Nazarene Space

Techlet and the Lost Hebrew Original of 1Maccabees

 

 

 

Shalom Chaverim,

 

Well as you know I have been working the last few days with my nose buried in the scrolls, particularly the Hebrew manuscript of a large portion of 1Maccabees recently obtained with the help of DanHenrik in Germany.  The manuscript was published only once, over 100 years ago in Berlin along with a detailed textual analysis... all in German.  I am working my way through it.  Recently while looking at 1Maccabees 4:23 I discovered something interesting worthy of sharing with you all.  This is one of many passages where the Greek shows clear evidence of having been translated from the Hebrew.  The Greek version reads:

 

When Judas returned to spoil the tents ,

where they got much gold,

and silver, and blue silk,

and purple of the sea

and great riches.

(1Macc. 4:23 Greek)

 

And the Hebrew reads:

 

And Judas returned to the camp to plunder it

and they took much gold

and silver and TECHLET

and ARGAMAN and TOLAAT SH’NI

and great riches.

(1Macc. 4:23 from the Hebrew)

 

Here we have one of many pieces of evidence for the originality of the Hebrew text of 1Maccabees over the Greek.  The Greek omits ARGAMAN because it mistakes it for a transliteration of Greek ARGURION (silver) already in the list.

 

Now what TECHLET is is very important because we read in the Torah:

 

37 And YHWH spoke unto Moshe, saying:
38 Speak unto the children of Yisra’el and bid them, that they make them throughout
their generations, fringes in the corners of their garments, and that they put with the
fringe of each corner, a thread of blue (TECHLET).
39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that you may look upon it, and remember all the
commandments of YHWH, and do them. And, that you go not about after your own heart
and your own eyes, after which you use to go astray--
40 That you may remember and do all My commandments: and be Set-Apart unto your
Elohim.
41 I am YHWH your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your
Elohim: I am YHWH your Elohim.

(Num. 15:37-41 HRV)

 

What is interesting is that the Hebrew of this verse makes it clear that TECHLET is not just "blue" but a specific precious dye that was made from a sea invertebrate. 

 

Lets look at the last three items in the list in 1Macc. 4:23 (after gold and silver):

 

TECHLET is according to Gesenisus’s Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament: “ a shell fish… a species… found in the Mediterranean Sea, with a blue shell, from which ‘cerulean purple’ [a bluish purple] is made… and garments died with this purple.

 

 ARGAMAN is according to Gesenisus’s Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament: “Purple, reddish purple, a precious colour, obtained from some species of shell fish (Gr. PORFURA, Lat. Purpura), found on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea (1Macc. 4:23; Plin. N. H. ix. 60, seq.)….different from this is bluish purple TECHLET…

 

TOLAAT SH’NI 

TOLAAH  is according to Gesenisus’s Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament:

(1) a worm … (2) especially scarlet, scarlet colour, more fully TOLAAT SH’NI  …

 

The Student’s Hebrew-Chaldee Dictionary from the Hebrew Publishing Company says under this second definition “2) the coccus-worm TOLAAT SH’NI  coccus-crimson, worm-crimson.

 

From the context of the usage here in 1Macc. 4:23 these were three specific precious dyes each made from small invertebrates and considered precious  like gold and silver. 

 

Clearly TECHLET was not just "blue" or "blue cloth" but a specific and very precious bluish-purple dye comparable to ARGAMAN (a specific reddish purple dye made from shellfish) and TOLAAT SH'NI (a specific red dye made from a worm).

 

 


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Views: 124

Comment by James Trimm on April 19, 2011 at 1:17am

Interestingly the Aramaic Peshitta has:

 

And Judas returned to the camp to plunder it

and they took much gold

and silver and precious stones

and hyacinth and ARGONA of the sea.

and great riches.

(1Macc. 4:23 from the Peshitta Aramaic)

 

The Greek UAKINTHON "blue" which the Greek translator uses for TECHLET can refer to a gem stone, and the Aramaic translator mistook it as a reference to the stone.  However the Aramaic does account for three items in addition to silver and gold, in agreement with the Hebrew rather than the Greek.  I am thinking that a scribal error arose early in the Greek tradition that omitted an ARGAMON due to its similarity to the Greek word for Silver, or perhaps Greek THALASSIAN "sea" was a transliteration of TOLAAT SH'NI but became read as "of the sea."

 


Comment by James Trimm on April 19, 2011 at 1:42am

OK the Latin Vulgate has:

et Iudas reversus est ad spolia castrorum,

et acceperunt aurum multum,

et argentum, et hyacinthinum,

et purpuram marinam,

et opes magnas.

 

 When Judas returned to spoil the tents ,

where they got much gold,

and silver, and hyacinth

and purple of the sea

and great riches.

 

The Peshitta appears to conflate the readings of the Greek and the Latin, rendering UAKINTHON as "precious stones" and adding "hyacinth" from the Latin Vulgate. 

 

This also points to the Hebrew origin since UAKINTHON is a common LXX Greek translation of TECHLET and hyacinthinum is a common Latin Vulgate rendering for TECHLET. 

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