The Berean Expositor
Volume 21 - Page 184 of 202
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by the Hebrew scribe to ensure accuracy, and other considerations of interest and
importance. This we hope to do in our next article.
The preservation of the Hebrew text.
pp. 125 - 130
We have now to consider the history of the Hebrew text of the O.T.
One of the reasons why there are no Hebrew manuscripts of a date earlier than the
eighth century is that the Jews took the precaution of destroying a scroll whenever it
showed signs of wear, lest it should lead to mistakes in reading. Dr. Davidson has given
a fairly clear account of the scrupulous care that the Hebrew copyist exercised in the
transcribing of the Sacred Text. When the reader has read the extract below, he will
cease to wonder how it is that the Hebrew manuscripts have remained so accurate up to
the present time. The precautions taken may seem trivial, or even superstitious, but they
were effective in hedging about the Holy Books:--
"A synagogue roll must be written on the skins of clean animals, prepared for the
particular use of the synagogue by a Jew. These must be fastened together with strings
taken from clean animals. Every skin must contain a certain number of columns, equal
through the entire codex. The length of each column must not extend over less than
forty-eight, or more than sixty lines; and the breadth must consists of thirty letters. The
whole copy must be first lined; and if three words be written in it without a line, it is
worthless. The ink should be black, neither red, green nor any other colour, and be
prepared according to a definite receipt. An authentic copy must be the exemplar, from
which the transcriber ought not in the least to deviate. No word or letter, not even a yod,
must be written from memory, the scribe not having looked at the codex before him
. . . . . Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene; between
every word the breadth of a narrow consonant; between every new parshiah, or section,
the breadth of nine consonants; between every book three lines. The fifth book of Moses
must terminate exactly with a line: but the rest need not do so. Besides this, the copyist
must sit in full Jewish dress, wash his whole body, not begin to write the name of God
with a pen not newly dipped in ink, and should a King address him he must take no
notice of him . . . . . The rolls on which these regulations are not observed are condemned
to be buried in the ground or burned; or they are banished to the schools to be used as
reading books" (Dr. Davidson).
"The Hebrew language, probably one of seven* branches of the old Semitic stock
which was probably the primeval speech of mankind, has been subject, like all others, to
a series of changes . . . . . In its earliest written state it exhibits, in the writings of Moses, a
perfection of structure which was never surpassed . . . . . The great crisis of the language
occurs at the time of the captivity in Babylon. There, as a spoken tongue, it became
deeply tinged with the Aramaic . . . . . But while these changes were taking place in the
vernacular speech, the Hebrew language itself still maintained its existence. It is a great
mistake to call Hebrew a dead language. It has never died. It never will die" (Etheridge).
[* -- Assyrian, Babylonian, Syriac, Phoenician, Hebrew, Arabic and Ethiopic.]