Regions of Interest Quantified – Solving Problems of the Analogue Methods of the Discoveries in the Judean Desert Series (Part III.1)

In the previous two posts (II.1 and II.2) of this series, we have been focusing on the limitations and problems with the DJD sigla character notation schema. I argued that the DJD sigla system informs the user of the edition about the psychological certainty of the editor, which is therefore reliant on the editor’s reading proficiency in the Hebrew/Aramaic language.1 The DJD sigla system becomes problematic because a transcription and an image of the artefact are often presented in separate locations of the volume (with a few exceptions). What is clear for one reader is not always as clear for another reader. It’s all a matter of interpretation—such is everything—but every editor and thus edition should aim to be as objective as possible about the subjective decisions made. One could argue that a possible solution is to present an image of the artefact adjacent to the transcription, like the layout of DJD 32.

DJD 32 Image of col. V with a transcription on adjacent page

Presenting the transcription along with an image, however, is not as easy as it sounds, for the reason that an artefact was imaged multiple times. Since the time the scrolls were removed from the caves in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the artefacts have continued to decay. Consequently, different images of the same artefact (imaged at different stages of deterioration) can sometimes reveal different features. Sometimes the plausibility of a reading, therefore, can be directly dependent on whichever image of the artefact was consulted. Sometimes the slightest bit of ink can lead to an entirely different reading and therefore to a different understanding of a composition.2 To include all the different images of any given artefact in a print volume is impossible—and I think we would all agree that the DJD volumes are already expensive enough!

So, how might digital editions solve this problem?3 Why should we care about ink traces and this so-called letter box? I submit to you it matters because the foundation of any edition is palaeography.4 Let’s demonstrate the importance of palaeography and explicitly what digital palaeography contributes to this issue by returning to our example of 1QSa II 11–12.

In 1QSa II 11–12, I presented Licht’s helpful table of the possible readings. To recap, I will present Licht’s table again, and I will note any editions or secondary literary that adopt one of Licht’s proposed readings as well as any proposed readings not discussed by Licht.5

(א) אם יוֹלִיד [אל את] המשיח, אתם יבוא [הכוהן] רואש כול עדת וכו׳

(ב) אם יולִיך [אל את] המשיח אתם. יבוא [הכוהן] רואש כול עדת וכו׳

(ג) אם יִילוֹד [בעת קץ] המשיח, אתם יבוא [הכוהן] רואש כל עדת וכו׳

(ד) אם יִוַלֵיד [הכוהן] המשיח, אתם יבוא [וישב ב]ראש כל עדת וכו׳

(ה) אם יִוַעֵדוּ. [הכוהן] המשיח אתם יבוא, [ונשא את] רואש כול עדת וכו׳

(ו) אם יועדו. [הכוהן] המשיח אתם יבוא, [ועמד ב]רואש כול עדת וכו׳

(ז) אם יִתְוַעֵד [הכוהן] המשיח אתם. יבוא [ועמד ב]רואש כול עדת וכו׳

(ח) אם יִתְוַעֵד [בעת קץ] המשיח אתם. יבוא [הכוהן ב]רואש כול עדת וכו׳

In addition to Licht’s proposals, several other readings have been put forward. Avraham Meir Habermann (1959) 6 suggested ישקודו, and Émile Puech (2018) 7 proposed יתגלה, with the gimel superscripted. There are several issues at stake here. First, how can we read the extant ink traces with such extensive damaged to the parchment? And what and how do we reconstruct in the lacuna? How do we know how much text can fit within the lacuna (cf. Licht’s reconstructions above). To illuminate these questions, let’s look at the two lines again:

1QSa II 11–12 (PAM 40.062)
1QSa II 11–12 (PAM 40.549)

Answering these questions takes us far beyond the capabilities of the analogue methods of DJD. This takes us into the realm of annotating the images with regions of interest (ROI). The red blocks above are an example of a region of interest. This box is positioned at a certain location in the image so as to indicate interest within the bounding box. In the case above, the bounding boxes are rather large, but we can narrow and increase this bounding box however we would like. We can furthermore store the region of interest data (the coordinates) in a Relational Database Model so as to manipulate the image vis-à-vis methods of computer vision.8

To end this post, I would like to quote James H. Charlesworth’s and Loren Stuckenbruck’s comments about this line in their edition. They note, “In 1QSa 2 there is a problematic passage at the end of line 11. The text is impossible to read according to all the photographs available to us. Barthélemy read יוליד. Milik emended the text to יוליך. Barthélemy accepted Milik’s reconstruction. Cross accepted Barthélemy’s reading and Milik’s restoration of it. According to a special enlarged infrared photograph Cross was able to confirm what Barthélemy had read. The new photographs taken in Amman do not disclose the consonants, but we seem to be able to discern י̇ו֯ל̇י֯־.”9 As I said above, sometimes the plausibility of reading can be directly reliant upon on a particular image. And in this case, the image has been edited and is no longer accessible, unless the image Cross consulted was PAM 40.551.

1QSa II 11–12 (PAM 40.551)

In the next post, I will elaborate in more detail with respect to regions of interest, and we will use Computer Vision to analyse these two lines in greater detail.10

  1. As an interesting note, check out this clip about how the letter-box can disambiguate characters based on the region of the character (e.g., we need only to see the lower half of Hebrew Characters to decipher them, whereas we need to see the upper half of Roman Characters to decipher them).
  2. See, for example, James M. Tucker, “From Ink Traces to Ideology: A Reassessment of 4Q256 (4QSerekh Ha-Yaḥadb) Frags. 5a–b and 1QS 6:16–17,” in Law, Literature, and Society in Legal Texts from Qumran: Papers from the Ninth Meeting of the International Organisation for Qumran Studies, Leuven 2016, ed. Jutta Jokiranta and Molly M. Zahn, Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 128 (Leiden: Brill, 2019), 186–206.
  3. I have argued that any edition is first and foremost a translation of media. The field of biblical studies—and by extension qumran studies—has framed its production of editions in terms of the category of “text” and has not given too much thought to issues of bibliography. That is, the field of Hebrew Bible studies has only recently had primary sources that can date to the Second Temple era. Prior to the discovery of the Judean Desert Scrolls, the earliest primary sources are the medieval Hebrew codices and Cairo Genizah discoveries. Since there was no primary evidence, we have not had the reason to contextualise text critical studies within the broader frameworks of enumerative, systematic, and descriptive bibliography.
  4. What is more, a great deal of the theories of Qumran origins and historical reconstructions is predicated on a diachronic palaeographical arrangement of various manuscripts. Frank Moore Cross’ palaeographical typography has been very influential in this regard. There are, however, some significant problems with Cross’ palaeographical method. I address some of these problems in my doctoral thesis, From Ink Traces to Ideology: The Text, Material, and Composition of Serekh ha-Yaḥad with New Critical Editions. See also:
  5. It is best to have Shofar, SIL Hebrew, or SBL Hebrew fonts installed.
  6. Megilloth Midbar Yehuda. The Scrolls from the Judean Desert. 1959.
  7. “La préséance du messie prêtre en 1QSa II 11-22” RevQ 30 [2018] 85-89.
  8. I explained this in more detail in 2014; see Tucker, James M. “Digital Editions of the Judaean Desert Scrolls and Fragments: Preliminary Thoughts.”
  9. “Rule of the Congregation (1QSa)” in The Rule of the Community and Related Documents: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Texts with English Translations, ed. James C. Charlesworth. vol. 1. (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr Siebeck, 1994), 109.
  10. I will offer a translation then too. I have withheld from translating the line based on the significant implications any reading has on the ideas of messianism in the Second Temple era.

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