[b-hebrew] Is the Massoretic text reliable?

Gary Hedrick garyh at cjfm.org
Thu Nov 12 14:24:41 EST 2009

Yes, Jim, this is interesting. Remember, too, that Hebrews 1:6 in the NT
quotes an OT passage that doesn't appear in the MT ("And let all the angels
of Elohim bow down to Him"). However, it IS in the Qumran version of Deut.
32:43, and also in the LXX rendering of that same verse. (You'll find
earlier discussions about this on B-Hebrew in the archives at
http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-hebrew/2009-February/037203.html where
Bryant Williams quotes from Beale and Carson on this question.) So this sort
of puts textual criticism on its ear because the Greek NT is, in effect,
correcting the Hebrew MT. As Spock might say: "Fascinating."

More info here: www.thedivinecouncil.com/DT32BibSac.pdf I like the way
BibSac puts the three primary sources side by side for easier comparison.

Gary Hedrick
San Antonio, TX USA

On 5/6/09 3:35 AM, "leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il" <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il> wrote:

> Dear James,
> There is really nothing new in what you have apparently just "discovered".
> We've been discussing these issues on and off for years. What you really
> should do is to read a few basic books on the formation and canonization
> of
> the text of the Bible. Obviously, there are different opinions, else there
> would be nothing to debate (and then what would we do?).
> Please note, however: co-modirator George Athas has already called your
> attention to the rule that requires all messages to be signed by the
> writer's full name. He has also hinted that some of your recent posts are
> not really on topic. If you do wish to engage this list in discussion of
> Biblical Hebrew, please abide by the list rules.
> Thank you
> Yigal Levin
> co-moderator, b-hebrew
> Original Message:
> -----------------
> From: James Read J.Read-2 at sms.ed.ac.uk
> Date: Wed, 06 May 2009 00:42:06 +0100
> To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> Subject: [b-hebrew] Is the Massoretic text reliable?
> Hi,
> I've been doing a lot of reading and a lot of thinking in the past few
> months and one of the things I've been interested in was finding out
> more about alternative readings. Now I was brought up and fed with
> stories that the OT was originally written in Hebrew and so the
> massoretic text is our most reliable source for its original shape.
> But recent lines of research have been causing me seriously question
> that kind of reasoning. Does the fact that the massoretic is in Hebrew
> really make it a superior source?
> Some of the lines of evidence I've been looking at are
> 1) The age of extant manuscripts of the Massoretic text
> 2) Greek translations of the OT
> 3) The dead sea scrolls
> 4) The Samaritan pentateuch
> Now, I was also brought up on stories of how the LXX has been proven
> to be a 'bad translation' because of X, Y and Z with only the Torah
> part of it being of decent enough quality. Now, the information that
> has come to light to me in recent months are the following factors:
> 1) The oldest manuscripts of the Massoretic text are post 9th century
> (not that old in the big scheme of things)
> 2) Qere and ketib such as the common he/she confusion show that the
> Massoretic text was only sanctified as a holy order of consonants
> which must be copied in that sequence no matter what *after*
> considerable error had been introduced into it
> 3) There is more agreement between the variant readings of the
> Samaritan Pentateuch, the extant Greek versions of the torah such as
> those found in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus and the torah
> fragments in the dead sea scrolls than there is between any of them
> and the Massoretic text.
> 4) The dead sea scrolls may be as old as 2nd century B.C.E
> 5) Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are both 4th century codices
> 6) This shows that both the dead sea scrolls and the Greek versions
> predate extant MT codices such as Aleppo and Leningrad considerably
> 7) The MT is the product of years of Rabbinical debate who may have
> had an agenda influenced by the ever growing division between
> themselves and the Christians
> 8) Jerome (4th century) claims to have based his Vulgate translation
> on the Hebrew text yet there is more agreement with derivative
> manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate with the aforementioned dead sea
> scroll texts, the Greek versions and the Samaritan Pentateuch than
> with the MT
> All of these factors have caused me recently to call into question
> just how reliable a source the Aleppo and Leningrad codices are and
> whether a reconstruction of the original Hebrew text from these other
> sources would be a more reliable indicator of an older form of the
> Hebrew text of the books we consider to be part of the Tanakh.
> Any thoughts?
> James
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