Masoretic Text
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The Masoretic Text (MT or 饾暩; he, 谞只住指旨讞 讛址诪指旨住讜止专指讛, N奴ss膩岣 Hamm膩s艒r膩, lit. 'Text of the Tradition') is the authoritative
Hebrew Hebrew (; ; ) is a Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-surviving descendants, the Jews and Samaritans. It was largely preserved ...
and
Aramaic The Aramaic languages, short Aramaic ( syc, 軔塥堋軡軔, Ar膩m膩y膩; oar, 饜饜饜饜饜; arc, 饜饜饜饜饜; tmr, 讗植专指诪执讬转), are a language family containing many varieties (languages and dialects) that originated in ...
text of the 24 books of the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (;"Tanach"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
Hebrew: ''T膩n ...
(Tanakh) in
Rabbinic Judaism Rabbinic Judaism ( he, 讬讛讚讜转 专讘谞讬转, Yahadut Rabanit), also called Rabbinism, Rabbinicism, or Judaism espoused by the Rabbanites, has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century CE, after the codification of the Babylonia ...
. The Masoretic Text defines the
Jewish canon Jews ( he, 讬职讛讜旨讚执讬诐, , ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites Israelite origins and kingdom: "The first act in the long drama of Jewish history is the age of the Israelites""The ...
and its precise letter-text, with its vocalization and
accentuation In linguistics, and particularly phonology, stress or accent is the relative emphasis or prominence given to a certain syllable in a word or to a certain word in a phrase or sentence. That emphasis is typically caused by such properties a ...
known as the ''mas'sora''. Referring to the Masoretic Text, ''mesorah'' specifically means the diacritic markings of the text of the Hebrew
scripture Religious texts, including scripture, are texts which various religions consider to be of central importance to their religious tradition. They differ from literature by being a compilation or discussion of beliefs, mythologies, ritual prac ...
s and the concise marginal notes in manuscripts (and later printings) of the Tanakh which note textual details, usually about the precise spelling of words. It was primarily copied, edited and distributed by a group of
Jews Jews ( he, 讬职讛讜旨讚执讬诐, , ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites Israelite origins and kingdom: "The first act in the long drama of Jewish history is the age of the Israelites""The ...
known as the
Masoretes The Masoretes ( he, 讘址旨注植诇值讬 讛址诪指旨住讜止专指讛, Ba士膬l膿y Hamm膩s艒r膩, lit. 'Masters of the Tradition') were groups of Jewish scribe-scholars who worked from around the end of the 5th through 10th centuries CE, based primarily in ...
between the 7th and 10th centuries of the
Common Era Common Era (CE) and Before the Common Era (BCE) are year notations for the Gregorian calendar (and its predecessor, the Julian calendar), the world's most widely used calendar era. Common Era and Before the Common Era are alternatives to the or ...
(CE). The oldest known complete copy, the Leningrad Codex, dates from the early 11th century CE. The differences attested to in the
Dead Sea Scrolls The Dead Sea Scrolls (also the Qumran Caves Scrolls) are ancient Jewish and Hebrew religious manuscripts discovered between 1946 and 1956 at the Qumran Caves in what was then Mandatory Palestine, near Ein Feshkha in the West Bank, on the ...
indicate that multiple versions of the Hebrew scriptures already existed by the end of the Second Temple period. Which is closest to a theoretical
Urtext Urtext (, from ''ur-'' "primordial" and ''text'' "text", ) may refer to: * Urtext (biblical studies), the text that is believed to precede both the Septuagint and the Masoretic text * Urtext edition An urtext edition of a work of classical mu ...
is disputed, as is whether such a singular text ever existed. The Dead Sea Scrolls, dating to as early as the 3rd century BCE, contain versions of the text that are radically different from today's Hebrew Bible. The
Septuagint The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (, ; from the la, septuaginta, lit=seventy; often abbreviated ''70''; in Roman numerals, LXX), is the earliest extant Greek translation of books from the Hebrew Bible. It includes several books beyond th ...
(a
Koine Greek Koine Greek (; Koine el, 峒 魏慰喂谓峤 未喂维位蔚魏蟿慰蟼, h膿 koin猫 di谩lektos, the common dialect; ), also known as Hellenistic Greek, common Attic, the Alexandrian dialect, Biblical Greek or New Testament Greek, was the common supra-reg ...
translation made in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE) and the
Peshitta The Peshitta ( syc, 堞塬芎軡軟墁艹軔 ''or'' ') is the standard version of the Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition, including the Maronite Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, ...
(a
Syriac Syriac may refer to: *Syriac language, an ancient dialect of Middle Aramaic *Sureth, one of the modern dialects of Syriac spoken in the Nineveh Plains region * Syriac alphabet ** Syriac (Unicode block) ** Syriac Supplement * Neo-Aramaic languages a ...
translation made in the 2nd century CE) occasionally present notable differences from the Masoretic Text, as does the
Samaritan Pentateuch The Samaritan Torah ( Samaritan Hebrew: , ''T艒r膩示''), also called the Samaritan Pentateuch, is a text of the Torah written in the Samaritan script and used as sacred scripture by the Samaritans. It dates back to one of the ancient version ...
, the text of the Torah preserved by the
Samaritans Samaritans (; ; he, 砖讜诪专讜谞讬诐, translit=艩艒mr艒n墨m, lit=; ar, 丕賱爻丕賲乇賷賵賳, translit=as-S膩miriyy奴n) are an ethnoreligious group who originate from the ancient Israelites. They are native to the Levant and adhere to Samarit ...
in Samaritan Hebrew. Fragments of an ancient manuscript of the
Book of Leviticus The book of Leviticus (, from grc, 螞蔚蠀喂蟿喂魏蠈谓, ; he, 讜址讬执旨拽职专指讗, , "And He called") is the third book of the Torah (the Pentateuch) and of the Old Testament, also known as the Third Book of Moses. Scholars generally agree ...
found near an ancient synagogue's
Torah ark A Torah ark (also known as the ''Heikhal'', or the ''Aron Kodesh'') refers to an ornamental chamber in the synagogue that houses the Torah scrolls. History The ark, also known as the ''ark of law'', or in Hebrew the ''Aron Kodesh'' or ''aron ha- ...
in
Ein Gedi Ein Gedi ( he, 注值讬谉 讙侄旨讚执讬‎, ), also spelled En Gedi, meaning "spring of the goat, kid", is an oasis, an Archaeological site, archeological site and a nature reserve in Israel, located west of the Dead Sea, near Masada and the Qu ...
have identical wording to the Masoretic Text. The Masoretic Text is the basis for most Protestant translations of the
Old Testament The Old Testament (often abbreviated OT) is the first division of the Christian biblical canon, which is based primarily upon the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh, a collection of ancient religious Hebrew writings by the Israelites. The ...
such as the
King James Version The King James Version (KJV), also the King James Bible (KJB) and the Authorized Version, is an Bible translations into English, English translation of the Christian Bible for the Church of England, which was commissioned in 1604 and publis ...
, English Standard Version,
New American Standard Version The New American Standard Bible (NASB) is an Bible translations into English, English translation of the Bible. Published by the Lockman Foundation, the complete NASB was released in 1971. The NASB relies on recently published critical edition ...
, and New International Version. After 1943, it has also been used for some
Catholic Bible The term ''Catholic Bible'' often refers to a Christian Bible that includes the whole 73-book canon recognized by the Catholic Church, including some of the deuterocanonical books (and parts of books): those of the Old Testament which are in th ...
s, such as the New American Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible. Some Christian denominations instead prefer translations of the Septuagint as it matches quotations in the
New Testament The New Testament grc, 峒 螝伪喂谓峤 螖喂伪胃萎魏畏, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachings and person of Jesus, as well as events in first-century Christ ...
.


Origin and transmission

The oldest manuscript fragments of the final Masoretic Text, including vocalications and the masorah, date from around the 9th century. The oldest-known complete copy, the Leningrad Codex, dates from the early 11th century. The '' Aleppo Codex'', once the oldest-known complete copy but missing large sections since the 1947 Civil war in Palestine, dates from the 10th century. However codification of the base consonants appears to have begun earlier, perhaps even in the Second Temple period. The
Talmud The Talmud (; he, , Talm奴岣) is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law (''halakha'') and Jewish theology. Until the advent of modernity, in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the cente ...
and Karaite manuscripts state that a standard copy of the Hebrew Bible was kept in the court of the
Temple in Jerusalem The Temple in Jerusalem, or alternatively the Holy Temple (; , ), refers to the two now-destroyed religious structures that served as the central places of worship for Israelites and Jews on the modern-day Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusa ...
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 (搂 30; comp. Blau, ''Studien zum Althebr. Buchwesen'', p. 100), in the statements of
Philo Philo of Alexandria (; grc, 桅委位蠅谓, Ph铆l艒n; he, 讬职讚执讬讚职讬指讛, Y蓹岣從笍y膩h (Jedediah); ), also called Philo Judaeus, was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria, in the Roman province of Egypt. Philo's de ...
(preamble to his "Analysis of the Political Constitution of the Jews"), and in
Josephus Flavius Josephus (; grc-gre, 峒赶幭兾废慰蟼, ; 37 鈥 100) was a first-century Romano-Jewish historian and military leader, best known for ''The Jewish War'', who was born in Jerusalem鈥攖hen part of Roman Judea鈥攖o a father of priestly d ...
(''Contra Ap.'' i. 8). A Talmudic story, perhaps referring to an earlier time, relates that three Torah scrolls were found in the Temple court but were at variance with each other. The differences between the three were then resolved by majority decision.


Second Temple period

The discovery of the
Dead Sea Scrolls The Dead Sea Scrolls (also the Qumran Caves Scrolls) are ancient Jewish and Hebrew religious manuscripts discovered between 1946 and 1956 at the Qumran Caves in what was then Mandatory Palestine, near Ein Feshkha in the West Bank, on the ...
at
Qumran Qumran ( he, 拽讜诪专讗谉; ar, 禺乇亘丞 賯賲乇丕賳 ') is an archaeological site in the West Bank managed by Israel's Qumran National Park. It is located on a dry marl plateau about from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, near the Israeli ...
, dating from , shows that in this period there was no uniform text. According to Menachem Cohen, the Dead Sea scrolls showed 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 An orthography is a set of conventions for writing a language, including norms of spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, and punctuation. Most transnational languages in the modern period have a writing system, and mos ...
, 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. The text of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Peshitta read somewhat in-between the Masoretic Text and the old Greek. 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 Lawrence Harvey Schiffman (born 1948) is a professor at New York University (as of 2014); he was formerly Vice-Provost of Undergraduate Education at Yeshiva University and Professor of Jewish Studies (from early 2011 to 2014). He had previously ...
, 60% can be classed as being of proto-Masoretic type, and a further 20% Qumran style with a basis in proto-Masoretic texts, compared to 5% proto- Samaritan type, 5%
Septuagint The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (, ; from the la, septuaginta, lit=seventy; often abbreviated ''70''; in Roman numerals, LXX), is the earliest extant Greek translation of books from the Hebrew Bible. It includes several books beyond th ...
al type, and 10% non-aligned.
Joseph Fitzmyer Joseph Augustine Fitzmyer (November 4, 1920 鈥 December 24, 2016) was an American Catholic priest and scholar who taught at several American and British universities He was a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Fitzmyer was considered ...
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 4.


Rabbinic period

An emphasis on minute details of words and spellings, already used among the Pharisees as basis for argumentation, reached its height with the example of
Rabbi Akiva Akiva ben Yosef (Mishnaic Hebrew: ''士膫q墨v膩示 ben Y艒s膿f''; 鈥 28 September 135 CE), also known as Rabbi Akiva (), was a leading Jewish scholar and sage, a '' tanna'' of the latter part of the first century and the beginning of the second c ...
(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 ''Halakha'' (; he, 讛植诇指讻指讛, ), also transliterated as ''halacha'', ''halakhah'', and ''halocho'' ( ), is the collective body of Jewish religious laws which is derived from the written and Oral Torah. Halakha is based on biblical commandm ...
,
Aggadah Aggadah ( he, ''示Agg膩岣從'' or ''Hagg膩岣從''; Jewish Babylonian Aramaic: 讗址讙指旨讚职转指讗 ''示Agg膩岣徤欋汞膩示''; "tales, fairytale, lore") is the non-legalistic exegesis which appears in the classical rabbinic literature of Judaism ...
, and Jewish thought; and with it increasingly forceful strictures that a deviation in even a single letter would make a Torah scroll invalid. Very few manuscripts are said to have survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. This drastically reduced the number of variants in circulation and also gave a new urgency that the text must be preserved. Few manuscripts survive from this era, but a short Leviticus fragment recovered from the ancient
En-Gedi Scroll The En-Gedi Scroll is an ancient Hebrew parchment found in 1970 at Ein Gedi, Israel. Radiocarbon testing dates the scroll to the third or fourth century CE (210鈥390 CE), although paleographical considerations suggest that the scrolls may date b ...
, carbon-dated to the 3rd or 4th century CE, is completely identical to the consonantal Masoretic Text preserved today. New Greek translations were also made. Unlike the Septuagint, large-scale deviations in sense between the Greek of Aquila of Sinope and
Theodotion Theodotion (; grc-gre, 螛蔚慰未慰蟿委蠅谓, ''gen''.: 螛蔚慰未慰蟿委蠅谓慰蟼; died c. 200) was a Hellenistic Jewish scholar, perhaps working in Ephesus, who in c. 150 CE translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek. Whether he was revising the Septua ...
and what we now know as the Masoretic Text are minimal. Relatively small 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 The Gemara (also transliterated Gemarah, or in Yiddish Gemo(r)re; from Aramaic , from the Semitic root 讙-诪-专 ''gamar'', to finish or complete) is the component of the Talmud comprising rabbinical analysis of and commentary on the Mishnah w ...
, and often even
halachic ''Halakha'' (; he, 讛植诇指讻指讛, ), also transliterated as ''halacha'', ''halakhah'', and ''halocho'' ( ), is the collective body of Jewish religious laws which is derived from the written and Oral Torah. Halakha is based on biblical comman ...
midrash ''Midrash'' (;"midrash"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
he, 诪执讚职专指砖讈; ...
im 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 The Masoretes ( he, 讘址旨注植诇值讬 讛址诪指旨住讜止专指讛, Ba士膬l膿y Hamm膩s艒r膩, lit. 'Masters of the Tradition') were groups of Jewish scribe-scholars who worked from around the end of the 5th through 10th centuries CE, based primarily in ...
, schools of scribes and Torah scholars working between the 7th and 11th centuries, based primarily in the cities of
Tiberias Tiberias ( ; he, 讟职讘侄专职讬指讛, ; ar, 胤亘乇賷丕, 峁琣bariyy膩) is an Israeli city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. A major Jewish center during Late Antiquity, it has been considered since the 16th century one of Judaism's F ...
,
Jerusalem Jerusalem (; he, 讬职专讜旨砖指讈诇址讬执诐 ; ar, 丕賱賯購丿爻 ) (combining the Biblical and common usage Arabic names); grc, 峒刮迪佄肯呄兾蔽晃/峒肝迪佄肯兿屛幌呂嘉, Hierousal岣梞/Hieros贸luma; hy, 缘謤崭謧战铡詹榨沾, Erusa艂膿m. i ...
, and in
Babylonia Babylonia (; Akkadian: , ''m膩t Akkad墨'') was an ancient Akkadian-speaking state and cultural area based in the city of Babylon in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq and parts of Syria). It emerged as an Amorite-ruled state c. ...
under the Rashidun,
Umayyad The Umayyad Caliphate (661鈥750 CE; , ; ar, 俦賱賿禺賽賱賻丕賮賻丞 俦賱賿兀購賲賻賵賽賷賻賾丞, al-Khil膩fah al-示Umaw墨yah) was the second of the four major caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. The caliphate was ruled by the ...
, and
Abbasid Caliphate The Abbasid Caliphate ( or ; ar, 丕賱賿禺賽賱賻丕賮賻丞購 丕賱賿毓賻亘賻賾丕爻賽賷賻賾丞, ') was the third caliphate to succeed the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It was founded by a dynasty descended from Muhammad's uncle, Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttalib ...
s. 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 Cantillation is the ritual chanting of prayers and responses. It often specifically refers to Jewish Hebrew cantillation. Cantillation sometimes refers to diacritics used in texts that are to be chanted in liturgy. Cantillation includes: * Chant ...
. Every locality, following the tradition of its school, had a standard codex embodying its readings. In
Babylonia Babylonia (; Akkadian: , ''m膩t Akkad墨'') was an ancient Akkadian-speaking state and cultural area based in the city of Babylon in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq and parts of Syria). It emerged as an Amorite-ruled state c. ...
, the school of
Sura A ''surah'' (; ar, 爻賵乇丞, s奴rah, , ), is the equivalent of "chapter" in the Qur'an. There are 114 ''surahs'' in the Quran, each divided into '' ayats'' (verses). The chapters or ''surahs'' are of unequal length; the shortest surah ('' Al-K ...
differed from that of
Nehardea Nehardea or Nehardeah ( arc, 谞讛专讚注讗, ''n蓹hard蓹士膩'' "river of knowledge") was a city from the area called by ancient Jewish sources Babylonia, situated at or near the junction of the Euphrates with the Nahr Malka (the Royal Canal), one ...
; and similar differences existed in the schools of Palestine 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 one school or the other, examining, however, standard codices of other schools and noting their differences.


Ben Asher and Ben Naphtali

The Masorah for the most part ended in the 10th century with
Aaron ben Moses ben Asher Aaron ben Moses ben Asher (Hebrew: ; Tiberian Hebrew: ''示Ah膬r艒n ben M艒拧e ben 示膧拧膿r''; 10th century, died c.960) was a Jewish scribe who lived in Tiberias in northern Israel and refined the Tiberian system of writing vowel sounds in Hebr ...
and
Ben Naphtali Ben Naphtali ( Hebrew: 讗址讘旨讜旨 注执诪职专指谉 诪止砖侄讈讛 讘侄旨谉 讚指旨讜执讚 讘侄旨谉 谞址驻职转指旨诇执讬; Tiberian Hebrew: ''示Abb奴 士莫mr膩n, M艒拧e ben D膩w墨岣 ben Nap虅t膩l墨'') was a rabbi and Masorete who flourished around 890- ...
who were the leading Masoretes of the time. Ben Asher wrote a standard codex (the '' Aleppo Codex'') embodying his opinions. Ben Naphtali likely did as well, though it has not survived. However, the differences between the two are found in more or less complete Masoretic lists and in quotations in David 岣瞚m岣, Norzi, and other medieval writers. The differences between Ben Naphtali and Ben Asher number about 875, nine-tenths of which refer to the placing of the accents, while the rest relate to vowels and consonantal spelling. The differences between the two Masoretes do not represent solely personal opinions; the two rivals represent different schools. Like the Ben Ashers there seem to have been several Ben Naftalis. The Masoretic lists often do not agree on the precise nature of the differences between the two rival authorities; it is, therefore, impossible to define with exactness their differences in every case; and it is probably due to this fact that the received text does not follow uniformly the system of either Ben Asher or Ben Naphtali. 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 Sa驶adiah ben Yosef Gaon ( ar, 爻毓賷丿 亘賳 賷賵爻賮 丕賱賮賷賵賲賷 ''Sa驶墨d bin Y奴suf al-Fayy奴mi''; he, 住址注植讚职讬指讛 讘侄旨谉 讬讜止住值祝 讗址诇职驻址讬旨讜旨诪执讬 讙指旨讗讜止谉 ''Sa士膬岣弝膩h ben Y艒s膿f al-Fayy奴m墨 G膩示艒n''; ...
, the most eminent representative of the Babylonian school of criticism, ben Asher's codex became recognized as the standard text of the Hebrew Bible. Notwithstanding all this, for reasons unknown neither the printed text nor any manuscript which has been preserved is based entirely on Ben Asher: they are all eclectic. Aside from Ben Asher and Ben Naphtali, the names of several other Masorites have come down; but, perhaps with the exception of one鈥擯hinehas, the head of the academy, who is supposed by modern scholars to have lived about 750鈥攏either their time, their place, nor their connection with the various schools is known. Most 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 Na岣砫anim, who revised the works of the copyists, added the vowels and accents (generally in fainter ink and with a finer pen) and frequently the Masorah. During the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries the Franco-German school of
Tosafists Tosafists were rabbis of France and Germany, who lived from the 12th to the mid-15th centuries, in the period of Rishonim. The Tosafists composed critical and explanatory glosses (questions, notes, interpretations, rulings and sources) on the Ta ...
influenced in the development and spread of Masoretic literature. Rabbi
Gershom ben Judah Gershom ben Judah, (c. 960 -1040) best known as Rabbeinu Gershom ( he, 专讘谞讜 讙专砖讜诐, "Our teacher Gershom") and also commonly known to scholars of Judaism by the title ''Rabbeinu Gershom Me'Or Hagolah'' ("Our teacher Gershom the light of the ...
, his brother
Machir ben Judah Machir ben Judah was a French Jewish scholar of the tenth and eleventh centuries, born at Metz, and brother of R. Gershom "the Light of the Exile" (''Me'or ha-Golah''). He is known by his dictionary entitled ''Alfa Beta de-R. Makir'', not extant, b ...
, Joseph ben Samuel Bonfils (Tob 'Elem) of
Limoges Limoges (, , ; oc, Lem貌tges, locally ) is a city and Communes of France, commune, and the prefecture of the Haute-Vienne Departments of France, department in west-central France. It was the administrative capital of the former Limousin region ...
,
Rabbeinu Tam Jacob ben Meir (1100 鈥 9 June 1171 (4 Tammuz)), best known as Rabbeinu Tam ( he, 专讘讬谞讜 转诐), was one of the most renowned Ashkenazi Jewish rabbis and leading French Tosafists, a leading ''halakhic'' authority in his generation, and a gr ...
(Jacob ben Me茂r), Menahem ben Perez of
Joigny Joigny () is a commune in the Yonne department in Bourgogne-Franche-Comt茅 in north-central France. It is located on the banks of the river Yonne. History The current city, originally known as Joviniacum in Latin, was founded during Roman times ...
,
Perez ben Elijah Perez ben Elijah of Corbeil (died 1295) was a French tosafist, son of the Talmudist Elijah of Tours. In Talmudic literature he is designated by the abbreviations RaP (= Rabbeinu Perez), RaPaSh (= Rabbeinu Perez, may he live), and MaHaRPaSh (= our m ...
of
Corbeil, Marne Corbeil () is a commune in the Marne department in north-eastern France. Margaret of Naples, daughter of Charles II of Naples and Maria of Hungary, married Charles de Valois, son of Philip III of France and Isabel of Aragon, on August 16, ...
,
Judah ben Isaac Messer Leon Judah ben Isaac Messer Leon (1166鈥1224) was a French tosafist born in Paris. Biography Born in 1166 in Paris, France, his father Rabbi Isaac Treves was a rabbi in Paris and a paternal descendant of Judah ben Nathan, and thus a descendant of Ra ...
, Me茂r Spira, and Rabbi
Meir of Rothenburg Meir ( he, 诪值讗执讬专) is a Jewish male given name and an occasional surname. It means "one who shines". It is often Germanized as Maier, Mayer, Mayr, Meier, Meyer, Meijer, Italianized as Miagro, or Anglicized as Mayer, Meyer, or Myer.Alfred ...
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.


Masorah

Traditionally, a ritual
Sefer Torah A ( he, 住值驻侄专 转旨讜止专指讛; "Book of Torah"; plural: ) or Torah scroll is a handwritten copy of the Torah, meaning the five books of Moses (the first books of the Hebrew Bible). The Torah scroll is mainly used in the ritual of Tora ...
(Torah scroll) could contain only the Hebrew
consonantal In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are and pronounced with the lips; and pronounced with the front of the tongue; and prono ...
text 鈥 nothing added, nothing taken away. The Masoretic
codices The codex (plural codices ) was the historical ancestor of the modern book. Instead of being composed of sheets of paper, it used sheets of vellum, papyrus, or other materials. The term ''codex'' is often used for ancient manuscript books, with ...
however, provide extensive additional material, called ''masorah'', to show correct pronunciation and
cantillation Cantillation is the ritual chanting of prayers and responses. It often specifically refers to Jewish Hebrew cantillation. Cantillation sometimes refers to diacritics used in texts that are to be chanted in liturgy. Cantillation includes: * Chant ...
, 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 Bible and corruptions had already crept into the versions they copied.


Etymology

From the Hebrew word ''masorah'' "tradition"''.'' Originally ''masoret'', a word found in
Book of Ezekiel The Book of Ezekiel is the third of the Latter Prophets in the Tanakh and one of the major prophetic books, following Isaiah and Jeremiah. According to the book itself, it records six visions of the prophet Ezekiel, exiled in Babylon, during ...
20:37 (there from 讗住专 "to bind" for "fetters"). According to the majority of scholars, including
Wilhelm Bacher Wilhelm Bacher ( hu, Bacher Vilmos; yi, 讘执旨谞职讬指诪执讬谉志讝职讗值讘 讘旨讗址讻讻挚专, he, 讘执旨谞职讬指诪执讬谉志讝职讗值讘 讘讻专 ''Benjamin Ze'ev Bacher''; 12 January 1850 鈥 25 December 1913)Masoretes The Masoretes ( he, 讘址旨注植诇值讬 讛址诪指旨住讜止专指讛, Ba士膬l膿y Hamm膩s艒r膩, lit. 'Masters of the Tradition') were groups of Jewish scribe-scholars who worked from around the end of the 5th through 10th centuries CE, based primarily in ...
to the 诪住专 root meaning "to transmit", for ''masoret'' "tradition." (See also .) Later, the text was also called ''moseirah'', by a direct conjugation of 诪住专 "to transmit," and the synthesis of the two forms produced the modern word ''masorah.'' According to a minority of scholars, including Caspar Levias, the intent of the Masoretes was ''masoret'' "fetter exposition_of_the_text.html" ;"title="hermeneutics.html" ;"title="pon the hermeneutics">exposition of the text">hermeneutics.html" ;"title="pon the hermeneutics">exposition of the text, and the word was only later connected to 诪住专 and translated "tradition". Other specific explanations are provided: Samuel David Luzzatto argued that ''masoret'' was a synonym for ''siman'' by extended meaning ("transmission[ of the sign]" became "transmitted sign") and referred to the symbols used in vocalizing and punctuating the text."Masorah, Vol. XVI. ''Encyclopaedia Judaica'', Jerusalem, NY: MacMillan Co., 1971.
Ze'ev Ben-Haim Ze'ev Wolf Goldman, later known as Ze'ev Ben-Haim ( he, 讝讗讘 讘谉-讞讬讬诐) (28 December 1907 – 6 August 2013), was a leading Israeli linguist and a former president of the Academy of the Hebrew Language. Biography Ben-Haim was born in ...
argued ''masoret'' meant "counting" and was later conjugated ''moseirah'' "thing which is counted", referring to the Masoretic counts of the letters, words, and verses in the Bible, discussed Qiddushin 30a.


Language and form

The language of the Masoretic notes is primarily
Aramaic The Aramaic languages, short Aramaic ( syc, 軔塥堋軡軔, Ar膩m膩y膩; oar, 饜饜饜饜饜; arc, 饜饜饜饜饜; tmr, 讗植专指诪执讬转), are a language family containing many varieties (languages and dialects) that originated in ...
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 as.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. 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 in the ''Aleppo Codex'' is one of the reasons for its importance; the scribe who copied the notes, presumably
Aaron ben Moses ben Asher Aaron ben Moses ben Asher (Hebrew: ; Tiberian Hebrew: ''示Ah膬r艒n ben M艒拧e ben 示膧拧膿r''; 10th century, died c.960) was a Jewish scribe who lived in Tiberias in northern Israel and refined the Tiberian system of writing vowel sounds in Hebr ...
, probably wrote them originally.


Numerical Masorah

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. According to some this was (also) to ensure accuracy in the transmission of the text with the production of subsequent copies that were done by hand. Hence the 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 errors. The ''Masorah magna'', in measure, is an expanded ''Masorah parva''. ''
Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia The Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, abbreviated as BHS or rarely BH4, is an edition of the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible as preserved in the Leningrad Codex, and supplemented by masoretic and text-critical notes. It is the fourth edition in ...
'' (BHS) includes an apparatus referring the reader to the large Masorah, which is printed separately. 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,
Book of Leviticus The book of Leviticus (, from grc, 螞蔚蠀喂蟿喂魏蠈谓, ; he, 讜址讬执旨拽职专指讗, , "And He called") is the third book of the Torah (the Pentateuch) and of the Old Testament, also known as the Third Book of Moses. Scholars generally agree ...
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 A sofer, sopher, sofer SeTaM, or sofer ST"M ( he, 住讜驻专 住转状诐, "scribe"; plural of is , ; female: ) is a Jewish scribe who can transcribe Sifrei Kodesh (holy scrolls), tefillin (phylacteries), mezuzot (ST"M, , is an abbreviation of th ...
to the 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 Grammatical Masorah. The most important of the Masoretic notes are those that detail the
Qere and Ketiv Qere and Ketiv, from the Aramaic ''qere'' or ''q're'', ("hat isread") and ''ketiv'', or ''ketib'', ''kethib'', ''kethibh'', ''kethiv'', ("hat iswritten"), also known as "q're uchsiv" or "q're uchtiv," refers to a system for marking differences b ...
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 tasks of the Masoretes included a standard division of the text into books, sections, paragraphs, verses, and clauses; fixing of the orthography, pronunciation, and cantillation; introduction or final adoption of the square characters with the five final letters; some textual changes to guard against blasphemy (though these changes may pre-date the Masoretes 鈥 see ''Tikkune Soferim'' below); 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 methods: 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. Me茂r (c. 100鈥150 CE).


Scribal emendations 鈥 ''Tikkune 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" (), i.e. to avoid
anthropomorphism Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology. Personification is the related attribution of human form and characteristics t ...
and
anthropopathism Anthropopathism (from Greek 峒勎轿赶佅壪慰蟼 ''anthropos'', "human" and 蟺维胃慰蟼 ''pathos'', "suffering") is the attribution of human emotions, or the ascription of human feelings or passions to a non-human being, generally to a deity. By c ...
. 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 Ezra (; he, 注侄讝职专指讗, '; fl. 480鈥440 BCE), also called Ezra the Scribe (, ') and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra, was a Jewish scribe ('' sofer'') and priest (''kohen''). In Greco-Latin Ezra is called Esdras ( grc-gre, 峒溝兾聪佄 ...
; to Ezra and
Nehemiah Nehemiah is the central figure of the Book of Nehemiah, which describes his work in rebuilding Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. He was governor of Persian Judea under Artaxerxes I of Persia (465鈥424 BC). The name is pronounced o ...
; to Ezra and the
Soferim A sofer, sopher, sofer SeTaM, or sofer ST"M ( he, 住讜驻专 住转状诐, "scribe"; plural of is , ; female: ) is a Jewish scribe who can transcribe Sifrei Kodesh (holy scrolls), tefillin (phylacteries), mezuzot (ST"M, , is an abbreviation of th ...
; or to Ezra, Nehemiah, Zechariah,
Haggai Haggai (; he, 讞址讙址旨讬 鈥 ''岣ggay''; Koine Greek: 峒埼澄澄贬繓慰蟼; la, Aggaeus) was a Hebrew prophet during the building of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and one of the twelve minor prophets in the Hebrew Bible and the author of ...
, 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 Great Synagogue. The term ''tikkun Soferim'' () 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 The Tetragrammaton (; ), or Tetragram, is the four-letter Hebrew language, Hebrew theonym (transliterated as YHWH), the name of God in the Hebrew Bible. The four letters, written and read from right to left (in Hebrew), are ''yodh'', ''he (l ...
; e.g. substitution of " Elohim" or " Adonai" for "
YHWH The Tetragrammaton (; ), or Tetragram, is the four-letter Hebrew theonym (transliterated as YHWH), the name of God in the Hebrew Bible. The four letters, written and read from right to left (in Hebrew), are ''yodh'', '' he'', '' waw'', and ...
" in some passages. * Removal of application of the names of pagan gods, e.g. the change of the name "Ishbaal" to "
Ish-bosheth Ish-bosheth ( he, , translit=始莫拧-b艒拧e峁, "man of shame"), also called Eshbaal (, ; alternatively spelled Ishbaal, "fire of Baal") was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the second monarch of the Kingdom of Israel who succeeded his father, Saul ...
". * Safeguarding the unity of divine worship at
Jerusalem Jerusalem (; he, 讬职专讜旨砖指讈诇址讬执诐 ; ar, 丕賱賯購丿爻 ) (combining the Biblical and common usage Arabic names); grc, 峒刮迪佄肯呄兾蔽晃/峒肝迪佄肯兿屛幌呂嘉, Hierousal岣梞/Hieros贸luma; hy, 缘謤崭謧战铡詹榨沾, Erusa艂膿m. i ...
.


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 been wrongly read by some. 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 solution.


Suspended letters and dotted words

There are four words having one of their letters suspended above the line. One of them, 诪砖讛, is due to an alteration of the original 诪砖讛 out of reverence for
Moses Moses hbo, 诪止砖侄讈讛, M艒拧e; also known as Moshe or Moshe Rabbeinu (Mishnaic Hebrew: 诪止砖侄讈讛 专址讘值旨讬谞讜旨, ); syr, 堋軜塬軔, M奴拧e; ar, 賲賵爻賶, M奴s膩; grc, M蠅蠇蟽峥喯, M艒每s膿s () is considered the most important pro ...
; rather than say that Moses's grandson became an idolatrous priest, a suspended letter nun ( 谞 ) was inserted to turn Mosheh into Menasheh (
Manasseh Manasseh () is both a given name and a surname. Its variants include Manasses and Manasse. Notable people with the name include: Surname * Ezekiel Saleh Manasseh (died 1944), Singaporean rice and opium merchant and hotelier * Jacob Manasseh (die ...
). The origin of the other three 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 within the Bible, some words are stigmatized; i.e., dots appear above the letters. 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.


Inverted letters

In nine passages of the Masoretic Text are found signs usually called inverted nuns, because they resemble the Hebrew letter
nun A nun is a woman who vows to dedicate her life to religious service, typically living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the enclosure of a monastery or convent.''The Oxford English Dictionary'', vol. X, page 599. The term is o ...
 ( 谞 ) 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'' (markers). The primary set of inverted nuns is found surrounding the text of Numbers 10:35鈥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 Saul Lieberman (Hebrew: 砖讗讜诇 诇讬讘专诪谉, May 28, 1898 鈥 March 23, 1983), also known as Rabbi Shaul Lieberman or, among some of his students, The ''Gra"sh'' (''Gaon Rabbeinu Shaul''), was a rabbi and a Talmudic scholar. He served as Professo ...
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 Bar Kappara ( he, 讘专 拽驻专讗) was a rabbi of the late 2nd and early 3rd century CE, during the period between the ''tannaim'' and '' amoraim''. He was active in Caesarea in the Land of Israel, from around 180 to 220 CE. His name, meaning "So ...
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 Leviticus and Deuteronomy as we know them but Numbers was really three separate volumes: Numbers 1:1鈥10:35 followed by Numbers 10:35鈥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 fewest 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 ''Di岣砫u岣砮 ha-峁琫'amim,'' 搂 69 and elsewhere.


Critical study

Jacob ben Hayyim ibn Adonijah Jacob ben Hayyim ben Isaac ibn Adonijah or Jacob ben Chayyim (c. 1470 鈥 before 1538), was a scholar of the Masoretic textual notes on the Hebrew Bible, and printer. Born in Tunis (hence sometimes called Tunisi), he left his native country to esc ...
, having collated a vast number of manuscripts, systematized his material and arranged the Masorah in the second Bomberg edition of the Bible (
Venice Venice ( ; it, Venezia ; vec, Venesia or ) is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto Regions of Italy, region. It is built on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400  ...
, 1524鈥1525). Besides introducing the Masorah into the margin, he compiled at the close of his Bible a concordance of the Masoretic glosses for which he could not find room in a marginal form, and added an elaborate introduction 鈥 the first treatise on the Masorah ever produced. Due to its wide distribution, and in spite of its many errors, this work is frequently considered as the ''
textus receptus ''Textus Receptus'' (Latin: "received text") refers to all printed editions of the Greek New Testament from Erasmus's ''Novum Instrumentum omne'' (1516) to the 1633 Elzevir edition. It was the most commonly used text type for Protestant deno ...
'' of the Masorah. It was also used for the English translation of the
Old Testament The Old Testament (often abbreviated OT) is the first division of the Christian biblical canon, which is based primarily upon the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh, a collection of ancient religious Hebrew writings by the Israelites. The ...
for the
King James Version The King James Version (KJV), also the King James Bible (KJB) and the Authorized Version, is an Bible translations into English, English translation of the Christian Bible for the Church of England, which was commissioned in 1604 and publis ...
(though not always followed). Next to Ibn Adoniyah, the critical study of the Masorah has been most advanced by
Elia Levita Elia Levita (13 February 146928 January 1549) ( he, 讗诇讬讛讜 讘谉 讗砖专 讛诇讜讬 讗砖讻谞讝讬), also known as Elijah Levita, Elias Levita, 脡lie L茅vita, Elia Levita Ashkenazi, Eliahu Levita, Eliyahu haBahur ("Elijah the Bachelor"), Elye Bok ...
, who published his famous "Massoret ha-Massoret" in 1538. The ''Tiberias'' of the elder
Johannes Buxtorf Johannes Buxtorf ( la, Johannes Buxtorfius) (December 25, 1564September 13, 1629) was a celebrated Hebraist, member of a family of Orientalists; professor of Hebrew for thirty-nine years at Basel and was known by the title, "Master of the Rabbis" ...
(1620) made Levita's researches more accessible to a Christian audience. The eighth
introduction Introduction, The Introduction, Intro, or The Intro may refer to: General use * Introduction (music), an opening section of a piece of music * Introduction (writing), a beginning section to a book, article or essay which states its purpose and g ...
to Walton's
Polyglot Multilingualism is the use of more than one language, either by an individual speaker or by a group of speakers. It is believed that multilingual speakers outnumber monolingual speakers in the world's population. More than half of all Eu ...
Bible is 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. Me茂r 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 Menahem ben Judah ben Menahem de Lonzano (), often Menahem di Lonzano, was a rabbi, Masoretic scholar, lexicographer, and poet. He died after 1608 in Jerusalem. Biography His origin is unknown, but it has been supposed that he was born in Italy. ...
, who composed a treatise on the Masorah of the Pentateuch entitled "Or Torah"; and in particular to
Jedidiah Norzi Jedidiah Solomon ben Abraham Norzi (1560鈥1626) () was a Rabbi and exegete, best known for his work ''Minchat Shai''. Born at Mantua, he studied under Moses Cases, and received his rabbinical ordination in 1585. Toward the beginning of the 17th ...
, whose "Min岣t Shai" contains valuable Masoretic notes based on a careful study of manuscripts. The Dead Sea Scrolls have shed new light on the history of the Masoretic Text. Many texts found there, especially those from
Masada Masada ( he, 诪职爪指讚指讛 ', "fortress") is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau, akin to a mesa. It is located on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dea ...
, are quite similar to the Masoretic Text, suggesting that an ancestor of the Masoretic Text was indeed extant as early as the 2nd century BCE. However, other texts, including many of those from
Qumran Qumran ( he, 拽讜诪专讗谉; ar, 禺乇亘丞 賯賲乇丕賳 ') is an archaeological site in the West Bank managed by Israel's Qumran National Park. It is located on a dry marl plateau about from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, near the Israeli ...
, differ substantially, indicating that the Masoretic Text was but one of a diverse set of biblical writings (Lane Fox 1991:99鈥106; Tov 1992:115). Among the rejected books by both the Judaic and Catholic canons was found the Book of Enoch, the
Community Rule The Community Rule ( he, 住专讱 讛讬讞讚, ''Serekh haYahad''), which is designated 1QS and was previously referred to as the Manual of Discipline, is one of the first scrolls to be discovered near ''khirbet'' (ruin of) Qumran, the scrolls found in ...
(1QS), and
War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness ''The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness'', also known as War Rule, Rule of War and the War Scroll, is a manual for military organization and strategy that was discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The manuscript was among the ...
(1QM). In a recent finding, a scroll fragment was found to be identical to the Masoretic Text. The approximately 1,700-year-old
En-Gedi Scroll The En-Gedi Scroll is an ancient Hebrew parchment found in 1970 at Ein Gedi, Israel. Radiocarbon testing dates the scroll to the third or fourth century CE (210鈥390 CE), although paleographical considerations suggest that the scrolls may date b ...
was found in 1970 but had not had its contents reconstructed until 2016. Researchers were able to recover 35 complete and partial lines of text from the
Book of Leviticus The book of Leviticus (, from grc, 螞蔚蠀喂蟿喂魏蠈谓, ; he, 讜址讬执旨拽职专指讗, , "And He called") is the third book of the Torah (the Pentateuch) and of the Old Testament, also known as the Third Book of Moses. Scholars generally agree ...
and the text they deciphered is completely identical with the consonantal framework of the Masoretic Text. The En-Gedi scroll is the first biblical scroll to have been discovered in the holy ark of an ancient synagogue, 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 Daniel is a masculine given name and a surname of Hebrew origin. It means "God is my judge"Hanks, Hardcastle and Hodges, ''Oxford Dictionary of First Names'', Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, , p. 68. (cf. Gabriel鈥"God is my strength"), ...
, ed.
Jacob ben Hayyim ibn Adonijah Jacob ben Hayyim ben Isaac ibn Adonijah or Jacob ben Chayyim (c. 1470 鈥 before 1538), was a scholar of the Masoretic textual notes on the Hebrew Bible, and printer. Born in Tunis (hence sometimes called Tunisi), he left his native country to esc ...
, 1524鈥1525,
Venice Venice ( ; it, Venezia ; vec, Venesia or ) is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto Regions of Italy, region. It is built on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400  ...
: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 The King James Version (KJV), also the King James Bible (KJB) and the Authorized Version, is an Bible translations into English, English translation of the Christian Bible for the Church of England, which was commissioned in 1604 and publis ...
in 1611, the New King James Version in 1982, and the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible in 2005. * Everard van der Hooght, 1705,
Amsterdam Amsterdam ( , , , lit. ''The Dam on the River Amstel'') is the Capital of the Netherlands, capital and Municipalities of the Netherlands, most populous city of the Netherlands, with The Hague being the seat of government. It has a population ...
and
Utrecht Utrecht ( , , ) is the List of cities in the Netherlands by province, fourth-largest city and a List of municipalities of the Netherlands, municipality of the Netherlands, capital and most populous city of the Provinces of the Netherlands, pro ...
:This was practically a reprint of the Athias-
Leusden Leusden () is a municipality and a town in the Netherlands, in the province of Utrecht. It is located about 3 kilometres southeast of Amersfoort. The western part of the municipality lies on the slopes of the Utrecht Hill Ridge and is largely co ...
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 edition. *
Benjamin Kennicott Benjamin Kennicott (4 April 171818 September 1783) was an English churchman and Hebrew scholar. Life Kennicott was born at Totnes, Devon where he attended Totnes Grammar School. He succeeded his father as master of a charity school, but the gene ...
, 1776,
Oxford Oxford () is a city in England. It is the county town and only city of Oxfordshire. In 2020, its population was estimated at 151,584. It is north-west of London, south-east of Birmingham and north-east of Bristol. The city is home to the ...
:As well as the van der Hooght text, this included the
Samaritan Pentateuch The Samaritan Torah ( Samaritan Hebrew: , ''T艒r膩示''), also called the Samaritan Pentateuch, is a text of the Torah written in the Samaritan script and used as sacred scripture by the Samaritans. It dates back to one of the ancient version ...
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 extended by
Giovanni Bernardo De Rossi Giovanni Bernardo De Rossi (October 25, 1742 in Castelnuovo Nigra, Piedmont 鈥 March 23, 1831 in Parma) was an Italian Christian Hebraist. He studied in Ivrea and Turin. In October 1769, he was appointed professor of Oriental languages at the U ...
(1784鈥1788), but his publications gave only the variants without a complete text. *
Wolf Heidenheim Benjamin Wolf ben Samson Heidenheim (; 1757 鈥 February 23, 1832) was a German exegete and grammarian. Biography Early life Born at Heidenheim, at an early age Heidenheim was sent to F眉rth, where he studied Talmud under Joseph Steinhardt (a ...
, 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 (; June 20, 1808 鈥 December 31, 1888) was a German Orthodox rabbi best known as the intellectual founder of the '' Torah im Derech Eretz'' school of contemporary Orthodox Judaism. Occasionally termed ''neo-Orthodoxy'', hi ...
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 , and the edition of Jack Mazin (London, 1950) is an exact copy. * ''
Max Letteris Me茂r Halevi (Max) Letteris (; 13 September 1800 鈥 19 May 1871) was an Austrian poet, editor, and translator of the Galician Haskala. He translated into Hebrew works by Virgil, Lucian, Jean Racine, Lord Byron, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Fri ...
'', 1852; 2nd edition, 1866 (published British and Foreign Bible Society) :The 1852 edition was yet another copy of . 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 Bible in history, with many dozens of authorised reprints and many more pirated and unacknowledged ones. *
Seligman Baer Seligman (Isaac) Baer (1825鈥1897) was a Masoretic scholar, and an editor of the Hebrew Bible and of the Jewish liturgy. He was born in Mosbach, the northern district of Biebrich, on 18 September 1825 and died at Biebrich-on-the-Rhine in March ...
and
Franz Delitzsch Franz Delitzsch (23 February 1813, in Leipzig 鈥 4 March 1890, in Leipzig) was a German Lutheran theologian and Hebraist. Delitzsch wrote many commentaries on books of the Bible, Jewish antiquities, Biblical psychology, as well as a history of ...
, 1869鈥1895 :Incomplete publication: Exodus to Deuteronomy never appeared. *
Christian David Ginsburg Christian David Ginsburg (, 25 December 1831 鈥 7 March 1914) was a Polish-born British Bible scholar and a student of the Masoretic tradition in Judaism. He was born to a Jewish family in Warsaw but converted to Christianity at the age of 15. ...
, 1894; 2nd edition, 1908鈥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 Umberto Cassuto, also known as Moshe David Cassuto (16 September 1883 鈥 19 December 1951), was an Italian historian, a rabbi, and a scholar of the Hebrew Bible and Ugaritic texts, Ugaritic literature, in the University of Florence, then at the ...
, 1953 :Based on Ginsburg 2nd edition, but revised based on the '' Aleppo Codex'', '' Leningrad Codex'', and other early manuscripts. *
Norman Snaith Norman Henry Snaith (1898鈥1982) was a British Old Testament scholar and a professor at Wesley College, Leeds. Education and early life Snaith was the son of a Primitive Methodist minister. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School and Cor ...
, 1958 (published British and Foreign Bible Society) :Snaith based it on Sephardi manuscripts such as British Museum Or. 2626-2628, 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 edition. *
Hebrew University Bible Project The Hebrew University Bible Project (HUBP) is a project at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to create the first edition of the Hebrew Bible that reproduces the text of the Aleppo Codex and includes a thorough critical apparatus. It was begun in ...
, 1965鈥 :Started by
Moshe Goshen-Gottstein Moshe Goshen-Gottstein (Hebrew: 诪砖讛 讙讜砖谉-讙讜讟砖讟讬讬谉) (6 September 1925 – 14 September 1991) was a German-born professor of Semitic linguistics and biblical philology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and director of the lex ...
, 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 medieval manuscripts. So far, only Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel have been published. * ''The Koren Bible'' by
Koren Publishers Jerusalem Koren Publishers Jerusalem is an Israeli publisher of Jewish religious texts. It was established in 1961 by Eliyahu Koren, with the aim of publishing the first Hebrew Bible designed, edited, printed, and bound by Jews in nearly 500 years. It produ ...
, 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 Moshe Goshen-Gottstein (Hebrew: 诪砖讛 讙讜砖谉-讙讜讟砖讟讬讬谉) (6 September 1925 – 14 September 1991) was a German-born professor of Semitic linguistics and biblical philology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and director of the lex ...
: "the publisher of the Koren Bible 鈥 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 Aron may refer to: Characters *Aron (comics), from the Marvel Universe comic ''Aron! HyperSpace Boy!'' *Aron (Pok茅mon), in the ''Pok茅mon'' franchise * Aron Trask, from John Steinbeck's novel ''East of Eden'' *脕ron or Aaron, the brother of Mos ...
, based on the '' Leningrad Codex'' but correcting obvious errors, 1976 * ''
Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia The Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, abbreviated as BHS or rarely BH4, is an edition of the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible as preserved in the Leningrad Codex, and supplemented by masoretic and text-critical notes. It is the fourth edition in ...
'' :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 Mordechai Breuer ( he, 诪指专职讚职旨讻址讬 讘职旨专讜止讬侄讗专; May 14, 1921 鈥 February 24, 2007) was a German-born Israeli Orthodox rabbi. He was one of the world's leading experts on Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), and especially of the text of the ...
:Based on the '' Aleppo Codex'', 1977鈥1982 * ''The
Jerusalem Crown The Jerusalem Crown ( Keter Yerushalayim) is a printed edition of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) printed in Jerusalem in 2001, and based on a manuscript commonly known as the Aleppo Crown). The printed text consists of 874 pages of the Hebrew Bib ...
'', 2001 :This is a revised version of Breuer, and is the official version used in inaugurating the President of Israel. * ''
Biblia Hebraica Quinta The ''Biblia Hebraica Quinta Editione'', abbreviated as BHQ or rarely BH5, is the fifth edition of the '' Biblia Hebraica'' and when complete will supersede the fourth edition, the ''Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia'' (BHS). BHQ Fascicles and Edi ...
'' :Revision of ''
Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia The Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, abbreviated as BHS or rarely BH4, is an edition of the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible as preserved in the Leningrad Codex, and supplemented by masoretic and text-critical notes. It is the fourth edition in ...
''; fascicles published as of 2016 are: Five Megilloth, Ezra and Nehemiah, Deuteronomy, Proverbs, Twelve Minor Prophets, Judges, Genesis.


See also

*
Masorah Masorah or Mesorah ( he, 诪住讜专讛) refers either to the transmission of Jewish religious tradition, or to the tradition itself, and may refer to: * The Hebrew vowel points also known as niqqud. * Masoretic Text, the authoritative text of the Tan ...
*
Micrography Micrography (from Greek, literally small-writing 鈥 "螠喂魏蟻慰纬蟻伪蠁委伪"), also called microcalligraphy, is a Jewish form of calligrams developed in the 9th century, with parallels in Christianity and Islam,Parashah


Explanatory footnotes


References


Citations


General and cited sources

* * *


External links


''Jewish Encyclopedia'' (1906):
Masorah
''Encyclopaedia Judaica'' (2007):
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)
Masoretic Text (Hebrew-English)
online full edition of the bilingual
JPS Tanakh The New Jewish Publication Society of America Tanakh, first published in complete form in 1985, is a modern Jewish 'written from scratch' translation of the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible into English. It is based on revised editions of earli ...
(1985) on Sefaria *
Nahum M. Sarna Nahum Mattathias Sarna (Hebrew: 谞讞讜诐 住专谞讗; March 27, 1923 鈥 June 23, 2005) was a modern biblical scholar who is best known for the study of Genesis and Exodus represented in his ''Understanding Genesis'' (1966) and in his contributions t ...
and S. David Sperling (2006)
Text
in Bible, ''
Encyclopaedia Judaica The ''Encyclopaedia Judaica'' is a 22-volume English-language encyclopedia of the Jewish people, Judaism, and Israel. It covers diverse areas of the Jewish world and civilization, including Jewish history of all eras, culture, holidays, langu ...
'' 2nd ed.; via the
Jewish Virtual Library Jews ( he, 讬职讛讜旨讚执讬诐, , ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites Israelite origins and kingdom: "The first act in the long drama of Jewish history is the age of the Israelites""Th ...

Searching for the Better Text: How errors crept into the Bible and what can be done to correct them
Biblical Archaeology Review
Hebrew Bible
and the Masora Magna from around 1300 CE * * {{Authority control 9th-century biblical manuscripts Hebrew Bible versions and translations Jewish texts in Aramaic Karaite Judaism Torah