Adam Clarke (1831) wrote a commentary on Jeremiah 8:8 that:  It is too bold an assertion to say that “the Jews have never falsified the sacred oracles;” they have done it again and again. They have written falsities when they knew they were such.  John Chrysostom (4th Century) wrote in his homily on Matthew 2:23 that:  The Jews lost some books through carelessness; others they burnt or tore up.  Does that mean that Jews altered the meanings and texts of their scriptures?


There is a lot going on here, making it difficult to give a single good and complete answer to your question.
First of all, we need to remember that, as smart and spiritual a man as John Chrysostom was, and as well-educated the Methodist theologian Adam Clarke was, they were mere men and they were expressing their own opinion.  What they say does not determine what is true, and we cannot use their words to decide whether the Jews altered the Hebrew text.
Second, it is true that, at least on occasion, both Jewish and Christian copiers of the Scripture in ancient times did indeed at times make alterations to the Hebrew and Greek text.  Such occurrences were rare, but they did happen.  Most of such alterations were done by well-intentioned but misguided men (almost all were indeed men, not women).  At times, copiers felt it within their province to make “improvements.” which they felt would clarify the text, or perhaps reverse changes made by others previously.  At other times, those using the manuscripts made notes in the margins which were later incorporated. Anyone who claims that no Hebrew of Greek text was ever purposefully altered by any copyist in the past will be wrong.  Plain and simple.  There are differences between the various ancient Hebrew and Greek texts of both Testaments, which proves that some changes did occur, and not all of them were accidental.  Changes to the texts happened, both by accident, and, much less commonly, on purpose.  Fortunately, we have several thousand ancient Hebrew and Greek texts, which allow us to catch most corruptions of scripture and to achieve a very accurate text of the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures.
Third, who is Adam Clarke quoting here?  You have not provided proper context to his comment.  Clarke was a careful scholar with great respect for the Scriptures.  It would be very important to know whom he is quoting to give context to what he is saying.  Perhaps he is quoting from an earlier source who made overly-optimistic statements about the inerrancy of biblical manuscripts, and is simply trying to correct the record.  As a careful scholar he is trying to help Christian believers avoid making untrue statements about the Scripture which opens them up to legitimate criticism from liberal opponents.
Here is the bottom line on the Clarke quote in my opinion (for what it is worth).  What Clarke is saying here is correct, although the way he is being quoted out of context may make what he said appear to be stronger than is justified by the facts.
Next, we need to understand what John Chrysostom is talking about here. The context with Chrysostom is very different from Clarke.   You may want to be aware that by the fourth century, Greek and Roman Christians had begun to make great use of the Old Testament Apocrypha.  These books, including Tobit, Judith I and II Maccabees, Wisdom and more, were never part of the Hebrew canon, and are not included in modern Old Testaments (with a couple of exceptions, such as the Roman Catholic New American Translation).  In this case, Chrysostom is accusing the Jews of removing books from the Old Testament. Chrysostom is wrong.  Evidence tells us that it is actually the Christians who had ADDED to the Old Testament.  The error, in this case, is with Chrysostom, not with the Jews he is lambasting.  So, we should take the Chrysostom quote with a very large grain of salt.
So, did Jewish scribes ever alter the text of the Hebrew Bible?  The answer is that there is some evidence for at least some tampering with the text on a small scale, most of which is fairly easily corrected using the thousands of manuscripts available to us—including the Greek Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Having said that, the quote from Chrysostom is about additions by Christians, not about alterations by the Jews.   The quote from Adam Clarke is true, but the context of whom he is talking about may lessen the impact of what he is saying.
John Oakes

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