[b-hebrew] A question on the Hebrew text

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Mon Oct 25 03:51:10 EDT 2004

Hi Raymond,

The first thing you must realize, is that most Jews and Israelis, just like
most Christians who are not professional Bible scholars, are not really
aware that there are differences between different versions of the MT, and
so to most, a Bible is a Bible, and if they even notice slight variations in
spelling or in cantilation marks between different prints, they don't give
them much thought. However unlike Christians, for whom Bible translaions
from the Greek onward are part of tradition, for Jews, the ONLY text that
"counts" is the MT.
So Jewish and Israeli academics involved in text criticism use the same
texts everyone else does, including BHS. But for most Jews, who use the
Bible for study and worship, the critical aparatus is irrelevant.
Jews use a wide range of editions, intended for different puropses. In
Israel, the most common one-volume edition of the entire Bible is the Koren.
It is based on the Leningrad Codex, but as I said that is irrelevant to most
people - the Koren is popular because of its very clear print-type. It is
widely used in schools because it has the whole Bible in one, easy-to-carry
volume. There are about a dozen other such one-volume, Hebrew only, Bibles
in print. Koren also has a "Humash" edition, that is, just the Torah,
divided into weekly portions, with the "Haftarot" (the readings from the
Prophets that are added to the weekly Torah portion) added at the back, as
well as a list of the special readings for holidays. Some editions also have
the Sabbath prayers in the back, which makes the very convenient for the
For more serious study, from grade-school up, many people use
one-book-per-volume study Bibles, which include the text with some of the
classical (medieval) commentaries, such as Rashi, Radak (Kimhi), Ramban
etc., often with the Targum Onkelos as well. These are sometimes known as
"Miqraot Gedolot". There are dozens of such editions, and people chose them
for  their layout and for the commentaries they have. Another edition that
used to be popular was the "Cassuto" Bible, one-book-per-volume with an
easy-to-read commentary by Artum.
About 20 years ago, the Rabbi Kook institute began publishing a series of
editions based on Breuer's stury of the Aleppo codex, including a text-only
version, a "Miqraot Gedolot"-type edition of the Torah, and a series which
includes a modern-but-traditional commentary which does incororate some
modern scholarship. These have become very popular in modern-Orthodox

Outside Israel, those Jews (mostly, but certainly not only, Orthodox) who
are comfortable without a translation tend to use Israeli texts. Most Bibles
with translations used in synagogues are "Humashim" (that is, just the Torah
with the Haftarot), with translations and English commentaries. There are
many editions. The most common translation in the US used to be the Hebrew
Publishing Company's, but I think that the JPS is now used more by scholars
and different "denominations" (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform etc.) tend to
have produced editions for use by their own congregations.

If anyone has anything to add, please do.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Raymond Regalado" <fwgk5942 at mb.infoweb.ne.jp>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Sunday, October 24, 2004 12:07 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] A question on the Hebrew text

> Dear List,
> I am a novice learner of biblical Hebrew, and I just wanted to ask a
> question about the Hebrew text.  To my knowledge, the text most
> commonly used in Protestant Christian circles is the Biblia Hebraica
> Stuttgartensia (BHS) published by the United Bible Societies.  I wonder
> which text is "standard" among the Jews themselves, or among Israeli
> scholars.  For instance, which text is "Israel's best Bible reader"
> reading in this set of CD's:
> http://www.solomonstreasurechest.com/HebrewBible.html ?
> Thanks,
> Raymond Regalado
> Tokyo, Japan

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