A Brief History of the
Traditional Hebrew Massoretic
Old Testament Text
The Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures offered by Light for Israel is known as the Second Great Rabbinic Bible, or the Ben Chayyim Massoretic text. A brief history of this text follows.
The Massoretic text is named for a group of Hebrew scholars called the Massoretes. They had schools in Babylon and Tiberius by the Sea of Galilee. They flourished from 500 to 1,000 A.D. The word "Massoretic" comes from the Hebrew word "massorah" which means "tradition". The idea is that of both preserving something and passing it down to the next generation. The Masoretes both preserved the Hebrew text and made accurate copies to hand down to succeeding generations.
Gutenberg invented the printing
press in 1452, Scriptures had to be copied by hand. The Masoretes
were the ones who made these copies. They had to follow certain rules
when making a copy of the Synagogue Rolls of the Hebrew Scriptures. These
rules are listed in the Talmud and repeated here to show the great care
taken in copying the Scriptures.
added the following comment which is worth repeating:
The Massoretes main concern was safeguarding the Hebrew consonantal text. Originally the Hebrew text was written only in consonants as there were no vowels. The Masoretes added vowel markings underneath the consonants called matres lectiones' meaning "mothers of reading". The vowel markings allowed those not familiar with the text the chance to read it. They also provided explanations of ambigious words, and counted the verses, words and letters of the Old Testament. The standardization of the Hebrew text was completed between 600 - 700 A.D.
Bomberg first printed the Hebrew text in 1516-17. This was called the
First Rabbinic Bible, Daniel Bomberg edition. Bomberg published the Second
Great Rabbinic Bible in 1524-25. It was edited by Abraham Ben Chayyim
and is also called the Ben Chayyim Massoretic text. This became the standard
Massoretic text for the next 400 years. This is the Hebrew text that the
King James English Old Testament was translated from in 1611.
Light for Israel offers the Old Testament in the Ben Chayyim Massoretic Hebrew text and the King James English Bible to Jewish readers who desire a copy.
Used by permission of the author