Hebrew In Israel | Masoretic Text – Learn Torah

Masoretic text, masoretes,

Hebrew In Israel | Masoretic Text – Learn Torah

Yoel Halevi 5 comments

It is not uncommon for people to go round and make arguments about different topics. This is a good practice which enables everyone to study well and understand better. The problem begins when people develop an agenda which obscures the research and confuses facts with speculation.  I like textual criticism but here are some points about the article called “Masoretic Text vs. Original Hebrew” found here:

http://theorthodoxlife.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/masoretic-text-vs-original-hebrew/

I want to address the main points, and not the whole article.  Though I have no doubt the writer is honest about what they believe is truth, there are misconceptions about what things really mean.  These questions exist all the time, and are correct in their nature, however not all answers take into consideration what is actually known, and what is speculation.

1. Using the Dead Sea scrolls is fine, but only if you know what they say!  For example, the claim Martyr made that the text was changed is problematic.  The Isaiah scroll is available on line and you can see it says עלמה and not בתולה.  As can be seen, the masoretic text is very close to the Dead Sea scrolls.  A very important scholar in this field is Dr. Immanuel Tov who has written many articles and given many lectures on the subject.  He has come to the conclusion that the masoretic text was the most common text in the DSS.  In his study “Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible” (2001) he concludes that the majority of the text is similar to the masoretic text.  It is important to remember that the text was passed down through many years of reading and translation, and mistakes were made.  However, the main point is that it reflects an existing textual witness in the DSS, and is the text which has a much older reading tradition than any other text.  To this very day scholars are still struggling with many aspects of the Hebrew used in the DSS.

An interesting and important point about the passing of the text was made by Dr. Immanuel Tov:

“…We can determine that the Masoretic text was the only one used by the early sages during antiquity.  This is the only version quoted in the literature of the rabbinic sages, and it is also the basis for the different Aramaic Targums (translations).  External textual elements of the Masoretic text which are also discussed in the rabbinic sources, such as open and closed Parshiyot (paragraphs), scribal markings and verse devision, and also the readings in the synagogue, fit exactly to this version.  Therefore, it is is to be presumed that the version, which was passed down for hundreds of years, was firstly adopted by the rabbinic sages.  We can even go so far and say that the pre Masoretic texts were based on the book of the temple courts (a book which contained the official temple version of the text, Y.H.)”.

The implications of the above statement are the following:
1.  The Masoretic text is based on a very old scribal tradition which dates back to the official Torah scroll in the temple.
2.  As a result, spelling (and later on vowel points) in the text reflect the original spelling and meaning of the words, regardless of what some want to re-read into the text.
3.  The Masoretic text was adopted by the rabbinic circles at a very early stage, making it a rabbinically preserved source. The Masoretes themselves were only one part in the preservation of the text as we have it today.

Translation from the Hebrew paper:

טוב,ע, ״נוסח המקרא בבתי הכנסת הקדומים: עיונים בעקבות מגילות מדבר יהודה”, בתוך: מגילות א, מוסד ביאליק, תשס״ג, עמ׳ 191

2.  The Ethiopian Jewish Bible might be a Christian Bible which was passed on to them in an old Semitic-Ethiopian language known as Ge’ez.  The fact that they had extra parts does not mean it was part of the original bible.  In my studies of the history of the Ethiopians there are still many questions standing on the origins of the Jews there, and how they came to have the bible they have.  

3.  The vowel points are of no concern to the topic.  At the time of the second or even first Temple vowel points were not used by Jewish groups because there was no need for them.  With the decline of Hebrew, the need for symbols for vowel points became a necessity.  The symbols were adopted by Jewish scribes in the fifth to seventh century and were placed based on a reading tradition which reflected the original meaning of the words.  As a result, I fail to understand the relevance of the argument.  If you ever look at a Torah scroll, for example, you will see that there are NO vowel points.  Another point is that the Samaritans also have a vowel point system which they added and no one claims they changed the text based on this argument and obviously they had nothing to do with the Masoretes.

4.   Many of the books rejected by the Jews were sectarian, and being of such nature were not relevant to the majority of the people. The DSS has never been proven as the common library of Jews living at the time.  One might speculate that this could have been a rescue mission which anyone could place their books to protect them from the Romans.  As of the writing of this article, no evidence has been discovered which proves that everyone believed these sectarian books were common.  See the works of Dr. Menahem Haran on the topic. 

5.  The Alphabet change is also attested in the Dead Sea scrolls and has no relevance to the discussion. 

6. Where did the Masoretes admit they received corrupted text?  The quote posted here is about Tikkun Sofrim and was misunderstood by the writer.  It was a rabbi who said this, not the scribes!  A Tikkun Sofrim is not a change in the text per se, but markings done in the text.  Many scholars rejected the idea that any changes were made at all (S. Lieberman Greeks and Hellenism in Jewish Palestine p.170-178).

7. The “missing” verse from psalm 145 was well known by the Talmudic sages and they pointed out the problem.  This was known centuries before the Aleppo was even written (Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 4b).  Professor David Flusser pointed out that the verse added as verse 13a cannot be original because it uses the name אלהים  instead of God’s actual name like the rest of the verses, showing that this was added by someone else and not the original writer.  Even if we don’t take Flusser’s opinion, we still need to be aware of the fact that there are several other psalms that omit verses from psalms of this kind, such as 9/10 (they are really one psalm) where we have the Alphabet—though not in order—but it has a pattern.  Psalm 25 is missing ו   and ק , psalm 34 has no ו   (Amos Chakham on the book of Psalms).   I will also point out that the extra verse is NOT attested in all versions of the Septuagint (I actually checked).

Another point is the formula of verse 13a.  It actually fits forms which belonged to sectarian psalms found in the Dead Sea scrolls.

In closing, don’t trust websites that spread hatred, only trust people whose point is to spread knowledge in a peaceful way.  

 

Originally Published:  27 October 2014

5 comments

Joseph Israel

December 4, 2017 at 2:11 am

Great Article and very clear. It is interesting how people are quick to make wild claims like the Sept. greek bible is the most accurate and ancient and so in a since better than the Masoretic text. I think it has to do with the NT quoting the Sept. and people trying to defend theology over honestly searching for truth. Anyways, thanks for sharing a factual blog on this subject. I hope and believe the truth will be made know and the Book preserved from the ancient Israelites to this day will be seen to be the hebrew Masoretic text.

Josef Lesejane

December 4, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Shalom Yoel

Thank you very much for taking time to address this matter. I am not a scholar but have invested time for the last 7 years searching the truth by studying Hebrew from the Jewish people. I have often found that there are people who write “Jewish” books but for their own agenda and take with them many people by providing misleading information. I started appreciatibg that the Torah cannot be misinterpreted because it cannot be translated. Many people take shortcuts and in the process present wrong information to the innocent.

Once more thank you very for your work..

Josef Lesejane
South Africa

    Yoel Halevi

    January 3, 2018 at 11:19 am

    I am glad that the information I put out is helping. I pray I will b able to continue doing more and spreading correct knowledge

SetyaHalim

January 4, 2018 at 5:00 pm

As I know that psalms 145 : 13a is not original verse because some facts. I read the article above. I hope the website link: http://www.truthofmasoretic.blogspot.com can help understand more.

    Yoel Halevi

    January 11, 2018 at 9:07 am

    Very interesting, thank you for sharing!

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