The Masoretes (Hebrew: בעלי המסורה Ba'alei ha-Masora)
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 (Babylonia).
Each group compiled a system of pronunciation and grammatical guides
in the form of diacritical notes on the external form of the biblical
text in an attempt to standardize the pronunciation, paragraph and
verse divisions and cantillation of the Jewish Bible, the Tanakh, for
the worldwide Jewish community.
The ben Asher family of Masoretes was largely responsible for the
preservation and production of the Masoretic Text, although an
alternate Masoretic text of the ben Naphtali Masoretes, which has
around 875 differences from the ben Asher text, existed. The
halakhic authority Maimonides endorsed the ben Asher as superior,
although the Egyptian Jewish scholar, Saadya Gaon al-Fayyumi, had
preferred the ben Naphtali system. It has been suggested that the ben
Asher family and the majority of the Masoretes were Karaites.
However, Geoffrey Khan believes that the ben Asher family was probably
not Karaite, and Aron Dotan avers that there are "decisive proofs
that M. Ben-Asher was not a Karaite."
The Masoretes devised the vowel notation system for Hebrew that is
still widely used, as well as the trope symbols used for cantillation.
1 See also
3 Further reading
4 External links
^ Wegner, Paul (1999). The Journey From Texts to Translations. Baker
Academic. p. 172. ISBN 978-0801027994.
^ Louis Ginzberg, Caspar Levias, Ben Naphtali, Jewish
^ Jewish Virtual Library: Aaron ben Moses ben Asher
^ Khan, Geoffrey (2000). Early Karaite grammatical texts. Society of
Biblical Literature. p. 52 ISBN 978-1589830004.
cf. Khan, Geoffrey (1990). Karaite Bible Manuscripts from the Cairo
Genizah. CUP Archive. p. 20 ISBN 978-0521392273.
^ Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol.
3. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. p. 321.
In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language, Chapter 5.
The Text of the Old Testament. ISBN 0-8028-0788-7
Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah. ISBN 0-89130-374-X
Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, §2, §3
Jewish Encyclopedia: Masorah
The role of the Masoretes (PDF)
Masorah, Encyclopedia Judaica
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