The Masoretes were a group of Hebrew scholars who worked for 400 years to collect all versions of the Old Testament and refine them into an authoritative text.
Meaning “preservers of tradition,” they consisted of two families, Ben Asher and Ben Naphtali, who worked in the city of Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee from the 5th century to the 10th century.
Rabbi Jordan Parr of Temple Beth El and Dan Johnson, former head of the Emet HaTorah Church, say the Masoretes should be better known because their fulfillment was paramount.
“Different versions of the Bible were circulating in the Jewish world and they vocalized it, or put vowels where there had been only dots and dashes, and added chapters and verses,” said Rabbi Parr.
“Scribal errors had crept into the handwritten copies like typos. When a scribe looked at a parchment and copied it onto a new one, it was easy for his hand to slip and make an honest mistake that went unnoticed and then copied out. Their work has become the standard Bible around the world.
Parr said that the work of Ben Ashers and Ben Nephtalis was evaluated by scholars in the 14th century and that Ben Ashers’ version was found to be the best and was then used as the definitive Old Testament. “The first version we have from that time is in a museum in St. Petersburg, Russia,” he said.
“Ben” means “son of”.
Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz, Germany, made the first printed Bible in 1454.
“Most people don’t realize what happened,” Parr said. “Looking at these texts and the Dead Sea Scrolls that were discovered in 1946-47, you can see passages that have changed over time, so it is possible that Jesus was reading something a little different from this. that we read today. “
One 10th-century scribe who particularly stood out, according to scholars, was Aaron ben Moses ben Asher, whose version “certainly met a need,” Parr said.
“It was essential for the development of Judaism.”
Scholars today say that Ben Moses ben Asher “was the first systematic Hebrew grammarian”.
Johnson stated that the Septuagint, a Greek version of the Old Testament designed for Greek-speaking Jews in Egypt in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. AD, “is a little larger than the Masoretic text and closer to the original Hebrew.
“You have to study both in correlation with Hebrew itself because they are definitely of value,” he said. “You get a much better understanding of the culture, which you need or you will miss out on what is really portrayed. An important thing about the Masoretic text is that they put the vowel points.
Johnson said the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Qumran Caves in the Judean Desert was also a key development in the authoritative Old Testament compilation. Written on papyrus, parchment, and copper, most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are in Hebrew, although some are in Aramaic. They date from 408 to 318 BC.
“Most of the dotted vowels today come from the Masoretic text,” Johnson said. “The Septuagint is a better version, but we’re looking at both. To gain a deep spiritual understanding of what is being said, you must know that there are four levels of meaning.
He was referring to the Hebrew terms “peshat” for the superficial or literal sense, “remez” for allusions in the hidden or symbolic sense, “derash” for the comparative sense and “sod” (pronounced soad) for the esoteric or mystical sense which is given by inspiration or revelation.