system, under which he lived himself, and as ruled by the ideas and principles current among his contemporaries. There is much in his representation of the past which cannot be historical. For examples of narratives which are his composition see 1 Chr. xv. 1-24, xvi. 4-42, xxii. 2-xxix.; 2 Chr. xiii. 3-22, xiv. 6-xv. 15, xvi. 7-11, xvii., xix. 1-xx. 30, xxvi. 16-20, xxix. 3-xxxi. 21. On account of the interest shown by the compiler in the ecclesiastical aspects of the history, his work has been not inaptly called the “Ecclesiastical Chronicle of Jerusalem.” From historical allusions in the book of Nehemiah, it may be inferred that the compiler wrote at about 300 B.C. (S. R. D.)
2. Texts and Versions.
Text.—The form in which the Hebrew text of the Old Testament is presented to us in all MSS. and printed editions is that of the Massoretic text, the date of which is usually placed somewhere between the 6th and 8th centuries of the Christian era. It is probable that the present text became fixed as early as the 2nd century A.D., but even this earlier date leaves a long interval between the original autographs of the Old Testament writers and our present text. Since the fixing of the Massoretic text the task of preserving and transmitting the sacred books has been carried out with the greatest care and fidelity, with the result that the text has undergone practically no change of any real importance; but before that date, owing to various causes, it is beyond dispute that a large number of corruptions were introduced into the Hebrew text. In dealing, therefore, with the textual criticism of the Old Testament it is necessary to determine the period at which the text assumed its present fixed form before considering the means at our disposal for controlling the text when it was, so to speak, in a less settled condition.
An examination of the extant MSS. of the Hebrew Old Testament reveals two facts which at first sight are somewhat remarkable. The first is that the oldest dated MS., the Codex Babylonicus Petropolitanus, only goes back to the year A.D. 916, though it is probable that one or two MSS. Massoretic text. belong to the 9th century. The second fact is that all our Hebrew MSS. represent one and the same text, viz. the Massoretic. This text was the work of a special gild of trained scholars called Massoretes (בעלי המסרת) or “masters of tradition” (מסורה or less correctly מסרת), whose aim was not only to preserve and transmit the consonantal text which had been handed down to them, but also to ensure its proper pronunciation. To this end they provided the text with a complete system of vowel points and accents. Their labours further included the compilation of a number of notes, to which the term Massorah is now usually applied. These notes for the most part constitute a sort of index of the peculiarities of the text, and possess but little general interest. More important are those passages in which the Massoretes have definitely adopted a variation from the consonantal text. In these cases the vowel points attached to the written word (Kěthībh) belong to the word which is to be substituted for it, the latter being placed in the margin with the initial letter of Qěrē (= to be read) prefixed to it. Many even of these readings merely relate to variations of spelling, pronunciation or grammatical forms; others substitute a more decent expression for the coarser phrase of the text, but in some instances the suggested reading really affects the sense of the passage. These last are to be regarded either as old textual variants, or, more probably, as emendations corresponding to the errata or corrigenda of a modern printed book. They do not point to any critical editing of the text; for the aim of the Massoretes was essentially conservative. Their object was not to create a new text, but rather to ensure the accurate transmission of the traditional text which they themselves had received. Their work may be said to culminate in the vocalized text which resulted from the labours of Rabbi Aaron ben Asher in the 10th century. But the writings of Jerome in the 4th, and of Origen in the 3rd century both testify to a Hebrew text practically identical with that of the Massoretes. Similar evidence is furnished by the Mishna and the Gemara, the Targums, and lastly by the Greek version of Aquila, which dates from the first half of the 2nd century A.D. Hence it is hardly doubtful that the form in which we now possess the Hebrew text was already fixed by the beginning of the 2nd century. On the other hand, evidence such as that of the Book of Jubilees shows that the form of the text still fluctuated considerably as late as the 1st century A.D., so that we are forced to place the fixing of the text some time between the fall of Jerusalem and the production of Aquila’s version. Nor is the occasion far to seek. After the fall of Jerusalem the new system of biblical exegesis founded by Rabbi Hillel reached its climax at Jamnia under the famous Rabbi Aqiba (d. c. 132). The latter’s system of interpretation was based upon an extremely literal treatment of the text, according to which the smallest words or particles, and sometimes even the letters of scripture, were invested with divine authority. The inevitable result of such a system must have been the fixing of an officially recognized text, which could scarcely have differed materially from that which was finally adopted by the Massoretes. That the standard edition was not the result of the critical investigation of existing materials may be assumed with some certainty. Indeed, it is probable, as has been suggested, that the manuscript which was adopted as the standard text was an old and well-written copy, possibly one of those which were preserved in the Court of the Temple.
But if the evidence available points to the time of Hadrian as the period at which the Hebrew text assumed its present form, it is even more certain that prior to that date the various MSS. of the Old Testament differed very materially from one another. Sufficient proof of this statement is furnished by the Samaritan Pentateuch and the versions, more especially the Septuagint. Indications also are not wanting in the Hebrew text itself to show that in earlier times the text was treated with considerable freedom. Thus, according to Jewish tradition, there are eighteen passages in which the older scribes deliberately altered the text on the ground that the language employed was either irreverent or liable to misconception. Of a similar nature are the changes introduced into proper names, e.g. the substitution of bosheth (= shame) for ba’al in Ishbosheth (2 Sam. ii. 8) and Mephibosheth (2 Sam. ix. 6; cf. the older forms Eshbaal and Meribaal, 1 Chron. viii. 34, 35); the use of the verb “to bless” (ברך) in the sense of cursing (1 Kings xxi. 10, 13; Job i. 5, 11, ii. 5, 9; Ps. x. 3); and the insertion of “the enemies of” in 1 Sam. xxv. 22, 2 Sam. xii. 14. These intentional alterations, however, only affect a very limited portion of the text, and, though it is possible that other changes were introduced at different times, it is very
- For a discussion of the word “Massoretes” see W. Bacher (J.Q.R. vol. iii. pp. 785 f.), who maintains that the original pronunciation of these words was מסורת and מומרה.
- The actual date of the introduction of vowel points is not known, but it must in any case have been later than the time of Jerome, and is probably to be assigned to the 7th century. Of the systems of punctuation which are known to us, the more familiar is the Tiberian, or sublinear, which is found in all printed editions of the Hebrew Bible. The other system, the Babylonian or superlinear, is chiefly found in certain Yemen MSS. For yet a third system of vocalization see M. Friedländer, J.Q.R., 1895, pp. 564 f., and P. Kahle in Z.A.T.W. xxi. (1901), pp. 273 f. Probably the idea of providing vowel points was borrowed from the Syrians.
- This represents the Western tradition as opposed to the Eastern text of ben Naphtali. For the standard copies such as the Codex Hillelis referred to by later writers see H. L. Strack, Proleg. Critica, pp. 14 f.
- Cf. F. C. Burkitt, Fragments of the Books of Kings according to the Translation of Aquila.
- The Talmudic story of the three MSS. preserved in the court of the temple (Sopherim, vi. 4) sufficiently illustrates the tentative efforts of the rabbis in this direction.
- W. Robertson Smith, Old Testament and the Jewish Church, pp. 69 f.
- For these Tiqqunē Sopherim or “corrections of the scribes” see Geiger, Urschrift, pp. 308 f.; Strack, Prolegomena Critica, p. 87; Buhl, Canon and Text of the Old Testament, pp. 103 f. In the Mekilta (Exod. xv. 7) only eleven passages are mentioned. Less important are the Itturē Sopherim, or five passages in which the scribes have omitted a waw from the text.