Hebrew Manuscript Integrity

The Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible are of two kinds--the rolled ones, or those used in the synagogues, and the square ones, or those which are to be found in private collections. The rules laid down by the Jews with respect to their manuscripts have undoubtedly tended much to preserve the integrity of the text. They are directed to be written upon parchment, made from the skin of a clean animal, and to be tied together with strings of similar substance, or sewn with goat's-hair, which has been spun and prepared by a Jewess. It must be likewise a Jew that writes the law, and they extremely diligent and exact in it, because the least fault in the world profanes the book. Every skin of parchment is to contain a certain number of columns, which are to be of a precise length and breadth, and to contain a certain number of words. They are to be written with the purest ink, and no word is to be written by heart or with the points; it must be first orally pronounced by the copyist. The name of God is directed to be written with the utmost attention and devotion, and the transcriber is to wash his pen before he inscribes it on the parchment. If there should chance to be a word with either a deficient or a redundant letter, or should any of the prosaic part of the Old Testament be written as verse, or vice versa, the manuscript is vitiated. No Hebrew manuscript with any illumination is, on any account, admitted into a synagogue, although private individuals are permitted to have them ornamented for their own use; but in the illustrations, the resemblance of any animal denounced by the Jews as unclean can not be admitted. Among the modern Jews, the book of Esther, in particular, is frequently decorated with rude figures of various kinds; but with respect to this book, it must be observed that, owing to its wanting the sacred name of God, it is not held in such repute for holiness as the other books are. The manuscripts for private use may be either upon parchment, vellum, or paper, and of various sizes. “There is,” says Prideaux, “in the church of St. Dominic, in Bononia, a copy of the Hebrew Scriptures, kept with a great deal of care, which they pretend to be the original copy written by Ezra himself; and therefore it is there valued at so high a rate, that great sums of money have been borrowed by the Bononians upon the pawn of it, and again repaid for its redemption. It is written in a very fair character upon a sort of leather, and made up in a roll according to the ancient manner; but it having the vowel-points annexed, and the writing being fresh and fair, without any decay, both these particulars prove the novelty of that copy. But such forgeries are no uncommon things among the papistical sect.”

An Illustrated History Of The Holy Bible;
Being a Connected Account of theRemarkable Events and Distinguished CharactersContained inThe Old and New Testaments,
- by John Kitto