Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Proverbs 26:2 and the Hebrew text

In a comment the other day, David pointed out that there is a qere/ketiv in Prov 26:2. For those of you who don't what that means, it means that the Hebrew text has the consonants of one word but a "footnote" that says it really should be a different word. Ketiv means "written" and qere means "spoken", so you say what the footnote says even though the text is different. The Masoretes were not willing to change the text, even when it was obviously wrong, so they developed this system. But the ketiv isn't always wrong, so each one has to be evaluated separately...

I checked the two most recent versions of the Hebrew Bible that I have, Biblia Hebraica Quinta and SBL's new Hebrew Bible Critical Edition.

BHQ didn't comment on it in the textual commentary, so I looked at the HBCE—I realize that most of you can't do that yet, but being the copyeditor does have a few advantages! : ) Here's what Michael Fox says:

לא 26:2 MK MK G (οὐδενί) ≈ S (ܦܗܝܐ) T (לא) ]
לוֹ MQ ≈ V (in quempiam) (aur)
G οὐκ ... οὐδενί is a double translation of the ketiv. V in quempiam (“on someone”) = MQ. S’s ܦܗܝܐ (“go astray”) ≈ לא תבא = MK. The ketiv is correct, since the analogies (a wandering bird, a flying sparrow) exemplify not coming (to a particular goal) rather than coming to someone. Also, לו has no relevant antecedent. However, a scribe may have thought that the noun “curse” implies an actant (a curser), and it is to him that the curse would return (as in Ps 109:17).
So what exactly does all that gobble de gook mean? : )

The ketiv, which is what the Septuagint (LXX) followed—as do most modern translations—says that an undeserved curse will not come to rest. In fact, the LXX goes so far as to make it emphatic by using a double negative, which Fox calls a double translation; personally, I think it is an intentional over-translation : ) The qere, on the other hand, is saying that an undeserved curse will return to the one who sent it forth! That is, it will come to rest on him where him is the implied originator. Grammatically shaky, at best, which is why Fox and most modern translations go with the ketiv. But, it does point out that the ancients were aware of the dangers of a thoughtless curse...witness Enkidu's worries from yesterday's post.

Isn't knowing all these languages fun!?

1 comment:

David Reimer said...

Many thanks for following this up. Very interesting stuff!