[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

orion-list writing systems

Rochelle Altman:
Thank you for sticking with your amazing claim that 
scribes of Qumran texts wrote Shins differently than
Sins, corresponding to a phonetic difference.  If correct,
you would be adding a 23rd letter to the known Hebrew
alphabet of the time, and that would be no small
scholarly discovery!  However, having just finished a 
three-year work involving what must have been thousands
of hours of study of Brill microfiche negatives, mostly but
not limited to 4QpNahum, I must be the bad student in
your class who says "I don't think so . . ."

By way of background, let me note that (a) I found not the
slightest indication that the scribe of 4QpNah, who is one
scribe throughout the text, wrote Shin or Sin any differently
from one another, and (b) of all of the thousands of scholars
who have worked on the hundreds of Qumran texts in the
past five decades, not one has reported observing what
you claim to observe.  Nevertheless you do know a lot of
history of scribes and scripts, therefore I pay attention to 
your interesting claims.  (But are they true? that is my 
> In your previous post you wrote that the distinctions seem to
> be "simple random variability." Uh, uh. If we were dealing with
> calligraphers you could say that, but we are not; we are dealing
> with scribes - with very different training. Once we isolate the
> scribal hands, all the "random variablity" will disappear... I
This claim that individual scribes of Qumran texts have no
non-meaningful variability in the way they write the same letters
is completely incorrect.  (How much experience do you have
with studying photographs of Qumran texts?)  Anyone who has
worked on Qumran texts knows scribes are not typewriters.  
No two Waws look exactly alike, no two Yods look exactly alike.
The stroke is a micrometer longer on one than the next.  The
same is true with all of the letters.  In pHab the same scribe 
closed some Samekhs and other Samekhs are not quite closed.
It is the same scribe, same letter--the variability on this point is
non-meaningful, and random.  You have NO case of a
Qumran scribe writing letters in which there is NOT random,
non-meaningful variability within a certain range.  The eye
and mind sees a certain "letter" by pattern recognition.  But 
what is actually there in ink has some variability if looked at 
closely enough.  This is simply obvious.     

> cannot tell you how many times a document has been said to be by
> one scribe with "indiscriminate" and "random" use of graph forms and
> orthography. One such document, a chronicle, that I _have_ written up
> happens to have been written by 14 scribes in 5 dialects over a 34 year
> period (all fully illustrated, BTW). Further, only one of the 14 scribes
> is there throughout the entire 34 years... (Ah, me, the calligraphic
> point of view.)
No doubt you have found many things of this nature through sharp
attention to detail.  But it has no bearing on the truth of the
paragraph I just wrote above.

> Up till now, you have learned to distinguish scribal hands by their
> similarities. While this is quite understandable when faced with nearly
> 1000 hands, unfortunately, the methodology is appropriate for calli-
> graphers and painters... it is completely backwards when trying to
> isolate scribal hands on one document. What you have to do now is to learn
> to look for the differences - some of those differences that have already
> been noted.
> I saw two hands on a quick scan... a closer look showed four - all within
> the first 5 lines. (Remember what I said about standard scriptorium
> practices on mutli-scribe documents?)
Unfortunately the problem of the sigla of your reference prevents 
analysis of this.  I found what I think were two of your cited words 
at the lines you said but on column 2 of 1QS.  However column
2 of 1QS does not have the first words of the text to which you have
also referred, which is on column 1.  But column 1 does not have
the other references you cited.  I realize this is a simple clerical
problem of finding where you are reading.  However, I am unable
to check it without further information.  

> One scribe doesn't bother to have the central stroke meet the left-hand
> leg? That's a scribal tag. If he does it on one graph, he'll do it on
> another. (This, BTW, is scribe 4.)
> Scribe 1 is very careful (and he is by the way) to use a straight
> stroke for his 'sin' and a curved stroke for his 'shin'. I chose
> the 'shin' in 'shnat' for a very simple reason: the taf is an ideograph
> of Scribe 1 - identical with the taf in zot... (the taf in 'eidat' is
> too blurred on my copy - even with a jeweller's loop - to ascertain).
> (You now have 3 tags for scribe 1.)
> Scribe 2 writes both shin and sin with a straight stroke - BUT, he
> changes the angle of the right-hand leg. (2 tags)
> Scribe 3 writes a "tail" on the right-hand leg of his taf... and
> is very careless with his shin/sin. (3 tags)
I sure wish I knew where you were reading, so I could look at the
photo and follow along too . . .

> BTW, I'm giving guidelines and tools. I'm not going to write this
> up - you are <G>. By the time you finish sorting out the hands on
> this document you will 1) have a much better idea of how scribes
> operate; and 2) never again have difficulty spotting scribal tags.
Well I'm listening . . .

>    >However neither Kraft nor I were
>    >able to verify your claim from the examples you cited.
> Yes and no; I said that it wasn't a good example... 4 scribes in a
> hurry to get a cheap job done... it's amazing that Scribe 1 was so
> careful anyway. The "Exodus" fragments are quite clear... but I don't
> see anyone looking at the Murabba'at fragments of Ex 4:28-31 and
> Ex 6:5-6, now do I.
OK now something specific that I can find.  I have your reference
and the photograph in DJD II, Plate 1, Frg 4 with Ex 4.28-31, and
Frg 5 with Ex 6.5-6.  The subject under discussion is Shins and 
Sins.  In Frg 4 I see several Shins which look alike, and one Sin, 
in "Israel", line 3.  And lo and behold, I see something!  The right 
arm of the Sin does not quite touch the rest of the letter, as the 
right arm of the Shins on that fragment do!  This, I presume, is 
what you saw, and intend for me to see also.  I do see it.  (Am I 
correct that this is your entire point?)

Unfortunately, after I recover from my shock (not really), I simply
looked over to the next fragment, Frg 5, in which the same 
scribe wrote some more, and there on the top line is another 
"Israel".  And its Sin is just like all the other
Shins in Frg 4!  (The right leg is touching the rest of the letter,
and indistinguishable from the Shins in that fragment.)  Now 
before you start telling me that what I am seeing, since it is
in disagreement with your theory, is a different scribe, I'm
willing to state categorically (subject to change only upon
specific and detailed demonstration) that these two fragments
were written by the same scribe.

In other words, the fact that the right arm of the Sin in "Israel"
in the first case fails to touch, but the right arm of the Sin in
"Israel" in the second case does touch, means I cannot 
confirm the basic point you are claiming, which is of a
_systematic_ distinction of a single scribe between Sin
and Shin.  If you can find a fragment for me written by one
scribe with _three_ Sins that systematically differ from
say six Shins, then we can start talking.  But this example
has one Sin, with a minor characteristic which is not
replicated when we arrive at Sin number two.  One cannot
generalize from this basis.  Your extraordinary claim 
requires demonstration of a pattern, not one exemplar
picked at will.

I have been using the language of Shin and Sin but
conscious that there could be a possible anachronism.  It
occured to me, "What if Rochelle is right on this one phone
per graph, and since there is only one Shin-Sin letter or graph
in Qumran texts, how secure is it that there was a Shin/Sin
pronunciation difference at that time?"  Well, there are plenty
of Sin/Samekh spelling interchanges throughout Qumran
texts, whereas Shin and Samekh do not get this pattern of
interchangeability in spelling.  Sort of looks like the 
Masoretes weren't inventing the pronunciation difference, but 
were using a diacritic to point out the difference.  But there is 
no such diacritic, and there is no scribal sign, marking, or
clue of any kind, in Qumran texts pointing out a difference 
between Shin and Sin.  
> Nope... even if I do have an impish sense of humor, 'twasn't rug pulling.
No you weren't, you actually (to my astonishment) are sticking to
your claim, forthrightly just as you said at the beginning.  Only
problem is, I can't verify it.  No one else has ever seen this either.  
There are tons of examples of multiple phones per single graphs,
which you've admitted happens routinely after standardizations,
and which are corroborated by ancient comparisons of Greek
transcriptions of Hebrew words (e.g. hard and soft B, D, 
vocalic and voiced H, etc. etc.) which in Qumran texts have no
diacritics or Masoretic pointing.  Therefore a single Shin/Sin
graph to represent both Shin and Sin phones is not surprising
or unexpected as such.

So to conclude my bad student objection from the back of the
class to your lecture, I say: what you claim exists simply 
isn't there, in any known data.  Now do I pass or fail your
class?  :-)

Greg Doudna

For private reply, e-mail to Greg Doudna <gd@teol.ku.dk>
To unsubscribe from Orion, e-mail to majordomo@panda.mscc.huji.ac.il with
the message: "unsubscribe Orion." For more information on the Orion Center
or for Orion archives, visit our web site http://orion.mscc.huji.ac.il.