[b-hebrew] Is the Massoretic text reliable?

James Christian jc.bhebrew at googlemail.com
Thu Nov 19 13:09:17 EST 2009

In many respects I agree with your sentiments. Obviously, as a Christian, I
have more respect for the opinions of the original authors of the NT than
for anything else but there are still too many variables to make a decisive

1) What language was the NT written in? Syriac or Greek or both? There are
good arguments for both camps.
2) Given the above how sure can we be of the original state of the NT
documents? e.g. absence of YHWH in MSS makes me suspicious.
3) How close is the Hebrew text of NT author's day to that of the MT
(centuries later)?
4) Scenario gets even worse because Jerome was much later than MT authors.

All in all, given the above factors (and any others I have forgotten to
mention) I feel that both positions are extreme. i.e. to assert Greek or
Hebrew primacy of the various text traditions. There seems to be evidence
that both are corrupt and that careful analysis of all traditions should be
taken without ascribing any primacy to any particular tradition. I feel that
a much more balanced position is that neither are absolutely superior and
that both traditions have pros and cons.

James Christian

2009/11/19 K Randolph <kwrandolph at gmail.com>

> James:
> My understanding of the first century Christian attitude is taken from the
> New Testament, where the question was not which was superior, rather which
> was more accessible? The fact that some of the passages quoted in the New
> Testament were translated from the Hebrew into Greek, rather than quoting
> the LXX, shows that at least for the authors of the New Testament, the
> Hebrew text of their time was considered superior to the Greek. Greek was
> used merely because only a small minority of even Jewish Christians knew
> Hebrew, therefore a Greek text was better than none. In this way, Jerome
> followed New Testament precedent as well.
> Now our reference is today, and while we recognize that in places the MT
> may
> have been corrupted by copyist errors, and possibly a few deliberate
> changes, that on the whole it is the best complete text that we have.
> Karl W. Randolph.
> On Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 2:18 AM, James Christian
> <jc.bhebrew at googlemail.com>wrote:
> > Perhaps one thing we often overlook is that for at least 4 centuries it
> was
> > the Greek text that was considered superior by practically all of the
> > Christian world (with the exception of the Patriarchate of Antioch who
> > supported Aramaic primacy with versions of the gospels in Syriac). In
> fact,
> > to this day most Orthodox patriarchates view the Greek text as superior.
> In
> > fact, it was only the Roman patriarchate which later broke union from the
> > Orthodox churches to become the Catholic church that, under the influence
> of
> > Jerome who was in turn was influenced by a Jewish Christian who believed
> the
> > Hebrew text to be superior, that the revolution began of viewing the
> Hebrew
> > text as superior.
> >
> > Perhaps the Hebrew text of that day was superior in many respects but how
> > close that text was to the MT is a different question entirely. The DSS
> > scrolls give us reason to believe that in parts it was slightly
> different.
> >
> > James Christian
> >
> > 2009/11/19 K Randolph <kwrandolph at gmail.com>
> >
> >> Randall has a point here: that despite all its warts and a few places
> >> where
> >> we have evidence where it is wrong (e.g. Nahal Heber scrap of Psalm 22
> >> backed up by context and grammar), it is still the best witness to the
> >> text
> >> that we have. Of course, some of us want better, but … hey! … let’s be
> >> thankful for what we have, and on the whole it’s pretty good.
> >>
> >> Karl W. Randolph.
> >>
> >>
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