Bible Review 6:4, August 1990


Old Testament manuscripts from Qumran to Leningrad

By Marc Zvi Brettler

Bible Review

Ancient texts are different from modern books. Today copyright laws not only assure the author his or her fair share of royalties, but also that the text printed is the text the author wanted to print. Before the introduction of copyright laws, many diverse texts for a single work circulated. Some publishers copied their base text exactly, others shortened it, while others expanded upon it. In addition, different copyists used different manuscripts as the basis for their editions. All of these things happened to the text of the Bible. Since the most important manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible are hundreds of years old, it is not surprising that they do not all agree. Studying the different manuscripts is important, both to understand how one text relates to another and to decide which version or text is closest to the original.

The texts of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament have very different histories. The Hebrew Bible reflects material written in the course of a millennium, while the entire New Testament was composed within a century. The transmission of the Hebrew Bible began long before the New Testament was written. It is therefore not surprising that the history of manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible is not parallel to those of the New Testament, which was described in a recent Glossary.a

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