I have a basic idea that, in New Testament text criticism, there is a guideline that the more difficult reading is more likely to be correct. (Mentioned in this answer on BH.SE. Even Wikipedia knows about it.) The logic goes that scribes tend to simplify readings that they find interpretively difficult but are less likely to do the opposite. Obviously it's not a perfect rule and is not applicable in all cases, as even the Wikipedia article points out. But in many NT textual discussions, it seems to come up and often wins out.
I have recently been looking at a few passages in the Hebrew bible where the Masoretic text is in question. In some cases, this is because the Qumran texts, LXX, or other ancient versions provide an easier reading (Psalm 22:16, Deut 32:8, ?Psalm 19:4). In other cases, it is purely conjectural because the MT reading seems absurd (Obad 7, Ecc 7:27, Job 6:14 in some renderings, perhaps all of Hosea ;-) ). In every case, the discussion seems to begin because the MT is too difficult.
- Is this ‘rule' of Lectio difficilior potior differently applicable, or not applicable at all, to textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible because of the different textual situation?
- Is the answer to the above different if we’re talking about variations for which there is manuscript support (DSS, Samaritan Pentateuch, ancient translations) or emendations that are purely conjectural?