[b-hebrew] emendations of the sopherim - is the Masoretic text an accurate Hebrew Bible

Schmuel schmuel at escape.com
Mon May 2 06:18:35 EDT 2005

Hi b-hebrew,

With all the discussions of the sopherim, and purported emendations thereof, 
allow me to point out that we an some interesting, albeit incomplete, earlier thread.

It seems the whole basic emendations theory is unproven and conjectural, and yet
a lot of times it is accepted on reference momentum only. 

emandations of the sopherim  
emendations of the sopherim, adonai vowels under the tetragrammaton  


Note that Lawrence Schiffman is of the view that the emendations theory 
(Christian David Ginsburg, Bullinger) is a mistaken understanding of the 
Masorah.  Also Nehemiah Gordon, who has worked with Emanuel Tov,
is of similar view, that Ginsburg basically just got it wrong. 

(btw...note also that Psalm 22:16 had some interesting posts at the same month)


Apparently there are a lot of assumptions, conclusions and conjectures on the 
sopherim theories, rarely going back and reviewing and studying the hard evidences.

The rest of the post will have a variety of links and discussions on this, that I meant
to post back in 2003 :-)  The links and references still look good.  It is really meant 
to just give an orientation to a very significant albeit difficult issue.  You will find
some of the Lawrence Schiffman quotes, such as the one at the very bottom.


There are a few issues here, 18+ verses like
   Gen 18:22, 
   Tetragrammaton - claimed change to adonay in 134 case
Essentially the claim is that the Sopherim "smoothed"  the Tanach text to make it 
more doctrinally palatable...

Here are some examples of the claims 
http://hammer.prohosting.com/~eyes2see/30.html (the basic contention)
http://hector3000.future.easyspace.com/emendations.htm (not much scholarship, simply versions)

Bullinger in the Companion Bible

This is a view of the Masoretic text that comes largely out of Christian David Ginsburg's
Massorah compilation, as popularized by Bullinger's Companion Bible, and that views a number
of passages as having been changed in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah by the Sopherim ..

However these claims are based on interpreting rather inconsistent footnotes,
and margin notes, basically in manuscripts post 1000 AD, not on any direct 
textual evidence, neither in the Masoretic Texts or anywhere else, afaik

ie. We don't have any Hebrew manuscripts that match the supposed pre-Sopherim
readings, nor any hard evidences that this is a proper interpretation.

 (I don't know if some or many of or any of these are referenced e.g. in the Talmud
  or Midrash either.. if so, it could lead to a couple of theories, if not, why not).

And if the DSS do have not have any of these notes or alternate readings, would that not
be a very strong evidence against the interpretation of Bullinger (and Ginsburg's) interpretation
(I do not know if Bullinger really accurately portrays Ginsburg's views).

Has anybody researched in any depth this Massorah issue, especially vis a vis the 
DSS, or other early writings..?

Previously we found Professor Lawrence Schiffman quite negative toward these
interpretations, (he commented on the Tetragrammaton claim) and I found similar
negativity when I spoke to the Karaite Nehemiah Gordon in Jerusalem 
(who has worked with manuscripts under Dr. Emanuel Tov of Hebrew University
 in their big MT project).

Has anybody on this forum done any real research on these issues ?

I have found a couple of references to scholarly papers...

(if it is helpful, I will put together one full page on another forum, or a web-page,
 of the resources and views that I have gathered)

Thank you ...

Steven Avery
Bayside, NY

Wed Sep 11, 2002  3:41 pm
Subject:  [Messianic_Apologetic] The Emendations of the Sopherim
Referenced also a bit later

Now there are a number of books and articles and scholars to study if 
I wish to speak with more definiteness on these issues, a couple of which
it would be good to buy :-)

One article that we can be especially interested in is.
Moshe Zipor
Some Notes on the Origin of the Tradition of the Eighteen Tiqqune Sopherim. 
VT, vol. 44, 1994, p. 77-102. 
list of his articles http://www.biu.ac.il/JS/tn/Bible.files/menu.files/members.htm#Zipor_Moshe

So far I only emailed Moshe Zipor once, it would be good to try again, and to 
seek out the article, perhaps through Hebrew U contacts or in person or Professor Zipor.

Allow me a little time to organize some notes, make some contacts, do some 
studies, perhaps you would like to place the exact evidence of the Masorah Tiqqqune Sopherim view.

I will include a couple of more comments below ..
For the forum, the 18 that Steven is talking about are at..

"tiqqune sopherim (errors of the scribes) may be found in the following verses: Genesis 18:22; Numbers 11:15; 12:12; 1 Samuel 3:13; 2 Samuel 16:12; 20:1; 1 Kings 12:16; Jeremiah 2:11; Ezekiel 8:17; Hosea 4:7; Habakkuk 1:12; Zechariah 2:12; Malachi 1:13; Psalm 106:20; Job 7:20; 32:3; 2 Chronicles 10:16; and Lamentations 3:20."


Bullinger Notes..

"All the oldest and best manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible contain on every page . . . a varying number of lines of smaller writing, distributed between the upper and lower margins. This smaller writing is called the Masorah Magna or Great Masorah, while that in the side margins and between the columns is called the Masorah Parva or Small Masorah." 
   - Bullinger, Companion Bible

Just a note...on this forum, you understand why one can be a little cautious
of any arguments based on the phrase.... "the oldest and best manuscripts" :-)

There is also lots of ambiguity and disagreement as to when the Masorah 
was actually begun, which is clear from 

Kelley, Page H; D Mynatt, T Crawford 
Masorah of the Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia: Introduction and Annotated Glossary
    (see the first pages on Amazon :-)

Also note the claim from Bullinger 
(who is the popularizer of the thesis, using Ginsburg as his source)

"(All these substitutions were done in addition to the vowel markings of "Adonai" being applied to the four letters forming the tetragrammaton [YHWH]." - Bullinger

Nehemiah says that this is simply untrue for many manuscripts, including the oldest,
and that some manuscripts had no vowels for the Tetragrammaton whatsoever, in 
which case they definitely did not have the vowels for "Adonai".

Sample Excerpt from Lawrence Schiffman

Wed Sep 11, 2002  3:41 pm
Subject:  [Messianic_Apologetic] The Emendations of the Sopherim

>In vol.4 Ginzberg correctly translated the heading of the first list, for the Pentateuch, as "Lord occurs twelve tines in the Pentateuch........  this is not a list of textual variants but rather a list of the times ad-onai is used when it is clearly an equivalent (in meaning) to the shem ha-meforash."

Steven Avery
Queens, NY


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