Debtor (Ron) Old Testament Textual History, Masorah
shella at cswnet.com
Wed Nov 3 01:10:06 EST 1999
Dear Brothers and Sisters and friends, please note, this article deals with the
development of the Hebrew Old Testament basically since the beginning of the
Christian era. In it you will see the suggestion that the Old Testament Text is an
eclectic text, not a copy. In addition there will be some points which show the
attempted corrections which the Masorites did make. Further you will be introduced
to the two different families of Masorites through whom the Old Testament Text did
come down in history to us today in its present form. It seems to be certain that
the present Hebrew Old Testament is NOT a copied text from some standard ancient
Hebrew text which has been preserved for us as many well meaning, but greatly
uniformed Christians are teaching. I do, however, believe that when we take all the
various known Old Testament texts and compare them with each other, we have a
reliable and accurate Old Testament. However, I question if any one of them should
be known as a stand-alone text. More to follow on this history of the Masoretic
Bible from T. H. Horne as I am able.
Also, please no personal attacks, don try to kill the messenger because of this
message. Nevertheless, if you are able to show where any points are incorrect,
please do so. Debtor (Ron Pound).
Gleanings from the Jewish Encyclopedia
THE JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIA, KTAV EDITION,
1) Masorah defined: The system of critical notes on the external form of the
Biblical text; p. 365.
2) This system represents the literary labors of innumerable scholars which
probably began in pre-Maccabean times and the end reached to the year 1425 AD p.
3) The name comes from Ezek. 20:37 and means "fetter."
4) The entire body of the Masorah goes back to the Palestine schools; p. 365.
5) Recently Dr. P. Kahle discovered a fragment of the Babylonian Masorah which
differs considerable from the Received Text in its terminology;
6) The language of the Masoretic notes is partly Hebrew and partly Palestine
7) Chronologically speaking, the Aramaic is placed between two periods of the
a. The oldest is the pre-Amoraic period;
b. The youngest is the Arabic period which begins about 800 B. C.
8) There is a Small or Inner Masorah, a Large or Outer Masorah; and the Final
9) In addition, the Masoreities developed a Numerical Masorah; a Text-Critical
Masorah; and an Exegetical Masorah,
10) Finally, the invention and introduction of a graphic system of vocalization and
accentuation gave rise to the Grammatical Masorah, p. 366.
11) NOTE: The belief that the O. T. had never been altered came from:
a. Philo, Preamble to his Analysis of the Political Constitution of the Jews;
b. Josephus- Contra Ap. 1:8;
c. There seems to have been no differences between the Texts used by the
Pharisees and the Sadducees; p. 366.
12) NOTE: It may be concluded that the Scriptural text, at least as much as then
belonged to the Canon, was already fixed, at the latest, about 200 B. C. and perhaps
a century earlier, p. 366.
13) NOTE: while the text was thus early fixed, it took centuries to produce a
tolerable uniformity among all the circulating copies; p. 366. That is very
Why this was so:
a. The standard copy was deposited at the Temple and could benefit only those who
lived close enough to use it;
b. This was not the case for those Jews of the Diaspora- dispersed- p. 366.
c. The carelessness of many of the copyists; p. 366.
14) As late as the second century A. D. scholars found it necessary to warn against
incorrect copies; p. 366;
15) These facts cause the conclusions usually drawn from differences in the late
books between the Hebrew Testament and the Greek version to loose much of their
force; p. 366;
16) Text Fixation: In all probability the Old Hebrew Text was written in continuous
Script, without any real breaks, NOTE: In all Probability, no one know because the
old Hebrew Text no longer exists. p. 366.
17) The earliest labors of the Masorites were devoted to arranging the Text:
a. division into words, books; sections, verses, ECT;
b. the fixing of the orthography, pronunciation and cantillation;
c. introduction or final adoption of the square characters with the 5 final
d. some textual changes to guard against blasphemy and the like;
e. the enumeration of letters, words, verses, ect;
f. the substitution of some words for others in public readings; p. 366.
18) There are, however, phenomena in the Biblical text which force one to assume
that at some time textual corrections have been made, p. 366;
19) These corrections may be classified under the following heads:
a. Removal of unseemly expressions used in reference to God, example-the
substitution of to bless for to curse in certain verses; p. 366.
b. Safeguarding of the Tetragrammation: example is the substitution of Eloheim for
YHWH in some passages;
c. The variants of the divine names in Theorphorous proper names; i. e. Joahaz for
Jehoahaz, Elisah for Eliyahu;
d. The removal of the application of the names of false gods to YHWH; i. e. the
change of the name Ishball to Ishbosheth; pages 367-368.
f. Safeguarding the unity of divine worship at Jerusalem; the change in Isaiah
19:18; p. 368.
20) Several mistakes which the Scribes were concerned with correcting were:
a. certain vowel changes made in words in pause or after the article;
b. the cancellation in a few passages of the "waw" conjunctive where some have
wrongly read it;
c. undecided constructions-
d. Suspended letters and dotted words;
e. inverted letters;
f. marginal readings; p. 368.
21) Even in Antiquity substitutions were made:
a. at first only orally in Public Worship;
b. later also in the form of marginal notes in private copies;
c. of readings other than those found in the Text;
22) Frankel has shown even the LXX knew these readings and frequently adopted them;
23) These textual variants have various origins:
a. Some represent variants in ancient manuscripts; Kimhi, Introduction to
Commentary on Joshua; p. 368.
b. Others arose from the necessity of replacing erroneous, difficult, irregular,
provincial, archaic, unseemly, or cacophonous expressions by correct, simpler,
current, appropriate, or euphonious readings; see Abravanel, Introduction to
Commentary on Jeremiah; p. 368;
24) A third class may have been designed to call attention to some mystic meaning or
homiletic lesson supposed to be embodied in the text; Krochmal, Moreh Nebuke
Ha-Zeman- Chapter 13; p. 368.
25) A fourth class, finally, and this very late, is due to variants found in
Talmudic literature; these are of a 3-fold character:
a. words to be read (Kere) for those written in the text, (Ketib);
b. words to be read for those not written in the text;
c. words written, but not to be read; p. 368.
26) A certain school of the Masorites used for the term "kere" the synonymous term
"sebirin." They are misleading; p. 370; and these additions are usually noted by
the Masorah disapprovingly- u-mat-in;
27) The history of the Masorah may be divided into 3 periods:
a. creative period, from its beginning to the introduction of vowel signs;
b. reproductive period, from the introduction of vowel sings to the printing of the
c. Critical period, from 1425 to the present time;
28) Differences between Babylon and Palestine developed over:
a. Spelling and pronunciation differences developed not only between the schools of
Palestine and of Babylon, but also in the various seats of learning in each country
b. In Babylon the School of Sura differed from that of Nehardea; p. 370.
c. Similar differences existed in the schools of Palestine where the chief seat of
learning in later times was the city of Tiberias;
29) See Ginsburg, Introduction p. 197; p. 370;
30) These differences must have become accentuated with the introduction of graphic
signs for pronunciation and cantillation; p. 370;
31) Every locality, following the tradition of its school, has its own standard
codex embodying its own readings; p. 370.
32) In this period living tradition ceased, and the Masorites, in preparing their
codices usually followed the one school or the other, examining standard codices of
the other schools and noting their differences; p. 370.
33) In the first half of the tenth century Aaron B. Moses Ben Asher of Tiberias and
Ben Naphtali headed the 2 rival Masoretical schools;
34) Each wrote a standard Codex of the Bible embodying the tradition of their
respective schools; p. 370;
35) Ben Asher was the last of a distinguishing family of Masorites extending back
to the latter half of the eighth century; p. 370;
36) In spite of the rivalry of Ben Naphtali and the opposition of Saddia Gaon, the
most eminent representation of the Babylonian school of Criticism, Ben Asher's
Codex became recognized as the Standard Text of the
Bible; p. 370; the T. R. of the Old Testament Hebrew; p. 370;
37) This was in the 12 th century A. D.
38) But for reasons unknown neither the printed text nor any manuscripts which have
been preserved are based entirely on Ben Asher's p. 370;
39) Their printed texts and their manuscripts are all eclectic; p. 370;
40) Ben Asher and Ben Naphtali practically ended the Masorah;
41) The later Masorites, styled in the 13 and 14 centuries as the Nakdonim made Very
42) The Nakdanimites revised the works of the copyists, added the vowels and accents
(generally in fainter ink and with a finer pen) and frequently the Masorah; p. 370;
43) Considerable influence on the development and spread of Masoretic literature was
exercised during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries by the Franco-German school of
Tosafists; p. 370.
44) These men and their works made Masoretic compilations or additions to the
subject, and they are all more or less frequently referred to in the marginal
glosses of Biblical Codices, and in the works of Hebrew grammarians, p. 370;
45) Jacob B. Hayyim ibn Adonijah, having collated a vast number of manuscripts
systematized his material and arranged the Masorah in the Second Bomberg Edition of
the Bible, Venice; 1524-1525.
a. He introduced the Masorah into the Bible Margin;
b. At the close of his Bible he compiled a Concordance of the Masoretic glosses for
which he could not find room in a marginal form;
46) He added an elaborate introduction which was the first treatise on the Masorah
ever produced; p. 370;
47) In spite of its numerous errors, this excellent work is generally acknowledged
as the "Textus Receptus" of the Masorah; p. 370;
48) Elijah Levita is next in importance in the critical study of the Masorah to Ibn
Adonijah; p. 370;
49) Elijah Levita published his Massoret Ha-Massoret in 1538; p. 371.
50) The "Tiberias of the Elder Buxtof" (1620) made Levita's researches assessable
to Christian students; p. 371. (Note this was following 1538);
51) A list of both the Jewish and Christian scholars who have studied the Masorah is
found on page 371.
52) In imitation of the Masorah to the Hebrew Text we cite the Text of Targum
Onkelos, first edited by A Berliner, Leypsie, 1877, then by S. Landerauer,
Amsterdam, 1896; p. 371.
53) According to Berliner's opinion it must have been compiled about the end of the
ninth or the beginning of the 10th century; p. 371.
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