The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaA)—
Catalogue of Textual Variants

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[Page 55]Abstract: In this erudite survey of textual variants in the “Great Isaiah Scroll” from Qumran, Donald W. Parry lays out the major categories of these differences with illustrative examples. This significant description of the most significant book of Old Testament prophecy provides ample evidence of Parry’s conclusion that the “Great Isaiah Scroll” “sets forth such a wide diversity and assortment of textual variants that [it] is indeed a catalogue, as it were, for textual criticism.”

[Editor’s Note: Part of our book chapter reprint series, this article is reprinted here as a service to the LDS community. Original pagination and page numbers have necessarily changed, otherwise the reprint has the same content as the original.

See Donald W. Parry, “The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa)—Catalogue of Textual Variants,” in “To Seek the Law of the Lord”: Essays in Honor of John W. Welch, ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson and Daniel C. Peterson (Orem, UT: The Interpreter Foundation, 2017), 247–65. Further information at]

The Qumran caves, located near the northwestern area of the Dead Sea, yielded twenty-one copies of the book of Isaiah—two from Cave 1, eighteen from Cave 4, and one from Cave 5. An additional copy (making a total of twenty-two copies) of Isaiah was discovered south of Qumran in a cave at Wadi Murabba‘at. All twenty-two copies of Isaiah are written in Hebrew. Most of these scrolls are severely damaged and fragmented, owing to long-term exposure to the elements. Altogether, [Page 56]the Isaiah scrolls represent about 10 percent of all biblical scrolls discovered at Qumran. This statistic alone indicates that Isaiah held a prominent place in the Qumran community, but other indications also reveal Isaiah’s significance. Isaiah’s book is treated as an authoritative work by the Qumran covenanters; in their sectarian writings, they cite, paraphrase, and allude to Isaiah more than any other prophet. These Isaiah quotations and allusions are located in legal, eschatological, and poetic contexts of the sectarian writings and reveal ideological and theological positions of the Qumran community. In addition to the twenty-two Isaiah scrolls themselves and the sectarian writings that include quotes and allusions to Isaiah, the Qumran discoveries included six Isaiah pesharim (commentaries).

The twenty-two copies of Isaiah represent significant archaeological finds. These Isaiah texts, discovered between the years 1947 and 1952, have impacted our understanding of the textual history of the Bible, and translators have utilized them for modern translations of the Bible.

The most significant of the twenty-two copies of Isaiah is called the Great Isaiah Scroll, or 1QIsaa. This scroll is virtually complete, containing all sixty-six chapters. It is the only complete biblical scroll discovered in the eleven Qumran caves; as such, it presents a view of what biblical manuscripts looked like at the end of the Second Temple era, around the first century CE. Unlike the Masoretic Text (MT) with its consonantal and vocalization framework and system of notes, accents, and versification, 1QIsaa features a handwritten manuscript without vocalization or accents. Additionally, 1QIsaa contains interlinear or marginal corrections, scribal marks and notations, a different paragraphing system, and special morphological and orthographic features.

With regard to the topic of this present paper, 1QIsaa contains such an assortment of textual variants versus the readings of MT, that this Qumran scroll may be considered a catalogue of textual variants. By catalogue, I refer to a “complete list of items.” But unlike most catalogues, which generally present items in a systematic manner (such as alphabetical order), the textual variants of 1QIsaa are not so systematized.

Scribal Activity in 1QIsaa Produces Textual Variants

The scribe(s) who copied 1QIsaa from a master copy had somewhat of a free approach to the text, characterized by exegetical or editorial pluses, morphological smoothing and updating, harmonizations, phonetic variants, and modernizations of terms. There is also evidence that a [Page 57]well-intended scribe simplified the text for an audience that no longer understood certain classical Hebrew forms. His editorial tendencies resulted in a popularization of certain terms, some from Aramaic that reflected the language of Palestine in his time period. This free approach, together with errors that occurred during the transmission of the text (e.g., haplography, dittography, graphic similarity, misdivision of words, interchange of letters, transposition of texts), occasionally produced textual variants.

These textual variants may be divided into four categories:

(1) inadvertent errors that have occurred during transmission of the text

(2) intentional changes of the text on the part of the scribes and copyists of either MT Isaiah or 1QIsaa

(3) synonymous readings

(4) scribes’ stylistic approaches and conventions to the text

Not all variant readings, of course, fit neatly into one of these four categories; some readings are indeterminate.

It should be understood that examples of textual variants do not exist solely because of the scribal activity of one single witness or its ancestors, but because of the scribal activity of one or more of the major witnesses. Most of these scribal errors may easily be categorized according to the rules of textual criticism. A single type of reading does not dominate the deviations between MT Isaiah and 1QIsaa. The following examples, which serve to illustrate the variety of such variant readings listed above, demonstrate that 1QIsaa is indeed a catalogue of sorts of textual variants.

(1) Inadvertent Errors

Various publications that reveal the nature of textual criticism refer to mishaps that occur during the transmission of texts.1 These include [Page 58]pluses (e.g., dittography, conflate readings), minuses (e.g., haplography, homoioteleuton,2 homoioarcton), changes (e.g., misdivision of letters or words, ligatures, graphic similarity), and differences in sequence (interchange of letters or metathesis and transposition of words). All of these major categories of accidental errors are present in both of the Hebrew witnesses MT Isaiah and 1QIsaa.

Pluses—Minor Readings

1:2 Xra MT | Xrah 1QIsaa

Most pluses that exist in either MT Isaiah or 1QIsaa consist of function words or common words, such as and, the, all, one, to, for, in, like, et cetera. In Isaiah 1:2, 1QIsaa has the plus of the article on Xra, thus reading Xrah; but the article is lacking on MT Isaiah.

1:15 > MT 4QIsaf | Nwaob Mkytwobxa 1QIsaa

A well-known example of a plus in 1QIsaa is located in Isaiah 1:15, Nwaob Mkytwobxa (your fingers with iniquity). This plus is lacking in MT 4QIsaf. Nwaob Mkytwobxa serves to fill out the parallelism, thus, Nwaob Mkytwobxa walm Mymd hmkydy (“your hands are full of blood, your fingers with iniquity”). It is possible that this plus is a primary reading, which dropped out of the proto-Masoretic text during its transmission history. Watts writes, “The addition [of 1QIsaa] is parallel to the previous stich and would be a metrical improvement on MT.”3 So, too, Burrows states regarding 1QIsaa’s plus that “a fourth stichos would undoubtedly improve the metrical structure.”4 Cohen provides a compelling argument in favor of the originality of the plus belonging to 1QIsaa, presenting four reasons as to why the scroll is to be preferred. Not only does he produce Ugaritic parallels, but he points out that “the parallelism in the first two clauses makes the possibility of parallelism in the second half of the verse more likely.”5

[Page 59]Or, as some textual critics maintain, 1QIsaa features a harmonization, a word or phrase that has been drawn from a similar context or parallel passage, either from Isaiah itself or from another biblical book. This harmonization may have been created from the scribal school that produced 1QIsaa or from its Vorlage. This particular plus, some critics claim, was adapted from 59:3, which reads hmkytwobxaw Mdb wlagn hMkypk ayk. For other passages where blood is paired with iniquity, see 26:21; Ezekial 3:18. For examples of other harmonizations in the scroll, see also 34:4 (cf. Micah 1:4); 51:3 (cf. 35:10; 51:11; 51:6 (cf. 40:26); 52:12 (cf. 54:5); and 60:4 (cf. 66:12).6


Some deviant readings between the witnesses are conflated readings. Although conflated readings are not always clear-cut, one or more textual critics have identified a conflated element in the deviations. In Isaiah 11:9, the reading of 1QIsaa (halmt) is a hybrid verbal form, a conflation, possessing elements of a perfect feminine singular verb (= MT halm) and also the imperfect feminine prefix.7 See also the conflated/hybrid form in Isaiah 63:3 (ytlaga). In Isaiah 14:2, MT reads MDmwøqVm_lRa, but 1QIsaa has a plus, mmwqm law Mtmda la; from whence came Mtmda la? The scroll’s scribe was possibly impacted by the double manifestation of hmda in the immediate context, first attested in verse 1 and then again later in verse 2. Or, 1QIsaa’s reading may be a conflation, based either on its Vorlage or another manuscript that read Mtmda la.


30:30 Aoy°ImVvIh◊w MT | oymCh oymCh 1QIsaa

Aoy°ImVvIh◊w—1QIsaa’s duplication of oymCh serves no rhetorical purpose; rather, it is a dittography.

[Page 60]Haplography

2:3 hGÎwh◊y_rAh_lRa MT 4QIsae ([hwhy ]rh la) Mic 4:2 | > 1QIsaa

hGÎwh◊y_rAh_lRa—For an example of a haplography, see Isaiah 2:3 where 1QIsaa omitted the expression hGÎwh◊y_rAh_lRa by means of haplography, triggered by the prepositions lRa . . . lRa.

6:2 Mˆy™ApÎnV;k v¶Ev Mˆy¢ApÎnV;k vªEv MT | Mypnk CC 1QIsaa

Mˆy™ApÎnV;k v¶Ev Mˆy¢ApÎnV;k vªEv—The copyist of 1QIsaa wrote down Mypnk CC and then skipped the second Mypnk CC, another example of haplography.


4:5–6 M™Dmwøy_lExVl h¶RyVhI;t h¢D;kUs◊w :h`DÚpUj dwäøbD;k_lD;k_lAo y¶I;k hDl◊y¡Dl h™DbDhRl v¶Ea ;hÅgöOn◊w N$DvDo◊w MT 4QIsaa (]|M|m»wy lxl [hyht] hkwsw hpj dwbk lk lo yk \\zl hbhl Ca hgnw[) | > 1QIsaa

Verses 5b–6a dropped out of 1QIsaa through homoioteleuton, when the scribe’s eye went from Mmwy to Mmwy. The reading of MT is supported by both 4QIsaa and other versions.

Confusion of Letters or Graphic Similarity8

Graphically similar readings account for a small number of the readings of 1QIsaa, where either the copyists of MT or the Qumran scroll incorrectly copied the text by using graphically similar characters.

4:4 rob MT | ros 1QIsaa

rob—The variant of 1QIsaa (ros jwrbw, “and by the whirlwind”) has no contextual significance in this passage; it is likely that a copyist slipped by writing samek rather than bet, an error that pertains to the graphic similarity of the two characters. Or he was impacted by the expression hros jwr (“whirlwind” or “stormy wind.”) in Ezekial 1:4; 13:11, 13; Psalms 107:25; 148:8. For support of MT’s reading of rob, see also Jeremiah 21:12 which also collocates the words fpvm and √rob in the context of the execution of judgment.

9:8[English v. 9] wodyw MT | w«oryw 1QIsaa

wodyw—The variants between MT (wodyw) and 1QIsaa (woryw) most likely arose because of the confusion of the letters dalet/resh in the Assyrian square script. For other instances of the dalet/resh interchange in MT [Page 61]and 1QIsaa, see also Isaiah 16:14; 17:6, 12; 22:5; 23:10; 27:2; 33:8; 40:20; 41:19, and others. But it is also possible that the 1QIsaa scribe (or his Vorlage) intentionally rendered the verb woryw (via √oor), thus reading, “And all the people will do evil (woryw), even Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, who say in pride and arrogance of heart…” There is one additional possibility, set forth by Kutscher.9 He reminds us that the √ory (“to tremble”; see Isa. 15:4) may have been the scroll’s intended meaning.

22:5 owCw rq MT | wCdq 1QIsaa

1QIsaa reads wCdq. According to Weingreen, this is an example of graphic similarity: owCw rq = wCdq. The ayin may have lost its guttural sound late in antiquity and a scribe read the dalet for the resh.10 Consequently, the same scribe or a subsequent copyist changed the preposition la to lo in order to make sense of the passage. Contrast Weingreen with Blenkinsopp,11 who prefers the reading of 1QIsaa. He writes that verse “5b [of MT] defies translation and has probably been seriously damaged in the transmission; the present translation depends on 1QIsaa (mqrqr qdšv ‘lhhr), which makes better though by no means perfect sense and which MT (mqrqr qr všv‘ ’l hhr) may represent a damaged version.” Blenkinsopp, therefore, translates verse 5b, “with crying out for help to his holy place on the mountain.”

Misdivision of Words

9:2[English v. 3] al MTket 1QIsaa (awl) | MTqere wl

al ywgh—For other occasions where awl reads “to him” (versus “no, not”), see Isaiah 3:11. Ginsburg proposes that the original reading was alygh = hlygh (“the rejoicing”); this word experienced an improper misdivision of words and subsequently the waw was incorrectly added.12 hlygh fits the context and also corresponds with hjmCh in the parallelism: “You have increased the rejoicing, you have magnified the joy.”

[Page 62]Interchange of Letters or Metathesis13

3:7 hlmc MT | hmlC 1QIsaa

hlmc—MT (h¡DlVmIc) and 1QIsaa (hmlC) exhibit two different words for garment or clothing. In the Hebrew Bible, hlmc (31 times) is attested approximately twice as often as hmlC (16 times). Both carry the same meaning. Kutscher produces a body of evidence “that hmlC is the original form and hlmC of later vintage”; at some point through the transmission of the word, hmlC came about by means of metathesis.14 Based on the fact that the previous verse (3:6) is part of the same pericope and that verse attests hlmc for both MT and 1QIsaa, then hmlC in 1QIsaa 3:7 signifies an error, an example of metathesis of the mem and lamed. Or, alternatively, the scribe’s Vorlage already contained the reading of hmlC.  Compare also the variant of wntlmcw and wntmlCw  in 4:1.

Possible Ligature

20:6 …wnVs§An MT | Kmsn 1QIsaa

…wnVs§An—MT and 1QIsaa produce two different verbal roots, √swn (“to flee”) and √Kms (“to lean, support”) respectively. MT has the primary reading, because √swn is often collocated with ‹MDv (e.g., Gen. 19:20; Exod. 21:13; Num. 35:6), an adverbial particle that follows the verb in both MT and 1QIsaa in the verse under discussion. √Kms followed by Mv (= 1QIsaa) is unprecedented in the Bible and achieves an awkward reading. It is possible that the scroll’s scribe changed the verbal root to reflect his particular historical understanding regarding the pericope under discussion, the Conquest of Ethiopia and Egypt: Isaiah’s Dramatization (Isa. 20:1–6). Thus Pulikottil has written, “The scribe wanted to make it clear that the people of the coastland did not flee to Egypt for help, which never happened; they only relied on the military assistance of Egypt.”15 It is more probable, owing to the graphic similarities of wnsn and Kmsn (both forms begin with nun and samek, plus a ligatured nun and waw share the appearance of a mem), that the scribe simply misread or miscopied the verb that was in his Vorlage.

[Page 63]Word Order16

1:30 Ny¶Ea Mˆy™Am MT 4QIsaf ([Nya ]|M»ym) | mym Nya 1QIsaa

Ny¶Ea Mˆy™Am—These terms are syntactically variegated (or transposed) in MT versus 1QIsaa. Both Nya Mym (= MT and 4QIsaf; see also Num. 20:5) and Mym Nya (= 1QIsaa; see also Exod. 17:1; Num. 21:5; Deut. 8:15; Isa. 50:2; Jer. 38:6; Zech. 9:11) exist in the Bible, although Mym Nya is more common. Because of the multiple examples of such variations, Talmon has written that the “widely encountered textual phenomenon of inter-Version variations in the form of syntactical inversion cannot be judged to be merely an indication of ordinary scribal laxity.”17 Instead, Talmon sees many examples of such variations as “evidence for the existence of equally valid text-traditions which cannot be reduced to one common archetype, and/or scribal manifestations of stylistic conventions.”18 For other examples of syntactical variations between MT and 1QIsaa, see Isaiah 23:9; 36:12; 37:1, 7, 32–33; 38:19; 43:3; 49:6, 25; 52:7; 55:13; 60:7; 61:7; 62:8; 63:9, 17. For syntactical variations between MT and for 1QIsab, see 52:13 and 62:8. And for an example of a syntactical variation between MT and 4QIsaf, see 8:7.

36:12 ‹ÔKy‹RlEa◊w ÔKy§RnOdSa l°RaAh MT 2 Kings 18:27 (‹ÔKy‹RlEa◊w ÔKy§RnOdSa l°AoAh) | hmkynwda low hmkylah 1QIsaa

‹ÔKy‹RlEa◊w ÔKy§RnOdSa l°RaAh—1QIsaa (hmkynwda low hmkylah) presents a different word order than MT’s. For a discussion of syntactical inversions or variations between MT and 1QIsaa, see 1:30 above.

37:7 j…w$r ‹wø;b MT 2 Kings 19:7 | awb jwr 1QIsaa

j…w$r ‹wø;b—MT and 1QIsaa (awb jwr) have a different word order for these two words. Note that the scribe often spelled wb with the alep (cf. also ayk = yk; awl = wl).

(2) Intentional Changes

Scribes and copyists of either MT or 1QIsaa intentionally made changes to the Isaiah text. These changes include exegetical pluses or late editorial [Page 64]additions, harmonizations (when a scribe blends one reading with a second reading that is located in the immediate or greater context, or with a parallel text), morphological smoothing, morphological updating, updating the vocabulary, euphemistic changes, orthographic variants, and phonetic differences.

Exegetical Plus

44:3 qxa2 MT | qxaNk prec 1QIsaa

qxa2—The adverbial particle Nk (thus, so) is an exegetical plus in 1QIsaa that was inserted interlinearly, probably to assist in the flow of reading between two clauses in the verse.


34:4 > MT | woqbty Myqmohw 1QIsaa

woqbty Myqmohw—This plus of 1QIsaa, listed by scholars in verse 4, actually belongs to verse 3. Brownlee declares the plus of 1QIsaa to be a harmonization, derived from Micah 1:4 (woqbty Myqmohw). He further argues that the reading of MT (v. 3), minus the plus of 1QIsaa, comprises a tristich as follows: “Their slain shall be flung out, and from their corpses their own stench shall rise—the mountains melting down with blood!” (translation by Brownlee). The third line of this tristich, writes Brownlee, serves as a “climax or conclusion” to the parallelistic structure, and that such a configuration is quite acceptable by modern scholars.19 While the reading of MT is acceptable, the following two bicolons that are attested in the Qumran scroll also comprise a satisfactory structure, with “the valleys will be split” filling out the second bicolon: “Their slain will be cast down, and the stench of their corpses will rise, mountains will melt with their blood, the valleys will be split.” The plus of the scroll may have been derived from Micah 1:4 (or vice versa) or from a source that is common to both the book of Micah and the Isaiah Scroll or its Vorlage.

[Page 65]Morphological Smoothing20

57:18 wäøl My¢ImUj`In MªE;lAvSaÅw MT 1QIsab (wl M»y«mjn hmlCaw) | awl Mymwjnt awl MlCaw 1QIsaa

1QIsaa doubles the dative pronoun (awl Mymwjnt awl MlCaw) via conflation. With regard to the MT reading  Mymjn, 1QIsab and 1QIsaa has Mymwjnt, which is the Mishnaic Hebrew form.21 This is direct evidence that the scroll’s scribe has modernized this word.

The deviation between MT (wáø;l “to him”) and 1QIsaa (awl “to him”) is not a variant reading, but an orthographic difference. Often the scroll writes “to him” with an alep (compare also ayk = yk; awb = wb). For other examples of awl (“to him”), see Isaiah 5:26; 9:2 (MTqere = wl; MTket = al); 31:8; 36:22; 44:7; 57:18 (bis in the scroll); 59:16; 63:9.

62:1 h$RvTjRa MT | Cyrja 1QIsaa

h$RvTjRa—Following the negative particle al are variant verbal roots, √hCj in MT and √Crj in 1QIsaa. These verbs are employed as synonymous readings in at least two parallelistic structures (see Isa. 42:14; Ps. 28:1), but here they are deviations in the first bicolon of verse 1. The reading of 1QIsaa may have been assimilated from one of these two parallelisms (Isa. 42:14 or Ps. 28:1); or, according to Talmon, the Qumran scroll “presumably perpetuated an established reading.”22 The theory held by Kutscher23 that a scribe of 1QIsaa modernized the reading from the relatively rare √hCj (16 occurrences in the Hebrew Bible) to the more popular √Crj (47 occurrences in the Hebrew Bible) may be questioned because √hCj was not modernized in other verses of 1QIsaa, i.e., 42:14; 57:11; 62:6; 64:11, and 65:6.

[Page 66]Morphological Updating

13:10 …w;l™EhÎy MT | wryay 1QIsaa

…w;l™EhÎy—MT …w;l™EhÎy (via √llh, “to shine”) sets forth the difficult reading, because √llh occurs only four times in the Bible (Isa. 13:10; Job 29:3; 31:26; 41:10) and this verb does not exist in Rabbinic Hebrew. The scribe of 1QIsaa replaced the rare wlhy with the common wryay (via √rwa), thus updating the text to a common biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew root.

37:13 h`D…wIo◊w MT 2 Kings 19:9 | + NwrmwCw 1QIsaa

h`D…wIo◊w—37:11–13 refers to nations, kingdoms, and city-states that Assyria had destroyed, including Gozen, Haran, Rezeph, Telassar, Hamath, Arpad, Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah. At the end of the list of names of nations and city-states, 1QIsaa adds “and Samaria” (NwrmwCw). Scholars generally agree that the invasion of Sennacherib into the kingdom of Judah (36:1–21) and Hezekiah’s reaction (36:22–37:20) occurred after Samaria’s destruction in 722 BCE. The 1QIsaa scribe therefore added “and Samaria” to the text with the intent of updating the list of kingdoms and city-states. But this addition is unnecessary because the list of names in verses 11–13 was not meant to be comprehensive, but representative. Samaria was not listed simply because Hezekiah would have already been painfully aware of its destruction, for Samaria was his northern neighbor.

Updating the Vocabulary24

33:7 …wëqSoDx MT | wqoz 1QIsaa

wëqSoDx—In the Bible, √qoz and √qox have the same meaning (“to cry out”). In Isaiah 14:31; 15:4–5; 26:17; 30:19; 57:13, both MT and 1QIsaa attest √qoz; in Isaiah 19:20, both MT and 1QIsaa have √qox. But in Isaiah 33:7; 42:2; 46:7; 65:14, these two witnesses have deviations—MT reads √qox and the scroll has √qoz. In other words, of the eleven occurrences of √qoz/√qox in Isaiah, the Qumran scroll has √qoz ten times, but uses √qox only once. Inasmuch as the √qoz is used more often in later biblical books,25 it appears that the scroll’s copyist updated the vocabulary from √qox to √qoz in 33:7; 42:2; 46:7; 65:14. The versions cannot shed light on these readings.

[Page 67]Euphemistic Changes

Biblical scholars provide examples of indelicate words or anthropomorphisms that have been removed from the Hebrew Bible and replaced with euphemisms26 or dysphemisms. Yeivin, for example, cites TB Megilla 25b, “Wherever the text is written indelicately, we read it delicately” and posits, “In 16 cases in the Bible, the qere form presents a euphemism.”27 Ginsburg maintains that “authoritative redactors of the Sacred Scriptures”28 removed indelicate words and anthropomorphisms.

36:12 MRhyEa√rAj MTket 1QIsaa (hmhyrj) 2 Kings 18:27 | Mtawx MTqereMRhy´nyEv MTket 1QIsaa (hmhynyC) 2 Kings 18:27 MTket | Mhylgr ymym MTqere 2 Kings 18:27qere

MRhyEa√rAj—This word (cf. 2 Kings 18:27) belongs to the list of words in Megilla 25b that are considered to be indelicate expressions; Mtawx (“filth”) is to be its euphemistic substitution. Hence the MTket/ MTqere reading here.

19:18 s®r$RhAh MT | srjh 1QIsaa 4QIsab | brjml adytod CmC tyb Tg •

s®r$RhAh—MT reads “the city of destruction” and two Qumran scrolls attest “the city of the sun.” On the one hand, the variants between the Qumran scrolls and MT may be represented by a simple copyist error, writing he instead of het, or vice versa.29 On the other hand, critics have argued that a redactor/editor of MT made a tendentious change to the text, or what McCarthy calls “a secondary dysphemism.”30 This textual change came about, according to one theory, to protect the legitimacy of the Jerusalem temple against a Jewish temple that was believed to have existed in Heliopolis.31 HOTTP, Kutscher, and Wildberger support “City of the Sun” as the original reading.32

[Page 68]Phonetic Differences

40:11 My$IaDlVf MT | Mylf 1QIsaa

My$IaDlVf—1QIsaa’s Mylf deviation of My$IaDlVf is an orthographic deviation, based on phonetics.33

16:1 oAl∞R;sIm MT | hlsm 1QIsaa

oAl∞R;sImSela in this verse may refer to a proper name of a site in Moab, which some lexica suggest is Petra; or Sela may signify a cliff.34 Elsewhere in the Bible, ols means “rock” or “cliff.” 1QIsaa’s hls may be an alternate spelling found in the scribe’s Vorlage or known to the scribe; or more likely, hls indicates a phonetic error.35

(3) Synonymous Readings36

A few of the textual variants in MT Isaiah and 1QIsaa consist of synonymous readings. According to Talmon, synonymous readings are characterized as follows:

a) They result from the substitution of words and phrases by others which are used interchangeably and synonymously with them in the literature of the OT. b) They do not affect adversely the structure of the verse, nor do they disturb either its meaning or its rhythm. Hence they cannot be explained as scribal errors. c) No sign of systematic or tendentious emendation can be discovered in them. They are to be taken at face value…If, as far as we can tell, they are not the product of different chronologically or geographically distinct linguistic strata.”37

[Page 69]Representative examples of synonymous readings include the following.

24:1 X®r™DaDh MT 4QIsac | hmdah 1QIsaa

X®r™DaDh—MT and 4QIsac set forth X®r™DaDh, versus 1QIsaa’s synonymous reading of hmdah. Two items support the reading of Xrah: the pericope, consisting of 24:1–12, features Xra eight times (but never hmda); and verse 3a (Xrah qwbt qwbh, “the earth is completely made empty”) rhetorically develops the reading of verse 1a (Xrah qqwb hwhy, “the LORD makes the earth empty”); that is, both expressions collocate Xra with √qqb.38

29:3 tíOrUxVm MT | twdwxm 1QIsaa | røwxm 4QIsaf

tíOrUxVm—MT and 1QIsaa attest readings that are graphically similar and that have synonymous meanings: MT has tíOrUxVm (“fortresses”) and 1QIsaa sets forth twdwxm (“strongholds”). Inasmuch as both words work well in the context, it is not easy to settle on a primary reading. These two readings may point to a vario lectio, but it is more probable that a scribe of either Hebrew witness (or tradition, i.e., the proto-MT or 1QIsaa) misread his Vorlage and wrote a resh in place of a dalet, or vice versa. See also the variants htdxmw and htrxmw in Isaiah 29:7. Another possibility, set forth by Kutscher, is that the words hrxm and hdxm “changed places” between verses 3 and 7.39

35:9 l`A;b MT 4QIsab | + awl 1QIsaa · añøl2 4QIsab | awlw 1QIsaa

l`A;b—The double negative in 1QIsaa (awl lb), unknown in the Hebrew Bible, is probably the result of a error. The scribe first wrote lb, which is the primary reading, and then duplicated the awl from verse 8, vertically located on the line above on the scroll (see col. xxviii, line 25). The vertical borrowing explains why MT and 4QIsab lack the double negative. Other possibilities, however, exist. awl lb may be a conflated reading; or awl may be the primary reading and lb a synonymous reading acquired from another text-type.40

39:2 wáø;tVlAvVmRm MT 2 Kings 20:13 | wtklmm 1QIsaa

wáø;tVlAvVmRm—The nouns wáø;tVlAvVmRm and wtklmm are synonymous or near synonymous readings. Tov refers to synonymous readings as [Page 70]“interchangeable words [that] entered the manuscript tradition at all stages of the transmission, both consciously and unconsciously.”41

(4) Scribes’ Stylistic Approaches and Conventions to the Text

The scribes’ stylistic choices, conventions, or idiosyncrasies account for a number of variant readings that exist in the Hebrew witnesses of Isaiah. Examples of scribal stylistic preferences include the following:

Changes to Proper Names

1:1 …whªD¥yˆΩzUo MT | hyzwo 1QIsaa…wh™D¥yIq◊zIj◊y MT | hyqzjy 1QIsaa

whªD¥yˆΩzUo—During the Second Temple era, theophoric names customarily featured shorter forms, that is, hyqzjy and hyzwo. 1QIsaa generally employs the shorter forms throughout Isaiah, but with a few exceptions the longer form is used. In verse 1, for example, the scroll attests whyoCy instead of hyoCy. See also the theophoric names listed in Isaiah 36:1, 14–16, 22; 37:1–3, 6, etc.42

Division of Letters

66:1 h¶Rz_yEa . . . h¶Rz_yEa◊w | hzya . . . hzyaw 1QIsaa 1QIsab

h¶Rz_yEa . . . h¶Rz_yEa◊w—The deviations here are not textual variants, but stylistic differences.

Filling Out a Parallelism

35:6 > MT | wkly 1QIsaa

wkly—The plus of 1QIsaa, having no support from other witnesses, may be an attempt to fill out the parallelism, with wkly corresponding to …wôoVqVbˆn. Tov attributes the plus of 1QIsaa to a scribal contextual change, derived “from the copyist’s stylistic feelings”43 and points out that all nouns in this verse, except for My™IlDj◊n…w (“streams”), are “assigned specific verbs. The scroll sensed the lack of a verb in this last clause and supplied [Page 71]it, thus filling a conceptual void.”44 But Blenkinsopp prefers this plus of 1QIsaa, and thus translates the bicolon as “Yes, water will burst forth in the desert, wadis flow (wkly) in the wilderness.”45 MT, followed by the versions, has the primary reading.

Particles Kya and hkya

1:21 ‹hDkyEa MT | hkyh 1QIsaa

‹hDkyEa—The particles KyEa (61x in MT), hDkyEa (17x in MT), hDk¶DkyEa (4x in MT), and JKyEh (2x in MT) are exclamatory interrogatives meaning “how.” In the verse under discussion, 1QIsaa’s unique reading hkyh is a derivation of JKyEh, which appears only in late BH texts (Dan. 10:17, 1 Chron. 13:12). 1QIsaa’s hkyh may have been influenced by Aramaic46 or it is a hybrid of hkya and yh.47 See also Isaiah 14:12, where the scroll reads |hkyh, versus MT’s Ky¢Ea. Elsewhere in Isaiah, MT has KyEa where 1QIsaa reads hkya (Isa. 14:4; 36:9 [MT = 2 Kings 18:24]; 48:11 [MT = 4QIsad]). Only twice does MT and the scroll have the equivalent reading of the particle JKyEa (Isa. 19:11; 20:6).

Orthographic Variants

15:3 ly™Il´y◊y MT | lylyhy 1QIsaa

ly™Il´y◊y—The deviation between MT (= ly™Il´y◊y) and 1QIsaa (= lylyhy) is orthographic. The root letters are lly for both words and both have the same translational values. Note that in Isaiah 52:5, MT sets forth ‹…‹…wly‹IlyEh◊y with the infixed he, as it is found in 1QIsaa in the verse under discussion. For two textual variants of √lly that exist between these two Hebrew witnesses, see 23:1 and 52:5.

Presentative Exclamations

20:6 h´…nIh MT 1QIsaa | Nh 4QIsaa

h´…nIhNh and h´…nIh are presentative exclamations that serve to give emphasis to “the immediacy, the here-and-now-ness, of the situation.”48 [Page 72]In the Bible, hnh is ten times more common than Nh (approximately 1,060 occurrences of hnh versus 100 attestations of Nh), with Nh found most often in the books of Job (32 times) and Isaiah (27 times). There is no difference in meaning or use between the two presentatives.49 MT and 1QIsaa deviate with Nh and hnh in the following verses: 23:13; 32:1; 38:17; 41:24, 29; 42:1; 44:11; 49:16, 21; 50:1–2, 9 bis, 11; 54:15–16 (MTqere h´…nIh); 55:4–5; 56:3; 58:4; 59:1; 64:4, 8. With the exception of 38:17, MT reads Nh versus 1QIsaa, which has hnh. In 38:17, MT attests hnh and 1QIsaa reads Nh. These deviations (a) indicate a different scribal school; (b) that the Vorlage of the scroll read hnh; or (c) the 1QIsaa scribe had a tendency to popularize Nh to read hnh.

Abbreviated Form ynm

22:4 ynm MT | ynmm 1QIsaa

ynmynmm is a common form in the Bible, occurring approximately one hundred eighty times. Contrast ynmm with the abbreviated ynm (vocalized as yˆ…nIm), which is found only in Isaiah 22:4; 30:1; 38:12; Psalms 18:23; 65:4; 139:19; Job 16:6; 21:16; 22:18; and 30:10. For MT’s three occurrences of ynm in Isaiah, 1QIsaa reads ynmm in 22:4 and 30:1, but equals MT with its reading of ynm in Isaiah 38:12. The translational value of ynm and ynmm are the same, as indicated by Ibn Ezra in his commentary to Isaiah 30:1.

Prepositions dAo and ydo

26:5 dAo . . . dAo MT 4QIsac (do . . . [do]) | ydo . . . ydo 1QIsaa

dAo . . . dAo—For this preposition that is attested in MT and 4QIsac, 1QIsaa has the older form ydo.50 The translational value is the same for both dAo and ydo, although suffixed forms (ÔKy#®dDoŒ, Dhy#®dDoŒ, M#Rkyéd`Do◊w, etc.) of the preposition were built upon ydo. For the reading Xra ydo in 1QIsaa 26:5, compare Psalms 147:6 (X®r`Da_yédSo).

Morphological Forms hdwob and hndwob

28:4 ;hñ∂dwøoV;b MT | hndwob 1QIsaa

;hñ∂dwøoV;b—Both MT (= hñ∂dwøoV;b) and 1QIsaa (= hndwob with an unetymological letter nun) are legitimate morphological forms, with both having the same translational value. Watts remarks that hndwob is “a seemingly [Page 73]meaningless nun epenthetic before the suffix.”51 For the form hndwob, see also 1 Kings 1:22.


1QIsaa contains a great number of textual variants, which may be categorized as follows: (1) accidental errors; (2) intentional changes; (3) synonymous readings; and (4) scribes’ stylistic approaches. These four categories include multiple examples of haplography, homoioteleuton, dittography, confusion of letters (graphic similarity), conflation, pluses, minuses, misdivision of words, interchange of letters (metathesis), transposition of word order, possible ligature, exegetical or editorial pluses, synonymous readings, changes to proper names, improper division of letters, filling out a poetic parallelism, morphological smoothing and updating, euphemistic changes, harmonizations, phonetic variants, peculiar orthographic variants, and modernizations of terms. The textual variants of 1QIsaa sets forth such a wide diversity and assortment of textual variants that this scroll is indeed a catalogue, as it were, for textual criticism.

1. It is a privilege to dedicate this article to my friend and colleague John Welch for his many contributions to studies of import to Latter-day Saints.

The most complete and up-to-date study of biblical Hebrew textual criticism is Emanuel Tov’s Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992). See also Christian D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible (London: Trinitarian Bible Society, 1897; reprinted with prolegomenon by Harry M. Orlinsky, New York: Ktav, 1966); J. Weingreen, Introduction to the Critical Study of the Text of the Hebrew Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982). Compare also the more brief treatments of the subject by Julio T. Barrera, The Jewish Bible and the Christian Bible, trans. W. G. E. Watson (Brill: Leiden, 1998), 367–421 and Ernst Würthwein, The Text of the Old Testament, trans. Erroll F. Rhodes; Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI, 1995), 107–22.

2. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition, 171–82, features a methodical examination of minuses caused by homoioteleuton.
3. John D. W. Watts, “Isaiah 1–33,” in Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 24, ed. David Hubbard and Glenn Barker (Waco, TX: Word, 1985), 14.
4. M. Burrows, “Variant Readings in the Isaiah Manuscript,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR) 111 (Oct. 1948): 19.
5. Chaim Cohen, “A Philological Reevaluation of Some Significant DSS Variants of the MT in Isaiah 1–5,” in Diggers at the Well: Proceedings of a Third International Symposium on the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Ben Sira, ed. Takamitsu Muraoka and John F. Elwolde, Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah (STDJ) 36 (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 47.
6. For an additional discussion on harmonizations, see J. Koenig, L’herméneutique analogique du judaïsme antique d’après les témoins textuels d’Isaïe, Vetus Testamentum, Supplements 33 (Leiden: Brill, 1982).
7. See Shemaryahu Talmon, “Aspects of the Textual Transmission in the Light of Qumran Manuscripts,” in Qumran and the History of the Biblical Text, ed. Frank Moore Cross and Shemaryahu Talmon (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975), 248.
8. See Weingreen, Introduction to the Critical Study, 38–45, for examples of graphically similar letters together with examples of variants in the HB.
9. E. Y. Kutscher, The Language and Linguistic Background of the Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa), STDJ 6 (Leiden: Brill, 1974), 246.
10. Weingreen, Introduction to the Critical Study, 53.
11. Joseph Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39, Vol. 19 of Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 332.
12. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition, 161.
13. For additional examples of metathesis in the Hebrew Bible, see H. Junker, “Konsonantenumstellung als Fehlerquelle und textkritisches Hilfsmittel im AT,” Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (BZAW) 66 (1936): 162–74.
14. Kutscher, The Language and Linguistic Background of the Isaiah Scroll, 288.
15. Paulson Pulikottil, Transmission of Biblical Texts in Qumran: The Case of the Large Isaiah Scroll 1QIsaa (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), 132.
16. It is not always easy to determine if the category “Word Order” belongs to “Inadvertent Errors” or to “Intentional Changes.” Unless there is evidence to the contrary, I am placing “Word Order” in the grouping of “Inadvertent Errors.”
17. Shemaryahu Talmon, “Textual Study of the Bible—A New Outlook,” Qumran and the History of the Biblical Text, ed. Frank Moore Cross and Shemaryahu Talmon (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975) 370–71.
18. Ibid.
19. W. H. Brownlee, The Meaning of the Qumran Scrolls for the Bible. With Special Attention to the Book of Isaiah (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), 184–85.
20. Smoothing, together with archaizing and modernizing, are “three related skewing processes which are involved in text production and preservation.” Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 11. For examples of smoothing from the Samaritan Pentateuch, see 13. Morphological smoothing is a scribal activity that seeks to remove textual unevenness or inconsistencies through leveling out the text. Such inconsistencies may pertain to morphological, phonological, or syntactical structures.
21. Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli, and the Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005), 1681.
22. Shemaryahu Talmon, “Observations on Variant Readings in the Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa),” in The World of Qumran from Within: Collected Studies (Leiden: Brill, 1990), 128.
23. Kutscher, The Language and Linguistic Background of the Isaiah Scroll, 34, 239.
24. Occasionally scribes from the Hebrew witnesses of Isaiah have updated the vocabulary, replacing archaic and outdated words with contemporary usage.
25. See the discussion in Kutscher, The Language and Linguistic Background of the Isaiah Scroll, 233.
26. On euphemisms in the Bible, see the study of Abraham Geiger, Urschrift und Übersetzungen der Bibel in ihrer Abhängigkeit von der inneren Entwicklung des Judenthums (Breslau: Hainauer, 1857; repr., Frankfurt: Madda, 1928), 267–68.
27. Israel Yeivin, Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah, trans. E. J. Revell (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1980), 56.
28. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition, 346–347; see also 347–404.
29. For other examples of he/het confusion, see Kutscher, The Language and Linguistic Background of the Isaiah Scroll, 506.
30. Carmel McCarthy, The Tiqqune Sopherim and Other Theological Corrections in the Masoretic Text of the Old Testament (OBO, Freibureg and GÖttingen, 1981), 239.
31. M. Delcor, “Le Temple d’Onias en Egypte,” Revue Biblique (RB) 75 (1968):188–205.
32. See Hebrew Old Testament Text Project (HOTTP ) Vol. 4, 45; Kutscher, The Language and Linguistic Background of the Isaiah Scroll, 116, and Hans Wildberger, Isaiah 13–27, Continental Commentaries (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997), 727.
33. For additional examples on variants based on phonetics, see G. R. Driver, “Hebrew Scrolls,” Journal of Theological Studies 2 (1951): 18.
34. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (BDB), 701.
35. See also M. Burrows, “Variant Readings in the Isaiah Manuscript.” BASOR 113 (1948): 25.
36. See Shemaryahu Talmon, “Synonymous Readings in the Textual Traditions of the Old Testament,” Scripta hierosolymitana 8 (1961): 335–83. See also Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, 260–61; and F. Díaz Esteban, Sefer Okhlah we-Okhlah (Madrid 1975), 193-94, on the interchange of synonymous expressions “and he spoke” versus “and he said” in the manuscripts.
37. Talmon, “Synonymous Readings,” 336. Sanderson defines synonymous readings as “those variants for which no preferable reading can be determined even with probability. They are different legitimate ways of expressing the same idea.” J. E. Sanderson, An Exodus Scroll from Qumran (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986), 41; see also 109–10.
38. For other examples of synonymous substitutions in 1QIsaa, see Burrows, “Variant Readings in the Isaiah Manuscript,” BASOR 113 (1948): 27.
39. Kutscher, The Language and Linguistic Background of the Isaiah Scroll, 260.
40. Talmon, “Aspects of the Textual Transmission of the Bible,” 242–43.
41. Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, 260; see also Talmon, “Synonymous Readings,” 335–83.
42. For a discussion of the forms of the name Hezekiah in 1QIsaa, see Beegle, D. M. “Proper Names in the New Isaiah Scroll,” BASOR 123 (1951): 28–9.
43. Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, 263. See also Pulikottil, Transmission of Biblical Texts in Qumran, 79.
44. Paulson Pulikottil, Transmission of Biblical Texts in Qumran: The Case of the Large Isaiah Scroll 1QIsaa (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), 79.
45. Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 1–39, 455.
46. See Michael Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic of the Talmudic and Geonic Periods (Ramat-Gan, Israel: Bar Ilan University Press, 2002), 377.
47. Kutscher, The Language and Linguistic Background of the Isaiah Scroll, 390.
48. T. O. Lambdin, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew (New York: Scribner, 1971), 168.
49. See C. J. Labuschagne, “The Particles Nh and h´…nh,” Oudtestamentische Studiën 18 (1973): 1–14.
50. See Waltke and O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, 215.
51. Watts, Isaiah 1–33, 360.

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About Donald W. Parry

Donald W. Parry, Abraham O. Smoot Professorship, is a professor of the Hebrew Bible at Brigham Young University. Parry has authored or edited 40 books on the Bible, Dead Sea Scrolls, and related topics. His latest title, Exploring the Isaiah Scrolls and Their Textual Variants, was published by E. J. Brill, Leiden, NDL, 2020. He has served as a member of the International Team of Translators of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jerusalem, since 1994. Parry is a member of several other professional organizations, including the International Organization of Qumran Studies, Groningen, NDL; The International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament, Groningen, NDL; the Society for Biblical Literature, Atlanta, GA; and the National Association of Professors of Hebrew, Madison, WI.

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