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The Nexus between Textual Criticism and Linguistics: A Case Study from Leviticus

From: Journal of Biblical Literature
Volume 132, Number 3, 2013
pp. 473-494 | 10.1353/jbl.2013.0044



Forty-five years after James Barr’s Comparative Philology and the Text of the Old Testament appeared, it is time to reiterate his call for a balanced approach to philology and textual criticism. Though the essential issues are the same as when Barr wrote, the amount of textual data from the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as methodological challenges to the standard view of the linguistic history of ancient Hebrew have produced a significantly more complex situation. As scholars move forward in both subdisciplines of Hebrew studies—textual criticism and historical linguistics—it is more critical than ever to keep in mind that the history of the text and the history of the language are inextricably bound to each other. Using two variants in Leviticus, I will illustrate what a reasonably balanced approach looks like from the perspective of a Hebrew linguist, with the hope that textual critics and Hebrew linguists will see the need to work more closely with each other.

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