Masoretic Text

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The Masoretic Text (also spelled Massoretic) is the Hebrew version of the Old Testament traditionally used by Jews and Protestants. It's name is derived from the Hebrew masora, after the marginal notes added by the Masoretes, Jewish scribes and scholars of the Middle Ages.[1] Scholars generally agree that the Masoretic Text became the standard authoritative Old Testament around AD 100.[2]

Textual Support

Before the 20th century, the oldest extant Hebrew Old Testament MSS were from the 9th century. In the mid-20th century, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, among others, changed this.

The majority of the biblical texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls (which date from the 3rd century BC to about AD 68) agree with the Masoretic Text. For example, the two Isaiah Scrolls found in Cave 1 (1QIsa.a and 1QIsa.b) are nearly identical to the Masoretic Text manuscripts of the 9th century.[3]

MSS dated at AD 132-135 were found in 1951 South of Qumran. These were exclusively Masoretic, unlike at Qumran, where a minority of manuscripts were Proto-Septuagint or Proto-Samaritan.[4]

At Masada, fourteen exclusively Masoretic scrolls were found, dating to AD 74 or earlier.[5]

The fact that the Hebrew text was preserved so long with virtually no change may be attributed to the meticulous nature of the Jewish scribes. The scribes would follow certain strict rules in copying. For example, the number of words and letters in a document would be counted. If the number did not match what it should have been, the document was discarded.[6]

Use of the Masoretic Text

The Hebrew text is the primary basis for Old Testaments today, although modern translators also look at the LXX, for example. The Hebrew text was the traditional text used by Protestants and Jews. Catholics once used Jerome's Vulgate, but now use the Masoretic. The Eastern Orthodox Church continues to use the Septuagint.

The Authorized Version used Daniel Bomberg's edition of the Jacob ben Chayyim Text. Modern translations use Kittel's Biblia Hebraica.[7]


  1. Thomas Holland, Crowned With Glory: The Bible from Ancient Text to Authorized Version (Lincoln, NE: Writers Club Press, 2000), 112-113.
  2. Holland, Crowned With Glory, 115.
  3. Holland, Crowned With Glory, 133.
  4. Holland, Crowned With Glory, 134.
  5. Holland, Crowned With Glory, 134.
  6. Holland, Crowned With Glory, 110.
  7. Holland, Crowned With Glory, 114.

See also