Eclecticism and the Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition (HBCE) project, part 2

A continuation of the first post.

Part 2: General Objections to Eclecticism

If Hendel effectively counters the objections to an eclectic Hebrew text, why would (or should) anyone continue to oppose it? The Hebrew linguist must dwell on two nagging problems. First, a reconstructed text is not a historical artifact.1 Fox is admirably candid about this:

I wish to be clear that the text I have produced, however successful, never had physical existence. It is a construct. It can be defined as the proto-M as it should have been, the text the authors and editors wanted us to read. (2015: 5, italics in original)

And yet, Fox’s clear expertise in Hebrew and the book of Proverbs notwithstanding, his Book of Proverbs “construct” does not constitute a primary historical or linguistic source. It is a modern text with a modern author, Michael Fox. But evidence localized in a historical artifact—primary source data—is precisely what a linguist depends on. The judgment of certain linguistic items in the historical artifacts to be ill-formed, due to some vagary of the scribal process, should certainly indicated in critical editions of texts; but for the linguist studying the language data, whether for synchronic or diachronic purposes, reconstructed items are unusable. Furthermore, reconstructions placed in the text actually obscure the historical data and, due to the need to identify and set them aside, become time-consuming obstacles to linguistic analysis.2

In the third post, I will continue with specific objections.


1. Tov 2014: 378, n. 13; also note Brooke 2013: 13 in reference to eclectic editions of the New Testament.

2. It is also worth noting that, Hendel’s many comments notwithstanding, in textual criticism outside biblical studies, the pendulum is swinging (or has swung) away from producing eclectic critical editions. Indeed, in the recent words of one of my non-biblical studies colleagues, the notion of producing an eclectic text is “barbaric.”

Posted in Ancient Hebrew, Hebrew Bible, Linguistics (theory or typology), Text Criticism. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Eclecticism and the Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition (HBCE) project, part 2
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