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The Hebrew Manuscripts and the Early Versions

WE NO LONGER  have access to infallible originals of the various books of the Hebrew Scriptures. The earliest copies which have been preserved to us are in some instances no closer than a thousand years to the time of original composition. Nevertheless they constitute our primary authority today as to the inspired Word of God, and all our copies and translations of the Holy Scriptures are necessarily dependent upon the earliest and best available manuscripts of the Hebrew and Aramaic originals. We must therefore review the written evidence upon which our modern printed editions of the Hebrew Bible are based, and have some idea of the large and varied body of evidence with which Old Testament textual criticism has to deal.Of course the Hebrew manuscripts take priority in value, inasmuch as God’s revelation first came to Israel in the Hebrew tongue, and there is far less likelihood of corruption in the copying out of manuscripts into the same language than when a translation into another tongue is involved. But in cases where scribal errors have crept into the Hebrew copies, it is quite possible that the early translations into Greek, Aramaic, or Latin might give us a clue to the original Hebrew word or phrase which has been garbled in the Hebrew manuscripts themselves. For this reason we must survey not only the earliest and best Hebrew manuscripts, but also the earliest and best copies of the ancient translations, or versions, as well.


Gleason Archer Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 3rd. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 39–41.


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