[b-hebrew] Jacob ben Hayyim - Masoretic Text

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Thu Jul 28 08:23:06 EDT 2005

On 28/07/2005 03:02, Schmuel wrote:

>Hi Folks,
>Subject was: Re: [b-hebrew]  Jacob ben Hayyim -was YHWH Pronunciation
>Steven Miller,
>>biographical info on Jacob  ben Hayyim? .. 
>>"In 1524, Jacob ben Hayyim published a printed text of the Hebrew Old Testament, using a multitude of high quality manuscripts, including several lists of Masoretic notes. This became a standard for printed Jewish Bibles.
>I believe this is 100% accurate, until the 20th century and the modern textcrit movement, ie. until  Gerhard Kittel's third edition.  Checking Kittel in the biography is also an interesting research endeavor, especially for those so worried about the spiritual purity of their Bible text laborers.
>>Only in the last two hundred years has it been so accepted in the Christian world. "
>This doesn't make sense, since it was used for the King James Bible.  Likely the Geneva also, although that should be checked. ...

The story may not be that simple. Ben Hayyim's text is called the 
"Second Rabbinic Bible", but before that there was the "First Rabbinic 
Bible", published by Daniel Bomberg in Venice and 1517 - see 
http://www.glaird.com/inspire3.htm. See further below.

By the way, I also found a link (untested) to a free downloadable Ben 
Hayyim Bible at http://www.christianhospitality.org/benchayyim.htm. But 
this is apparently incomplete. This page confuses the issue by calling 
this Second Rabbinic Bible the Bomberg Bible - although Bomberg was 
perhaps the printed of both.

>... And there really weren't other Christian Bibles of note till about
>1880. ...

This isn't fair. English is not the only language in the world! Also, 
before these two was the translation of William Tyndale (about half of 
the Hebrew Bible) and John Rogers (alias Thomas Matthew, who completed 
Tyndale's work), also the Great Bible which is probably based on Tyndale 
and Rogers. Indeed, the KJV is based largely (83%, according to one 
estimate) on the work of Tyndale and Rogers, although revised from a 
variety of Hebrew texts including both the First and Second Rabbinic 
Bibles. But did Tyndale use Ben Hayyim's text? It would have been very 
newly published when Tyndale started work on translating the Hebrew in 
the late 1520's. I can't find any clear statement of which text Tyndale 
used, but at http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=3271 it 
is suggested that at least one of his sources was Ximenez' 1517 
Complutensian Polyglot.

Tyndale also worked with Luther and from his translation. Now Luther 
cannot have used the Ben Hayyim text because he was working before Ben 
Hayyim (his Pentateuch was published in 1523); in fact it seems he used 
Gerson's 1494 Brescia edition (see The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of 
Religious Knowledge (1908-1912) as quoted at 

But does this actually make any difference? According to one site I 
found, there are a total of just EIGHT differences between the Ben 
Hayyim and Ben Asher (Aleppo/Leningrad) texts, none of which affect the 
meaning. (I accept that this count of eight does not include the 
different pointings of YHWH.) So, are the differences really enough to 
make a fuss about?

> ...
>KJB used the ben Hayim text directly as its primary underlying text, augmented more with things like Kimchi's grammar than anything else. ...

It seems that the KJV translators in fact followed Tyndale and Rogers as 
much as any Hebrew text. And Ben Hayyim's edition was only one of the 
many Hebrew texts they had available.

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

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