at the end of the process of the composition of a biblical book stood one textual entity (a single copy of tradition) which was considered finished at the literary level … (p. 177)” The second edition replaces these words with: “at the end of the composition process of a biblical book stood a text that was considered authoritative (and hence also finished at the literary level) … ” Moreover, here Tov adds a note of caution:

The formulation of the original text is complicated by the assumption that in some books the authoritative edition such as known from M [Masoretic Text] was preceded by earlier literary editions, each of which was accepted as authoritative by subsequent generations. (p. 177)

Tov similarly has nuanced his argument concerning the methodological reasoning for considering only the literary stages preceding the literary editions of the Masoretic Text when searching for the “original text.” In the first edition Tov had asserted that

The reconstruction of the original composition at the textual level depends, among other things, upon a certain view of the content of the composition that was accepted as authoritative in Judaism. Such a position is necessitated by the historical development of Judaism and its writings (p. 179).

The second edition offers a considerably more self-conscious clarification.

Such reasoning is necessarily subjective, but by definition literary structures (as opposed to individual readings) created after the crystallization of the editions contained in M [Masoretic Text] should not be brought to bear on the original text of Hebrew Scriptures. That corpus contains the Holy Writings of the Jewish people, and the decisions that were made within this religious community also determine to a great extent the approach of the scholarly world towards the text (p. 178–79).

This section also contains an added discussion as to why “the assumption of consecutive ‘original editions’ in some biblical books does not preclude the reconstruction of elements in the original text, but it does complicate such a procedure” (p. 180). Here Tov briefly remarks that in this context any reconstruction must be based not on changes made by the editors of consecutive literary editions, but only on “readings created by the vicissitudes of textual transmission, often visible in textual corruptions. In other words, the genetic readings … need to be located and evaluated in every possible scenario” (p. 180).

In sum, the second edition of this work differs little from the first edition in its approach to the material; most of the changes being minor in scope and significance. Nevertheless, the new edition does provide a number of useful and important textual and manuscript references throughout, as well as updated bibliographic information. It will doubtless serve as the standard work on textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible for many years to come.