Outline of Bible-related topics
Nash Papyrus (2nd century BCE) contains a portion of a
pre-Masoretic Text, specifically the
Ten Commandments and the Shema
The Masoretic Text (MT, 𝕸, or
displaystyle mathfrak M
) is the authoritative Hebrew and Aramaic text of the
Rabbinic Judaism. It was primarily copied, edited and distributed by a
Jews known as the
Masoretes between the 7th and 10th
centuries CE. The oldest extant manuscripts date from around the 9th
Aleppo Codex (once the oldest-known complete copy but
now missing the Torah) dates from the 10th century. The Masoretic Text
defines the Jewish canon and their precise letter-text, with their
vocalization and accentuation known as the Masorah.
The ancient Hebrew word mesorah (מסורה, alt. מסורת) broadly
refers to the whole chain of Jewish tradition (see Oral law), which is
claimed (by Orthodox Judaism) to be unchanged and infallible.
Referring to the Masoretic Text, mesorah specifically means the
diacritic markings of the text of the
Hebrew Scriptures and the
concise marginal notes in manuscripts (and later printings) of the
Tanakh which note textual details, usually about the precise spelling
Modern scholars seeking to understand the history of the Tanakh’s
text use a range of other sources besides the Masoretic Text. These
include Greek and Syriac translations, quotations from rabbinic
Samaritan Pentateuch and others such as the Dead Sea
Scrolls. Many of these are older than the Masoretic text and often
contradict it. The quest for which one of the three commonly known
versions was the original (if any) is not fully determined). The
Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea Scrolls have shown the
Masoretic Text to be nearly identical
to some texts of the
Tanakh dating from 200 BCE but different from
others. Though the consonants of the
Masoretic Text differ little
from the text generally accepted in the early 2nd century (and also
differ little from some
Qumran texts that are even older), it has many
differences of both greater and lesser significance when compared to
the manuscripts of the Septuagint, a Greek translation (about 1000
years older than the MT made in the 3rd to 2nd centuries BCE) of the
Hebrew Scriptures that was in popular use in Egypt and Israel (and
matches the quotations in the New Testament, especially by Paul the
Apostle). In a recent finding, the
Masoretic Text was discovered to
be completely identical with text recovered from the ancient En-Gedi
Scroll, a short
Leviticus fragment carbon-dated to the 3rd or 4th
Masoretic Text was used as the basis for translations of the Old
Testament in Protestant Bibles such as the
King James Version
King James Version and
American Standard Version
American Standard Version and (after 1943) for some versions of
Catholic Bibles, replacing the
1 Origin and transmission
1.1 Second Temple period
1.2 Rabbinic period
1.3 The Age of the Masoretes
1.3.1 Ben Asher and ben Naphtali
1.4 The Middle Ages
2.2 Language and form
2.3 Numerical Masorah
3 Fixing of the text
3.1 Scribal emendations – Tikkune Soferim
3.2 Mikra and ittur
3.3 Suspended letters and dotted words
3.4 Inverted letters
4 History of the Masorah
5 Critical study
6 Some important editions
7 See also
9 Works cited
10 External links
Origin and transmission
The inter-relationship between various significant ancient manuscripts
Old Testament (some identified by their sigla). Mt here denotes
the Masoretic Text; LXX, the original Septuagint.
Talmud and Karaite manuscripts state that a standard copy of
Bible was kept in the court of the
Temple in Jerusalem
Temple in Jerusalem for
the benefit of copyists; there were paid correctors of Biblical books
among the officers of the Temple (Talmud, tractate Ketubot 106a).
This copy is mentioned in the
Letter of Aristeas
Letter of Aristeas (§ 30; comp. Blau,
Studien zum Althebr. Buchwesen, p. 100), in the statements of
Philo (preamble to his "Analysis of the Political Constitution of the
Jews"), and in
Josephus (Contra Ap. i. 8).
A Talmudic story, perhaps referring to an earlier time, relates that
Torah scrolls were found in the Temple court but were at
variance with each other. The differences were then resolved by
majority decision among the three.
Second Temple period
The discovery of the
Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, dating from c. 150
BCE-75 CE, shows that in this period there was not always the
scrupulous uniformity of text that was so stressed in later centuries.
According to Menachem Cohen, the Dead Sea scrolls decided these issues
'by showing that there was indeed a Hebrew text-type on which the
Septuagint-translation was based and which differed substantially from
the received MT'. The scrolls show numerous small variations in
orthography, both as against the later Masoretic text, and between
each other. It is also evident from the notings of corrections and of
variant alternatives that scribes felt free to choose according to
their personal taste and discretion between different readings.
However, despite these variations, most of the
Qumran fragments can be
classified as being closer to the Masoretic text than to any other
text group that has survived. According to Lawrence Schiffman, 60% can
be classed as being of proto-Masoretic type, and a further 20% Qumran
style with bases in proto-Masoretic texts, compared to 5%
proto-Samaritan type, 5% Septuagintal type, and 10%
Joseph Fitzmyer noted the following
regarding the findings at
Qumran Cave 4 in particular: "Such ancient
recensional forms of
Old Testament books bear witness to an
unsuspected textual diversity that once existed; these texts merit far
greater study and attention than they have been accorded till now.
Thus, the differences in the
Septuagint are no longer considered the
result of a poor or tendentious attempt to translate the Hebrew into
the Greek; rather they testify to a different pre-Christian form of
the Hebrew text". On the other hand, some of the fragments
conforming most accurately to the Masoretic text were found in Cave
An emphasis on minute details of words and spellings, already used
Pharisees as bases for argumentation, reached its height
with the example of
Rabbi Akiva (died 135 CE). The idea of a perfect
text sanctified in its consonantal base quickly spread throughout the
Jewish communities via supportive statements in Halakha, Aggadah, and
Jewish thought; and with it increasingly forceful strictures that
a deviation in even a single letter would make a
invalid. Very few manuscripts are said to have survived the
Jerusalem in 70 CE. This both drastically reduced
the number of variants in circulation, and gave a new urgency that the
text must be preserved. New Greek translations were also made. Unlike
the Septuagint, large-scale deviations in sense between the Greek of
Aquila of Sinope and
Theodotion and what we now know as the Masoretic
text are minimal. Detailed variations between different Hebrew texts
in use still clearly existed though, as witnessed by differences
between the present-day Masoretic text and versions mentioned in the
Gemara, and often even halachic midrashim based on spelling versions
which do not exist in the current Masoretic text.
The Age of the Masoretes
The current received text finally achieved predominance through the
reputation of the Masoretes, schools of scribes and
working between the 7th and 11th centuries, based primarily in the
Land of Israel
Land of Israel in the cities of
Tiberias and Jerusalem, and in
Babylonia. According to Menachem Cohen these schools developed such
prestige for the accuracy and error-control of their copying
techniques that their texts established an authority beyond all
others. Differences remained, sometimes bolstered by systematic
local differences in pronunciation and cantillation. Every locality,
following the tradition of its school, had a standard codex embodying
its readings. In
Babylonia the school of Sura differed from that of
Nehardea; and similar differences existed in the schools of the Land
of Israel as against that at Tiberias, which in later times
increasingly became the chief seat of learning. In this period living
tradition ceased, and the
Masoretes in preparing their codices usually
followed the one school or the other, examining, however, standard
codices of other schools and noting their differences.
Ben Asher and ben Naphtali
In the first half of the 10th century
Aaron ben Moses ben Asher
Aaron ben Moses ben Asher and
Ben Naphtali were the leading
Masoretes in Tiberias. Their names have
come to symbolise the variations among Masoretes, but the differences
between ben Asher and ben Naphtali should not be exaggerated. There
are hardly any differences between them regarding the consonants,
though they differ more on vocalization and accents. Also, there were
other authorities such as Rabbi Pinchas and Moshe Moheh, and ben Asher
and ben Naphtali often agree against these others. Further, it is
possible that all variations found among manuscripts eventually came
to be regarded as disagreements between these figureheads. Ben Asher
wrote a standard codex (the Aleppo Codex) embodying his opinions.
Probably ben Naphtali did too, but it has not survived.[citation
It has been suggested that there never was an actual "ben Naphtali";
rather, the name was chosen (based on the Bible, where Asher and
Naphtali are the younger sons of Zilpah and Bilhah) to designate any
tradition different from ben Asher's.
Ben Asher was the last of a distinguished family of Masoretes
extending back to the latter half of the 8th century. Despite the
rivalry of ben Naphtali and the opposition of Saadia Gaon, the most
eminent representative of the Babylonian school of criticism, ben
Asher's codex became recognized as the standard text of the Bible.
See Aleppo Codex,
Most of the secular scholars conclude that Aaron ben Asher was a
Karaite, though there is evidence against this view.
The Middle Ages
The two rival authorities, ben Asher and ben Naphtali, practically
brought the Masorah to a close. Very few additions were made by the
later Masoretes, styled in the 13th and 14th centuries Naḳdanim, who
revised the works of the copyists, added the vowels and accents
(generally in fainter ink and with a finer pen) and frequently the
Considerable influence on the development and spread of Masoretic
literature was exercised during the eleventh, twelfth, and 13th
centuries by the Franco-German school of Tosafists. Rabbi Gershom ben
Judah, his brother Machir ben Judah,
Joseph ben Samuel Bonfils (Tob
'Elem) of Limoges,
Rabbeinu Tam (Jacob ben Meïr), Menahem ben Perez
Perez ben Elijah of Corbeil, Marne, Judah ben Isaac Messer
Leon, Meïr Spira, and Rabbi
Meir of Rothenburg
Meir of Rothenburg made Masoretic
compilations, or additions to the subject, which are all more or less
frequently referred to in the marginal glosses of Biblical codices and
in the works of Hebrew grammarians.
See also: Tiberian vocalization
A page from the Aleppo Codex, showing the extensive marginal
By long tradition, a ritual Sefer
Torah scroll) could contain
only the Hebrew consonantal text – nothing added, nothing taken
away. The Masoretic codices however, provide extensive additional
material, called masorah, to show correct pronunciation and
cantillation, protect against scribal errors, and annotate possible
variants. The manuscripts thus include vowel points, pronunciation
marks and stress accents in the text, short annotations in the side
margins, and longer more extensive notes in the upper and lower
margins and collected at the end of each book.
These notes were added because the
Masoretes recognized the
possibility of human error in copying the Hebrew Bible. The Masoretes
were not working with the original Hebrew manuscripts of the
corruptions had already crept into the versions they copied.
The Hebrew word masorah is taken from the
Book of Ezekiel 20:37 and
means originally "legcuffs". The fixation of the text was considered
to be in the nature of legcuffs upon its exposition. When, in the
course of time, the Masorah had become a traditional discipline, the
term became connected with the verb מסר "to hand down" and acquired
the general meaning of "tradition."
Language and form
The language of the Masoretic notes is primarily Aramaic but partly
Hebrew. The Masoretic annotations are found in various forms: (a) in
separate works, e.g., the Oklah we-Oklah; (b) in the form of notes
written in the margins and at the end of codices. In rare cases, the
notes are written between the lines. The first word of each Biblical
book is also as a rule surrounded by notes. The latter are called the
Initial Masorah; the notes on the side margins or between the columns
are called the Small (Masora parva or Mp) or Inner Masorah (Masora
marginalis); and those on the lower and upper margins, the Large or
Outer Masorah (Masora magna or Mm[Mas.M]). The name "Large Masorah" is
applied sometimes to the lexically arranged notes at the end of the
printed Bible, usually called the Final Masorah, (Masora finalis),
or the Masoretic Concordance.
The Small Masorah consists of brief notes with reference to marginal
readings, to statistics showing the number of times a particular form
is found in Scripture, to full and defective spelling, and to
abnormally written letters. The Large Masorah is more copious in its
notes. The Final Masorah comprises all the longer rubrics for which
space could not be found in the margin of the text, and is arranged
alphabetically in the form of a concordance. The quantity of notes the
marginal Masorah contains is conditioned by the amount of vacant space
on each page. In the manuscripts it varies also with the rate at which
the copyist was paid and the fanciful shape he gave to his gloss.
There was accordingly an independent Babylonian Masora which differed
from the Palestinian in terminology and to some extent in order. The
Masora is concise in style with a profusion of abbreviations,
requiring a considerable amount of knowledge for their full
understanding. It was quite natural that a later generation of scribes
would no longer understand the notes of the
Masoretes and consider
them unimportant; by the late medieval period they were reduced to
mere ornamentation of the manuscripts. It was Jacob ben Chayyim who
restored clarity and order to them.
In most manuscripts, there are some discrepancies between the text and
the masorah, suggesting that they were copied from different sources
or that one of them has copying errors. The lack of such discrepancies
Aleppo Codex is one of the reasons for its importance; the
scribe who copied the notes, presumably Aaron ben
Moses ben Asher,
probably wrote them originally.
In classical antiquity, copyists were paid for their work according to
the number of stichs (lines of verse). As the prose books of the Bible
were hardly ever written in stichs, the copyists, in order to estimate
the amount of work, had to count the letters. For the Masoretic
Text, such statistical information more importantly also ensured
accuracy in the transmission of the text with the production of
subsequent copies that were done by hand.
Masoretes contributed the Numerical Masorah. These notes
are traditionally categorized into two main groups, the marginal
Masorah and the final Masorah. The category of marginal Masorah is
further divided into the Masorah parva (small Masorah) in the outer
side margins and the Masorah magna (large Masorah), traditionally
located at the top and bottom margins of the text.
The Masorah parva is a set of statistics in the outer side margins of
the text. Beyond simply counting the letters, the Masorah parva
consists of word-use statistics, similar documentation for expressions
or certain phraseology, observations on full or defective writing,
references to the Kethiv-Qere readings and more. These observations
are also the result of a passionate zeal to safeguard the accurate
transmission of the sacred text.
Even though often cited as very exact, the Masoretic "frequency notes"
in the margin of
Codex Leningradiensis contain several
The Masorah magna, in measure, is an expanded Masorah parva. It is not
printed in the
Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia
Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS).
The final Masorah is located at the end of biblical books or after
certain sections of the text, such as at the end of the Torah. It
contains information and statistics regarding the number of words in a
book or section, etc. Thus,
Leviticus 8:23 is the middle verse
in the Pentateuch. The collation of manuscripts and the noting of
their differences furnished material for the Text-Critical Masorah.
The close relation which existed in earlier times (from the Soferim to
Amoraim inclusive) between the teacher of tradition and the
Masorete, both frequently being united in one person, accounts for the
Exegetical Masorah. Finally, the invention and introduction of a
graphic system of vocalization and accentuation gave rise to the
The most important of the Masoretic notes are those that detail the
Qere and Ketiv
Qere and Ketiv that are located in the Masorah parva in the outside
margins of BHS. Given that the
Masoretes would not alter the sacred
consonantal text, the Kethiv-Qere notes were a way of "correcting" or
commenting on the text for any number of reasons (grammatical,
theological, aesthetic, etc.) deemed important by the copyist.
Fixing of the text
The earliest labors of the
Masoretes included standardizing division
of the text into books, sections, paragraphs, verses, and clauses
(probably in the chronological order here enumerated); the fixing of
the orthography, pronunciation, and cantillation; the introduction or
final adoption of the square characters with the five final letters;
some textual changes to guard against blasphemy and the like (though
these changes may pre-date the
Masoretes – see Tikkune Soferim
below); the enumeration of letters, words, verses, etc., and the
substitution of some words for others in public reading.
Since no additions were allowed to be made to the official text of the
Bible, the early
Masoretes adopted other expedients: e.g., they marked
the various divisions by spacing, and gave indications of halakic and
haggadic teachings by full or defective spelling, abnormal forms of
letters, dots, and other signs. Marginal notes were permitted only in
private copies, and the first mention of such notes is found in the
case of R. Meïr (c. 100–150 CE).
Scribal emendations – Tikkune Soferim
Main article: Tiqqun soferim
Early rabbinic sources, from around 200 CE, mention several passages
of Scripture in which the conclusion is inevitable that the ancient
reading must have differed from that of the present text. The
explanation of this phenomenon is given in the expression "Scripture
has used euphemistic language" (כנה הכתוב), i.e. to avoid
anthropomorphism and anthropopathism.
Rabbi Simon ben Pazzi (3rd century) calls these readings "emendations
of the Scribes" (tikkune Soferim;
Midrash Genesis Rabbah xlix. 7),
assuming that the Scribes actually made the changes. This view was
adopted by the later
Midrash and by the majority of Masoretes. In
Masoretic works these changes are ascribed to Ezra; to
Ezra and the Soferim; or to Ezra, Nehemiah, Zechariah,
Haggai, and Baruch. All these ascriptions mean one and the same thing:
that the changes were assumed to have been made by the Men of the
The term tikkun Soferim (תקון סופרים) has been understood by
different scholars in various ways. Some regard it as a correction of
Biblical language authorized by the Soferim for homiletical purposes.
Others take it to mean a mental change made by the original writers or
redactors of Scripture; i.e. the latter shrank from putting in writing
a thought which some of the readers might expect them to express.
The assumed emendations are of four general types:
Removal of unseemly expressions used in reference to God; e.g., the
substitution of ("to bless") for ("to curse") in certain passages.
Safeguarding of the Tetragrammaton; e.g. substitution of "Elohim" or
"Adonai" for "YHWH" in some passages.
Removal of application of the names of pagan gods, e.g. the change of
the name "Ishbaal" to "Ish-bosheth."
Safeguarding the unity of divine worship at Jerusalem.
Mikra and ittur
Among the earliest technical terms used in connection with activities
of the Scribes are the mikra Soferim and ittur Soferim. In the geonic
schools, the first term was taken to signify certain vowel-changes
which were made in words in pause or after the article; the second,
the cancellation in a few passages of the "vav" conjunctive, where it
had by some been wrongly read. The objection to such an explanation is
that the first changes would fall under the general head of fixation
of pronunciation, and the second under the head of Qere and Ketiv
(i.e. "What is read" and "What is written"). Various explanations
have, therefore, been offered by ancient as well as modern scholars
without, however, succeeding in furnishing a completely satisfactory
Suspended letters and dotted words
There are four words having one of their letters suspended above the
line. One of them, מנשה (Judges 18:30), is due to an alteration of
the original משה out of reverence for Moses; rather than say that
Moses' grandson became an idolatrous priest, a suspended letter
nun ( נ ) was inserted to turn Mosheh into Menasheh
(Manasseh). The origin of the other three (
Psalms 80:14; Job 38:13,
38:15) is doubtful. According to some, they are due to mistaken
majuscular letters; according to others, they are later insertions of
originally omitted weak consonants.
In fifteen passages in the Bible, some words are stigmatized; i.e.,
dots appear above the letters. (Genesis 16:5, 18:9, 19:33, 33:4,
37:12, Numbers 3:39, 9:10, 21:30, 29:15,
Deuteronomy 29:28, 2 Samuel
19:20, Isaiah 44:9, Ezekiel 41:20, 46:22,
Psalms 27:13) The
significance of the dots is disputed. Some hold them to be marks of
erasure; others believe them to indicate that in some collated
manuscripts the stigmatized words were missing, hence that the reading
is doubtful; still others contend that they are merely a mnemonic
device to indicate homiletic explanations which the ancients had
connected with those words; finally, some maintain that the dots were
designed to guard against the omission by copyists of text-elements
which, at first glance or after comparison with parallel passages,
seemed to be superfluous. Instead of dots some manuscripts exhibit
strokes, vertical or else horizontal. The first two explanations are
unacceptable for the reason that such faulty readings would belong to
Qere and Ketiv, which, in case of doubt, the majority of manuscripts
would decide. The last two theories have equal probability.
In nine passages of the
Masoretic Text are found signs usually called
inverted nuns, because they resemble the Hebrew letter
nun ( נ ) written in some inverted fashion. The
exact shape varies between different manuscripts and printed editions.
In many manuscripts, a reversed nun is found—referred to as a nun
hafucha by the masoretes. In some earlier printed editions, they are
shown as the standard nun upside down or rotated, because the printer
did not want to bother to design a character to be used only nine
times. The recent scholarly editions of the
Masoretic Text show the
reversed nun as described by the masoretes. In some manuscripts,
however, other symbols are occasionally found instead. These are
sometimes referred to in rabbinical literature as simaniyot
The primary set of inverted nuns is found surrounding the text of
Numbers 10:35–36. The Mishna notes that this text is 85 letters long
and dotted. This demarcation of this text leads to the later use of
the inverted nun markings.
Saul Lieberman demonstrated that similar
markings can be found in ancient Greek texts where they are also used
to denote 'short texts'. During the Medieval period, the inverted nuns
were actually inserted into the text of the early Rabbinic Bibles
published by Bomberg in the early 16th century. The talmud records
that the markings surrounding Numbers 10:35–36 were thought to
denote that this 85 letter text was not in its proper place.
Bar Kappara considered the
Torah known to us as composed of seven
volumes in the
Gemara "The seven pillars with which Wisdom built her
house (Prov. 9:1) are the seven Books of Moses". Genesis, Exodus and
Deuteronomy as we know them but Numbers was really three
separate volumes Numbers 1:1–10:35 followed by Numbers 10:35–36
and the third text from there to the end of Numbers.
The 85 letter text is also said to be denoted because it is the model
for the least number of letters which constitute a 'text' which one
would be required to save from fire due to its holiness.
History of the Masorah
The history of the Masorah may be divided into three periods: (1)
creative period, from its beginning to the introduction of
vowel-signs; (2) reproductive period, from the introduction of
vowel-signs to the printing of the Masorah (1525); (3) critical
period, from 1525 to the present time.
The materials for the history of the first period are scattered
remarks in Talmudic and Midrashic literature, in the post-Talmudical
treatises Masseket Sefer
Torah and Masseket Soferim, and in a
Masoretic chain of tradition found in ben Asher's Diḳduḳe
ha-Ṭe'amim, § 69 and elsewhere.
Jacob ben Hayyim ibn Adonijah, having collated a vast number of
manuscripts, systematized his material and arranged the Masorah in the
second Bomberg edition of the
Bible (Venice, 1524–25). Besides
introducing the Masorah into the margin, he compiled at the close of
Bible a concordance of the Masoretic glosses for which he could
not find room in a marginal form, and added an elaborate introduction
– the first treatise on the Masorah ever produced. In spite of its
numerous errors, this work has been considered by some as the "Textus
Receptus" of the Masorah (Würthwein 1995:39), and was used for the
English translation of the
Old Testament for the King James
Next to Ibn Adoniyah, the critical study of the Masorah has been most
advanced by Elia Levita, who published his famous "Massoret
ha-Massoret" in 1538. The
Tiberias of the elder Johannes Buxtorf
(1620) made Levita's researches more accessible to a Christian
audience. The eighth introduction to Walton's Polyglot
largely a reworking of the Tiberias. Levita compiled likewise a vast
Masoretic concordance, Sefer ha-Zikronot, which still lies in the
National Library at Paris unpublished. The study is indebted also to
R. Meïr b. Todros ha-Levi (RaMaH), who, as early as the 13th century,
wrote his Sefer Massoret Seyag la-
Torah (correct ed. Florence, 1750);
to Menahem Lonzano, who composed a treatise on the Masorah of the
Pentateuch entitled "Or Torah"; and in particular to Jedidiah Norzi,
whose "Minḥat Shai" contains valuable Masoretic notes based on a
careful study of manuscripts.
Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea Scrolls have shed new light on the history of the
Masoretic Text. Many texts found there, especially those from Masada,
are quite similar to the Masoretic Text, suggesting that an ancestor
Masoretic Text was indeed extant as early as the 2nd century
BCE. However, other texts, including many of those from Qumran, differ
substantially, indicating that the
Masoretic Text was but one of a
diverse set of Biblical writings (Lane Fox 1991:99–106; Tov
1992:115). Among the rejected books by both the Judaic and Catholic
canons was found the
Book of Enoch, the
Community Rule (1QS) and War
of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness (1QM).
In a recent finding, the
Masoretic Text is discovered to be completely
identical with text recovered from an ancient scroll. The
En-Gedi Scroll was found in 1970 but had
not had its content reconstructed until 2016. Researchers were able to
recover 35 complete and partial lines of text from the
Leviticus and the text deciphered is completely identical with the
consonantal framework of the Masoretic Text. The En-Gedi scroll is
the first time a biblical scroll has been discovered in an ancient
synagogue's holy ark, where it would have been stored for prayers, and
not in desert caves like the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Some important editions
There have been very many published editions of the Masoretic Text,
some of the most important being:
Daniel Bomberg, ed. Jacob ben Hayyim ibn Adonijah, 1524–1525, Venice
The second Rabbinic
Bible served as the base for all future editions.
This was the source text used by the translators of the King James
Version in 1611, the New
King James Version
King James Version in 1982, and the New
Bible in 2005.
Everard van der Hooght, 1705,
Amsterdam and Utrecht
This was practically a reprint of the Athias-Leusden edition of 1667;
but at the end it has variants taken from a number of printed
editions. It has been much prized because of its excellent and clear
type; but no manuscripts were used in its preparation. Nearly all 18th
and 19th century Hebrew Bibles were almost exact reprints of this
Benjamin Kennicott, 1776, Oxford
As well as the van der Hooght text, this included the Samaritan
Pentateuch and a huge collection of variants from manuscripts and
early printed editions; while this collection has many errors, it is
still of some value. The collection of variants was corrected and
Giovanni Bernardo De Rossi (1784–8), but his
publications gave only the variants without a complete text.
Wolf Heidenheim, 1818, Frankfurt-am-Main
This edition (called Me'or Enayim) included the Five Books of Moses,
Haftarot and Megillot. It had many differences from earlier editions
in vowels, notes and lay-out, based on a comparison with old
manuscripts and a correction of misprints based on analysis of
grammatical principles. There were extensive textual notes justifying
all these alterations. Heidenheim also divided each weekly Sabbath
reading into seven sections (seven people should be called up each
Sabbath), as there had been considerable variation in practice about
where to make the divisions, and his divisions are now accepted by
nearly all Ashkenazi communities.
Samson Raphael Hirsch
Samson Raphael Hirsch used this text
(omitting the textual notes) in his own commentary, and it became the
standard text in Germany. It was frequently reprinted there, again
without the textual notes, up to World War II, and the edition of Jack
Mazin (London, 1950) is an exact copy.
Max Letteris, 1852; 2nd edition, 1866 (published British and Foreign
The 1852 edition was yet another copy of van der Hooght. The 1866
edition, however, was carefully checked against old manuscripts and
early printed editions, and has a very legible typeface. It is
probably the most widely reproduced text of the Hebrew
history, with many dozens of authorised reprints and many more pirated
and unacknowledged ones.
Seligman Baer and Franz Delitzsch, 1869–1895 (Exodus to Deuteronomy
Christian David Ginsburg, 1894; 2nd edition, 1908–1926
The first edition was very close to the second Bomberg edition, but
with variants added from a number of manuscripts and all of the
earliest printed editions, collated with far more care than the work
of Kennicott; he did all the work himself. The second edition diverged
slightly more from Bomberg, and collated more manuscripts; he did most
of the work himself, but failing health forced him to rely partly on
his wife and other assistants.
Biblia Hebraica, first two editions, 1906, 1912; virtually identical
to the second Bomberg edition, but with variants from Hebrew sources
and early translations in the footnotes
Biblia Hebraica, third edition based on the Leningrad Codex, 1937;
later reprints listed some variant readings from the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Umberto Cassuto, 1953 (based on Ginsburg 2nd edition, but revised
based on the Aleppo Codex, Leningrad
Codex and other early
Norman Snaith, 1958 (published British and Foreign
Snaith based it on Sephardi manuscripts such as British Museum Or.
2626-28, and said that he had not relied on Letteris. However, it has
been shown that he must have prepared his copy by amending a copy of
Letteris, because while there are many differences, it has many of the
same typographical errors as Letteris. Snaith's printer even went so
far as to break printed vowels to match some accidentally broken
characters in Letteris. Snaith combined the accent system of Letteris
with the system found in Sephardi manuscripts, thereby creating
accentuation patterns found nowhere else in any manuscript or printed
Bible Project, 1965–
Started by Moshe Goshen-Gottstein, this follows the text of the Aleppo
Codex where extant and otherwise the Leningrad Codex. It includes a
wide variety of variants from the Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint, early
Rabbinic literature and selected early mediaeval manuscripts. So far,
only Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel have been published.
Bible by Koren Publishers Jerusalem, 1962
The text was derived by comparing a number of printed Bibles, and
following the majority when there were discrepancies. It was
criticised by Moshe Goshen-Gottstein: "the publisher of the Koren
Bible – who laid no claim to expertise in masoretic issues ...
sought the help of three scholars, all of whom suffered from the same
lack of masoretic expertise ... Basically, the Koren edition is hardly
an edition like that of Dotan, but another rehash of the material
prepared by ben Hayim."
Aron Dotan, based on the Leningrad
Codex but correcting obvious
Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, revision of Biblia Hebraica (third
edition), 1977. The second edition of Stuttgartensia (published 1983)
was the source text for the
Old Testament portion of the English
Standard Version, published in 2001.
Mordechai Breuer, based on the Aleppo Codex, 1977–1982
Jerusalem Crown, 2001: this is a revised version of Breuer, and is
the official version used in inaugurating the President of Israel
Biblia Hebraica Quinta, revision of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia;
fascicles published as of 2016 are: Five Megilloth,
Ezra and Nehemiah,
Deuteronomy, Proverbs, Twelve Minor Prophets, Judges, Genesis.
^ Pronounced /ˌmæsəˈrɛtɪk/.
^ A 7th century fragment containing the Song of the Sea (Exodus
13:19–16:1) is one of the few surviving texts from the "silent era"
of Hebrew biblical texts between the
Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea Scrolls and the Aleppo
Codex. See "Rare scroll fragment to be unveiled,"
Jerusalem Post, May
^ "Scholars seek Hebrew Bible's original text – but was there one?".
Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
^ "Controversy lurks as scholars try to work out Bible's original
text". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
^ Shanks, Herschel (August 4, 1992). Understanding the Dead Sea
Scrolls (1st Edition ed.). Random House. p. 336.
ISBN 978-0679414483. CS1 maint: Extra text (link)
Emanuel Tov (1992). Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible.
Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
^ Eugen J. Pentiuc, Jesus the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible, Paulist
Press, Mahwah, NJ, USA. 2006. pxvi
^ a b
Nahum M. Sarna and S. David Sperling (2006), Text, in Bible,
Encyclopaedia Judaica 2nd ed.; via Jewish Virtual Library
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Jewish
^ For a discussion see: Zeitlin, S. (April 1966), Were There Three
Torah-Scrolls in the Azarah?,
The Jewish Quarterly Review New Series,
^ a b c d e Menachem Cohen, The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical
Text and the Science of Textual Criticism in HaMikrah V'anachnu, ed.
Uriel Simon, HaMachon L'Yahadut U'Machshava Bat-Z'mananu and Dvir,
^ L. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Yale University
Press; illustrated edition (2007), ISBN 978-0-300-14022-4
^ Joseph Fitzmyer. The
Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible: After Forty
Years, page 302
^ Ulrich, E., Cross, F. M., Davila, J. R., Jastram, N., Sanderson, J.
E., Tov, E. and Strugnell, J. (1994).
Qumran Cave 4, VII, Genesis to
Numbers. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 12. Clarendon Press,
^ Maimonides, The Laws of Tefillin, Mezuzot, and
Torah Scrolls, 1:2
^ Godfrey Rolles Driver, Introduction to the
Old Testament of the New
English Bible, 1970
^ Ben-Hayyim, Zeev. "Ben-Asher, Aaron ben Moses." Encyclopaedia
Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Vol. 3.
Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 319–321. Gale Virtual
Reference Library. Web. 2 Jan. 2013. Ben Zeev states: "The assumption
that he was a Karaite serves to explain his attitude to the
its authoritativeness in matters of halakhah (for example, Dikdukei
ha-Te'amim, ed. A. Dotan (1967), ch. 2: "The prophets… complete the
Torah, are as the Torah, and we decide Law from them as we do from the
Torah") and to vocalization, opinions rooted in Karaite thought. It
appears from the parallel ideas and style used in the Maḥberet
Ben-Asher (see below), from the "Wine Song" written by his father, and
from the list which his father appended to the codex of the Prophets
(kept in the Karaite synagogue, Cairo), which he wrote "827 years
after the destruction of the Second Temple" (i.e., in 895), that his
Moses Ben-Asher, was also a Karaite, and it is probable that
Karaism was a family tradition. (Note, however, that Dotan (Sinai, 41
(1957), 280ff.) and M. Zucker (Tarbiz, 27 (1957/58), 61ff.) hold that
Aaron Ben-Asher and his family were not Karaites.) It is noteworthy
that the founder of the family, "Asher the Great Sage," apparently
lived in the first half of the eighth century and was a contemporary
of Anan, a precursor of Karaism.
^ "Errors in the Masoretes' "Original" Hebrew Manuscripts of the
Bible?". Biblical Archaeology Society. Retrieved 25 September
^ Würthwein, Ernst. The Text of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids:
William B. Eerdmans. 1979
^ Den masoretiska ordräknesumman i 1 Mos 1:12[dead link]
^ Den masoretiska ordräknesumman i 1 Mos 2:18[dead link]
^ See also the whole book "The Sub Loco notes in the
Torah of Biblia
Hebraica Stuttgartensia" by Daniel S. Mynatt, which describes about
150 frequency errors found in the
^ Pratico and Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew, Zondervan. 2001.
^ Michaels, Marc. Sefer Binsoa (5th ed.). Kulmus Publishing.
pp. 24–25 referencing Masechet Sofrim 6:1, Shabbat 115b (also
Avot d'Rabi Natan 34:4). ISBN 978-0-9810947-7-9.
^ Michaels, Marc. Sefer Binsoa (5th ed.). Kulmus Publishing.
pp. 28–33 including references to Shabbat 115b and 116a (also
Ba'al Haturim and Chizkuni). ISBN 978-0-9810947-7-9.
^ Michaels, Marc. Sefer Binsoa (5th ed.). Kulmus Publishing.
pp. 33–35 including references to Shabbat 115b (also Sifre
Bamidbar B'ha'alotcha Piska 26 and
^ Michaels, Marc. Sefer Binsoa (5th ed.). Kulmus Publishing.
p. 34 referencing Yadayim 3:5 and Sifre Bamidbar B'ha'alotcha
Piska 26. ISBN 978-0-9810947-7-9.
^ Mansoor, Menahem. The Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids, Michigan and
Driver, G. R, The Judaean Scrolls. Great Britain: Oxford, 1965.
^ Brent, William (2016-09-21). "From damage to discovery via virtual
unwrapping: Reading the scroll from En-Gedi Science Advances".
Advances.sciencemag.org. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
^ Price, James D. (1994-02-14). "(DOC) This file is a letter I wrote
to Mrs. Ripplinger in 1994 in response to her book, New Age Bible
Versions. It deals primarily with her criticism of the New King James
Version" (MS Word). James D. Price Publications. p. 4. Retrieved
2010-08-28. But regardless of these details, as former executive
editor of the NKJV Old Testament, I can confidently assure you that
the NKJV followed, as carefully as possible, the Bobmerg [sic Bomberg]
1524–25 Ben Chayyim edition that the KJV 1611 translators used—I
personally made sure.
^ Harry M. Orlinsky, Prolegomenon to the 1966 reprint of Christian
Ginsburg, "Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the
^ "Introduction to the Ginsburg Edition of the Hebrew Old Testament",
British and Foreign
Bible Society, 1928.
^ Editions of the Hebrew
Bible – Past and Future, pages 239–240,
in Sha'arei Talmon, Eisenbrauns, 1992.
Lane Fox, Robin (1991). The Unauthorized Version. Alfred A. Knopf.
pp. 99–106. ISBN 0-394-57398-6.
Tov, Emanuel (1992). Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Fortress
press. ISBN 0-8006-3429-2.
Würthwein, Ernst (1995). The Text of the Old Testament. Fortress
press. ISBN 0-8028-0788-7.
Jewish Encyclopedia: Masorah
Dr. Christian David Ginsburg's 1880 edition of the Massorah (PDF)
The Masoretic Critical Edition of 1894 – Ginsburg's full edition of
over 1,800 pages (scanned PDF)
Nahum M. Sarna and S. David Sperling (2006), Text, in Bible,
Encyclopaedia Judaica 2nd ed.; via Jewish Virtual Library
Searching for the Better Text: How errors crept into the
what can be done to correct them Biblical Archaeology Review
Bible and the Masora Magna from around 1300 CE
"Masora". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
Samet, Nili (2016). "The Validity of the Masoretic Text: Evidence from
Masoretic Vocalisation". Journal for Semitics. 25 (2):
Books of the Bible
Old Testament Protocanon
Additions to Esther
Baruch / Letter of Jeremiah
Additions to Daniel
Song of the Three Children
Bel and the Dragon
Prayer of Manasseh
1, 2, and 3 Meqabyan
Paralipomena of Baruch
Letter of Baruch
Chapters and verses
Major prophets / Minor prophets
Old Testament canon
New Testament canon
Dead Sea Scrolls
New Testament manuscript categories
New Testament papyri
New Testament uncials
Other books referenced in the Bible
New Testament apocrypha
Synod of Hippo