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Textual Themes and Language Variations in the late Prophets
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Pieter A. Verhoef
The Books of Haggai and Malachi (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1987, 364p.)

(A volume in the Eerdmans series The New International Commentary on the Old Testament)

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The prosaic title belies the exciting energy and readable style with which the author writes. Over the years, I have found this to be a common characteristic of the Dutch scholars. They write with enthusiasm and clarity, so that even their attention to detail and critical probing of textual questions and cultural backgrounds is compelling.

Verhoef, though detailing variants in the text, as well as differences among scholars about structure and Hebrew word forms, still writes briskly and invitingly. He brings to life the period of the restoration of Jerusalem after the Babylonian Exile, when these two prophets have been definitively dated.

Verhoef provides good comparative readings and critical views of the text from a wide range of scholars. He includes comparisons of textual variants between the Septuagint (LXX), Syriac, Old Latin and Peshitta versions, and refers heavily to the Aramaic Targums, as well as comparisons on readings in the Vulgate and later European language versions where helpful.

Through these critical comparisons, Verhoef provides some incidental insights on Aramaic translation history and modifications of the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT). The Targums are early Aramaic interpretations or explanations of the Hebrew text, which in some cases were Aramaic translations of the Hebrew lectionary readings.

This critical comparison of textual or interpretative variants, indicates that the Targums often follow the LXX and Old Latin instead of the Masoretic Text we now know. This seems to support the idea that early Targums and Aramaic versions were based on the LXX instead of on the Hebrew. Or at least they agree with the LXX in following the Old Hebrew in contrast with the MT.

Where LXX and early versions agree, this seems to indicate that the MT represents a revised text. It is known that the Hebrew text was thoroughly revised in the first century AD, possibly into the 2nd century. MT seems to represent further ongoing refinements and edits, according to some scholars, into the Middle Ages.

At the very least, these variations evidence early variant texts of the Hebrew canon. The LXX is the oldest non-Hebrew witness and may represent an early form of the text, rather than a later expanded or revised form, as some have previously thought.

See related articles on this site:
Aramaic New Testament
Christians Started with a Greek Old Testament
Hebrew Usage in the First Century
Koine Greek as a Mother Tongue
The Language Jesus Used
What Was Koine Greek?

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First written and posted on Amazon.com 12 June 2006
Posted on Thoughts and Resources 9 September 2006

Copyright © 2006 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

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