Textual Issue (sample)

1 Sam 1:24, 'three bulls' v. 'a three-year-old bull'


Synopsis
A rendering similar to 'with a three-year-old bull' (based on 4QSama, Septuagint, and Peshitta) is preferred to MT's 'with three bulls.' 4QSama (in part) with LXX and Syr (in particular) reflect בפר משלש 'with a three-year-old calf/bull,' which is preferred to MT בפרים שלשה 'with three calves/bulls,' the result of reading mem as the plural suffix of פר rather than the derivational prefix of שלש. As commentator P. Kyle McCarter explains, the mem has been "grouped with the wrong word" in MT (1 Samuel, 56-57). The HOTTP Committee also recommended בפר משלש 'with a three-year-old bull.' NASB, NIV, NLT and some other modern translations likewise render בפר משלש 'with a three-year-old bull' on the weight of 4QSama, LXX, and Syr.

Description
Where MT has בְּפָרִ֤ים שְׁלֹשָׁה֙ ‘with three bulls’ the scroll reads בפר בן ]בקר משלש] ‘[with a bull ca]lf three years old.’ The partially reconstructed plus בן בקר ‘calf’ is unique to the scroll, and none of the ETs reflect this longer reading, which McCarter refers to as expansive (1980, 56-57). Several English translations reflect the same text as the scroll in בפר … ]… משלש] ‘[with] a three-year-old [bull],’ a text also reflected by LXX and Syr. In its essence, the variant in focus involves a difference of word division. Without matres lectionis (which came into use in later orthography) and without word breaks (which can be unclear in manuscripts, even if present) we have the series בפרמשלש (final forms of specific letters also developed relatively late, so an original final mem should not be presumed). In MT the mem is the last letter of the first word (בפרמ שלש, hence בְּפָרִ֤ים שְׁלֹשָׁה֙ 'with three bulls'), while in the scroll (cf. LXX and Syr) the mem is the first letter of the second word (בפר משלש 'with a three-year-old bull', where משלש is a Pual ptc.).

Evaluation
While it is possible to read MT's 'three bulls,' a contextual difficulty is created in v. 25, where 'the bull' (definite and singular) is sacrificed. What became of the other two? On textual grounds, the best explanation of all extant forms would begin with בפר משלש as original, to which בן בקר was added (thus the scroll's בפר בן בקר משלש), and which was read as בפרם שלש (change of word division) and filled out orthographically in MT בפרים שלשה. The Vorlage of LXX (cf. Syr) thus seems to reflect the best reading.

Common Text
בְּפַר מְשֻׁלָּשׁ (Pp בְּ ncmsa פַּר; vpPmsa שׁלשׁ) 'with a three-year-old bull'