When a paper has been written using one language (example: English) then the paper is translated into another language and if there is a difference, the original written work is the correct reference while the translation contains errors. Similar to the bibles that have been written in ancient hebrew and then translated into various languages in the world, when there is a difference between the ancient hebrew bible and its translation, the ancient hebrew bible becomes the correct reference while the translation contain mistakes. However, the ancient hebrew bible has been copied for thousand years from one generation to the next generation by hand [knowing that human beings tend to err] and all the original writings which have been directly written by prophets have perished. This event causes some people today doubt the accuracy of the hebrew bible. In fact, often biblical translations of various publishers contain interpretation.
MASORETIC TEXT AT A GLANCE
In the Jewish culture, not everyone may copy the Tanakh (abbreviation of Torah, Nevi'im, UKetuvimwhich means the Torah, the prophets, and the writings; Tanakh is the term for 24 old testament books (OT) in hebrew bible) scrolls. Only very well trained people (soferim (Scribes)) may copy the Tanakh scrolls. They have been trained since very young and through very disciplined education continued from one generation to the next generation until today. Every one roll which has been copied to finish must go through the testing stage before the roll is read in a synagogue, and if there is one error in the scroll it will be canceled wholly. In the Jewish tradition, there is no difference even though one letter between one scroll with another scrolls. When the second temple was collapsed by the Roman empire (70 CE) the Jews spread throughout the world (second exile). The Jews continued to copy the Tanakh documents (hand-copied); copied by soferim, in different countries. Each soferim do not know another soferim. The Tanakh copied from one generation to the next generation. It is proven to this day that the soferim's copies are very accurate and almost perfect, very nearly no difference even one letter. Is there any work of man who can match compare to the soferim? When the independence of the state of Israel occurred in 1948 the Jews returned to their homeland from various countries in the world; copies of Tanakh documents collected and proved that sofers has been copied very accurately (very nearly no one letter different/almost perfect). Although the hebrew Biblical (Tanakh) today is copied by printing presses in various countries in the world, for the Jews the scrolls of Tanakh copied by the soferim using the hands have higher authority than the biblical (Tanakh) which have been copied using the printing press in various countries in the world. The author never gets any report/evidence from any Jew who claimed that the Hebrew Bible including Masoretic text today is fallible or missing a part.
The Hebrew text only has consonants and has no vowel. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is written in ancient Hebrew which is not currently used as a colloquial language. One word in ancient Hebrew written form can have several meanings. As an example: ‘שלם’ can be read ‘shalam’ which means peace, can also be read ‘shillem’ means recompense. This causes the Jewish scholars to add vowels (without changing any consonant) in the hebrew Tanakh according to the Jewish oral law to evade a difference in reading; the text which contains added vowel marks is called ‘Masoretic text’. The Hebrew Bible is written in ancient Hebrew letters, while the present Hebrew bible (including the Masoretic text) is written in modern Hebrew letters that are very different in form than the ancient Hebrew letters. Nevertheless, no meaning has changed; every letter in Hebrew is a pictograph and has meaning, but it never changes meaning. For example: in ancient Hebrew, the gimel letter (ג) is a pictograph of the feet while in modern Hebrew the pictograph of the camel both retain the same meaning of ‘weightlifting’.
There are many old scrolls that have been found, one the oldest called "Samaritan Pentateuch" (around 400 BC). We can read the story of the kingdom of Solomon which was divided in the book of 1 kings and 2 chronicles, 10 tribes in the north which was called Israel and the two tribes in the south was called Judah. The kingdom of Judah in the south is more faithful to the LORD, in contrast to the 10 tribes in the north (Israel) who received only 5 books of Moses (the book of Genesis til the book of Deuteronomy). The 5 books of Moses which were used by the 10 tribes in the north (called the Samaritan Pentateuch) is very nearly the same in meaning with Masoretic text bible and contain additional words when compared to the 5 books used by the two tribes in the south.
In the other side, the Qumran scrolls in the area around the Dead Sea, although about 1000 years older than the Masoretic bible Text, were allegedly copied by the essents (not by soferim). The author has read/examine the Qumran scrolls through the photograph in www.deadseascrolls.org.il. In meaning the Qumran scrolls give almost the same result with Masoretic text bible. But when compared to letter by letter there are many differences between Masoretic text bible and Dead sea scrolls. By comparing the same verses on different scrolls in Qumran there are different letters or maybe also word. It appears that the Qumran scrolls are inconsistent, in contrast to the Masoretic text bible which is very consistent. If you choose Qumran scrolls as higher authority, which Qumran scroll would you choose? This proves that older scrolls does not guarantee having better authority.
SEPTUAGINT PARALLELISM TO OTHER DOCUMENTS
The Septuagint is a bible translation of the Old Testament to the Greek language around 280 BC, translated by 72 Jewish elders by the order of Ptolemy II Philadelphus; 6 from every tribe of Israel. Compared to the hebrew bible text, the translation of the Old Testament manuscript of the Septuagint contained many differences. So Origen, one of church father about 300 AD corrected the Septuagint translation differences and till today the Septuagint translation used by Christians is the Septuagint which has been corrected by Origen. You can learn more about the Septuagint at www.britannica.com/topic/septuagint. The Greek text, not the original Hebrew text, became the primary basis for the ancient Latin, Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian, Georgian, Slavonic, and never ceased to be a standarised version of the old testament documents in the Greek church. The Vulgate translation is translated from the Septuagint and not from the Hebrew Bible.
Every bible translation has error probabilities and contains interpretations. If so, does the current Septuagint translation deserve to be preserved as old testament document that has higher authority than Masoretic text bible? The author does not think so. But, some people doubt whether today Masoretic text bible can still be believed completely. One of ways is to compare Masoretic text bible (from any year) with the Qumran and Nahal Hever scrolls (both are about 1000 older than Masoretic text). As the result, The Qumran and Nahal Hever scrolls give the identic (almost same) result with Masoretic text bible. It proofs that Masoretic text bible can be trusted completely, remembering that the Dead Sea scrolls are inconsistent.
Some examples which contain differences in old manuscripts are presented below:
1. Genesis 4 : 8
Here is a verse quote of Genesis 4 : 8 which is written in Masoretic Bible Text:
וַיֹּאמֶר קַיִן אֶל־הֶבֶל אָחִיו וַֽיְהִי בִּהְיוֹתָם בַּשָּׂדֶה וַיָּקָם קַיִן אֶל־הֶבֶל אָחִיו וַיַּהַרְגֵֽהוּ׃
Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. (NKJV)
In Samaritan Pentateuch there are additional words which is not present in Masoretic text. Below is the words quote:
וַיאמר קין אל־הבל אחיו [נלכה השדה] ויהי בהיותם בשדה ויקם קין אל־הבל אחיו ויהרגהו׃
The clause in square brackets above (in blue) can be translated as: “let us go to the field”. If we insert it to the NKJV translation above, we will get this result: “Now Cain talked with Abel his brother: “Let us go to the field”. And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him”. By comparing both quotes above, then we will get an impression there is a missing clause in Masoretic text (in blue square brackets). The clause in blue square brackets at Samaritan Pentateuch quote above is not exist in Masoretic text bible but it exist in Septuagint. But, when comparing Masoretic text bible with Qumran scroll (labeled as 4Q Genesisb) without refering to Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch, it gives the same result (see figure 1). So, are Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch prove the Masoretic text error? At final discussion, it will be known why there were words additions in Samaritan Pentateuch.
Figure 1: Qumran scroll fragment photo labeled 4Q Genesisb M41.996. Scroll fragment contains verse in book of Genesis 4 : 2 – 11. The yellow underlined clause: ל הבל אחיו ויהי בהיותם בשד without additional נלכה השדה in verse of Genesis 4 : 8.
Figure 2: Isaiah scroll photo containing verse Isaiah 7 : 14, labeled 1Q Isaiaha. The green underlined word is ‘almah’ word and is not ‘b’thulah’ word.
2. Isaiah 7 : 14
In Masoretic text bible, it was recorded עלמה word (read: almah; means ‘young woman’, maiden or newly married girl) in book of Isaiah 7 : 14 (see figure 2), whereas in Septuagint translation, it was recorded παρθένος (read: parthenos; means ‘virgin’). This seems to conflict with book of Matthew 1 : 23 and Luke 1 : 27 because in Matthew and Luke it was recorded as parthenos means ‘virgin’. But in fact, in the Qumran scroll (labeled 1Q Isaiaha) it was also recorded as ‘almah’ word, the same with Masoretic text and did not use hebrew word בתולה (read: b’thulah; mean ‘virgin’). We can find in hebrew bible (including Masoretic text), actually the almah word in hebrew can mean ‘virgin’. In Genesis 24 : 14 it was recorded that Rebecah is a almah but in the book of Genesis 24 : 16 it was recorded that Rebecah is a b’thulah. Old testament documents has been written in ancient hebrew language and new testament documents has been written in greek language. There are cultural differences between hebrew and greek. Not all word in hebrew language has an English equivalent as well as hebrew and greek language. Now we can see that although in hebrew bible (include Masoretic text) it was recorded as almah word in Isaiah 7 : 14, it does not give proves that Masoretic text has changed. Almah word in Masoretic text is also not conflicting with new testament documents (Matthew and Luke).
Figure 3: Psalms 22 : 16/17 verse fragment photo in Nahal Hever labeled 5/6 HevPsalms. The green underlined word is כארו and is not כארי.
3. Psalms 22 : 16/17
For christians, this verse refers to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ prophecy, but when we read in hebrew bible will find something very different. Below is a quote of Psalms 22 : 16/17 in Masoretic text bible:
כִּי סְבָבוּנִי כְּלָבִים עֲדַת מְרֵעִים הִקִּיפוּנִי כָּאֲרִי יָדַי וְרַגְלָֽי׃
For dogs have encompassed me, a company of evil-doers have inclosed me; like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet.
(translated by Varda-Books)
(translated by Varda-Books)
The word translated by Christian as ‘pierce’ in Psalms 22: 16/17 is translated from the word כארי (read: kaari, meaning ‘like a lion’). If it was observed grammatically in Masoretic text, the kaari word is followed by the phrase: ורגלי ידי (read: yaday w'raglay means ‘my hands and my feet’). It may seem rather odd because the noun is followed by noun, unlike the Christian translations in which the verb ‘pierce’ followed by nouns (my hands and my feet). Christians use many old translation documents of old testament (examples: Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, etc.), all the translate as piercing.
Other evidence was found in the area around Qumran in Nahal Hever which is about 1000 years older than Masoretic text and was labeled 5/6 HevPsalms. The consonants was recorded as כארו (read: kaaru) and was not כארי. There is only a slight difference between the letter י and ו after the letters כאר, because the copying by hand so some people assume that Masoretic text is corrupt between consonants י and ו. A readable clause on 5/6 HevPsalms fragment is: הקיפוני כארו ידיה (read: hiqqifuni kaaru yadeha) means ‘they smite me, [pierce]? her hand’. In ancient Hebrew it is strongly suspected that the word כארו does not have any meaning (LOL!), but some Christians think כארו word means piercing (can be proven by examining the ancient Hebrew dictionaries of Jewish and Christian publications).
Based on book ‘Variae Lectiones Veteris Testamenti’ which was written by De-Rossi that in Masoretic text bible it was ever read as כארו (kaaru), while on the margin was כארי (kaari). According to his writting it was related with Deuteronomy 24 : 9. De-Rossi also read on Masorah Magna (the marginal note on Masoretic text): כארי ידי ורגלי כארו כתיב which means כארי (kaari) my hands and feet, כארו (kaaru) ketiv [=textual reading]. R. Jacobus Chaiim which was estimated as Jew ever wrote: וקרי כארי במקצה ספרים מדרקים מצאתי כתוב כארו which means at the end of some books exactly I find כארו (kaaru), and was read as כארי (kaari). His intention is: it was ever found that in some Masoretic text bible it was written as כארו (kaaru) but was read as כארי (kaari). But it was unfortunate why it was not explained which Masoretic text bible in which כארו (kaaru) word was there as a textual reading. So it was implied by De-Rossi that kaaru and kaari both are true.
In all jewish literatures (including Masoretic texts), in Psalms 22 : 16/17 it is always recorded as ‘like a lion’. One example is Targum of the Psalms which has been written before Masoretic text it was written as ‘like a lion’. Here is a quote of targum Psalms 22 : 16/17 and its translation:
מְטוּל דְאַחֲזַרוּ עֲלָי רַשִׁיעֵי דִמְתִילִין לְכַלְבַיָא סַגִיעִין כְּנִישַׁת מַבְאִישִׁין אַקְפוּנִי נָכְתִין הֵיךְ כְּאַרְיָא אַיְדַי וְרִגְלָי:
Because the wicked have surrounded me, they are like many dogs; a gathering of evildoers has hemmed me in, they bite like a lion my hands and my feet.
The word in Targum of the Psalms is: ‘like a lion’, is sufficiently strong evidence that before Masoretic text era Psalms 22: 16/17 record the word ‘kaari/like a lion’. If King David who wrote the book of Psalms 22: 16/17 simply wrote the word ‘pierce’ without a word ‘like a lion’, why there is word ‘kaari/like a lion’ in Targum of the Psalms? The Jew until this day teach that the word ‘kaari/like a lion’ contains meaning ‘pierce’ in Psalms 22 : 16/17. One example: “Like [the prey of] a lion are my hands and feet are as if mangled by a lion’s jaws” (by Rashi). In every bible translation, it tends to be written interpretationally and not the litteral meaning. Maybe this is what happens in Psalms 22 : 16/17.
Another example is in the Pesikta Rabbati (פסיקתא רבתי) chapter 35 -37 in Hebrew language. Because it will be too long discussion, then the quotation will not be presented here. The point is, explained in the Pesikta Rabbati that in the book of Psalms 22 it refer to the King Messiah prophecy who would suffer, die, and give His soul for many people. The King Messiah was surrounded by many wicked who are roaring like lions for prey.
All humans today never know what king David actually wrote, whether ‘kaari’ or ‘kaaru’, but each denomination claims that they are right themselves. Perhaps the Christians is right that was actually written by king David was ‘pierce’ and was not ‘kaari/like a lion’ but all evidences are not enough.
4. Psalms 145
Psalms 145 contains David's praise to LORD; each verse begins with Hebrew letters in the order of the Hebrew alphabet (א, ב, ג, ד, ...) but no verse begins with the letter 'nun' (נ) in Masoretic text bible. In order to understand better, the followings are quotes of some verses of Psalms 145 that begin one letter before 'nun' (נ) i.e. the letter 'mem' (מ) up to four letters after the letter 'nun' i.e. the letter 'tsadi' (צ):
מַֽלְכוּתְךָ מַלְכוּת כָּל־עֹֽלָמִים וּמֶֽמְשֶׁלְתְּךָ בְּכָל־דֹּור וָדֹֽור׃13
Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endures through all generations.
סֹומֵךְ יהוה לְכָל־הַנֹּפְלִים וְזֹוקֵף לְכָל־הַכְּפוּפִֽים׃14
The Lord supports all that are falling, and sets up all that are broken down.
עֵֽינֵי־כֹל אֵלֶיךָ יְשַׂבֵּרוּ וְאַתָּה נֹֽותֵן־לָהֶם אֶת־אָכְלָם בְּעִתֹּֽו׃15
The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their food in due season.
פֹּותֵחַ אֶת־יָדֶךָ וּמַשְׂבִּיעַ לְכָל־חַי רָצֹֽון׃16
Thou openest thine hands, and fillest every living thing with pleasure.
צַדִּיק יהוה בְּכָל־דְּרָכָיו וְחָסִיד בְּכָל־מַעֲשָֽׂיו׃17
The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
(translated from Septuagint in English)
But in fact, Qumran scrolls give a prove that there is a verse which was begun by 'nun' (see figure 4) so the verses above become:
The green text is additional verse in Qumran scroll Psalms 145
מַֽלְכוּתְךָ מַלְכוּת כָּל־עֹֽלָמִים וּמֶֽמְשֶׁלְתְּךָ בְּכָל־דֹּור וָדֹֽור׃13
Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endures through all generations.
נאמן אלוהים בכל־דרכיו וחסיד בכל־מעשיו׃
[The Lord is faithful in his words, and holy in all his works.]
סֹומֵךְ יהוה לְכָל־הַנֹּפְלִים וְזֹוקֵף לְכָל־הַכְּפוּפִֽים׃14The Lord supports all that are falling, and sets up all that are broken down.
The question is how the verse (started by 'nun') was included on the Qumran scroll? Several chapters in the Psalms i.e. chapter 25 and 34 also contain poems similar to Psalms 145, each verse begins with Hebrew letters in the order of the Hebrew alphabet; in chapter 25 no verse begins with the letters 'beth' (ב) and 'waw' (ו) whereas in chapter 34 no verse begins by the letter 'waw' (ו). The pattern that appears in Psalms 25 and 34 can be a clue not to take quickly the decision that there is a missing verse in Masoretic text. The Jewish Talmud also gives an explanation why no verse was started by the letter 'nun' in Psalms 145, following the quotation:
Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Why is there no verse beginning with the letter nun in ashrei? Because it contains an allusion to the downfall of the enemies of Israel, a euphemism for Israel itself. As it is written: “The virgin of Israel has fallen and she will rise no more; abandoned in her land, none will raise her up” (Amos 5:2), which begins with the letter nun. Due to this verse, ashrei does not include a verse beginning with the letter nun. (Berachot 4b : 21)
Figure 4: Qumran scroll photo (labeled 11Q Psalmsa M43.786) contain additional verse of Psalms 145 which started by letter 'nun'.
Jews have investigated the additional verse in Qumran scroll Psalms 145, which was begun by the letter 'nun', because it gave the impression that something was missing from Masoretic text. Psalms 145 contains praise to LORD (יהוה) which always contains word LORD (no word Elohim was written). The verse in the Psalms 145 which was begun by the letter 'nun' was the result of a copy of the Psalms 145 : 17 which was begun by the word צדיק (read: tsadiq) and then it was replaced by 'נאמן אלהים' (read: Ne'emen Elohim) which produced a verse that began with the letter 'nun'. Another reason that this verse (started by nun) is odd is because it includes the word Elohim (אלהים). Why? In the Hebrew mindset, the word Elohim (אלהים) has a different meaning than the word LORD (יהוה). LORD in Tanakh means goodness/mercy of the Creator of the universe, while in Tanakh if Elohim was written, it means Tanakh points to the judgment of the Creator of the universe. As examples: The word Elohim in Exodus 7 : 1 states the judgment of the Creator of the universe to the pharaoh, and the word LORD in Genesis 19 declares the mercy of the Creator of the universe to Lot and the cities around Sodom and Gomorrah. Psalms 145 contains praise for goodness/mercy and not because of the judgment of the Creator of the universe, so the word Elohim in Psalms 145 gives the impression out of the topic. Another clue is that every verse in Psalms 145 on Qumran scroll was always ended by the sentence: ברוך יהוה וברוך שמו לעולם ועד which means ‘Blessed be YHWH and blessed be His name from forever until forever’. This sentence did not exist in Septuagint and Masoretic text.
From the above explanation, we can see the oddnes in the Psalms 145 which was started by the letter 'nun', so the Jews knew that it was only a comment added by the essents; Hebrew writings did not recognise any punctuation so that all seem flat. But these such verses in square brackets in bible translations by christians was not found in the Greek bible, while it is found in square brackets in some texts in modern Tanakh.
More Clues about The Accuracy of Masoretic Text
The hebrew bible used by Jews and Christians today is Masoretic text Bible. There are very many Masoretic texts that were hand-copied since medieval times to the present. The oldest Masoretic text is the Aleppo Codex around 900 AD and the Leningrad Codex in 1008 AD. Masoretic text bible is very consistent. From very many medieval Masoretic texts that have been discovered, there are very nearly no difference. In contrast to other manuscripts older than Masoretic texts, for example: The Qumran scrolls and the surrounding areas (Nahal Hever, Judean desert). The results of their copies are not uniform and there tends to be a difference between one manuscript and another, one example: The Qumran scroll of Isaiah 2 : 7 give a prove that 1QIsaiaha and 4QIsaiahb record קץ but 4QIsaiaha record קצה. This could be a clue that earlier manuscripts do not guarantee more true than the younger manuscripts. If Masoretic text bible has very nearly no one difference from the very many Masoretic texts bible copied by hand to this day it can be a clue to the present generation of human beings that Hebrew Bible has not changed since the century BC.
Another way of knowing whether Masoretic text bible is still entirely trustworthy is to compare other ancient Jewish literatures written before Masoretic text exists.
One example is:
In Masoretic text bible of Deuteronomy 32 : 8, it was recorded: “sons of Israel (בני ישראל)”:
When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, When He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples According to the number of the children of Israel. (NKJV)
But in Qumran fragment and Septuagint, it was recorded: “sons of God (בני אלוהים)”. Because Septuagint and Qumran fragment are the older manuscripts, at a glance it can be decided that Masoretic text bible has changed. But there are still some other proofs. In the Samaritan Pentateuch as the oldest, it is recorded ‘sons of Israel’. Also in the targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel (around 100 AD), it was recorded ‘sons of Israel’. Below is a quote from the book of Deuteronomy 32 : 8 in the targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel in English translation:
When the Most High made allotment of the world unto the nations which proceeded from the sons of Noach, in the separation of the writings and languages of the children of men at the time of the division, He cast the lot among the seventy angels, the princes of the nations with whom is the revelation to oversee the city, even at that time He established the limits of the nations according to the sum of the number of the seventy souls of Israel who went down into Mizraim [= Egypt].
The truth is man and angel is sons of God (see Genesis 6 : 4 and Job 1 and 2). All humans today never know what Moses actually wrote: whether ‘sons of Israel (בני ישראל)’ or ‘sons of God (בני אלוהים)’. Actually Qumran fragment and Septuagint do not prove that Masoretic text bible is corrupt.
It has been discussed in this short paper that there is actually no valid proof that can proove that Masoretic text bible is erroneous/changed. All ancient jewish literatures beside bible are exceedingly support the truths which were written in Masoretic text bible. Moreover, the author has read the Samaritan Pentateuch (400 BCE) which came from the 10 tribes on the North (was called Israel) and which was not influenced by the 2 tribes on the south (was called Jehuda/Jew) exceedingly support the truth of Masoretic text bible. The Samaritan Pentateuch is very nearly the same to Masoretic text bible, word by word. There is only very few difference which are meaningless between Samaritan Pentateuch and Masoretic text bible. The other difference is the Samaritan Pentateuch contains additional words which are not in Masoretic text bible. However, the additions which are in Samaritan Pentateuch and are not in Masoretic text bible is known by Jewish as Jewish oral law. Thus the differences between the Qumran scrolls and Masoretic text bible is identic with Samaritan Pentateuch and Masoretic text bible. Example: the difference between ‘sons of Israel’ [was recorded in Samaritan Pentateuch, and Masoretic text bible] and ‘sons of God’ [was recorded in Qumran fragment and Septuagint] in Deuteronomy 32 : 8 asserts that both are true. This kind of thing can also be applied to other bible verses.
All old documents (Old Testament) before Masoretic text are exceedingly support the truth of Masoretic text bible. Every difference in Masoretic text bible is meaningless. The results of Masoretic text bible and Samaritan Pentateuch (400 BCE) are almost the same, only very few meaningless differences and the other difference is that the Samaritan Pentateuch contains additional words which are not in Masoretic text bible. This becomes a strong proof that Masoretic text bible until this time can be believed wholy.