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Smith's Bible Dictionary
History of the text. - A history of the text of the Old Testament should properly commence from the date of the completion of the canon. As regards, the form in which the sacred writings were perserved, little doubt exists that the text was ordinarily, written on skins, rolled up into volumes, like the modern synagogue rolls. Psalms 40:7; Jeremiah 36:14; Ezekiel 2:9; Zechariah 5:1.
The original characters in which the text was expressed is that still preserved to us, with the exception of four letters, on the Maccabaean coins, and having a strong affinity to the Samaritan character. At what date, this was exchanged for the present Aramaic or square character, is still as undetermined, as it is at what date, the use of the Aramaic language of Palestine superseded that of the Hebrew. The old Jewish tradition, repeated by Origen and Jerome, ascribed the change to Ezra. See Writing.
Of any logical division, in the written text, of the Old Testament into Pesukim or verses, we find in the Tulmud, no mention; and even in the existing synagogue rolls, such division is generally ignored. In the poetical books, the Pesukim mentioned in the Talmud correspond to the poetical lines, not to our modern verses. Of the documents, which directly bear upon the history of the Hebrew text, the earliest two are the Samaritan copy of the Pentateuch and the Greek translation of the Septuagint (LXX). See Samaritan Pentateuch, The; Septuagint, The.
In the translations of Aquila and the other Greek interpreters, the fragments of whose works remain to us in the Hexapla, we have evidence of the existence of a text differing, but little from our own; so also in the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan. A few centuries later we have, in the Hexapla, additional evidence to the same effect in Origin's transcriptions of the Hebrew text. And yet, more important are the proofs of the firm establishment of the text, and of its substantial with our own, supplied by the translation of Jerome, who was instructed by the Palestinian Jews, and mainly relied upon their authority, for acquaintance, not only with the text itself, but also with the traditional unwritten vocalization of the text.
This brings us to the middle of the Talmudic period. The care of the Talmudic doctors for the text is shown by the pains, with which they counted no the number of verses in the different books, and computed which were the middle verses, words and letters in the Pentateuch and in the Psalms. The scrupulousness with which the Talmudists noted what they deemed the truer readings, and yet abstained from introducing them into the text, indicates, at once, both the diligence with which they scrutinized the text, and also, the care with which, even while knowledging its occasional imperfections, they guarded it.
Critical procedure is also evidenced in a mention of their rejection of manuscripts, which were found not to agree with others in their readings; and the rules given, with reference to the transcription and adoption of manuscripts, attest to the care bestowed upon them. It is evident, from the notices of the Talmud, that a number of oral traditions had been gradually accumulating, respecting both the integrity of particular passages of the text itself , and also the manner in which if was to be read.
This vast heterogeneous mass of traditions and criticisms, compiled and embodied in writing, forms, what is known as the Masorah, that is, Tradition. From the end of the Masoretic period onward, the Masorah became the great authority, by which, the text given in all the Jewish manuscripts, was settled.
Manuscripts. - The Old Testament manuscripts known to us fall into two main classes: synagogue rolls, and manuscripts for private use: of the latter, some are written in the square, others in the rabbinic, or Cursive, character [that is, written in a running hand]. The synagogue rolls contain, separate from each other, the Pentateuch, the Haphtaroth or appointed sections of the prophets, and the so-called Megilloth, namely, Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther.
Private manuscripts in the square character are in the book form, either on parchment or on paper, and of various sizes, from folio to 12mo. Some contain the Hebrew text alone; others add the Targum, or an Arabic or other translation, either interspersed with the text, or in a separate column, occasionally in the margin. The upper and lower margins are generally occupied by the Masorah, sometimes by rabbinical commentaries, etc.
The date of a manuscript is ordinarily given in the subscription, but as the subscriptions are often concealed in the Masorah, or elsewhere, it is occasionally difficult to find them: occasionally, also, it is difficult to decipher them. No satisfactory criteria have been yet established by which the ages of manuscripts are to be determined.
Few existing manuscripts are supposed to be older than the twelfth century. Kennicott and Bruns assigned one of their collation, (No. 590), to the tenth century; Deuteronomy Rossi dates it, A.D. 1018; on the other hand, one of his own, (No. 634), he adjudges to the eighth century.
Since the days of Kennicott and Deuteronomy Rossi, modern research has discovered various manuscripts, beyond the limits of Europe. Of many of these, there seems no reason to suppose that they will add much to our knowledge of the Hebrew text. It is different with the manuscripts examined by Pinner at Odessa. One of these manuscripts, (A, No. 1), a Pentateuch roll, unpointed, brought from Derbend in Daghestan, appears, by the subscription, to have been written previous to A.D. 580, and if so is the oldest known biblical Hebrew manuscript in existence. The forms of the letters are remarkable.
Another manuscript, (B, No. 3), containing the prophets, on parchment, in small folio, although only dating, according to the inscription, from A.D. 916, and furnished with a Masorah, is a yet greater treasure. Its vowels and accents are wholly different, from those now in use, both in form and in position, being all above the letters: they have, accordingly, been the theme of much discussion among Hebrew scholars.
Printed text. - The history of the printed text of the Hebrew Bible commences with the early Jewish editions of the separate books. First , appeared the Psalter, in 1477, probably at Bologna, in 4to, with Kimchi's commentary interspersed among the verses. Only the first four psalms had the vowel-points, and these but clumsily expressed.
At Bologna, there subsequently appeared in 1482, the Pentateuch, in folio, pointed, with the Targum and the commentary of Rashi; and the five Megilloth, (Ruth - Esther), in folio with the commentaries of Rashi and Aben Ezra. From Soncino, near Cremona, issued in 1486, the Prophetae priores, (Joshua - Kings), folio, unpointed with Kimchi's commentary.
The honor of printing the first entire Hebrew Bible belongs to the above-mentioned town of Soncino. The edition is in folio, pointed and accentuated. Nine copies only of it are now known, of which one belongs to Exeter College, Oxford. This was followed, in 1494, by the 4to or 8vo edition printed by Gersom at Brescia, remarkable as being the edition from which Luther's German translation was made.
After the Brescian, the next primary edition was that contained in the Complutensian Polyglot, published at Complutum, (Alcala), in Spain, at the expense of Cardinal Ximenes, dated 1514-17, but not issued till 1522. To this succeeded an edition which has had more influence than any on the text of later times, the Second Rabbinical Bible, printed by Bomberg al Venice, 4 vols. Fol., 1525-6. The editor was the learned Tunisian Jew R. Jacob hen Chaim. The great feature of his work, lay in the correction of the text, by the precepts of the Masorah, in which he was profoundly skilled, and on which, as well as on the text itself, his labors were employed.
The Hebrew Bible which became the standard to subsequent generations was that of Joseph Athiais, a learned rabbi and printer at Amsterdam. His text was based on a comparison of the previous editions, with two manuscripts; one bearing date, 1299, the other, a Spanish manuscript boasting an antiquity of 900 years. It appeared at Amsterdam, 2 vols. 8 vo, 1661.
Principles of criticism. - The method of procedure required in the criticism of the Old Testament is widely different from that practiced in the criticism of the New Testament. Our Old Testament "textus receptus," [the received text,] is a far more faithful representation of the genuine Scripture; but, on the other hand, the means of detecting and correcting the errors contained in it, are more precarious, the results are more uncertain, and the ratio borne by the value of the diplomatic evidence of manuscripts, to that of a good critical judgment and sagacity is greatly diminished. It is indeed, to the direct testimony of the manuscripts that, in endeavoring to establish the true text, we must first have recourse.
The comparative purity of the Hebrew text, is probably different, in different parts of the Old Testament. In the revision of Dr. Davidson, who has generally restricted himself to the admission of corrections warranted by manuscript, Masoretic or Talmudic authority, those in the book of Genesis do not exceed eleven; those in the Psalms are proportionately three times as numerous; those in the historical books and the Prophets are proportionately more numerous than those in the Psalms.
II. Quotations From the Old Testament in the New Testament. - The New Testament quotations, from the Old Testament, form one of the outward bonds of connection between the two parts of the Bible. They are manifold in kind.
In the quotations of all kinds, from the Old Testament in the New Testament, we find a continual variation from the letter of the older Scriptures. To this variation, three causes may be specified as having contributed: First, all the New Testament writers quoted from the Septuagint (LXX); correcting it indeed more or less by the Hebrew, especially when it was needful for their purpose, occasionally deserting it altogether; still abiding by it, to so large an extent as to show that, it was the primary source whence their quotations were drawn.
Secondly, the New Testament writers must have frequently quoted from memory.
Thirdly, combined with this, there was an alteration of conscious or unconscious design. Sometimes, the object of this was to obtain increased force. Sometimes, an Old Testament passage is abridged, and in the abridgment so adjusted, by a little alteration, as to present an aspect of completeness, and yet omit what is foreign to the immediate purpose. Acts 1:20; 1 Corinthians 1:31.
At other times, a passage is enlarged by the incorporation of a passage from another source: thus in Luke 4:18-18, although the contents are professedly those, read by our Lord from Isaiah 61:1, we have the words, "to set at liberty them that are bruised," introduced from Isaiah 58:6. (Septuagint); similarly in Romans 11:8; Romans 29:4, is combined with Isaiah 29:10. In some cases, still greater liberty of alteration assumed.
In some places, again, the words of the original are taken up, but employed with a new meaning. Almost more remarkable than any alteration in the quotation itself , is the circumstance that in Matthew 27:9, Jeremiah should be named as the author of a prophecy really delivered by Zechariah; the being that the prophecy is based upon that in Jeremiah 18:1; Jeremiah 19:1, and that, without a reference to this original source, the most essential features of the fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy would be misunderstood. See New Testament; Bible, The [Holy].
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Smith, William, Dr. Entry for 'Old Testament'. Smith's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/sbd/o/old-testament.html. 1901.