Errors in the Masoretes’ “Original” Hebrew Manuscripts of the Bible?

Biblical Archaeology Society | 10/25/2013 | Staff
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A MASTERPIECE OF THE MASORETES. The Masoretes established an astoundingly accurate tradition of Bible transmission. This carpet page from the Leningrad Codex (1008 C.E.)—of the tradition of the Masoretes—is the base text for Biblia Hebraica Quinta. The scribe of the manuscript Samuel son of Jacob, one of the Masoretes, even records his name. Photo by Bruce and Kenneth Zuckerman, West Semitic Research/With the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center/Courtesy Russian National Library.

The Hebrew Bible—or Old Testament—that we have today differs from the Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible penned in the first millennium B.C.E. When transmitting any sort of a document from generation to generation, small alterations—some intentional, others not—are made. Even the most careful scribe makes errors, which are perpetuated and often compounded by future scribes. Thus, it should not surprise us that the Hebrew Bible, which has a transmission history of several millennia, contains textual difficulties, corruptions and even mistakes. Critical editions of the Bible examine these differences by looking at varying Hebrew witnesses and try to accurately reconstruct the original Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible. In the November/December 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, David Marcus and James A. Sanders discuss why critical editions of the Bible are necessary and describe the work that goes into creating such an edition in the article “What’s Critical About a Critical Edition of the Bible?”

Marcus - Sanders - Publication - Biblia - Hebraica

Marcus and Sanders are both involved with the publication of Biblia Hebraica Quinta, the latest revision of Biblia Hebraica, which refers to the series of critical Bible editions published in Germany since 1905. The base for Biblia Hebraica Quinta is the Leningrad Codex, which dates to 1008 C.E. and was written by Samuel son of Jacob, who was part of a group of rabbinic scribes called the Masoretes.

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