The Purity of the Masoretic Text

Purity of the Masoretic Text

Johann Gerhard
Theological Commonplaces:
On the Nature of Theology and Scripture

Chapter XIV:
On The Integrity of the Hebrew Text in the Old Testament

The Hebrew text is not corrupt.

§ 318. Among the arguments with which the Papists labor to carry their point that the Hebrew text of the Old Testament is not the authentic version, this one leads the crowd: that the Hebrew text has been corrupted in many places by the wickedness or carelessness of men. Bellarmine writes: “We must place the sources ahead of the streams only when it is certain that the sources have not been muddied; but now, the sources in many places flow with muddy waters” (De verbo Dei 2.11). Against these Scripture-haters, therefore, we must demonstrate the purity and integrity of the sources, which we prove with a disjunctive syllogism of this kind:

If the Hebrew sources in the Old Testament were corrupted, we would have to attribute this either to the malice of the Jews or to the carelessness of the scribes. But the sources have been corrupted neither by the malice of the Jews nor by the carelessness of scribes. Therefore they have not been corrupted in any way.

The major premise contains a sufficient list of causes from which that corruption could have arisen. The minor has two parts, namely, that the sources were corrupted by neither the malice of the Jews nor the carelessness of scribes. Each must be proved in order.

First, not by the malice of the Jews.

§ 319. According to Jerome (on Isaiah 6, vol. 5, f. 14), Origen proves (on Isaiah, bk. 8) that the malice of the Jews did not corrupt the sources. Origen draws his argument from a consideration of time that goes as follows: If the Jews corrupted the Scriptures, they did this either before or after Christ’s coming. If they did it before, why did Christ and the apostles never rebuke so great a crime when they did not keep silent about lesser crimes? If they did it after Christ’s coming, how are the testimonies that Christ and the apostles quote from the Old Testament found in Moses and the prophets in the very form in which they are cited? Jerome’s words read:

“But if someone would say that the Jews falsified the Hebrew books, let them listen to Origen and what he responds in the eighth volume of his explanations of Isaiah to the little question, that the Lord and His apostles, who rebuke other sins, would never have kept quiet against the scribes and Pharisees about this sin, which was great. But if they say that the Hebrew books were corrupted after the coming of the Lord and Savior and after the preaching of the apostles, I shall not be able to keep from laughing that the Savior and the apostles would have offered testimonies in such a way that the Jews later were going to falsify them.”

§ 320. We can draw out that argument of Origen more broadly in this way: One cannot say that before the coming of Christ and the ministry of the apostles the Jews corrupted Holy Scripture:

(1) Because Christ and the apostles would have rebuked this great sacrilege of the Jews severely because they censure the faulty interpretation of Scripture in them.

(2) Christ sends His hearers back to search Moses and the prophetic Scripture carefully (John 5:39), and He wanted His hearers to listen to Moses and the prophets in their writings (Luke 16:29). But who would believe that Christ sent His hearers to corrupted and falsified Scriptures?

(3) He wanted people to listen to the scribes and Pharisees who sat in the seat of Moses and who read Moses every Sabbath in the synagogues (Matt. 23:2; Acts 15:21). Yet if the Mosaic writings had been corrupted, Christ by no means would have sent His people to hear and read them.

(4) The eagerness of the Ethiopian eunuch to read the prophetic writings is commended and is honored by the sending of Philip, who supplies him the necessary explanation (Acts 8:30). Yet if the prophetic writings had been corrupted, the reading of them certainly would have been forbidden rather than commended.

(5) With laudable eagerness the Thessalonians compare the teaching of Paul with Mosaic and prophetic Scripture (Acts 17:11). Yet how could they have passed judgment on the teaching of Paul from Mosaic and prophetic Scripture as a definite and fixed norm if that norm had not been whole and pure but falsified and corrupted in many places?

(6) Paul commends Timothy with this reputation, that he knew the sacred writings from childhood (2 Tim. 3:15), and he encourages him to “attend to reading” (1 Tim. 4:13). Yet if the sacred writings had been corrupted by the wickedness of the Jews, Paul could not and should not have encouraged Timothy to read them.

(7) Christ and the apostles everywhere prove their teaching from the Mosaic and prophetic books, and Paul expressly says that he “believes everything that is written in Moses and the prophets” (Acts 26:22). Yet if the books of Moses and the prophets had been corrupted, Christ and His apostles would never appeal to them without a necessary forewarning.

(8) Paul says, “The Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2). Therefore he commends their zeal in protecting the books of the Old Testament from destruction and corruption. Yet if they had corrupted them intentionally, he could not have commended their zeal in protecting the treasury of sacred books nor would the apostle have ignored this terrible sin of theirs.

It is far less probable that the Jews corrupted the Old Testament Scriptures after Christ’s coming and the apostles’ ministry, because the testimonies that Christ and the apostles adduce from the Old Testament are still read today in the same way as they quoted them.

§ 321. To the argument of Origen, we must add the other point that Augustine emphasizes in De civit. Dei 15.13:

“If I asked which is more believable: that the Jewish nation, scattered far and wide, could have conspired unanimously to write this lie and, while refusing authority to others, have deprived themselves of the truth; or that seventy men who were also Jews themselves, placed in one location, could have refused that same truth to foreign nations and could have done this by common consent? Who does not see which of these is more natural and easy to believe? God forbid, however, that any prudent person believe either that the Jews—however perverse and wicked—could have tampered with so many and such widely scattered codices or that those renowned seventy men could have taken this one common counsel about refusing the truth to the nations.”

This argument of Augustine can be described more broadly in this way: The Jews did not want to corrupt nor could have corrupted the Hebrew sources. Therefore the notion that the sources were corrupted by the wickedness of the Jews is false.

The Jews did not want to corrupt Scripture.

The fact that they did not want to do this is proved:

(1) By their reverence toward the sacred books. Philo (De egressu filiorum Israel ex Aegypto), Josephus (Contra Apionem, bk. 1), and Eusebius (Eccles. hist., 3.10; Depraepar. evang., 8.2) give the following witness about them: “For a period of more than two thousand years up to their time, not even a word was ever changed in the Law of the Hebrews, and any Jew would rather die a hundred times than permit the Law to be changed in any way.” The Talmudists note on the last verse of Leviticus 27 and other places that “not even a prophet was allowed to change nor alter the least thing in the Law.” Johan. Isaacus, Contra Lindan., testifies that they still today observe the Hebrew codex so reverently that they declare a fast if it should fall on the ground. They write in the Talmud: “He commits an unforgivable sin who changes anything in the Bible; and there is the danger that the whole world may perish if anyone changes a single word in the Hebrew text because God has created this world because of Scripture alone.

(2) By the integrity of the chief prophecies about Christ. If the Jews had wanted to corrupt the divine Scripture to incur the hatred of Christians, they would either have removed the principal prophecies about Christ or changed them. So far are they from having done that that one can draw stronger arguments against them from the Hebrew text than from the Latin versions, as some of the Papists themselves acknowledge.

The Jews could not have corrupted Scripture.

The fact that the Jews could not have corrupted the Hebrew sources is proved:

(1) By their dispersion throughout the entire world. After the fall of Jerusalem, the Jews were scattered throughout the world. How could they, by common consent, have corrupted the Holy Scriptures to support their errors?

(2) By the diligent caution of Christians. After the preaching of the Gospel in the New Testament, the Hebrew books were in the hands not only of the Jews but also of the Christians. There were always some in the Christian Church who could have both read and understood the books of the Old Testament in the original text because some are constantly converted from Judaism to Christ. These surely would not have kept this deceit quiet, had they noticed that the Jews, the enemies of Christ, were falsifying the Scriptures.

(3) By the multitude of copies of the Bible. Among the Jews it was established by the laws “that no father of a family lack a Bible.” But even if a few had conspired to corrupt the Bible, they still could not have introduced this corruption immediately into every copy. Augustine, loc. cit., says, “God forbid, however, that any prudent person believe either that the Jews—however perverse and wicked—could have tampered with so many and such widely scattered codices.

(4) By the variety of translations. The Hebrew Bible was translated into Chaldaic and Greek before the birth of Christ. Therefore if the Jews had wanted to corrupt the Hebrew text, their malicious deceit would have been brought to light immediately by targumic paraphrases and the versions of the Septuagint translators.

Second, nor by the carelessness of scribes.

§ 322. This, then, we have proved: that the Hebrew sources were not and could not have been corrupted by the malice of the Jews. The fact that they were not corrupted by the carelessness of scribes is proved:

(1) By divine providence.We are built upon the foundation not only of the apostles but also of the prophets” (Eph. 2:20), that is, on the doctrine included in the books of the prophets. Therefore divine providence did not permit those books to be corrupted and perverted; otherwise the foundation of the Church would be undermined and overthrown. Bellarmine says (De verbo Dei 2.2): “It is not likely that God would have allowed the words of so many prophets to be falsified generally, especially because He has scattered the Jews throughout the entire world and wanted them to carry about the books of the Law and the prophets for this purpose, so that our foes would give a witness to the Christian truth.” As a consequence, Augustine calls the Jewish nation “the keepers and protectors of the Christians’ books” (Contra Faustum, 12.29; on Psalms 40 and 56; De civ. Dei 18.46).

(2) By the authentic authority of Holy Scripture. If one were to grant that something in Holy Scripture was changed, most of its genuine authority would disappear. But on the contrary, Christ declares: “Until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18). Also Luke 16:17: “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to pass away.

(3) By the faithful protection of the Masorah. In the Masorah Gedolah, or the Great Masorah, added to the end of the major Bible published by Bomberg (whose authors were men of the Great Synagogue or consistory: Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Nehemiah, Zerubbabel, the priest Jeshua, and 120 other chief priests and Levites), are listed all together the verses, words, and letters of the Hebrew Bible. Every variant of these is noted and indicated in its own place, along with a recitation of each verse, so that a faithful and pure reading of the Hebrew text is preserved and fortified against any change or corruption. Elias Levita expresses the usefulness of this truly remarkable and inimitable diligence (preface to Masoreth Hammasoreth, bk. 3): “After that task that the Masoretes performed, it is impossible that a variant or change happened or could have happened later in any way in any book of Scripture. It is not in vain that our rabbinic scholars have said: ‘The Masorah is the fence of the Law.’” Nicolaus Fullerus discusses this matter in this way (Miscell. sacr. 3.13):

“With this plan (for protecting the Hebrew truth from corruptions), the most skilled teachers of the Jews developed a subtle and curious art that they have called the Masoreth, that is, the tradition or most accurate manner of handing down through the hands of posterity a pure and always complete canon of Holy Scripture. A benefit of this is that not only the words but also even the letters were numbered in such a way that no change, not even the slightest, can be introduced by unlearned, incautious, or rash people without being caught easily from its traces. Consequently, they quite fittingly call it, as it were, the fence of the Old Testament against every slip away from it, which removes and casts out the fear of corruption.”

(4) By the singular vigilance of those who copied the Hebrew text either by pen or by type. A comparison of versions, either of manuscripts or of published editions, either of the oldest of these or of the more recent, clearly shows that those who copied the Hebrew text either by pen or by type always kept the work of the Masoretes before their eyes and were careful lest any change in words, letters, or punctuation catch them unawares; and if some change did by chance creep in, an added correction removed it immediately.

Reductio ad absurdum.

§ 323. We also use a reduction to the absurd. If the Old Testament codices were corrupted, the consequence would be:

(1) That God either did not want or was unable to preserve the original text of Scripture unharmed. The first is repugnant to His goodness and wisdom by which He wanted to enlighten all people of every age to salvation by and through Scripture; the latter conflicts with His power.

(2) That the one, supreme principle of our faith is no longer pure and uncorrupted because, when the streams never flow more purely from the springs, the translations will be more corrupt and perverted.

(3) That Christ and the apostles will have to be called to the court of judgment because they never censured the Jews for that great sacrilege but only rebuked far less significant faults in them.

(4) That the study is in vain which lovers of Hebrew apply to learning the sources and to a more accurate scrutiny of the Hebrew codices.

(5) That all the things that Philo, Josephus, Eusebius, Origen, Jerome, Augustine, and other fathers mention about the faithful protection of Scripture and the reverent attitude of the Jews toward it are false and fictitious.

(6) That the apostle commends the Jewish nation with lying praise when he says that they were “entrusted with the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2). Because all of this is absurd and unproved, therefore that, too, will be absurd from which such ideas are concluded and deduced.

Admissions of the Papists.

§ 324. Some of the Papists themselves give their approval to this statement of ours concerning the integrity and purity of the Hebrew text. Johannes Isaacus, formerly professor of Hebrew at the academy of Cologne, has refuted the error of his pupil Lindanus—that the codex of the Bible was corrupted by the Jews—as false and wicked and has defended the Hebrew truth against Lindanus’s calumnies. The title of this book reads as follows: “The Defense of the Hebrew Truth of the Holy Scriptures against Lindanus.” In that work, bk. 2, p. 77, he advises: “More than two hundred arguments that refute Jewish impieties are contained in the Hebrew text more plainly than in the Latin translation.” Andrada acknowledges the same thing in Defens. fid. Trid., bk. 4, where he writes: “Those who treat the Hebrew versions devoutly and reverently find more testimonies regarding Christ in them than in the Latin and Greek.” The previously mentioned Isaacus asserts: “So great is the consensus of the Hebrew Bible that not even a single book can be brought forward, written in a Jewish hand, that lacks something contained in others or to which something is added that the others lack” (bk. 4, p. 69). To the words of Augustine in De civ. Dei 15.13: “God forbid, however, that any prudent person believe either that the Jews—however perverse and wicked—could have tampered with the enumeration of the years in Genesis 5 in so many and such widely scattered codices,” Ludovicus Vives notes the following: “We can make this same response to those who make the objection that the Jews falsified and corrupted the codices of the Old Testament and the Greeks those of the New so that the truth of the sacred books may not be sought from those sources.” Benedictus Arias Montanus, preface to vol. 1 of the Bible, writes: “The Hebrew books that we are using have not been corrupted by the deceit of the Jews. Even if some changes were made, there never was a word or element or vowel point that was not preserved in the thesaurus they call the ‘Masorah.’” Thus he calls the Masorah the “faithful guardian.” Franc. Ribera, on c. 9 of Hosea, draws this conclusion: “If those manuscripts had been corrupted at the time when Jerome published his translation, the Church does not have the true Scripture because all are agreed that the Greek translation is faulty in many places. But if the Hebrew prototypes had been corrupted at the time when our edition was taken from them, then our edition has been totally corrupted, and the Church is without the true and uncorrupted Scripture.” Sixtus Senensis, Biblior. sanct., bk. 8, haer. 2: “One cannot say that the divine Scriptures of the Old Testament were falsified by the malice of either the Jews or the Christians.” Franc. Lucas Brugensis, in his Epistle ad Sirletum prefixed to his Annotat. in bibl., writes: “It is not strange to say that many faults have crept into the Latin version, because the same thing happened in the source of Scripture. This is quite clear in the Greek New Testament, for we want to say nothing about the Hebrew.” Therefore he did not dare make a claim that faults of this kind had overtaken the Hebrew text.

We can bring out more approval of this sort for affirming the integrity of the Hebrew text from Cajetan, Johannes Reuchlin, Eugubinus Steuchus, Marcus Marinus Brixianus, Guido Fabricius, Sanctes Pagninus, Vatablus, etc.


§ 325. Those who defend corruptions of the Hebrew source divide themselves into two classes. Some make the claim: “Because of their hatred of the Christian faith, the Jews purposely corrupted and perverted many passages of the Scriptures.” This is what is taught by Jacobus de Valentia, bishop of Christopolis, in his preface to the Psalms; Melchior Canus (Locor. theol. 2.13); Lindanus (De optimo genere interpret. 1.1); the Englishman Wilhelmus Rainoldus; Gordonus Huntlaeus (Controvers. 1, c. 8), etc. Some, on the other hand, declare: “The Hebrew Scriptures actually were not completely corrupted by the malice of the Jews; nevertheless they are not totally whole and pure but have some errors of their own that crept in partly because of the neglect and carelessness of scribes, because of a similarity of letters, and partly because of the ignorance of the rabbinic scholars who added the vowel points.” This is taught by Johannes Driedo (De eccles. dogmat. et Script., 2.1) and by Bellarmine, who in De verbo Dei 2.2, turns from the opinion of the first group to the moderate conviction of Driedo when he attributes to the prior group a “good zeal” that is nevertheless not “according to knowledge.

Both parties confirm their opinion: (1) With certain rational arguments or, rather, conjectures. (2) With the testimonies of the rabbinic scholars and certain fathers. (3) By bringing in several examples or passages of the Scriptures in which a corruption appears obvious. To all this, Mr. Salomon Glassius, professor of Hebrew literature and our beloved friend, responds sufficiently in his Philologia sacra, which he wrote and published at our encouragement and which will be able to offer much help to students of sacred and Hebrew literature. Here we shall merely bring in brief observations with which we shall be able to satisfy the arguments of the Papists and according to which we shall consider the examples of corruption that Bellarmine has adduced.

§ 326. Against the general reasons or conjectures with which they try to make it probable that the Hebrew sources were corrupted by the malice of the Jews or the carelessness of scribes, observe:

(1) As we shall see in the following chapter, it is a false hypothesis that the vowel points are a recent invention of the Jews. Therefore one cannot prove from this the corruption of the Hebrew text.

(2) Even if the Jews really had wanted to corrupt the Hebrew text because of their hatred of the Christian religion—and it has not yet been proved that they dared to do this—this still would not at all be injurious to divine providence, which could preserve the integrity of Scripture against both the contrivances of the Jews and the persecution of tyrants.

(3) “The corrections of the scribes,” (Tiqqun Soferim) about which Galatinus says much (De arcan. 1.8), do not prove that any corruption has been brought into the text. As Bellarmine correctly points out (De verbo Dei 2.2):

“Either by chance it is not true that any emendation of the Bible was made by the scribes (because in neither Talmud is there mention of such a tikkun; and Josephus, Contra Apionem, bk. 1, claims that no letter was ever changed in the Law by Hebrews, his countrymen; and because neither Epiphanius nor Jerome mentions this correction), or if the tikkun sophrim is not a fable, then it is not a corruption but a true emendation made not by some scribes but by Ezra and the other men of the Great Synagogue, namely, the holy prophets who, after their return from the Babylonian captivity, revised the sacred books and placed them into a certain order.”

Buxtorf claims that those sophrim were the holy writers themselves (Moses and the prophets) who never wrote anything other than what we read today as their writing. More sagacious knowers of Hebrew, however, noting a certain inconsistency in those passages, wrote that those authors ought to have spoken in a different way and ought to have written in this or that way according to the coherence of the text, but for this purpose they preferred to write in this way and bring it out in that way, as it is in the text today. Consequently, Rabbi Aben Ezra pokes fun at the sagacious for several passages, saying that there was no need for tikkun, that is, what those “sagacious wise men” thought that the author ought to have spoken or written there in a different way is nothing. Marcus Marinus, preface to Arca Noae: “The Jews, who have a different opinion (from that of Galatinus) concerning these tikkun sophrim, laugh at the entire matter, for it is firm and certain to them that Holy Scripture, written by the prophets as we now have it, was never changed.

(4) One cannot immediately infer from the corruption of one or two manuscripts in a vowel point, accent, letter, or even a whole statement—whether it happened because of carelessness or by intent—that the Hebrew text of the Old Testament is corrupt completely and in itself, because that error can be corrected from an inspection of other proven and unchanged copies.

(5) Corruption of the Hebrew text cannot be proved from an irregular writing or pointing of the Hebrew words, the Masoretic note and correction of which are usually added in the margin. You see, those Masoretic notes either observe a merely grammatical anomaly or a mystery or a variance in the reading; or if any errors crept into the elements of the letters because of the carelessness of scribes, they correct them. In this way they establish rather than overturn the integrity of the text.

(6) From the version of the Septuagint translators, that no longer exists uncorrupted today, one cannot prove that any mutilation of the Hebrew text occurred, for this would be wanting to judge on the source from the streams, on the norm and rule from the square that the norm and rule have drawn, though one must rather advance in the contrary order.

Rabbinic scholars.

§ 327. We must turn this subject toward the testimonies of certain rabbinic scholars and fathers.

(1) Rabbi Benchaiim Tunetanus distinctly disapproves of the opinion of those who claim that the copies of the Bible were corrupted during the Babylonian captivity. He says:

“Their opinion is far removed from me, for I cannot be persuaded to believe and confess with my lips that the scribe Ezra found the book of the Law and the books of the prophets dubious, corrupt, and confused. In fact, my opinion is rather this: that Ezra and his colleagues found the sacred books whole and unharmed and that Ezra knew, according to his own judgment, which books were written by that excellent wisdom and why certain letters were written but not others and even why some foreign words were written. These he put into the actual text just as they had been written, adding something like a gloss in the margin to explain the nature of the foreign word.”

(2) With its clear testimony, the Masorah refutes the opinion of those rabbinic scholars who claim that some corruption was made in the Hebrew text.

(3) Justin, Origen, and Eusebius speak not about the Hebrew text but about the Greek Septuagint translation when they write that the Jews corrupted the text of the Bible. Justin, Dialog. cum Tryphon., p. 231: “I want you to know that your teachers have removed many—even entire—passages of the Scriptures from the translations of the elders who were with Ptolemy, passages in which the declaration is shown to have been made that the one who was crucified is God and man, that He was hanged on the cross and died.

(4) Chrysostom (homily 5 on Matthew) and Jerome (Epist. ad Augustinum, which is eleventh among the epistles of Augustine) speak about the Jewish translators Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, saying that in their translations from the Hebrew into Greek they set many things incorrectly to develop hatred against the Christian faith and to cast aspersions upon the Septuagint translation. This, however, does no harm at all to the integrity of the Hebrew text.

(5) If one were to examine in particular the passages that Justin says were corrupted by the Jews, it will appear that he spoke from suspicion rather than from knowledge, since he was not so skilled in the Hebrew language.

Examples of corruption adduced by Bellarmine:

First, Isaiah 9:6: “He will call Him.

§ 328. To the examples of corruption that Lindanus, Gordonus, and others have adduced in great number, we have responded in our lectures on Scripture and our notes on the more difficult passages of the Old Testament. Here we shall consider carefully only those five passages that Bellarmine, more moderate than the rest of the Papists in this question, suspects have been corrupted. (I)Isaiah 9:6 has, ‘he will call,’ though it is to be read, ‘he will be called.’ Therefore the Hebrew source does not flow purely everywhere.

We respond.

(1) If the vowel points are removed, it can be read yiqra and yiqqare. However, Bellarmine, Stapleton, Pistorius, and other Papists claim that “the vowel points were added by the rabbinic scholars.

(2) The Chaldean renders it in the passive—; the Septuagint does likewise——as does also Jerome (bk. 3, on Isaiah).

(3) Nevertheless they did not think that any corruption existed here. Rather, by an idiom of their own speech they expressed the idiom of the Hebrew language, and their consideration was not so much for the word itself as for the sense of the word. You see, they knew that among the Hebrews active verbs are often taken impersonally. Gen. 15:6: “He reckoned it to him as righteousness,” that is, “it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (as the apostle explains, Rom. 4:3). Gen. 16:14: “He called this well,” that is, “the well will be called.” Job 4:19: “They crush them according to the appearance of a moth,” that is, “they are crushed.” Job 7:3: “They have apportioned nights of misery to me,” that is, “have been apportioned to me.” (See Mercerus, commentary.)

(4) This method of speaking occurs in the New Testament too. Luke 12:20: “They will require your soul,” that is, “your soul will be required.” (See also Luke 13:29; Rev. 16:15).

(5) Furthermore, one could respond according to another Hebrew idiom, namely, that quite often the Hebrews translate an active verb of the third person singular without a definite nominative with a participle of the same verb supplied as understood. They call this manner of speaking “truncated speech.” Gen. 48:2: “Announced to Jacob,” that is, “someone announcing.” Exod. 10:11: “Drove them out”; add here an understood “expeller” or “someone driving them out.” Job 27:23: “Claps hands,” namely, “one who is clapping.” If you wish, see Mercerus’s commentary on Mic. 2:4: “In that day, will take up a parable against you,” namely, “a lamenter will take up,” which Pagninus has added. (Cf. Vatablus in his commentary on this passage.)

(6) Finally, in the prophetic text one can add these words as understood: “God the Father will call Him,” namely, the same one who gave us this Son of His. Consequently, Junius and Tremellius retain the active.

Second, Jeremiah 23:6: “He will call Him.

§ 329. (II)Jeremiah 23:6 reads in the Hebrew ‘he will call Him’ in the singular, though it is to be read ‘they will call Him’ in the plural.

We respond.

(1) Jerome attests that even at his time it was read in the singular. The Septuagint translators render it καλέσει. Therefore already at the time of Jerome and, in fact, at the time of the Septuagint translators, the Hebrew text would have been corrupted, something that those do not concede who accuse the Hebrew sources of corruption but who claim that the Septuagint translators prepared their translation from a Hebrew text as yet uncorrupted.

(2) Vatablus, Pagninus, and Arias Montanus, who were highly skilled in the Hebrew language, say that it can be translated in the plural, “they will call,” just as the ancient Latin translator rendered as “they will call.

(3) They nevertheless did not think that there was any corruption because here, too, an active verb of the third person is taken impersonally: “he will call Him,” that is, each person in the Church or all the devout in the Church will call Him “Jehovah.

(4) In fact, the preceding noun “Israel” must again be taken in common in a collective sense: “In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell securely. And this is His name (the name of David’s branch), which it (Judah and Israel) will call Him: ‘The Lord our Righteousness.’” Nothing is taken away from this explanation through a translation in the plural, because a plural verb is quite often joined with a collective noun.

(5) Many of the rabbinic scholars, older as well as more recent, have kept the singular reading and apply to the noun Messiah, as Helvicus shows (vol. 4, Disp. Gissens., disp. 5, § 9). It is not likely, therefore, that the Jews corrupted the text lest they be compelled to acknowledge that the name Jehovah was attributed to the Messiah.

Third, Psalm 22:16.

§ 330. (III) Ps. 22:16. “There is no Christian who will not read ‘they have pierced my hands and feet.’ The Hebrew texts, however, read כארי, ‘as a lion,’ not ‘they have pierced,’ which is said כארו.

We respond.

(1) Genebrardus, the Papist, in his commentary on this passage, p. 79, does not dare say that this passage was corrupted by the malice of the Jews but only that there is a variant reading because of the similarity of the letters ו [waw] and י [yodh]. In the same place he also proves with the testimonies of very learned Jews that the best texts had כארו [they have pierced]; this is also claimed by Andrada (Defens. fid., bk. 4); Joh. Isaacus (Contra Lindan., bk. 2); Galatinus (De arcan. Cath. verit. 1.8; 8.17); Gerhard Veltvyckus (appendix to Sessile tohu); and Pagninus, Vatablus, and Mullerus (in their commentaries on this passage). In fact, the library of our academy has a handwritten Hebrew manuscript that reads כארו.

(2) Even if had כארי incorrectly been put for כארו in some copies either because of the carelessness of scribes or the malice of the Jews, this still would not yet prove that the sources were corrupt, because the true and genuine reading could be restored from approved copies. Also that particular corruption in only some codices would do no harm to our position.

(3) Nor would the letter א added to the root letter כ stand in the way of this hypothesis about the change of the letter ו into the letter י, because it originates from the earliest writing of the Jews. Because it is certain that the points were not added in all copies, therefore the Jews generally add one of the letters א ו י after any long vowel, lest too difficult a reading result. However, no necessity forces us to acknowledge any corruption in this passage, because we can read it כארי without any harm to the truth. Yet in explaining this, the experts do differ.

[a] Augustinus Nebrissensis (Psalterium quinquelinguum) and Polanus (Syntagm.) translate it “as a lion” and claim an ellipsis of the word כרוּ, “they have pierced,” or of another with a similar sense, because in the Chaldaic version the two are connected: “As a lion, they have pierced My hands and feet,” because ellipses of the sort also occur elsewhere in the Scriptures.

[b] Avenarius thinks that the word was composed from כאר, “he pierced,” and אֲרִי, “lion,” in this sense: “As a lion they pierced,” which he also proves from the Chaldaic translation.

[c] Gesnerus thinks it must be read with one little vowel point added, כָּאֲרֵי, so that it is the plural construct of כָּאֲרִים. He explains this as “those who pierce” or “of those who pierce My hands and feet.

(4) Because not only the Small Masorah in its notes on Ps. 22:16 but also the Great Masorah at the beginning of letter א note that כארי here has another meaning, as in Isa. 38:13 where it is translated “as a lion.” From this, one concludes that כארי was placed here for כָּרוּ without any corruption and must be translated “they pierced,” just as the Septuagint translators rendered it ώρυξαν. Jerome has fixerunt [“they fastened or pierced”]; in the Ethiopian and Vulgate, foderunt [“they pierced”].

Therefore in this word a certain grammatical anomaly occurs: א a was inserted either by epenthesis or from the earliest custom of writing, and י instead of ו was placed at the end. Those latter are έμμεταβολοί or interchangeable with each other, as Avenarius shows with many examples (Gramm., bk. 3, p. 585). Schindlerus confirms this opinion also from the fact that the כ has underneath it a qamets, from which it is obvious that this is not a formative letter but a root letter, for otherwise if it were the preposition it would have been a shewa.

Fourth, Psalm 19:4: “their voice.”

§ 331. (IV) Ps. 19:4. “The Hebrew manuscripts read ‘Their קַוָּם (that is, their ‘line’ or their ‘plumb line’) has gone out into all the earth,’ though the Septuagint translators rendered it φθόγγος αύτών, “their voice or sound”, and Paul approved of their translation (Rom. 10:18). How is it that Jerome translated it literally from the Hebrew, ‘their sound has gone out,’ so that it is necessary either to rebuke Paul and Jerome or certainly to admit that the source is not pure in this passage? It is likely that קוֹלָם ought to be read, since קולם comes from קום with only one letter added.

We respond.

(1) Genebrardus, in his scholia on Psalm 19, writes: “The Hebrew word indeed means ‘line,’ but the Septuagint translators were looking at the sense.” Jerome in his translation and the apostle in his citation in Rom. 10:18 followed the Septuagint because the doctrine of the apostles is the line, the plumb line, and rule of all doctrines in the Church.

(2) Johannes Isaacus points out that the word קַו also means “sound.” However, no examples of this meaning are extant; it is more likely, therefore, that the Septuagint translators repeated that word from the preceding verse.

(3) Not only here but also in many other places in the New Testament, Christ and the apostles quote statements from the Old Testament not according to the wording of the Hebrew text but according to the Septuagint translation, as Jerome teaches (Quaest. super Genes., c. 46). From this, however, one cannot and should not infer that the Hebrew text is not authentic nor that we must go back from the streams to the sources. After all, first, who are we when compared with Christ, the master of Scripture, and with the apostles, who were moved by the immediate inbreathing of the Holy Spirit?

Second, though they do not always follow the actual words, nevertheless they do retain the purest sense and intention. Jerome, Epistle 151 ad Algasiam: “Whenever the evangelists and apostles have brought forth testimonies from the Old Testament, one must observe carefully that they have not followed the words but the sense; and whenever the Septuagint differs from the Hebrew, they expressed the Hebrew sense in their speech.

Furthermore, it is one thing to translate Scripture, but it is another to cite a passage from Scripture. Even the teachers of our Church in their disputations draw statements of Scripture from the Latin Vulgate version, yet they do not thereby claim that it is authentic; rather, as necessity demands, they appeal to the Hebrew sources.

In addition, the nature of the Greek version today is different from what it formerly was, because that Greek version of the Old Testament that exists today either is not the version of the Septuagint translators or has been corrupted and vitiated in many ways.

Finally, they did not quote statements of Scripture from the Greek version for the purpose of claiming that the Hebrew sources were contaminated and muddied, but because the Greek version was at that time the most used and the most widely accepted. Jerome, Quaest. super Genesin: “Observe this in general, that whenever the holy apostles or apostolic men speak to the people, they often use those testimonies that then were widely published among the Gentiles, namely, through the Septuagint translation.

(4) Paul expressed literally the Hebrew source and the word קו in Gal. 6:16: “upon all who walk by this rule,” etc.

(5) It is apparent from the notes of the Masoretes that at their time this was read as קום. Therefore no suspicion of corruption lies here. After all, the Masoretic notes were written not only before Jerome’s translation but also even before the Septuagint version and, in fact, were written by Ezra and other men of the Great Synagogue, as Buxtorf and other experts of the Hebrew language affirm.

Fifth, complete sentences are missing.

§ 332. (V)Sometimes complete sentences are missing in the Hebrew, though they are not missing from the Septuagint version nor in Jerome’s translation. We have an example in Exodus 2, where this whole statement is missing: ‘She also bore another son, and he called his name Eliezer, saying: ‘The God of my father has helped me and has delivered me from the hand of Pharaoh.’

We respond.

(1) The Hebrew text has that verse in its own place, namely, Exod. 18:4.

(2) The Latin and Greek versions are not the rule for authentic truth in the Hebrew text, for we must not pass judgment on the spring from the streams but, on the contrary, on the streams from the spring.

(3) Who will make us certain that the Hebrew codices here lack something that must necessarily be supplied? You see, one may claim with equal ease that something must be taken away from the Greek and Latin codices.

(4) Cajetan admits: “That verse is superfluous.” The scholars at Louvain mark it with an asterisk, and Robertus Stephanus rejects it.

(5) If you pay attention to Moses’ argument and the flow of the narrative, this verse is inserted here ineptly. You see, Gershom, the son of Moses, preceded his brother Eliezer by many years, during which the Israelites looked to God and God saw them (Exod. 2:25). Eliezer was born toward the end of those years and was still uncircumcised when Moses girded himself for his return to Egypt, as Junius notes (Animadvers.).

§ 333. These are the five passages of the Old Testament that Bellarmine suspects have been corrupted in the Hebrew text. But even if one were to concede some variance of reading or the change of some little letter in them, yet the consequence would not follow that the Hebrew text was so corrupt that it could not be considered as authentic and that one could not appeal to it as the source. This is because:

(1) There would be more in the conclusion than one could infer from the premises. For what is the logical connection here? Five passages have been corrupted, or rather have variant readings, therefore all of Scripture in the Hebrew codex is corrupt? The following is the only consequence: Therefore in those five places, the Hebrew Scripture is not genuine and whole.

(2) There is a scribal error that exists only in some but not all copies. Its correction is obvious to everyone, and both we and the Papists are in agreement regarding it, so we cannot consider it of such importance that it impugns the canonical authority of the Hebrew source.

(3) If that orthographic variance, brought on accidentally because of an affinity of letters and carried only by some copies, were to cause the Hebrew source no longer to be pure and authentic, the consequence would be that the Greek text in the New Testament would no longer be authentic because variant readings occur in it too. But this would be the same thing as if someone wanted to accuse an entire Epistle of corruption because of an error in a single letter of a word.

(4) In fact, the Latin Vulgate version has been corrupted in far more passages and teems with far more serious errors. Yet the Papists have their hands full foisting it upon us as authentic.

(5) Bellarmine himself acknowledges that because of this no harm is done to the purity and genuine authority of the sources, for he writes against Lindanus, Canus, Gordonus, and others who attack the purity of the sources: “Errors of this sort that have crept in because of the negligence or ignorance of scribes are not of such weight that the integrity of Holy Scripture is lacking in those matters that pertain to faith and the good behavior. You see, in most cases the entire discrepancy of variant readings lies in some words that change the sense either very little or not at all” (De verbo Dei 2.2, final §).


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