More evidence of the Kaufman effect?

Duane Smith recently posted a link to an interesting discussion of the order of פ and ע in the acrostics in Lamentations (איכה). The issue is that in the acrostics in chapters 2-4 the פ section precedes ע. The author, Mitchell First, argues that this is because פ actually preceded ע in the alphabet in the period of the Judges and First Temple. Interestingly, in the Qumran documents, the פ verse precedes ע in the first chapter as well:

(4Q111 3:7) • פרשה {{°°}}  ציון בי֯[דיה 

אין] (4Q111 3:8) מנחם לה מכול אוהביה 

צדיק אתה יהוה 

צפה אדוני ליעקוב 

סביב[יו צריו] 

(4Q111 3:9) היתה ציוׄן לנדוח בניהמהׄ.

 (4Q111 3:9) • על אלה בכו֯ 

עיני ירדה דמעתי 

כיא רחקׄ[ ממני] (4Q111 3:10) מ֯[נחם 

משיב ]נפש 

היו בני֯ שוממים

[ כיא ]גׄבר אויב.


Now, the Kaufman effect is the idea that in a frequently copied text, the end of the text seems to have fewer scribal improvements than its beginning. This is based on the fact that people are lazy. We put a lot of effort into the beginning of our work, but by the end we just copy. Hence, it is not surprising that the alphabetic order would be “corrected” in chapter 1, but left alone in the following chapters. 

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One Comment on “More evidence of the Kaufman effect?”

  1. Young Bok Kim Says:

    Hi Peter,

    I wonder whether “the Kaufman effect” goes a little bit further. You said that “This is based on the fact that people are lazy.” But I think there should be a reservation after the sentence like – people (scribes) are lazy, “expecting that the readers would have caught their (scribes’) intention of correcting by now.” Therefore, the scribes are happy with leaving the repeated errors.

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