It looks like I’m going to have to start all over again. A group of scholars is working on something called “The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition,” aiming to finally redact all the wacky versions of the Hebrew Bible that have been floating around into one single, corrected text.
If this sounds confusing, it’s because it is. According to JTA News:
The text of the Hebrew Bible now being used descends from what is called the Masoretic text, which was assembled between the sixth and 10th centuries by Jewish scribes and scholars in present-day Israel and Iraq. But even among the various versions of the Masoretic text there are subtle differences.
Many of today’s printings of the Hebrew Bible come from the Second Rabbinic Bible, a text assembled in 16th-century Venice. The Jewish Publication Society uses the Leningrad Codex, which at approximately 1,000 years old is the oldest complete surviving text. Still others use the 10th-century Aleppo Codex, which the Torah scholar Maimonides praised for its accuracy but has been missing much of the Torah since a 1947 fire.
Contemporary scholars seeking to understand the history of the Hebrew Bible’s text utilize a range of other sources, including ancient Greek and Syriac translations, quotations from rabbinic manuscripts, the Samaritan Pentateuch and others. Many of these are older than the Masoretic text and often contradict it, in ways small and large.
You’ve probably heard me refer to these various texts and the differences between them on the show. It’ll be cool to have all the variations in one place. No word yet on whether the Orthodox communities are flipping out.
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I won’t hold my breath… The JPS Version attempts the same thing and admits that there will never be even a full consensus behind many of the variants. Part of the problem is the Hebrew — we don’t know what some of it really means, and never will be 100% sure — Hebrew soars in ambiguity as well, meaning that alternates are always available… in the original as well as the translation versions. Turn it over and over and always there will be more to find…