On the Textual Criticism of the Old Testament

“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

Mt. 5:18

“But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ [Ex. 3:6]  God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

Mt. 22:31-32

The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”

Ps. 12:6




Masoretic Text, Notes & Guides
Hebrew Vowel-Points



Order of Contents

Articles  8+
Books  6
History of  3

Development of Hebrew
Transmission & Preservation
Original Text: Fully Contained in the Masoretic Texts
Higher Criticism





Gerhard, Johann – Ch. 14, ‘On the Integrity of the Hebrew Text in the Old Testament’  in Theological Commonplaces, ‘On the Nature of Theology & Scripture’

Turretin, Francis – Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James Dennison Jr.  (1679–1685; P&R, 1992), Locus 2, ‘The Holy Scriptures: the Word of God’, pp. 106-23

10. ‘Have the original texts of the Old and New Testaments come down to us pure and uncorrupted?  We affirm against the papists.’

11. ‘Are the Hebrew version of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New the only authentic versions?  We affirm against the papists.’

12. ‘Is the present Hebrew text in things as well as words so authentic and inspired (theopneustos) in such a sense that all the extant versions are to be referred to it as a rule and, wherever they vary, to be corrected by it?  Or may we desert the reading it supplies, if judged less appropriate, and correct it either by a comparison of ancient translators or by suitable (stochastike) judgment and conjecture and follow another more suitable reading?  We affirm the former and deny the latter.’



Wilson, Robert Dick – ‘The Textual Criticism of the Old Testament’  in The Princeton Theological Review  (Jan, 1929), pp. 36-59

Wilson was a very accomplished professor of Old Testament at Old Princeton.  While generally conservative, his view of the perpetual preservation of the inspired autographs is deficient.

Harrison, R.K. – pt. 4, section 3, ‘Textual Criticism’  in Introduction to the Old Testament  (Eerdmans, 1969), pp. 244-59

Archer, Gleason – A Survey of Old Testament Introduction  rev. ed.  (Moody, 1974)

ch. 3, ‘The Hebrew Manuscripts & the Early Versions’, pp. 37-54

Archer discusses the Massoretic kethib (‘thing written’), that is the original word, versus the qere, ‘say this,’ in the margin, on pp. 63-64.  On p. 65, he discusses the fifteen dotted words which Jewish tradition held as doubtful, and the four cases of suspended letters, where Jewish tradition suspected the genuinness of such letters (though the example Archer provides manifests the opposite, that the suspended letter was an unwarranted addition).

“…a rigid application of Canon #1 [older being better] would automatically give preference to the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah as over against the MT in every case of disagreement.  But a careful study of the entire scroll indicates that the copyist followed far lower standards of scribal fidelity than those of the official recension on which the MT itself was based.” – p. 58 (see also on this topic footnote 1)

“They [the Masoretes] together with the Sopherim themselves gave the most diligent attention to accurate preservation of the Hebrew Scriptures that has ever been devoted to any ancient literature, secular or religious, in the history of human civilization.  So conscientious were they in their stewardship of the holy text that they did not even venture to make the most obvious corrections, so far as the consonants were concerned, but left their Vorlage [the version of the text they received] exactly as it was handed down to them.

Archer concludes quoting W. F. Albright: “We may rest assured that the consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible, though not in- fallible, has been preserved with an accuracy perhaps unparalleled in any other Near Eastern literature.” – p. 65

ch. 4, ‘Lower Criticism of the Old Testament’, pp. 54-66

Waltke, Bruce – ‘Aims of Old Testament Textual Criticism’  in Westminster Theological Journal 51.1 (Spring 1989), pp. 93-108



Phillips, Kim

‘Is the Earliest, Most Complete Hebrew Bible Going on Auction?’  (2023)  16 paragraphs  at Text & Canon Institute

‘The Extraordinary Hebrew Text behind Your English Bible’  (2022)  20 paragraphs

Longacre, Drew – ‘Four Ways Scholars Date Early Hebrew Bible Manuscripts’  (2022)  17 paragraphs

Ozolins, Kaspars – ‘The Ketef Hinnom Amulets’  (2021)  7 paragraphs  at Tyndale House

Ozolins is a professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.





Buxtorf, Johann – Masora.  A Collection out of the Learned Master Joannes Buxtorfius’s Commentarius Masorethicus  trans. Clement Barksdale  (London: Thurston, 1665)  64 pp.

Owen, John – Of the Integrity & Purity of the Hebrew & Greek Text of the Scripture, with Considerations on the Prolegomena & Appendix to the Late
[London] Biblia Polyglotta [of Brian Walton]  (Oxford: Robinson, 1659)  in Of the Divine Original, Authority, Self-Evidencing Light, & Power of the Scriptures. With an Answer to that Enquiry…  (Oxford: Hall, 1659), pp. 145-349


ch. 1:  1. Occasion of discourse. 2. Danger of supposing corruptions in Scripture’s originals. 3. Biblia Polyglotta‘s usefulness. 4. Grounds of ensuing animadversions. 5. Assertions proposed. 6. Weight and importance. 7. The Prolegomena‘s principles prejudicial to the truth contended for. 8. Those principles formerly asserted by others. Reasons of the opposition made to them.

ch. 2:  1. Purity of the originals. 2. The [Greek] of the Scripture lost. 3. That of Moses, how, and how long preserved; book found by Hilkiah. 4. Of the [Greek] of the New Testament. 5. First copies of the originals: scribes of those copies not [Greek].  What is ascribed to them. 9. Scribes’ incomparable care. 7. God’s Word in every tittle preserved entire in copies. 8. Heads of arguments. 9. What various lections are granted in the [copies of the] Testaments: manifested to have no importance. 10-13. Jews have not corrupted the text; most probable instances considered.

ch. 3:  Various lections in Greek New Testament copies.

ch. 4:  1. General premises. 2-3. The Prolegomena‘s prejudicial opinions to the originals’ authority enumerated. 4. Those premises’ just consequences. 5. Others engaged in these opinions: Capellus. 6. Origen, Cimenius, Arias Montanus editions of the Bible.

[sic] ch. 4:  1. Original of the [vowel] points. 2. Points’ importance to rightly understanding Scripture; testimony of Morinus, Junius, Johannes Isaac, Cevallerius, et al. 3. Papists’s use of the opinion of the points’ novelty. 4. Points’ importance further manifested. Extreme danger of making them arbitrary. 5. Evinced by instance. 6. No relief against that danger. 7. Points’ authors according to the Prolegomena. Morinus’s folly. 8. Supposed Jewish inventors of the points after the Temple’s destruction.  9. Two attempts made to restore their religion; of Barchoba. 10. Of R. Juda. 11. Rise of the Talmuds. 12. State of the Jews during and after the Talmuds. 13. Their rancour against Christ. 14. Who the Tiberian Massorites were, supposed authors of the punctuation. 15. That figment rejected. 16. Lightfoot’s testmiony. 17. Rise of the opinion of the points’ novelty. Of Elias Levita. Value of his Testimony.  18. Validity of the testimony of the Jewish rabbins. 19. Considerations of the points’ antiquity; from the punctuation’s nature itself. 20. From the Chaldee Paraphrase and Scripture’s integrity as now pointed.

ch. 5:  1. Arguments for the points’ novelty. 2. From the Samaritan letters. 3. Copy of the Law preserved in the Synagogues without points: 4. Testimony of Elias Levita and Aben Ezra considered. 5. Of the Mishna, Talmud and Gemara’s silence.  6. Of the Keri and Chethib [“say” and “written”]. 7. Number of the points. 8. Of the ancient translations, Greek, Chaldee, Syriac. 9. Of Jerome. 10. New argument of Morinus; Conclusion about the points’ necessity.

ch. 6:  1. Of the [Hebrew]. 2. Their nature and original.  Difference in the consonants.  3. Morinus’s vain charge on Arias Montanus. 4. Senses of both consistent. 5. Of the Great Congregation.  Spring and rise of various readings. 6. Prolegomena‘s judgment about them, and in the Appendix. 7. Rise assigned to them. 8. Considered. 9. Capellus’s opinion and its danger.

ch. 7:  1. Of gathering lections by translations. 2. Proper use and benefit of translations. Their new pretended use. 3. State of the originals on this new pretence. 4. Of the remedy for that state’s relief. 5. No copies of old differing in the least from those we now enjoy, from our Savior’s testimony. 6. No testimony new or old to that purpose. 7. Requisites unto good translations. 8. Of Biblia Polyglotta‘s translations: Arabic. 9. Syriac. 10. Samaritan Pentateuch. 11. Chaldee Paraphrase. 12. Vulgar Latin. 13. Seventy. 14. Of the New Testament’s translations: Persian. 15. Ethiopian. 16. Value of these translations. 17. Supposition of gross corruption in the originals. 18. Grotius’s various lections. 19. Of the Appendix.



Comings, Fowler – The Printed Hebrew Text of the Old Testament Vindicated.  An Answer to Mr. [Benjamin] Kennicott’s Dissertation…  wherein All the Texts Produced by that author in favor of corruptions are re-examined and vindicated, to which are prefixed some general observations on the insufficiency of those helps by which he endeavors to correct the Hebrew text  (Oxford: Fletcher, 1753)  130 pp.  no ToC or subsections  errata

On Kennicott (1718–1783).



Barr, James – Comparative Philology & the Text of the Old Testament  (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968)  354 pp.  ToC

Ellis R. Brotzman – Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction  (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994)  208 pp.  ToC  Foreward by Bruce Waltke

Brief and conservative.  See the review by Richard S. Hess (Denver Seminary).



Emanuel Tov – Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible  2nd rev. ed.  (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001)  456 pp.  ToC

Liberal.  “The most important comprehensive treatment in English. Emphasizes contribution of the Dead Sea Scrolls.” – M.D. Marlowe



On the History of Old Testament Textual Criticism

On the Post-Reformation


Muller, Richard – ‘The Debate over the Vowel Points & the Crisis in Orthodox Hermeneutics’  Pre  Journal of Medieval & Renaissance Studies 10.1 (1980), pp. 53-72 and in After Calvin: Studies in the Development of a Theological Tradition  Buy  (2003)

Fuller, Russell T. – ‘John Owen & the Traditional Protestant View of the Hebrew Old Testament’  SBJT 20.4 (2016), pp. 79-99

Hendel, Ron – ‘The Dream of a Perfect Text: Textual Criticism & Biblical Inerrancy in Early Modern Europe’  in eds. Baden, Najman & Tigchelaar, Sibyls, Scriptures & Scrolls: John Collins at Seventy, vol. 1  (Brill, 2017), pp. 517-41



On the Development of Ancient Hebrew



Ginsburg, Christian D. – Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible…  (1897; Ktav Publishing House, 1966), ch. 11, ‘The Massorah: its Rise & Development

1. ‘The Introduction of the Square Characters’, pp. 287-96
2. ‘The Division of the Consonants into Words’, pp. 296-97
3. ‘The Introduction of the Final Letters’, pp. 297-99
4. ‘The Introduction of the Matres Lectionis [Mothers of Reading]’, pp. 299-300



Cross, F.M. & D.N. Freedman – Early Hebrew Orthography: a Study of the Epigraphic Evidence  Pre  (American Oriental Series 36; New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1952)  ToC

Harrison, R.K. – pt. 4, section 1, ‘The History of Hebrew Writing’  in Introduction to the Old Testament  (Eerdmans, 1969), pp. 201-11

eds. Carol L. Meyers & M. O’Connor, The Word of the Lord will go Forth: Essays in Honor of David Noel Freedman in Celebration of his Sixtieth Birthday  (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1983)

O’Connor, M. – ‘Writing Systems, Native Speaker Analyses, & the Earliest Stages of Northwest Semitic Orthography’, pp. 439-65

Seger, Joe D. – ‘The Gezar Jar Signs: New Evidence of the Earliest Alphabet’, pp. 477-95

Matthews, K.A. – ‘The Background of the Paleo-Hebrew Texts & Qumran’, pp. 549-68

Waltke, Bruce K. & M. O’Connor – ch. 1, ‘Language & Text’  in An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax  (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), pp. 3-30

Young, Ian – Diversity in Pre-Exilic Hebrew  (Tubingen: Mohr, 1993)  265 pp.  ToC




‘Biblical Hebrew Orthography’
‘Paleo-Hebrew Alphabet’




Chomsky, William – Hebrew: The Eternal Language  (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1957)  340 pp.  ToC  Chart of paleo-Hebrew: p. 87.

Chomsky (1896–1977).

“It is designed primarily for the intelligent reader rather than for the scholar.  In the process of popularization much had to be diluted, ommitted or condensed.  In many areas the presentation is very sketchy, though, I hope, authentic and accurate.” – p. vii

ed. Kutscher, Edward Y. – A History of the Hebrew Language  (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, Hebrew University, 1982)  306 pp.  ToC

Naveh, Joseph – Early History of the Alphabet: an Introduction to West Semitic Epigraphy & Palaeography  (Hebrew University, Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1982)  240 pp.  ToC

Waldman, Nahum – The Recent Study of Hebrew: A Survey of the Literature with Selected Bibliography  (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1989)  464 pp.  ToC

“A good survey of literature on Hebrew.  Includes a bibliography of almost 200 pages.” – M. Marlowe



A Social History of Hebrew: its Origins through the Rabbinic Period  (Yale University Press, 2013)  275 pp.  ToC



‘Text of the Old Testament’  in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, ed. Samuel Macauley Jackson (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1908-1912)  at Bible-Researcher

“A change of an external kind was the development of a sacred writing, under the influence of the Aramaic character, the so-called ‘square’ or ‘Assyrian’ character.  Jewish tradition ascribes the introduction of the square character to Ezra, and calls it expressly an Aramaic writing that the Jews adopted in place of their Hebrew, which they left to the Samaritans.

A study of Assyrian, Persian, and Cilician seals and coins, of the Aramaic monuments from the third to the first century B.C., and of the Palmyrene inscriptions from the first to the third century A.D. has permitted the tracing of the development of the present Hebrew alphabet through a thousand years, back to the eighth century.  Ezra, therefore, may have influenced the use of the Aramaic alphabet, but the square character was not developed in his day, nor for centuries afterward; nor was the Aramaic alphabet then used outside of the narrow circle of the scribes.  For not only did the Samaritans retain the ancient script for their Pentateuch, but among the Jews also it must have been used for a long time, since it is found on coins down to the time of Bar Kokba.  Matt. v, 18 [which speak of a ‘yod’] proves that the Aramaic writing had become popular by the time that Gospel was written, since in the ancient Hebrew the letter ‘yodh’ was by no means the smallest.

Taking all in all, it may be assumed with certainty that the use of the new alphabet in Bible manuscripts of the last Pre-christian centuries was general, a result which is also confirmed by a careful examination of the Septuagint with reference to the manuscripts used by the translators (especially must this have been the case with the Tetragrammaton retained in many copies of the Greek translation, which was no doubt written in the Aramaic script, since it was read erroneously by the Christians).  Considering this development it may be assumed that the latest Old Testament writings were written, not in the ancient Hebrew but in Aramaic, by the authors themselves.

After the Aramaic writing was once in use among the Jews, it soon took the form in which we now have it. The descriptions which Jerome and the Talmud give of the different letters fully harmonise with the form which is still found in manuscripts.  The minute rules laid down by the Talmud as to calligraphy and orthography made further development of the square writing impossible, and therefore the writing of the manuscripts varies scarcely at all through centuries (excepting perhaps that the German and Polish Jews have the so-called Tam script, which is somewhat angular, whereas the Spanish Jews have the Welsh or more rounded script).”



On the Transmission & Preservation of the Old Testament Text

Be sure to see our pages on The Inspiration & Authority of the Bible and Innerancy, as well as, on the New Testament, The Majority Text.


In the Time of the 2nd Temple, or of Christ

Ginsburg, Christian D. – pp. 408-9  in Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible…  (1897; Ktav Publishing House, 1966)

Jerusalem Talmud, Taanith, 4:2[:12] is quoted showing that standard codices used to correct others were kept in the Temple, and the process involved preserving those with the majority reading, in contrast to the minority variant.


Early Church

Josephus, Contra Apion, I, viii

Eusebius, Praeparatio evangelica, VIII, vi, 7



Keil, C.F. – Manual of Historico-Critical Introduction to the Canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament  trans. from 2nd ed., George C.M. Douglas  (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1882), vol. 2, 3rd Section, ‘The Critical Treatment of the Old Testament’  ToC

‘History of the Criticism of the Unprinted Text’
‘Nature & Condition of the Text Before & at the Closing of the Canon’
‘How the Text took Firm Shape in the Age of the Sopherim [Scribes]’
‘The Samaritan-Alexandrian Text’
‘The Hebrew Text in the Talmudic Period’
‘The Text & its Treatment During the Masoretic Period’
‘The Masora’
‘Subsequent Fortunes of the Unprinted Text’
‘The Principle Editions of the Old Testament’
‘Critical Apparatus’
‘The Transactions Respecting the Integrity of the Masoretic Text’

Caution:  This treatment, with a few qualifications, is excellent.  Keil, while very conservative, and holding to the inerrancy of the autographs of Scripture, yet conceded there to be numerous, very minor errors in the manuscripts due to the mistakes of sincere copyists before the close of the canon in the first century and before the manuscripts attained their final form in the Middle Ages by the Jewish Massoretes, as we possess them today.  Yet, his survey of compiled researches and material are invaluable and are necessary for the advanced student.  His work is here for that reason.

Jesus said ‘Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled,’ (Mt. 5:18) the import of which necessarily entails that the smallest letter of the Scriptures shall not be lost through history.

Keil lists on pp. 297-98 the instances that he believes are slight errors in the Hebrew, involving differences of spelling, interchanged letters, supposed mistakes of memory, omissions, and a few other difficult readings.  The advanced student of Scripture should be aware of all of the passages that he cites.

However, many of these instances can be explained as differences of temporal and local colloquialisms in Hebrew spelling and grammar (which we would expect, demonstrating their authenticity).  In all cases there are usually multiple legitimate explanations for the difficulty (not to mention innumerable unknown factors that we may not be aware of) that fully resolve the issue.

The burden of proof is on the person seeking to show that there is an unresolved mistake in the text and that there cannot be a legitimate solution to it.  If there is a possible, sufficient explanation that explains the difficulty, then the burden of proof cannot be met (as Keil does not meet it), and the inerrancy of Scripture remains.  To see solutions to many of these difficulties, see any evangelical book on difficulties in the Bible, or any advanced evangelical commentary on that book of Scripture.

The good news is that these examples that Keil lists are nearly all of the proposed ‘mistakes’ that a sincere person may inquire about in the Old Testament relating to manuscript transmission.  All of the instances can be fully met, and therefore your faith in God’s Word as inerrant should be greatly confirmed.

God’s promise of the providential preservation of Scripture through all time, while promising that every jot of Scripture is preserved extant by the Church ‘in all generations’ (W.C.F. 1.8), does not, though, promise the continued inerrency of fallible copyists through all generations.  Hence, it is expected that there will be very infrequent and insignificant variant readings, of which, the original reading is one of them.  Thus the student should not be surprised that there are some infrequent alternate readings given in the Massoretic texts, and others in non-Massoretic texts.

All this being said, Keil’s survey and argumentation are some of the best that history has handed down to us on the sterling reliability of the transmission of the Old Testament text into our hands.

Though Keil slightly differs from them, he lists on p. 329 about a dozen of ‘the principal defenders of the [inerrancy of the] Hebrew’ from the Reformation and Puritan era that ‘had the truth upon their side…’;  ‘while they conceded in general that there were smaller faults in the Hebrew manuscripts [as we have them through the Massoretes] and editions of the Bible; still they were not willing in any concrete case to acknowledge any actual error whatsoever, however insignificant…’  Their works are in Latin and many of them can be found at PRDL.

May the Lord give you discernment, and in you studying to show yourself approved, may your faith be greatly strengthened in the perfection of the God-breathed and God-preserved Scriptures.  Remember that Jesus prefaced Mt. 5:18, with ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you…’.  That is, for the sake of special emphasis, that we would take extra heed and be absolutely certain about it: ‘Truly, truly, I say unto you…  one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law.’  ‘Let God be true, but every man a liar.’ (Rom. 3:4)



Skilton, John H. – ‘The Transmission of the Hebrew Text’  from ‘The Transmission of the Scriptures’  in eds. N.B. Stonehouse & Paul Woolley, The Infallible Word: A Symposium by the Members of the Faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary, rev. ed.  (Philadelphia: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1967)  at Bible-Researcher

“The Masoretes…  mentioned even what they regarded as unusual accents, vowel points, and spelling.  They recorded a number of variant readings — on the average of about one to a page of a printed Hebrew Old Testament— and they made reference to eighteen corrections attributed to the scribes before them…  Their high regard for the text that had come down to them is evidenced by their placing in the margin readings which they believed to be correct and leaving the text itself unaltered…

The view of P. de Lagarde that after A.D. 130 all manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible were closely fashioned after one archetype which had been decided on not long before that date has not been accepted by all; but it is at least the case that a type of text basically that of the Masoretes existed around A.D. 100 and that this text subsequently overcame whatever competitors it had….

Dr. [William H.] Green calls attention to the fact that Origen and Jerome place on translators or transcribers of the Septuagint the responsibility for the variations of the Septuagint from the Hebrew text known to them and do not entertain any belief that the Hebrew text had been altered.  Pfeiffer expresses the opinion that Origen was misled by reason of a virtual fixation of the Hebrew text which had occurred [after the Septuagint but] before his time and by reason of the notable agreement among the available Hebrew manuscripts.  But it is nevertheless important to observe that neither Origen nor Jerome nor any other early writer evidences any suspicion that a real revision or a fixation of the Hebrew text had occurred after the time of the Septuagint.

Dr. Green does not deny the possibility that the Septuagint may have been made from a Hebrew text considerably, if not substantially, different from the text in use in Origen’s day.  He thinks it quite possible that there may have been some inferior manuscripts of the Old Testament in use, especially among Jews outside of Palestine; but he holds that, even if this were the case, it would not follow that no authoritative text then existed and that there were no standard copies from which the traditional text has descended.  He states a truth quite important in this connection that ‘reverence for the Scriptures and regard for the purity of the sacred text did not first originate after the fall of Jerusalem.’

…the counting of the letters, words, verses, and sections in all the books, the noting of the location of the middle letters and words of every book, and the marking of them at times by a letter of abnormal size.  He [William Green] remarks that the Talmud regards all this as old and as performed by the early scribes.”

“Green says []…  ‘…A freedom might be used in rendering the Scriptures into another language which would not be thought of in transcribing the original.  A measure of discretion must be allowed in a translator for which a copyist has no occasion, and which would not be permissible in him. And in this first attempt at making a work of such magnitude intelligible to those of a different tongue, no such rigorous rendering could be expected as would be demanded from a modern translator.  The sacredness and authority of the original would not attach to an uninspired version.  Accordingly, accurate precision was not aimed at so much as conveying the general sense, and in this the translators allowed themselves a large measure of liberty.  When to this is added an imperfect knowledge of Hebrew, conjectural renderings or paraphrases of words and passages not understood, slips arising from want of care and the like, it is easy to understand how the general correctness of the Septuagint might consist with very considerable deviations from the original text.’

See Edward J. Young in Wilson, Scientific Investigation [1959, Appendix], pp. 180f. on the willingness of the Alexandrian Jews and the Samaritans, who did not adhere to a strict Judaism, to introduce minor modifications in the text.” – footnote 22

Harrison, R.K. – pt. 4, section 2, ‘The Old Testament Text’  in Introduction to the Old Testament  (Eerdmans, 1969), pp. 211-43

Waltke, Bruce K. & M. O’Connor – ‘History of the Biblical Text’ & ‘Masoretic Text’  in ch. 1, ‘Language & Text’  in An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax  (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), pp. 15-30



Meade, John D. & Peter J. Gurry – ch. 2, ‘Copying the Old Testament’  in Scribes & Scripture: the Amazing Story of how we got the Bible  (Crossway, 2022)




Qumran & the History of the Biblical Text  (Harvard University Press, 1975)  425 pp.  ToC




That the Original Text is Fully Contained & Preserved in the Masoretic Texts & Apparatuses


John Owen

Of the Divine Original, with the Authority, Self-Evidencing Power & Light of the Holy Scriptures, ch. 1  in Of the Divine Original, Authority, Self-Evidencing Light & Power of the Scriptures. With an Answer to that Enquiry…  (Oxford: Hall, 1659), pp. 13-14

“Section 14.  It is no doubt but that in the copies we now enjoy of the Old Testament there are some diverse readings, or various lections…  the various lections of Ben-Asher or Rabbi Aaron the son of Rabbi Moses of the tribe of Asher, and Ben Nepthali, or R: Moses the son of David of the tribe of Nepthali; of the East and Western Jews, which we have collected at the end of the great Bible with the Masora, evince it.

But yet we affirm that the whole Word of God, in every letter and tittle, as given from Him by inspiration, is preserved without corruption.  Where there is any variety it is always in things of less, indeed of no importance.  God by his providence preserving the whole entire, suffered this lesser variety to fall out, in or among the copies we have, for the quickening and exercising of our diligence in our search into his Word.”


Latin Books

Principle Defenders

Buxtorf, Sr., Johann – Tiberias, or a Threefold Masoretic Commentary, Historical, Didactic, Critical, written for the Illustration of the Biblical Work of Basil, in which are propounded, First, the History of the Masorah of Tiberias…  Second, a Key is given for the Masorah…  Third, Innumerable corrections of errors for the whole Masorah…  rev. Johann Buxtorf, Jr.  (Basil: Decker, 1665)  ToC

Buxtorf, Sr. (1564-1629)

On the Study of the Sacred Language
pt. 1, Historical Commentary on the Masorah

1. Of the name Masorah  1
2. What is the Masorah  2
3. Of the efficient cause, or of the authors of the Massorah  2
4. Of the city of Tiberias  4
5. Of the school and wisemen of Tiberias  5
6. Of the translation of the scholars from Judea in Babylon  6
7. Of the last wisemen of Tiberias  7
8. Whether the Masorah was written after the Talmud?  8
9. Whether the Masoretes were inventors of the vocal points and accents?  12
.      1. Of the inconstant or unusual punctuation or
.             notation of the voacables  12
.      2. Of the notation of the points: Dagesh & Mappiq
.             [both dots in the middle of letters] 15
.      3. Of the notation of the accents  16
10. Of the power of the Great Synagogue, presided by Ezra  22
11. Men of the Great Synagogue were the first authors of the Masorah  24
12. Of the material of the Masorah, and first of the judgment about Biblical verses  29
13. Of the judgment of the Masoretes about pronunciations  31
14. On the judgment about letters, and first of the large ones  34
15. Of the judgment about the miniscule letters  37
16. Of the inverted ‘nun’ letter and the four suspended [letters]  38
17. Of the pointed letters  41
18. Of the judgment about the number of the letters  42
19. Of the form of the Masorah  45
20. Of the end of the Masorah  47

pt. 2, The Key of the Masorah

1. Key of the Masorah  51
2. Of the shortened sounds  53
3. Of the Masoretic abbreviations  53
4. Of the peculiar Masoretic pronunciations, and first of the terms…  55
5. Of the Hebrew terms…  56
6. Of the Hebrew terms…  58
7. Of the Hebrew terms…  59
8. Of the Hebrew terms…  60
9. Of the Hebrew terms…  61
10. Of the Hebrew terms…  64
11. Of the Hebrew designations…  66
12. Of the Hebrew terms…  67
13. Interpretation of the small Masorah [in the margin] on Gen. 1  69
14. Interpretation of the large Masorah [on the top and bottom of the page] on Gen. 1  71
15. Of the large Masorah in the beginning of the single books  72
16. Of the various Masoretic symbols  73

pt. 3, Critical Commentary on the Masorah, or Corrections to the Masorah

In Genesis  77
In Exodus  79
In Leviticus  81
In Numbers  82
In Deuteronomy  84
In Joshua  85
In Judges  86
In 1 Samuel  87
In 2 Samuel  88
In 1 Kings  89
In 2 Kings  89
In Isaiah  90
In Jeremiah 92
In Ezekiel  93
In Hosea  95
In Joel  95
In Amos  95
In Obadiah  96
In Jonah  96
In Micah  96
In Nahum  96
In Habakkuk  96
In Zephaniah  96
In Haggai  96
In Zechariah  96
In Malachi  97
In Psalms  97
In Proverbs  99
In Job  99
In Songs  100
In Ruth  100
In Lamentations  100
In Ecclesiastes  101
In Esther  101
In Daniel  101
In Ezra  101
In Nehemiah  102
In 1 Chronicles  102
In 2 Chronicles  102
In the Final Large Masorah  103-8

Buxtorf, Jr., Johann – Anticritica: or a Vindication of the Truth of the Hebrew, against the Criticism, called Sacred, of Ludwig Cappell, & his Defense, in which the Authority, Integrity & Purity of the Most Holy Edition of the Hebrew Books are Vindicated from his Tricks & Sophisms, with many places vindicated from heedless censures & annotations of various readings, while they are explicated & illustrated  (Basel: Heirs of King Ludwig, 1653)  1,026 pp.  ToC  Indices: Subject, Scripture

Boot, Arnold

Arnoldi Bootii vindiciae, seu, Apodixis apologetica, pro Hebraica veritate: contra duos nouissimos & insensissimos eius hostes, Iohannem Morinvm et Lvdovicvm Capellvm [A Vindication of Arnold Boot, or an Apologetic Defense for Hebrew Truth, contra Two Most New & Senseless of its Enemies, John Morinus & Ludwig Capell]  Ref  (Pullen, 1653)  240 pp.

A Letter…  on the Certainty & Authenticity of the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament, against the Criticism of Ludwig Capell to the most Reverend James Ussher  (Paris: Pepingu, 1650)  86 pp.  ToC  At the end is a response from Ussher to Boot.

Wasmuth, Matthew – 3. A Vindication of the Sacred, Hebrew Scripture, in which is solidly defended, 1. the original divine authenticity of the letters of the sacred Hebrew text, even their vocalizations and accents, 2. the ministerial accent sense, most necessary unto the genuine interpretation of the sacred text, 3. the whole and most absolute integrity of the sacred Hebrew Codex, against Cappell, Walton & Isaac Vossius  352 pp.  separately paginated  in Hebrewism, its Convenience & Integrity Restored…  2nd. ed. Henry Opitius  (Leipzig & Frankfurt: Meyer, 1693)  no ToC  Addenda

Loescher, Val. Ern. – bk. 3, ‘The Form of the Hebrew Language Explicated’  ToC  in On the Causes of the Hebrew Language  (Frankfurt & Leipzig: Heirs of John Grossius, 1706)  See especially ch. 1, ‘Of the Exterior Form, or of the Masoretic & Critical Hebrew’, pp. 437-47

Carpzov, Johann Gottlob – Sacred Criticism of the Old Testament Solicited, partly: 1. about the original text, 2. about the versions, 3. about the pseudo criticism of William Whiston  (1728)  ToC

Prolegomena, ‘Of presuppositions and skill for the apparatus’, pp. 13-34
1. ‘Of the divine origin of the Hebrew codex’, pp. 36-60
2. ‘Of the authenticity and authority of the Hebrew codex’, pp. 61-89
3. ‘Of the purity and integrity of the Hebrew codex’, pp. 90-132


Further Representatives

Glassius, Salomo – Philol. Sacr., bk. 1, Tract on the Purity of the Hebrew Text in the Old Testament

Calov, Abraham – Critici S., tract 2, p. 396 ff.

Hulsius, Ant. – The Absolute Authenticity of the Sacred Hebrew Text Vindicated  (1662)

Hulsius (d. 1685) was a professor at Leiden.

Leusden, Johann – Hebrew Philology, dissertation 23



On the Value of the Septuagint for the Rendering of the Original Text


Was the Septuagint Translated from Alternate Hebrew Readings?


Wilson, Robert Dick – V. ‘The Septuagint Version’  in ‘The Textual Criticism of the Old Testament’  in The Princeton Theological Review  (Jan, 1929), pp. 49-59

Wilson was a very accomplished professor of Old Testament at Old Princeton.  While generally conservative, his view of the perpetual preservation of the inspired autographs is deficient.

Wilson argues in some length and detail that most of the alternate readings of the Septuagint can be explained as different interpretations of the same Hebrew text, or one that he posits was fundamental to both the Masoretic text and the Septuagint.  Not every hypothesis of his is recommended, but he provides a lot of helpful information and was seeking to defend, word for word, the substantial reliability of our Hebrew text.




Letter 57, ‘To Pammachius on the Best Method of Translating’

“It would be tedious now to enumerate, what great additions and omissions the Septuagint has made, and all the passages which in church-copies are marked with daggers and asterisks.

The Jews generally laugh when they hear our version of this passage of Isaiah, ‘Blessed is he that has seed in Zion and servants in Jerusalem.’  In Amos also after a description of self-indulgence Amos 6:4-6 there come these words: ‘They have thought of these things as halting and not likely to fly,’ a very rhetorical sentence quite worthy of Tully.  But how shall we deal with the Hebrew originals in which these passages and others like them are omitted, passages so numerous that to reproduce them all would require books without number?

The number of the omissions is shown alike by the asterisks mentioned above and by my own version when compared by a careful reader with the old translation.  Yet the Septuagint has rightly kept its place in the churches, either because it is the first of all the versions in time, made before the coming of Christ, or else because it has been used by the apostles (only however in places where it does not disagree with the Hebrew).”



City of God, bk. 15, ch. 11

“From this discrepancy between the Hebrew [Jews’] books [i.e. the Septuagint] and our own arises the well-known question as to the age of Methuselah; for it is computed that he lived for fourteen years after the deluge, though Scripture relates that of all who were then upon the earth only the eight souls in the ark escaped destruction by the flood, and of these Methuselah was not one…

…that they may not cast a slight on the trustworthiness of versions which the Church has received into a position of high authority, and because they believe that the Jewish manuscripts rather than our own are in error.  For they do not admit that this is a mistake of the [Septuagint] translators, but maintain that there is a falsified statement in the original, from which, through the Greek, the Scripture has been translated into our own tongue.

They say that it is not credible that the seventy translators, who simultaneously and unanimously produced one rendering, could have erred, or, in a case in which no interest of theirs was involved, could have falsified their translation; but that the Jews, envying us our translation of their Law and Prophets, have made alterations in their texts so as to undermine the authority of ours.  This opinion or suspicion let each man adopt according to his own judgment.  Certain it is that Methuselah did not survive the flood, but died in the very year it occurred, if the numbers given in the Hebrew manuscripts are true.

My own opinion regarding the seventy translators I will, with God’s help, state more carefully in its own place, when I have come down (following the order which this work requires) to that period in which their translation was executed.”


Theodore Beza

Job Expounded…  (University of Cambrdige, John Legatt, 1589), on Job 1:5

“The Greek interpreter has translated this place more unfitly, using for ‘burnt offerings’, the general word ‘sacrifice’: somewhat also he leaves out, as namely that particle ‘all’ and he adds many things of his own; all which Jerome has rightly amended according to the truth of the Hebrew text.

Now seeing the Greek translations are in diverse places faulty, and seeing that in all things we must follow the Hebrew, hereafter we will not much trouble ourselves about the Greek, unless peradventure we shall find anything worth the observation.

God be thanked that in these days he has restored the knowledge of the Hebrew tongue, through ignorance whereof those that are unskillful will hardly believe how, often and how greatly the most learned Greek interpreters have erred in the true exposition of all the sacred books of the Old Testament, and especially of this; as also very many of the Latin interpreters, after Jerome’s emendations, but I return to the matter.

For these things I touch in a manner against my will, which nevertheless I would have diligently to be marked of those, who bend themselves to the study of divinity, seeing it has pleased God in this age to make the Hebrew tongue so familiar unto us, lest with the Fathers in many places they err from the true and natural sense of the Scriptures; yet we must always that reverence which is due to men of such learning and antiquity.”



Ussher, James – The Life of the Most Reverend Father in God, James Usher…  with a Collection of Three Hundred Letters…  ed. Richard Parr  (London: 1686)

Letter 267, From Usher to Ludovicus Capellus, pp. 569-79
Letter 281, From Usher to Ludovicus Capellus, p. 596



Contra the Higher Criticism of the Old Testament


Hague, Dyson – ‘The Higher Criticism’  (n.p., n.d.)  36 pp.  This tract is bound with three others.

This is a very good introduction critiquing the Higher Criticism.

Canon Hague (1857–1935) was an evanglical, an Anglican vicar and a professor of liturgics at Wycliffe College, Toronto, Ontario.  While learned, he refers to himself as “a simple believer in the Bible”.  He contributed this essay, and others, to ed. R. Torrey, The Fundamentals.



Hague, Dyson – ‘Appendix’  in ‘The Higher Criticism’  (n.p., n.d.), pp. 34-36  This tract is bound with three others.

Canon Hague (1857–1935) was an evanglical, an Anglican vicar and a professor of liturgics at Wycliffe College, Toronto, Ontario.  While learned, he refers to himself as “a simple believer in the Bible”.  He contributed to ed. R. Torrey, The Fundamentals.




“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.  Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”

Prov. 30:5-6

“…let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.”

Rom. 3:4

“…the Scripture cannot be broken;”

Jn. 10:35




Related Pages

Old Testament Background, Survey, Authenticity & Introduction

Hebrew Dictionaries & Parsing Guides of the Bible & Rabbinic Literature