Did Scribes Faithfully Transmit Old Testament Manuscripts?

by Sheri Bell

Historical Documentation Resoundingly Says, “Yes!”

In a previous blog post in this series, we saw that the New Testament can rightly claim to be more reliable and accurate than another other ancient document in history. Can we also trust the authenticity of the Old Testament?

Fortunately, we have really old biblical manuscripts to help us answer that. Too, we have documented proof of how meticulously Jewish scribes — even long before Jesus — faithfully transmitted and preserved these biblical texts.

~ First, the Back Story ~

We forget that the Bible did not come to us as one book. Rather, Scripture is a collection of books, written primarily in Hebrew, over a span of more than a thousand years. We can list among the authors of the Old Testament kings, prophets, generals, and even shepherds. Included genres — categories of writing — range from history, narrative, poetry, wisdom, lament, and apocalyptic literature.

It would be so much neater, when trying to answer the question, “Are we reading the Bible God intended?” if each book of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) came into existence at one time, and if each book was considered complete at the time it was composed. Evidence, however, suggests this was not always the case.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, just one of five important Hebrew manuscripts that we’ll look at in next week’s blog post, are fragments of the oldest known Hebrew Bible text. Fragments aren’t enough to go on. So modern scholars point us to the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex(housed in the National Library of Russia), written in the 10th and 11th centuries by scribes called the Masoretes, as authoritative copies of the Hebrew Bible.

The Leningrad Codex has been used as the basis for most modern printed editions of the Hebrew Bible. Comparing it to modern Hebrew Old Testaments shows us just how accurately God’s Word has been preserved over the centuries.

The Bible Manuscript Society puts it this way: the Leningrad Codex provides irrefutable proof that the Hebrew Old Testament has remained unchanged down through more than one thousand years, copied faithfully from manuscripts one thousand years earlier…

Did Scribes Faithfully Transmit Old Testament Manuscripts?