• Asking for Trouble: Two Reading Traditions of פללים (Exodus 21:22) in Antiquity

    Amit Gvaryahu (see profile)
    Late Antiquity, New Testament, Textual Scholarship
    Rabbis, Bible, Bible. Old Testament, Coptic language, Ethiopic language, Georgian language, Armenian language, Classical, Syriac language, Aramaic language
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    The Biblical Hebrew word פללים is rare and cryptic. Various readings have been פללים offered for it in its long reception history. Ancient readers of Scripture read in Exod 21:22 in two distinct ways. Some read it as “judges,” whereas others associated פללים with requests, pleas, petitions, and prayers. This latter under- standing of the word is found at Qumran, in the Samaritan Targum, and in sev- eral late-ancient translations of the Greek Bible. It is reflected in the Mishnah, perhaps in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and in the writing of the sixth- century Christian scholar John Philoponus. Academic scholars of the Hebrew Bible, however, were not aware of the reading of פללים as “request” or “petition.” Scholars of later interpretive traditions often attempted to impose the “correct” reading of the word, “judges,” on ancient readers who read it to mean “request.” These different interpretations offer diverging understandings of the verse and the legal remedy it prescribes. The history of this reading tradition is a case study in moving beyond the important questions of Vorlage and historical linguistics to the long and usually unsung history of how biblical words were read by the many diverse communities that made them their own. Finally, these two readings offer different visions for how the Covenant Code was meant to function: Is it meant to be applied by judges, or are individual adherents meant to use it to solve disputes themselves?
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    8 months ago

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