This post is a continuation of two earlier blog entries (here and here). Its purpose is to help facilitate the reading of handwritten Hebrew manuscripts for intermediate students of the language. Psalm 113 serves as the subject of this comparison.
For this blog entry, I compare the Codex Leningrad text of the BHS with a beautifully illustrated vellum manuscript (Ms. Opp. 776, fol. 45 verso, Germany, 1471.). This text currently resides in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Originally this manuscript came from the collection of David Ben Abraham Oppenheimer (1664-1736). Oppenheimer was the Chief Rabbi of Prague, and a well regarded bibliophile. He is said to have collected 780 manuscripts and 4220 printed books in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Aramaic (For more information about Oppenheimer and his collection at Oxford visit this page).
Note about the organization of this comparison:
To make this comparison easier for the beginning student, I have manipulated the BHS text to follow the line reading of Ms. Opp. 776. Also, when Ms. Opp. 776 deviates from the reading of the Codex Leningrad of the BHS, I demarcate this difference by typing the variations in a red font.
1 הַ֥לְלוּ יָ֨הּ׀ (Sentence found in the banner above animals)
הַ֭לְלוּ עַבְדֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה הַֽ֝לְלוּ אֶת־שֵׁ֥ם יְהוָֽה׃ 2 יְהִ֤י שֵׁ֣ם יְהוָ֣ה מְבֹרָ֑ךְ מע
מֵֽ֝עַתָּ֗ה וְעַד־עוֹלָֽם׃ 3 מִמִּזְרַח־שֶׁ֥מֶשׁ ועַד־מְבוֹאֹ֑ו מְ֝הֻלָּ֗ל
שֵׁ֣ם יְהוָֽה׃ 4 מבורך רָ֖ם עַל־כָּל־גּוֹיִ֥ם׀ יְהוָ֑ה עַ֖ל הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם כְּבוֹדֹֽו׃
5 מִ֭י כַּיהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ הַֽמַּגְבִּיהִ֥י לָשָֽׁבֶת׃ 6 הַֽמַּשְׁפִּילִ֥י לִרְא֑וֹת
בַּשָּׁמַ֥יִם וּבָאָֽרֶץ׃ 7 מְקִֽימִ֣י מֵעָפָ֣ר דָּ֑ל מֵֽ֝אַשְׁפֹּ֗ת יָרִ֥ים
אֶבְיֽוֹן׃ 8 לְהוֹשִׁיבִ֥י עִם־נְדִיבִ֑ים עִ֝֗ם נְדִיבֵ֥י עַמֹּֽו׃
9 מֽוֹשִׁיבִ֨י׀ עֲקֶ֬רֶת הַבַּ֗יִת
אֵֽם־הַבָּנִ֥ים שְׂמֵחָ֗ה הַֽלְלוּ־יָֽהּ׃
How to begin:
When learning to read a new script (or a text from an unfamiliar hand), the student should begin by comparing the familiar with the unfamiliar. The student should start her comparison letter by letter. Then she should begin comparing the passages word by word. Eventually, the writing style of the scribe will become more familiar to the student, and she will be able to read with greater speed and more confidence.
Take note of some of the following script and textual issues from this comparison:
- Ms. Opp 776 does not use the tetragammatron (the word often rendered as Yahweh/YHVH). Ms. Opp 776 employs the use of three points that form a pyramid instead of using the word יהוה (YHVH). I am unfamiliar with this particular written reflex, but it is undoubtedly theologically motivated. Once I finish researching this topic, I will write a post detailing my findings.
- The aleph in Ms. Opp. 776 does not look like a “typical” squared Aramaic aleph used in modern editions. I had a difficult time finding an aleph that resembled the aleph in this manuscript. However, in studying a series of script drawings created by Frank Moore Cross Jr., I believe I found a match. Apparently the scribe responsible for our manuscript writes his alephs like those written in a semicursive script at Qumran, 6Qp8 (c.50-51). See figure 1 for a script comparison.
- The first line of Ms. Opp. 776 ends with מע. The presence of these two additional letters appears to be a mistake. My best guess is that they arose from a scribal copying error. Notice that the first word in line 2 also begins with the same two letters.
- In verse 3 of the BHS, the preposition עד does not have a prefixed vav as it does in Ms. Opp. 776. The reading found in our manuscript is supported by Codex Alexandria (5th Century CE) and Codex Veronensis (6th Century CE).
- The 3rd word (מבורך) of Ms. Opp. 776 line 3 is not in the BHS. מבורך is a pual masculine singular passive participle, which means be praised. The verb does occur in verse 2. Interestingly, this word is also preceded by שם יהוה. This may be an example of a scribal error that arose from a scribe duplicating a part of an earlier line due to its similarities.
- The verb “to bless” is spelled differently in the BHS than it is in Ms. Opp. 776. Our manuscript uses the full or plene spelling, which is helpful given that it is an unpointed text. The Leningrad Codex spells the word to bless without the “reading letter.” (Ms. Opp 776 – מבורך vs. LC – מְבֹרָךְ)
 In 1QIsaa, col. XXXIII, the tetragammatron is replaced with four horizontally lined dots. For a photograph of this scroll see: Emmanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (2nd ed. Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 1992), 383, Plate 4.
 Frank Moore Cross, Jr., “The Development of the Jewish Scripts,” in The Bible and The Ancient Near East: Essays in Honor of William Foxwell Albright (ed. G. Ernest Wright; NY: Doubleday, 1961), 133-202.
 Frank Moore Cross, Jr., “The Development of the Jewish Scripts,” 149.