[b-hebrew] Primary and Secondary Old Testament Witnesses

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Thu Aug 26 01:19:51 EDT 2004

Dear Philip,

If by "primary sources" you mean witnesses of the "original text", we don't
have ANY such source. All we have are copies of copies. Most scholars use
the MT, and then the LXX, as their "main" documents, and all of the others
as supplementary, because:

1. They have been known to scholars since the beginning of scholarship.
2. They are the only "complete" texts that we have (the others are only
3. Jewish and Western Christian tradition considers the MT to be the "real"
text (Eastern Christians say the same about the LXX), so that's what most of
us have grown up on, and that's the only text of the Bible that is relevant
to most people.
4. The MT does represent a tradition carried down to the 10th century. The
LXX, while it is "only" a translation, does apparently represent a Hebrew
text that was used (by some) in the 3-2nd centuries BCE.
5. What the DDS and all of the others have taught scholars, is that during
the Second Temple period, there was no ONE BIBLE, and not even one "real"
version of individual books. For us, who have grown up on printed and
copyrighted books, this seems strange, but before printing, when all books
were hand copied and the idea of copyright was nonexistent, it was not at
all strange to find that two copies of the "same" book were different. BTW,
did you know that the Harry Potter books sold in the US are different that
those sold in England, with the language "Americanized"?

Since many scholars like to imagine that the text they are working with is
"the original", they have learned to use the Lxx, DDS etc. in order to
check, amend or "correct" what they suspect are "corruptions" in the MT.
That is part of what textual criticism does.

SO, I suspect that whoever it was you were quoting used the words "primary"
and "secondary", not in the sense that they are used by historians, but in
the sense that they are the "first-used" and "second-used".


----- Original Message -----
From: "phil-eng" <phil-eng at ighmail.com>
To: <b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org>; <phil-eng at ighmail.com>;
<b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Thursday, August 26, 2004 1:26 AM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Primary and Secondary Old Testament Witnesses

> Dear Biblical Hebrew,
> Are the following statements true?
> 1. The primary Old Testament witnesses are the Masoretic Text and the
> Septuagint.
> 2. The secondary Old Testament witnesses include:
>    i.   The Dead Sea Scrolls,
>    ii.  The Samaritan Pentateuch,
>    iii. The Wadi Murabbaat Manuscripts,
>    iv.  The Masada Manuscripts,
>    v.   The Geniza Fragments.
> If the above statements are true, what is the justification for selecting
> some witnesses as primary witnesses and other witnesses as secondary
> witnesses?
> Thank you.
> Philip Engmann,
> Old Testament Student.
> _______________________________________________
> b-hebrew mailing list
> b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-hebrew

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list