עברית / Hebrew Bible History (3)

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Bible ( כִּתבֵי הַקוֹדֶשׁ )



   From the first promulgation of the written Word, special provision seems to have been made for
its careful preservation.   (See Exod. 25. 21; 40. 20).   A distinct command had reference to the
place in which the book of the law was to be deposited; namely, in the side of the Ark of the Covenant.
(Deut. 31. 26.)   The multiplication of copies also was provided for by a Divine decree, (see Deut.
17. 18); and a copy of the law of Moses was made by Joshua.   (See Jos. 8. 32.)   On the erection of
the Temple, Solomon caused the Ark to be brought "into the oracle of the house, to the most holy
place, even under the wings of the cherubims[;]"
and from that period the books of Holy Writ were guarded
within the walls of the sacred edifice, as is evident from such passages as 2 Kings 22. 8; 2 Chron.
34. 14, &c.   That these divine records did not fall into the hands of the enemy when the Jews were
led away captive to Babylon, may be inferred from the fact that in the list of the spoils carried away
from the temple, detailed as that list is (see 2 Ki. 25, 2 Chron. 36, and Jer. 52), there is no mention
whatever of the Sacred books.   The captives, at the very moment that they were compelled to abandon
the gold and silver of their temple, must have concealed and carried with them these most valued
treasures; for Daniel, who wrote during the captivity, made distinct reference to two different parts
of Scripture as documents well known to his countrymen (see Dan. 9); Ezra, when he went up from
Babylon to Jerusalem, was "a ready scribe in the law of Moses which the LORD God of Israel had
(Ezra 7. 6); and immediately on the return from captivity, the people called for the book of
the law of Moses, which was opened and read to them.   (Neh. 8. 1.)   The completion of the Canon
of the Old Testament is referred to about the time of the finishing of the Second Temple; and there
can be no doubt but that the inspired men who lived at that period, namely Malachi, the last of the
Old Testament prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, and Nehemiah, collected all the books that had
been given by inspiration of God, and deposited them in the Temple.
  When the Temple and the city
of Jerusalem were destroyed by the Romans, the characteristic faithfulness of the Jews to the sacred
charge originally committed to them, remained the same.   Some of the learned Jews opened schools
in various parts of the East for the cultivation of Sacred literature; one of these schools, established at
Tiberias, at Sepphoris, and in other towns of Galilee, is mentioned by Jerome as existing in the early
part of the fifth century; another school of almost equal note was established at Babylon, and at both
frequent transcriptions of the Scriptures were made.   And the hand of Providence is to be traced in
this multiplication of copies at different places and by distinct institutions, for the comparison of copies
afterwards....   The most stringent laws, however, were in force among the Jews to ensure accuracy in
their copies of the Scriptures; the preparation of the parchment, of the ink, and even of the state of
mind of the copyist, were all prescribed by rule;
and such has ever been their reverence for antiquity,
that when in an ancient copy they have met....   Still further to
ensure the perfect integrity of the text, the Jews at some period between the fourth and sixth century

carefully collected into one book all the grammatical and critical remarks on the letter of Scripture that
had been current at different times and places since the time of Ezra.   To the volume thus formed,
which in process of time became larger than the Bible itself, they gave the name of Masora
, that is,
tradition, because the criticisms it contained had been handed down by tradition from father to son.
But besides being a collection of grammatical annotations, the Masora really was, as the Jews empha-
tically styled it, "the hedge of the law," for it contains a multitude of the most minute calculations
concerning the number of verses, lines, words, and letters, in the Sacred volume; so that the number
of letters in every verse, and even the middle letter of every verse having been ascertained with some
, it was anticipated that no interpolation or omission in the text could for the future pass
undetected.   The further influence of the Septuagint and other ancient versions in securing the early
copies of the Hebrew Scriptures from the possibility of corruption will be subsequently noticed.
   Eight particular copies seem to have been especially honoured among the Jews on account of
their strict fidelity and accuracy, and to have been regularly used as standard texts from which all
other copies were made.   These eight copies were--
   1. The Codex of Hillel, an ancient MS. no longer in existence, but which was seen at Toledo in
the twelfth century by the Rabbi Kimchi.   Rabbi Zacuti, who lived about the end of the fifteenth
century, declared that part of the MS. had been sold and sent to Africa.   This copy contained the
vowel points invented by the Masorites.

   2. The Babylonian Codex, supposed to contain the text as revised under the care of Rabbi Ben
Naphtali, President of the Academy at Babylon.
   3. The Codex of Israel, supposed to exhibit the text as corrected by Rabbi Ben Asher, President
of the above mentioned Academy at Tiberias; this MS. is imagined to have been the same as that of
   Lastly, the remaining five Codices were, the Egyptian Codex, the MS. of Sinai containing only
the Pentateuch, the Pentateuch of Jericho, the Codex of Sanbuki, and the book of Taygim.   All the
MSS. now in existence can be traced to one or other of these exemplars.   The MSS. executed by the
Jews in Spain follow the Codex of Hillel, and are more valued than those made in any other country,
on account of their accuracy and the elegance with which they are written, the letters being perfectly
square, and having the appearance of print.
  German MSS., on the contrary, are not elegantly written,
and the characters are rudely formed, but they are valued on account of their containing readings
coinciding with the Samaritan Pentateuch and the ancient versions.   The Italian MSS. are neither so
beautiful as the Spanish, nor so rude in appearance as the German, and they do not follow the Masora
so closely as the former, nor deviate from it so frequently as the latter.
   Of the Hebrew MSS. now known to be in existence, the most ancient of which the date has been
duly attested, is not much above seven hundred years old.   It formerly belonged to Reuchlin, and is
now preserved in the Library at Carlsruhe, whence it is familiarly known as the Codex Carlsruhensis:
it is in square folio, its date is A.D. 1106, and its country is Spain.   It contains the Prophets, with the
Targum.   There are two or three MSS. to which an earlier origin is assigned, but the date of their
execution is very doubtful.   There are only five or six MSS. extant which were made so early as the
twelfth century; we have about fifty MSS. written in the thirteenth century, eighty in the fourteenth,
and 110 in the fifteenth.   The Jews who have been located for several centuries in the interior of
China do not possess any MSS. of earlier date than the fifteenth century.   The black Jews on the
coast of Malabar, who are supposed to have emigrated to India about the time of the Jewish captivity,
possessed a Hebrew MS. which was brought to England by Buchanan in 1806, and is now carefully
preserved at Cambridge.   It is a roll of goats’ skins dyed red, and measures forty-eight feet long by
twenty-two inches wide.   It only contains part of the Pentateuch; Leviticus and a portion of Deute-
ronomy are wanting.   The text, with a few slight variations, accords with the Masoretic.   As is the
case with all the more ancient MSS., there is no division of words; an old rabbinical tradition says
that the law was formerly one verse and one word.   The division into verses is generally attributed to

the compilers of the Masora.   The division into chapters is more recent, and was first adopted in the
Latin Testament.   A more ancient division of the Pentateuch was into parashioth, or greater and less
sections for the regular reading in the synagogue; a division still retained by the Jews in the rolls of
the Pentateuch."
--The Bible of Every Land. (1860, Second Edition)   Samuel Bagster   [Info only]


   The first portion of the Hebrew Scriptures committed to the press was the Psalter, with the
Commentary of Rabbi Kimchi; it appeared in 1477, but it is not certain at what place it was printed.
In 1482 the Pentateuch was published at Bologna, and other parts of Scripture were subsequently
printed at various places.   But the first complete Bible that issued from the press was that printed in
1488 at Soncino, a small town of Lombardy
, between Cremona and Brescia.   Copies of this edition
are now so scarce that only nine are known to exist, one of which is in the Library of Exeter College,
Oxford.   It has points and accents, but from what MSS. it was printed is unknown.   It formed the
text of another edition, printed, with a few corrections, at Brescia in 1494.   The printers of both
these editions were of a family of German Jews who had settled at Soncino; they are noted for having
been, in point of time, the first Hebrew printers.   The Brescia edition is famous for having been that
from which Luther made his translation of the Old Testament
, and the identical volume used by him
is still preserved in the Royal Library at Berlin.   This edition forms one of the three standard texts
from which all subsequent editions have been executed; the other two being the Hebrew text of the
Complutensian Polyglot (published 1514-17, and for which seven MSS. were consulted), and the
second edition of Bomberg’s Bible.   Bomberg printed in all five editions, of which the first appeared
at Venice in 1518; but the second edition, published at Venice 1525-26, is the most valued on
account of its superior correctness, and its text still forms the basis of modern printed Bibles.   It is
pointed according to the Masoretic system, and was printed from the text of the Brescia edition,
corrected by reference to some Spanish MSS., under the care of Rabbi Ben Chajim, a Jew of profound
acquaintance with the Masora
and rabbinical erudition.
   All the editions above mentioned were executed by Jews or Jewish converts.   The first Hebrew
Bible published by a Gentile, was that printed in 1534-35 at Basle, with a Latin translation in a
parallel column, by Munster, a learned German; in a second edition, published 1536, he introduced
critical annotations and portions of the Masora: he used the Brescia edition of 1494 as his text, but
seems to have consulted Bomberg’s Bible
and several MSS.
  In 1569-72 the Hebrew text of the
Antwerp Polyglot was published; it is compounded of the Complutensian text, and that of the second
edition of Bomberg’s Bible
.   The next most celebrated editions, in point of time, of the Hebrew Bible
were those of Buxtorf: he published an 8vo. edition at Basle in 1619, and his great Rabbinical Bible
(so called because accompanied by the Masora and the Commentaries of five Jewish rabbis) appeared
in 1618-20.
   About this period the Samaritan Pentateuch was first introduced into Europe, and a new era
commenced in the history of Hebrew criticism.   Hitherto both Jews and Christians had rested secure
in the supposed uniformity of Hebrew MSS.   Origen, who, as will hereafter be shown, had certainly
attempted to collate the Hebrew text with the Septuagint version, seems to have taken little or no
pains in the comparison of Hebrew MSS.; and though in some of the editions of the Bible, as above
mentioned, several MSS. had been consulted, a general and systematic collation of all the MSS. of the
Old Testament had never been deemed requisite.   Now, however, the attention of the learned was
drawn to the variations between the Hebrew text, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Septuagint
version; the controversies thence arising happily led to the examination of the MSS. themselves,
and the various readings there discovered were discussed by the same laws of criticism that had long
been in force with respect to profane writings.   Two most important critical editions of the Bible,
published in 1661 and 1667 at Amsterdam, by Athias, a learned rabbi, were among the first fruits of
these researches: the text was founded on MSS. as well as on a collation of previous printed editions,

and one MS. was said to be 900 years old.   So highly were the labours of Athias appreciated, that
in testimony of public admiration, the States General of Holland presented him with a gold chain and
medal appendant.   Athias was the first editor who numbered the verses of the Hebrew Bible: every
fifth verse had, in previous editions, been marked with a Hebrew numeral.   His text, with some few
alterations, was beautifully reprinted by Van der Hooght, in 1705, at Amsterdam; this edition is
celebrated for its typographical elegance, and the clearness of the characters, especially of the vowel
points.   It has some few Masoretic notes
in the margin, and a collation of various readings from
printed editions at the end.   It was reprinted in London 1811-12, under the editorship of Mr. Frey.
Among other reprints of Van der Hooght’s text, with corrections by various editors, the splendid
edition of Houbigant appeared at Paris in 1753.   In this edition the text is divested of vowel points,
all Masoretic appendages are omitted, and several readings from the Samaritan are inserted in the
margin of the Pentateuch.
   In the same year that Houbigant printed his edition, Kennicott published his first dissertation on
the state of the Hebrew text, in which he clearly demonstrated the necessity of collating all the MSS.
of Scripture that were known to be yet extant.   To defray the expense of so important an under-
taking, a large subscription, headed by George III., was raised in England, and the work of collation,
commenced by Kennicott and his coadjutors in 1760, continued till 1769.   Kennicott collated 250
MSS. with his own hand, (most of which, however, were only examined in select places), and the total
number collated by him and under his direction was about 600.   In 1776- 80 he published a splendid
edition of Van der Hooght’s text at Oxford, with various readings collected from Hebrew and
Samaritan MSS., from printed editions, and from the quotations of the Bible occurring in the works
of ancient rabbinical writings, and especially in the Talmud, the text of which belongs to the third
century.   An important supplement to this great work was published by M. de Rossi at Parma,
1784-87, consisting of additional readings from Hebrew MSS. and other sources.   De Rossi added a
volume of Scholia Critica in 1798.
   Up to the present moment about 1300 Hebrew MSS. have been collated in whole or in part; but
each MS. very rarely contains the whole Bible, some being confined to the Pentateuch, others to the
Prophets, while others comprise but a single book.   It is a remarkable fact, and a proof of the con-
tinued interposition of Divine Providence, that after all the laborious researches that have been made
among MSS. belonging to different centuries and to various countries, not a single reading has yet
been detected which affects the power of any one doctrine, precept, or consolation, contained in that
Holy Volume, which has been received during so many ages by Jews and Christians as the Word of
God.   ... though they affect only the orthography or mere
diction of the text, subserve the double purpose of aiding in the grammatical elucidation of certain
difficult passages, and of proving the general integrity of the Sacred Canon.   Van der Hooght’s text,
with which all Hebrew MSS. hitherto collated have been compared by Kennicott and others, is
esteemed the most correct of the printed editions; the typographical and other errors which encum-
bered the first editions have been removed by Hahn and later editors, and it now forms our Textus
.   It is not, however, appreciated by some of the Jews, merely on account of Roman figures
and sundry marks in the margin which have appeared in the editions of this text.   To meet their
prejudices, the London Society for the Conversion of the Jews caused an edition to be printed imme-
diately from the text of Athias as exhibited in his second edition of 1667, and which is the edition
most prized by the Jews.   The Society’s Bible was edited by Judah D’Allemand, and published in
London in 1828; and special evidences of the blessing of God upon the Old Testament Scriptures, in
preparing the minds of his ancient people for the fuller revelation of the New Testament
, are to be
found in the Reports of the Society."
--The Bible of Every Land. (1860, Second Edition)   Samuel Bagster   [Info only:
God has preserved His words.   See Ben Chayyim Masoretic Text.]

HEBREW w/ the twofold use of the Hebrew accents.--1860   S. Bagster   [Info only: Hebrew Character   n.d. Exodus 20:1-17 unknown.]



WE have no certain information concerning the translation of any portion of the New Testament into
the language of the Old Testament Scriptures prior to the year 1537, when the Gospel of St. Matthew
was published in Hebrew by Sebastian Munster, at Basle.   Great attention was excited by this book
at the time of its appearance, on account of an ancient tradition which prevailed in the Church that
St. Matthew originally wrote his Gospel in Hebrew.   It was very evident, however, that Munster’s
publication had no pretensions to be regarded as the text of the sacred original, nor even as an ancient

version, for the language in which it was written was not the Syro-Chaldaic current in Palestine at the
time of our Lord, but the rabbinical Hebrew in use among the Jews of the twelfth century; it was,
moreover, full of solecisms and barbarisms, and bore indubitable marks of having been translated either
directly from the Vulgate, or from an Italian version of the Vulgate
.   The translation was probably
made by an unconverted Jew, at some period subsequent to the twelfth century.   In an Apology for
this work, dedicated to Henry VIII. of England, Munster states that the MS. from which he printed
was defective in several passages, and that he was compelled to supply the omissions as he best could
from his own resources.   This circumstance may serve partly to account for the errors which abound
in the work.   It passed through several editions, and a Hebrew version of the Epistle to the Hebrews
was appended to it.   Another edition of the same translation of St. Matthew, but printed from a more
complete and correct MS. brought for the purpose from Italy, was published by Tillet, Bishop of
St. Brieux, at Paris, in 1555, with a Latin version by Mercerus."
--1860   S. Bagster   [Info only]

   "The first translation of the entire New Testament into Hebrew was made by Elias Hutter,
a Protestant divine, born at Ulm in 1553.   He was Professor of Hebrew at Leipsic, and first dis-
tinguished himself by his ingenious plan of printing a Hebrew Bible, in which he had the radical
letters struck off with solid and black, and the servile with hollow and white types, while the quiescents
were executed in smaller characters, and placed above the line; thus exhibiting at a glance the root or
elementary principle of each word.   Hutter’s success in this undertaking led him to project a Polyglot
Bible: he commenced with the New Testament
, but found himself utterly at a loss for want of a
Hebrew version.   He therefore determined upon supplying the deficiency himself, and in the course
of one twelvemonth he produced a translation of the New Testament.   He then proceeded with his
original design, and completed his Polyglot Testament in twelve languages, at Nuremberg, in 1600.
This Hebrew version was afterwards detached from the Polyglot, and repeatedly printed.
  In 1661, it
was revised and published in London, in 8vo., under the superintendence of William Robertson; but
the greater part of this edition was consumed in the fire of London, 1666, so that copies are now
rarely to be met with.   Another edition, but in 12mo., was published in London in 1798, by the
Rev. Richard Caddick, B.A., for the benefit of the Jews.   It became, however, apparent that this
version, although entitled to some measure of commendation in consideration of the short time in which
it was executed, is unsuitable for general circulation.   The Jews were prejudiced against it on account
of its not being in pure biblical Hebrew: they objected to the frequent introduction of rabbinical
words, and it was proved to be full of grammatical inaccuracies and solecisms.   It had no sooner,
therefore, been brought into use, than a new translation became a desideratum.   In the meantime
Dr. Buchanan brought from India a translation of the New Testament, executed in Travancore,
among the Jews of that country, to whom allusion has been made above: the translator was a learned
rabbi.   The MS. was written in the small rabbinical or Jerusalem character; the style is elegant and
flowing, and tolerably faithful to the text.   Dr. Buchanan deposited the MS. in the University Library
at Cambridge; but it was previously transcribed by Mr. Yeates, of Cambridge, in the square Hebrew
character.   A copy was presented to the London Society for the Conversion of the Jews, and it was
at one time thought that it would greatly promote the object of the Society to print and circulate the
production of a Jew so evidently master of his own ancient language.
   After much deliberation, however, a more strictly literal translation was still deemed desirable;
and accordingly, in 1816, Mr. Frey and other learned Hebraists executed, under the patronage of the
Jews’ Society, a new version of the New Testament.   In 1818, nearly 3500 copies left the Society’s
press, and this edition was speedily followed by another issue.   The British and Foreign Bible Society
assisted materially in this work
, by purchasing at various times to a large amount.   After this version
had been in circulation some time, complaints from Hebrew readers in various parts of the world were

laid before the Jews’ Society Committee, concerning the rendering of certain passages.   To ensure
minute accuracy, the Committee determined on a thorough revision.   They consulted some of the
most eminent men in Europe, and Professor Gesenius was recommended to them as the first Hebrew
scholar of the age.   To him, therefore, they confided their version, requesting from him a critique
upon it, and suggestions as to alterations.   Gesenius went carefully through the work as far as the
Acts, and likewise through the book of Revelation, when his numerous engagements compelled him to
resign the task.   The work, with all Gesenius’s notes, was then transferred by the Jews’ Committee to
Dr. Neumann, a converted Jew, lecturer on Hebrew at the University of Breslau.   Dr. Neumann
commenced the work anew, and his revision, when completed, was acknowledged to bear the stamp of
"diligence, accuracy, zeal, and profound scholarship."   The limited funds of the Society, however,
prevented them from giving this valuable revision to the public, and it therefore remained some time
in MS.   At this very period the publisher of the Modern Polyglot Bible (Mr. Bagster) requiring a
Hebrew version of the New Testament for the Polyglot, applied to the Society for the Conversion of
the Jews for the critical emendations they had been amassing: the important notes of Gesenius and
Neumann were in consequence handed to him, and were incorporated in the new version executed for
the Polyglot by Mr. Greenfield, and published in 1831.
  In 1839 the Society issued an edition of
5000 copies of another version, executed by the Rev. Dr. M‘Caul, Rev. M. S. Alexander, Rev. J. C.
Reichardt, and Mr. S. Hoga.   This work, a specimen of which accompanies this memoir, was after-
wards stereotyped, and is the version now circulated by the Society."
- -The Bible of Every Land. (1860, Second Edition)   Samuel Bagster   [Info only]

HEBREW, AS A TRANSLATION.   GREENFIELD’S VERSION {William Greenfield}.--1860   S. Bagster   [Info only: Hebrew Character   n.d. John 1:1-14 unknown {col. #1}]

HEBREW, AS A TRANSLATION.   SOCIETY’S VERSION {executed for the Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews}.--1860   S. Bagster   [Info only: Hebrew Character   n.d. John 1:1-14 unknown {col. #2}]

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