What is the Masoretic Text?Question: "What is the Masoretic Text?"
Answer: The Hebrew text of the Old Testament is called the Masoretic Text because in its present form it is based upon the Masora—the Hebrew, textual tradition of the Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes (or Masorites). The Masoretes were rabbis who made it their special work to correct the faults that had crept into the text of the Old Testament during the Babylonian captivity, and to prevent, for the future, its being corrupted by any alteration. They first separated the apocryphal from the canonical books, and divided the latter into twenty-two books, being the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Then they divided each book into sections and verses.
There is a great difference of opinion as to when the Masoretic Text was written, but it was probably accomplished in the 10th -11th century. Several editions existed, varying considerably, but the received and authoritative text is that of Jacob ben-chayim ibn Adonijah, who carefully sifted and arranged the previous works on the subject. It was published in 1524.
Although the existing copies of the Masoretic Text date back only to the tenth century, two other important textual evidences bolster the confidence of textual critics that it is accurate. The first is the successive discoveries of manuscripts at Qumran by the Dead Sea since 1947. These revealed portions of manuscripts several centuries older than any previously known. The second is the comparison of the Masoretic text to the Greek translation called the Septuagint (or LXX), which was written around 200-150 B.C. The oldest existing manuscripts date back to the fourth century A.D. Both the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls reveal an amazing consistency with the Masoretic Text, assuring us that God was indeed divinely and sovereignly protecting His Word through thousands of years of copying and translating.
Recommended Resource: The Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Biblia Hebraica by Ernst Wurthwein
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What is the Masoretic Text?