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The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Provides a comprehensive survey of Biblical scholarship in a variety of disciplines.

Texts Composed in Hebrew or Aramaic


The occurrence of Semitisms in the Greek text of Tobit led older scholars to suspect that the work had been composed in Hebrew or Aramaic (cf. Pfeiffer 1949: 272–3), and these suspicions were confirmed by the discovery of fragments of four Aramaic manuscripts (4Q196–9) and one Hebrew manuscript (4Q200) of Tobit at Qumran. The Aramaic and the Hebrew forms of the text from Qumran agree in general with one form of the Greek text, but the relationship between the different strands of the textual tradition is complex. Helpful accounts of the textual evidence available and of the relationship between the different forms of the text are given by Fitzmyer 1995a; 1995b: 1–5; Otzen 2002: 60–5.

The four Aramaic manuscripts from Qumran cover approximately 20 per cent of the text of Tobit (with some overlap), and the Hebrew manuscript covers approximately 6 per cent (with some overlap with the Aramaic). The four Aramaic manuscripts differ among themselves, and the Hebrew is not a translation of the text of any of the Aramaic manuscripts. However, it is probable that the Hebrew text has been translated from an Aramaic text, and that the original story was composed in Aramaic (Fitzmyer 1995a: 669–72; Moore 1996: 33–9; Otzen 2002: 61).

The Greek text exists in three different forms: a short recension (GrI) represented by B, A, V, papyrus 990, and most miniscules; a long recension (GrII) represented by S, papyrus 910, and miniscule 319; and an intermediate recension (GrIII) represented by 106 and 107. In the past there was a tendency to favour the short recension, and to regard the long recension, which is more strongly marked by Semitisms than the short one, as an expanded version of this; but the position has been reversed by the discoveries at Qumran. According to Fitzmyer, although the Greek is not a direct translation of either the Aramaic or the Hebrew, ‘both the Aramaic and the Hebrew form of the Tobit story found at Qumran agree in general with the long recension of the book’ (Fitzmyer 1995b: 2). It now seems most likely that GrI is a shortened version of GrII, and thus, whereas the RSV is based on the short recension, the NRSV is based on the long recension. GrIII, the intermediate recension, is related to GrII—and within that tradition is closer to the Old Latin (see below) than to S—but has taken over some elements from GrI (Hanhart 1983: 33). The Göttingen edition (Hanhart) prints the long and short forms of the Greek text separately.

The manuscripts of the Old Latin represent different types of text, but, as noted previously, the Old Latin is an important early witness to the Greek text. The Old Latin of Tobit is closely affiliated to GrII, and provides help in filling gaps in S and in throwing light on corrupt passages in GrII. Unfortunately, there is no modern edition of the text, but one is being prepared by the Vetus Latina Institute at Beuron.

In his preface to the Vulgate translation of Tobit, Jerome states that an expert in Aramaic and Hebrew translated an Aramaic text of Tobit into Hebrew for him, and that from this oral Hebrew version he dictated his Latin translation to a secretary in one day. It is clear, however, that Jerome also made use of the existing Old Latin text, even though the Vulgate translation represents a considerable abridgement of the Old Latin and belongs to the short recension (Fitzmyer 1995a: 657–60).

The other versions are of secondary importance. There are also a medieval Aramaic version and various Hebrew versions of Tobit in existence, but these were translated from the Greek and the Latin version.


It has always been known that the Greek version of the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) was a translation of a work composed in Hebrew, because the author's grandson states this explicitly in the Prologue to his translation of his grandfather's book. But, apart from some quotations in rabbinic writings, the Hebrew text was lost until, at the end of the nineteenth century, substantial remains of four manuscripts of the Hebrew were discovered in the Genizah, a store-room for discarded manuscripts, of a synagogue in Cairo. Further leaves of these and other manuscripts were subsequently identified amongst the fragments recovered from the Genizah, and the remains of six manuscripts (A–F) are now known, of which three are represented only by a single leaf. The manuscripts date from the eleventh or twelfth century, although C, a florilegium, may be older (E has not been dated). In addition, two small fragments of the Hebrew of Sir. 6: 14–15, 20–31, were discovered in Cave 2 at Qumran (2Q18), and the Hebrew of Sir. 51: 13–20, 30b, is preserved in the Psalms Scroll from Cave 11 (11QPsa). Finally, the major part of the Hebrew of Sir. 39: 27–44: 17 was discovered at Masada. The Masada manuscript dates from the first half of the first century BCE, 2Q18 from the second half of the first century BCE, and 11QPsa from the first half of the first century CE. In total, the ancient and the medieval manuscripts now provide the Hebrew original of some two-thirds of the text known from the Greek. There is some overlap both amongst the Cairo manuscripts and between Cairo manuscript B and the Masada manuscript, and it was the basic identity of the text of manuscript B with that of the Masada manuscript that finally resolved the doubts about the authenticity of the Cairo manuscripts that had been expressed by some scholars. Information about the Hebrew manuscripts is given by Beentjes in his edition of all the Hebrew material (1997; cf. Skehan and Di Lella 1987: 51–62). Beentjes has subsequently published a list of corrections to his 1997 edition (Beentjes 2002).

The Greek text exists in two forms: the original Greek translation (GrI) represented by B, S, and A, and by many miniscules, and an expanded form of this (GrII), which contains some 300 cola not found in GrI. This expanded text is not a new and independent translation, but represents rather the outcome of a series of revisions of GrI on the basis of the Hebrew; the manuscripts of GrII transmit the GrI text, but expand this as seemed necessary in the light of the Hebrew. However, no single manuscript represents GrII as such, but additions characteristic of GrII are to be found in representatives of the Origenic recension (particularly 253-Syh) and the Lucianic recension (e.g. 248, the best-known witness of GrII), and in the Old Latin (see below); the manuscripts do not contain all the additional material, but only a selection (Ziegler 1965: 70, 73–5). Ziegler's edition in the Göttingen series prints the GrII additions in smaller type in the body of the Greek text. The NRSV, which is based on GrI, but has sometimes followed the Hebrew where it appears to offer a better text, and occasionally the Syriac or the Old Latin, normally gives the GrII additions in the footnotes.

Study of the Cairo Genizah manuscripts A, B, and C has shown that two recensions (HI and HII) are also present in the Hebrew, in that these manuscripts contain some ninety additions to the original text, some of which are comparable to the additions found in GrII (see e.g. 3: 25; 11: 15–16; 16: 15–16, which are all attested by HII, GrII, and the Syriac (see below)). The additions in GrII go back ultimately to a revision or revisions of GrI on the basis of Hebrew manuscripts representative of HII (cf. Ziegler 1965: 83–4; Skehan and Di Lella 1987: 57–9).

As noted, the Old Latin is an important source for GrII. It contains some of the additions that are to be found in the Origenic and Lucianic recensions, but it also contains additions that are no longer attested in Greek, but are doubtless based on a Greek original (Ziegler 1965: 74). An edition is being published by Thiele (1987–). Of the other versions, the Syriac is the most important. It contains a number of additions of the type found in HII and GrII. In contrast to the other books of the Apocrypha, the translation was based on the Hebrew, and may have been made by Jews. But if the translation was made by Jews, it was certainly revised by Christians at an early stage, and there is good evidence for the view that the basic Syriac version, including at least some of its Christian features, was in existence by at least the end of the third century (Owens 1989). It has been argued by Winter (1977) that the original translation was produced by Ebionites no later than the early part of the fourth century, and was revised by orthodox Christians in the latter part of that century; but there is no evidence in the translation for views that could be described as distinctively Ebionite. An edition of the most important manuscript of the Syriac version (Milan, Ambrosian Library, MS B. 21 Inferiore, known as 7a1), together with Spanish and English translations, has been published by Calduch-Benages, Ferrer, and Liesen (2003).

Psalm 151

The Psalms Scroll from Cave 11 contained the Hebrew text not only of Sir. 51: 13–20, 30b, but also of a number of other texts that do not form part of the Hebrew Bible, including that of Psalm 151 (11QPsa XXVIII) and of two other apocryphal psalms (see below). The Hebrew text was unknown before the discovery of 11QPsa, but in the light of its evidence it appears that the Greek text of Psalm 151 is an abbreviated conflation of what were two psalms in the Hebrew: 151A and 151B. The complete text of Ps. 151A is preserved in 11QPsa XXVIII, but only the fragmentary remains of the first two lines of Ps. 151B. For the text, see Sanders 1965: 49, 53–64.

The Greek text of Psalm 151 follows directly after that of Psalm 150 in manuscripts of the Greek Psalter, but in the superscription it is said to be ‘outside the number’: that is, outside the 150 psalms of which the canonical Psalter consists in both the Greek Bible and the Hebrew, albeit by different combinations and divisions of psalms. It may be observed that there has been a debate as to whether 11QPsa was regarded at Qumran as a true scriptural Psalter or as a secondary collection based on Psalms 1–150 in their traditional Hebrew form; for a summary and assessment, see Flint 1997: 7–9, 202–27. The Greek text of Psalm 151 is included by Rahlfs (1931) in his edition of the Psalms and Odes.

Psalm 151 is also preserved in versions dependent on the Greek, including the Old Latin and the Syriac. Of these, the Syriac should be mentioned separately, in that Psalm 151 occurs in Syriac as the first of a group of five Syriac psalms, the existence of which was first noted in the eighteenth century. The Psalms Scroll from Cave 11 contains the Hebrew text of the second and third Syriac psalms (= Pss. 154, 155; 11QPsa XVIII, XXIV) in addition to that of Psalm 151. However, whereas the Syriac version of Psalm 151 was made from the Greek (Sanders 1965: 54; Denis 2000: i. 528; Wigtill 1983), Syriac psalms 152–5 appear to be based on a Hebrew text. The Syriac text was edited by Baars (1972).

1 Enoch

The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, which represents the most extensive form of the book that we possess, consists of five sections or booklets: the Book of Watchers, the Parables, the Astronomical Book, the Book of Dreams, and the Epistle of Enoch. The discovery of the fragments of eleven Aramaic manuscripts of 1 Enoch in Cave 4 at Qumran confirmed the view that four at least of these sections were composed in Aramaic, and it is likely that the Parables, the only section of which no fragments have been found at Qumran, was also composed in Aramaic or, if not, in Hebrew. But it is clear that there were significant differences between the form in which the Enoch traditions existed at Qumran and the book as it existed in its most developed form in Ethiopic. For an overview of the textual evidence, see Knibb 2001; Nicklesburg 2001: 9–20; Knibb 2002.

Four of the Aramaic manuscripts (4QEnastra–d ar (4Q208–11)) contain only material related to the Astronomical Book of the Ethiopic (1 En. 72–82). The Aramaic fragments belong, on the one hand, to a synchronistic calendar of the phases of the moon, which has no precise parallel in 1 En. 72–82, but is perhaps summarized in 1 En. 73: 4–8 and 74: 3–9, and on the other, to material corresponding to 1 En. 76–9 and 82. The oldest of the manuscripts (4Q208), which dates back to the late third or early second century BCE, contains only fragments of the synchronistic calendar, and it is only in 4Q209, from the early years of the first century CE, that we have fragments of both types of material. The Ethiopic version of the Astronomical Book represents a radical abridgement and recasting of the book in its Aramaic form, and in the case of chapters 72–5, it remains open to question how far the Ethiopic provides evidence of the book as it existed at the time of its original composition.

The fragments of the remaining seven manuscripts (4QEna–g ar (4Q201–2, 204–7, 212)) belong to parts of the Book of Watchers, the Book of Dreams, and the Epistle. The fragments of 4Q201, which dates from the first half of the second century BCE, but is thought to have been copied from an older—possibly much older—manuscript, belong only to the Book of Watchers, and it appears that 4Q201 contained only this section of 1 Enoch. It appears likely also that 4Q202, from the middle of the second century BCE, contained only the Book of Watchers, and that 4Q212, from the middle or latter part of the first century BCE, contained only the Epistle, although this last point has been questioned. 4Q207, which dates from the third quarter of the second century BCE, consists of only a small fragment belonging to the Book of Dreams. However, the fragments of 4Q204, from the last third of the first century BCE, belong to the Book of Watchers, the Book of Dreams, and the Epistle, and thus attest the existence at Qumran of a corpus of Enochic writings in a single manuscript—but a corpus which did not include the Astronomical Book, much less the Parables. (Milik 1976: 310 argued that the Enochic Book of Giants was copied in the same manuscript between the Book of Watchers and the Book of Dreams, but this now seems unlikely.) 4Q205 and 4Q206—the former of the same age as 4Q204, the latter from the first half of the first century BCE—both contain fragments belonging to the Book of Watchers and the Book of Dreams, but it appears that they too contained in addition the Epistle. The date of 4Q204 confirms the existence of a tripartite corpus of Enochic writings by at least the end of the first century BCE, and it was probably in existence for some time before then, but it remains unknown when more precisely the corpus was formed. For the text of the Aramaic fragments, see Milik 1976; Stuckenbruck 2000; Tigchelaar and García Martínez 2000).

The Aramaic Enochic writings were translated into Greek, and it is likely that it was at the Greek stage, rather than the Ethiopic, that the Astronomical Book was abridged and considerably revised, and that it and the Parables were successively inserted into the Enochic corpus to produce the book familiar from the Ethiopic version. However, we have no precise information about the circumstances in which the translation of the Enochic traditions into Greek was undertaken, or whether all the parts of the corpus were translated at once, although this is probably unlikely. Barr, from his study of the Greek translation in comparison with the Aramaic original, has suggested that the translation ‘belonged to the same general stage and stratum of translation as the LXX translation of Daniel’ (1979: 191). It has been suggested that some tiny papyrus fragments of Greek manuscripts from Qumran Cave 7 (7Q4, 8, 11–14) belong to a Greek translation of the Epistle, but the fragments are too small for this to be certain; for references, see Knibb 2001: 401.

The Greek text is preserved only partially, and the two most substantial portions of text to have survived are contained in the Akhmim manuscript and the Chester Beatty–Michigan papyrus. The former, which dates from the sixth or perhaps the end of the fifth century, contains incomplete copies of two different manuscripts of the Book of Watchers; the latter, from the fourth century, contains an incomplete version of the Epistle; in both cases a number of other, Christian writings were copied in the same manuscript. The Greek text of the Book of Watchers and the Epistle in these witnesses is broadly similar to that from which the Ethiopic version was made. Brief extracts from the Book of Watchers in the Chronicle of Syncellus, dating from the early ninth century, provide a slightly different form of the Greek text. Other evidence for the Greek text of 1 Enoch is confined to a few fragments and a relatively small number of quotations (including that of 1 En. 1: 9 in Jude 14). For the text of all the Greek material, see Black 1970; and for an introduction, see Denis 2000: i. 104–21.

The Ethiopic version of 1 Enoch provides the only clear evidence for the existence of an Enochic ‘pentateuch’; but, as indicated, it seems probable that already at the Greek stage the book had acquired its fivefold form. The Ethiopic translation was made from the Greek version, probably in the fifth or sixth century, but the oldest manuscripts of the book that we possess date from the fifteenth century, and the majority are from the seventeenth or eighteenth century. The manuscripts provide two different forms of the text, an older and a younger. The latter is a revision of the former, but it should be observed that the oldest accessible form of the Ethiopic version of 1 Enoch that we possess dates back only to the fifteenth century. For an edition and translation, see Knibb 1978; and for a translation, see Nickelsburg and VanderKam 2004.

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