What Is the Oldest Hebrew Bible?

The formation of the Hebrew Bible from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Aleppo Codex


The Ashkar-Gilson Manuscript is a seventh- or eighth-century C.E. manuscript that sheds light on the formation of the Hebrew Bible in the period between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the later codices. Photo: © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Ardon Bar Hama.

What is the oldest Hebrew Bible? That is a complicated question. The Dead Sea Scrolls are fragments of the oldest Hebrew Bible text, while the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex are the oldest complete versions, written by the Masoretes in the 10th and 11th centuries, respectively. The Ashkar-Gilson Manuscript falls in between the early scrolls and the later codices.

In “Missing Link in Hebrew Bible Formation” in the November/December 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Biblical scholar Paul Sanders discusses the role the Ashkar-Gilson Manuscipt had in bridging the gap between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the later Aleppo Codex and Leningrad Codex.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered by Bedouin in 1947. Over 80,000 scroll fragments that came to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 11 caves near the Dead Sea site of Khirbet Qumran. The Dead Sea Scrolls date between 250 B.C.E. and 68 C.E. and represent the largest group of Second Temple Jewish literature ever discovered. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain two types of documents: fragments of the oldest Hebrew Bible texts and writings that—most scholars argue—describe the beliefs and practices of a community of Jews living and writing at the nearby settlement of Qumran.

The Aleppo Codex, the oldest Hebrew Bible that has survived to modern times, was created by scribes called Masoretes in Tiberias, Israel around 930 C.E. As such, the Aleppo Codex is considered to be the most authoritative copy of the Hebrew Bible. The Aleppo Codex is not complete, however, as almost 200 pages went missing between 1947 and 1957.

Interested in the history and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls? In the free eBook Dead Sea Scrolls, learn what the Dead Sea Scrolls are and why are they important. Find out what they tell us about the Bible, Christianity and Judaism.

While the Aleppo Codex is the oldest Hebrew Bible, the Leningrad Codex is the oldest complete Hebrew Bible. The Leningrad Codex dates to 1008 C.E. The scribe who penned the Leningrad Codex actually identified himself in two colophons (an inscription containing the title, the scribe’s or printer’s name, and the date and place of composition) at the beginning and end of the text as Samuel ben Jacob, or Samuel son of Jacob. The colophons also identify the place written (Cairo), the person who commissioned it (Mevorak son of Nathaniel) as well as further sale and donation details.

The Ashkar-Gilson Manuscript was purchased by Fuad Ashkar and Albert Gilson (hence the name Ashkar-Gilson) from an antiquities dealer in Beirut, Lebanon in 1972, and some years later, they donated it to Duke University in North Carolina. Based on carbon-14 dating and paleographic analysis, the Ashkar-Gilson Manuscript was dated to sometime between the seventh and eighth centuries C.E., right at the tail end of the so-called “silent era”— an almost 600-year period from the third through eighth centuries, or the time between the oldest Hebrew Bible fragments (the Dead Sea Scrolls) and the oldest complete Hebrew Bible authoritative Masoretic codices.

Was the Ashkar-Gilson Manuscipt the source of the later, authoritative Masoretic traditions? For the answer to this question and more, read the full article “Missing Link in Hebrew Bible Formation” by Paul Sanders as it appears in the November/December 2015 issue of BAR.


BAS Library Members: Read the full article “Missing Link in Hebrew Bible Formation” by Paul Sanders in the November/December 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on November 1, 2015.—Ed.


More on the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex in the BAS Library:

Emmanuel Tov, “Seaching for the Original Bible: Do the Dead Sea Scrolls Help?” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2014.

Yosef Ofer, “The Mystery of the Missing Pages of the Aleppo Codex,” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2015.

Yosef Ofer, “The Shattered Crown: The Aleppo Codex, 60 Years After the Riots,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2008.

James A. Sanders and Astrid Beck, “The Leningrad Codex,” Bible Review, August 1997.


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41 Responses

  1. Rolf says:

    Excellent Gus
    The following further confirms your writing

  2. Gus Wilby says:

    I mis-stated: when I wrote that they were trying to disqualify Jesus as the Messiah, I meant to say that they were using those genealogies to disqualify Jesus as our “High Priest.” according to the order of Melkizadek. (Thus also making it possible to deny Him as Messiah.)

  3. Gus Wilby says:

    It is not necessarily wrong to consider the LXX as the oldest “Hebrew” Bible. it was translated by Hebrew scribes for Hebrew people who spoke Greek more than a hundred years prior to Jesus.. The Hebrew language was dying out and this was a valid means to preserve the Scripture.
    The content closely matches the Dead Sea Scrolls, whereas the Masoeretic version, copied nearly a millennium after Christ does not match entirely. It has been proven, and I’ve actually verified the differences, that the Masoretic scribes “left out” parts of certain prophecies that linked to Jesus as the Messiah. As well, the ages of the descendants of Shem were shortened by 600 years collectively in the Masoretic text which makes it seem that Shem outlived at least seven generations of his descendants and was alive during the lifetime of Abraham. Why? So that those who did not want to “endorse” Jesus as the Messiah could “prove” that Melkizadek and Shem were one and the same, to whom Abraham gave a tenth. The Levitical priesthood descended from Shem, making Melkizadek in the line of the Levite’s. This was to disqualify Jesus as the Messiah since His lineage was not through the Levite’s.
    I’ve read other, albeit non–Biblical, Jewish writings wherein it is admitted that the Jewish leaders knew Jesus was who He said He was, but that they were not willing to give up their control over the Jews. Thus you have Jesus’ parable about the owner of a vineyard who sent his son to check on the workers and they killed the owner’s, knowing who he was. And if you look at how frequently Israel abandoned Adonai, and how they acted toward their Creator, (Just read the second chapter of Jeremiah for some graphic perspectives on how God viewed His chosen people for their idolatry), you’ll certainly be able to see that they knew full well what they were doing in “making errors” in the Masoeric text.

  4. Davenia Muhammad says:

    So what about life after death experience.Surely there is a God & Angeles.We have millions humans around the world with these testimony.

  5. Brennan says:

    BC, AD, is right don’t change it cause your worried about feelings, that’s what’s wrong now, got to worry about hurting someone’s feelings, get over it is always been this way, yes I know it’s about evolving but no I do not agree people need there feelings hurt to grow, and be wiser and etc.

  6. Bob says:

    In the end there is some very good news and some not so good news. The good news is this: in many instances the Hebrew text found among the Scrolls is very, very similar to the consonantal text standardized later by the Masoretes. The copy of Isaiah is very much like the copy found in Codex Leningradensis.

    The not so good news is that this is not the case with all of the books of the Hebrew Bible. Scholars had long noted, for example, that the Septuagint (Greek) text of the book of Jeremiah was about 15% shorter than the Masoretic text (i.e., it had that many fewer verses/words), and scholars had suspected that it was because the Hebrew version of Jeremiah known to the ancient Greek translators was significantly different from the Masoretic Text. As it turns out, one of the scrolls discovered at Qumran has a Hebrew text of Jeremiah that is closer to that lying behind the Septuagint version than the Masoretic text. 15% is a big difference. Other books of the Septuagint are also strikingly different from the Masoretic text, for example, in the books of Samuel and Kings. It is possible that the Hebrew texts of all these books were in serious flux before the text came to be standardized by the end of the first century. Bart Ehrman

  7. Stephen Brudney says:

    Saul, the article is not on the Greek Bible but the Hebrew Bible. Yes, the LXX translation was done earlier than the Dead Sea Scrolls but the oldest extant complete LXX we have comes from a date later than the Scrolls (the Codex Vaticanus from about 350). But I think there are fragments from the 1st century BCE (within the Scroll period) while some Dead Sea Scroll fragments go back to 250 BCE.

  8. Stephen Brudney says:

    The use of BCE and CE has less to do with science per se and more to do with groups of people or individuals who do not endorse or suggest that they endorse Christianity, for whatever reason. The criterion for such groups and individuals is historical and, for some, religious, more than scientific. As a Jew, I still recognize that, historically, the Western world and more have come to view the year 1 as a huge turning point. But I want a way to refer to it without endorsing the view Jesus was or is the Christ, as I would do using BC Before Christ) and I also want a way to not endorse the view that Jesus or Jesus Christ is Lord in some way, as I would do using AD (the year of our Lord). Christians think he was and is Lord but not Jews, Muslims, agnostics or atheists. Public schools are run by state governments which should not be endorsing any religious view. The entire British public school system has been using BCE and CE for many years. Not just scientists, then, but Jews and scholars in many fields who wish to not endorse Christianity use BCE and CE.

  9. Dr. Saul Pressman says:

    Dear Joe (and others):
    If you wish to read what I have written on the changes to the Patriarch’s lifespans between the Septuagint and the Masoretic (deletion of 1400 years), email me at [email protected] and I will send it to you.

  10. Abigail says:

    Thank y’all for such engaging enlightenments and exchanges. Yes, seriously. Enriches my day immeasurably (and wouldn’t present day measuring instruments fail anyway.)

  11. Paul Ballotta says:

    You are correct, Wes, in that the method used in interpretations involving related root words can be confusing to those of us not familiar with the Hebrew language. Fortunately the gospel of John 9:7 provides an example that can be easily understood, with the word Siloam being interpreted as meaning “sent forth,” that is ultimately derived from speculation concerning Genesis 49:10 which states:
    “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his legs, until Shiloh comes, and to him the submission of peoples.”
    In the Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 98bb, it mentions this cryptic reference to the Messiah in the word “shiloh’ as being the Judahite King Hezekiah, perhaps because it is stated that the people ruled by his father on the throne, King Ahaz, had “scorned the waters of Shiloah (Siloam) which flow gently along” (Isaiah 8:6).

  12. WDK says:

    Just want to acknowledge that I have read over what you said several times. I juar wish I knew more about Semitic and other ancient languages so that I had a better grasp on what you are saying. But I hope that our comments back the case for BAR to keep on digging – literally and metaphorically. There must be more dots to connect.

  13. Paul Ballotta says:

    Since the Mishnah tractate Hagigah 2:1 states that the relaying of the teachings of the divine chariot can only be transmitted to a wise man who can understand by himself, it is only fitting that I correctly “relay” the lyrics of the sage:
    “From tree to tree, from you to me,
    traveling twice as fast as on any freeway;
    every single dream, wrapped up in the scheme,
    they all get carried on the relay.”
    The oral tradition of the Pharisees which found their resting place in the writings of the Mishnah (which is a title derived from the Hebrew word “shanah,” meaning, “to repeat”) may date back to late 8th century B.C.E. and was probably alluded to in Isaiah 8:20 as “the Law and the Testimony.”
    “Wrap up the testimony, put a seal about the law among my disciples!” (Isaiah 8:16).
    This against a backdrop of the network of couriers relaying information within the Neo-Assyrian Empire similar to the tablets written in Akkadian found at Tel Amarna in Egypt and dating to the reigns of Pharaohs Amenhotep Iii and Amenhotep IV during the mid-14th century B.C.E.
    The “disaster stylus’ used to inscribe the tablet in Isaiah 8:1 was similar to the bold headlines of major events appearing on contemporary newspapers and the name Maher-shallel-hash-baz (hurry the plunder/chase the spoil) contains the word for a Hurrian chariot rider, “maher,” mentioned in the Papyrus Anastasi I that dates to the 13th century B.C.E.
    Of course the stability of Roman rule enabled the spread of information throughout the empire’s network of highways.

  14. Paul Ballotta says:

    Thank you for your expertise, Wes, and elucidating that the Bible that our generation inherited was not intended to be a one-size-fits-all fig-leaf garment used by the first parents to cover their nakedness after partaking of the fruit of worldly knowlege under an assumption that this was all they needed by relying on knowledge that is incomplete without the variety of the trees of God’s garden that may symbolize the many books that were considered not worthy of inclusion in the canon. The so-called tree of prohibition symbolizes the law of Moses that transgressors were subject to, as Jesus himself indicated when he said that a person’s transgressions will make them answerable to the legislative body of the Sanhedrin (Matthew 5:22).
    It is interesting reading the comments of Paul #15 and Wes#18 & 27 about the change that occurred after the Jewish revolt against the Romans ended with the seige at Masada, among whom were likely familiar with the writings of the Dead Sea Scrolls and their use of the term “Kittim” (Genesis 10:4) to designate the Romans. The variety of sects mentioned by Josephus is replaced by largest sect, the Pharisees, and their legal hair-splitting successors, the Sanhedrin governed Rabbinate whose seat of government relocated from Jerusalem to Jabneh.
    You can see how the Jewish Christians in the Levant had processed these developments in the gospel of John where it mentions Jesus going to Jerusalem and his not trusting the authority of men (John 2:24-25) and then in Nicodemus is mentioned who was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. There was an oral tradition that was first composed in the form that now have in the writings of the Mishnah that became the foundation of the later Palestinian and Babylonian Talmud.
    The author of the Mishnah in the early 3rd century, Judah ha-Nasri (whose name, Nasri, means “prince,” the term used by Ephron the Hittite in addressing Abraham in Genesis 23:6, when purchasing a plot to lay Sarah to rest and whose name means “princess”) had the same source as the author of the gospel of John, in the tractate of Pirke Aboth, or the ” Sayings of The Fathers.” This ethical treatise is distinct from the halakhic work of the Mishnah and it traces back the authority of the Rabbinate of the post-Second Temple period to the men of the Great Assembly (the precursor to the Sanhedrin) that was founded after the return of the Babylonian captivity at the beginning of the Second Temple period, which is the period when scripture was considered valid before prophecy ceased in Israel under the domination of the Greco-Roman civilizations.
    The term “Kabbalah” that was first coined during the Middle Ages was derived from the word “kibel,” which means “to receive,” that is used in the Pirke Aboth:
    “Moses received (“kibel”) Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the men of the Great Assembly…”
    Then the authority of one of the last surviving members of the men of the Great Assembly, Simon the Righteous, is received by Antigonus of Socho (who has a Greek name like Nicodemus).
    Another thing that’s interesting is the Wikipedia page on “Book of Baruch” which makes comparisons in phrases found in the Gospels, such as Baruch 3:29:
    “Who has ever climbed the sky and caught her (wisdom) to bring her down from the clouds?”
    “No one has gone up to heaven
    except the one who came down from heaven,
    the Son of Man who is in heaven” (John 3:13).
    In the wisdom psalm of Baruch 3:9-4:4 the Book of the Torah is the embodiment of the primordial wisdom like in the section of Proverbs 8:22-31 and the 24th chapter of the Wisdom of Ben Sirach.
    The reference to the gospel of John’s “Son of Man” can be found in Ezekiel 1:26 where it mentions the “semblence of a human form” upon the heavenly throne.
    Maybe some people don’t want us to know certain things like there being a higher authority like that old Hebrew National Hotdog television ad with Uncle Sam looking up in wonder. It reminds me of a song that’s not easy to find, called “Relay,” by The Who:
    “Every single dream
    is locked up in the scheme,
    they all get carried on the relay.”

  15. WDK says:

    We speak of “canonicity” both as convenience and convention since its derivation resembles common law.
    Scriptures anthologies such as the Septuagint and scrolls of Qumrum precede our print definitions evolved from Josephus in Contra Apionem in the late 1st century and Athanasius of Alexandria in the 4th century AD. Yet what Josephus provides in one hand he wipes away with the other. In his Judean history leading up to Jerusalem’s siege he provides the varied canvas of Judean beliefs: Sadducees, Pharisees and Essenes. In light of this and the variety of Qumrum scrolls, is there such a thing as a “normative 2nd Temple Judaism”? If there was not, then why was one tradition accepted over another to be incorporated into Christian coda? For the first two centuries of this era, whatever the consensus was in the Jewish community, the Christian church recognized the entirety of the late Septuagint as sacred scripture. It was a matter of 4th century debate among such as Jerome, Augustine and Athanasius as how to treat writings ranging from the Pentateuch to those added in the 1st century BC.

    The 27-book convention of the NT gained strength with the advocacy of Athanasius, but he was certainly not the only voice on which OT books should be adopted in the Christian community. At that, adjusting the canonical set understood today, Athanasius includes Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah; he also places Esther among the “7 books not in the canon but to be read” along with Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Judith, Tobit, the Didache, and Shepherd of Hermas.

    Our thread is the oldest Hebrew Bible in the context of archeology and antiquity as I remind myself. But I note that Apocrypha elements from the Septuagint were included in the King James Bible of 1611 between the testaments Old and New, not entirely different from the Vulgate based Bible approach canonized by the Council of Trent in 1546. It was with the 1647 Westminister Confession that the English speaking world began its great break with Apocrypha: “not being of divine inspiration , are no part of the canon of the scripture and therefore of no authority in the church of God; nor to be any [way] otherwise approved, or made use of than any other human writings.” In effect that is the canonization which appears in the current discussion. By 1827 as a result of controversy, the British and Foreign Bible Society excluded the Apocrypha from all its publications. Many Protestant English language Bibles still included these books decades ago (e.g., the Maccabees), but to acquire them today in the English speaking world, your most likely sources are the canons of other faiths, e.g., an annotated New Jerusalem Bible.

    If other writers wrote of Esther, Esther mentions neither deity nor scripture, but it does explain certain religious observances in commemoration – as do the “non-canonical” Maccabees. It seems no one asserts that Esther wrote Esther as is the case with other canonical works such as Daniel. We suggest that Daniel and Baruch had similar origins, yet experienced different fates. They share turns of phrase and subject material, but Daniel is “canonical” while Baruch is not. The modern reader notes in chapter 5 that Daniel describes Belshazzar as Nebuchadnezzar’s son when Babylonian records clearly indicate otherwise. Apologists claim the author simply means “son” in the sense of descendant. Baruch, however, in chapter 1 insists otherwise and goes as far to declare Belshazzar a co-regent with Nebuchadnezzar, among other revisions. Both books exist in Hebrew respectively in whole or part in the Qumrum collections ( Baruch 7Q2). As an element of the oldest Hebrew Bibles, parts of Daniel were in Aramaic, but only Greek antecedents were known for Baruch until the 20th century. Daniel’s later Septuagint chapters (13 and 14) are only known in Greek. Both books seem also tied to the Prayer of Nabonidus, the first person narrator of which is only identified with mention of his stay at Teima. But does the community which asserts Daniel was penned by Daniel appreciate the support of Baruch? Had Athanasius access in Alexandria to the Babylonian Kings List, we would better understand his “books to be read”.

    Referring back to the definition of canon provided by Josephus, this tight version of what constitutes the OT allows little maneuver room in Writings once Psalms are identified as a constituent. Moreover, chapter 9 of Daniel does damage to his cause for elevation to prophet since he appears to be speaking during the reign of Xerxes’s son (Darius II) who succeeds Artaxerxes, possibly explaining its post in the TaNaKh.
    To summarize let’s say that another benefit of canonicity is that it provides self-fulfilling prophecy.

  16. Paul Ballotta says:

    Correction: the “Glory/Kabod” of God, not Gos.

  17. Paul Ballotta says:

    I incorrectly stated in my previous comment that the Masoretes began adding vowel points to the Tanakh in the 3rd century when it wasn’t until the 6th century when this process began. It was in the 3rd century that the Christian canon resembled the “accepted” scripture of the church tradition today. As for Judaism in the 3rd century, it was predicated on the legalities of the “halakhic” tradition exemplified in the writings of the Talmud, with the exception of a mystical stream that remained firmly within the rabbinical orthodoxy that traced its origins back to the book of Ezekiel and the vision of the “Glory of the Lord” (Kabod Yahweh) in Ezekiel 1:28 and 10:4, and that the terminology for the “glory/kabod” of Gos also appears in the book of Tobit, the book of Enoch and the Dead Sea Scrolls (noncanonical sources). These mystical speculations found their way into doctrines that the rabbis considered heretical. Gershom Scholem, in his book “Kabbalah,” states that “in this period [3rd and 4th centuries] a Jewish Gnostic sect with definitive antinomian tendencies was active in Sepphoris” (p.12). This esoteric tradition, known as the “ma’aseh bereshith” (workings of creation) and the “ma’aseh merkabah” (workings of the chariot), became popular in Gnostic writings of the 2nd and 3rd centuries that through their destruction under orthodox Christianity under the Byzantines, they were lost to humanity and ultimately reduced to a mere footnote by church historian Eusebius, until, that is, their discovery in a cave near Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945.

  18. Paul Ballotta says:

    The designations of B.C.E./C.E and B.C./A.D. can be reconciled when we see the Christian era as beginning around 6 B.C.E. at the time of a scholar known as Judas the Galillean, of whom it was said led a revolt against the Romans. It is more likely that prophecy invoked in Matthew 4:16 concerning the light and the darkness (a dualism often emphasised in the Dead Sea Scroll) that was borrowed from Isaiah 9:1-2, was first brought to fulfillment by Judas the Galillean with the light being the scriptural interpretations (probably not unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls) shining into a world dominated by the gentiles, the darkness of ignorance.
    It is interesting to note that this prophecy was also applied by the priest Zechariah to bless his son John in Luke 1:79, and who would go on to make the rite of water babtism accessible to all (the requirement for a “mikveh” immersion bath is that it must be fed by a natural water source, in this case, the Jordan River).
    Carlos Suarez, in his “Cipher Genesis,” explains it best:
    “The names and quasi-historical events recorded in the Bible are, regarded from the point of view that only ‘ordinary’ history occurs, fixed in time and space to definite individuals and periods. This is probably indeed the case, judging from the results of contemporary Biblical research. But if there is also aa ‘sacred’ history, it escapes from time and space save for those tremendous historical moments, the ‘kairoi’, such as ‘the time of Christ,’, when the two histories coalesce into one. The time of Abraham’ may have been also such a time, or it may not have been. It may be that the sacred history has become, for convenience, ‘grafted onto’ the account of secular history given in the Bible. Thus it may be that the Jesus of the New Testament actually lived, at the time of Pontius Pilate, or some hundred years earlier as the ‘Teacher of Righteousness’ of an Essene Brotherhood. The evidence for the ‘ordinary’ historical existance of Christ is too scanty to be reliable. All the Gospels were written much later than the events they describe.”
    Suarez then cites a quotation from Josephus as evidence of the “grafting” theory, but I’ll quote instead from the interpretation of this passage from “The Historical Jesus” by John Dominic Crossan, p.112:
    “Under his [Coponius] administration, a Galilean, named Judas, incited his countrymen to revolt, upbraiding them as cowards for consenting to pay tribute to the Romans and tolerating mortal masters, after having God for their Lord. This man was a sophist [that is, a school of thought] of his own, having nothing in common with the others. Jewish philosophy, in fact, takes three forms. The followers of the first school are called Pharisees, of the second Sadducees, of the third Essenes. (Jewish War 2.117-118)”‘

  19. Paul Ballotta says:

    Thank you, commentator Gene R., for highlighting the rigidity of the biblical canon that ws accepted by the Christian orthodoxy at the same time, as the article mentions, when the Jewish orthodoxy were composing copies of the Tanakh that included vowel points in the 3rd century C.E. (or A.D., for those who can’t get over that hurdle like something out of Monty Python’s “Upperclass Twit of the Year” video).
    This didn’t stop the mystics from receiving oracles by reading the Hebrew scriptures without the vowel points, enabling alternate interpretations of a word based on similar words built round the same root, as in the root word “selah” that is translated as “sent forth” in John 9:7, as relating to the Pool of Siloam. The author of this gospel seems to portray this type of divination (utilized in the Book of Zohar) as being an acceptable form of legislation, known in Hebrew as “halakha” or “laws” which is also the word for “walk,” as in “Jesus was walking along” in John 9:1.

  20. arjun jobil says:

    Jesus does quote from at least one non-canonical work.

  21. Gene R. Conradi says:

    Additional ancient testimony. One of the chief external evidences against the canonicity of the Apocrypha is the fact that none of the Christian Bible writers quoted from these books. While this of itself is not conclusive, inasmuch as their writings are also lacking in quotations from a few books recognized as canonical, such as Esther, Ecclesiastes, and The Song of Solomon, yet the fact that not one of the writings of the Apocrypha is quoted even once is certainly significant.

  22. Gene R. Conradi says:

    Evidence Against Canonicity. While in some cases they have certain historical value, any claim for canonicity on the part of these writings is without any solid foundation. The evidence points to a closing of the Hebrew canon following the writing of the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi in the fifth century B.C.E. The Apocryphal writings were never included in the Jewish canon of inspired Scriptures and do not form part of it today.

  23. Gene R. Conradi says:


    The Greek word a·poʹkry·phos is used in its original sense in three Bible texts as referring to things “carefully concealed.” (Mr 4:22; Lu 8:17; Col 2:3) As applied to writings, it originally referred to those not read publicly, hence “concealed” from others. Later, however, the word took on the meaning of spurious or uncanonical, and today is used most commonly to refer to the additional writings declared part of the Bible canon by the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent (1546). Catholic writers refer to these books as deuterocanonical, meaning “of the second (or later) canon,” as distinguished from protocanonical.

    These additional writings are Tobit, Judith, Wisdom (of Solomon), Ecclesiasticus (not Ecclesiastes), Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, supplements to Esther, and three additions to Daniel: The Song of the Three Holy Children, Susanna and the Elders, and The Destruction of Bel and the Dragon. The exact time of their being written is uncertain, but the evidence points to a time no earlier than the second or third century B.C.E.

  24. WDK says:

    The notion that there are only slight differences in the Masoretic and Septuagint texts does not hold up very well on examination, simply by looking at the table of contents of the two Bibles. Several of the books and chapters that are either considered by many faiths as deutero-canonical or apocryphal were once included in the King James and other collections; in recent years they have been discreetly dropped. Criteria for what is canonical came literally with book binding. So long as scriptures were tied to scrolls, the documents we know collectively as a Bible were once components of libraries, or more likely parts of one. And not necessarily all of it was included due to local availability or the commissioning of a copy. Councils of churches and the Judaic equivalent set the criteria for a canon over centuries.

    Many of the books of the Septuagint did not make the canonicity cut: Judith, the Wisdom ( of Ben Sirach), Maccabees, later chapters of Daniel and others not even appearing in the Vulgate.

    Comparison of many verses in the Masoretic and Septuagint differ considerably. So consequently, OTs of intermediate age could shed light on what had transpired in between. If some sciences advocating BCE and CE are not “hard”, interpretation of the meaning of these texts cannot be considered on any firmer ground, save the resolution of the adherents to forge on based on their beliefs.

    Many of the individual OT books are many centuries older than the demarcation of BC and AD or BCE and CE ( your choice), yet others creep very close to that dividing point. Yet what exactly are the criteria for inclusion? Who said so? How? When?

    I cannot help thinking that many deutero-canonical and excluded chapters shed as much or more light on Scriptures than winnowing the selection or shuffling the table of contents.

  25. Mike Stubbs says:

    Paul, I will readily admit to not being a scholar but the books I have read suggest that the Jewish scribes held their text in such reverence that whenever it wore out or was damaged in some way, they would make the copy, check it for accuracy multiple times and in multiple ways (count the lines, the words and the letters of each copy to make sure they matched the “original”), and then burn the old scroll.
    That would give a good “reason” for the lack of copies

  26. Kurt says:

    The English word “chronology” comes from the Greek khro·no·lo·giʹa (from khroʹnos, time, and leʹgo, say or tell), that is, “the computation of time.” Chronology makes possible the placing of events in their orderly sequence or association and the assigning of proper dates to particular events.

  27. Paul Cohen says:

    Why is there more than a thousand year gap between the autographs and the Masoretic text, when there are representative copies of the New Testament in every century. I understand that Christians abandoned the Hebrew Old testament early on, in favor of the Septuagint, resulting in the Jews repudiating it, even though it was a Jewish translation originally, a few hundred years before Christ. I’m deliberately saying before Christ rather than BCE to make a point. The messianic prophecies in the Septuagint seem to be watered-down in the Masoretic text. I read that a Muslim cleric gathered together all the copies of the Qoran that were available, made a standardized copy to his liking and then destroyed the previous copies. Is it possible that the same thing occurred with the Old Testament Text? The sopherim recorded more than 100 changes they made to the text (mostly swapping “Adonai” for the tetragramaton when it was spoken by men). Could they have also altered the messianic prophecies so that they wouldn’t point directly to Jesus, destroying all the previous manuscripts that were then know? It seems that this would explain the paucity of earlier manuscripts along with the specific differences between the Masoretic text and the Dead Sea scrolls and the Septuigent which are pretty much consistent with each other, but not with the Masoretic text.

  28. Lyndell Brown says:

    @ Tim Thanks for putting “hard science,” in quotes because the bulk of science today is theory and speculation. Anthropology is particularly soft, in spite of claims by the character in the popular TV series, “Bones.” [humor, because we need it] It would be okay to keep the distance, but today science ventures into areas where the Scientific Method is useless, so opinion prevails, and objectivity fails. Let’s not distance ourselves from the truth.

  29. Barbara says:

    All the rectitude of men cannot find a solution to what is happening in the world today,
    So what if ???? does it really matter what or who is politically correct.
    Let us live our lives as if Jesus is coming back to earth today, because we
    desperately need a special leader who knows how things work for the good of all mankind.

  30. Ken Iwashika says:

    All experts secular or otherwise agree that Jesus was not born in the year 1 AD. Various experts give a range of from 2 BC to 7 BC. Whether this is due to faulty calendars lacking leap years or 400 year adjustments, 1 AD is just an arbitrary “stick in the sand”. The terms BCE and CE seem fitting and proper.

  31. Gregory says:

    The Masoretic OT is all Luther had access to along with Erasmus’ Byzantine NT. So Calvin and Tyndale followed. Do Septuagint and Dead Sea scrolls have similar greek? Interestingly different than Masoretic. Would love to see a resource that shows the hebrew idioms in the Septuagint. Politically correct, not me. I’m just a follower of Jesus who realizes the manipulation of the english versions after Tyndale’s 1536 bible…… esoteric enlightenment.

  32. Tim Kolb says:

    My understanding is that the community of scientists (i.e., archaeologists, historians, etc.) have a problem with using the old BC (i.e. Before Christ) and AD (i.e. Ano Domani a.k.a. “In the Year of our Lord”) because of two specific issues. The first issue is that “hard science” needs to distance itself from any reference to the supernatural, which is not considered to be based on any substantiated scientific evidence. In this sense, science feels the need to sterilize data from anything that is not considered naturalistic phenomenon.

    The second issue has to do with being politically correct, so as not to offend other faiths who are sometimes violently opposed to Christianity and Judaism. In fact, there have been recent instances of scientific papers being rejected for publication due to use of the terms, “Bible” or “Biblical,” two words that directly or indirectly refer to Judaism and/or Christancy (see article “First Person: Is ‘Bible’ a Dirty Word” by Hershel Shanks in the Biblical Archaeology Review).

    So the two new terms B.C.E. (i.e. “Before the Common Era”) and C.E. (i.e. the “Common Era”) do tend to create some confusion. After all, these two abbreviations beg the question, exactly whose Era was “Common?”

  33. Kurt says:

    What assurance is there that the Bible has not been changed?

    Despite the care exercised by copyists of Bible manuscripts, a number of small scribal errors and alterations crept into the text. On the whole, these are insignificant and have no bearing on the Bible’s general integrity. They have been detected and corrected by means of careful scholastic collation or critical comparison of the many extant manuscripts and ancient versions. Critical study of the Hebrew text of the Scriptures commenced toward the end of the 18th century. Benjamin Kennicott published at Oxford (in 1776-1780) the readings of over 600 Masoretic Hebrew manuscripts, and the Italian scholar Giambernardo de Rossi published at Parma comparisons of 731 manuscripts in 1784 to 1798. Master texts of the Hebrew Scriptures were also produced by the German scholar Baer and, more recently, by C. D. Ginsburg. Hebrew scholar Rudolf Kittel released in 1906 the first edition of his Biblia Hebraica (The Hebrew Bible), providing therein a textual study through a footnote service, comparing many Hebrew manuscripts of the Masoretic text. The basic text he used was the Ben Chayyim text. But, when the older and superior Ben Asher Masoretic texts became available, Kittel undertook the production of an entirely new third edition, which was completed by his colleagues after his death.

  34. Harold says:

    Michael asked: “Are you ashamed to admit that the calendar as we know it today was timed by the life of Christ?”

    I, for one, am not at all ashamed that I don’t believe Jesus was God. So for me, using BCE and CE works just fine, and the “C” stands for “common.” As for Michael et al, he’s welcome to use what nomenclature he wants. I just won’t be going along with it. And since we’re in the USA, that ought to be just fine.

  35. Joe Cantello says:

    Dr. Saul Pressman, You are correct in saying that the Septuagint is older than the oldest Hebrew bible we have. I am curious if you have some documentation on your implication on the influence Bar Kochbah and Rabbi Akiva had on Masoretic vsersion of Torah?

  36. georges120 says:

    Nothing wrong with saying Before the Christian Era (BCE) and the Christian Era (CE). I know some want to use the words Common or Current, but hey, we can easily put Christ back into its meaning. 🙂

  37. Chandler black says:

    Change for the sake of change to accommodate often leads to chaos which proves ignorance. Look at our last two presidential elections. Hold your ground Michael. Chandler b

  38. Dr. Saul Pressman says:

    This article ignores the Septuagint. It is 200 years older than the Dead Sea Scrolls, and it has marked differences. The most striking are the ages of the Patriarchs, which in the Masoretic version, are shortened by a total of 1400 years. The explanation for this deliberate shortening involves Bar Kochbah and Rabbi Akiva. The result was the archaeological rejection of the veracity of the Torah. Once restored, the Torah is seen as chronologically accurate to the year.
    – Dr. Saul Pressman

  39. Al B. says:

    I would say there are many who wonder why the change, Harold. Here in the USA we are free to ask questions, even if we don’t agree. It doesn’t call for anger management.

  40. Harold says:

    Let it go, Michael. You need to move on and get this behind you. Perhaps some anger management for you?

  41. Michael Gross says:

    I am curious why a Bible believing society such as yours has switched from BC and AD (when talking about the ages of found manuscripts etc.) to BCE and CE? Are you ashamed to admit that the calendar as we know it today was timed by the life of Christ? Just curious and hope I don’t offend anyone but would like to see you go back to the old way of stating the years of discovery.

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