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Vocabulary - Old Testament Text Transmission

Updated: Dec 20, 2023




The subject of the transmission of the biblical text is very confusing to some. Part of that confusion comes from the terminology that is used in discussing the subject. Here is a vocabulary list that may help you.



Apograph/apographa – copy of the original manuscripts or copies from the original

Aquila – early second-century A.D. reviser of the Septuagint known for his literal renderings

Assyrian script (Aramaic script) – the square Old Testament Hebrew script common in the Intertestamental Period on (probably adopted much earlier)

autograph/autographa – original manuscript; the inspired original given by God

colophon – inscription placed at the end of a book or manuscript with facts relative to its production (identifying scribe, corrector, printer, publisher, etc.)

conflation – combining of two or more variant readings or parallel passages to form a single text (reading)


conjectual emendation – text critics’ amending of the text based on an “educated guess”; a reading proposed apart from any textual evidence

daughter translation – translation of an ancient text made on the basis of a prior translation of the original text; e.g., the Old Latin was made from the Septuagint, not from the Hebrew

defective (defectivo) – shortened or abbreviated spelling of a word

Egyptian text family – the supposed group of Hebrew texts and versions that share significant similarities; the Septuagint and some Hebrew manuscripts from Qumran share many of these features

epigraphic – a hard material used to write on (pottery, stones, wooden tablets, etc.)

extant – existing or known MSS

exemplar – a model, pattern, archetype, example; the original text or copy regarded as accurate/authoritative


genizah – “storage one” – storage room for religious documents or writings which are damaged, worn-out, or rejected (no longer to be used) (the most famous Old Testament find is the Cairo Genizah)


Hexapla—six-column work of Origen; contained the Hebrew text, Greek transliteration of the Hebrew, the revisions of Auqila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, as well as Origen’s own revision of the Septuagint


Inscriptional Hebrew – a “dialect” very similar to Hebrew preserved in the M found on early epigraphic materials

kaige recension – a supposed early revision of the Septuagint that sought to conform to the proto-Masoretic Text (also called proto-Theodotion)

Kethiv – “as written”; “that which is written”; the consonantal Hebrew text that was written/printed in the text


local text – text type whose similarities are explained according to a hypothesized common geographic origin


masorah – Masoretic notations around the text and at the conclusion of each book or section to insure proper understanding and transmission of the text

Masorah finalis -- “final Masorah”; Masoretic notations written at the end of each Old Testament book or section

Masorah magna – “large Masorah”; Masoretic notations written on the top and bottom margins of the text


Masorah parva – “small Masorah”; Masoretic notations written in the side margins of the texts (includes the Kethiv-Qere)

Masoretes – Jewish scholars who carefully transmitted the Hebrew Old Testament text and added vowel-pointing (vocalization), para-textual notations, and accentuation to the Hebrew text


Masoretic Text – the standard Hebrew text of the Old Testament as transmitted by the Masoretes


matres lectionis – “mothers of reading” – the added “helping consonants” to indicate long vowels


Old Latin – earliest Latin version of the Old Testament; translated from the Septuagint

ostraca – potsherd (broken piece of pottery) on which was written a short message


Paleo-Hebrew script – Phoenician-Old Hebrew script which predates the Hebrew Square script

Palestinian text family – the supposed group of Hebrew texts and versions that share significant similarities; the Samaritan Pentateuch shares many of these features

palimpsest – manuscripts which have been “rubbed again” (erased) so they could be reused as a writing surface – called rescriptus, “rewriting”

pesher – as used in context of Qumran, a commentary on an Old Testament book

Peshitta – the earliest translation of the Hebrew Old Testament in Syriac

Plene – full or complete spelling of a word

polyglot – “many tongues”; a multi-column edition including parallel columns of biblical text and translations


proto-Masoretic text – the preserved consonantal text which is very similar to the text later preserved by the Masoretes; represents the majority of the manuscripts found at Qumran.

Qere – “that which is read”; supposed text variant represented by the vowels printed in the text and the consonants printed in the margin

recension – systematic and critical revision of an ancient text or translation; should be contrasted with a text type or “family” that develops naturally over time due to scribal errors; these are theoretical constructs so scholars can explain existing facts/evidence in light of their presuppositions (these do not exist except in the mind of the scholar)

Samaritan Pentateuch – edition of the Torah preserved in archaic Hebrew script by the Samaritan community; allied with the Palestinian text family

Septuagint – Greek translation of the Old Testament (named for the traditional seventy translators) and its many revisions and recensions

scripto-continua – writing that is continuous having no spaces or marks between words

soferim – “scribes”; those who carefully transmitted the Hebrew Old Testament consonantal text before the Masoretes

Symmachus – late second-century A.D. reviser of the Septuagint characterized by good Greek style


Targum – translation of the Hebrew Old Testament in Aramaic; originally orally based, they are characterized by paraphrase

Theodotion – second-century A.D. reviser of the Greek text who made use of the kaige recension


Urtext – the abstract archetype original Hebrew text; this term was not to be confused with the biblical understanding of original autographs

Vorlage – the supposed reconstructed Hebrew text behind the ancient translations (primarily the LXX) (it differs somewhat from the proto-Masoretic text) (this does not exist except in the mind of the scholar)


Vulgate – “common” Jerome’s translation between 390 and 405 A.D. of the Old Testament from the Hebrew text.

MANUSCRIPTS OF THE HEBREW BIBLE

A Aleppo Codex

B British Museum 4445

C Codex of the Prophets from the Cairo Genizah

C3 Pentateuch Codex 3 from the Karaite Synagogue in Cairo

L Leningrad Codex (B19A) N MS 232, Jewish Theological Seminary, New York P Petersburg Codex S1 MS Sassoon 1053


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