Text of the Old Testament

The article below is taken from The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Edited by Samuel Macauley Jackson (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1908-1912).

Please note: This article, published nearly a century ago, does not reflect the general confirmation given to the traditional masoretic text by the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947.

  1. The Premasoretic Period.
    1. The Masoretic Text.
    2. The Earlier Text.
    3. Change in Style of Writing.
    4. Attempts to Fix the Text
    5. The Pronunciation Fixed, but the Text Still Unvocalized
    6. Word-Division
    7. Division into Verses
    8. Division into Sections
  2. The Masoretic Period
    1. The Masoretes
    2. Their Work
    3. Codices
  3. The Postmasoretic Period
    1. The Chapter-Division
    2. Old Testament Manuscripts
    3. The Printed Text
    4. Critical Works and Commentaries

1. The Pre-masoretic Period

§ 1. The Masoretic Text

The extant Hebrew text of the Old Testament text is commonly called the Masoretic, to distinguish it from the text of the ancient versions as well as from the Hebrew text of former ages. This Masoretic text does not present the original form but a text which within a certain period was fixed by Jewish scholars as the correct and only authoritative one. When and how this official Masoretic text was fixed was formerly a matter of controversy, especially during the seventeenth century. One party headed by the Buxtorfs (father and son), in the interest of the view of inspiration then prevalent, held to the absolute completeness and infallibility, and hence the exclusive value, of the Masoretic text. They attributed it to Ezra and the men of the Great Synagogue, who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, were supposed to have purified the text from all accumulated error; added the vowel points, the accents, and other punctuation-marks (thus settling the reading and pronunciation); fixed the canon; made the right division into verses, paragraphs, and books; and, finally, by the providence of God and the care of the Jews, the text thus made was believed to have been kept from all error, and to present the veritable Word of God. This view of the text prevailed especially when Protestant scholasticism was at its height, and may be designated as the orthodox Protestant position. It was opposed by another party headed by Jean Morin and Louis Cappel, who, in the interest of pure historicity or in Antiprotestant polemics, combated these opinions, maintained the later age of the Masoretic text, and sought to vindicate value and usefulness for the old versions and other critical helps. They fell into many errors in respect to the details of the history of the text and overrated the value of Extra-masoretic critical helps; but their general view was supported by irresistible arguments and is now universally adopted. This view, instead of deriving the existing text from a gathering of inspired men in Ezra's time, assigns it to a much later date and quite different men, and, instead of absolute completeness, claims for it only a relative one with a higher value than other forms of the text. A glance at the history of the text will show how this agreement has been brought about.

§ 2. The Earlier Text

Concerning the oldest history of the text of the Old Testament writings there exists almost no positive information. The books were written probably upon skins, perhaps also on linen; as paper was used from very early times in Egypt, it is possible that it was employed; parchment appears to have been used later. The roll seems to have been the usual form (Ps. xl, 8; Jer. xxxvi, 14 sqq.; Ezek, ii, 9; Zech. v, 1); the pen was a pointed reed (Jer.viii, 8; Ps. xiv, 1); the character was the Old Hebrew, which was almost identical with the Phenician and Moabitic (on the Moabite Stone, q.v.). Specimens of this writing are also preserved in the Siloam inscription (c. 700 B.C.), on gems (of the eighth or seventh century), on coins of the Hasmoneans and those belonging to the time of the Jewish-Roman war, and, in somewhat different form, in Samaritan writings. Like the Phenicians and Moabites, the Hebrews separated the words by a point or stroke, but these signs do not seem to have been used regularly, since the Septuagint often makes word-divisions different from those of the Masoretic text. Jewish tradition mentions several passages in which the separation of words was regarded as doubtful.

The difference between ancient and modern texts consisted in this, that the former were written without vowels and accents. The Hebrew writing, like Semitic writing in general, was essentially consonantal; vowels were not written. While the language lived, this occasioned no difficulty to the speakers or readers. No details are at hand concerning the way in which the text was multiplied and preserved; but inasmuch as the writings did not then have in popular estimation the character they came later to possess, it is likely that they were less carefully handled, and that the same amount of pains was not taken in copying them. This statement rests upon the fact that those parts of the Old Testament which we possess in double forms vary in ways that indicate a corruption of the text reaching back to precanonical times when copies were neither made nor corrected so laboriously.

§ 3. Change in Style of Writing

A new epoch commenced after the Exile, when the holy writings were raised to canonical dignity and as holy writings were venerated and handled with ever-increasing care and conscientiousness. This veneration was not accorded to all Biblical writing at once, but only to that part of the canon called the law. The epoch begins with Ezra, and extends to the close of the Talmud, c. 500 A.D. During this period not only were the form of writing and the text fixed, but also the pronunciation and division; in short, the major part of the present Masorah was collected in verbal form. A change of an external kind was the development of a sacred writing, under the influence of the Aramaic character, the so-called "square" or "Assyrian" character. Jewish tradition ascribes the introduction of the square character to Ezra, and calls it expressly an Aramaic writing that the Jews adopted in place of their Hebrew, which they left to the Samaritans. A study of Assyrian, Persian, and Cilician seals and coins, of the Aramaic monuments from the third to the first century B.C., and of the Palmyrene inscriptions from the first to the third century A.D. has permitted the tracing of the development of the present Hebrew alphabet through a thousand years, back to the eighth century. Ezra, therefore, may have influenced the use of the Aramaic alphabet, but the square character was not developed in his day, nor for centuries afterward; nor was the Aramaic alphabet then used outside of the narrow circle of the scribes. For not only did the Samaritans retain the ancient script for their Pentateuch, but among the Jews also it must have been used for a long time, since it is found on coins down to the time of Bar Kokba. Matt. v, 18 proves that the Aramaic writing had become popular by the time that Gospel was written, since in the ancient Hebrew the letter "yodh" was by no means the smallest. Taking all in all, it may be assumed with certainty that the use of the new alphabet in Bible manuscripts of the last Pre-christian centuries was general, a result which is also confirmed by a careful examination of the Septuagint with reference to the manuscripts used by the translators (especially must this have been the case with the Tetragrammaton retained in many copies of the Greek translation, which was no doubt written in the Aramaic script, since it was read erroneously by the Christians). Considering this development it may be assumed that the latest Old Testament writings were written, not in the ancient Hebrew but in Aramaic, by the authors themselves. After the Aramaic writing was once in use among the Jews, it soon took the form in which we now have it. The descriptions which Jerome and the Talmud give of the different letters fully harmonise with the form which is still found in manuscripts. The minute rules laid down by the Talmud as to calligraphy and orthography made further development of the square writing impossible, and therefore the writing of the manuscripts varies scarcely at all through centuries (excepting perhaps that the German and Polish Jews have the so-called Tam script, which is somewhat angular, whereas the Spanish Jews have the Welsh or more rounded script).

§ 4. Attempts to Fix the Text

The veneration shown for the canonical writings during this period naturally led to a greater care in treatment of them and above all to perception of the necessity of critically fixing the text. As soon as the ancient writings obtained canonical authority, were used in divine service, and became the standard of doctrine and life, the necessity of having one standard text naturally asserted itself. The preparation of such a text began with the law; the other two divisions (the prophets and the hagiographa) became authoritative only in the course of centuries (see CANON OF SCRIPTURE, I), and naturally their text did not receive attention in the earlier period. However, criticism during that period was of little value. There is no doubt that faithful and correct copies existed, especially of such books as were publicly read, but this could not prevent errors and mistakes from creeping into copies which were generally circulated. When Josephus (Contra Apion, I, viii) and Philo (cf. Eusebius, Praeparatio evangelica, VIII, vi, 7) speak of the great care bestowed by the Jews upon their sacred writings, this can not be referred to earlier centuries, and concerns more the contents than the linguistic minutiae of the text. In the oldest critical documents--the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint--there is evidence (about 500-100 B.C.) to show that the manuscripts most approved and most widely diffused contained many verbal differences. And these variations are not to be charged, as was formerly done, to carelessness or wilfulness on the part of the Hellenistic Jews and Samaritans, but are explained by the lesser importance attached to exact uniformity of text and to the existence of mistakes in the current copies. And when the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch agree in good readings, and still oftener in bad ones, against the Masoretic text, it may be concluded that these readings were spread by many copies current among the Palestinian Jews, and are therefore not to be regarded as offensive. But after the destruction of Jerusalem, when Judaism was subject to the authority of the rabbis, it became possible to prepare a uniform standard text, although this idea was not realized until many generations had worked upon it. The Greek versions of the second century had already fewer variations from the Masoretic teat. Still nearer the latter text is the Hebrew text of Origen and Jerome. The Talmud itself bears witness, by the agreement of its Biblical quotations with the Masoretic teat, that the consonantal text was practically finished before the Talmudic era closed. It is not possible to say upon what principles the text was treated; but the way in which the custodians presented the individuality of the several authors, books, and periods is remarkable, and proves that intentional and arbitrary changes of the text were not made by these critics. That they changed passages for dogmatic, especially for Anti-christian, reasons, as has sometimes been asserted, has long ago been acknowledged to be a baseless accusation. Where they mention changes, they make clear than they followed the testimony of manuscripts, the number of which was probably not very great. The fact that in the first centuries after Christ the text approximates our present Masoretic reading shows that a certain recension became authoritative which was possible only after a certain manuscript had been taken as the norm. Of such a standard codex, copies could easily be made, or one could correct his own copies in accordance with it. Scholars like Olshausen and Lagarde speak therefore of some such archetype, which was slavishly followed in every respect. The critical apparatus of the time is concealed in dissociated fragments in the later Masorah, but can not be separated from the other matter. The Talmud and the older midrashim allow a little insight into the critical efforts of the time. Thus mention is made of the "corrections of the scribes," of the "removals of the scribes" (meaning that in five passages a falsely introduced "and" was removed), and of the points in the Hebrew text over certain words to show that these words were critically suspected, such as the inverted "nun," Num. x, 35, and the three kinds of reading (keri; see KERI AND KETHIBH), viz., "read but not written," "written but not read," and "read [one way] but written [another]." The three kinds of reading have, it is true, for the most part only exegetical value; e.g., they give the usual instead of the unusual grammatical forms, show where one must understand or omit a word, or where the reader should use a euphemistic expression for the coarse one in the text; they are therefore scholia upon the text. It is possible that these "readings" are also fragments of the critical apparatus. However this may be, it is evident that at that period the text was fixed and that the matter in question concerned only subordinate details of the text.

§ 5. The Pronunciation Fixed, but the Text Still Unvocalised

The development of the pronunciation or of the vocalization and the division of words, verses, and sections kept pace with the settlement of the text. That the ancient writing had no vowel-points has already been stated; but even during this entire period to the close of the Talmud the sacred text was without vowels and other points. The old versions, particularly the Greek, and Josephus depart so widely from the Masoretic text that they could not possibly have used the present pointed text. The expedient which charges the translators with these differences is of no avail, since it is not any one version which alone shows such differences; they all differ. Origen, too, published a Hebrew text in the Hexapla which differed from the Masoretic. Jerome knew nothing about vowel-points, not even the diacritical point making the difference between "s" and "sh." The Talmud and the modern ecclesiastical or ritual manuscripts of the Jews present an unpointed text. There is no doubt that, as Elias Levita stated, the Masoretic system of punctuation is of later origin, and that during this entire period the sacred text was without points. But this does not mean that during the same period the reading of the unvoweled text was still unsettled among the Jews; it must rather be assumed that with the official fixing of the text there was developed also a certain mode of understanding and reading it. Of course time was required to bring it into vogue; but before the end of the period it was so firmly established that Jerome's pronunciation differed very little from the Masoretic, and he was so sure of its correctness that he appeals to it against the text of the versions; and the Talmud gives it throughout correctly. Before the Masoretes the pronunciation was fixed, not yet written, but handed down by word of mouth, although some scholars may have used signs in their books to assist their memory.

§ 6. Word Division

Closely connected and mutually dependent were pronunciation and the division of words. The latter must have been finally settled at this period. The sign of division was the small space between words. The final letters, being limited in number, can not be regarded as word-separating signs. Jerome used a text with a division of words and knew the final letters; in the Talmud, Menahot 30a states how large must be the space between the words; the synagogue scrolls, though still without vowels, have nevertheless the division by spaces, following the custom of the ancient manuscripts from Talmudic time; and the fact that a number of "readings" correct the traditional division of words speaks again in favor of the high antiquity of the division of words in the present texts.

§ 7. Division into Verses

The division into verses is by no means contemporary in origin with the vocalization, but much earlier. The verse division depends in poetry upon the paralelism, in prose upon the division of sentences and clauses. That the latter were not marked in oldest times is certain; in poetical texts the members may have been distinguished either by space or by breaks of the line. This mode of writing poetical texts was formerly general, and is found in the older Hebrew manuscripts; for the poetical texts, Ex. xv; Deut. xxxii; Judges v; and II Sam. xxii, it is even prescribed (Shabbat 103b; Sopherim xii), and is therefore still customary. With the introduction of the Masoretic accents, poetry was written close, like prose. This verse-division was taught in the schools; but no rules are given for its writing, nor did any punctuation marks indicate it in this period.

§ 8. Division into Sections

Earlier than the division into verses is that into larger or smaller sections; these were more necessary for the understanding of the Scriptures and for their reading in divine worship. Perhaps some of them were in the original text. The sections of the law were at least Pre-talmudic; for they are mentioned in the Mishnah and frequently in the Gemara; in the latter they are traced to Mosaic origin; in Shabbat 103b, Menahot 30 care is enjoined as to the sections in copying the law, and therefore they occur also in synagogue-rolls. They are indicated by spacing; the larger sections by leaving the remainder of the line at their close unfilled, the next great section beginning with a new line, on which account they were called "open"; the smaller sections were separated from each other by only a small space, and were therefore called "closed" or "connected." Thus not only the law but also the other two parts of the canon were divided. For the division of the whole canon, and the arrangement of the books, see CANON OF SCRIPTURE, I.

From what has been said, it follows that the reading of the text, the vocalization, the division into words, verses, and sections depend upon the gradual settlement by the scribes; their reading can claim neither infallibility nor any absolutely binding power; and though their labor betrays a thorough and correct understanding of the text, the necessity may yet arise when the exegete must deviate from tradition. Extraordinary pains were taken to perpetuate in its purity the text thus divided and vocalized. Signs of this care, such as the rules for calligraphy and for writing the extraordinary points, have already been mentioned. The Post-talmudic treatises Mosseket sopherim and Masseket sepher torah contain full details for copying. Nevertheless fluctuations are met with in the Masoretic period, and it must therefore be assumed that learned labor had not yet covered all details or made final settlement.

2. The Masoretic Period

§ 1. The Masoretes

The third period of the textual history is usually reckoned as extending from the sixth until the eleventh Christian century (when Jewish learning was transferred from the East to North Africa and Spain); it embraces the age of the Masoretes proper, and has for the Bible text in general the same importance as the Talmudic period had for the law. The efforts of the scholars to fix the reading and understanding of the sacred text were overshadowed somewhat by the study of the Talmud. After the close of the Talmud the work was resumed and cultivated in Babylonia and Palestine (at Tiberias). In both schools the work of former generations was continued; but the Palestinians, who acted more independently than the more Tabmudically inclined Babylonians, finally got the victory over the Babylonian school. In both schools they were no longer satisfied with a mere oral transmission of rules and regulations, but committed them to writing. There is no continuous history of the men of the Masorah and of the progress of their work preserved; but the marginal notes in ancient Bible manuscripts and the fragments of other works show that the oldest Masoretes can be traced back to the eighth century. The main effort of this period (as the name Masorah, "tradition," indicates; see MASORAH) was to collect and to write down the exegetico-critical material of the former period; and this makes sufficiently clear the one part of their work. But the Masoretes also added some new matter. Anxiously following the footsteps of the older critics in their effort to fix and to guard the traditional text, they laid down more minute rules of a linguistic and grammatical character, and in this respect a great part of the contents of the Masorah is indeed new.

§ 2. Their Work

They took the consonantal textus receptus just as it stood, and finally settled it in the minutest details, as is seen from the variants which became a matter of controversy between the Eat and the West, the Babylonians and the Palestinians, which to the number of 216 Jacob ben Hayyim published for the first time in the second edition of the Bomberg Rabbinic Bible; these have reference mostly to the vowel-points. This list of variants, as is now known, is by no means complete. They also appended critical notes to the text, in part derived from the Talmudic period, in part new (especially the "grammatical conjectures"), showing that where, according to the grammar and the genius of the language, one should expect another reading, nevertheless the text must stand. Finally the great majority of the alternative "readings" date from the Masoretes.

The Masoretes fixed the reading of the text by the introduction of the vowel-signs, the accents, and the signs which affect the reading of the consonants (daghesh, mappik, raphe, and the diacritical point to distinguish between the letters "sin" and "shin"). The pronunciation they thus brought about was no invention, but embodied the current tradition. Nevertheless, one can not accept every Masoretic reading as infallible and unchangeable, especially when one considers that the tradition no doubt often fluctuated and that with such fluctuation the less correct reading may often have come into the text. Besides the system found in the majority of manuscripts, there exists another which has only recently become known called the "superlinear" system, because the vowel-signs are placed above the letters; this is found in some Babylonian and South Arabian manuscripts. The same is also the case with the accents.

The division of the text into verses, introduced by the Masoretes, was neither Babylonian nor Palestinian, but one which the Masoretes themselves seem to have established. At the beginning of this period the end of the verses was marked by soph pasuk, and, when the accents were introduced, by silluk besides. The old sections were retained, though not recognized as entirely correct, and the old traditional sign for the section, the smaller spacing (the little samek in printed texts), was respected. The closed sections were marked in manuscripts and prints by a samek, the open ones by a pe in the empty space before the initial word. In addition there were introduced the Babylonian division into sections or parashiyoth (in the law) and haphtaroth (in the prophets), for Sabbath public reading. As these sections generally agree with the beginning and the end of an open or closed section, they were marked by a threefold pe or samek in the empty space before the beginning.

§ 3. Codices

But even these efforts could not entirely remove variations. Hence, before the end of this period, the learned either attempted to find out by an elaborate comparison the correct punctuation and to fix it, or marked the important variations in the punctuation, or added a caution to each apparently strange and yet correct punctuation. The greater mass of notes which the Masoretes added to the text relate to these matters. Besides some other Masoretic manuscripts of the Bible which are quoted in the Masoretic notes of the codices or in the writings of the rabbis as authoritative, such as the codex Hilleli, the Jericho-Pentateuch, and others, two codices were especially famous as model codices of the Old Testament, the codex of Naphtali (Moses ben David ben Naphtali) and the codex of Asher (Aaron ben Moses ben Asher), both from the first half of the tenth century. (Aaron lived at Tiberias, Moses in Babylon; but the latter can not be regarded as a representative of the "Babylonian" text-tradition.) They were once much examined by scholars; many of their variants are noted in the Masoretic Bible manuscripts; a list of 864 (better 867) variants, which refer almost exclusively to vowels and accents, has been published after Jacob ben Hayyim in Bomberg's and the other Rabbinic Bibles, as well as in the sixth volume of the London Polyglot; but these variants are neither correct nor complete. On the codex of Asher finally rests the whole Masoretic text of the Occidentals; of the variant readings comparatively few were received into it.

As the older scribes had already shown extraordinary solicitude for the preservation of the text and its correct reading by counting its sections, verses, words, letters, and by noting where and how often and when certain words, letters, or anomalies occur in the Bible, which verse is the longest and which the shortest, and like minutiae, the Masoretes of course continued this work, wrote it down, and preserved it in manuscripts.

The punctuation of the text as developed by the Masoretes proved itself so useful and met so well an essential need of those later times that it soon went over into manuscripts and, with the exception of synagogue-manuscripts, almost none were written which did not contain either the pointed text alone or the pointed beside the unpointed. The other Masoretic material was written either beside and below the text of the Biblical books on the margins and at the close of the same, or in separate massorah-collections (see MASORAH).

3. The Post-masoretic Period

§ 1. The Chapter Division

After the completion of the Masoretic textual work and the collection of the notes having reference to it, no essential change was made in the text; consequently this period is the time of the faithful preservation, multiplication, and circulation of the Masoretic text. An essential innovation was the introduction of the now customary division into chapters, which was invented by Stephen Langton at the beginning of the thirteenth century, and applied to the Vulgate. Isaac ben Nathan adopted it for his Hebrew concordance (1437-38, published 1523), on which occasion the verses of the chapters were also numbered. The chapter division was first applied to the Hebrew in the second edition of Bomberg's Bible, 1521; the numbering of verses was first adopted for the Sabionetta Pentateuch, 1557, and that of the whole Bible in Athias's edition of 1661 (see below, III, §§ 1-2).

§ 2. Old Testament Manuscripts

Another feature of this period is that a sufficient number of manuscripts is preserved to give an immediate knowledge of the text. The Hebrew Bible manuscripts may be divided into two classes, the public or sacred and the private or common. The first were synagogue-rolls, and have been prepared so carefully and watched so closely that the intrusion of variants and mistakes was hardly possible. But they contain only the Pentateuch or the Pentateuch with the five Megilloth or "Rolls" (i.e., Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther), and the haphtaroth (see above, 2, § 1) in the text of the Masoretes without their additions. These manuscripts are, for the most part, of recent origin, although antique in form, being written on leather or parchment. The private manuscripts are written on the same material, and also upon paper in book form, with the Masoretic additions more or less complete. It is often difficult, indeed impossible, to determine the date and country of these manuscripts. But none of those now known are really very old. The oldest authentic date is 916 A.D. for the codex containing the prophets with Babylonian punctuation, and 1009 A.D. for an entire Hebrew Bible, both of which belong to the Firkowitsch collection in the Imperial Library at St. Petersburg. According to the most recent investigation the MS. orient. 4445 in the British Museum (containing Gen. xxv, 20-Deut. i, 33) may be a little older. As a rule the oldest manuscripts are the more accurate. The number of errors that crept in, especially in private manuscripts, which were prepared without any official oversight, awakened solicitude and led to well-directed efforts to get a pure text by means of collating good Masorah-manuscripts (cf. B. Kennicott, Dissertatio generalis, Oxford, 1780, l-lvi; J. G. Eichhorn, Einleitung, Leipsic, 1803, 136b). In this line the labors of Meir ha-Levi of Toledo (d. 1244) in his work on the Pentateuch called "The Masorah, the Hedge of the Law" (Florence, 1750; Berlin, 1761) are celebrated.

§ 3. The Printed Text

The art of printing opened a way of escape from copyists' errors, and it was taken very early. The Psalter was printed first, at Bologna in 1477 [on the earlier prints, cf. B. Pick, History of the Printed Editions of the Old Testament, in Hebraica, ix (1892-1893), 47-116], the first complete Bible at Soncino in 1488; Gerson's edition (the edition which Luther used for his translation) followed (Brescia, 1494). Substantially the same text is contained in the first edition of Bomberg's Rabbinic Bible (1517; see BIBLES, RABBINIC), also in the editions of Robert Stephens (1539 sqq.) and of Sebastian Münster. The second independent edition derived from manuscripts is that in the Complutenaian Polyglot (1514-17; see BIBLES, POLYGLOT, I). The text has vowels but no accents. The third important recension is contained in the Biblia Rabbinica Bombergiana, ed. II., cura R. Jacob ben Chajim (Venice, 1525-26); it is edited according to the Masorah, which the editor first revised, and contains the entire Masoretic and Rabbinic apparatus. It is more or less reproduced in prints published during the sixteenth and in the beginning of the seventeenth centuries. Besides these original recensions, editions were published having a mixed text; the Hebrew text of the Antwerp Polyglot (1569-72), which is followed by the small editions of Plantin, the Paris and London Polyglots, and the editions of Reineccius, is based upon that of the Complutensian and Bomberg. Another recension is represented in the editions of Elias Hutter (1587), Buxtorf, and Joseph Athias with preface by J. Leusden (1661 sqq.), for which some very ancient manuscripts were collated. Athias's edition became also the basis of later editions like that of Jablonski (1699), Van der Hooght (1705), Opita (1709), J. H. Michaelis (1720), Hahn (1832), and Theile (1849).

§ 4. Critical Works and Commentaries

None of these editions presents the Masoretic text in its original form. The large collections of variants by B. Kennicott, Vetus Teatamentum Hebraicum cum variis lectionibus (2 vols., Oxford, 1776-80), more especially by De Rossi, Variae lectiones Veteris Testamenti (4 vols., Parma, 1784-88) and Supplementa ad varias sacri textus lectiones (1798), are valuable for some extra-masoretic readings which they offer, but they are less valuable for critical purposes. More important for text-critical purposes are (besides the work of Meir ha-Levi, ut sup.) the "Light of the Law" of Menahem de Lonzano (Venice, 1618) and particularly the critical commentary on the Old Testament by Solomon Minorxi (Mantua, 1742-44; Vienna, 1813), the works of Wolf ben Samson Heidenheim, and especially the thorough work on the Masorah by S. Frensdorff (Massora magna, part I, Hanover, 1876, and Oklah we-0klah, 1864). Of great service were the publication of the works of the oldest Jewish grammarians and lexicographers and the discovery of fragments and publication of codices like that on the prophets of the year 916 (published by Strack, Prophetarum posteriorum codex Babylonicus Petropolitanus, St. Petersburg, 1876). The fruits of these preliminary works are contained in the correct editions of the Masoretic text by Baer and Ginsburg. Baer, who was assisted by Delitzsch, published the Old Testament with the exception of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy [both editors died without completing their work]. Ginsburg's edition is entitled The New Massoretico-Critical Text of the Hebrew Bible [2 vols., London, 1894. It should be studied with the same author's indispensable Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible (London, 1897)].

Valuable as such correct editions of the Masoretic text are, they represent only a single recension, whose source is the textus receptus mentioned above, which was fixed in the first Christian centuries. With this recension the text-critical and exegetical treatment of the Old Testament can not be satisfied. Before the received text was made canonical there existed different forms of the text, which in many stood nearer to the original than that sanctioned by the Jews. The main witness here is the Septuagint, a correct edition of which is an absolutely necessary though extremely difficult task. But Old Testament textual criticism can not be satisfied with a comparison even with this older form of the text. In many cases the corruption of the text is so old that only a criticism both cautious and bold can approximate to the genuine text. In modern times some very important contributions have been made, such as J. Olshausen, Emendationen zum Alten Testament (Kiel, 1826); idem, Beiträge zur Kritik des überlieferten Textes im Buche Genesis (1870); J. Wellhausen, Text der Bücher Samuelis (Göttingen, 1871); F. Baethgen, Zu den Psalmen, in JPT (1882); C. H. Cornill, Das Buch des Propheten Ezechiel (Leipsic, 1886); S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Samuel (London, 1890); A. Klostermann, Die Bücher Samuelis und der Könige (Munich, 1887), idem, Deutero-Jesaia (Munich, 1893); G. Beer, Der Text des Buches Hiob (part i, Marburg, 1895); the Sacred Books of the Old Testament (the so-called Polychrome or Rainbow Bible), ed. P. Haupt (Baltimore, London, and Leipsic, 1894 sqq.); and Kettel's edition, Leipsic, 1905-06.