Arguments against the MT are as follows:
- The ancient versions (which are diverse). LXX, which is followed by the Vulgate, adds τοῦ θεοῦ to make ζητούντων τὸ πρόσωπον τοῦ θεοῦ Ιακωβ (“those who seek the face of the God of Jacob”). The Peshitta, on the other hand, keeps MT's suffix and translates the rest as a vocative: “your face, O God of Jacob.” The Targum has a third person pronoun and gives an interpretative expansion: “who seek the brightness of his face, Jacob.”
- The switch from third to second person is unnatural. This move privileges either LXX or the Targum, but not the Peshitta.
- MT destroys the synonymous parallelism, as found in LXX and Targum.
- בקש פנים belongs to liturgical idiom. Tromp writes: "the lexicon shows that bkš pānîm in the Old Testament is exclusively used for a visit to the king (twice) and to God, in order to obtain good advice or help (five times)." For this, see especially Psalms 27,8 and 105,4.” One would thus expect God to be the object of the seeking.
In response to these arguments, one can defend MT as follows:
- LXX is not followed by many ancient versions (Aquila, Symmachus, Quinta, Sexta, Jerome's Psalterium Gallicanum, and Vetus Latina1). In addition to this, the differences between the translations differing from MT give the impression that they are conjectures. Bäthgen suggests that they are nevertheless correct conjectures.
- The switch is certainly jarring, though not impossible. According to Tromp, it is not uncommon in emotional style. In this case, it may be the result of the combination of enallage and an apostrophe, occurring at some stage in the text's early history (the option preferred by Tromp).
- MT has the lectio difficilior, in which the translators have attempted “to simplify the text by employing [a] contextually more fitting lexical, grammatical, and stylistic form" (Barthélemy).
- Tromp adduces Akkadian parallels to argue that the idiom does not have to be liturgical and adds that “the position of 'Jacob' in this verse is a peculiar one indeed.” He does not, however, explain why.
Does anyone have any views on this?
The English translations are as varied as the ancient versions:
ESV and NRSV follow LXX by eliminating the suffix and adding "God of": "who seek the face of the God of Jacob"
NASB follows MT and sees Jacob as the subject of the participles: "Who seek Your face—even Jacob."
This is essentially the same as the NET's paraphrase of the whole line: "Such purity characterizes the people who seek his favor, Jacob’s descendants, who pray to him."
My favourite is the good old KJV, which, like the NASB follows MT, but translates Jacob in the vocative (cf. Andersen-Forbes Phrase Marker Analysis): "that seek thy face, O Jacob."