Ugaritic Spelling Errors -- By: M. E. J. Richardson

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 24:1 (NA 1973)
Article: Ugaritic Spelling Errors
Author: M. E. J. Richardson


Ugaritic Spelling Errors

M. E. J. Richardson

The Tyndale Biblical Archaeology Lecture 1971*

* Delivered at Tyndale House, Cambridge, in July 1971.

Ilimilku, or Elimelek if his name is Hebraized, was a man who would have commanded our respect, for he was one of the very neat scribes at the city of Ugarit in the thirteenth century BC. We may identify him from his autograph at the end of one of the tablets from the story of Baal:

‘The scribe was Ilmlk from Šbn, a pupil of Atnprln, chief priest and chief pastor from T’y’1

He has left his mark on another tablet2 and Mlle. A. Herdner, who has worked through the collection as a whole, has described his handwriting as ‘écriture fine’, ‘serée’, ‘menue’, or ‘soignée’. It is not ‘grande’ or ‘grossière’ like that of other scribes.

While his handwriting commands our unqualified respect, his spelling is often questionable. The tablet which he wrote and which has just been cited contained about 310 lines originally. At present only 180 lines are preserved, and some of these are partly damaged, but in the part that is legible at least twenty spelling errors have been observed. In other words, 3 % or 4% of the words are spelled wrongly, and this is a disturbingly large percentage. Had mistakes occurred to this extent in the Hebrew Bible they would be found in every third or fourth line of most manuscripts. There is general disagreement about the extent of textual corruption in the Old Testament, but F. Delitzsch discussed over three thousand errors.3 Although many of these could now be discounted in the light

of modern scholarship, in the same light others could very easily be added to the list. So it seems pertinent to examine the supposed scribal lapses at Ugarit in the hope that their significance may shed light in the discussion of similar errors in Biblical manuscripts.

Types Of Error

As far as the Old Testament is concerned different reasons are given for suggesting an emendation of the text. The emendation may be described as substantiated if the preferred reading is found in an alternative Hebrew manuscript, or if it is inferred from an ancient translation. The critic can refer to clear objective factors to support his emendation, having given due consideration to the accuracy of the parallel Hebrew manuscript or to the particular style of the translator in question. W...

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