A New Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible - Ronald Hendel: The Bible and Interpretation - August 2014
Recently the SBL announced its sponsorship of a new text-critical project, “The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition,” of which I am the general editor. The HBCE represents a new model for a critical edition of the Hebrew Bible, although it will be generally familiar to scholars who use critical editions of other ancient works such as the Septuagint or New Testament. The HBCE will consist of critical texts of each book of the Hebrew Bible, accompanied by extensive text-critical commentary and introductions to each volume. A critical text (sometimes called an eclectic text) is one that contains the best readings according to the judgment of the editor. The editors are eminent scholars from North America, Europe, Africa, and Israel.
The HBCE text will not reproduce a single manuscript [as is the case with the other critical editions, BHQ (= Biblia Hebraica Quinta) and HUBP (= Hebrew University Bible Project)], but will approximate the manuscript that was the latest common ancestor of all the extant manuscripts. This “earliest inferable text” is called the archetype. This is not identical to the original text (however one defines this elusive term), but is the earliest recoverable text of a particular book. To be more precise, the HBCE critical text will approximate the corrected archetype, since the archetype will have some scribal errors that can be remedied. (...)
As a twenty-first century project, the HBCE will have a sophisticated electronic version, which will include all the material from the print volumes plus all the texts and versions, including photographs of important manuscripts. The electronic HBCE will be an interactive polyglot edition, including the HBCE critical text and commentary. It will be free and open-access (...)
The HBCE project (under its former moniker, the Oxford Hebrew Bible) has attracted some serious criticism from distinguished textual critics, including Emanuel Tov, Hugh Williamson, and Adrian Schenker. As a new model, it raises many difficult theoretical and methodological issues. I welcome the criticisms of these and other scholars, because their arguments have inspired us to clarify and improve our theory and method. Detailed argument is the lifeblood of good scholarship, and in our case it has helped us to refine our project in its formative stages.
Some scholars hold that a fully critical edition of the Hebrew Bible -- featuring a critical text -- is an impossible or unimaginable goal. We maintain that the attempt is warranted -- and is indeed the goal of textual criticism. It will not be a perfect text, but it will be a valuable contribution to scholarship and will create new tools for future research...
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The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition (HBCE) will be a new critical edition of the Hebrew Bible featuring a critical text and extensive text-critical introduction and commentary. Each book of the Hebrew Bible will be addressed in a separate volume, with a single volume each for the Minor Prophets, the Megillot, and Ezra-Nehemiah. This project represents a departure from the other major textual editions (the Biblia Hebraica Quinta and the Hebrew University Bible), which are diplomatic editions.
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