Jonah 1:6 in Harley 5709 (British Library)

Since the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, much less emphasis has been put on variant readings in medieval Masoretic manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible. Most are uninteresting, but occasionally they are intriguing. Here is a page from Harley 5709, a parchment codex from the 14th century inscribed in France and held in the British Library (see catalog entry). it contains the Pentateuch, Haftorah (selections from the Prophets), and the Megilloth. Highlighted below is the word וַיִקרָא in Jonah 1:6, “He cried out to,” which replaces the usual reading וַיִּקְרַב “He approached.” What does it mean? Here, one of the crew members of the ship Jonah boarded for Tarshish comes below during a storm to get Jonah to help. He finds him sleeping: “What are you doing, sleeping? Get up and cry out to your god!” (1:5). While the most reliable versions of Jonah have the crew member simply approaching Jonah and haranguing him, this copy here encourages us to see him having to wake him up! Most would (probably rightly) say this is a scribal error, though it is found in several other copies. For comparison, see the clear ב in stead of א on MurXII, a parchment scroll with the 12 minor prophets found among the Dead Sea Scrolls that can be dated to the 1st century.

jon 1.6 in harley 5709
Jon 1:6 in Harley 5709
jon 1.6 in MurXII
Jon 1:6 in MurXII (from the Dead Sea)

Missing Pages: Two Manuscripts of the Samaritan Torah at the Oriental Institute

triglot closeup
Closeup of a page from a Samaritan Pentateuch manuscript held at the Oriental Institute (Chicago)

At the Oriental Institute in Spring 2018, I discovered an unpublished and, except for a few mentions in publications and in in-house materials, unknown manuscript of the Samaritan Pentateuch/Torah, which turned out to be two missing folios from an important trilingual codex, from Genesis (pictured here). Later that year, I was kindly notified of another manuscript containing three folios of Leviticus. I am currently working on a full edition of these, but in the meantime, have written a short article about them (and about the Samaritans and the Samaritan Torah in general) for the Oriental Institute’s members’ magazine News and Notes. You can read it here. The entire issue can be read here.