Missionaries often distort (even reversing) Jewish teaching. The Greek Orthodox "father" cited by the Shabbat spammer had many mistakes on his website -- and I discussed two on my last post (a "different" aleph-bet and needing vowels). The missionary also wrote: "the Masorites themselves felt they had received a partly corrupted text" which is as false a statement as is possible to make. Again this may be from his ignorance (he seems pretty ill-educated) or on purpose. . . hard to say. But totally wrong!
The "father" misunderstood the concept of תיקוני סופרים / Tikkun Soferim (corrections of the scribes) and assumed that it meant that Jewish scribes changed parts of the bible. The term Tikkun Soferim is often translated as “Scribal Emendations."
The Mechilta says that there are eleven instances where the T'nach uses a euphemism (kinah hakatuv) -- not actually a scribe (sofer) changing the actual verses. The T'nach, in these few places, uses euphenisms out of respect for G-d -- and some people uneducated on these matters jump to the conclusion that scribes actually changed passages. In other words -- the original text was written with a euphemism -- no one "changed" it later. (BTW, other sources say 18, some say 11 and some say 7 -- so the exact number is debatable, but it is no more than 18).
Now is where it gets confusing.
In Sh'mot / Exodus Rabbah (midrash aggadot -- allegory, not literal meaning) R' Yehoshua ben Levi reference the SAME passage (in this case Zechariah) and instead of calling it a euphenism (kinah hakatuv) he called it a tinnuk seforim (scribal correction).
And then people began to think that scribes changed the passages, whereas others said that, no, the original passages used euphenisms. R' Yosef Albo in Sefer HaIkkarim wrote "The meaning is not that any person changed anything in the Torah, G-d forbid, because no one would forge a book and then say "I forged this" or "I changed this." How could they say that the Scribes changed it? Rather, the meaning is that... [the Torah spoke] like a scribe who changes his words out of respect for G-d."
Missionaries, trying to support their Greek mistranslations (which they erroneously call the Septuagint or LXX) such as virgin in Isaiah 7:14 not only take the worst possible conclusion (the texts are corrupted).
They also do not tell their unsuspecting audience WHEN these scribal emendations were made.
Which was before the bible was closed.
Or by whom.
The prophets -- many the authors of the texts themselves.
Who was responsible for identifying these verses (and potentially slightly modifying them)? The prophets themselves: the Men of the Great Assembly who codified the T'nach (Jewish bible), which included the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (who is Ezra), Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, Nehemiah b. Hachaliah, Mordechai and Zerubabel b. Shaaltiel, among others.
If one wants to believe that these prophets did slightly alter parts of the bible (which many sages say is NOT what happened) -- then know the facts.
Not a single meaning was changed in any of the texts referenced.
The only alterations (say the sages who have this opinion) were those where the honor of God was involved (such as the idea of G-d standing before Abraham rather than the reverse). The sages who state that the prophets themselves altered the text further state that often it was the original author who changed it himself. There is a verse from Zechariah 2:12 which says "Whoever touches you touches the pupil of his own eye." The sages who state this was changed say it was the author himself who changed it from “Whoever touches you touches the pupil of My (G-d's) eye" to "his own eye (the human)."
But remember, there are other sages who say no changes were made and that the term only referred to places in the T'nach where euphanisms were used.
The Sofrim were the scribes who lived at the close of the prophetic era -- the very prophets who wrote what is IN the bible -- including Ezra. So, no. . . no "rabbis" changed the bible (although one can state that the great prophets were all rabbis themselves: teachers and judges). . .
The missionary assumes that Jews willy nilly changed the bible -- and this slander actually began over 700 years ago. The original source for this slander was the infamous Raymond Martini -- an anti-semite. Raymundus Martin (Raymond Martini) was an anti-Jewish Dominican priest from the 13th century CE. Pugio Fidei (Dagger of the Faith) was an anti-Jewish diatribe he wrote (amongst others).
The Rashba (13th century) wrote "Tikkun Soferm does not mean that (the sages) changed (the text) by erasing and writing. Whatever Moses wrote in the Torah, and the other prophets in the other books (of the bible), they, a priori, wrote euphemistically. There was no addition or deletion from the books, but those things which should have been written euphemistically were written in such a way."
Jews don’t “change” the bible. In the few cases where the sages discuss tikkun soferim (whether changes were made or not) nothing in the meaning is changed at all -- and the changes (the sages state) were by the original authors -- not the later "rabbis" who carelessy modified the bible. IF a few verses were changed they were changed by the prophets before the bible was closed -- and not by later rabbis. And please keep in mind that many of our sages do not believe that even minor modifications were made by the original authors even -- but that language was "softened" in the original to avoid misinterpretation. . .
Jews do NOT change the bible.
Don’t believe me?
Here is something written 2000 yers ago by a source nearly contemporaneous to Jesus (Josephus, 37CE – 100CE).
Josephus wrote that the Jewish bible was unchanged not only in his time, but for a long time before him: “For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, [as the Greeks have,] but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his mitzvot and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. . . (and) the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to G-d, and precepts for the conduct of human life. . . we firmly give credit to these books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to make any change in them.” Against Apion, Josephus.
2000 years ago.
"no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them, to take anything from them, or to change them."
2000 years ago.
Torot (plural of Torah) from around the world are remarkably identical. The "Koren Edition" T'nach has a list of חִלּוּפֵי נֻסְחָאוֹת / hillufei nus'ha'ot ("variant readings") and there are just THREE entries for the five Torah books...
(1) B'reshit / Genesis 9:29... in the place of וַֽיְהִי֙ va-y'hi ("and it was") some copies have וַיִּהְיוּ֙ va-yih'yu ("and they were") [and I have one printed חוּמָשׁ that has the yod of וַיִּֽהְיוּ֙ pointed with a meteg (an optional stress mark)].
(2) D'varim / Deuteronomy 23:2... in the place of דַּכָּ֛ה dakkah ("crushed" or "bruised") some copies have דַּכָּ֛א dakka (an alternative spelling which doesn't even change the pronunciation)
(3) Vayikra / Leviticus 7:28... in some copies, the פַּרָשָׁה פְתוּחָה (open paragraph break) occurs instead at Vayikra 7:22.
None of these minor variations makes the slightest difference in the meaning of the text.
The Torah and the 'nach are amazingly similar througout the world. Emmanuel Tov, emeritus Professor in the Department of Bible at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, wrote "It should be remembered that the number of differences between the various editions is very small. Moreover, all of them concern minimal, even minute details of the text, and most affect the meaning of the text in only a very limited way." (page 3, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible).
There are ancient copies, particularly of Prophets and Writings, that may vary from the Jewish mesorah (T’nach). How do we know that what we have today is correct? Shouldn’t we assume that a more ancient version is “right” and that along the way the Jewish scribes changed words (no real meaning has changed – again see Tov). . .
Some ancient copies are of questionable accuracy – I’m not speaking of translations into Greek or Aramaic as a translation is always interpretive on the part of the translator and thus word choices may vary. . . I’m speaking of ancient Hebrew witnesses to compare to what we have today.
Again, there is very little difference – and when there is a difference it tends to be the ancient version that is of questionable accuracy. How could that possibly be??? Well, compare the ancient Dead Sea Scroll version to the Masada papyri. Masada fell approximately 73 CE (common era) – so the documents date to the same timeframe as the Dead Sea Scrolls found in Qumran. Yet the fragments from Masada are identical in their text to the Masoretic Text (MT) that we have today per Lawrence H. Schiffman in “Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume 2”, page 492.
From Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls) to Aleppo: A Discussion with Emanuel Tov about the Textual Integrity of the Bible”, page 12: “The 6000 medieval manuscripts of the MT (Masoretic text) differed only slightly in all. . .details. It is a miracle, albeit a man-made one, that the MT remained unchanged over the past 2000 years. This lack of textual intervention is visible when one compares the fragments found at Masada, Nahal Hever, and Nahal Marabba’at with manuscripts from the Middle Ages. There are almost no dfferences in consonants between the codex Leningradensis or the Aleppo codex from the early Middle Ages and the texts from Masada (66-73 CE), Nahal Hever (132-135 CE), and Nahal Murabba’at (132-135 CE); the level of variation between them is no higher than that among the medieval texts themselves. (Footnote: For precise statistics see I. Young, “The Stabilization of the Biblical Text in Light of Qumran and Masada: A Challenge for Conventional Qumran Chronology?” DSD 9 (2002) 364-90).
Missionaries will often try to argue that the bible we have today (Masoretic Text) is not the same as the ancient bible -- that Jews corrupted it. This flies in the face of not only Jewish history, blackens Jewish honor -- but it also is refuted by the experts. The facts support the Jewish T'nach's accuracy, and refutes that of the various Greek translations along the way. . . Link.