[b-hebrew] Primary and Secondary Old Testament Witnesses

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Thu Aug 26 14:07:38 EDT 2004

On 26/08/2004 00:52, Harold R. Holmyard III wrote:

> Dear Philip,
>> 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?
> HH: I would call them all primary witnesses with the possible 
> exception of the Septuagint, which is a translation into another 
> language. All the other materials are ancient or very old records of 
> the Scriptures in the original languages. But in another sense even 
> translations are primary witnesses, since they are ancient copies of 
> the Scriptures. I would consider as secondary witnesses the quotation 
> of Scripture in other writings.
If we are looking at translations, why is only the LXX mentioned? It is 
not the only ancient translation, although it may be the oldest. There 
are for example a variety of Aramaic (= Targums) and Syriac versions, as 
well as variant Greek texts, which deserve mention alongside the LXX. 
The Latin Vulgate is also an important witness because it is known to 
have been translated from the Hebrew long before the existing MT MSS. 
There are also Arabic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Coptic etc translations to be 

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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