MASORETIC TEXT: The Traditional Hebrew Text Behind Most Modern Translations of the Old Testament

The group of manuscripts known as the Masoretic Text developed over an extended period of time, beginning in the second century AD (Ashby, Go Out and Meet God, 5). It received its final form in the 10th century AD under Aaron Ben Asher of the Tiberian Masoretes (Tov, Textual Criticism, 24.) It is currently best represented in the Leningrad Codex, which is the base text for the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) and the ongoing work of the Biblia Hebraica Quinta.

THE MASORETES AND THE MASORETIC TEXT—A Basic Overview

The Masoretes were groups of Jewish scribe-scholars who worked between the 6th and 10th centuries CE, based primarily in early medieval Palestine in the cities of Tiberias and Jerusalem, as well as in Iraq.

The Masoretic Text[a] (MT or 𝕸) is the authoritative Hebrew and Aramaic text of the 24 books of Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism.

It was primarily copied, edited and distributed by a group of Jews known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries of the Common Era (CE). It is the text behind all of our Bible translations.

Manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures

The first list of the Old Testament manuscripts in Hebrew, made by Benjamin Kennicott (1776–1780) and published by Oxford, listed 615 manuscripts from libraries in England and on the Continent. Giovanni de Rossi (1784–1788) published a list of 731 manuscripts. The main manuscript discoveries in modern times are those of the Cairo Geniza (c. 1890)... Continue Reading →

Jacob ben Chayyim (c. 1470 – c. 1538) Old Testament Textual Criticism Scholar

The first rabbinic Bible—i.e., the Hebrew text furnished with full vowel points and accents, accompanied by the Aramaic Targums and the major medieval Jewish commentaries—was edited by Felix Pratensis and published by Daniel Bomberg (Venice, 1516/17). The second edition, edited by Jacob ben Hayyim ibn Adonijah and issued by Bomberg in four volumes (Venice, 1524/25), became the prototype of future Hebrew Bibles down to the 20th century.

OTTC HOSEA 14:2: Is “bulls” (MT) or “fruit” (LXX; 14:3) the original reading of the Hebrew text?

The MT has the reading “bulls” (פָרִים; farim) in verse 2 of chapter 14. On the other hand, the LXX: Greek Septuagint reads “fruit”  (καρπὸν; fruit) in verse 2 of chapter 14. The Septuagint continues to be very much important today and is used by textual scholars to help uncover copyists’ errors that might have crept into the Hebrew manuscripts either intentionally or unintentionally. ...

OTTC GENESIS 9:10: Is the second “all the beasts of the earth” the original reading of the Hebrew text?

The BHS/MT has the reading “to all the beasts of the earth” in verse 10 of chapter 9. On the other hand, the Greek Septuagint (LXX) does not include “to all the beasts of the earth” in verse 10 of chapter 9. The verbal repetition in the Hebrew test is obviously for emphasis. The Septuagint continues to be very much important today and is used by textual scholars to help uncover copyists’ errors ...

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