I.                   The Text of the Old Testament


A.                Question of Old Testament text.

1.                  Principles followed in restoration of New Testament largely apply to Old Testament.

2.                  Text – data for Old Testament not as vast compared to New Testament.

3.                  Nor is available data as impressive.

4.                  Extant materials on the Old Testament are not as old as re: the New Testament.

B.                 Hebrew Manuscripts

1.                  Earliest ones, except those recently discovered (discussed below):

a.                   The Cairo Codex.

b.                  The Leningrad Codex of the Prophets.

2.                  The Cairo Codex.

a.                   Includes the Former and Latter Prophets (see Lesson One).

b.                  Dated at A.D. 895.

3.                  The Leningrad Codex of the Prophets (dated from A.D. 916)

4.                  Others:

a.                   The British Museum Codex of the Pentateuch (10th or 11th Century A.D.)

b.                  The Leningrad Codex (completed A.D. 1008: oldest known manuscript of entire Old Testament).

c.                   The Aleppo Codex

(1)               Copied in first half of 10th century.

(2)               Originally a complete Old Testament.

(3)               Was thought destroyed in anti-Jewish riots at Aleppo (Syria).

(4)               Most of it survived and is now in Jerusalem.

5.                  Why are New Testament ones older?

a.                   Jewish scribes had almost superstitious respect for the copies.

b.                  Gave a ceremonial burial to any copy which was old or became worn.

C.                 The Massoretes.

1.                  Hebrew letters have several which look very much alike.

2.                  Led to errors (e.g. Nebuchadrezzar vs more familiar Nebuchadnezzar).

3.                  Groups arose dedicated to preservation of the Old Testament text.

4.                  At head of list: Massoretes.

a.                   Centered at Tiberias.

b.                  Not the earliest of these schools.

c.                   Came to be about A.D. 500.

d.                  Named because of their acknowledged dependence on the authoritative traditions (Massorah) concerning the text.

e.                   Labored over period of four or five centuries.

f.                   Devised a system of vowels and accents for Hebrew text.

g.                  They devised a system to eliminate scribal slips.

(1)               Numbered the verses, words and letters of each book.

(2)               Counted the number of times each letter used in book.

(3)               Calculated the middle verse, middle word, and middle letter of each book.

h.                  Were “first-ranked” textual critics.

i.                    Today, our Hebrew text is often referred to as “the Massoretic text”.


D.                Other materials on the text.

1.                  Samaritan Pentateuch.

a.                   Not a translation, but is a form of the Hebrew text itself.

b.                  It’s beginning traced to about 400 B.C.

c.                   Samaritans separated from Jews.

d.                  Adopted their own form of Hebrew Scriptures.

e.                   Counted as authoritative only the five books of Moses.

f.                   Some 6000 variants from Massoretic text.

(1)               Most are only spelling and grammatical differences.

(2)               Others obvious inserts to support their peculiar beliefs.

2.                  Septuagint (LXX)

a.                   From Latin Septuaginta (“70”).

b.                  Common name for Greek translation of Old Testament,.

c.                   Per unfounded tradition, about 70 men took part in the translation of Pentateuch.

d.                  Tradition re: Library at Alexandria.

e.                   Facts appear to support that was done by Alexandrian (not Palestinian) Jews, approximately 250 B.C.

f.                   Remainder of Old Testament translation at later date; circumstances unknown.

g.                  Most often quoted by the writers of New Testament.

h.                  Has some deficiencies.

3.                  Aramaic Targums.

a.                   After Jewish exile, Aramaic was the spoken language of the Jews.

b.                  The Translation was called targum.

c.                   In synagogue.

(1)               The targum was given orally.

(2)               While the honored Hebrew text was read from a scroll.

d.                  By 5th century A.D., two official Targums had emerged.

(1)               Targum Onkelos of the Pentateuch (given greater authority).

(2)               Targum Jonathan of the prophets.

(3)               Both are deliberately literal in their efforts of translation.

4.                  Syriac Peshitta.

a.                   Begun perhaps as early as mid 1st century A.D.

b.                  In earliest form, is in close agreement with Massoretic text.

5.                  Latin Versions and others.

a.                   Two main types of the Latin translation.

(1)               The Old Latin.

(2)               The Vulgate.

b.                  The Old Latin.

(1)               Dates back to A.D. 150, but has definite limitations.

(2)               Based on the LXX.

c.                   The Latin Vulgate.

(1)               Later, but a valuable text-authority.

(2)               Work of Jerome, who spent 390-405 A.D. translating directly from Hebrew into Latin.

d.                  Talmud (Jewish civil and religious law).

(1)               Has Biblical quotations.

(2)               A.D. 200-500.

E.                 Present status of our text.

1.         Talmud has rigid regulations for preparation of copies of Pentateuch.

a.                   Skins of clean animals, prepared for use in synagogue.

b.                  Fastened with strings taken from clean animals.

c.                   Certain number of columns, with limitations on length and breadth.

d.                  Copy must be first lined; if three lines written without a line, it is worthless.

e.                   Ink to be black, from a definite recipe.

f.                   Must use an authentic copy, without deviation.

g.                  No letter even can be written from memory.

h.                  Spacing requirements between consonants, words, sections (parashah).

i.                    Even dress code for the copyist.

2.                  Strict set of regulations.

a.                   A chief factor guaranteeing the accurate transmission of Old Testament text.

b.                  Also, the meticulous precautions of the Massoretes.

c.                   Evidence shows “Massoretic text” was extent in centuries which ante date Christ’s coming.

F.                  The Dead Sea Scrolls

1.                  Discovered in March, 1948.

2.                  Near ancient ruins of Qumran (inhabited 2d. century B.C. to 1st century A.D.)

3.                  Fragments of almost every book of Old Testament have been discovered.

4.                  Perhaps best known are two scrolls of Book of Isaiah.

a.                   “Isaiah A” – complete except for a few words.

b.                  “Isaiah B” – Is 41-59.

c.                   “Isaiah A” – dates to 100 B.C. or earlier.

d.                  “Isaiah B” – dates a little later.

5.         Give us comfort re: Old Testament text.


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