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The Jewish encyclopedia : a descriptive record of the history, religion, literature, and customs of the Jewish people from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 8) online

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rounded by notes. The latter are called the Initial
Masorah. ; the notes on the side margins or between
the columns are called the Small or Inner Maso-
rah ; and those on the lower and upper margins,
the Large or Outer Masorah. The name " Large
Masorah " is applied sometimes to the lexically ar-
ranged notes at the end of the printed Bible, usu-
ally called the Final Masorah, in Hebrew litera-
ture Masoretic Concordance (miDOH riDiyo, or

The Small Masorah consists of brief notes with
reference to marginal readings, to statistics showing
the number of times a particular form is found in
Scripture, to full and defective spelling, and to ab-
normally written letters. The Large Masorah is
more copious in its notes. The Final Masorah com-
prises all the longer rubrics for which space could
not be found in the margin of the text, and is ar-
ranged alphabetically in the form of a concordance.
The quantity of notes the marginal Masorali con-
tains is conditioned by the amount of vacant space
on each page. In the manuscripts it varies also
with the rate at which the copyist was paid and the
fanciful shape he gave to his gloss.

The question as to which of the above forms is the
oldest can not h3 decided from the data now acces-
sible. On the one hand, it is known that marginal
notes were used in the beginning of the second cen-
tury of the common era ; on the other, there is every
reason to assume the existence of Masoretic baraitas
which could not have been much later. The Small
JMasorali is in any case not an abbreviation of the
Large IVIasorah. Like the latter, it occurs also ar-
ranged in alphabetical order.

From the statements in Talmudic literature to the

effect that there was deposited in the court of the

Temple a standard copy of the Bible

Origin. for the benefit of copyists, and that
there were paid correctors of Biblical
books among the officers of the Temple (Ket. 106a);
from the fact tliat such a copy is mentioned in the
Aristeas Letter (§ 30 ; comp. Blau, " Studien zum Alt-
hebr. Buchwesen," p. 100); from the statements of
Philo (preamble to his "Analysis of the Political
Constitution of the Jews ") and of Josephus (" Contra
Ap." i. 8) that the text of Scripture had never been




altered; finall}', from the fact that there seem to
have been no differences of readings between Phar-
isees and Sadducees, it may be concluded tliat the
Scriptural text, at least as much as then belonged
to the canon, was already fixed, at the latest, about
200 B.C. and perhaps a century earlier.

While the text was thus early fixed, it took cen-
turies to produce a tolerable uniformity among all
the circulating copies. This is by no means aston-
ishing when one considers that the standard copy
deposited at the Temple could be of benefit only to
those who were sufficiently near Jerusalem to make
use of it. This was not the case with those living in
the Diaspora. When to this is added the carelessness
of some copyists, it will not seem strange that as
late as the second century of the common era schol-
ars found it necessary to warn against incorrect
copies; and the conclusions usually drawn from dif-
ferences in the late books between the Hebrew text
and the Greek version lose much of their force.

In classical antiquity copyists were paid for their
work according to the number of stichs. As the
prose books of the Bible were hardly ever written in
stichs, the copyists, in order to estimate the amount
of work, had to count the letters. Hence developed
in the course of time the Numerical Masorah,
which counts and groups together the various ele-
ments and phenomena of the text. Thus t^HK'^l
(Lev. viii. 23) forms the half of the number of verses
in the Pentateuch; all the names of Divinity men-
tioned in connection with Abraham are holy except
'JTN (Gen. xviii. 3); ten pas.sages in the Pentateuch
are dotted; three times the Pentateuch has the spell-
ing X^ where the reading is I7. The collation of
manuscripts and the noting of their differences fur-
nished material for the Text-Critical Masorah.
The close relation which existed in earlier times (from
tlie Soferim to the Amoraim inclusive) between the
teacher of tradition and the Masorite, both frequently
beins; united in one person, accounts for the Exeget-
ical Masorah. Finally, the invention and introduc-
tion of a graphic system of vocalization and accen-
tuation gave rise to the Grammatical Masorah.

The old Hebrew text was, in all piobability, writ-
ten in continuous script, without any breaks. The
division into words, books, sections, paragraphs,
verses, and clauses (probably in the chronological
order here enumerated); the fixing of the orthog-
raphy, pronunciation, and cantillation; the intro-
duction or final adoption of the square
Fixation of characters with the five final letters

the Text. (comp. Numuktis and Numkuals) ;
some textual changes to guard against
blasphemy and the like; the enumeration of letters,
words, verses, etc., and the substitution of some
words for others in public reading, belong to the
earliest labors of the Masorites. Since no additions
were allowed to be made to the official text of the
Bible, the early Ma.sorites adopted other expedients:
e.g., they jnarked tiie various divisions by spacing,
and gave indications of Imlakic and hapgadir teach-
ings by full or defective spelling, abnormal forms
of letters, dots, and other signs. Marginal notes
were permitted only in private copies, and the first
mention of such notes is found in the case of R.
MeYr (c. 100-150). The traditionally fixed text, espe-

cially with a view to its orthography, was called
miDD; the traditional pronunciation, fc^ipo; the
division into sense-clauses, which underlies the
properrecitation or cantillation, D^CyiS pID^Qor yiDn.

Tannaitic sources mention several passages of

Scripture in which the conclusion is inevitable

that the ancient reading must have differed from

that of the present text. The explanation of

this phenomenon is given in the ex-

Tikkune pression niflSn nJ3 ("Scripture has

Soferim. used euphemistic language," i.e., to
avoid anthropomorphism and anthro-
popathism). R. Simon b. Pazzi, an amora of the third
century, calls these readings "emendations of the
Scribes" ("tikkune Soferim"; Gen. R. xlix. 7), as-
suming that the Scribes actually made the changes.
This view was adopted by tlie later Midrash and by
the majority of ]\Iasorites. In Masoretic works these
changes are ascribed to Ezra; to Ezra and Nehe-
miah ; to Ezra and the Soferim ; or to Ezra, Nehe-
miah, Zechariah, Haggai, and Baruch. All these
ascriptions mean one and the same thing: that the
changes were made by the Men of the Great Syn-
agogue (comp. Tan., Beshallah, on xv. 7).- Ben
Ashcr remarks that the proper expression would have
been D^ISID '1^3 (" Dikduke ha-Te'amim," § 57), but,
in the sense of the oldest sources, the only proper ex-
pression would have been D^nwan ""US, a term which
in an old variant has really been preserved (comp.
Blau, "Masoretische Untersuchungen," p. 50).

The term "tikkun Soferim" has been understood
by different scholars in various ways. Some re-
gard it as a viva voce correction or modification
of Biblical language authorized by the Soferim for
homiletical purposes; i.e., the Scribes interpret a
supposed euphemism, and their interpretation is
called "tikkun Soferim." Others take it to mean a
mental change made by the original writers or re-
dactors of Scripture; i.e., the latter shrank from
putting in writing a thought which some of the
readers might expect them to express. Considering
the various interpretations and the fact that neither
the number nor the identity of the passages in ques-
tion is definite (Mekilta counts 11, Sifre 7, Tanhuma
13, Masorah 15 or 18), S. Sachs (in " Kerem Hemed,"
ix. 57, note) and, without mentioning him, Barnes
("Journal of Theological Studies," i. 387-414) come
to the conclusion that the tikkim tradition belongs
rather to the Midrash than to the Masorah; i.e., its
true bearing is on exegesis, not on textual criticism.
The tikkime Soferim are interpretations, not read-
ings. The tikkun tradition is probably connected
with the tradition which ascribes the redaction of
several books of Scripture to the Great Synagogue.

There are, however, phenomena in the Biblical
text which force one to assume that at some time
textual corrections had been made. These correc-
tions may be classified under the following heads:

(1) Removal of unseemly expressions used in refer-
ence to God; e.f)., the substitution of 1-|2(" to bless")
for ^^p ("to curse") in certain passages.

(2) Safeguarding of the Telragrammaton ; e.g.,
substituticm of " Elohim " for " Ynwii " in some pas-
sages. Under this head some have coimted such
phenomena as the variants of the divine names in
theophorous proper names; e.g., "Joahaz" for "Je-


6£ - ^



'^••V '*:aer^ V^r' '''J'-t^

^■-,» v*-oi

■noA'O'^ ^-^ -^^ A*"* -"ttw* -n'-p^ »'''<^W-»'^y V-ta-Xji'^wop^s^^^-TN^-^

,,^y.-..^f 5n,-

"^J?^"^ ' ^^:


^ «p*n





(In the British Museum.)




hoahaz," "Elijah" for "Eliyahu," etc., but compare
on tliis point J. H. Levy in "J. Q. R." xv. 97 ct seq.

(3) Removal of application of the names of false
gods to Yhwh; e.g., the change of the name "Ish-
baal" to "Ishbosheth."

(4) Safeguarding the unity of divine worship at
Jerusalem. Here belongs the cluuige (Isa. xix. 18)

Dinn -I'v for p^'ir\ -vv or onnn T-y-

Among tlie earliest technical terms used in con-
nection with activities of the Scribes are (Ned. 37b)
the " mikra Soferim " and " 'ittur Soferim." In the
geonic schools the first term was taken to signify
certain vowel-changes which were made in Avords in
pause or after the article; e.g., pX,

" Mikra " pXH : the second, the cancelation in a
and few passages of the " waw " conjunc-

" 'Ittur." tive, where it had by some been wrong-
ly read. The objection to such an ex-
planation is that the first changes Avould fall under
the general head of fixation of pronunciation, and
the second under the head of "kere " and " ketib."
Various explanations have, therefore, been offered
by ancient as -well as modern scholars without, how-
ever, succeeding in furnishing a satisfactory solution.
A number of words is mentioned — by the Tal-
mud 5; by later authorities 8— which negatively ex-
pressed have no yiDn, but positively expressed
have a nXCJ'H- According to Yer. 'Ab. Zarah ii. 8
(41c), this Masoretic note should be understood to
mean that the Scribes had left un-
Undecided decided the question whether the af-
Construc- fected words belonged to the prece-
tions. ding or to the following clause. But
such an interpretation may be objected
to for two reasons. First, the accentuation fixes the
construction of those words in a very definite way.
Even if one assumes that theaccentuators had acted
liigh-handedly and had disregarded tradition, which
is not probable, it is impossible to conceive how in
))ul)lic worship the words were recited to indicate
such doubtful construction. The reader must have
connected them either with the first or with the sec-
ond clause. Secondly, a still graver objection is
that some of those words make sense in only one
clause, the one in which the accentuators have put
them. It must, therefore, be assumed that the tra-
dition refers liere to exegesis, not to textual criti-
cism. It must refer to what is termed by later
scholars "nvi n^iy. Ji'^'n'^of construction oto koivov,
wlii'rein the word is understood to follow itself im-
medialeiy. Tradition was undecided whether these
words were to be read merely as they stood, or un-
derstood also with the following word.

There are four words having one of their letters

suspended above the line. One of them, nt^'^D

(Judges xviii. 30), is due to a correc-

Suspended tion of the original T^'iTO out of rever-

Letters ence for Moses. The origin of the
and Dotted other three (Ps. 14; Jobxxxviii.

Words. 13, 15) is doubtful. According to
some, they are due to mistaken ma-
jusciilar letters; according to otiiers, they an; later
insertions of originally omitted weak consonants.

In fifteen jiassages in the Bible some words are
stigmatized. Tlie siirnifirance of the dots is dis-

puted. Some hold them to be marks of erasure;
others believe them to indicate that in some collated
manuscripts the stigmatized words were missing,
hence that the reading is doubtful; still others con-
tend that they are merely a mnemonic device to in-
dicate homiletical explanations which the ancients
had connected with those words; finally, some main-
tain the dots were designed to guard against the
omi.ssion by copyists of text-elements which, at first
glance or after comparison with parallel passages,
seemed to be superfluous. Instead of dots some
manuscripts exhibit strokes, vertical or else horizon-
tal. The first two explanations are unacceptable
for the reason that such faulty readings would be-
long to kere and ketib, which, in case of doubt, the
majority of manuscripts would decide. The last
two theories have equal probability.

In nine passages of the Bible are found signs usu-
ally called "inverted nuns," because resembling the
letter J. Others find a resemblance in these signs
to the letter -) or 3. S. Krauss (in Stade's "Zeit-
schrift," xxii. 57) holds that the signs
Inverted were originally obeli, and have text-
Letters, critical value. He assumes that the
correct reading in Massek. Soferim vi.
1, 2isniQ''EJ»; but the original reading seems to be
"ID^'CJ', a word of unknown etymology. If the word
stands for * ISK'K' it would be a synonym of |VV and
mean simply "sign." But the reading ■nD'B'
("ram's horn ") yields a very good sense. It is the
Greek napnypaipog, which had exactly such a sign
and served the same purpose (comp. Perles, "Ety-
mologische Studien," p. 41, note 1 ; p. xiv., col. 3).

Even in antiquity substitutions were made— at
first only orally in public worship; later also in the
form of marginal notes in private copies— of readings
other than those found in the text. As Frankel has
shown ("Vorstudien," pp. 220 et seg.), even the
Septuagint knew those readings and
Marginal frequently adopted them. These vari-
Readings. ants have various origins. Some of
them represent variants in ancient
manuscripts and have, therefore, a text-critical
value (comp. Kimhi, Introduction to Commentary
on Joshua; Eichhorn,"Einleitung," § 148; also Jo-
seph ibu Wakar, in Steiuschneider, "Jewish Liter-
ature," p. 270, note 15). Others arose from the ne-
cessity of replacing erroneous, difficult, irregular,
provincial, archaic, unseemly, or cacophonous ex-
pressions by correct, simpler, current, approi)riate,
or euphonious readings (comp. Abravanel, Introduc-
tion to Commentary on Jeremiah). A third class
may have been designed to call attention to some
mystic meaning or homiletical lesson supposed to be
embodied in the text (comp. Krochmal, " Moreh
Nebuke ha-Zeman," ch. xiii. ; S. Bamberger, "Ein-
leitung zu Tobiah b. Eliezer's Lekuh Tob zu Ruth,"
]). 39, note 1). A fourth class, finally, and tins very
late, is due to variants found in Talmudic literature
(comp. "Miid.iat Sliai " on Isa. xxxvi. 12, Ps. .\lix.
13. Ecd. viii. 10; Luzzatto, in " Kerem Hemed," ix.
9 on II Sam. xxii. 8). These variants are of a three-
fold character: (1) words to be read ("kere") for
those written in the text ("ketib"); (2) words to l)e
read for those not written in the text; (3) words
written, but not to be read.

y i jHI|.Htf BII . I ..J 11 ^ )L| . .JUt fl j.P' JtlUl^f jB V^* ! ^ J^ | jlJ|, i j. VJi . ■ unny;; .

*-»7>isi r«*^i?r< narpr^ani? ^^ 'f^l^'ia^ r M ^ ^a l on -^*t?|yni

■]0jr» rj^ *^ij3i r>^«? nn'b'

4 i3i2ayj»<3>tKV^i?^t5rio

■ ^ — >^* ■ -vwa-w >* -^3* v=i^ «?>-*.'

>, - ■-— I - .-

aj IC^ -••w::;^'^ T^ r-«


(From the bulzberger collection iu the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York.J

VIII.— 24




A certain school of Masorites used for the term
"kere" the synonymous term "sebirin." The read-
ings of that school are usually registered by the
Masorah disapprovingly with the addition " u-mat-
'in " = "and they are misleading."

To the Masorites belongs also the credit of invent-
ing and elaborating graphic signs to indicate the
traditional pronunciation, syntactical construction,
and cantillation of the Biblical text.

The history of the Masorah may be divided into

three periods: (1) creative period, from

History of its beginning to the introduction of

Develop- vowel-signs; (2) I'cproductive period,

ment. from the introduction of vowel-signs

to the printing of the Masorah (1425);

(3) critical period, from 1425 to the present time.

The materials for the history of the first period are
scattered remarks in Talmudic and Midrashic litera-
ture, in the post-Talmudical treatises Masseket Sefer
Torah and Masseket Soferim, and in a Masoretic chain
of tradition found in Ben Asher's "Dikduke ha-
Te'amim," § 69 and elsewhere. Masseket Soferim
is a work of unknown date by a Palestinian author.
The first five chapters are a slightly amplified repro-
duction of the earlier Masseket Sefer Torah, a com-
pendium of rules to be observed by scribes in the
preparation and writing of Scriptural rolls. Ch. vi.
to i.x. are purelj' Masoretic; the third part, com-
mencing at ch. X., treats of ritualistic matter. While
the work as a whole is perhaps not earlier than the
beginning of the ninth century, its Masoretic por-
tions probably go back to the sixth or seventh cen-
tury. A comparison of tliis work with the ^Maso-
retic material found in Talmudic literature shows tliat
the lists of marginal readings have been systematic-
ally enlarged. A critical comparison has been insti-
tuted between parallel pas.sagesin Scripture. Rules
are now given, for the first time, as to the unusual
form in which certain letters and words, of Avhich
the Talmud had taken special note, are to be wiit-
ten. Tiie stichometrical form in which the Scrip-
tural songs are to be arranged is described in fuller
detail than it had been in the Talmud. It is also
stated that in private copies the beginnings of verses
used to be marked. Some readings in ch. xiii. 1
mention also accents; but these readings are doubt-
ful (comp. Vocalization). In the chain of tradition
quoted in Ben Asher tiie earliest name is a certain
Nakkai, wiio is said to have emigrated under the
persecutions of T. Annius Rufus from Palestine to
Babylonia and spread Masoretic knowledge in the
city of Nehardea. This would be about 140 of the
common era, and the tradition, containing eight
names, would date about 340.

In the of time dilTerences in si)elling and

pronunciation had developed not only between tiie

schools of Palestine and of Buliylonia

Differences — differences already noted in I lie third

Between century (comp. Ginsburg, "Introduc-
Babylonia tion," p. 197) — l)ut in the various scats
and of learning in each country. In Baby-

Palestine. Ionia the school of Sura differed from
that of Xehardea ; similar dilTcrenrcs
existed in the schools of Palestine, where the chief
seat of learning in later times was the city of Tibe-
rias. Tiiese differences must have become accentu-

ated with the introduction of graphic signs for pro-
mmciatiou and cantillation; and every locality,
following the tradition of its school, had a standard
codex embodying its reailiugs.

In this period living tradition ceased, and the
Masorites in preparing their codices usually fol-
lowed the one school or the other, examining, how-
ever, standard codices of other schools and noting
their differences. In the first half of the tenth cen-
tury Aaron b. Moses ben Asher of Tiberias and
Ben Napiitali, heads of two rival Masoretical
schools, each wrote a standard codex of the Bible
embodying the traditions of their respective schools.
Ben Asher was the last of a distinguished family of
JIasorites extending back to the latter half of the
eighth century. In spite of the rivalry of Ben Naph-
tali and the opposition of Saadia Gaon, the most
eminent representative of the Babylonian school
of criticism, Ben Asher's codex became recognized
as the standard text of the Bible. Notwithstanding
all this, for reasons unknown neither the printed
text nor any manuscript which has been preserved
is based entirely on Ben Asher: they are all eclectic.
Aside from Ben Asher and Ben Naphtali, the names
of several other Masorites have come down; but,
perhaps with the exception of one — Phinehas, the
head of the academy, who is supposed by mod-
eru scholars to have lived about 750 — neither tiieir
time, their place, nor their connection with the va-
rious schools is known.

The two rival authorities, Ben Asher and Ben
Naphtali, practically brought the Masorah to a close.
Very few additions were made by the later Maso-
rites, .styled in the thirteenth and four-
Ben Asher teenth centuries Nakdanim, who re-
and Ben vised the works of the copyists, added
Naphtali. the vowels and accents (generally in
fainter ink and with a finer pen) and
frequently the Masorah. Considerable influence on
the development and spread of Masoretic literature
Avas exercised during' the eleventh, twelfth, and
thirteenth centuries by the Franco-German school
of TosAFisTS. R. Gershom, his brother Machir,
Joseph b. Samuel Boufils (Tob 'Elem) of Limoges,
R. Tam (.lacob b. Meir), Menahein b. Perez of
Joigny, Perez b. Elijah of Corbeil, Judah of Paris,
Mei'r Spira, and R. Meir of Rothenburg made Mas-
oretic compilations, or additions to the subject,
which are all more or less fnrciuently referred to in
the marginal glosses of Biblical codices and in the
works of Hebrew grammarians.

Jacob b. Hayyim ibn Adonijah, having collated a
vast number of manuscripts, systematized his mate-
rial and arranged the Masorah in the second Bom-
berg edition of the Bible (Venice, 1524-25). Besides
introducing the Masorah into the margin, he com-
jiiled at the close of his Bii)lc a concordance of the
Masoretic glosses for which he could not find room
in a marginal form, and added an elaborate intro-
duction — the first treatise on the ^lasorah ever pro-
duced. In spite of its numerous er-
Critical rors, this excellent work has generally
Study. been acknowledged as the "textus re-
ceptus " of the Masorah. Next to Ibn
Adonijah the critical study of the Masorah has been
most advanced by Elijah Levita, who published his




famous "Massoret lia-Massiuet " in 1588. Tlie
"Tiberias" of the elder Buxtorf (1620) made Le-
vita's researclies acfessil)lo to Cliristiau students.
Walton's eighth prolegomeuou is largely a reehautle
of the "Tiberias." Leviia compiled a vast
Masoretie coneordanee, "Seter ha-Zikronot," which
still lies in the Is'atioual Library at Paris unpub-
lished. The study is indebted also to R. .Me'ir b.
Todros lia Levi (RaMaH), who, as early as the thir-
teenth century, wrote his "Sefer Massoret Seyag
la-Torah" (correct cd. Florence, 1750); to Menahem
di Lon/.ano, who composed a treatise on the Masorah
of the Pentateuch entitled "Or Torah "; and in par-
ticular to Jedidiah Solomon of Norzi, whose "Miu-
hat Shai" contains valuable Masoretie notes based
on a careful study of manuscripts. Mention nnist
also be made of J. C. Wolf, whose "Bibliotheca
IIebra>a " contains a treatise on the Masorah and a
list of .Ma.soretic authorities (part ii., book iii.). For
less-known names consult the bibliography below.

In modern times kno-^vledge of the jMasorah has
been atlvanced by the following scholars: W. Hei-
denheim, A. Geiger, S. D. Luzzattcj, S. Pinsker, S.
Frensdorff, H. Gractz, J. Derenbourg, D. Oppen-
heim, S. Baer, L. Blau, B. Kouigsberger, A. Biich-
lei-, J. Bachrach, I. H. Weiss, S. Koseufeld, M.
Liimbert, J. Reach, A. Ackermann, L. Bardowicz,
and W. Bacher. Among Christian scholars ai-e to
be mentioned: H. Ilupfeld, Franz Delitzsch, L. H.

Online LibraryIsidore SingerThe Jewish encyclopedia : a descriptive record of the history, religion, literature, and customs of the Jewish people from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 8) → online text (page 90 of 169)