A Protective Hedge Around the Scriptures
Tyndale House is an amazing place. A research institute for biblical studies with a library containing one of the world’s most extensive collections relevant to the study of the Bible. The team there are committed to engaging in the highest level of academic research into the Bible and yet they also want Christians who have no academic background to be able to engage with and benefit from their work.
As part of this desire to serve the wider church, last year Tyndale House began producing a magazine called Tyndale House ink or THink (a popular name clearly!). The magazine contains accessible articles about the Bible, it’s language, history and cultural context. It can be accessed online and UK residents can even subscribe to receive a copy through the post for free. It’s a no brainer really.
The latest issue includes a fascinating article on the Masora. The Masora are the marginal notes found in the Hebrew Bible manuscripts produced by the Masoretes, the earliest complete Hebrew manuscripts we have and the basis for most of the English Old Testament translations available today. These notes are a mystery even to most those who get the privilege of studying Hebrew. (I studied Hebrew for a total of four years at two British universities and was never taught anything about the Masora, in fact, I sometimes questioned whether even my professors knew much about them.)
In the article, ‘Learn the secrets of the Leningrad Codex’, Kim Philips, explains how the Masora include a sophisticated system of counting and cross-referencing designed to ensure that errors did not enter the text through the production of new copies by scribes. In this way, they are actually one of the many reasons to trust that the text of the Hebrew Bible we have today is reliable.
‘The Leningrad Codex contains no fewer than 60,000 Masoretic notes, all serving as a protective hedge around the text of the Scriptures. This vast expenditure of labour and toil was driven by a passionate commitment to the biblical text as the very word of God. If he has spoken, then every jot and tittle is precious; even the smallest detail serves as a receptacle for something of God’s communication and communion with his people, and with humankind.’
If you want to be encouraged about the reliability of the Old Testament text, the whole article is worth a read. You can access it here.