Masoretic Text is the traditional Hebrew Old Testament text of both Judaism and
Protestantism. The Roman Catholic Church historically has used the Latin
Vulgate translated by Jerome, though this position has been revised and now the
Catholic Church uses the Hebrew text. The Orthodox Church has historically used
the Greek Septuagint. Masoretic comes from the Hebrew word masora,
referring to the marginal notes added by Jewish scribes and scholars of the
Middle Ages (known as the Masoretes).
the most ancient manuscripts of the Hebrew Old Testament dated to the ninth
century. This has changed with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which
date from 168 BC to about 68 AD. The scrolls provide us with Hebrew manuscripts
more ancient than the previous manuscripts by one thousand years. What is
interesting to the student of textual criticism and the believer in Biblical
preservation is that the majority of Biblical manuscripts among the Dead Sea
Scrolls agree with the Masoretic Text. This further provides evidence of
the text’s credibility and testifies to the accuracy of the Hebrew scribes in
their reproduction of biblical manuscripts throughout the ages. Consequently,
it establishes the preservation of the Old Testament text in Hebrew by God.
one sense, the Masoretic Text may be thought of as the Textus Receptus (Latin
of the Old Testament. In fact, some scholars have referred to it as such. Like
the Textus Receptus of the New Testament, the Masoretic Text is based on the
majority of manuscripts and reflects the Traditional Text used. Although there
are differences found in some Masoretic Texts, these differences are minor and
usually deal with orthography, vowel points, accents, and divisions of the
text. In 1524-25, Daniel Bomberg published an edition of the Masoretic Text
based on the tradition of Jacob ben Chayyim, a Jewish refugee who later became
a Christian. It was his text that was used by the translators of the King
James Version for their work in the Old Testament. Wurthwein notes that the
text of ben Chayyim was looked upon as almost canonical, and was considered the
authoritative Hebrew text.
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