I wanted to ask your perspective to the use of the Masoretic text instead of the Septuagint. This article online ( states that the Masoretic text isn’t as reliable. I do hold to the Masoretic text to be more trustworthy because it’s comparison to the DSS evidence is remarkable, and because it was written in Hebrew. However, V.S. Harrell quotes that the Masoretic text is written in "Masoretic Hebrew" and not in "Ancient Hebrew". What are your thoughts on this article and to the overall use of the Masoretic text?


What is "Masoretic Hebrew?" I think that this is, to some extent, scholar-speak. It is a term which gives scholars something to talk about. I do not mean to be cynical. I assume that it is, in some settings a useful distinction. However, you do not need to worry all that much about the minor differences between "Ancient" and "Masoretic" Hebrew. Hebrew had been a dead language for several hundred years before the Masoretic Text was produced. Generally, unspoken languages do not evolve very much. I suppose that what he means by Masoretic Hebrew is Ancient Hebrew, with a few minor changes in accent marks vowel  marks and so forth, as well as changes in script and writing style, and perhaps even a few small changes of vocabulary. To be honest, I am shooting from the hip here, as I have not carefully studied the distinction between the kind of Hebrew script used in Masoretic texts vs older Hebrew manuscripts. Either way, we can assume from common sense of what we know about the Masoretes and from the evidence that they produced a fairly good standardized Hebrew manuscript, using the available manuscripts of the Hebrew, applying a few basic common-sense rules, making perhaps minor changes to make it more useful to the kind of Hebrew readers of their days.

Which is more reliable, the Masoretic Text or some of the various manuscripts in the DSS or the Septuaging or the Syriac or Aramaic translations? I believe that, in general, the Masoretic Text is by far the most reliable, but all of them are more or less reliable. In any case, good scholarship allows us to use all of these to produce a better and more reliable Hebrew text than that found in the Septuagint, Masoretic, and others by themselves. Either way, few if any important points of doctrine or theology are affected by the slight differences, so you might not want to get all that excited about the minor issues raised by these textual variations.

Interesting? Yes. Important? Maybe–probably not.

I read the article by this gentleman. He seems to be trying to create a big controversy where there is only a small one. He purposefully exaggerates differences where, in fact, they are small. I believe that he is not a scholar, but is riding a horse to create a point. For example, he makes grand statements about how much the Jews corrupted the OT, but provides literally not a single example of a corruption of the OT in the Masoretic text. This author is really slandering the Masoretes. He better have a lot of evidence to back up his scandalous charges. The best I can tell, he has little if any evidence to back up his claim of huge corruptions by the Masoretes. Unless he produces such evidence, I do not agree with his claims. We have plenty of quotes from the OT in the Talmud, targums, etc which come from before the Masoretic text was created. Scholars have a lot of access to these things. Despite this fact, the Masoretic Text has held up pretty well. Some of what he says is true, but a lot of it is speculation, and he is not careful to point out when he is speculating and when he is using clearly established facts. I would take all with a grain of salt. His example about Isaiah 7 is not a good one, in my opinion. The natural translation of the Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7 is virgin because of the context. It says that there will be a sign. A woman who has had sex and gotten pregnant would not normally be considered a miracle. Besides, it is the Jews who created the Septuagint. Either way, this author is exaggerating the size of the differences.

John Oakes, PhD 

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