The Text of the Hebrew Bible Was Not Permanently Fixed

Recently Oxford University Press published a book, which looks of great interest.  Though I have not yet read it and cannot vouch for it, the author presents a thesis that alerts us all (scholars and lay both) to the proverbial elephant in the room:  B. Barry Levy, Fixing God’s Torah:  The Accuracy of the Hebrew Bible Text in Jewish Law (New York, Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2001).  For text critics (those who work with the original manuscripts) and those who read them, knowledge of the biblical text’s fluidity comes as no surprise.  From biblical versions found at Qumran (the Dead Sea Scrolls) and from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), from the second century BCE to the first century CE, we know that the biblical text varied from source to source.  Yet, most of us still work and study  “as if” the Masoretes got it absolutely right in the Middle Ages:  we have the correct text.  Now Barry Levy apparently shows that the rabbis of antiquity did not even agree on the notion of an immutable text and recognized the need to “correct” the text.  He provides a plethora of evidence.  Wow.  That’s kind of an earthquake.  Even the very traditional rabbinic tradition seemingly acknowledged that the text of the Torah was not permanently fixed.  Should provide for lots of lively discussion.

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DR. LAURENCE H. KANT (LARRY KANT), MYSTIC SCHOLAR: Engaged Mysticism and Scholarship in the Pursuit of Wisdom; Discovering meaning in every issue and facet of life; Integrating scholarship, spirituality, mysticism, poetry, community, economics, and politics seamlessly. Historian of Religion: Ph.D., Yale University, 1993 (Department of Religious Studies); Exchange Scholar, Harvard University, Rabbinics, 1983-84; M.A., 1982, Yale, 1982 (Department of Religious Studies); M.T.S., Harvard Divinity School, 1981; B.A., Classics (Greek and Latin), Tufts University, 1978; Wayland High School (Wayland, MA), 1974. Served on the faculty of Cornell University (Ithaca, NY), York University (Toronto), and Lexington Theological Seminary (Lexington, KY). Works in many languages: Ancient Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, English, French, Italian, German, Modern Greek (some Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish). Holder of numerous honors and awards, including The Rome Prize in Classics (Prix de Rome) and Fellow of the American Academy of Rome.

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