Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. By Emanuel Tov. Third Edition Revised and Expanded. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-8006-9664-1. Mil and 481 pages. Cloth. $90.
Professor Tov has contributed profoundly to textual studies of the Old Testament throughout his career, and he is extremely well acquainted with the Dead Sea Scrolls since he was chief editor of the project during its final and most productive stages. The fact that his magnum opus on textual criticism appears in a third edition (first edition 1992) reflects how much has changed and is still changing in the field. Tov readily admits subjectivity pervades all chapters of the book, but readers must understand that his point of view is a very reliable guide through this maze.
After describing the need for textual criticism, Tov describes in depth the Hebrew and versional evidence for the Old Testament and how the text was copied and transmitted over the centuries. The scribes working at Qumran had distinctive scribal practices. He spells out his own method of textual criticism and reviews the "rules" of textual criticism, which, it turns out, are of limited use. Chapter 7 points out how the Qumran scrolls and related studies have blurred the lines between literary criticism and textual criticism. The biblical books were changed by editors over the years until a time, difficult to determine exactly, when the compositional stage yielded to textual transmission.
Was there originally one text of a book, or were there multiple pristine copies? Tov urges scholars to decide for themselves, but opts himself for the first alternative. He believes that the Masoretic Text (MT), printed virtually unchanged in all available editions of the Hebrew Bible, is not the result of a stabilization process, but rather it is the only text that survived the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 C.E. Before that time, as the Scrolls, the Septuagint, and the Samaritan Pentateuch demonstrate, there were multiple texts of all the biblical books, including the Pentateuch. The quality of MT, therefore, is...