Text of Hebrew OT

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I.                  Masoretic text

            A.    Standardized and carefully edited by the Masoretes (AD 500-950).


                    The Masoretes kept statistics for every book on the number of letters, the middle letter, and the middle word.

B.       Preserved or standardized vowel pointings.

C.       Exhibits rudimentary textual criticism [Kethib and Qere readings (e.g. Yahweh)].

“Perhaps the most famous (and frequent) example of a qere reading is the covenant name of God, Jehovah.  This name is written with the four consonants YHWH, going back to an original pronunciation, Yahweh.  The proper, original rendering of Jehovah, therefore, is Yahweh (or Jahweh, as the Germans write it).  But the Jews as early as Nehemiah’s time began to feel qualms about pronouncing the holy name, lest they bring upon themselves possible penal consequences under the third commandment.  It therefore became accepted practice to substitute the title “Lord” (’aDoNaY) for the Name Yahweh whenever reading it aloud.  To indicate this substitution, the Masoretes inserted the vowels of ’aDoNaY under the consonants of JaHWeH, resulting in the appearance of JeHoWaH or “Jehovah.”[1]  Misunderstanding this qere, European scholars of the Renaissance period (when Hebrew became avidly studied in Europe) supposed that the proper pronunciation of the name was “Jehovah”—and so it has come down to us today.  It was actually Yahweh (this may be called the kethib reading), but the mistake has become so sanctioned by usage that devout Christians generally are loath to accept any reversion to the pronunciation which was historically correct” (G. L. Archer, A Survey of OT Introduction, p. 71).


II.              Key witnesses to the Hebrew text

A.      Septuagint (250-150 BC)

                  1.  LXX is of mixed quality translationally.

2.     Especially helpful with reference to textual criticism in Samuel, parts of Kings, and Ezekiel.

B.       Latin Vulgate (4th century AD)

C.       Syriac Peshitta (2nd or 3rd century AD)

D.      Aramaic Targums (3rd-4th century AD)

III.          Dead Sea Scrolls

A.      Found in caves at Qumran, which is located on the NW shore of the Dead Sea.

B.       Most important manuscript found was the Isaiah scroll (1QIsa).


                    This Isaiah scroll, which dates to 150-100 BC, belongs to the same manuscript family as the Masoretic Text.

C.       Cave 4 contained parts of 38 of the 39 OT books (excluding only Esther).

            D.  Demonstrated the extreme reliability of the Masoretic Text.

                      e.g., Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia


[1] In addition, the consonants for Adonay were written in the margin.

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