Evidence that the Masoretic Text is Nearly Identical to Scrolls Written Before and During the Life of Jesus

This post is part of an ongoing series comparing the Hebrew Masoretic text with the Greek Septuagint.

Below are excerpts from a lecture series on the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible by Jewish scholar, Professor Emanuel Tov, published on the website theTorah.com.  Professor Tov is J. L. Magnes Professor of Bible (emeritus) in the Dept. of Bible at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem:

 

Before the mid-20th century, many scholars divided the texts of the Hebrew Bible into three text types: the Masoretic Text (MT), the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP), and the LXX. Between 1947 and 1956, however, many biblical scrolls dating back to the Second Temple Period were uncovered in the caves of Qumran that did not fit into this neat three-version pattern. These scrolls, belonging to the sect of Jews who lived in the area, display broad textual diversity.

 Map of the Judean Desert

In contrast, twenty-five texts were found in the Judean Desert at sites other than Qumran, and these display almost complete identity (roughly 98% agreement) in consonants with the medieval Masoretic text as reflected in the Leningrad Codex, the earliest complete version of MT.[1] Thus, the consonantal text of MT was in existence more than a thousand years before the creation of MT. Scholars usually designate this consonantal base of the Masoretic Text as proto-Masoretic although sometimes also, anachronistically, as the Masoretic Text.[2]

The non-Qumran Judean Desert scrolls were found at both the earlier site of Masada (texts written between 50 BCE and 30 CE) [3] and the later sites of Wadi Murabba‘at, Wadi Sdeir, Naḥal Ḥever, Naḥal ‘Arugot, and Naḥal Se’elim, dating to the period of the Bar Kochba revolt in 132–135 CE.

 …The relationship between MT and the ancient Judean Desert texts is one of almost complete identity showing that the consonantal framework of MT changed very little over the course of one thousand years—the period between the scrolls and the earliest medieval codices.

17 thoughts on “Evidence that the Masoretic Text is Nearly Identical to Scrolls Written Before and During the Life of Jesus

    1. Frank Cross was the major Dead Sea Scroll scholar the Rabbi you quote is ot a scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

      The Real Jesus site (visted 8/4/06)

      “…According to Frank Moore Cross (another DSS scholar) there are at least 3 ‘families’ of texts at Qumran : the MT ‘family’, the ‘Egyptian’ family, and a ‘Palestinian’ family . The ‘Egyptian’ version which, among other things, has a different version of Jeremiah, became the basis for the LXX. The ‘Palestinian ‘ became the basis for the Samaritan version. The MT variety was the ancestor of what we use today–although even within these ‘families’ there was sometimes variation. We do not know which version was being used by, say, the Sadducees of the Temple sect, or even which the Essenes themselves used. The Jewish community at Alexandria evidently used the Egyptian ‘family’ or the LXX.” – Randolph Parrish

      “The ‘biblical’ library of Qumran represents a fluid stage of the biblical text. Those documents show no influence of the rabbinic recension of the canon, the direct ancestor of the traditional Hebrew Bible. The scrolls help to place both the Pharisaic text and the canon in the era of Hillel, roughly the time of Jesus. In their selection of canonical books, the rabbis excluded those attributed to prophets or Patriarchs before Moses (e.g., the Enoch literature, works written in the name of Abraham and other Patriarchs). They traced the succession of prophets from Moses to figures of the Persian period. Late works were excluded, with the exception of Daniel, which, the rabbis presumably, attributed to the Persian period.”

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      1. FYI: Thank you for listing this brief, interesting quote. I read quotes and then if interested, read the source of the quote. I usually do not read quote-less links regardless of the intensity of the recommendation by the commenter for me to read it.

        So far what Professor Tov has shown is that there were several different versions of the Hebrew Bible in existence in the first century, the LXX was not the only version. So the real question is this: Why did Christians select the Greek Septuagint as the best text and why did Jews select the Hebrew proto-Masoretic as the best text? Can Christians prove that the Jewish selection of the proto-Masoretic text was based solely or even primarily to get rid of any “Jesus prophecies”.

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        1. It’s historical fact that the eatery church used the LXX the reason they did is they spoke Greek most of the time that was the major Greek translation. That they were based upon the oldest Hebrew parent MS might have played a role,

          you need to look at links that’s just laziness or cowardice but shirking your responsibility as a debater.

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          1. Hold onto your pants, Joe. I have not made ANY claims yet as to which text is better or which text is older. I am studying the issue. Relax.

            Tov says that the Septuagint was the preferred text of the Hellenized Jews and the proto-Masoretic was the preferred text of the Pharisees. The question is: Which text was more accurate to the “originals”. I do not know the answer to that yet, that is why I am studying the issue.

            I do intend to read the source you provided a quote from above.

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      2. Here is Professor Tov’s bio. As you will see, his is an expert on the Qumran scrolls!

        Professor Emanuel Tov is J. L. Magnes Professor of Bible (emeritus) in the Dept. of Bible at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Born in Amsterdam, Emanuel Tov emigrated to Israel in 1961 and obtained his Ph.D. in biblical studies at the Hebrew University in 1973. Tov specializes in various aspects of the textual criticism of Hebrew and Greek Scripture as well as in the Qumran Scrolls. Under his editorship, thirty-three volumes of the Dead Sea Scrolls series, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, appeared (1992-2008). Among his many publications are, Scribal Practices and Approaches Reflected in the Texts Found in the Judean Desert, STDJ 54 (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004); Textual Criticism of the Bible, 3rd ed., revised and expanded; (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012); ביקורת נוסח המקרא, פרקי מבוא, The Biblical Encyclopaedia Library 31 (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 2013); and The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research, 3rd ed., completely rev. and enl. (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2015). For more of Tov’s work see his page on Academia.

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        1. Tov says “The relationship between MT and the ancient Judean Desert texts is one of almost complete identity showing that the consonantal framework of MT changed very little over the course of one thousand years—the period between the scrolls and the earliest medieval codices.”

          Nothing here tells me that he;s talking abouit the Hebrew parent text of the LXX in fact this quote is not since it;s not from Qumran. your own intro said the Desert Text is non Quran,so it;also non LXX.

          you are not being careful about your quotes

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          1. Then read the linked article on theTorah.com.

            Tov says that the scrolls at Qumran were from multiple texts, while the scrolls from Masada and the Judean desert sites were proto-Masoretic. He has never said which text was better. You need to relax.

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          1. Read carefully, Joe:

            “In contrast, twenty-five texts were found in the Judean Desert at sites other than Qumran, and these display almost complete identity (roughly 98% agreement) in consonants with the medieval Masoretic text as reflected in the Leningrad Codex, the earliest complete version of MT.[1] Thus, the consonantal text of MT was in existence more than a thousand years before the creation of MT.

            The non-Qumran Judean Desert scrolls were found at … Masada (texts written between 50 BCE and 30 CE)…”

            Gary: The early Jews DID preserve the accuracy of their texts! The Leningrad Codex (the Masoretic Text) is nearly identical to the texts from the Judean desert, some of which are dated to the first century BCE (before Jesus). This does not prove that the Masoretic text (MT) is better or more accurate than the Septuagint, but it does prove that the MT is not a creation of Jewish rabbis in the Middle Ages as some Christians claim.

            Important question: If the evidence from the Judean desert scrolls tell us that the Pharisees/rabbis preserved the proto-Masoretic texts from circa 50 BCE to circa 1,000 CE, how accurate were their forebearers preserving the text prior to circa 50 BCE? Another 1,000 years???

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  1. Joe – I gotta ask: Are you arguing that the MT was a version the Jews decided upon because it sort of “reduced” the “Jesus-supportive verses”?

    Or, are you arguing the LXX is simply superior, because it’s supposed to be based on older manuscripts than the MT?

    I’m just unclear what your position is, and would like to know. You and Gary have been at this a while, and maybe I need to go re-read everything, but, I think that me just asking is gonna be simpler…

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