The Hebrew Scriptures

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, Jul 16 2012 1:12 AM

Okay, we all know that the oldest Hebrew texts of the Bible, apart from the DSS, date from the middle ages. I have just one question...WHY????

Does anyone have any perspective on this--Logos resource input, non-Logos input--whatever?

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jul 16 2012 2:10 AM

David Paul:
Does anyone have any perspective on this--Logos resource input, non-Logos input--whatever?

We haven't found the right trash heap? (think Cairo Geniza - see Wikipedia if necessary)Big Smile

More seriously, can you think of a Jewish location that has been continuously occupied by Jews that would be a potential treasure trove? The only Jewish communities I can think of that have been continuously located are the Chinese and Indian Jewish communities. I don't know how well they preserved Hebrew manuscripts.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jul 16 2012 2:31 AM

Drats!  see http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/sacredtexts/kaifengtorah.html for the Kaifeng Synagogue's Torah scroll. It's late ... late ... late.Sad And I know manuscripts in India decay quickly ... something about writing on banana leaves Wink So I'm going to have to come up with some other bright ideas.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Vincent Setterholm | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jul 16 2012 2:55 AM

Wurthwein's Text of the Old Testament sums up a number of factors at the beginning of chapter 2, including: the Church wasn't interested in the Hebrew text until the Reformation, so the preservation of the Hebrew text was only a Jewish concern. There was a Jewish tradition of destroying worn out or defective manuscripts (and after the establishment of the best medieval texts, many early manuscripts would have been considered defective). The famous Cairo Genizah was a collection of manuscripts - some dating as early as the 5th century - slated for destruction that, luckily for us, got forgotten. Manuscripts were destroyed to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. Manuscripts were destroyed in various persecutions.

It's a bit like the fossil record. Only a small fraction of the ancient books ever written have been preserved, and some of those we haven't found yet. There's a story that some of Bach's works were sold off as scrap paper and used for such tasks as wrapping fish in the Leipzig market, though some historians think that's a tall tale. In any event, 1/3rd of his cantatas are lost to us, and those were only written a few hundred years ago.

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jul 16 2012 3:15 AM

MJ. Smith:

Drats!  see http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/sacredtexts/kaifengtorah.html for the Kaifeng Synagogue's Torah scroll. It's late ... late ... late.Sad And I know manuscripts in India decay quickly ... something about writing on banana leaves Wink So I'm going to have to come up with some other bright ideas.

Thanks for the link, MJ. This comment both intrigues and bugs me:   "The contents of these Kaifeng Torahs turned out to be identical to that of conventional scripture."

Identical to what???    MT? DSS? LXX? Photocopy identical? Or something less?

I guess it's just another thing to research on my own. Tongue Tied

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jul 16 2012 6:27 AM

Vincent Setterholm:

Wurthwein's Text of the Old Testament sums up a number of factors at the beginning of chapter 2, including: the Church wasn't interested in the Hebrew text until the Reformation, so the preservation of the Hebrew text was only a Jewish concern. There was a Jewish tradition of destroying worn out or defective manuscripts (and after the establishment of the best medieval texts, many early manuscripts would have been considered defective). The famous Cairo Genizah was a collection of manuscripts - some dating as early as the 5th century - slated for destruction that, luckily for us, got forgotten. Manuscripts were destroyed to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. Manuscripts were destroyed in various persecutions.

It's a bit like the fossil record. Only a small fraction of the ancient books ever written have been preserved, and some of those we haven't found yet. There's a story that some of Bach's works were sold off as scrap paper and used for such tasks as wrapping fish in the Leipzig market, though some historians think that's a tall tale. In any event, 1/3rd of his cantatas are lost to us, and those were only written a few hundred years ago.

Thanks for your reply, Vince. I knew about the tohraah burial practice, but for whatever reason it didn't pop in my mind when the question did. What did pop into my mind was the fastidious and often counter-inuitive practices of the rabbis. Not using blue in their tassels, for instance. One would think, given the (historically speaking) increasing rarity of tohraah scrolls in the middle ages, that some Jews would have been a bit more conscientious about maintaining a few scolls for archival and comparative purposes. What we have now is a lot like playing the pass-it-along game, where one person writes down a sentence and then whispers it to the person next to him, and so on in a circle of 20 or so...only to get to the last person in the chain who announces what he heard and then asks what the note said...and the person who wrote the sentence says, "oh, I don't know...I threw it in the fire."

Doh!!  Surprise

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Hapax Legomena | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jul 16 2012 7:34 AM

Vincent Setterholm:

. . . the Church wasn't interested in the Hebrew text until the Reformation . . .

Don't tell that to St. Jerome!  He translated the Hebrew scriptures (from the Hebrew) into Latin at the Pope's request in the Fourth Century A.D.  It's called the "Vulgate" and is available from Logos.  

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Vincent Setterholm | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jul 16 2012 12:42 PM

Hapax Legomena:
Don't tell that to St. Jerome!  He translated the Hebrew scriptures (from the Hebrew) into Latin at the Pope's request in the Fourth Century A.D.  It's called the "Vulgate" and is available from Logos.

If ever there was an exception that proves the rule, it was Jerome. Sure, he read Hebrew, but the translation he produced would completely replace Greek (which had already replaced Hebrew) in the Western Church for over a thousand years (and was the official Bible of the Catholic Church until Vatican II gave the stamp of approval to translations in modern 'vulgar' tongues). Pre-Reformation efforts to create new vernacular Bibles in the West generally just translated the Vulgate - that was considered sufficient, rather than going back to the Hebrew and Greek. The Eastern Churches produced a wide variety of early versions: Greek, Armenian, Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, etc. But the emphasis was on putting the Bible in the language of the various peoples, not copying Hebrew manuscripts (and some of those traditions made more use of the Septuagint than the Hebrew to begin with).

Perhaps a better counter-example would have been Origen, who included Hebrew in his Hexapla (which probably only ever had one complete copy, now lost). Maybe you can find more exceptions, but I think the point stands that the Church as a whole put almost no energy into preserving or transmitting Hebrew manuscripts before the Reformation.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Jul 16 2012 2:49 PM

You should point out that there was/is both a Latin Vulgate and a Greek Vulgate. Otherwise people might jump to some incorrect conclusions.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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BKMitchell | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 17 2012 6:34 AM

David Paul:

... What we have now is a lot like playing the pass-it-along game, where one person writes down a sentence and then whispers it to the person next to him, and so on in a circle of 20 or so...only to get to the last person in the chain who announces what he heard and then asks what the note said...and the person who wrote the sentence says, "oh, I don't know...I threw it in the fire."

Nope!

Thank the name of heaven we have something called the MasorasWink So, every new sefer Torah is copied directly from another sefer or in modern days from a תיקון סופרים. And, Soferim are strictly forbidden to write a Sefer Torah form memory alone they must have either Tikkun or another sefer Torah as their visual guide. 


As, for the Kaifeng Scrolls they basically conform to the received text, that is what is know as the Ben Asher tradition.  They are nothing like the LXX, Samaritan Pentateuch, or the dead sea scrolls. Rather, they were from copy and in some cases probably repaired from Karaite scrolls brought to china long ago.  

"Certain Masoretic traditions for the writing of Torah scrolls are adhered to in all the Kaifeng scrolls I have seen; others are totally ignored, presumably because the Kaifeng scribes were not familiar with them; and still others are observed in some copies but not in others. The more we learn about the scribal practices of the Kaifeng Jews the more, therefore, we may hope to discover about when and from where their ancestors came to China. This, as has previously been noted, is one of the principal reasons behind the need for a thoroughly detailed study of the stylistic and physical characteristics of the Kaifeng Torahs."

http://smu.edu/bridwell_tools/publications/chinesetorahscroll/torahscrollstitle.htm

 

חַפְּשׂוּ בַּתּוֹרָה הֵיטֵב וְאַל תִּסְתַּמְּכוּ עַל דְּבָרַי

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DMB | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 17 2012 7:49 AM

Well, I guess now we have to trace back the 'strickly forbidden' instruction in the absence of actual pieces of paper/papyri.

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BKMitchell | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 17 2012 9:00 AM

DMB:

Well, I guess now we have to trace back the 'strickly forbidden' instruction in the absence of actual pieces of paper/papyri.

Sifrei Torah can be and are most usually written on gevil and  Klaf. I am not aware of any Sefer Torah that are written on papyri?

As, for as instructions one may always consult the Masoras

One source one might being a search would be chapter four of  the following: Sefer Keset Ha-Sofer (link)  as well as checking out the Mshna Berura (link) and the  Hilkhot Sefer Torah. (again, I do not know of any papyri versions of these)

Codices of the Hebrew Bible can be of help too, because they often contain the written Masorah for example Mesorah ketanah, the mesorah gedolah, and the so called Masorah finalis.


 

 

חַפְּשׂוּ בַּתּוֹרָה הֵיטֵב וְאַל תִּסְתַּמְּכוּ עַל דְּבָרַי

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 19 2012 4:49 PM

BKMitchell:

David Paul:

... What we have now is a lot like playing the pass-it-along game, where one person writes down a sentence and then whispers it to the person next to him, and so on in a circle of 20 or so...only to get to the last person in the chain who announces what he heard and then asks what the note said...and the person who wrote the sentence says, "oh, I don't know...I threw it in the fire."

Nope!

Thank the name of heaven we have something called the MasorasWink So, every new sefer Torah is copied directly from another sefer or in modern days from a תיקון סופרים. And, Soferim are strictly forbidden to write a Sefer Torah form memory alone they must have either Tikkun or another sefer Torah as their visual guide. 

I know a bit about the process...counting the number of letters per row, etc. Which is all fine, but there are still indications in the oldest scrolls we have (that are not DSS) that textual "issues" crept in, the qere being just the most obvious. At least there they didn't erase the kethib. There is 1 Samuel's famous "disarray' in the Hebrew text. My point being, to have kept a few ancient "comparison" scrolls that were not for weekly or daily use but for archival purposes would have been a very wise and helpful thing to do.

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BKMitchell | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 20 2012 5:29 AM

Greetings David Paul,

David Paul:
My point being, to have kept a few ancient "comparison" scrolls that were not for weekly or daily use but for archival purposes would have been a very wise and helpful thing to do.

In sort, that was done and it still continued to done.

Not, all Torah Scrolls are identically in every way. Yemenite Scrolls differ from Scroll from Europe and America by letter and word count! Sephardic scrolls also differ from various scroll traditions of the Ashkenazim(of course those are use for public readings)

Now, when you get into talking about Codecies the differences become even more apparent. Of, course, at some point it may be helpful to ask what was the purpose of the various codecies and their traditions. Take in mind a Codex was not intended for use in public reading of scripture, but was often use as a source to go to when difficulties and issues appeared in the Torah scrolls. Also, the dead Sea scrolls reflect a community who attempted to collect various conflicting textual traditions probably for archival purposes.


 

If, you have not done so already you might be interested in taking a look at:

Fixing God's Torah: The Accuracy of Hebrew Bible Text in Jewish Law by B. Barry Levy

http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/019514113X.001.0001/acprof-9780195141139

 

Here is a Review of the book mentioned above:

http://www.emanueltov.info/docs/reviews/levy.review.varia.pdf

 

Also, there is a new 3rd revised edition of Emanuel Tov's excellent Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible

http://www.amazon.com/Textual-Criticism-Hebrew-Bible-Emanuel/dp/0800696646/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342788651&sr=8-1&keywords=textual+criticism+of+the+hebrew+bible

 

חַפְּשׂוּ בַּתּוֹרָה הֵיטֵב וְאַל תִּסְתַּמְּכוּ עַל דְּבָרַי

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