International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
TEXT AND MANUSCRIPTS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
" I. SOURCES OF EVIDENCE FOR THE TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
1. Autographs of the New Testament Writers
2. Papyrus Fragments of the Greek New Testament
3. Greek Copies or Manuscripts of the New Testament Text
4. List of Manuscripts of the Greek New Testament
5. Vernacular Versions
6. Patristic Quotations
7. Lectionaries and Service-Books
II. NECESSITY OF SIFTING AND CRITICIZING THE EVIDENCE
III. METHODS OF CRITICAL PROCEDURE
IV. HISTORY OF THE PROCESS
The literary evidence to the text of the New Testament is vastly more abundant than that to any other series of writings of like compass in the entire range of ancient letters. Of the sacred books of the Hebrew Bible there is no known copy antedating the 10th century A.D. Of Homer there is no complete copy earlier than the 13th century. Of Herodotus there is no manuscript earlier than the 10th century. Of Vergil but one copy is earlier than the 4th century, and but a fragment of all Cicero's writings is even as old as this. Of the New Testament, however, we have two splendid manuscripts of the 4th century, at least ten of the 5th, twentyfive of the 6th and in all a total of more than four thousand copies in whole or in part of the Greek New Testament. To these copies of the text itself may be added the very important and even more ancient evidence of the versions of the New Testament in the Latin, Syriac, and Egyptian tongues, and the quotations and clear references to the New Testament readings found in the works of the early Church Fathers, as well as the inscriptions and monumental data in Syria, Asia Minor, Africa, Italy, and Greece, dating from the very age of the apostles and their immediate successors. It thus appears that the documents of the Christian faith are both so many and so widely scattered that these very facts more than any others have embarrassed the final determination of the text. Now however, the science of textual criticism has so far advanced and the textual problems of the Greek Testament have been so well traversed that one may read the Christian writings with an assurance approximating certainty.
Professor Eberhard Nestle speaks of the Greek text of the New Testament issued by Westcott and Hort as the "nearest in its approach to the goal." Professor Alexander Souter's student's edition of the Revisers' Greek New Testament, Oxford, 1910, no doubt attains even a higher watermark. It is the purpose of the present article to trace, as far as it can be done in a clear and untechnical manner, the process of connection between the original writings and this, one of the latest of the editions of the Greek New Testament.
I. Sources of Evidence for the Text of the New Testament.
1. Autographs of the New Testament Writers:
Until very recent times it has not been customary to take up with any degree of confidence, if at all, the subject of New Testament autographs, but since the researches in particular of Dalman, Deissmann, Moulton (W. F.) and Milligan (George), the task is not only appropriate but incumbent upon the careful student. The whole tendency of recent investigation is to give less place to the oral tradition of Christ's life and teaching and to press back the date of the writing of the Synoptic Gospels into the period falling between Pentecost and the destruction of Jerusalem. Sir William M. Ramsay goes so far as to claim that "antecedent probability founded on the general character of personal and contemporary Greek of Gr-Asiatic society" would indicate that the first Christian account of the circumstances connected with the death of Jesus must be presumed to have been written in the year when Jesus died" (Letters to the Seven Churches, 7). W. M. Flinders Petrie argues to the same end and says: "Some generally accepted Gospels must have been in circulation before 60 A.D. The mass of briefer records and Logia which the habits and culture of that age would produce must have been welded together within 10 or 20 years by the external necessities" (The Growth of the Gospels, 7).
The autographs of the New Testament writers have long been lost, but the discovery during the last few years of contemporary documents enables us to form fairly clear notions as to their general literary character and condition. In the first place papyrus was probably the material employed by all the New Testament writers, even the original Gospel of Matthew and the general Epistle of James, the only books written within Palestine, not being excepted, for the reason that they were not originally written with a view to their liturgical use, in which case vellum might possibly have been employed. Again the evidence of the writings themselves witnesses to the various literary processes followed during the 1st century. Dictation was largely followed by Paul, the names of at least four of his secretaries, Tertius, Sosthenes, Timothy, and Sylvanus, being given, while the master himself, as in many of the Egyptian papyri, appended his own signature, sometimes with a sentence or two at the end. The method of personal research was pursued, as well as compilation of diverse data including folklore and genealogies, together with the grouping of cognate matters in artistic forms and abundant quotation in writings held in high esteem by the readers, as in the First and Third Gospels and the Book of Acts. The presentation copy of one's works must have been written with unusual pains in case of their dedication to a patrician patron, as Luke to "most excellent Theophilus." For speculation as to the probable dimensions of the original papyrus rolls of New Testament books, one will find Professor J. Rendel Harris and Sir F. G. Kenyon extremely suggestive, and from opposite viewpoints; compare Kenyon, Handbook of the Textual Criticism of the New Testament; Harris, New Testament Autographs.
Comparatively few papyrus fragments of the New Testament are now known to be extant, and no complete book of the New Testament has as yet been found, though the successes in the field of contemporary Greek writings inspire confidence that ere long the rubbish heaps of Egypt will reward the diligent explorer. Of the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) somewhat more has come to light than the New Testament, while the papyrus copies and fragments of Homer are almost daily increasing.
The list below is condensed from that of Sir Frederick G. Kenyon's Handbook of the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, 2nd edition, 1912, 41;, using Dr. Gregory's method of notation.
2. Papyrus Fragments of the Greek New Testament:
P1 Matthew 1:1-9, 12, 14-20. 3rd century. Found at Oxyrhynchus in 1896, now in the University of Pennsylvania.
See illustration under PAPYRUS.
P2 John 12:12-15 in Greek on the verso, with Luke 7:18; in Sahidic on the recto. 5th or 6th century. In book form, at the Museo Archeologico, Florence.
P3 Luke 7:36-43; Luke 10:38-42. 6th century. In book form. In the Rainer Collection, Vienna.
P4 Luke 1:74-80; Luke 5:3-8, 30-6:4. 4th century. In book form. Found in Egypt joined to a manuscript of Philo; now in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.
P5 John 1:23-31, 33-41; John 20:11-17, 19-25. 3rd century. An outer sheet of a single-quire book. Found at Oxyrhynchus and now in the British Museum.
P6 John 11:45. University of Strassburg.
P7 Luke 4:1, 2. Archaeological Museum at Kieff.
P8 Acts 4:31-37; Acts 5:2-9; 6:1-6, 8-15. 4th century. In the Berlin Museum.
P9 1 John 4:11-13, 15-17. 4th or 5th century. In book form. Found at Oxyrhynchus; now in Harvard University Library.
P10 Romans 1:1-7. 4th century. Found at Oxyrhynchus; now in Harvard University Library.
P11 1 Corinthians 1:17-20; 1 Corinthians 6:13-18; 7:3, 4, 10-14. 5th century. In the Imperial Library at Petersburg.
P12 Hebrews 1:1. 3d or 4th century. In the Amherst Library.
P13 Hebrews 2:14-5:5; Hebrews 10:8-11:13; Hebrews 11:28-12:17. 3rd or 4th century. Found at Oxyrhynchus; now in the British Museum.
P14: 1 Corinthians 1:25-27; 1 Corinthians 2:3-8; 3:8-10, 20. 5th century. In book form; at Catherine's Monastery, Mt. Sinai.
P15: 1 Corinthians 7:18-8:4 Philippians 3:9-17; Philippians 4:2-8. 4th century. Found at Oxyrhynchus.
P16 Romans 12:3-8. 6th or 7th century. Ryland's Library, Manchester.
P17 Titus 1:11-15; Titus 2:3-8. 3rd century. Ryland's Library, Manchester.
P18 Hebrews 9:12-19. 4th century. Found at Oxyrhynchus.
P19 Revelation 1:4-7. 3rd or 4th century. Found at Oxyrhynchus.
3. Greek Copies or Manuscripts of the New Testament Text:
Greek copies or manuscripts of the New Testament text have hitherto been and probably will continue to be the chief source of data in this great field. For determining the existence of the text in its most ancient form the autographs are of supreme value. For determining the content or extent of the text the versions are of highest worth. For estimating the meaning and at the same time for gaining additional data, both as to existence and extent of usage of the New Testament, the quotations of its text by the Church Fathers, whether as apologists, preachers, or historians, in Assyria, Greece, Africa, Italy or Gaul, are of exceeding importance. But for determining the readings of the text itself the Greek manuscripts or copies of the original autographs are still the principal evidence of criticism. About 4,000 manuscripts, in whole or in part, of the Greek New Testament are now known. These manuscripts furnish abundant evidence for determining the reading of practically the entire New Testament, while for the Gospels and most important Epistles the evidence is unprecedented for quantity and for clearness. They are usually divided into two classes: Uncial, or large hand, and Minuscule, or small hand, often called Cursive. The term "cursive" is not satisfactory, since it does not coordinate with the term "uncial," nor are so-called cursive features such as ligatures and oval forms confined to minuscule manuscripts. The uncials comprise about 140 copies extending from the 4th to the 10th centuries. The minuscules include the remaining manuscripts and fall between the 9th century and the invention of printing. Herewith is given a brief description of a few of the chief manuscripts, both uncial and minuscule, of the New Testament.
4. List of Manuscripts of the Greek New Testament:
Codex Sinaiticus found by Tischendorf at Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai and now in the Imperial Library at Petersburg; 4th century. This is the only uncial which contains the New Testament entire. It also has the Epistle of Barnabas and part of the Shepherd of Hermas and possibly originally the Didache. The marks of many correctors are found in the text. It is written on 147 1/2 leaves of very thin vellum in four narrow columns of 48 lines each. The pages measure 15 X 13 1/2 in., and the leaves are arranged in quaternions of four sheets. The open sheet exposing eight columns resembles greatly an open papyrus roll. There is but rudimentary punctuation and no use of accent or initial letters, but the Eusebian section numbers are found on the margin of the Gospels.
Codex Alexandrinus (A), so named since it was supposed to have come from Alexandria, being the gift of Cyril Lucar, at one time Patriarch of that Province, though later of Constantinople, to Charles I, through the English ambassador at the Turkish court in 1627, and in 1757 presented to the Royal Library and now in the British Museum. It doubtless belongs to the 5th century, and contained the entire New Testament, lacking now only portions of Matthew, John, and 1 Corinthians, as well as the two Epistles of Clement of Rome and the Psalm of Solomon. It is written on thin vellum in two columns of 41 lines to the page, which is 12 5/8 X 10 3/8 in.; employs frequent initial capitals, and is divided into paragraphs, but has no marginal signs except in the Gospels. Several different hands are discovered in the present state of the MS.
Codex Vaticanus (B), since 1481, at least, the chief treasure of the Vatican Library, and universally esteemed to be the oldest and best manuscript of the Greek New Testament; 4th century. Written on very fine vellum, the leaves nearly square in shape, 10 X 10 1/2 in., with three narrow columns of 40-44 lines per column and five sheets making the quire. A part of the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Pastorals, Philemon and Revelation are lacking. It is without accents, breathings or punctuation, though corrected and retraced by later hands. In the Gospels the divisions are of an earlier date than in Codex Sinaiticus. The theory of Tischendorf that Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus were in part prepared by the same hand and that they were both among the 50 manuscripts made under the direction of Eusebius at Caesarea in 331 for use in the emperor Constantine's new capital, is not now generally accepted.
Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C). This is the great palimpsest (twice written) manuscript of the uncial group, and originally contained the whole New Testament. Now, however, a part-approximately half-of every book is lacking, and 2 Thessalonians and 2 John are entirely gone. It belongs to the 5th century, is written on good vellum 9 X 12 1/2 in. to the page of 41 lines, and of one column in the original text, though the superimposed writings of Ephraem are in two. Enlarged initials and the Eusebian marginal sections are used and several hands have corrected the MS. See Fig. 2. Brought to Italy from the East in the 16th century, it came to France with Catherine de' Medici and is now in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.
Codex Bezae (D). This is the early known manuscript which Theodore Beza obtained in 1562 from the monastery of Irenaeus at Lyons and which he gave in 1581 to the University of Cambridge, where it now is. It is a Greek-Latin text, the Greek holding the chief place on the left-hand page, measuring 8 X 10 in., and dates probably from the end of the 5th century. Both Greek and Latin are written in large uncials and divided into short clauses, corresponding line for line. The hands of no less than nine correctors have been traced, and the critical questions arising from the character of the readings are among the most interesting in the whole range of Biblical criticism and are still unsettled. It contains only the Gospels and Acts with a fragment of 3 John.
Codex Washingtoniensis (W). The United States has now in the National Library (Smithsonian) at the capital one of the foremost uncial manuscripts of the Greek New Testament. It is a complete codex of the Gospels, in a slightly sloping but very ancient hand, written upon good vellum, in one column of 30 lines to the page, and 6 X 9 in. in size. By all the tests ordinarily given, it belongs to the period of the earliest codices, possibly of the 4th century. Like Codex Bezae (D), it has the order of the Gospels: Matthew, John, Luke, Mark, and contains an apocryphal interpolation within the longer ending of Mark for which no other Greek authority is known, though it is probably referred to by Jerome. It has been published in facsimile by Mr. C. L. Freer of Detroit, who obtained the manuscript in Egypt in 1906, and is edited by Professor H. A. Sanders for the University of Michigan Press, 1911.
Out of the thousands of minuscule manuscripts now known only the four used by Erasmus, together with one now found in the United States, will be enumerated.
1. This is an 11th-century codex at Basel. It must have been copied from a good uncial, since its text often agrees with Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus.
1R. Of the 12th century, and now at Mayhingen, Bayaria: This is the only manuscript Erasmus had for Revelation in his editio princeps, and being defective at the end, 22:16-21, he supplied the Greek text by retranslating from the Latin; compare Textus Receptus of the New Testament and the King James Version. Generally speaking, this manuscript is of high quality.
2. This is a 15th-century manuscript at Basel, and was that on which Erasmus most depended for his 1st edition, 1516. It reflects a good quality of text.
2AP. Some have assigned this manuscript to the 12th century, though it was probably later. It is at Basel, and was the principal text used by Erasmus in the Acts and Epistles.
667. An illustration of a good type of minuscule of the Gospels is taken from Evangelistaria 667, which came from an island of the Sea of Marmorn; purchased in Constantinople by Dr. Albert L. Long in 1892 and now in the Drew Seminary Library at Madison, N.J.
5. Vernacular Versions:
Vernacular VSS, or translations of the Scriptures into the tongues of western Christendom, were, some of them, made as early as the 2nd century, and thus antedate by several generations our best-known Greek text. It is considered by many as providential that the Bible was early translated into different tongues, so that its corruption to any large extent became almost if not altogether an impossibility, since the versions of necessity belonged to parts of the church widely removed from one another and with very diverse doctrinal and institutional tendencies. The testimony of translations to the exact form of words used either in an autograph or a Greek copy of an author is at best not beyond dispute, but as evidence for the presence or absence of whole sections or clauses of the original, their standing is of prime importance. Such extreme literalness frequently prevails that the vernacular idiom is entirely set aside and the order and construction of words in the original sources are slavishly followed and even transliterated, so that their bearing on many questions at issue is direct and convincing. Although the Greek New Testament has now been translated into all the principal tongues of the earth, comparative criticism is confined to those versions made during the first eight centuries.
6. Patristic Quotations:
Patristic quotations afford a unique basis of evidence for determining readings of the New Testament. So able and energetic were the Church Fathers of the early centuries that it is entirely probable that the whole text of the Greek New Testament could be recovered from this source alone, if the writings of apologists, homilists and commentators were carefully collated. It is also true that the earliest heretics as well as the defenders of the faith recognized the importance of accurately determining the original text, so that their remains also comprise no mean source for critical research. It is evident that the value of patristic quotations will vary according to such factors as the reliability of the reading, as quoted, the personal equation or habit of accuracy or looseness of the particular writer, and the purity or corruption of the text he employs. One of the marked advantages of this sort of evidence arises from the fact that it affords additional ground for localizing and dating the various classes of texts found both in original copies and in versions. For general study the more prominent Church Fathers of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries are sufficient, though profitable investigation may be made of a much wider period. By the beginning of the 5th century, however, the type of text quoted almost universally was closely akin to that now known as the Textus Receptus.
7. Lectionaries and Service-Books:
Lectionaries and service-books of the early Christian period afford a source of considerable value in determining the general type of texts, together with the order and contents and distribution of the several books of the Canon. As the lectionary systems both of the eastern and western churches reach back to post-apostolic times and all are marked by great verbal conservatism, they present data of real worth for determining certain problems of textual criticism. From the very nature of the case, being compiled for a liturgical use, the readings are often introduced and ended by set formulas, but these are easily separated from the text itself, which generally follows copy faithfully. Even the systems of chapter headings and divisions furnish clues for classifying and comparing texts, for there is high probability that texts with the same chapter divisions come from the same country. Probably the earliest system of chapter divisions is preserved in Codex Vaticanus, coming down to us from Alexandria probably by way of Caesarea. That it antedates the codex in which it appears is seen from the fact that the Pauline Epistles are numbered as comprising a continuous book with a break between Galatians and Ephesians and the dislocated section numbers attached to Hebrews which follows 2 Thessalonians here, though the numbers indicate its earlier position after Galatians. Another system of chapter divisions, at least as old as the 5th century, found in Codex Alexandrinus, cuts the text into much larger sections, known as Cephalia Majora. In all cases the enumeration begins with the 2nd section, the 1st being considered introductory. Bishop Eusebius developed a system of text division of the Gospels based upon an earlier method attributed to Ammonius, adding a series of tables or Canons. The first table contained sections giving events common to all four evangelists, and its number was written beneath the section number on the margin in each Gospel, so that their parallels could readily be found. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Canons contain lists of sections in which three of the Gospels have passages in common (the combination Mark, Luke, John, does not occur). The 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th contain lists in which two combine (the combination Mark, John, does not occur). Canon 10 contains those peculiar to some one of the Gospels.
II. Necessity of Sifting and Criticizing the Evidence.
Criticism from its very nature concerns itself entirely with the problems suggested by the errors of various kinds which it brings to light. In the writings of the New Testament the resources of textual evidence are so vast, exceeding, as we have seen, those of any other ancient literature, sacred or secular, that the area of actual error is relatively quite appreciable, though it must be remembered that this very abundance of textual variety ultimately makes for the integrity and doctrinal unity of the teaching of the New Testament books. Conjectural emendation which has played so large a part in the restoration of other writings has but slight place in the textual criticism of the New Testament, whose materials are so abundant that the difficulty is rather to select right renderings than to invent them. We have catalogued the principal sources of right readings, but on the most casual investigation of them discover large numbers of wrong readings mingled with the true, and must proceed to consider the sources of error or various readings, as they are called, of which approximately some 200,000 are known to exist in the various manuscripts, VSS, patristic citations and other data for the text.
"Not," as Dr. Warfield says, "that there are 200,000 places in the New Testament where various readings occur, but that there are nearly 200,000 readings all told, and in many cases the documents so differ among themselves that many various readings are counted on a single word, for each document is compared in turn with one standard and the number of its divergences ascertained, then these sums are themselves added together and the result given as the number of actually observed variations." Dr. Ezra Abbott was accustomed to remark that "about nineteen-twentieths of the variations have so little support that, although there are various readings, no one would think of them as rival readings, and nineteen-twentieths of the remainder are of so little importance that their adoption or rejection would cause no appreciable difference in the sense of the passages in which they occur." Dr. Hort's view was that "upon about one word in eight, various readings exist supported by sufficient evidence to bid us pause and look at it; about one word in sixty has various readings upon it supported by such evidence as to render our decision nice and difficult, but that so many variations are trivial that only about one word in every thousand has upon it substantial variation supported by such evidence as to call out the efforts of the critic in deciding between the readings." The oft-repeated dictum of Bentley is still valid that "the real text of the sacred writings is competently exact, nor is one article of faith or moral precept either perverted or lost, choose as awkwardly as you will, choose the worst by design, out of the whole lump of readings." Despite all this, the true scholar must be furnished rightly to discriminate in the matter of diverse readings.
From the very nature of the case it is probable that errors should be frequent in the New Testament; indeed, even printed works are not free from them, as is seen in the most carefully edited editions of the English Bible, but in manuscripts the difficulty is increased in direct proportion to the number of various copies still extant. There are two classes of errors giving rise to various readings, unconscious or unintentional and conscious or intentional.
1. First Class:
Of the first class, that of unconscious errors, there are five sorts:
(1) Errors of the Eye.
Errors of the eye, where the sight of the copyist confuses letters or endings that are similar, writing e.g. capital eta for capital sigma; capital omicron for capital theta; capital alpha for capital lambda or capital delta; capital pi (P) for capital tau and capital iota (written together, TI); PAN for TIAN; capital mu (M) for a double capital lambda (LL). Here should be named homoeoteleuton, which arises when two successive lines in a copy end in the same word or syllable and the eye catches the second line instead of the first and the copyist omits the intervening words as in Codex Ephraemi of John 6:39.
(2) Errors of the Pen.
Here is classed all that body of variation due to the miswriting by the penman of what is correctly enough in his mind but through carelessness he fails rightly to transfer to the new copy. Transposition of similar letters has evidently occurred in Codices E, M, and H of Mark 14:65, also in H2 L2 of Acts 13:23.
(3) Errors of Speech.
Here are included those variations which have sprung from the habitual forms of speech to which the scribe in the particular case was accustomed and which he therefore was inclined to write. Under this head comes "itacism," arising from the confusion of vowels and diphthongs, especially in dictation. Thus, iota (i) is constantly written as epsilon-iota (ei) and vice versa; alpha-iota (ai) for epsilon (e); eta (ee) and iota (i) for epsilon-iota (ei); eta (ee) and omicron-iota (oi) for upsilon (u); omicron (o) for omega (oo) and epsilon (e) for eta (ee). It is observed that in Codex Sinaiticus we have scribal preference for iota (i) alone, while in Codex Vaticanus epsilon-iota (ei) is preferred.
(4) Errors of Memory.
These are explained as having arisen from the "copyist holding a clause or sequence of letters in his somewhat treacherous memory between the glance at the manuscript to be copied and his writing down what he saw there." Here are classed the numerous petty changes in the order of words and the substitution of synonyms, as eipen for ephee, ek for apo, and vice versa.
(5) Errors of Judgment.
Under this class Dr. Warfield cites "many misreadings of abbreviations, as also the adoption of marginal glosses into the text by which much of the most striking corruption which has entered the text has been produced." Notable instances of this type of error are found in John 5:1-4, explaining how it happened that the waters of Bethesda were healing; and in John 7:53-8:12, the passage concerning the adulteress, and the last twelve verses of Mark.
2. Second Class:
Turning to the second class, that of conscious or intentional errors, we may tabulate:
(1) Linguistic or Rhetorical Corrections.
Linguistic or rhetorical corrections, no doubt often made in entire good faith under the impression that an error had previously crept into the text and needed correcting. Thus, second aorist terminations in -a are changed to -o and the like.
(2) Historical Corrections.
Under this head is placed all that group of changes similar to the case in Mark 1:2, where the phrase "Isaiah the prophet" is changed into "the prophets."
(3) Harmonistic Corrections.
These are quite frequent in the Gospels, e.g. the attempted assimilation of the Lord's Prayer in Luke to the fuller form in Matthew, and quite possibly the addition of the words "of sin" to the phrase in John 8:34, "Every one that doeth sin is a slave." A certain group of harmonistic corruptions where scribes allow the memory, perhaps unconsciously, to affect the writing may rightly be classed under (4) above.
(4) Doctrinal Corrections.
Of these it is difficult to assert any unquestioned cases unless it be the celebrated Trinitarian passage (King James Version, 1 John 5:7, 8 a) or the several passages in which fasting is coupled with prayer, as in Matthew 17:21 Mark 9:29 Acts 10:30 1 Corinthians 7:5.
(5) Liturgical Corrections.
These are very common, especially in the lectionaries, as in the beginning of lessons, and are even found in early uncials, e.g. Luke 8:31; Luke 10:23, etc.
III. Methods of Critical Procedure.
Here as in other human disciplines necessity is the mother of invention, and the principles of critical procedure rest almost entirely on the data connected with the errors and discrepancies which have consciously or unconsciously crept into the text.
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TEXT OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
" I. EARLIEST FORM OF WRITING IN ISRAEL
1. Invention of Alphabet
2. The Cuneiform
3. References to Writing in the Old Testament
4. Inscriptions after Settlement in Canaan
5. Orthography of the Period
II. THE TWO HEBREW SCRIPTS
1. The Old Hebrew Alphabet
2. Aramean Alphabets
3. The New Hebrew Script
4. New Hebrew Inscriptions
III. THE CHANGE OF SCRIPT
1. Various Theories
2. The Change in the Law
3. In the Other Books
4. Evidence of the Septuagint
5. Evidence of the Text Itself
IV. PRESERVATION OF THE TEXT
1. Internal Conditions
2. External Circumstances
3. The Septuagint Version
V. THE TEXT IN THE 1ST CENTURY A.D.
1. Word Separation
2. Other Breaks in the Text
3. Final Forms of Letters
4. Their Origin
6. The Vowel-Letters
7. Anomalous Forms
8. The Dotted Words
9. Their Antiquity
10. The Inverted Nuns ("n")
11. Large and Small Letters
12. Suspended Letters and Divided Waw ("w")
VI. ALTERATION OF PRINCIPAL DOCUMENTS
1. Yahweh and Baal
2. Euphemistic Expressions
3. "Tiqqun copherim"
VII. SCRIBAL ERRORS IN THE TEXT
2. Errors of the Eye
3. Errors of the Ear
4. Errors of Memory
5. Errors of Carelessness and Ignorance
VIII. HISTORY OF THE TEXT
1. Changes Made in Reading
2. Preservation of Text
3. Division into Verses
4. Sections of the Law
5. Sections of the Prophets
6. Poetical Passages
7. Division into Books
IX. VOCALIZATION OF THE TEXT
1. Antiquity of the Points
2. Probable Date of Invention
3. Various Systems and Recensions
X. THE PALESTINIAN SYSTEM
1. The Consonants
2. The Vowels
3. The Accents
4. Anomalous Pointings
XI. THE MASORAH
1. Meaning of the Term
2. The "Qere" and "Kethibh"
3. Other: Features
XII. MANUSCRIPTS AND PRINTED TEXTS
2. Early Printed Texts
3. Later Editions
4. Chapters and Verses
I. Earliest Form of Writing in Israel.
The art of writing is not referred to in the Book of Genesis, even where we might expect a reference to it, e.g. in Genesis 23, nor anywhere in the Old Testament before the time of Moses (compare however, Genesis 38:18, 25; Genesis 41:44, which speak of "sealing" devices).
See SEAL; WRITING.
1. Invention of Alphabet:
About the year 1500 B.C. alphabetic writing was practiced by the Phoenicians, but in Palestine the syllabic Babylonian cuneiform was in use (see ALPHABET). The Israelites probably did not employ any form of writing in their nomadic state, and when they entered Canaan the only script they seem ever to have used was the Phoenicia. This is not disproved by the discovery there of two cuneiform contracts of the 7th century, as these probably belonged to strangers. There is only one alphabet in the world, which has taken many forms to suit the languages for which it was employed. This original alphabet was the invention of the Semites, for it has letters peculiar to the Semitic languages, and probably of the Phoenicians (so Lucan, Pharsalia iii0.22; compare Herodotus v.58), who evolved it from the Egyptian hieroglyphics.
2. The Cuneiform:
Of the literature of Canaan before the Israelites entered it the remains consist of a number of cuneiform tablets found since 1892 at Lachish, Gezer, Taanach and Megiddo, but especially of the famous the Tell el-Amarna Letters, discovered in Egypt in 1887. Although this non-alphabetic script was in use in Canaan when the Israelites entered it, they do not seem to have adopted it.
3. References to Writing in the Old Testament:
The earliest reference to writing in the Old Testament is Exodus 17:14. The next is Exodus 24:7, mentioning the Book of the Covenant (Exodus 20-23). The Book of the Wars of Yahweh is named in Numbers 21:14. Other early references are Judges 5:14 margin; 8:14 margin. By the time of the monarchy the king and nobles could write (2 Samuel 11:14; 2 Samuel 8:17), but not the common people, until the time of Amos and Hosea, when writing seems to have been common.
4. Inscriptions after Settlement in Canaan:
The Phoenician script prevailed in Palestine after the conquest as well as in the countries bordering on it. This is shown by the inscriptions which have been discovered. The chief of these are: the Baal Lebanon inscription found in Cyprus (beginning of the 9th century); the manuscript of about the year 896 of the ordinary chronology; a Hebrew agricultural calendar of the 8th century; fifteen lion-weights from Nineveh of about the year 700; the Siloam Inscription of the time of Hezekiah; about a score of seals; and, in 1911, a large number of ostraca of the time of Ahab.
5. Orthography of the Period:
In this oldest writing the vowels are rarely expressed, not even final vowels being indicated. The only mark besides the letters is a point separating the words. There are no special forms for final letters. Words are often divided at the ends of lines. The writing is from right to left. The characters of the Siloam Inscription and the ostraca show some attempt at elegant writing.
II. The Two Hebrew Scripts.
1. The Old Hebrew Alphabet:
Two distinct scripts were used by the Hebrews, an earlier and a later. The Old Hebrew alphabet contained 22 letters, all consonants. The order of these letters is known from that of the Greek, taken in order of their numerical values, and later by the alphabetic psalms, etc., and by the figure called 'at-bash (see SHESHACH). In the acrostic passages, however, the order is not always the same; this may be due to corruption of the text. In the alphabet, letters standing together bear similar names. These are ancient, being the same in Greek as in Semitic. They were probably given from some fancied resemblance which the Phoenicians saw in the original Egyptian sign to some object.
2. Aramean Alphabets:
The development of the Phoenician alphabet called Aramaic begins about the 7th century B.C. It is found inscribed as dockets on the cuneiform clay tablets of Nineveh, as the Phoenician letters were upon the lion-weights; on coins of the Persian satraps to the time of Alexander; on Egyptian inscriptions and papyri; and on the Palmyrene inscriptions. The features of this script are the following: The loops of the Hebrew letters beth (b), daleth (d), Teth (T), qoph (q) and resh (r), which are closed in the Phoenician and Old Hebrew, are open, the bars of the Hebrew letters he (h), waw (w), zayin (z), cheth (ch) and taw (t) are lost, and the tails of kaph (k), lamedh (l), mem (m), pe (p) and tsadhe (ts), which are vertical in the old Aramaic, begin in the Egyptian Aramaic to curve toward the left; words are divided, except in Palmyrene, by a space instead of a point; vowel-letters are freely used; and the use of ligatures involves a distinction of initial, medial and final forms. There are of course no vowel-marks.
3. The New Hebrew Scripture:
After the Jews returned from the exile, the Aramaic language was the lingua franca of the Seleucid empire, displacing Assyrian, Old Hebrew and Phoenician. The Phoenician script also had given place to the Aramaic in Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt. In Syria it divided into two branches, a northern which grew into Syriac, and a southern, or Jewish, from which the New Hebrew character was produced.
4. New Hebrew Inscriptions:
What is believed to be the oldest inscription in the modern Hebrew character is that in a cave at `Araq al-`Amir near Heshbon, which was used as a place of retreat in the year 176 B.C. (Ant., XII, iv, 11; CIH, number 1). Others are: four boundary stones found at Gezer; the inscriptions over the "Tomb of James" really of the Beni Hezir (1 Chronicles 24:15 Nehemiah 10:20); that of Kefr Birim, assigned to the year 300 A.D. (CIH, number 17), in which the transition to the New Hebrew script may be said to be accomplished; and others have been found all over the Roman empire and beyond.
The inscriptions show that the familiar Hebrew character is a branch of the Aramaic. In the 3rd century B.C. the latter script was in general use in those countries where Assyrio-Babylonian, Old Hebrew and Phoenician had been used before. The Jews, however, continued to employ the Old Hebrew for religious purposes especially, and the Samaritans still retain a form of it in their Bible (the Pentateuch).
III. The Change of Script.
It is now almost universally agreed that the script in which the Old Testament was written was at some time changed from the Phoenician to the Aramaic. But in the past many opinions have been held on the a subject.
1. Various Theories:
Rabbi Eleazar of Modin (died 135 A.D.), from the mention of the hooks (waws) in Exodus 27:10 and from Esther 8:9, denied any change at all. Rabbi Jehuda (died circa 210) maintained that the Law was given in the New Hebrew, which was later changed to the Old as a punishment, and then back to the New, on the people repenting in the time of Ezra. Texts bearing on the matter are 2 Kings 5:7; 2 Kings 18:26 Isaiah 8:1, from which various deductions have been drawn. There may have been two scripts in use at the same time, as in Egypt (Herod. ii.36).
2. The Change in the Law:
In regard to the change in the Law, the oldest authority, Eleazar ben Jacob (latter part of the 1st century A.D.), declared that a Prophet at the time of the Return commanded to write the Torah in the new or square character. Next Rabbi Jose (a century later) states (after Ezra 4:7) that Ezra introduced a new script and language. But the locus classicus is a passage in the Talmud (Sanhedhrin 21b): "Originally the Law was given to Israel in the Hebrew character and in the Holy Tongue; it was given again to them in the days of Ezra in the Assyrian characters and in the Aramaic tongue. Israel chose for herself the Assyrian character and the Holy Tongue, and left the Hebrew character and the Aramaic tongue to the hedhyoToth." Here Hebrew = Old Hebrew; Assyrian = the new square character, and hedhyoToth is the Greek idiotai = the Hebrew `am ha-'arets, the illiterate multitude. From the 2nd century on (but not before), the Talmudic tradition is unanimous in ascribing the change of script in the Law to Ezra. The testimony of Josephus points to the Law at least being in the square character in his day (Ant., XII, ii, 1, 4). The Samaritan Pentateuch was almost certainly drawn up in the time of Nehemiah (compare 13:28; also Ant, XI, vii, 2), and points to the Old Hebrew being then in use. So Rabbi Chasda (died 309) refers the word hedhyoToth above to the Samaritans. On the other hand, the Samaritan Pentateuch may have been the original Law, common to both Israel and Judah. In any case it is written in a form of the Old Hebrew character.
3. In the Other Books:
In regard to the other books, the old script was used after Ezra's time. Esther 8:9 and Daniel 5:8; must refer to the unfamiliar Old Hebrew. So the Massoretic Text of 5:18 implies the New Hebrew, but only in the Law.
4. Evidence of the Septuagint:
The Greek translation known as the Septuagint was made in Alexandria, and is hardly evidence for Palestine. The Law was probably translated under Ptolemy II (284-247 B.C.), and the other books by the end of the 2nd century B.C. (compare Ecclesiasticus, Prologue). The variations of the Septuagint from the Massoretic Text point to an early form of the square character as being in use; but the Jews of Egypt had used Aramaic for some centuries before that.
5. Evidence of the Text Itself:
The variations between parallel passages in the Massoretic Text itself, such as Joshua 21 and 1 Chronicles 6 2 Samuel 23 and 1 Chronicles 11, etc., show that the letters most frequently confused are "d" and "r", which are similar in both the Old and New Hebrew; "b" and "d", which are more alike in the Old Hebrew; "w" and "y" and several others, which are more alike in the New Hebrew. Such errors evidently arose from the use of the square character, and they arose subsequent to the Septuagint, for they are not, except rarely, found in it. The square character is, then, later than the Septuagint.
The square character was ascribed to Ezra as the last person who could have made so great a change, the text after his time being considered sacred. This is disproved by the fact of the coins of the Maccabees and of Bar Cochba being in the old character. The Talmud permits Jews resident outside Palestine to possess copies of the Law in Coptic, Median, Hebrew, etc. Here Hebrew can only mean the Old Hebrew script.
IV. Preservation of the Text.
1. Internal Conditions:
Judaism has always been a book religion: it stands or falls with the Old Testament, especially with the Pentateuch. Although no manuscript of the Hebrew Old Testament is older than the 10th century A.D., save for one minute papyrus, we know, from citations, translations, etc., that the consonantal text of the Old Testament was in the 1st century A.D. practically what it is today. The Jews transliterated as well as translated their Bible. All the most important translations-the Septuagint, Aquila, Theodotion, Symmachus-were made by Jews and aimed at a more literal rendering of the Hebrew-that of Aquila being hardly Greek. The Syriac (Peshitta) seems to be also by Jews or Jewish Christians. Great care was taken of the text itself, and the slightest variant readings of manuscripts were noted. One manuscript belonging to Rabbi Meir (2nd century) is said to have omitted the references to "Admah and Zeboiim" in Deuteronomy 29:23 and to Bethlehem in Genesis 48:7, and to have had other lesser variations, some of which were found also in the manuscript which, among other treasures, decked the triumph of Vespasian (BJ, VII, v, 7).
2. External Circumstances:
Religious persecution makes for the purity of the Scriptures by reducing the number of copies and increasing the care bestowed on those saved. The chief moments in which the existence of the Jewish Scriptures was threatened were the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple under Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C., in which the Book of Jashar and that of the Wars of the Lord may have been lost; the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes, during which the possession of the sacred books was a capital offense (1 Maccabees 1:56, 57; Ant, XII, v), in which the sources used by the Chronicler may have perished; and the capture of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 A.D. By this time, however, the Law at least was known by heart. Josephus says Titus made him a gift of the sacred books (Vita, 75). It is also said that at one time only three copies of the Law were left, and that a text was obtained by taking the readings of two against one. However that may be, it is a fact that there are no variant readings in the Massoretic Text, such as there are in the New Testament.
3. The Septuagint Version: The only ancient version which can come into competition with the Massoretic Text is the Septuagint, and that on two grounds. First, the manuscripts of the Septuagint are of the 4th century A.D., those of the Massoretic Text of the 10th. Secondly, the Septuagint translation was made before a uniform Hebrew text, such as our Massoretic Text, existed. The quotations in the New Testament are mainly from the Septuagint. Only in the Book of Jeremiah, however, are the variations striking, and there they do not greatly affect the sense of individual passages. The Greek has also the Apocrypha. The Septuagint is an invaluable aid to restoring the Hebrew where the latter is corrupt.
V. The Text in the 1st Century A.D.
The Massoretic Text of the 1st Christian century consisted solely of consonants of an early form of the square character. There was no division into chapters or, probably, verses, but words were separated by an interstice, as well as indicated by the final letters. The four vowel-letters were used most freely in the later books. A few words were marked by the scribes with dots placed over them.
1. Word Separation:
The Samaritan Pentateuch still employs the point found on the Moabite Stone to separate words. This point was probably dropped when the books came to be written in the square character. Wrong division of words was not uncommon.
Tradition mentions 15 passages noted on the margin of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 30:11, etc.) in which two words are written as one. One word is written as two in Judges 16:25 1 Samuel 9:1, etc. Other passages in which tradition and text differ as to the word-division are 2 Samuel 5:2 Ezekiel 42:9 Job 38:12 Ezra 4:12. The Septuagint frequently groups the letters differently from the Massoretic Text, e.g. (see the commentaries) Hosea 11:2 1 Chronicles 17:10; Psalm 73:4; Psalm 106:7.
2. Other Breaks in the Text:
The verse-division was not shown in the prose books. The present division is frequently wrong and the Septuagint different from the Hebrew: e.g. Genesis 49:19, 20 Psalm 42:6, 7 Jeremiah 9:5, 6 Psalm 90:2, 3. Neither was there any division into chapters, or even books. Hence, the number of the psalms is doubtful. The Greek counts Psalms 9 and 10 as one, and also Psalms 114 and 115, at the same time splitting Psalms 116 and 147 each into two. The Syriac follows the Greek with regard to Psalms 114 and 147. Some manuscripts make one psalm of 42 and 43. In Acts 13:33, Codex Bezae, Psalm 2 appears as Psalm 1.
3. Final Forms of Letters:
Final forms of letters are a result of the employment of ligatures. In the Old Hebrew they do not occur, nor apparently in the text used by the Septuagint. Ligatures begin to make their appearance in Egyptian, Aramaic, and Palmyrene. Final forms for the letters k, margin, n, p, ts, were accepted by the 1st century, and all other final forms were apparently rejected.
4. Their Origin:
The first rabbi to mention the final forms is Mathiah ben Harash (a pupil of Rabbi Eleazar who died in 117 A.D.), who refers them to Moses. They are often referred to in the Talmud and by Jerome. The Samaritan Chronicle (11th century) refers them to Ezra. In point of fact, they are not so old as the Septuagint translation, as is proved by its variations in such passages as 1 Samuel 1:1; 1 Samuel 20:40 Psalm 16:3; Psalm 44:5 Jeremiah 16:19; Jeremiah 23:14, 23, 33 Hosea 6:5 Nahum 1:12; Zechariah 11:11; Ecclesiasticus 3:7. From the fact that the final forms make up the Hebrew expression for "from thy watchers," their invention was referred in the 3rd century to the prophets (compare Isaiah 52:8 Habakkuk 2:1).
After the adoption of the square character, therefore, the only breaks in the text of prose books were the spaces left between the words. Before the 1st century there was much uncertainty as to the grouping of the letters into words. After that the word-division was retained in the copies, even when it was not read (as in 2 Samuel 5:2, etc.). At first the final form would occur at the end of the ligature, not necessarily at the end of the word. Remains of this will be found in 1 Chronicles 27:12 Isaiah 9:6 Nehemiah 2:13 Job 38:1; Job 40:6. When the ligatures were discarded, these forms were used to mark the ends of words. The wonder is that there are not more, or even an initial, medial and final form for every letter, as in Arabic and Syriac.
6. The Vowel-Letters:
The four letters, ', h, w, y, seem to have been used to represent vowel sounds from the first. They are found in the manuscripts, but naturally less freely on stone inscriptions than in books. The later the text the more freely they occur, though they are commoner in the Samaritan Pentateuch than in the Massoretic Text. The copies used by the Septuagint had fewer of them than the Textus Receptus, as is proved by their translations, of Amos 9:12 Ezekiel 32:29 Hosea 12:12, and other passages, The four letters occur on Jewish coins of the 2nd century B.C. and A.D.
7. Anomalous Forms:
In the 1st and 2nd centuries the vowel-letters were retained in the text, even when not read (Hosea 4:6 Micah 3:2, etc.). In the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy 32:13 seems to be the sole instance. The Pentateuch is peculiar also in that in it the 3rd person singular, masculine, of the personal pronoun is used for the feminine, which occurs only 11 times; Genesis 2:12; Genesis 14:2; compare Isaiah 30:33 1 Kings 17:15; Job 31:11. This phenomenon probably arises from the stage in the growth of the script when waw (w) and yodh (y) were identical in form; compare Psalm 73:16 Ecclesiastes 5:8. Frequently the 1st person singular perfect of the verb is written defectively (Psalm 140:13 2 Kings 18:20; compare Isaiah 36:5); similarly the "h" of na`arah (Deuteronomy 22). All this shows there was no attempt to correct the text. It was left as it was found.
8. The Dotted Words:
When a scribe had miscopied a word he sometimes placed dots over it, without striking it out. There are 15 passages so marked in the Old Testament, and the word naqudh, "pointed," is generally placed in the margin. The word may also be read naqodh, "speckled" (Genesis 30:32), or niqqudh, "punctuation." It is also possible that these points may denote that the word is doubtful. They occur in the following places: Genesis 16:5; Genesis 18:9; Genesis 19:33; Genesis 33:4; 37:12 Numbers 3:39; Numbers 9:10; Numbers 21:30; Numbers 29:15 Deuteronomy 29:28 (29); Psalm 27:13 2 Samuel 19:20; Isaiah 44:9 Ezekiel 41:20; Ezekiel 46:22. For conjectures as to the meanings of the points in each passage, the reader must be referred to the commentaries.
9. Their Antiquity:
These points are found even on synagogue rolls which have, with one exception, no other marks upon them, beyond the bare consonants and vowel-letters. Only those in the Pentateuch and Psalms are mentioned in the Talmud or Midrashim, and only one, Numbers 9:10, in the Mishna before the end of the 2nd century, by which time its meaning had been lost. The lower limit, therefore, for their origin is the end of the 1st century A.D. They have been, like most things not previously annexed by Moses, assigned to Ezra; but the Septuagint shows no sign of them. They, therefore, probably were inserted at the end of the 1st century B.C., or in the 1st century A.D. As four only occur in the Prophets and one in the Hagiographa, most care was evidently expended on the collation of the, Law. Blau thinks the reference originally extended to the whole verse or even farther, and became restricted to one or more letters.
10. The Inverted Nuns ("n"):
In Numbers 10:35 and 36 are enclosed within two inverted nuns as if with brackets. In Psalm 107 inverted nuns should stand before verses 23-28 and 40, with a note in the foot margin. These nuns were originally dots (Siphre' on Numbers) and stand for naqkudh, indicating that the verses so marked are in their wrong place (Septuagint Numbers 10:34-36).
11. Large and Small Letters:
Large letters were used as our capitals at the beginnings of books, etc. Thus there should be a capital nun at the beginning of the second part of Isaiah. But they serve other purposes also. The large waw (w) in Leviticus 11:42 is the middle letter of the Torah; so in the Israelites' Credo (Deuteronomy 6:4). Other places are Deuteronomy 32:4, 6 Exodus 34:7, 14 Leviticus 11:30; Leviticus 13:33 Isaiah 56:10, and often. Buxtorf's Tiberias gives 31 large and 32 small letters. Examples of the latter will be found in Genesis 2:4; Genesis 23:2 Leviticus 1:1 Job 7:5, etc. The explanations given are fanciful.
12. Suspended Letters and Divided Waw ("w"):
There are four letters suspended above the line in the Massoretic Text. They will be found in Judges 18:30 Job 38:13, 15 Psalm 80:14 (13). The last probably indicates the middle letter of the Psalter. The first points to Manasseh being put for Moses. The two in Job are doubtful. In Numbers 25:12 will be found a waw cut in two, perhaps to indicate that the covenant was in abeyance for a time.
Abbreviations are found on early Jewish inscriptions and on coins. Thus the letter shin stands for shanah = "year"; yodh sin = "Israel"; 'aleph = 1; beth = 2, etc. In the text used by the Septuagint the name Yahweh seem to have been indicated merely by a yodh, e.g. Psalm 31:7 (6), "I hate" = Septuagint 30:7, "Thou hatest" (compare 5:5), and the yodh of the Hebrew = "O Yahweh." In Judges 19:18 the Hebrew "house of Yahweh" = Septuagint "my house"; so Jeremiah 6:11; Jeremiah 25:37. A curious example will be found Jeremiah 3:19. The great corruption found in the numbers in the Old Testament is probably due to letters or ciphers being employed. For wrong numbers compare 2 Samuel 10:18; 2 Samuel 24:13 1 Kings 4:26 with parallel passages; also compare Ezra 2 with Nehemiah 7, etc. Possible examples of letters representing numbers are: Psalm 90:12, "so" = ken, and kaph plus nun = 20 plus 50 = 70; 1 Samuel 13:1, ben shanah is perhaps for ben n shanah, "fifty years old"; in 1 Samuel 14:14, an apparently redundant k is inserted after "twenty men"; k = 20.
Such was the Hebrew text in the 1st Christian century. It was a Received Text obtained by collating manuscripts and rejecting variant readings. Henceforward there are no variant readings. But before that date there were, for the Greek and Samaritan often differ from the Hebrew. The Book of Jubilees (middle of 1st century) also varies. The fidelity of the scribes who drew up this text is proved by the many palpable errors which it contains.
VI. Alteration of Principal Documents.
1. Yahweh and Baal:
For various reasons the original documents were altered by the scribes, chiefly from motives of taste and religion.
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