THE TEXT OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
WE CONTINUE HERE WITH CHAPTER 8 FROM THE BOOK "HOW WE
GOT THE BIBLE" BY NEIL LIGHTFOOT. All emphasis throughout this
series is by Keith Hunt.
The Dead Sea Scrolls
(Note: Much new insight and research has developed in the
last number of years concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls. Many more
scholars from around the world have been busy trying to fit them
all together. The work of the past, often done by only a few
scholars[they wanted to hang on to them like a winning lottery
ticket] has been showed to be full of errors and mistakes.
Interesting as this many be, all of that does not really concern
us in this study of the Hebrew OT manuscripts. What Lightfoot
brings out is of importance as it pertains to the Isaiah scrolls
found among the so called Dead Sea Scrolls - Keith Hunt).
In March of 1948 the discovery of some ancient manuscripts
found in the vicinity of the Dead Sea was first reported....since
the first news of those scrolls, numerous others have been
located in the same region. In all about 350 rolls, most of them
fragmentary, have been uncovered(Note: this book being written in
the early 60's it is probably a lot more than 350 that have been
discovered now, in 1997 - Keith Hunt).
These scrolls were produced by a deeply religious community
of Jews who had taken up their station in the desert........Many
of the scrolls concern only the particular beliefs of the sect,
yet there are many others which contain the text of fragmentary
portions of the OT. Actually, fragments of ALMOST EVERY BOOK of
the OT have turned up.......
THE MOST IMPORTANT OF THESE MANUSCRIPTS ARE TWO SCROLLS OF
THE BOOK OF ISAIAH. One is COMPLETE, except for a FEW words, and
is known as Isaiah A; the other one, known as Isaiah B, is NOT
complete, but contains a considerable portion of material (Isaiah
chapters 41 to 59).
The AMAZING story of these manuscripts is bound up with
their AGE. Isaiah A dates back to 100 B.C. or earlier, while
Isaiah B is but a little later. HERE ARE SCROLLS THAT ARE A
THOUSAND YEARS EARLIER THAN THE OLDEST OF OUR PREVIOUS HEBREW
WHAT DO THE SCROLLS REVEAL ABOUT OUR TEXT? HOW DO THEY
COMPARE WITH THE MANUSCRIPTS OF THE MASSORETIC TEXT from which
they were separated by so many centuries? Do these newly
discovered manuscripts demand such CHANGES in the text that
require also changes in our faith?
The scrolls tell us much, but chiefly that there has
SCARCELY BEEN, AT LEAST SINCE THE FIRST OR SECOND CENTURIES B.C.,
A MAJOR CHANGE IN THE FORM OF THE HEBREW TEXT, as Professor F.F.
Bruce expresses it, " the new evidence confirms what we had
already good reason to believe - that the Jewish scribes of
the early Christian centuries copied the text of the Hebrew Bible
with the UTMOST FIDELITY " (F.F. Bruce, Second Thoughts on the
Dead Sea Scrolls - Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing
Company, 1956 - pages 61-62).
(Note: Lightfoot goes on to tell us that the Isaiah A scroll
became known in time for the Revised Standard Version of 1952 to
take it into account. With Isaiah A in hand they only adopted 13
variant readings as contrasted to the Massoretic text, and Millar
Burrows, a member of the translating committee, a first-rank
scholar and authority on the scrolls, later confessed that he
personally felt that some of the departures from the Massoretic
text were a mistake[Millar Burrows, The Dead Seas Scrolls - New
York: Viking Press, 1955, page 305] - Keith Hunt).
AS A WHOLE the text of these ancient scrolls are REMARKABLY
LIKE OUR TEXT TODAY. The sixth chapter of Isaiah......Comparing
Isaiah A and our present Hebrew text we are able to count 37
variant readings in this chapter. BUT PRACTICALLY ALL of these
variants are no more than SPELLING DIFFERENCES. Only three of
them are large enough to be reflected in an English translation,
and of THESE not a ONE is significant. These variants are: "they
were calling" instead of "one called to another" (verse 3);
"holy,holy" instead of "holy, holy, holy" (verse 3); and "sins"
for "sin" (verse 7). IN THESE CASES OUR PRESENT TEXT IS
UNQUESTIONABLY BETTER THAN THAT FOUND IN ISAIAH A.......
This has prompted Millar Burrows to say: "It is a matter for
wonder that through something like a thousand years the text
underwent so little alteration. As I said in my first article on
the scroll, 'Herein lies its CHIEF IMPORTANCE, SUPPORTING THE
FIDELITY OF THE MASSORETIC TRADITION" (Ibid., p. 304).
Our oldest Hebrew manuscripts date no further back than the
NINTH century......Early versions of the OT and other sources are
of great value since they ATTEST to the RELIABILITY of our
present text. The biblical documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls are
nothing short of sensational. The most important are the two
Isaiah scrolls, which......CONFIRM BEYOND DOUBT THE ACCURACY OF
OUR PRESENT HEBREW TEXT.
So ends chapter 8 from the book by Neil Lightfoot.
NOTE: We have seen that yes, of course, there naturally
would be various books of the OT, maybe even the whole OT,
written and copied by various small religious sects of Judaism,
and such sects as the Samaritans with their Pentateuch (the first
five books of Moses). But the fact still remains very clear that
from the time of Moses, we have those that "sat in Moses' seat."
We have the official leaders and God guided(not in spiritual
matters where they were infallible as to the understanding of the
Eternal's word) scribes who were granted by the Lord to be the
custodians of the correct preservation and copying of the words,
the yod, and the tittle, of the scared Scriptures of the OT.
These same "sitters in the seat of Moses" were given the
"oracles" of God, and therein lies the advantage of being a Jew
as Paul was inspired to tell us. They were also given the
authority over the regulations of the calendar, its rules and
laws, and when the pronouncement of the first day of each month
of the year would be, so the announcing of the first of Nisan,
leading into the first feast of Lord - the Passover.
The text of the OT was in their hands, to preserve it and
to copy it CORRECTLY! This we have seen they did do so, and we
have seen in some detail HOW they made sure that it was copied
correctly, so every word of the Lord would be preserved. We
have seen that Jesus during His nearly thirty-four years of life
on this earth, never spoke one word about any words, passages,
sentences etc. of the OT Hebrew, being lost, corrupted, or so
messed up with, that we could not know for sure what were the
words of God. We have seen that just the opposite is the case,
and that Jesus said though heaven and earth would pass away not
one word of His would pass away, and those words indeed would be
the words to judge a man at the day of judgement. He stated that
not one jot or tittle would pass from the law until all was
We have seen how Jesus, as the God of the OT, as the "I Am"
of the OT(John 8) and His Father in heaven, were able, had the
power to guide the minds and hands of men to so preserve and copy
the Hebrew OT so not one word would be lost.
There was, within Israel, within the main-stream religious
community, those that sat in Moses' seat to safe-guard the
oracles of God. In the days of Christ, He Himself clearly stated
that it was the "scribes and Pharisees" who sat in that seat of
Moses(Mat.23). It was not some sect in Samaria, who had their
own temple on their own hill to worship God in, contrary to what
God had clearly established in Jerusalem. It was not some sect in
Egypt who disagreed with the Jews of Judea, and so set up their
own headquarters of worship. It was not some fanatical desert
sect who went off to the Dead Sea area, to gather scrolls from
anywhere, and to write their own. These and others like
them were not entrusted by God with the preservation of the
oracles of the Lord, the preservation of the Hebrew OT, and the
governance over the calendar.
I must give EMPHASIS to this! It is important you really
have this foundation, for on it lies the basic bedrock of this
question about the accurate preservation of all the words of God,
as to what words are THE BIBLE, and to the question that is being
raised today about the authority over the calendar we are to
follow, as to when (the dates) we should observe the Festivals of
There have always been groups of people, even from the days
of Moses, who did not agree with Moses, or Joshua, or other men
of God. Who did not agree with, would not follow the calendar
that those who sat in Moses' seat proclaimed. History shows
many such sects broke away from the main-stream Israel religious
community. They set up their own towns, their own temples, their
own priesthood, their own translations of the Scriptures or parts
of it, they wanted to follow(the Samaritan sect, only followed
the five books of Moses). They set up their own calendars, in
opposition to the calendar proclaimed in Israel or Judea(after
the house of Israel departed from the true worship of
God) by those in Moses' seat.
The same was still going on in the days when Jesus walked
among His people. The same is still going on to this very day!
Just because some group or some sect, over here or over
there, have a religion, have some translation of the Hebrew OT,
have some calendar they follow, DOES NOT make their calendar,
does not make their translation of the OT, the CORRECT ONE! You
need to understand that point and never forget it. More confusion
in people's minds of late has been caused because they HAVE NOT
understood or have FORGOTTEN who in Israel, were given the
official God inspired guidance as to the accurate preservation
of the oracles(words of God as the Lord had them written down) of
the Eternal, and as to the proclaiming of the calendar in regards
to the announcing of the new month days.
In Israel it was those who sat in Moses' seat that were
given custody of these TWO important functions - the literal
copying and preservation of the Hebrew OT, and the regulation and
proclaiming of the calendar. During the time of Jesus, it was He
who stated that it was the Scribes and the Pharisees, who sat in
Moses' seat! Do not misunderstand me. That did not mean the
scribes and Pharisees were custodians of all the doctrinal truths
of God, and correct understanding of the Scriptures. There is a
VAST DIFFERENCE between writing down the words and preserving the
words of God correctly, and understanding correctly the words of
the Lord. The two areas should never be confused, they are
totally separate from each other.
Jesus on MANY occasions did not agree with the "doctrines"
and the "teachings" and the "understandings" of the scribes and
the Pharisees as they read the words of the Scriptures and
interpreted them. But they did sit in Moses' seat as to
preserving accurately the literal words from literal manuscripts
in the literal Temple.
The other sects from other parts of the country(Dead Sea
etc.) or world, did not sit in Moses' seat, they were not
inspired to preserve the words of the Lord on manuscript
scrolls correctly, hence they all contain errors or some sort,
even if they are mainly small, insignificant, or by and large
just spelling differences.
The Septuagint (Greek) translation of the OT is another
matter. It contains some HUGE errors, and the reader needs to
study carefully as to what is written in the "Introduction" to
the English/Greek translation, that can be found in most public
The scribes and Pharisees who sat in Moses' seat during the
time of Christ, were also a very large part of the Jewish
Sanhedrin, who, with other things, were in charge of regulating
the calendar, and announcing the new month days. Jesus, NEVER
disagreed with them, over the calling of the new month days. Of
course not! It was He as the "I Am" of the OT that gave them that
authority in the first place! He did not take it away from
them, neither during His life on earth, nor after His return to
the Father in heaven. He never gave such authority over the
calendar to the NT church. They never claimed it was now
transferred to them. The NT church continued to observe the
Feasts of the Lord WITH the Jews, at the times they observed the
beginning of the new months. The church led by leaders such as
Polycarp and Polycrates of the 2nd century A.D. also continued
to observe the Passover as set down by the main-stream Jewish
Sanhedrin, in proclaiming when the first of Nisan would be
observed and called.
This Jewish, main-stream, Sanhedrin did not come to an end
in 70 A.D. as history clearly shows. It continued to function in
another town when Jerusalem was destroyed. This I have thoroughly
expounded in other articles.
Those who sat in Moses' seat from the time of Moses, during
the time of Christ, during the start of the NT church, up to the
destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and AFTER that time as it
continued to exist on into the centuries of A.D. and even up to
this present time, HAVE PRESERVED ACCURATELY THE OT HEBREW
SCRIPTURES OF THE WORD OF THE LORD. And in part four and five of
this series we have seen HOW the Eternal inspired them to do it,
in the literal physical way they copied and re-copied the ancient
AGAIN, to give emphasis to all this, somewhat laboring the
point, maybe so, but so important is it that I feel I must
be-labor it further. I will quote from the book "The Oxford
Companion to the Bible" Oxford University Press, 1993, edited by
Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan, pages 486,487.
Forms. ancient texts such as the Hebrew Bible were transmitted
over centuries in various forms, at first in scrolls, later in
manuscripts of codex format, and in recent centuries in
printed editions....... Development of the Biblical Text. When
the composition of a biblical book was completed, in theory there
should have been ONLY ONE MASTER copy of that particular
book(Note: we have seen that under Moses and under the High
Priest there was only one master copy of the books of the OT
Bible, kept in the Tabernacle or Temple - the official
copy - Keith Hunt). In practice, however, even at that stage
there MAY HAVE BEEN several copies which differed from one
another, often a great deal(Note: I have covered that situation
and those facts of the case above. Certain break-away sects from
the main body of Israel and eventually Judah, did have "their"
translations, but the fact remained the official translation and
copy was with the high priest in Israel and in the Tabernacle
or Temple - Keith Hunt)........These differences increased rather
than diminished in the next centuries(Note: In some cases only.
Yet, if that was the case with some, it still did not mean there
was not an official OT Hebrew scroll of the books of the
canonized Bible, under the authority of the high priest in
Jerusalem, kept in the Temple - Keith Hunt)......Many of these
different texts fell out of use, especially because the religious
groups supporting them ceased to exist or diminished in
importance(Note: This all bears weight to what I brought out
above. These different translations of the OT were from
small split-off sects of the main-stream body of Israel and the
official God instituted Priesthood from Moses' time, who sat in
Moses' seat . These sects came and went, rose up and diminished,
came into being and went out of being. The official people who
sat in Moses' seat did not diminish, they were still there at the
time Jesus walked this earth among the main-stream religious Jews
- Keith Hunt).......In the Roman period, however, there were many
different "families" of texts in use, as the Qumram(Note: The
sect by the Dead Sea - famous for the so-called Dead Seas Scrolls
- Keith Hunt) text show; AMONG THESE was what was to become the
OFFICIAL VERSION of the text of the Hebrew Bible ("the received
text") in the centuries to follow, the MASSORETIC Text(Note: It
was not "to become" the official text, it was ALREADY the
official text. Those in Moses' seat had preserved the OT Hebrew
Scriptures from the time of Moses. We have seen how they
meticulously did this for centuries - Keith Hunt)
The Massoretic Text. After the destruction of the Second Temple
in 70 CE, a PARTICULAR GROUP of texts was emerging, ENDORSED BY
and COPIED BY the CENTRAL STREAM OF JUDAISM, THAT OF THE
PHARISEES, LATER TO BE KNOW AS THE MASSORETIC TEXT.........
End of quote with my comments added.
Ah, did you see what they had to say under the last section
I gave you, under "The Massoretic Text"?
I have proved to you in this series that the particular
groups of texts that after 70 A.D. was "emerging" as they put it,
the ones "endorsed by" and "copied by" the CENTRAL STREAM of
Judaism, WERE ALREADY THERE, they did not have to "emerge." The
OT Scriptures Jesus read from when in the synagogue on the
Sabbath day, were ALREADY THERE! They had been preserved by the
"central stream" of Israel's and later Judah's religious body,
those who sat in Moses' seat, FOR CENTURIES! They were the
official Scriptures, and had been for centuries in Judah, for to
them was given the oracles of God, and that is why Paul said
there was an advantage to being a Jew!
You will notice WHO the above book (The Oxford Companion to
the Bible ) says was the CENTRAL STREAM of Judaism - the
PHARISEES! It will still shock some people to hear that, because
they cannot see the difference between God using a certain
people from within His community of Israel, to preserve the
accurate words of the Lord as given in the OT Hebrew, and the
authority over the regulations of the calendar, AND the authority
given by God to the NT church to INTERPRET and UNDERSTAND
correctly the MEANING of those words of the Eternal as found in
Because such people have a terrible time with seeing the
difference between the two truths above, they get all upset at
the possible thought that the scribes and Pharisees could have
been used by God IN ANY WAY! Especially is this truth so strange
to them when they consider how Jesus spoke about the scribes and
Pharisees in Matthew 23 and at other times in His ministry. Yet,
contained in Matthew 23 are the words from Jesus, that the
scribes and Pharisees did sit "in Moses' seat"! It IS THERE
friend, whether you like it or not! The scribes and Pharisees DID
HAVE a certain amount of authority. There were certain areas in
the religious life of Israel and the people of God, the NT
church, that the Lord was using the scribes and Pharisees to
perform for the health and the benefit of all the people of God
and ultimately for the benefit of the whole world.
TWO large and very important areas God was and is still
using those people of central stream Judaism, is in the accurate
preservation of the OT Hebrew Scriptures, the official "received"
text, and also the official regulations of the Hebrew calendar,
which ensure, on a world-wide, global, international, united
front(no pun intended for those readers of the church of God)
that the Eternal's children observe His Festivals at the
same time(taking into account different sunsets around the world
etc.) no matter what country they are living in.
We can all have the SAME WORD OF GOD, and the SAME
FESTIVALS, at the SAME TIME!!
The TRANSLATING of the OT Hebrew INTO English is another
matter altogether, with other considerations and other problems
to take into account. All of that we shall look into in the next
article on this series.
Written December 1997
To be continued