Last updated: 30 May 2013
To analyze and explore a passage of the Old Testament, one must first establish the particular text (i.e., identify exactly what it is they are translating and exploring). To that end, one must know where to find the most relevant manuscripts. This article catalogs various Old Testament manuscripts with emphasis on online sources (for free or for purchase).
I. General Online Old Testament Sources:
A great place to find ancient Hebrew manuscripts is to search Seforim online — some, but not all, of the entries I will cover below link back to Seforim Online. See also the BibliaHebraica.org web site. Books on the subject include Emanuel Tov’s, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible and Ernst Wutherwein’s, The Text of the Old Testament. Digitized manuscripts are also linked from here to the Jewish Collection of the National Library — at which you can see things such as the Hebrew Manuscripts in the Vatican Library — go right to the 775pg PDF. The main index into the National Library will direct you to various online Biblical tools (maps, Hebrew journals, etc.).
II. Visual Map of Main Old Testament Manuscripts:
No original scrolls of the Old Testament have been found. However, we have various manuscript copies in museums, monasteries, synagogues, schools and private collections. Below is list of some of the more notable scribal copies — almost all of which were unavailable to the translators of the 1611 King James Bible (I say this to give you a sense of the amount of emerging data now available to modern researchers). After presenting that list, there is a discussion of a particular scribal practice of notating Hebrew manuscript variations (Tiqqune Sopherim).
III. List of Important Old Testament Manuscripts and Online Links:
All links that take you to a description have “(desc.)”. All other links take you to free online editions or to places to buy bound or electronic copies.
- 750 B.C. – 586 B.C. Epigraphic Hebrew.
- 2. 150 B.C. – 100 B.C. Greek John Rylands Papyrus 458 — Fragment of Deuteronomy (desc.) and the Papyrus Fouad 266 last half of Deuteronomy.
- 200 B.C. to 70 A.D. Hebrew and Greek Dead Sea Scrolls (desc.) The Israel Museum has made available detailed digital images of the Great Isaiah Scroll. On their site, you will also find other DSS texts, such as the Temple Scroll and the War Scroll and the Commentary on Habakkuk.
Commercial editions are available in Accordance Bible Software for $150, and Logos for $180.
For an English translation of the Biblical texts, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (in English). This resource is especially helpful because at each verse it lists variations between the MT and LXX. For the impact on LXX studies, see Silva and Jobes, Invitation to the Septuagint, 171.
- 135 AD Minor Prophets Scrolls / Wadi Murabba’at (found in caves the Judean desert, south of Qumran, dating to the time of Bar Kochba. I am not directing you to manuscripts, but here you will find an online comparison of the Hebrew of the Masoretic to the Wadi Murabbat scrolls for Malachi.
- 135 AD (or maybe 50 BC – 50 AD), Minor Prophets in Greek, found in the cave Nahal Hever in Judean desert. Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Zechariah. Here is an online comparison of Micah to the other Greek versions. Also found a Bar Kochba letter, and a writ of divorce. The next link is to a PDF reconstruction of 8HevXIIgr, being the Greek Minor prophets from Nahal Hever. And the next link takes you to a PDF reconstruction of MurXII, the Hebrew text from Nahal Hever.
- 225 AD Greek of Ezekiel, P 967 (Chester Beatty Papyrus 967). This is an abbreviated Ezekiel. Like Codex Vaticanus (also called Codex B). For more Greek manuscripts (and Hebrew for that matter) see, The Text of the Old Testament, An Introduction to Biblia Hebraica. To obtain a printed copy (which I have not inspected, see Kenyon’s, The Chester Beatty Biblical papyri: Descriptions and texts of twelve manuscripts on papyrus of the Greek Bible; 21 Leaves of P967 are at Princeton, 8 are in the Chester Beatty Library in Ireland).
- 350 A.D. Greek Codex Sinaiticus Greek text of the Old Testament. See also the Sinaiticus presentation of the British Library.
- 350 A.D. Greek Codex Vaticanus (desc.) Greek text of the Old Testament (some of Genesis and some of the Psalms are missing). This mss is also called Codex B. The New Testament portions of this manuscript are online here.
- 380 – 400 A.D. Greek Codex Alexandrinus contains Old Testament and New Testament. Click here for Codex Alexandrinus manuscript images from the British Library. For a PDF transcribed version, click here (NT portion can be viewed here).
- Fragments of Origen’s Hexapla. The original work of Origen is lost; it may have been completed around 210 A.D. Keep an eye on the ever advancing online project: Hexipla Institute. A reconstruction of his work has been made from fragments: pdf of Volume 1 and pdf of Volume 2 compose a critical edition from 1875. The Hexepla had six columns; six editions of the Old Testament. Column 1: Hebrew Column 2: Hebrew transliterated into Greek Column 3: Aquila of Sinope — portions of Aquila were found in Cairo on a 6th century documents (Aquila was erased and a new text written over it, but portions of 1-2 Kings were detected) Column 4: Symmachus (the Ebionite?) or the Jew Column 5: Christian LXX (with Origen’s corrections?) Column 6: Theodotion.
Surviving fragments include,
400 A.D. Codex Colberto-Sarravianus (desc.) containing portions of the Torah, Joshua and Judges, also called Codex G or G.
550 A.D. Codex Marchalianus (image and desc.) Also called, Q, contains the prophets
650 A.D. Codex Coislinianus (M), of which more can be found here: Origen’s Hexipla and Fragments (desc.). Codex Coislinianus includes Genesis to 2 Samuel and parts of Kings.
617 A.D. Syro-Hexapla — a translation of Origen’s 5th column into Syriac. It agrees with Chigi manuscript 88 (see below). See page 47 of online book, The Bible in Syriac.
750-950 A.D. Codex Basiliano-Vaticanus (N-V) contains most of the Old Testament.
10th/11th century A.D. Codex Chisianus (a.k.a.) Chigi manuscript 88 (a witness to the markings of the Hexapla).
This warning from Silva and Jobes, Invitation to the Septuagint, 50-51, is useful whenever researching the Hexapla:
“Given the way modern scholars refer freely to the Hexaplaric texts, including the translations of Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus, readers may be left with the impression that fairly complete and reliable copies of these Greek texts exist. In fact, actual specimens are preserved only in (a) quotations by other ancient writers, (b) marginal notes in a handful of manuscripts (for example, codices G [Codex Colberto-Sarravianus] and Q [Codex Marchalianus of the Prophets — 6th century, see Metzger’s book Manuscripts of the Greek Bible, plate 21, page 94], and (c) a very few fragments copies of the Hexapla. The largest and most significant Hexapla fragment is the Mercati palimpset [a manuscript that reused another] in the Ambrosian Library of Milan. In 1896 Mercati discovered that the underwriting of this tenth-century cursive manuscript contained five columns of the Hexpla for about 150 verses of the Psalms…A comprehensive collection of Hexaplaric remains was published by Frederick Field over a century ago [links to his two volume work is provided above]. Since then, new fragments have been discovered and studied. In 1994, a new project was begun at the University of Oxford … to produce a new, electronic database containing all the surviving evidence.”
- 460 A.D. – 680 A.D. Syriac / Eastern Aramaic 463 A.D. — Add. 14,425 (desc.)Syriac Old Testament (called Peshitta (desc.)) Available electronically. See also the partially complete Hebrew Union College online database of Syriac texts. For an introduction to the Peshitta and the Old Testament, read this section of the online book, The Bible in Syriac. To locate critical editions of the Syriac for different books of the Bible, click here.
- ??? A.D. Aramaic Old Testament called Targum/Targuim (desc.). *** For a list of the Targum manuscripts, see the online Hebrew Union College list. I intend to update this section and enumerate the Targumim and provide dates for manuscripts (to which, see the following section in the online Studies in the Targum to the Twelve Prophets). To access the Targumim, see the Logos electronic edition. Hebrew Union College has provided a POWERFUL online database of Targumim and Peshitta (CAL = Comprehensive Aramaic Library). Through the CAL web site, a verse can be analyzed. Click on “Search the CAL textual database”, then Targum Studies Module. From there, a single verse can be selected and all versions shown. To see the Peshitta, you will need to install the Meltho font on your machine (click here). The CAL edition of the Targums to the Prophets is based upon Mikraot Gedolot HaKeter. The original Ben Hayyim edition of the Mikraot Gedolot HaKeter can be read online for free — it requires its own reader software to be installed (note: I have not successfully gotten this to work).
The CAL database is the underpinning behind the Logos edition. A recent book by Houtman and Sysling is a guide to variant readings of the Targum of the Prophets, Alternative Targum Traditions, and is especially helpful as one tries to determine the most ancient readings,
The present study explores the possibility of using variant readings of the Targum of the Prophets to get a better insight into the origin and history of Targum Jonathan. The focus is on two sorts of variant readings: the Tosefta Targums and the targumic quotations in rabbinic and medieval Jewish literature. The chapter on the Tosefta Targums concentrates on variants from the book of Samuel. The chapter on the targumic quotations includes quotations of all the Prophets in early Jewish literature. In the Appendix a full list is given of all quotations of Targums of the Prophets presently known. The book is useful for the study of the genesis of Targum Jonathan as well as for its later developments.
Also check out the free online Targum of Samuel.
- 700 to 900 A.D. Syriac Biblioteca Ambrisian (desc.) Syriac Peshitta (all of Old Testament)
- 790 A.D. Latin Codex Amiatinus (desc.) is the oldest copy of the Latin Vulgate Bible (it stands in the same tradition as the Leningrad Codex).
- 850 A.D. or 950 A.D. Hebrew MS British Museum Oriental 4445, which contains the Five Books of Moses and may be earlier than the Aleppo Codex. Note: this covers the part of the Aleppo Codex that is missing.
- 895 A.D. Hebrew Codex Cairensis: Codex of the Prophets (desc.), aka Codex Prophetarum Cairensis, and Cairo Codex of the Prophets. Containing the former and latter prophets, this work is attributed at the end to Moshe Ben Asher, the father of the Masorete of the Aleppo Codex. A really poor PDF version is at Seforim online, also on my own web site (24 MB), or the same PDF copied here — Index: Joshua (1-37); Judges (37-74); Samuel (74-168); Kings (168-272); Isaiah (272-342); Jeremiah (343-433); Ezekiel (433-510); 12 Minor Prophets (510-570); Masoretic data (571-575). A bound copy is for sale here. U. Cassutto published the book of Jonah from this manuscript in 1946 (an online PDF for $100 available here). Cassuto’s work will also be available in Logos Bible Software. For more, see this letter from Cassuto to Paul Kahle. See the important print edition of the The New Hebrew Bible published in 1953. This important edition is listed in the open library, but is not available for download. See the recent publication, The Cumulative Masora — Text, Form and Transmission with a Facsimile Critical Edition of the Cumulative Masora in the Cairo Prophets Codex (1999) by Lyons, David — real title: ha-Masorah ha-metsarefet – derakheha ve-sugeha : al pi ketav-yad Kahir shel ha-Neviim; Beer-Sheva : Universitat Ben-Guryon ba-Negev, 760, 1999. This book has a facsimile critical edition of the cumulative Masora in the Cairo Prophets codex.
This codex is not to be confused with the Cairo Genizah fragments. But while on the subject: free online access to the Cairo Genizah fragments is here — registeration is required. The Online Rylands Collection has some Biblical fragments. See also the four volume publication, Hebrew Bible Manuscripts in the Cambridge Genizah Collections.
- 916 A.D. Leningrad Codex of the Prophets (containing only the later prophets). Also called the Babylonian Codex (MS Heb. B3). Contains Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the minor prophets. Designated as V (ar)p in BHS.
- 920 A.D. Hebrew Aleppo Codex half missing. MBTS Stacks, 221.44 B582k v.1 See my previous post (desc.) on this with links on where to buy a copy. A Rabbinic Bible based upon this manuscript is being developed. It is the Mikraot Gedolot haKeter by Bar-Ilan University Press (available in various volumes). A complete edition of this Bible may be available before the BHQ is fully printed (parts of the BHQ are available). These publications make available improved Hebrew editions of the Bible. They will supplant the place of the current BHS. For more, see Dr. Andrews review of the BHS in the to be published Midwestern Journal of Theology, Fall 2009.
- 890-950 A.D. Damascus Pentateuch (ms Heb. 5702 digitized and online — you’ll need DJVU plugin to read this online version) (see this catalog entry for the out of print facsimile). Contains most of the Torah.
- 1008 A.D. Hebrew Leningrad Codex (desc.), a.k.a. B19A (once upon a time it was called the St. Petersburg Codex). Online PDF version here. The printed edition of the Hebrew Old Testament most widely used by American students is Bibliia Hebraica Stuttgartenia, 5th edition, BHS, and is based off the Leningrad Codex / B19A (buy from Amazon). The critical notes in the bottom of the BHS were compiled by various German scholars and are not comprehensive and are sometimes purely speculative. Many Bible software tools have this text (e.g., Logos Hebrew).
- ??? Berlin Codex Tanach (Berlin Library ms. 680, also know as the New York Codex JTS Library ms. 510. Babylonian pointing.
- 1105 A.D. Codex Reuchlinianus of the Prophets
- 1155-1225 A.D. Torah Scroll from University of Bologna, Italy (contains the first five books of the Bible). In May, 2013, this scroll was re-discovered and re-appraised. It is the oldest known Torah Scroll.
- 1241 A.D. Codex Hillely — Torah
- 1000-1300 A.D. Erfurtensis Codex — three manuscripts, all containing the Old Testament
- 1260 A.D. Damascus Keter “Crown” (online digital copy — ms. Heb 790). Bible with Vocalization, Accents, Masorah Magna and Masorah Parva. The books of the Pentateuch and the Prophets are arranged in the conventional order which was adopted by later printed editions.
- 1341 A.D. ms. Heb 1401 from Spain.
- 1400 A.D. (uncertain?) Samaritan Pentateuch (desc.). This AMAZING resource shows how the Samaritan Torah differs from the Jewish Masoretic edition. The Torah: Jewish and Samaritan versions compared (Hebrew Edition, December 2008). Compiler Mark E. Shoulson. For issues of dating the manuscripts, read the recent edition of Samaritan Scribes and Manuscripts by Alan David Crown.
- 1482 A.D. Lisbon Tanach (British Library #2626) Complete Tanach from Portugal.
- 1524 A.D. Hebrew Jacob ben Hayyim’s Second Rabbinic Bible; the Rabbinic Bibles are called, Mikraot Gedolot. Jacob ben Hayyim’s (Chaijim) publication may have been based upon Ben Ahser (d. 960 AD) texts. Jacob ben Hayyim’s work may have been the Hebrew used for the King James translation (but see this article). His Rabbinic Bible was not a final product, as great advances have since been made (as per the manuscript discoveries listed here — not least being the Dead Sea Scrolls and Aleppo Codex) and Jews now use better manuscripts for their own bibles. An edition based upon the Aleppo Codex is the Mikraot Gedolot haKeter (see the Aleppo entry above).
This Hebrew is not always Biblical Hebrew, but is Hebrew inscribed on stone, written on pottery shards, or even impressed upon silver. Some of it does contain Biblical references. For the most up to date resource on this subject, see A Grammar of Epigraphic Hebrew by Sandra Gogle.
IV. Tiqqune Sopherim:
The above list contains various kinds of Old Testament manuscripts. One kind is the Masoretic variety (for more, see the Jewish Encyclopedia Masoretes). Masoretic text-types include the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex (B19A). Within the Massoretic tradition (which includes adding notes and vowels to the Hebrew consonantal text), there is a system of notating verses that have been revised for various scribal reasons.
Eighteen supposed revisions to the Hebrew consonantal text are identified by some of the Massoretic-type manuscripts. These are only proposed revisions (as per the claims of certain scribes or rabbis), and the important Aleppo codex lists no such revisions. The 18 verses that these scribes identified are known as Tiqqune Sopherim (see Kelley’s online book for more details). To see the list of manuscripts that note such changes, consult the free book, Introduction to Massoretico-critical edition of the Hebrew Bible (abbreviated as IMHB from here forward). Pages 349-51 of that text are especially relevant to this discussion.
The 18 Tiqqune Sopherim verses (as listed by Kelley) are as follows (marked with [n] if not in Dead Sea Scrolls or with [f] if present but too fragmentary):
[n] Gen 18:22
[n] Num 11:15
[n] Num 12:12
[n] 1 Sam 3:13
[n] 2 Sam 16:12 **
[n] 2 Sam 20:1 **
[n] 1 Kings 12:16 **
[n] Jer 2:11
[n] Ezek 8:17 (in the Leningrad Codex, it states in this verse that there are 18 such verses — note also that BHS does not includes this Maora note?! — see IMHB 347n1).
[f] Hos 4:7
[f] Hab 1:12 (but see my note below)
[n] Mal 1:13
[n] Job 7:20
[n] Lam 3:20
[n] 2 Chr 10:16 **
** => verses not mentioned in BHS Critical Apparatus (the rest are noted in the apparatus with “Tiq soph”)
Regarding Habakkuk 1:12, the Qumran commentary is fragmentary, but the comment that follows where there would be the text of 1:12, reads: “…God will not destroy his people.” Which implies that they comment was on a text that reads as we have it in the MT. This observation is from F. F. Bruces’ commentary on Habakkuk in The Minor Prophets, Vol. 2, Thomas McComisky.
(1) [n] Zech 2:12 “For he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye,” but (he text is altered. So also
(2) [n] Mal 1:13: ”Ye said also, Behold what a weariness is it.1 and ye have snuffed at it.” but the text is altered. So also
(3) [n] 1 Sam 3:13: “For the iniquity which he knoweth. because his sons made themselves accursed.” but the text is altered. So also
(4) [n] Job 7:20: “Why hast thou set me as a mark against thee so that I am a burden to myself? the text is altered. So also
(5) [f] Hab 1:12: “Art thou not from everlasting O Lord my God. mine Holy One? we shall not die.” the text is altered. So also
(6) [n] Jer 2:1: “Hath a nation changed their gods which yet are no gods? but my people have changed their glory.” the text is altered. So also
(7) [n] Ps 106:20 : “Thus they have changed their glory into the similitude of an ox.” the text is altered.
(8) [n] Num 11:15: “And Let me not see my wretchedness” the text is altered. So also
(9) [n] 2 Sam 20:1: “We have no portion in David …. every man to his tents O Israel”? the text is altered.
(10) [n] Ezek 8:17: “And lo, they put the branch to their nose,” the text is altered.
(11) [n] Num 12:12: “When he cometh out of his mother’s womb” should be otir mother’s, the text is altered.
See Mcchiltha 39#, ed. Friedmann. Vienna 1870.
For an English critical edition of this text, see here.
Other places where this phenomenon is recorded (though never with the exact same list): Siphre on Numbers and Yalkut Shimeoni on Exodus 15:7 and Midrash Tanchuma also on Exodus 15:7 (see also this article on this Midrash document).
I am currently unable to provide dates for the surviving manuscripts that constitute these above sources. Helpful will be Catalogue of the Hebrew Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library and in the College Libraries of Oxford. Until then, weighing this data against the silence of the Aleppo is difficult, even as more evidence is provided by IMHB:
For the completion of the materials relating to this important branch of textual criticism and before discussing the merits of these alterations we have yet to mention the fact that the Massorah itself gives us a List of these alterations of the Sopherim with the original reading in every passage. The List is preserved in the following three of the Yemen MSS. in the British Museum; Orient. 1379, fol. 268 ; Orient. 2349, fol. io8a; and Orient. 2365, fol. 138. In all the three MSS. the Massorah in question is given on Numb. XII 2. In Orient. 1397 and Orient. 2349 these alterations are not only ascribed to the Sopherim, but it is declared that according to the opinion of some Schools they were made by Ezra himself…Oriental 1425 which contains the MS. of the Hebrew Grammar called Massa Ephod by Prophiat Duran (IMHB, 350-1).
Kelley argues that of the proposed Tiqqune Sopherim, only some are reflected in Greek translations of the Hebrew. The Masoretic scribes may have used Tiqqune Sopherim because of known emendations or for other reasons. For the 18+ instances, it is a case by case job to explore how (and if) the text was modified. I have tried to point to some of the manuscripts that must be consulted.