Jeremiah, Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia 1994.


Jeremiah, by Michelangelo

Jeremiah, by Michelangelo

The Book of Jeremiah is preserved only in small fragments of six manuscripts, Jeremiah A through E, and the cave 2 Jeremiah Scroll. Two of these, Jeremiah B and Jeremiah D, are especially significant because they represent a Septuagint text type. These two manuscripts have been dated to the first half of the second century B.C.E. or to the Hasmonaean period. Whereas the cave 2 text of Jeremiah reflects the sectarian style of language but adheres textually largely to the Masoretic text, B and D appear to represent the kind of text that underlies the Greek translation in the Septuagint. In fact, of all the texts found at Qumran, these two Jeremiah manuscripts are the closest to the Septuagint version.

Even before the discovery of the Qumran manuscripts, it was known that the Greek text of Jeremiah differed from the Hebrew in two fundamental ways. The Greek is shorter by approximately one-sixth, and it represents a somewhat different order of chapters. The most prominent of the changes in order concerns the placement of the prophecies against the nations. In the Masoretic text, and in the other ancient biblical versions, these chapters appear at the end of the book in chapters 46–51, before the historical section, chapter 52. In the Greek Bible, they occur in the middle of Jeremiah, after Jeremiah 25-13.

Jeremiah B and D display both of these features—the shorter text and the different order. On the other hand, Jeremiah A and C are clearly proto-Masoretic. They follow the order and the text that we know from the Hebrew Bible. The Jeremiah A text has been dated to 275–175 B.C.E., and Jeremiah C as no earlier than the end of the first century B.C.E.

The discovery of the Jeremiah B and D texts at Qumran helps to prove a longstanding scholarly theory- Scholars had long been of the opinion that the variant Greek text had not been the result of internal Greek revision, but rather that it was based on a Hebrew text which was considerably different from the Hebrew of the Masoretic text. Here we have absolute proof that this is the case for Jeremiah. We cannot really be sure how this happened, but it is clear that in biblical times there circulated two versions of Jeremiah’s prophecies. Both, in the original Hebrew, have survived in fragments from Qumran.

Pages 175-176

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