The Masoretic Text – What is it?The Masoretic Text refers to the authoritative Hebrew manuscript of the Old Testament. The name comes from the word masora, the Hebrew textual tradition of the Hebrew Masorites (or Masoretes). These Masorites were Jewish rabbis who took extreme care to copy the Hebrew text of the Old Testament without error.
The Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible as known today is largely based on the Leningrad Codex, a complete Hebrew Bible located in Leningrad, Russia dated to the eleventh century. However, examples of the Masoretic Text style can also be found in the Aleppo Codex, a mostly complete copy of the Hebrew Bible from the 900s, and can be found in portions as early as the ninth century.
The origin of the Masorites extends to the seventh century. However, the focus on maintaining accurate copies of the Hebrew text has existed much longer. After the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the loss of many Hebrew scrolls led to a newfound urgency to produce new, accurate copies.
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the twentieth century provided an enormous number of new Hebrew manuscripts dating between 150 BC to AD 75. These manuscripts show much agreement with the Masoretic Text, strengthening the claim that this text has faithfully preserved a very early version of the completed Hebrew Bible.
Further, the Masoretic Text can be compared with the Greek Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew Bible that took place in approximately 200—150 BC. Though there are some differences, the essential text reveals an amazing level of consistency.
Unlike any other ancient book, the Bible has survived time, attack, and persecution with an unmatched number of accurate copies that provide a solid basis for our current study of the Bible. The Masorites provided an important service in preserving the Hebrew text that continues to change lives still today.
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