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When a Problem Arises: Scribal Error and Angelic Discourse in Ezekiel 3:12

Sun, December 16, 10:00 to 11:30am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Cambridge 2

Abstract

The Masoretic Text of Ezekiel 3:12 states, “A wind lifted me up, and I heard behind me a great rushing voice (qôl raʿaš gādôl), ‘Blessed (bārûkh) is the glory of Yahweh from his place.’” This direct speech praising the glory of Yahweh finds its parallels in both the manuscript traditions of the Septuagint and Vulgate. Yet, the Masoretes’ notation clearly instructs the reader to substitute the adjective bārûkh, “blessed,” with the infinitive construct bĕrûm, “when (the glory of Yahweh) arose.” Indeed, this description of the ascent of the “glory of Yahweh” is consistent with the imagery and word choice of other passages in Ezekiel (e.g., 10:5, 19; 11:22-23). Many commentators agree that, based on the parallel imagery found elsewhere in Ezekiel and the principle of lectio difficilior, the infinite construct is the original reading of this word. This emendation fundamentally shifts the imagery and reading of the verse as a whole, the latter half changing from quoted speech into a narrative description of the glory of Yahweh rising from its place. The great, resounding voice of an unidentified entity instead becomes the noise generated by the velocity of the glory’s ascent. Instead of a disembodied angelic voice praising the glory of Yahweh, we get instead a sense of the physical immensity of the glory itself lifting off the ground. The introduction of angelic speech in the “misread” version of this verse is one strategy for resolving what might have seemed a difficult passage with awkward syntax. Using Ezekiel 3:12 as a case study, this paper examines how readers make sense of an awkward or difficult biblical text. How does what was perhaps an early scribal error become an opportunity for angelic discourse? What sorts of reading practices develop around this “misreading”?

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