The Masoretic Text, Notes & Guides & Background to It


Order of Contents

.     Guides  6
.     Guide  1
Masoretes’ Work  2



The Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia

ed. Kittel, Rudolf – Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia  (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1984)  Foreward

See Wikipedia.  This is so named because it is published by the (liberal) German Bible Society in Stuttgart.  It is the fourth edition of their printed Hebrew Bible, in distinction from the fifth edition below.

The volume is an edition of the Masoretic text in the Leningrad Codex, but the Masoretic margin notes “have been heavily edited to make them more consistent and easier to understand.” (Wikipedia).  The volume does not include the greater Masoretic notes at the top and bottom of the pages.

The readings in the apparatus at the very bottom of the page “record possible corrections to the Hebrew text.  Many are based on the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Dead Sea Scrolls and on early Bible translations (“versions”) such as the Septuagint, Vulgate and Peshitta. Others are conjectural emendations.” (Wikipedia)  These readings are not recommended.



ed. Weil, Gerard – Massorah Gedolah: Juxta Codicem Leningradensem  2nd. ed.  (Gregorian & Biblical Press; 2001)  596 pp.

This includes the greater Masoretic notes that are on the top and bottom of the manuscript pages, which BHS leaves out.  Biblia Hebraica Quinta (below) includes the greater notes in English in its volumes.



Textual Guides to the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia



Yeivin, Israel – Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah  in SBL Masoretic StudiesRef  (Scholars Press, 1980)

This is the most detailed.

Scott, William R. – A Simplified Guide to BHS: Critical Apparatus, Masora, Accents, Unusual Letters & Other Markings  3rd ed.  (Berkeley, California: Bibal Press, 1995)  90 pp.  ToC

Wonneberger, Reinhard – Understanding BHS: A Manual for the Users of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia  trans. Dwight R. Daniels  in Subsidia Biblica, vol. 8.  2nd rev. ed.  (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1990)  104 pp.  ToC

This is more detailed than Scott above.  Wonneberger focuses on explaining and evaluating the apparatus in BHS and the theory that underlies it.

Kelley, Page H., Daniel S. Mynatt & Timothy G. Crawford – The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: Introduction & Annotated Glossary  (Eerdmans, 1998)  219 pp.  ToC


On the Sub Loco Notes

Mynatt, Daniel S. – The Sub Loco Notes in the Torah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia  (Bibal, 1994)

Dost, Christopher – The Sub-Loco Notes in the Torah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia  (Gorgias, 2016)



The Biblia Hebraica Quinta



Minor Prophets

This is an exact reproduction of the Masoretic Legningrad codex, though the apparatus at the very bottom gives alternate readings from various ancient versions (translations), as the BHS before it.

See Wikipedia.  The above volumes are all that are online at the moment, though many more volumes of it have been published.

The Hebrew text starts on the right side of the volume, though the introduction, notes and commentary in English start on the left side of the volume.



An Introductory Guide to the Textual Apparatus of the Biblia Hebraica Quinta


Marcus, David – ‘Introduction to the Masorah | The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ)’  at Ancient Jew Review

Marcus is a professor of Bible and Masorah at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

“Each major manuscript has its own masorah, and its own sets of masoretic notes.  One of the most important of these manuscripts that the Masoretes annotated was the Leningrad Codex, dated to 1008 C.E., that was rediscovered in the middle of the 19th century, and subsequently made the basis of the most widely used critical Hebrew Bible today…

In the first place, the text of the Masorah in BHQ is presented diplomatically, that is exactly the way it is [in Hebrew] in the underlying Leningrad manuscript.  So, unlike Gérard Weil’s edited version in BHS, where Masorah notes were added, supplemented, and rearranged, the Masorah notes in BHQ are a faithful representation of the notes in the manuscript…  Whatever is written in the manuscript is replicated in BHQ.

Secondly, BHQ includes both the Masorah magna (Mm) notes [at the top and bottom of the manuscript pages] as well as the Masorah parva (Mp) [margin] notes [both in Hebrew].  BHS only includes the Mp notes on its pages…

…the fourth major difference between BHS and BHQ is that BHQ provides a similar section of commentary for the Masorah magna entitled “Notes on the Masorah magna” where every Mm note is translated, all biblical references are provided, and where questions or problems in the notes are discussed.”



Background to the Masorete’s Work & Notes


Elias Levita – The Massoreth Ha-Massoreth of Elias Levita: being an Exposition of the Massoretic Notes on the Hebrew Bible, or the Ancient Critical apparatus of the Old Testament in Hebrew  (d. 1549; London: Longmans, Green, 1867)  Translated, and with an 84 page introduction, by Christian D. Ginsburg.

Masoreth means ‘to bind’ or ‘fix’, that is, it was the Jewish commentary on the scribal reproduction of the Hebrew scriptures during the first millennium of the Christian era, meant to ‘fix’ and preserve the Hebrew text indefinitely.  For a helpful summary of the Masorah and its significance, see the reliable McClintock & Strong’s Cyclopedia.

Levita’s title connotates something to the effect of ‘a binding commentary on the Masorah’, that is, to shore up and confirm the validity and usefulness of the Masorah.  Ginsburg was a leading, Christian Hebraicist of the 1800’s.  In the very valuable introduction he says:

“The work now submitted to the public in the original Hebrew, with an English translation, is an explanation of the origin and import of the Massorah.  Those who are acquainted with the fact that our Hebrew Bibles abound with marginal and textual glosses…  and who know that there is no guide in our [English] language to these enigmatical notes, will welcome this Treatise, written first, and almost the only, Massoretic exposition.”



Ginsburg, Christian D. – Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible…  with a Prolegomenon by Harry M. Orlinsky  (1897; Ktav Publishing House, 1966)  1090 pp.  ToC

Ginsburg was a Polish-born, British Bible scholar and a student of the Masoretic tradition in Judaism.  He was born to a Jewish family in Warsaw but converted to Christianity at the age of 15.

This is the standard, comprehensive, and fullest, analysis of the Masoretic notes.




Related Pages

On the Textual Criticism of the Old Testament

Hebrew Dictionaries & Parsing Guides of the Bible & Rabbinic Literature

Biblical & Rabbinic Hebrew Grammars

On the History & Possible Inerrancy of the Hebrew Vowel-Points