Friday, August 12, 2011

Rough Draft: Updating the Old Testament: Part Two

 Source for image:

7tc Heb “his height was six cubits and a span” (cf. KJV, NASB, NRSV). A cubit was approximately eighteen inches, a span nine inches. So, according to the Hebrew tradition, Goliath was about nine feet, nine inches tall (cf. NIV, CEV, NLT “over nine feet”; NCV “nine feet, four inches”; TEV “nearly 3 metres”). However, some Greek witnesses, Josephus, and a manuscript of 1 Samuel from Qumran read “four cubits and a span” here, that is, about six feet, nine inches (cf. NAB “six and a half feet”). This seems more reasonable; it is likely that Goliath’s height was exaggerated as the story was retold. See P. K. McCarter, I Samuel (AB), 286, 291.

The evidence for the four and a half cubits is very convincing.

  • The LXX:[10] 6 feet, 9 inches
  • 4QSama[11] 6 feet, 9 inches
  • Josephus:[12] 6 feet, 9 inches
  • Lucian recension:[13] 6 feet, 9 inches
  • Codex Vaticanus:[14] 6 feet, 9 inches
  • Codex Alexandrinus:[15] 6 feet, 9 inches

The earliest Hebrew source that puts Goliath at six and a half cubits is dated at AD 935.  The earliest Greek source, Symmachus is dated around AD 200. Origen, in his Greek translation found in the fifth column of his Hexapla also lists Goliath’s height as six cubits and a span. Jerome also put the six and a half cubits into his 4th century Vulgate. 

Origen, Symmachus, and Jerome were probably all witness to Hebrew manuscripts that date to at least the late second century.  However, thanks to the Dead Sea Scrolls, we have a copy of Hebrew that predates the next copy by about one thousand years.  Also, we have Greek sources that predate Origen and Symmachus by over a hundred years.  Given the plethora of older manuscripts, Goliath was most likely 6 feet 9 inches.

I would already have made this video, but I am tweaking my sources and trying to get more textual information. 

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