Continuing the response to the meta call for contradiction.

Here is Leviticus 13:55 in context:

And he burned the cloth or the warp or the woof, of wool or of linen, or any of the leather implements which will have the affliction within it, because it is a hurrying leprosy, it will be burned in fire. And if the priest will see that here the affliction did not spread in the cloth or in the warp or woof, or in any of the implements of leather. And the priest commanded, and they washed that which has the affliction in it, and they enclosed it seven days again. And the priest saw after the affliction had been washed, and here the affliction did not alter in his eyes, and the affliction did not spread, it is defiled, you will burn it in fire. It is a Pchetheth, in his bald-spot or in his receding forehead. And if the priest saw, and here the affliction is faded after it has been washed, and he ripped it out of the cloth or from the leather or from the warp or from the woof.

The thing is talking about leather and cloth implements, and various kinds of growths on them. But then, in the middle of verse 55, we here the assertion that "it is a Pchetheth, in his bald-spot or in his receding forehead", which is only relevant in a context many paragraphs removed.

What the heck? What is the it that is the Pchetheth in his bald-spot or receding forehead? The "it" doesn't have any interpretable referent that is not self-contradictory.

Does it?

  • 1
    Could this be some sort of idiom? Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 5:42
  • I would say it could be, that's what people who translate from the Masoretic text usually assume, they interpret "it is a pchetheth in his bald spot or receding forehead" as an idiomatic construction regarding the cloth or leather. I find this unlikely because it is exactly the same wording as three or four paragraphs earlier, where the text is actually talking about bald spots and receding foreheads. I think it is most likely just a scribe who was copying without understanding and lost his spot for one sentence, and found the right spot in the next sentence. This is also what LXX suggests.
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 6:38

2 Answers 2


The phrase you translated as “… in his bald-spot or in his receding forehead”, is here translated by the Targum as “… in his new garment, or in his worn garment”. The Hebrew words here are, however, identical to the words used earlier in the text for bald-spot & receding forehead. Whether these words are homonyms used for effect, or whether this is a context-sensitive idiom, or whether this is a textual error are purely speculation.

  • 2
    Please put the full verse, so one can see exactly what is being translated--- they might skip this part.
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 4:55

This is obviously an accidental textual insertion due to careless copying of the scroll. There is no resolution to this contradiction, other than ignoring the offening phrase. It's a typo.

To support this, here is the English translation of the relevant verse Lev-13:55 in the Septuagint bible:

And the priest shall look upon it after the plague has been washed; and if this, even the plague, has not changed its appearance, and the plague does not spread, it is unclean; it shall be burnt with fire: it is fixed in the garment, in the warp, or in the woof

The offending phrase, "it is a pchetheth in his bald spot or in his receding forehead" is replaced by the infinitely more sensible "it is fixed in the garment, in the warp, or in the woof." lending strong support to the claim of a corrupted Masoretic version.

But the same error appears with exactly the same words in the Samaritan pentateuch.

  • 2
    Do all manuscripts have identical text here?
    – itpastorn
    Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 18:54
  • @itpastom: Good question. I was using Masoretic, and all masoretics are the same. You can compare Samaritan and Septuagint (I don't read Greek or Aramaic)
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 21:10
  • There does not seem to be an "it" in LXX. However, my Greek is too rusty to make a good interpretation of the text.
    – itpastorn
    Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 21:54
  • I added the LXX stuff I found in English translation. Presumably the translation issues are nonexistent here. Leviticus is so repetitive and predictable, I'd bet I could reverse engineer the Hebrew phrase from the LXX.
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 0:35
  • @RonMaimon, the LXX of Numbers makes it easy to reverse engineer to Hebrew also. Most places, it is Greek vocabulary with Hebrew syntax. In other words, a very literal translator did Numbers. Where they agree (most places), we can be more certain that the MT was preserved correctly. Where they differ, we can then debate which was corrupted on later copies.
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 14:38

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