The Masoretic Text of the Old Testament

By V. S. Herrell

The Masoretic Text, other than the Dead Sea Scrolls, is the only existing representation of the Old Testament in Hebrew. The oldest fragments date from the 9th century AD, but the oldest complete texts come from the 10th and 11th centuries AD. However, the Hebrew text that it contains is clearly not the original Hebrew, nor even the Hebrew that was in use in the 1st century AD. The Hebrew of the 1st century AD was closely akin to the Greek Septuagint that we have today; this is clear because, although the Hebrew was little used, when it was used in ancient writing it was clearly in agreement with the Greek Septuagint rather than the Masoretic Text. For example, although Philo and Josephus both used the Greek Septuagint, it is believed by most scholars that they frequently had access to a Hebrew Bible and even consulted it on a few occasions. It is through evidence like this that we see that the then current Hebrew disagreed with the Hebrew Masoretic Text of today. In the 1st century, the Christians and all other Greek speaking Israelites, including 1,000,000 of them who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, used the Greek Septuagint. Jesus and His Apostles wrote in Greek and quoted the Greek Septuagint. Of this there can be no doubt. This is a fact that can be confirmed in any encyclopedia or scholarly book on the subject. As we have already pointed out, we know this because the quotations of the Greek New Testament are exactly aligned with the Greek Septuagint, but in sharp opposition to the Hebrew Masoretic Text. There is, however, no reason to believe that they were in disagreement with the Hebrew that was current in the 1st century AD.

What we do know is that toward the end of the 1st century AD and into the 2nd century, the Talmudic, Edomite Jews were actively attacking the Greek Septuagint because it was used by the Christians. They felt that they could discredit the Christians merely for the reason that they used Greek, and at the same time, they began twisting the Hebrew Scriptures to try and disprove that Jesus was the true Messiah. This controversy roared on until at least the 4th and 5th centuries AD. We have already noted how the early Catholics attacked the Vulgate translation of Jerome because it was the first to be based upon Hebrew, and they continued for a very long time to use the Old Latin because it was based upon the Greek Septuagint. One of the most famous examples of how the Jews attacked the Greek Septuagint regarded the word virgin. The particular verse in question is Isaiah 7:14, which reads in the Greek Septuagint:

"Therefore, the Master Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will conceive in the womb, and will bring forth a Son, and you will call His Name Emmanuel."

In the Greek, the word for virgin is parthenos, and it literally means a virgin. In the Masoretic Text, however, the word is almah which means a young girl. The usual Hebrew word for virgin, and the word in every case translated virgin in the Revised Version, is bethuwlah. This verse is quoted from Isaiah in the Christian Scriptures in Matthew 1:23. The Jews attacked the Septuagint from the beginning because they claimed that it had been corrupted by the Christians and that the Christians changed the word in the Septuagint to read virgin instead of young woman so that it would support the reading in Matthew. Of course, the Edomite Jews did not believe that Jesus was the true Messiah; this was why they were attacking the Septuagint. The Jews are the ones who changed the Hebrew, replacing the word virgin with young woman. The early motive of the Edomite Jews was to destroy Christianity, not just the Septuagint. But the Christians did not give in, so the Jews changed their strategy. They instead decided to corrupt the Old Testament and gain control of the Christians by giving them a corrupted Old Testament. By the 3rd century they began collecting every Hebrew manuscript they could, and this was easy to do because the Christians used the Greek Septuagint and cared little for the Hebrew. They then began revising the Hebrew documents to support their Jewish contentions. By the time of Jerome, they began taking the soft approach and gave Jerome their new Hebrew for him to use in his translation. But, as we said before, the Christians at first rejected the Vulgate. So the Jews continued working on their text. From the 1st century to the middle of the 5th century, they called themselves Talmudists; from the 5th century to the completion of their text in the 10th-11th centuries, they called themselves Masoretes.

At the end of this time, all other Hebrew manuscripts except for the Masoretic Text disappeared. The fact is that they were destroyed by the same people who had gathered them up—the Talmudic, Masoretic Jews. Then the Jews began presenting themselves as the diligent preservers of the Hebrew Bible and began deceiving Christians. They no longer blatantly attacked the Septuagint but rather touted themselves as being faithful servants of God. To this end, when the Masoretic Text was finished, they counted every letter and word and contrived mechanisms to insure that the manuscripts would be faithfully transmitted, but they did not bother to account for the editing and corruption that they themselves had been doing for the previous 600-700 years. The early English translations of the Bible were based upon the Latin Vulgate, but the Jews intended to deceive the Christians into translating their Bibles from the Hebrew Masoretic Text. So their new strategy was to win over the stupid Christians, but the old motives were always there. At this time, they had to do an about-face on the issue of virgin. They had learned that the Christians would not accept the Hebrew as long as such blatant blasphemies were contained in it. This deception on the part of the mongrel, Talmudic Jews can be seen in an early Spanish translation of the Masoretic Text. Geddes MacGregor, in his book, The Bible in the Making (pg. 279) writes:

Translations of the Hebrew Bible into various languages, began to appear about that time. In 1422 Rabbi Moses Arragel translated the Scriptures from the Hebrew into Spanish, for the Christian Church and with the assistance of Franciscan scholars, and it is upon that version that the Ferrara Bible, printed in 1553, was based. This famous Spanish Bible was intended to serve the needs of both Jews and Christians. Certain deviations were made in the copies intended for Christian readers. For example, where the copies intended for Jews read 'young woman,' the copies set aside for Christian use put 'virgin.'

Through this means of deception, the atheistic Jews pulled off the grand deception when they convinced the translators of the KJV to use the Masoretic Text instead of the Latin or Greek. Today, the so-called "Christian" world believes in the lie of the Hebrew Bible, even though all Christians for the first four centuries of Christianity universally used the Greek Septuagint or a translation of it, including the Master Jesus the Anointed and His Ambassadors.

When this so-called controversy is examined from a purely textual point-of-view, then we find that the undisputed facts are the following, and I say 'undisputed' because these facts are admitted even by the most staunch supporters of the Masoretic Text.

In regards to the Masoretic Text, the manuscripts date from around AD1000. The manuscripts are admittedly altered from their original form, for vowel symbols have been added and the text has been revised in light of Talmudic tradition. The Masoretic Text is based upon the Hebrew which was rejected by the early Christians, who were the true Israel of God.

In regards to the Septuagint, the oldest manuscripts date to around AD325-350 (though fragments are much older). It was never purposely changed or edited, but the oldest texts of the Septuagint represent the oldest surviving descendants of an ancient translation made of the Hebrew in the 3rd century BC which was considered divinely inspired by most Judeans at that time. It was universally accepted by the early Christians for the first 400 years of Christianity and was used and quoted from by Jesus and His Apostles, who quoted from it under divine inspiration.

Again, the above facts are admitted even by the supporters of the Masoretic Text. What logic, then, is used to justify the use and preferment of the Masoretic Text? Those who use it believe that the Talmudic, Edomite Jews who murdered Jesus Christ are the chosen people of God and therefore the chosen preservers of God's Word. However, we are told the following by Jesus in John 8 regarding these same Edomite Jews who wrote the Talmud and created the Masoretic Text:

"You neither know Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, then you would have known My Father also. ... Where I go, you are not able to come ... You are from below; I am from above. You are from this world, I am not from this world. ... If you were children of Abraham, you would do the works of Abraham. ... You do the works of your father. ... If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I went forth and have come from God. For I have not come from Myself, but that one sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to hear My Word. You are of your father the Diabolical One, and the lusts of your father you wish to do. That one was a murderer from the beginning, and he has not stood in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own, because he is a liar, and the father of it" (AST).

Notice that Jesus said that these Edomite Talmudists were not capable of hearing His Word, they were not capable of doing anything but the works of their father, who was a liar from the beginning. Now this means that in no way were these Talmudic Jews, who later called themselves Masoretes, capable of being divinely inspired "preservers" of God's Word. Because of the Words of Jesus, we must assume this to be a blatant lie.

But even beyond these points, from a purely objective, scientific point-of-view, when we apply the science of Textual Criticism to this controversy, we must again decide in favor of the Greek Septuagint. We remember that the fundamental rule of Textual Criticism is usually that the older the text, the better, and the complete Septuagint version of the Old Testament outdates the complete Masoretic Text version by 650-700 years.

The second rule that we must implement is that not all manuscripts are of the same value. Again, this value issue is clear for these two witnesses: the Septuagint is representative of a 3rd century BC Hebrew text; the Masoretic is representative of a 7th-9th century AD revision of the Hebrew.

Thus, there can be no doubt as to which text is to be preferred. The Septuagint is superior in every way to the Judaized Masoretic Text (V. S. Herrell, The History of the Bible, p. 51-57).

Adam Clark's Commentary

Adam Clarke, an 18th Century Anglican Scholar, makes it clear that the work of the Masoretes is, in reality, a commentary which has been integrated into the body of Scripture. However, Clarke points out that the Hebrew of the Masoretic Text (Masoretic Hebrew) is quite different from the Hebrew of the Patriarchs, (Ancient Hebrew) in which Old Covenant Scripture was originally written.

In the General Preface of his commentary on the Scripture, published in 1810, Clarke writes:

"The Masorets were the most extensive Jewish commentators which that nation could ever boast. The system of punctuation, probably invented by them, is a continual gloss on the Law and the Prophets; their vowel points, and prosaic and metrical accents, &c., give every word to which they are affixed a peculiar kind of meaning, which in their simple state, multitudes of them can by no means bear. The vowel points alone add whole conjugations to the language. This system is one of the most artificial, particular, and extensive comments ever written on the Word of God; for there is not one word in the Bible that is not the subject of a particular gloss through its influence. This school is supposed to have commenced about 450 years before our Lord, and to have extended down to AD1030. Some think it did not commence before the 5th century AD."

Even without adding to, deleting from, or changing a single letter of the Ancient Hebrew manuscripts of Scripture, pointing gave the Masorete power to dramatically change the meaning of almost any given passage of Scripture, for the prerogative of selecting vowels, is, to a large extent, the prerogative of selecting words! As a crude example, consider how the meaning of an English sentence might be changed by substitution of the word "poor" for the word "pure"—a substitution which may be effected by a simple change of vowels.

Clarke appears to be one of the few commentators who have seen fully the significance of the Masoretic Text—namely, that it is a new "version" of the Scripture, written in a new language. Obviously, Hebrew Scholars have been aware of this fact. They should have called attention to the difference between Ancient Hebrew and the language of the Masoretes, and should have differentiated the two, by use of names such as Ancient Hebrew and Masoretic Hebrew. However, the majority of Hebrew scholars are "Jewish", and thus cannot be expected to be objective and candid regarding such a matter.

Louis Cappel, Hebrew Scholar:

One of the first scholars to investigate the matter was Louis Cappel, a French Huguenot divine and scholar who lived from 1585 to 1658. Consider the following excerpt from the article, "CAPPEL, LOUIS," found in the 1948 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

"As a Hebrew scholar, he concluded that the vowel points and accents were not an original part of Hebrew, but were inserted by the Masorete Jews of Tiberias, not earlier then the 5th Century AD, and that the primitive Hebrew characters are Aramaic and were substituted for the more ancient at the time of the captivity. . . The various readings in the Old Testament Text and the differences between the ancient versions and the Masoretic Text convinced him that the integrity of the Hebrew text as held by Protestants, was untenable. This amounted to an attack upon the verbal inspiration of Scripture. Bitter, however, as was the opposition, it was not long before his results were accepted by scholars."

Further study: On this Rock I Stand; The 'Lost' Books of the Old Testament and The Book of Esther. Changing LINKS   masorete.htm