Just now I started to write a post dealing with what it is exactly that translators (such as those of the New Revised Standard Version) translated when they translated their texts.  I realized that to explain that I have to say something about the surviving Hebrew manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible – something I have not talked a *great* deal about on the blog in the past, and about the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament – about which I have said a good deal more.  My comments on the Hebrew Bible will require a couple of posts.  As you’ll see, I start at the most basic level and go from there, never getting at all complicated or technical.

This has been taken from my textbook The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction


The Text of the Hebrew Bible

We have seen that the earliest writings of the Hebrew Bible were probably produced during the eighth century BCE.  This is the date of the oldest prophets such as Amos and Isaiah of Jerusalem.  When an ancient author produced a book, he obviously wrote it out by hand.  And if anyone wanted a copy, he had to copy it by hand (or pay someone else to do it for him) – one page, one sentence, one word, one letter at a time.   The term “manuscript” literally means “hand-written copy.”   The books of the Hebrew Bible were passed down in manuscript form year after year, century after century.  It was not until the invention of the printing press in the 15th century CE that things changed.  Then it was possible to mass produce copies of books.  And more important, it was possible to make sure that every single copy of a book was exactly like every other copy, with no sentences, words, or even letters different, from one copy to the next.  That was not the case with manuscripts.  Scribes who copied a text could change the text whenever they felt the need: maybe they thought the copy they were copying had a mistake in it and they wanted to correct it; maybe it didn’t say exactly what they wanted it to say, and so they changed it.  Moreover, scribes could simply make a mistake when they were not adequately trained to do the job of copying, or when they were inattentive, or sleepy.


The Manuscripts

The first printed copy of the Hebrew Bible (that is, from a printing press) appeared in 1488.  Before then, for over two millennia, the Bible…

THE REST OF THIS POST IS FOR MEMBERS ONLY.  If you don’t belong yet, JOIN, or you MAY NEVER KNOW!!!  Remember: every dime you pay for membership goes to help the needy.  So join!!