Masoretic Text and Masorah
As we start to go further in discussing the Canon, we will run across common references to other sources. One of these is the abbreviation "MT" for the "Masoretic Text." [Note: I will probably be adding to this definition as we go along.]
The Masorah (also spelled Massorah) is technically a "system of critical notes on the external form of the Biblical text. This system of notes represents the literary labors of innumerable scholars, of which the beginning falls probably in pre-Maccabean times and the end reaches to the year 1425" (JewishEncyclopedia, Masorah).
The Masoretic Text "is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism." The official version of the Hebrew Old Testament as it exists today (Evan & Tov, p.21). Until the sixth century A.D. only the consonants of the Hebrew OT were written down; the language contained no vowels. The tradition of correct pronunciation of ancient Hebrew words was passed down orally. Between A.D. 500 and 1000, a group of Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes (from 'maser,' to hand down, transmit) developed a system of adding vowels, accents, and notes that guaranteed more accurate reading and copying of the ancient text. No other text from the ancient world was as carefully safeguarded as the Masoretic Text. Its tradition came to be regarded as authoritative and can still be considered highly trustworthy. The Masoretes themselves date from the early Christian period until the Middle Ages.
In existence today: The earliest complete Masoretic manuscript, the Leningrad Codex (A.D. 1009) is used for the standard edition of the Hebrew Bible. Another source states that the standard for Hebrew Bibles printed today is the Masoretic Text from A.D. 1088, currently housed in the Saint Petersburg Public Library. Another ancient copy, although partially lost, is the Aleppo Codex (A.D. 925)
The founding of the Dead Sea Scrolls has shown amazing consistency between the Masoretic Text and the original scrolls, even though they are separated by 1,100 years. This gives much credence to the idea that the Masoretic Text is a reliable copy that is faithful to the original meaning intended by the writers of the OT. In other places, though, the LXX has proved to have been closer to "the original meaning" (entire books on textual criticism can be looked into if you are interested in this subject).
The material for these posts will probably end up filling many pages when I'm done, but I'll be posting as I go along in "quick bites" for people who are interested in such things. But this means that I won't have read everything or know everything (if such a thing is possible) when I write each blog post. I'm learning as I continue to research. Should you find an error, please let me know! Please, please, reference "Canon History" for the most up-to-date, accurate information!
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Jennifer Becker Landsberger
Who am I? Freelance writer (magazines, websites, & copywriting), Catholic, military wife, and Mensan. Double Bachelor's in History & Psychology.
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Biblical Evidence for Catholicism by Dave Armstrong