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«A MULTIVALENT TEXT: PSALM 151:3-4 REVISITED by JAMES A. SANDERS Ancient Biblical Manuscripts Center, Claremont, California It is now twenty-three ...»

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Ancient Biblical Manuscripts Center, Claremont, California

It is now twenty-three years since I unrolled 1 IQPs" and saw in its

last written column the Hebrew psalm(s) lying back of LXX-Syriac

Psalm 151. I recognized it immediately, thanks to my teachers, especially

Sheldon Blank, who instilled in me a deep respect for the biblical text

and its early versions. It is a pleasure to be able to thank Prof. Blank, in

this manner, for all that he gave me during my three years at the Hebrew Union College and since then in his writings.

It was clear on first perusal that the Qumran Hebrew and the LXXSyriac Psalm 151 differed considerably. The most obvious difference lay in the lacunae in the LXX-Syriac, and especially in the total lack of anything corresponding to I IQ vv. 3 and 4. I fixed my attention immediately on these, and though it was apparent that one could read it in different ways (see, e.g., the circelli I affixed above each waw/ yod in the Clarendon [I 965b] publication), it seemed only logical that one should prefer the plainest, simplest reading which would explain the glaring omissions in the LXX and Syriac versions-the heterodox idea that mountains and hills did not witness to God's works. This was so clearly non-biblical (and against everything I had been taught) that it commended itself as the explanation for the salient and lengthy lacuna in the clearly orthodox LXX Psalm 151 and, of course, the Syriac 151, its faithful daughter.

Once thinking along this track I wondered just how heterodox the 'original' psalm was. I was asked by Paul Lapp, director of the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, and by Roland de Vaux, director of the Ecole Biblique there, to share my findings in the scroll with the scholarly community of (then) Jordanian Jerusalem. At a meeting in the library of the ASOR (now the Albright Institute) in the late winter of 1962 I presented what appeared soon thereafter as Sanders (1962) and then (1963). The reaction was positive. Fr. Jean-Paul Audet was among those present, and it was he who suggested the figure of 168 JAMES A. SANDERS Orpheus as the explanation for the I IQ verses lacking correspondence in the versions (see Sanders, 1967, p. 99). I delved straightaway into the question of whether I IQPs 151 did not perhaps provide the missing literary link to the frequent artistic presentations of an Orphic understanding or 'resignification' of David. I published Psalm 151 making that suggestion ( 1963, I 965b, 1967). Jean Magne has since then provided a sane, clear statement of why one would logically expect such a literary link to appear sometime (I 975b, pp. 533ff.).

The first reactions to the suggestion were mixed. The first to come to my attention was that of Isaac Rabinowitz ( 1964). Upon reading his rebuttal in manuscript form, I decided to let the debate take its course, for in the meantime other responses were quite favorable (see Brownlee, 1963; Carmignac, 1963; Dupont-Sommer, 1964a). Since then more scholars have tried their hand at reading the text in what each has been confident was the author's intention. Most of them tried to deal with the question of whether there had been a Hebrew recension Var/age to the present LXX and Syriac version. But only two, to my knowledge, have suggested that the I IQ text is corrupt and offered reconstructions of the original (see Magne, I975b; Smith, 1981 ). Magne thinks that the negative particles in 151 :3 are later insertions, while Smith thinks all of 151 :4 is a later insertion; the latter thinks a full line dropped out of 151 :3. Neither of these had appeared when I did a first review of the situation in Sanders 1974. The two scholars who have studied the script of 11 QPs 3 the closest in attempting to determine readings in these two verses of Psalm 151 (see Magne, I975b and Cross, 1978) disagree at every crucial point (see the synopsis below), so that it would appear that paleography provides no obviously clear answers.

No one who has written on Psalm 151 since the Nida Festschrift (Sanders, 1974) appeared had apparently read it, for no one has referred to it. Nor have I seen any clear references to the fresh observations I made in 1967, over 1963 and 1965, especially those in the extensive footnotes in 1967, pp. 96-97. But then it is very interesting to note that none of those who prefer to read haqqol as a genitive has offered a satisfactory explanation of the accusative translations of it in LXXs, OL, et al.

If Sinaiticus can be ignored... ! John Strugnell, noting and respecting Sinaiticus, reads haqqol, with me, as accusative ( 1966).

Yigael Yadin understood that like the Temple Scroll (1977, Vol. I, pp. 298-300) the Psalms Scroll was functionally canonical for the Essenes at Qumran (see Sanders, 1967 and 1969). D. Barthelemy (1978, pp. 347E. Puesch (1978, p. 547, n. 2) and G. Wilson (1981) among others also agree (pace P. Skehan, 1973 and 1975; and M. Homan, 1978).

A MULTIVALENT TEXT: PSALM 151:3-4 REVISITED I will here simply reaffirm my assessment of Psalm 151 as stated in 1967 and 1974, and offer in the manner of 1967, a synopsis of the sixteen scholarly attempts at reading Ps 151:3-4 since the editio princeps. A translation of the full psalm is offered for the convenience of the reader, followed by the translations that others have made of the two verses (where full translations of them have been provided); and thereafter the specific readings by each scholar of the crucial multivalent words in the two verses. An updated bibliography of work on I I QPsa since its recovery is appended. I wish to express gratitude to three graduate students: Mr. William Yarchin for helping to update the bibliography, Mr. Peter Pettit for collaboration in composing the following, and Mr. Stephen Delamarter for typing the final draft.

–  –  –

7. But he sent and took me from behind the flock and anointed me with holy oil, And he made me leader to his people and ruler over the sons of his covenant.

Other Translations of I IQPs 151:3-4

Skehan ( 1963, p. 409):

the mountains cannot witness to Him

nor the hills relate:

Neither the boughs of trees, my words, nor the flock, my compositions;

Who indeed can relate, and who can tell, and who can recount the works of the Lord?

Everything, God saw, everything He heard-and He gave heed.

Brownlee {1963, pp. 380-381):

"Mountains do not witness to Him, nor do hills proclaim (Him).

The trees have extolled my words, and the flocks my deeds.

Yet who can proclaim?

and who can tell?

And who can recount the deeds of the Lord?" All this did God observe;

all this did He hear;

and He gave ear.

Carmignac {1963, p. 375):

Les montagnes ne sont pas un temoignage pour lui et les collines ne sont pas une annonce.

Les intruments (de musique) ont mis en valeur mes paroles et le troupeau mon activite.

Mais qui annoncera? qui exprimera?

qui racontera les oeuvres du Maitre?

–  –  –

Dupont-Sommer (1964a, p. 32):

"Les montagnes ne Jui rendent-elles pas temoignage?

Et Jes collines ne [Le] proclament-elles pas?" Les arbres priserent mes paroles et le troupeau, mes poemes.

Car qui proclamera et qui celebrera et qui racontera les oeuvres du Seigneur?

L'univers, Eloah le voit:

I'univers, Lui I'entend, et Lui prete I'oreille.

Rabinowitz (1964, p. 196):

"The mountains will not bear witness for me, nor the hills;

the trees will not report my words on my behalf, nor the flocks my deeds;

but 0 that someone would report, 0 that someone would speak about, 0 that someone would recount my deeds!" The Master of the universe saw;

The God of the universeHe himself heard, and He himself gave ear.

Weiss (1964, v. 3 with Sanders, 1963):

But who can proclaim and who can tell, and who can recount the works of the Lord of the Universe?

The God of the Universe has seenHe has heard and he has heeded.

Carmignac (1965, pp. 250-251 (see Carmignac, 1975 for "nouvelles


"Les montagnes ne temoigneront pas pour moi et Jes collines ne proclameront pas en favour de moi, Jes arbres (ne proclameront pas) mes paroles et le troupeau mes oeuvres.

Qui est-ce done qui proclamera, qui est-ce qui exprimera, qui est-ce qui racontera mes oeuvres?" Second Strophe Le maitre de I'univers a vu, le dieu de l'univers, Jui, ii a entendu et, Jui, ii a prete l'oreille.


Delcor ( 1966, pp. 18 and 20):

Nicht konnen die Berge fi.ir mich Zeugnis ablegen noch die Hi.igel, noch die Blatter der Baume meine Worte verki.inden, noch die Herde meine Werke.

Denn wer kann anki.indigen, wer kann sagen, wer kann meine Werke erzahlen.

Der Herr des Universums hat gesehen, der Gott des Universums;

er selbst hat aufgehorcht, er selbst hat hingehort.

Strugnell (1966, p. 280):

The mountains cannot witness to Him, nor the hills proclaim about Him;

(Nor) the trees (proclaim) His words, nor the flocks his deeds.

For who can relate, who can tell and who can recount the works of the Lord?

But God saw all, all He heard, and He gave ear.

Meyer (1967, p. 165):

Die Berge zeugen fi.ir ihn nicht, und die Hi.igel verki.indigen [ihn] nicht;

[Aber] die Baume preisen meine Worte und das Kleinvieh meine Werke.

Fi.irwahr, wer verki.indet und wer bespricht und wer erzahlt die Taten des Herrn?

Alles sieht Gott, alles hort er und nimmt er wahr.

Magne (1975b, p. 544):

"Les montagnes [ne] temoignent [pas] sur moi, et !es collines [ne] rapportent [pas] a mon sujet;

!es arbres racontent mes chants, et !es brebis, mes oeuvres;

mais qui rapporte, et qui chante, et qui raconte !es oeuvres du Seigneur?" Dieu voit tout, A MlJLTIVALEl'\T TEXT: PSALM 151:3-4 REVISITED

ii entend tout:

ii ecouta.

van der Woode (1977, pp. 39-40):

"Die Berge legen fi.ir mich kein Zeugnis ab, und die Hiigel verkiinden mir zugunsten nicht, (weder) die Baume meine Worte noch die Schafe meine Taten.

Wahrlich, wer wird verktinden und wer wird erwahnen und wer wird erzahlen meine Taten?" Der Herr des all sah (es), Der Gott des All,-~ Er selbst horte hin und Er selbst horchte auf.

Auffret (1977, pp. J64-165):

"Les montagnes n'iront pas temoigner a mon sujet, et !es collines n 'iront pas rap porter sur mon compte, ni Jes arbres mes dits ou Jes brebis mes oeuvres.

Qui irait rapporter, et qui irait dire, et qui irait raconter mes oeuvres?" Le Seigneur de l'univers a vu, le Dieu de l'univers, Jui a entendu Jui a prete l'oreille.

Cross ( 1978, p. 69):

0 that the mountains would bear Him witness, 0 that the hills would tell of him, The trees (recount) his deeds, And the flocks, His works!

Would that someone tell and speak, And would that someone recite His works!

The Lord of all saw;

The God of all heard, And He gave heed.

Baumgarten ( 1978, pp. 575-576):

The mountains cannot witness to Him neither the hills tell about Him 174 JAMES A. SANDERS

–  –  –


The text has been available to the full scholarly world for over twenty years, and yet there is still no consensus on how to read 11 QPs 151 :3-4.

Some of the world's most respected scholars have worked on the text, and still there is no compelling argument for a single grouping of readings of the above six crux words or phrases. While I do not want to appear dogmatic about my own readings, I at the same time have seen no compelling reasons to abandon them. And I can readily imagine my colleagues all making the same point.

In other words, we have a treasure in 11 QPs 151 to use as a model for illustrating the literary phenomenon of multivalency at its most basic level. While there is multivalency in good literature beyond the basic textual level with many examples to illustrate it, rarely have we been given, in less than four lines from a scribe's hand, six ambiguous readings on which seventeen world-class scholars have worked with no consensus emerging twenty full years after publication. Indeed the latest efforts have been among the most divergent!

While multivalency of texts is a universal literary phenomenon, the hermeneutics by which texts are read determines how the reader chooses readings. This is no less the case when the multivalency is a basically textual one than when it is of a supposedly higher literary sort. In the case of I IQPs 151, I must admit that I have at times sensed a hermeneutic of avoidance as much at play in the work of some of my colleagues as I discerned twenty-three years ago in the work of the early translators, or perhaps in the revised Vorlage they worked with.

Be that as it may, we can all at least celebrate the fact of a richly multivalent text to illustrate the point that really good texts are to some extent beyond the manipulation even of first-rate scholarship. It might even be seen as a further contribution to the recent efforts of scholarship to be a bit less singularist and a bit more humble about recovering "authorial intentionality" of these texts we all love so much. This alone should make a true scholar like Sheldon Blank happy indeed.

–  –  –

Ackroyd, P. R. 1966. "Notes and Studies." Journal of Theological Studies 17:396-399. On column 16.

Ahlstrom, G. W. 1967. Journal of Religion 47:72-73. Review of Sanders, 1965b.

A MULTIVALE1'T TEXT: PSALM 151:3-4 REVISITED Albright, W. F. 1966. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 182:54. Review of Sanders, I 965b.

Anderson, A. A. 1967. Journal of Semitic Studies 12: 142-143. Review of Sanders, 1965b.

Auffret, P. 1977. "Structure litteraire et interpretation du Psaume 151 de la grotte 11 de Qumriin." Revue de Qumrfm 34: 163-189.

- - - · 1978a. "Structure litteraire et interpretation du Psaume 155 de la grotte 11 de Qumriin." Revue de Qumrfm 35:323-356.

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