This Is Appendix 30 From The Companion Bible.
All the oldest and best manuscripts of the
Hebrew Bible contain on every page, beside the Text (which is arranged in
two or more columns), a varying number of lines of smaller writing,
distributed between the upper and lower margins. This smaller writing is
called the Massorah Magna or Great Massorah,
while that in the side margins and between the columns is called the
Massorah Parva or Small Massorah.
The illustration given below is a reduced facsimile
of a Hebrew Manuscript (16.25 x 12.375), written in a German hand, about
the year A.D. 1120.
The small writing in the margins in
this particular Manuscript is seen to occupy seven lines in the lower
margin, and four lines in the upper; while in the outer margins and
between the three columns is the Massorah Para.
The word Massorah is from the root
masar, to devliver something into the hand of another, so as
to commit it to his trust. Hence the name is given to the small writing
referred to, because it contains information necessary to those into whose
trust the Sacred Text was committed, so that they might transcribe it, and
hand it down correctly.
The Text itself had been
fixed before the Massorites were put in charge of it. This
had been the work of the Sopherim (from saphar, to
count, or number). Their work, under Ezra and
Nehemiah, was to set the Text in order after the return from Babylon; and
we read of it in Nehemiah 8:8 1 (compare Ezra
7:6,11). The men of
"the Great Synagogue" completed the work. This work lasted
about 110 years, from Nehemiah to Simon the first, 410-300 B.C.
The Sopherim were the authorised
revisers of the Sacred Text; and, their work being completed, the
Massorites were the authorised custodians of it. Their work
was to preserve it. The Massorah is called "A Fence
to the Scriptures," because it locked all words and letters in
their places. It does not contain notes or comments as such, but facts and
phenomena. It records the number of times the several letters occur in the
various books of the Bible; the number of words, and the middle word; the
number of verses, and the middle verse; the number of expressions and
combinations of words, etc. All this, not from a perverted ingenuity, but
for the set purpose of safeguarding the Sacred Text, and preventing the
loss or misplacement of a single letter or word.
This Massorah is not contained in the
margins of any one Manuscript. No Manuscript contains the whole, or even
the same part. It is spread over many Manuscripts, and Dr. C.D. Ginsburg
has been the first and only scholar who has set himself to collect and
collate the whole, copying it from every available Manuscript in the
libraries of many countries. He has published it in three large folio
volumes, and only a small number of copies has been printed. These are
obtainable only by the original subscribers
Hebrew Text was printed, only the large type in the columns was regarded,
and small type of the Massorah was left, unheeded, in the
Manuscripts from which the Text was taken.
translators came to the printed Hebrew Text, they were necessarily
destitute of the information contained in the Massorah; so
that the Revisers as well as the Translators of the Authorised Version
carried out their work without any idea of the treasures contained in the
Massorah; and therefore, without giving a hint of it to
This is the first time an edition of
the Authorised Version has been given containing any of these treasures of
the Massorah, that affect so seriouly the understanding of
the Text. A vast number of the Massoretic notes concern only the
orthography, and matters that pertain to the Concordance. But many of
those which affect the sense, or throw any additional light on the Sacred
Text, are noted in the margin of The Companion Bible.
Some of the important lists of words which are
contained in the Massorah are also given, videlicet, those
that have the "extraordinary points" (Appendix 31); the
"eighteen emendations" of the Sopherim (see Appendix 33);
the 134 passages where they substituted Adonai for Jehovah
32); and the Various Readings called Severin (see Appendix
34). These are given in separate Appendixes; but other words of any
importance are preserved in our marginal notes.
Readers of The Companion Bible are put
in possession of information denied to former generations of translators,
commentators, critics, and general Bible students.
For futher information on the Massorah
see Dr. Ginsburg's Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, of
which only a limited edition was printed; also a small pamphlet on
The Massorah published by King's Printers.
1 The Talmud
explains that "the book" meant the original text;
"distinctly" means explaining it by giving the Chaldee
paraphrase; "gave the sense" means the division of words,
etc. according to the sense; and "caused them to understand the
reading" means to give the traditional pronuciation of the words
(which were then without vowel points).