BEFORE the discovery of the cache of Hebrew scrolls in the Dead Sea caves in 1947, aside from a few fragments, our Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts were from the late 9th to the 11th century C.E. That is but a mere thousand years ago when the original thirty-nine Hebrew Old Testament Bible books date from 2,500 to 3,500 years ago. Does this mean that prior to 1947, textual scholars and translators were uncertain about the Hebrew Bible that lies behind our English Old Testament? No, there was the most important Hebrew manuscript, which is called the Keter, the “Crown,” that originally contained all the Hebrew Scriptures, or the “Old Testament.”
The largest organized collection of Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts in the world is housed in the Russian National Library (“Second Firkovitch Collection”) in Saint Petersburg. Codex Leningradensis is the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible in Hebrew. Manuscripts earlier than the 13th century are very rare.
THE DANGEROUS CONDITIONS: Papyrus was a material prepared in ancient Egypt from the pithy stem of a water plant, used in sheets throughout the ancient