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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Text.

1.

The Hebrew text of the books of Samuel (MT) is in a poor state, evident mainly in the number and extent of its haplographies, i.e. scribal omissions from the text caused by the use of identical consonants at the end of words or sentences (known as homoioteleuton). For examples, reference can be made to: 1 Sam 4:1b , where the Greek text contains the additional words, ‘And Eli grew very old, and his sons continued to act more and more wickedly in the presence of the LORD’; 1 Sam 11 , at the beginning of which 4QSama has a few lines of additional text; 1 Sam 17–18 , where, in the account of David's contest with Goliath, the Greek text is shorter and more consistent. Nevertheless, reference to the Greek text raises as many problems as it solves, for it has to be admitted that some of the divergences between the MT and the LXX are not due to the Greek's preservation of the original, but may have been caused by the tendency of the Greek to paraphrase the Hebrew. A different evaluation of the Greek text has led to various approaches to the books of Samuel by textual critics (for a summary see McCarter 1980 ).

2.

A positive approach to the LXX can lead to an extensive use of it to reconstruct what was the original Hebrew text before its emergence in the shorter version preserved in the MT. This was the approach initiated by Julius Wellhausen in 1871 and built upon by a succession of commentators. It was a method of study that was not thrown off course when it was realized that a number of recensions of the Greek were in existence, each of different value and reliability. There was confidence that from the surviving recensions an original Greek translation could be reconstructed; cases where this reconstructed Greek text was superior to the Hebrew could be distinguished from those where the Greek was merely paraphrasing the original.

3.

Taking a more negative attitude towards the LXX, it was claimed that the divergent readings of the LXX could not confidently be used to reconstruct the Hebrew original. Other reasons can be suggested for such divergences; most may be attributed to the wish of the Greek translators to correct the Hebrew or else to their practice of paraphrasing the Hebrew rather than translating it. Nor could it be assumed that it was possible to recover the original Greek translation from the various recensions available. Consequently a more wary attitude towards the Greek was adopted, and serious questions were raised concerning its value for reconstructing the text of the books of Samuel. As an example of this approach McCarter refers to P. de Boer's studies in 1938 and 1949 .

4.

However, the position had to be reassessed with the discovery of Hebrew MSS of the books of Samuel in Cave 4 at Qumran and in view of the work done on these fragments since 1952. The three relevant MSS are: 4QSama, containing fragments of most of 1 and 2 Samuel and dating from 50–25 BCE; 4QSamb, fragments of a small part of 1 Samuel and dated in the third century BCE; 4QSamc, small fragments of 1 Sam 25 and 2 Sam 14–15 and dated in the first century BCE. The significance of these fragments is that the Hebrew text preserved in them is generally at variance with the MT, but close to the LXX (cf. Cross 1953a ; 1955), and thus they give some confirmation to the more positive attitude towards the Greek text. Detailed comparisons have enabled textual critics to be more precise in their reconstruction of the text of Samuel. In many instances the Qumran fragments are closer to the Lucianic MSS of the LXX (LXXL) than to the Codex Vaticanus (LXXB)—not that the evidence of LXXB is to be ignored, for it is fuller than the MT and in many ways superior to it. Nevertheless, like the MT, it does suffer from extensive haplographies. The evidence of LXXL is especially valuable for recovering the Hebrew text of Samuel, particularly when it is in agreement with the ancient Qumran fragments and is supported, as is frequently the case, by other ancient witnesses, such as the third century CE's Old Latin and Josephus's Jewish Antiquities (see further Ulrich 1978; Tov 1979 ).

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