During my time in Israel, I will be working on the material reconstruction of the scrolls from the Judean Desert containing the text of Exodus. For my dissertation, I have been working primarily on textual reconstructions of these scrolls, which I intend to refine and supplement with particular reference to the physical appearance of the preserved fragments and what this tells us about their original physical placement in the manuscript when it was still whole.
I include a couple of brief excerpts from my proposal to provide a little more context for the project:
Textual scholars are naturally interested in texts preserved on ancient manuscripts for their value in explicitly attesting to the antiquity of preserved readings. Less attention is often paid to the full material context in which those preserved texts were transmitted. To many non-specialists material reconstructions of manuscripts may seem tedious and the results too speculative to yield reliable results. Even specialists are often hindered by constraints of time, skill sets, and access to the necessary fragments. Consequently, many studies fail to pursue the material reconstruction of manuscripts to the fullest extent warranted by the evidence and miss important clues about the manuscripts. This is particularly true of the “biblical” scrolls from the Judean Desert, since the reconstruction of such scrolls is often thought to be of relatively minor importance. Since the content and order of the work are already known, what would be the benefit of reconstructing the scrolls beyond what is obviously attested on the preserved fragments?
- I would argue, in contrast, that material reconstruction of “biblical” scrolls has much to offer to the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Material reconstruction can sometimes provide specific information about the size, construction, contents, and order of manuscripts, as well as setting the general context in which preserved readings should be evaluated. It allows us to draw as much information from a given manuscript as the evidence permits, with minimal imposition of information presupposed on the basis of outside sources. In other words, material reconstruction is a necessary tool for letting the scrolls speak for themselves in our studies of texts and textual histories...
- These material reconstructions have great potential to add
important information about four aspects of the scrolls, which are
underdeveloped in many DJD editions.1. Physical features and scribal practices. Material reconstruction can tell us much about the material construction of the scroll.2. Scroll contents. Material reconstructions can tell us whether a scroll likely contained excerpted text, a single work, or multiple works.3. Large pluses/minuses. Material reconstructions can tell us whether a scroll had or lacked significant amounts of text, such as “pre-Samaritan” expansions and others.4. Passage sequence. Material reconstructions can provide independent evidence for the order of passages in a scroll without necessarily presupposing sequences known from other witnesses. This is particularly significant in a book like Exodus, where various witnesses are known to differ in sequence.