Emanuel Tov’s book is a lengthy description of the field of textual criticism as well as his approach. The following are my brief notes on his second revised edition (2001):


  • He gives good definitions:

Textual Criticism (definition): deals with the origin and nature of all forms of a text, in our case the biblical text.

Lower Criticism (definition): is an expression used widely in previous generations to refer to textual criticism. It serves as the antithesis to the term Higher Criticism or literary criticism.

Urtext (definition): the completed literary composition which had already passed through several written stages and which stood at the beginning of the process of textual transmission.

Textual witness (sources) definition: represent tangibly different forms of the biblical text.

Variant Readings (definition): the details of which texts are composed are “readings,” and, accordingly, all readings which differ from a text accepted as central.

Masoretic Text (definition) sometimes called the received text. It is strictly speaking a medieval representative of a group of ancient texts of the Bible which already at an early stage was accepted as the sole text by a central stream of Judaism.

Samaritan Pentateuch (definition): ancient text of the Torah written in a special form of the “early” Hebrew script and preserved by the Samaritan community.

Texts from the Judean Desert (definition): are Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts (both biblical and non-biblical) which were probably copied between the mid-third century BCE and 135 CE and were found in the Judean Desert, especially at Qumran, between 1947 and 1956.

Conjectural emendation (definition): is an attempt to reconstruct the original form of a detail in the biblical text by suggesting a new reading when, according to a scholar, the original reading has not been preserved in the extant textual witnesses.

Evaluation of readings (definition) is the comparison of readings created in the course of the textual transmission, regarding their comparative merits.

Critical Edition (definition) of the Hebrew Bible presents a carefully transmitted form of that text, or a reconstructed original text, together with tools for the comparison of the details in the text with other witnesses of the same text.

From pp17-20

I chose to write (definition) behind each term so that if you copy and paste this section into a word document and save it, you can do a search via google desktop for “critical edition definition” and find this definition in the particular document.

Other contributions:

  • One of the unique elements in Tov’s monograph is his discussion of the relation between text criticism and literary criticism (chap. 7). He uses a combination of quan-titative and qualitative criteria to distinguish between the two areas of study. “Large scale differences displaying a certain coherence” are dealt with under literary studies, while smaller variations that are of a more random character are dealt with in textual studies (p. 314).
  • Elliot says, “He is reluctant to follow theories and principles blindly: the subjective element in textual evaluation is recognized” (404 review).


  • suitable as a text for advanced courses in text criticism – too complex for beginning students.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.