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THE HEBREW PAPYRUS OF THE TEN

                COMMANDMENTS.

 

                                 F. C. Burkitt


 

 

 

          A HEBREW papyrus is a rarity in any case, but the

document that forms the subject of this paper is unique.

It is a papyrus containing the Decalogue in Hebrew followed

by the Shema’, the text differing in many notable particulars

from the Massoretic standard, and agreeing with that which

underlies the Septuagint version. When we add that there

is every reason to suppose that the Papyrus is at least five

or six hundred years older than any piece of Hebrew writing

known to scholars, it is evident that the tattered fragments

of which a facsimile is here inserted are interesting and

important from every point of view.

The recent history of the Papyrus is involved in some

obscurity. It came into the possession of Mr. W. L. Nash,

the Secretary of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, having

been bought in Egypt from a native dealer along with some

very early uncial fragments of the Odyssey. Mr. Nash

thinks it very probable that the whole "find " comes from

somewhere in the Fayyum. These Greek fragments must

be as old as the second century A. D., and are probably

much earlier: they contain portions of Odyssey XII. 279-

304, and have been edited by the present writer with

a facsimile in the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical

Archaeology for November, 1902, p. 290 ff. The Hebrew

fragments which form the subject of the present article were

entrusted to Mr. Stanley A. Cook, Fellow of Caius College,

Cambridge, and one of the sub-editors of the new Encyclo-

paedia Biblica. Mr. Cook identified the fragments and

published them in the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical

 


Burkitt:  Ten Commandments                          393

 

 

 

HEBREW PAPYRUS OF THE DECALOGUE


HEBREW PAPYRUS OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS 393

 

Archaeology for January, 1903, in an admirable paper which

contains, in addition to the text and translation, a full

discussion of the interesting questions to which this dis-

covery has given rise. The Papyrus itself has been most

generously presented by Mr. Nash to the Cambridge

University Library.

So much for the way in which the Papyrus has made its

reappearance in the world. About one thing there can be

no doubt. There can be no doubt that it is a genuine

relic of antiquity and not a forgery. The scraps of Greek

papyrus with which it was associated are certainly genuine.

It may be safely said that no forger of antiquities has the

palaeographical knowledge necessary for such work as

this; and if he had had the knowledge, he would not have

allowed his work to be thrown in, as a thing of no particular

value, among a collection of Greek documents. I have

thought it worth while to insist upon the genuineness of

the Papyrus, because unfortunately it has been found

impossible to make a satisfactory photograph of it. What

appears here is a photograph of the papyrus, but not

of the handwriting. The papyrus is a very dark yellow,

and by the time this has made a sufficient impression on

the photographic plate, light enough has been reflected

from the black surfaces of the letters themselves to affect

the plate also: consequently, while every fibre in the

material was visible in the photograph, the letters were

not visible at all or were exceedingly faint. What is seen

in the reproduction is a very careful drawing of the letters

upon the photograph, made by myself from the Papyrus.

In doing this I was greatly helped by the faint marks on

the photograph, which could be identified when compared

with the original as the traces of the several letters.

Fortunately there is no serious case of doubtful reading.

In a slanting light the letters are clear on the Papyrus

itself, and there is only one word in the decipherment of

which Mr. Cook and I are not completely agreed. Modern

fluid ink and modern pens, coupled with the circumstance


394               THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW

 

that it was almost impossible to erase a badly-formed

letter, made the copy somewhat rougher than the original,

but I can honestly claim that the facsimile gives a not

misleading view of the appearance of the handwriting.

In its present state the Nash Papyrus consists of four

fragments, all of which fit together. The largest is nearly

two inches across and about four inches long. It appears

to have been doubled up into a packet. A portion of the

upper margin (not shown in the photograph) is still pre-

served, and one of the smaller fragments contains a portion

of the right-hand margin. The handwriting is arranged in

a column with an average of a little over thirty letters in

a line. The greater part of twenty-four lines are preserved,

and there are traces of a twenty-fifth, but it is of course

impossible to say how much further this column extended.

The fragment containing a portion of the right-hand margin

appears to terminate with the natural edge of the Papyrus,

so that what is preserved is the beginning of a document.

The smallness of this margin suggests that there was never

more than the single column of writing. The material is

now very brittle, and it would be hazardous to detach it

from the card upon which the fragments have been gummed,

but Mr. Cook and I have managed to ascertain that there

is no writing on the other side. Before speculating on the

nature of the document, it will be convenient to give the

actual text, and to examine its relation to other authorities.

Then will follow a few words on the date of the Papyrus,

and the value of the text.

 

 

HEBREW TEXT.

[Myrc]m Crxm jyt[xcvh] rwx jyhlx hvh[y yknx ...]                         1

[lsp jl] hwft xvl yn[p lf] MyrHx Myhlx j[l hyhy xvl]             2

[tHtm] Crxb rwxv lfmm Mymwb rwx [hnvmt lkv]                          3

[xvlv] Mhl hvHtwt xvl Crxl tHtm M[ymb rwxv]                             4

[Nvf d]qp xvnq lx jyhlx hvhy yknx [yk Mdbft]                     5


HEBREW PAPYRUS OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS 395

 

[hWfv] yxnWl Myfbr lfv Mywlw lf M[ynb lf tvbx]               6

[tx xw]t xvl ytvcm yrmwlv ybhxl [Myplxl dsH]                    7

[rwx tx]  hvhy hqny xvl yk xvwl jyhl[x hvhy Mw]                8

[vwdql] tbwh Mvy tx rvkz xvwl hm[w tx xwy]                     9

[yfybwh] Mvybv jtkxlm lk tywfv dvbft M[ymy tww] 10

[htx] hkxlm lk hb hWft xvl jyhlx [hvhyl tbw]             11

[jtmH]b lkv jrmHv jrvw jtmxv jdbf [jtbv jnbv]            12

[hvh]y hWf Mymy tww yk jyrfwb [rwx jrgv]                        13

[Mb rw]x lk txv Myh tx Crxh txv M[ymwh tx]                     14

[Mvy] tx hvhy jrb Nklf yfybwh [Mvyb]  Hnyv                     15

[Nfml j]mx txv jybx tx dbk vywdqyv yfybwh             16

[rwx] hmdxh lf jymy Nvkyrxy Nfmlv jl bFyy                       17

[x]vl Hcrt xvl Jnxt xvl jl Ntn jyhlx hvhy                     18

[tx]  dvmHt xvl xvw df jfrb hn[f]t xvl bn[gt]               19

[vdbfv vh]dW jfr t[y]b tx hv[x]tt xv[l jfr twx               20

[Blank]         jfrl rwx lkv vrmHv vrv[wv vtmxv                              21

[ynb] tx hwm hvc rwx MyFpwmhv My[qHh hlxv]               22

[f] mw Myrcm Crxm Mtxcb rbdmb [lxrWy]                         23

[tbh]xv xvh dHx hvhy vnyhlx hvhy  l[xrWy]                        24

[ .  . . .jbb]l  l[kb jyh]l[x hvhy tx]                                         25

 

TRANSLATION.

1 [ .    I am Jalhwe thy God that [brought] thee out of

the land of E[gypt:]

2 [thou shalt not hav]e other gods be[fore] me. Thou

shalt not make [for thyself an image]

3 [or any form] that is in the heavens above, or that is in

the earth [beneath,]

4 [or that is in the waters beneath the earth. Thou shalt

not bow down to them [nor]

5 [serve them, for] I am Jahwe thy God, a jealous God

visiting the iniquity]

6 [of fathers upon sons to the third and to the fourth

generation unto them that hate me, [and doing]

 


396               THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW

 

7 [kindness unto thousands] unto them that love me and

keep my commandments. Thou shalt [not]

8 [take up the name of Jahwe] thy God in vain, for Jahwe

will not hold guiltless [him that]

9 [taketh up his name in vain. Remember the day of the

Sabbath [to hallow it:]

10 [six days thou shalt work and do all thy business, and

on the [seventh day,]

11 a Sabbath for Jahwe] thy God, thou shalt not do therein

any business, [thou]

12 [and thy son and thy daughter,] thy slave and thy

handmaid, thy ox and thy ass and all thy [cattle,]

13 [and thy stranger that is] in thy gates. For six days

did Ja[hwe make]

14 [the heaven]s and the earth, the sea and all th[at is

therein,]

15 and he rested [on the] seventh day; therefore Jahwe

blessed [the]

16 seventh day and hallowed it. Honour thy father and

thy mother, that]

17 it may be well with thee and that thy days may be long

upon the ground [that]

18 Jahwe thy God giveth thee. Thou shalt not do adultery.

Thou shalt not do murder. Thou shalt [not]

19 [st]eal. Thou shalt not [bear] against thy neighbour

vain witness. Thou shalt not covet [the]

20 [wife of thy neighbour. Thou shalt] not desire the house

of thy neighbour, his field, or his slave,]

21 [or his handmaid, or his o]x, or his ass, or anything that

is thy neighbour's.   [Blank]

22 [(?) And these are the statutes and the judgements that

Moses commanded the [sons of]

23 [Israel] in the wilderness, when they went forth from

the land of Egypt. Hea[r]

24 [0 Isra]el: Jahwe our God, Jahwe is one; and thou

shalt love]

25 [Jahwe thy G]o[d with al]1 t[hy heart ... . ].

 


HEBREW PAPYRUS OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS 397

 

In making the restorations at the beginnings and ends of the lines

it must be borne in mind that h, m, M, c, w, t (and sometimes k)

are wide letters, and that d, v, z, N, P, J, r (and sometimes b and n) are

narrow letters. Lines 15-19 indicate that about seven letters are lost

on the right hand of lines 1-14, 20-22; consequently, no more than

four letters as a rule are lost on the left-hand side. I think there-

fore that Mr. Cook has supplied too many letters at the ends of

lines 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 11, and too few at the beginnings of the

following lines. That the division here adopted is right may also

be seen from lines 4 and 5, for to add Mdbft xvlv at the end of line 4

leaves only yk to be prefixed to line 5. At the end of line 20 I have

added vdbfv after vhdW, leaving only vtmxv to be prefixed to vrvwv

at the beginning of line 21. It is more likely that the end of a line

should be crowded than the beginning, and in the handwriting of the

Papyrus all the letters in vdbfv are rather narrow.

The only point where there is some doubt as to the actual reading

of the Papyrus occurs in line 20, where I read hvxtt “desire” (as in

Deut. v. 18b), but Mr. Cook is still inclined to read dvmHt “covet” (as

in the preceding line and in Ex. xx. 17b). The surface of the Papyrus

is here somewhat damaged and the middle letter is defaced-so much

so, that it looks more like c than x or m. But the curve at the foot

of the left-hand stroke of the second letter is characteristic of t and

not of H, while it is very difficult to suppose that the last letter can

be anything but h. If  hvxtt be right, the x exhibits an extreme

form of that curious horizontal sweep at the end of the right foot,

which is characteristic of the handwriting of this Papyrus, e. g. in

the dHx of the Shema’.

 

The Ten Commandments are familiar to every one, and

I do not propose to go through the text line for line.

Mr. Cook, in the course of his paper in the Proceedings

of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, has already done

this, and the reader will find there full and clear details

about the readings of the Versions and other authorities.

I propose here only to touch upon such points as may

help us to discover the nature of the document and its

date.

The first question which naturally presents itself is the

identification of the Biblical passages. Does the Papyrus

give us a text of Exodus or of Deuteronomy? In agreement

 


398               THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW

 

with Exodus against Deuteronomy it begins the Fourth

Commandment with "Remember" instead of "Keep," and

does not add "as Jahwe thy God commanded thee" after

"to hallow it." It adds at the end of this Commandment

the verse "For in six days Jahwe made the heavens and the

earth," &c., as in Exod. xx. 11, and does not give the verse

Deut. v. 15 or the clause "that thy manservant and thy

maidservant may rest as well as thou " in the preceding

verse. In the Fifth Commandment it agrees with Exodus

in not having the clause "as Jahwe thy God commanded

thee." On the other hand, the Papyrus agrees with

Deuteronomy against Exodus in the Fourth Commandment

by prefixing "thy ox and thy ass" to "thy cattle," in the

Fifth Commandment by inserting the clause "that it may

be well with thee," in the Ninth Commandment by reading

"vain (xvw) witness" and not "false (rqw) witness," and

in the Tenth Commandment by putting the wife before the

house, and by the insertion of "field " before " slave," and

(if my reading be correct) by having "desire" in the second

place instead of "covet." To these we must add the

appearance of the Shema’, which of course belongs to

Deuteronomy alone. Most of these agreements with

Deuteronomy against Exodus are also found in the Greek

text of Exodus, but not all: in fact, we may say with con-

fidence that in the Ninth Commandment the Greek supports

rqw both for Exodus and for Deuteronomy. Moreover vhdW

"his field" in the Tenth Commandment is without the

conjunction as in Deuteronomy, while the Greek has ou@te

to>n a]gro>n au]tou?.

It is, I venture to think, impossible to resist the im-

pression that the Papyrus gives a text containing elements

both from Exodus and from Deuteronomy, just such a text

as might be formed in a liturgical work based indeed

upon the Pentateuch, yet not a direct transcript either of

Exodus or of Deuteronomy. We know from both Talmuds

that the daily reading of the Decalogue before the Shema’

was once customary, and that the practice was discontinued

 


HEBREW PAPYRUS OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS 399

 

because of Christian cavils.1  It is therefore reasonable to

conjecture that this Papyrus contains the daily worship of

a pious Egyptian Jew who lived before the custom came

to an end.

But further, the Hebrew text upon which the fragment

is based was far from being identical with the Massoretic

text. Even if we refer each phrase to its origin in Exodus

or Deuteronomy, whichever be the most convenient, there

still remain several readings which do not agree with the

Massoretic text, and do agree with the Septuagint. In

the Fourth Commandment we have the insertion of b before

[yfybwh] Mvy in 1.10, and the addition of hb after hWft in

the following line. At the end of the same Commandment

we find "seventh day" instead of "Sabbath day," again

with the Septuagint. In the Fifth Commandment, the

reading, " that it may be well with thee, and that thy days

may be long on the ground," agrees in order with the

Greek. The order, Adultery, Murder, Steal, is that of some

texts of the Septuagint (including Philo), and it is found

in the New Testament (Mark, Luke, Romans, James, not

Matthew). To crown all, we have the preface to the Shema’,

which is found in the Septuagint of Deut. vi. 4, but not

in the Hebrew; and in the Shema’ itself we find--

 

xvh dHx hvhy vnyhlx hvhy lxrWy fmw

 

the xvh at the end being added in agreement with the

Greek, both of the Septuagint and of Mark xii. 29, which

has  @Akoue,  ]Israh<l, Ku<rioj o[ qeo>j h[mw?n Ku<rioj ei$j e]stin.

In this Papyrus, therefore, we have a Hebrew document

based upon a text which is not the Massoretic text, but

has notable points of agreement with that which underlies

the Septuagint. It is not a question only of difference

from the Massoretic standard; mere differences might have

arisen through carelessness. The all-important point is

the agreement with the Septuagint. This shows us that

 

1 Talm. J. Berakhoth, i. 8 (4) ; Talm. B. Berakhoth, 12 a.


400               THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW

 

the variants have a history behind them, and that they

belong to the pre-Massoretic age of the text. We can trace

the consonantal text of our printed Hebrew Bibles back

to the time of Aquila, to the time of the revolt of Bar-

Cochba. From that time onwards there has been but

little serious change in the Hebrew text of the Canonical

Scriptures as accepted by the Synagogue. From that time

onwards the composition of a document such as our

Papyrus is inconceivable.1  In other words, it is a relic

of Jewish religious literature earlier than the age of Rabbi

‘Akiba, who died in the year 135 A.D., and who was the

founder of the accurate study of the Hebrew text.

It is of course probable that our Papyrus is the copy

of an earlier document. The original composition might

be older than Rabbi ‘Akiba, but our fragment might be

very much later. At the same time there are palaeo-

graphical considerations which suggest that the Nash

Papyrus is itself of very great antiquity. It is entirely

unaffected by the conventional rules that regulated the

writing of Scripture in later times; the d of dHx in the

Shema’ is not enlarged, there are no "crowns " to the letters,

nor is there any division into verses. It is also a mark

of very early date that several of the letters are run

together by a ligature, e.g. in 1. 15. We have to compare

the handwriting not with rolls and codices of the early

mediaeval period, or with the other surviving fragments

of Hebrew written on papyrus, but with Palmyrene and

Nabataean inscriptions. The nearest parallel of all is to

be found in a Nabataean inscription of A. D. 55, and I

 

     1 I cannot resist quoting the words of Dr. Landauer about Euting's

discovery of a text of the Shema' engraved over the lintel of the ruined

Synagogue at Palmyra. Dr. Landauer says: "Variationen im Text eines

so uralten Gebets wie das Sch'ma wird kein Verstandiger bei einer

Uberlieferung aus einer Zeit wie die der Mischna etwa erwarten. Die

Umschreibung von Jahwe durch ynvdx uberrascht uns nicht, wohl aber

dass dem Kiinstler ein Lapsus passirt ist, indem er jtbywb mit mater

lectionis schreibt und, wenn ich recht lese, htbhxv mit h" (Sitzungsberichte

of the Berlin Academy for 1884, p. 934).


HEBREW PAPYRUS OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS 401

 

am inclined to assign this Papyrus to about the same

date. Those who place it later will have to account for

the archaic h (X), the large broken-backed medial; the

occasionally open final m, the q with a short foot (like

Palmyrene and Syriac), and the looped it. The hand-

writing is cursive, but it is as distinct from the so-called

"Rashi." character as the cursive Greek of pre-Byzantine

times is distinct from the minuscule hands of the Middle

Ages. And I have already drawn attention to the fact

that our Papyrus made its reappearance before the world

in company with Greek fragments of the Odyssey, which

are certainly as old as the second century A . D., and may

be very much earlier.

The five letters j m N J and C all appear on the Papyrus

in distinct medial and final forms, but the development

of nearly all these forms can be traced almost back to the

Christian era. The distinction of medial and final Kaph,

for instance, is as old as the first beginnings of Syriac

literature. More curious are the considerations derived

from the spelling of the Papyrus. The most characteristic

feature of this spelling is its independence of the Biblical

standard. On the one hand we have the archaic no and

hmw for Ob and Omw, and in agreement with the Massoretic

text the vowel o is not written plene in Myhlx, yknx, hwm,

or the present participle. The distinction between the

vowels in rvw and rmH is maintained, just as in the Masso-

retic text of the Commandments. On the other hand we

have xvl every time for xlo, we have dvbft and dvmHt (but

also bngt), and Nvkyrxy is written plene. rvkz agrees with the

present Massoretic spelling.

These spellings cannot be brought forward in favour of

a later date than what I have urged in the preceding

paragraphs. The scriptio plena had become general by the

year 66 A. D., for from that time we find Nhvkh on Jewish

coins. And I cannot help remarking by the way that

I believe the saying in Matt. v. 18 about the jot and the

tittle (i]w?ta e{n h} mi<a kerai<a) to refer not to the size of certain

 


402               THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW

 

letters but to their use as vowels. The word waw meant

“a hook,” and this I fancy may have been rendered kerai<a,

as a Greek equivalent for the original Semitic term. Thus

the fashion of representing the long vowels i and u. by

the consonants y and v was not only in use about the

year 3o A. D., but was already beginning to invade the

copies of the Law. Our Papyrus represents the every-

day usage. The Massoretic text of the Bible, based as we

believe it to be upon the spelling of a MS. of about 135 A.D.,

represents a mixture. It often preserves the archaic spelling

of an earlier age, as is natural in a copy of any ancient

writing: on the other hand, many spellings represent the

usage of the second century A. D.

The differences between our Papyrus and the Massoretic

text show that the scrupulous care to preserve the words

of the Law accurately, which prevailed among the later

Jews, was not universally taken in the first century A.D.

and the preceding ages. The agreement between the

Papyrus and the Septuagint also proves that some things

in the Greek which we may have been inclined to regard

as paraphrase or amplification are in fact the faithful

reproduction of the Hebrew text that lay before the

translator. But there remains a more serious question,

the question as to which is really the better text. Does

the text approved by Aquila and the Massoretes, or the

text of the Nash Papyrus and the Septuagint, more nearly

represent the text of Exodus and Deuteronomy as (shall

we say) Ezra left it? I am afraid, after all, that in this

instance I must vote for the Massoretic text. So far as the

Decalogue and the Shema’ go, the Massoretic text appears

to me the more archaic and therefore the more genuine.

In these passages the Massoretic text reads to me like the

scholarly reproduction of an old MS. which happens here

to contain no serious errors, while the Nash Papyrus is not

the scholarly reproduction of a MS., but a monument of

popular religion, giving a text of the Commandments with

the grammatical difficulties smoothed down.

 


HEBREW PAPYRUS OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS 403

 

I trust I may escape being misrepresented as holding

a brief for the Massoretic text. On the contrary, I believe

that the printed Hebrew Bible contains serious errors, both

palaeographical and editorial. Many of these errors can,

I am confident, be removed by an intelligent use of the

Septuagint, and I greatly rejoice to learn from the Nash

Papyrus that the ancient Greek translation was even more

faithful to the Hebrew which underlies it than some of us

dared hope. But it does not follow that all the labour of

the Sopherim was thrown away, or that every early variant

is a relic of a purer text. Especially is this the case with

the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch became, canonical from

very early times, and the consonantal text was practically

fixed in the Maccabaean age. And if any part of the text

were fixed, surely this would be the Ten Commandments.

When therefore we find that the Ten Commandments

actually differ in Exodus and in Deuteronomy, we have

some ground for supposing that they have escaped inten-

tional harmonization. And if they have escaped intentional

harmonization they have escaped the only serious danger

to which they would have been exposed, for it is hardly

likely that a mere palaeographical error in such a well-

known context would have been left uncorrected.

The clearest instance to my mind is in the text of the

Fourth Commandment. Here I believe the Massoretic

text to be right, and the Nash Papyrus to give an easier,

less original, reading: at the same time it is a better

commentary on the true text than either the Authorized

Version of 1611 or the Revised Version of 1881, both of

which actually follow the Samaritan text. The Massoretic

text has hvhyl tbw yfybwh Mvyv jtkxlm lk tyWfv dbft Mymy tww hkxlm lk hWft xl jyhlx i. e. Six days thou shalt work and

do all thy business ; and the seventh day, Jahweh thy God's

Sabbath, thou shalt do no business.

In the first clause " six days " are in what may be called

the accusative of duration of time: the symmetry of the

sentence shows us that yfybwh Mvy is in the same construc-

 


404               THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW

 

tion, and "yl tbw is in apposition to it. If we wanted to

bring out the exact force of these accusatives, we might

translate "During six days thou shalt work. .., but during

the seventh day .. . thou shalt do no business." But this

construction, though perfectly clear, can easily be mis-

understood. It is so easy to take jyhlx ... Mvyv as a separate

sentence and say "But the seventh day is the Sabbath," or

to regard it as a kind of nominativus pendens without any

grammatical construction at all. This leaves hWft xl, so

to speak, in the air: "thou shalt do no business" by itself

is rather too general a commandment, and consequently we

find vb (written hb,  as in Jeremiah xvii. 24) added by the

Nash Papyrus and by the Samaritan, and implied by the

Septuagint and the Vulgate. The Papyrus further prefixes

b to yfybwh Mvy, thereby making it quite clear that tbw is in

apposition and not a predicate. The English Bible has

"but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God

in it thou shalt not do any work"--a translation that

makes havoc of the syntax, and the matter is made worse

by the Revised Version, which puts the italic is into

ordinary type.

The result of this grammatical excursus can be stated in

a sentence. On the assumption that the Massoretic text

preserves the true wording of the Fourth Commandment

both in Exodus and Deuteronomy, the reading of the

Nash Papyrus, of the Samaritan, and the rendering of the

Septuagint, can all be easily explained; but on the

assumption that either the Nash Papyrus or the Samaritan

gives the original, it is very difficult to account for the

omissions of the Massoretic text.

At the end of the Fourth Commandment (Exod. xx. 11b)

I incline to think that we have another instance of the

superiority of the Massoretic text, this time in company

with the Samaritan. "Blessed the sabbath day" (MT.) is

less obvious than "blessed the seventh day " (Papyrus and

LXX), which might easily have come from the context

or from Gen. ii. 3. Here again it is interesting to note

 


HEBREW PAPYRUS OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS 405

 

that the divergence of the Septuagint from the Massoretic

text was not caused by paraphrastic tendencies on the part

of the translators, but by the faithful following of the

Hebrew text that was used.

It is not necessary here to discuss the longer form of

the Fifth Commandment given in the Papyrus, because

it practically amounts to an interpolation from the

parallel in Deuteronomy which the Massoretic text of

Exodus has escaped. It is possible, however, that the

received text of Deuteronomy should be corrected here to

agree with the Papyrus, i. e. "that it may be well with

thee" should precede instead of follow "that thy days may

be long."

The variation in order between the Sixth and Seventh

Commandments is probably connected with the similar

change of order in the Tenth. Just as in the Tenth

Commandment the prohibition not to covet the neigh-

bour's wife is placed first in the Papyrus, in the Greek, and

even in the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy, so we find that

in the Papyrus and in many Greek texts (including Philo),

the prohibition of Adultery is put before that of Murder.

But is not the order of the Massoretic text in Exodus

more primitive? Is it not likely that the original form of

the Tenth Commandment was "Thou shalt not covet thy

neighbour's House," the House including the Family as

well as the Property? The reason that in Exod. xx. 17,

the House comes first is not because ‘Akiba or some

"Scribe" thought the dwelling more valuable than the

wife, but because the first clause of the Commandment

was once all that there was of it. The rest is explanatory

addition. But the same tendency which has brought up

the prohibition to covet one's neighbour's wife to the head

of the list has most likely brought up the prohibition of

Adultery in front of Murder. Here, again, the Nash Papyrus

represents the popular tendencies of a not yet Rabbinized

Judaism (if I may be forgiven the phrase), while the Masso-

retic text gives us the scholarly archaism of the Scribes.

 


406               THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW

 

We come at last to the Shema’ (Deut. vi. 4 f.), undoubtedly

the most remarkable part of the new discovery. What are

we to say of the new Preface, and what are we to say of

the addition of xvh after dHx? What reasons are we to

give for the omission of this Preface and for the omission

of xvh on the assumption that they are genuine portions of

Deuteronomy? The question seems to me to be altogether

parallel to the question raised by the variations in the

Commandments and to demand the same answer.

Let us begin with the obvious consideration that the

Nash Papyrus once more brings out the essential faithful-

ness of the Greek version of the Pentateuch to the Hebrew

that underlies it. The new Preface is found in the Greek

prefixed to the Shema’, and in ku<rioj ei$j e]stin the last word

corresponds to xvh, just as in Gen. xli. 25 to> e]nu<pnion Faraw>

e!n e]stin corresponds to xvh dHx hfrp MvlH.  There is nothing

to suggest that the text of the Papyrus has been assimilated

to the Greek, and so we may well believe that the Septua-

gint attests a text of the Shema’ which agrees with that

of the Papyrus. But here again it is difficult to believe

that the Palestinian recension of the passage represented

by the Massoretic text (and the Samaritan) is not the more

original. Why should the xvh after dHx have been dropped,

if it were originally there? It is such an obvious thing

to add: it makes the construction so much clearer. True,

it takes away some of the force of the great sentence ;

it dissociates the assertion of Jahwe's uniqueness from

the command to love him with no corner reserved for

other objects of devotion; it gives, in fact, a philosophical

turn to a positive command. Such a turn is foreign to

the style of Deuteronomy, but it is exactly what would

attract the Jews of the Dispersion. In this instance also

I must prefer the archaistic scholarship of the Scribes to

the philosophy of Alexandria.

To the Preface much the same argument applies. Words

are really not wanted between Deut. vi. 3 and "Hear,

0 Israel"; in fact, the Preface is a kind of doublette to

 


HEBREW PAPYRUS OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS 407

 

Deut. vi. 1-3. It reads like a marginal chapter-heading

that has become incorporated with the text. It is remark-

able how well it fits in with the scheme of the Papyrus.

The words And these are the statutes and the judgments

that Moses commanded the sons of Israel when they went

forth from the land of Egypt form an excellent and sufficient

transition from the Decalogue which was proclaimed by

Jahwe himself to the rest of the Law which was given

through Moses only. Mr. Cook has made the bold sug-

gestion that our Papyrus is part of a text of Deuteronomy,

in which this Preface actually took the place of the fifteen

verses, Deut. v. 22-vi. 3. The Septuagint would in that

case represent a conflate text, as it contains both the

Preface and the fifteen verses. But Deut. v. 22-vi. 3 is

surely a genuine portion of the Book of Deuteronomy

it has even run the gauntlet of the Encyclopaedia Biblica

(col. 1081). I think, therefore, that the Preface to the

Shema’ is an interpolation into the genuine text, which

the Massoretic text has happily escaped. It is in every

respect similar to Isa. xxx. 6a ("The Burden of the Beasts

of the South"), which doubtless was also a marginal

chapter-heading, except that in the Isaiah passage the

interpolation is found in the Massoretic text as well as

in the Greek.

To sum up what inevitably has assumed the form of

a discussion of technical points. I believe the Nash Papyrus

to be a document of the first century A.D. at latest. The

document itself I do not believe to have extended beyond the

single column which is in great part preserved, and I think

it not at all unlikely that it was folded up and buried

with its former owner as a kind of charm. The writing

which it contains consists of what were considered to be

the chief passages of the Law, the text being taken from

the various books, and where there were parallel texts,

as in the Decalogue, the Papyrus presents a fusion of the

two. The Hebrew text of the Pentateuch from which these

extracts were made differed from the Massoretic text, and


408               THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW

 

had many points of contact with that of which the

Septuagint is a translation. The date of the compilation

cannot be determined, but the Septuagint itself is evidence

that such texts were current in the Ptolemaic period. At

the same time, as far as our fragments extend, the Masso-

retic text approves itself as purer, as a more primitive

recension of the Pentateuch, than the text of the Nash

Papyrus and the Septuagint. Especially is this true with

regard to the text of the Shema’. There is a story in the

Talmud that when Rabbi ‘Akiba was martyred he was

reciting the Shema’, and he died as he was lingering over

the word dHx. "Happy art thou, Rabbi ‘Akiba," said the

Heavenly Voice, "that thy spirit went forth at dHx." I

think we may venture to echo this Benediction: there is

no need at all for us to add an unnecessary pronoun to

dHx hvhy vnyhlx hvhy lxrWy fmw.

 

F. C. BURKITT.

 

 

 

 

 

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