Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Old Testament

The conscientious preservation of the discrepancies of parallel passages (as Psalm 14 and Psalm 53; Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22; Isaiah 36-39; and 2 Kings 18-20; Jeremiah 52 and 2 Kings 24-25; Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7), notwithstanding the temptation to assimilate them, proves the accuracy of Ezra and his associates in transmitting the Scriptures to us. The Maccabean coins and the similar Samaritan character preserve for us the alphabetical characters in which the text was written, resembling those in use among the Phoenicians. The targums, shortly before Christ, introduced the modern Aramaic or square characters now used for Hebrew.

Keil however attributes these to Ezra. No vowel points were used, but in the later books matres lectionis or vowel letters. The words were separated by spaces, except those closely connected. Sections, parshioth, are marked by commencing a new line or by blank spaces. The greater parshioth are the sabbath lessons marked in the Mishna, and perhaps dating from the introduction of the square letters; distinct from the verse divisions made in Christian times. Pesukim is the term for "verses." The Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch are the oldest documents with which to criticize our Hebrew text. Gesenius has shown the inferiority of the Samaritan text to our Hebrew Pentateuch:

(1) it substitutes common for unusual grammatical forms;

(2) it admits glosses into the text;

(3) it emends difficult passages, substituting easier readings;

(4) it corrects and adds words from parallel passages;

(5) it interpolates from them;

(6) it removes historical and other difficulties of the subject matter;

(7) Samaritanisms in language;

(8) passages made to agree with the Samaritan theology.

However, as a help in arriving at the text in difficult passages, it has its use. The Samaritan text agrees with the Septuagint in more than one thousand places where both differ from the Masoretic, yet their independence is shown in that the Septuagint agree with the Masoretic in a thousand places, and both herein differ from the Samaritan text. A revised text existed probably along with our Hebrew one in the centuries just before Christ, and was used by the Septuagint. The Samaritans altered it still more (Gesenius); so it became "the Alexandrian Samaritan text." The Samaritans certainly did not receive their Pentateuch from the Israelite northern kingdom, for they have not received the books of Israel's prophets, Hosea, Jonah, Amos. Being pagan, they probably had the Pentateuch first introduced among them from Judah by Manasseh and other priests who joined them at the time of the building of the Mount Gerizim temple.

Josephus (contra Apion i. 8) boasts that through all past ages none had added to, or taken from, or transposed, aught of the sacred writings. The Greek translation of Aquila mainly agrees with ours. So do the targums of Onkelos and Jonathan. Origen in the Hexapla, and especially Jerome, instructed by Palestinian Jews in preparing the Vulgate, show a text identical with ours in even the traditional unwritten vowel readings. The learning of the schools of Hillel and Shammai in Christ's time was preserved, after Jerusalem's fall, in those of Jabneh, Sepphoris, Caesarea, and Tiberias. R. Judah the Holy compiled the Mishna, the Talmud text, before A. D. 220. The twofold Gemara, or commentary, completed the Talmud; the Jerusalem Gemara of the Jews of Tiberias was written at the end of the fourth century; the Babylonian emanated from the schools on the Euphrates at the end of the fifth century. Their assigning the interpretation to the targumist, as distinguished from the transcriber, secured the text from the conjectural interpolations otherwise to be apprehended.

The Talmudic doctors counted the verses in each book, and which was the middle verse, word, and letter in the Pentateuch, and in the psalms, marking it by a large letter or one raised above the line (Leviticus 11:42; Psalms 80:14). The Talmudists have a note, "read, but not written," to mark what ought to be read though not in the text, at 2 Samuel 8:3; 2 Samuel 16:23; Jeremiah 31:38; Jeremiah 50:29; Ruth 2:11; Ruth 3:5; Ruth 3:17; also "written but not (to be) read," 2 Kings 5:18; Deuteronomy 6:1; Jeremiah 51:3; Ezekiel 48:16; Ruth 3:12. So the Masoretic Qeri's (marginal readings) in Job 13:15; Haggai 1:8. Their scrupulous abstinence from introducing what they believed the truer readings guarantees to us both their critical care in examining the text and their reverence in preserving it intact. They rejected manuscripts not agreeing with others (Taanith Hierosol. 68, section 1). Their rules as to transcribing and adopting manuscripts show their carefulness.

The soph-pasuk (":" colon) marking the verse endings, and the maqqeph ("-" hyphen), joining words, were introduced after the Talmudic time and earlier than the accents. The maqqeph embodies the traditional authority for joining or separating words; words joined by it have only one accent. Translate therefore Psalms 45:4 without "and," "meekness-righteousness," i.e. righteousness manifesting itself in meekness. The Masorah, i.e. tradition (first digested by the doctors in the fifth century), compiled in writing the thus accumulated traditions and criticisms, and became a kind of "fence of the law." In the post-Talmudic period THE MASORAH (Buxtorf, Tiberias) notes:

(1) as to the verses, how many are in each book, the middle verse in each; how many begin with certain letters, or end with the same word, or had a certain number of words and letters, or certain words a number of times;

(2) as to the words, the Qeri 's (marginal readings) and kethib 's (readings of the text); also words found so many times in the beginning, middle, or end of a verse, or with a particular meaning; also in particular words where transcribers' mistakes were likely, whether they were to be written with or without the vowel letters; also the accentuation;

(3) as to the letters, how often each occurred in the Old Testament, etc., etc.

The written Masorah was being formed from the sixth century to the tenth century. Its chief value is its collection of Qeri's, of which some are from the Talmud, many from manuscripts, others from the sole authority of the Masoretes. The Bomberg Bible contains 1171. The small number in the Pentateuch, 43, is due to the greater care bestowed on the law as compared with the other Scriptures. The Masorah is distinguished into magna and parva (an abridgment of the magna, including the Qeri's and printed at the foot of the page). The magna is partly at the side of the text commented on, partly at the end. Their inserting the vowel marks in the text records for us the traditional pronunciation. The vowel system was molded after the Arabian system, and that after the Syrian system. The acceders in their logical signification were called "senses"; in their musical signification, "tones." They occur in the Masorah, not in the Talmud. The very difficulties which are left unremoved, in explaining some passages consistently with the accents and the vowel points, show that both embody, not the Masoretes' private judgment, but the traditions of previous generations.

Walton's Polyglot gives readings also of the Palestinian and of the Babylonian Jews; the former printed first in the Bomberg Bible by R. Jacob ben Chaim, 216 in all, concerning the consonants, except two as to the mappik. Aaron ben Asher, a Palestinian, and R. Jacob, a Babylonian Jew, having collated manuscripts in the 11th century, mention 864 different readings of vowels, accents, and makkeph , and (Song of Solomon 8:6) the division of a word. Our manuscripts generally agree with Ben Asher's readings. The Masorah henceforward settled the text of Jewish manuscripts; older manuscripts were allowed to perish as incorrect. Synagogue rolls and manuscripts for private use are the two classes known to us. Synagogue rolls contain separately the Pentateuch, the haphtaroth (literally, "dismissals," being read just before the congregations departed) or sections of the prophets, and the megilloth , namely, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther: all without vowels, accents, and sophpasuks.

The Sopherim Tract appended to the Babylonian Talmud prescribes as to the preparation of the parchment for these rolls, and the ceremonial required in writing them. They are not sold; it is supposed that only vitiated copies, rejected by the synagogue, have gotten into Christian hands. The Spanish writing is rounder and modern, the German and Polish writing is more angular, designated the tam ("perfect") and the welsh ("foreign") respectively. Private manuscripts are in book form, the inner margin being used for the Masorah Parva, the upper and lower margins for the Masorah and rabbinical comments. Sections and verses are marked. One wrote the consonants, another the vowels and accents in a fainter ink, another the Masorah. Most manuscripts are of the 12th century. Kennicott assigns No. 590 of his collation to the 10th century. DeRossi assigns to A.D. 1018, and his own (No. 634) to the eighth century. The Spanish manuscripts, like the Masorah, place Chronicles before the hagiographa; the German manuscripts, like the Talmud, place Jeremiah and Ezekiel before Isaiah; and Ruth, separate from the other megilloth , before Psalms.

Of the 581 manuscripts collated by Kennicott, 102 have the whole Old Testament. Pinner found at Odessa manuscripts (presented by a Karaite of Eupatoria in 1839 to the Odessa Hist. and Antiq. Society), one of which, brought from Derbend in Daghestan, appears from the subscription older than A.D. 580. If this is correct, it is the oldest extant. Another, a manuscript of the prophets, inscribed A.D. 916, has vowels and accents differing from the ordinary form, and placed above the letters. The China manuscripts resemble the European; so the manuscript brought by Buchanan from Malabar. The manuscript in a cave under the synagogue of Aleppo bears inscription: "I Moses ben Asher wrote this cycle of Scripture with all correctness, as the good hand of God was upon me ... in the city of Tiberias. Amen. Finished 827 years after the destruction of the second temple." The Psalter, with Kimchi's commentary, was the first printed Hebrew scripture, at Bologna, in A.D. 1477; at Soncino the first whole Hebrew Bible, one of which edition is in Exeter College, Oxford.

In 1494 Gersom printed at Brescia the edition from which Luther made his German translated Bomberg at Venice printed in 1518 the first edition with Masorah, targums, and rabbinical comments; Felix del Prato, a converted Jew, being editor. Bomberg at Venice printed the second rabbinical Bible, four vols. fol., 1525, with the text corrected from the Masorah by R. Jacob ben Chaim, a Tunisian Jew. Jos. Athias, a rabbi and printer at Amsterdam, compared previous editions with a manuscript, A.D. 1299, and a Spanish manuscript 900 years old, and printed an edition 1661 with preface by Leusden, professor at Utrecht. Van der Hooght's edition, 2 vols. 8vo, 1705, which is our textus receptus, rests on Athias'. Kennicott's Dissertations on the Printed Text, 1753 and 1759, drew from the English public 10,000 British pounds to secure a collation of manuscripts throughout Europe. He and Brans of Helinstadt collated 581 Jewish and 16 Samaritan manuscripts (half of them throughout, the rest only in select passages), and 40 printed editions. The result was printed with Van der Hooght's text, 1776-80.

DeRossi at Parma gave from ancient versions various readings of SELECT PASSAGES, and from the collation on them of 617 manuscripts, and 134 besides, which Kennicott had not seen; four vols. 1784-1788, a fifth vol. 1798. The variations were trifling, chiefly of vowel letters; so that we have the assurance that our Old Testament text is almost as pure as attainable. The ancient versions alone need more careful scrutiny. Jerome's Vulgate is the best critical help on disputed passages. Aquila's, Symmachus', and Theodotion's versions are only fragments. The Syriac leans on the Septuagint. The targums are only paraphrases; still, they, if all agreeing together for a reading, furnish a strong presumption in its favor. The Septuagint confirms a reading if otherwise rendered probable, but not by itself alone. Smith's Bible Dictionary. conjectures on Psalms 76:10, from the Septuagint, techageka for tachgor , "the remainder of wrath shall keep holiday to Thee."

But the Hebrew text is susceptible of the KJV if the cognate Arabic is an authority. Or else the Hebrew literally, is "Thou girdest Thyself with the remainder of the foe's wrath," i.e., even to its last remains (compare Psalms 75:8) it serves as a weapon to gird Thyself with for their destruction (Hengstenberg); or, "those left of the foe, who vented their wrath against Thee, Thou girdest Thyself with, making them acknowledge and praise Thy power" (Maurer): Psalms 75:11; Isaiah 49:18; Psalms 68:30. The Septuagint is two centuries later than the last book of Old Testament It is only in the period immediately following the closing of the Old Testament canon that its few corruptions have arisen, for subsequently the jealous care of its purity has been continually on the increase. The Septuagint translators neither knew enough Hebrew for rightly fulfilling their task, nor used what they knew to the best purpose. Transcription subsequently has much corrupted their version, it being in great demand and often therefore transcribed hastily without the scrupulous care with which the Hebrew text was most carefully guarded.

The New Testament quotes mainly the Septuagint Old Testament, but corrects it by the Hebrew when needful (Matthew 21:5; Matthew 9:13; Matthew 4:15-16; John 19:37; 1 Corinthians 3:19; 1 Corinthians 15:54; Luke 22:37; Romans 9:33). The Septuagint alone is quoted throughout Epistle to the Hebrew, except for Hebrews 10:30. A specimen of corrections from the Qeri in conjunction with the Septuagint is Isaiah 9:3, "its" for "not"; but the difficulty of the reading favors the text, "Thou hast multiplied the nation and (soon after) not increased the joy"; for the increase of the true Israel by Gentile converts to Christianity was soon followed by the growth of corruption and antichrist; but he in turn is to be destroyed, as Midian was by Gideon, to the "joy" of the elect nation. In Psalms 22:16 Aquila (A.D. 133), a Jew, reads "they disfigured," confirming the reading in KJV, "they pierced my hands," in opposition to "they enclosed as a lion my hands," etc. So the Septuagint, Syriac, Ethiopic, Arabic, Vulgate.

The little Masorah admits that the Hebrew, which in Isaiah 38:13 means "as a lion," has a different sense here. The Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch agree in the easier reading of Deuteronomy 32:5, "they (belong) not to Him, children of spot" (defilement); compare Ephesians 5:7; but the Hebrew text is intelligible, "they are not His children, but their blemish," i.e. the disgrace of God's children. For "after the commandment" (Hosea 5:11) the Septuagint, Syriac, and targums read "vanity," Jerome "filthiness." But the "commandment" which Ephraim "walked after" is Jeroboam's (1 Kings 12:28-33; 2 Kings 10:28-33; Micah 6:16). Interpretation. The literal system prevailed in Palestine, the allegorical in the Alexandria. Philo is an instance of the latter class. Later Jewish writers searched for recondite meanings in the places, construction, and orthography, apart from the logical context. The Kabala ("reception," "received tradition") attached symbolical meanings to the number of times a word or letter recurred, or to the number which letters represented.

For instance the Hebrew letter 'Αleph ( א ), a, is found six times in the first verse of Genesis and six times in 2 Chronicles 36:23, the last verse of the Hebrew Bible, therefore the world will last 6,000 years. This is the Gematria method. By the Notarjekon process new significant words were formed out of the initial or final words of the text, or a word's letters were made the initials of a new significant series of words. By the Τemurah) ("change") process new words were obtained, by anagram (or transposition of letters; whereby they supposed, for instance, that Michael must be the angel meant in Exodus 23:23, because it has the same letters as "my angel" in Hebrew by transposition) or by the Atbash alphabet where the last letter of the alphabet represented 'Αleph ( א ), the last but one Βet[h] ( ב ), and so on; thus Sheshach would mean Babel or Babylon. The Christian interpreters soon rejected these subtleties and maintained the historical reality of Old Testament events. Clement of Alexandria laid down the fourfold view of the Old Testament: literal, symbolical, moral, and prophetic (Strom. 1:28).

Origen (de Princip. 4:11) his scholar recognizes in it a body, soul, and spirit; the first for the simple, the second for the more advanced, the third for the perfect. Allegory (of which the Song and Galatians 4:21-31 are divinely sanctioned instances) and analogy are pressed too far by him, so much so that he denies the literal sense of Genesis 1-4. Contrast the right use, the moral deduced from the literal sense (Deuteronomy 25:4 with 1 Corinthians 9:9), and spiritual truths shadowed forth in the literal. (1 Corinthians 10:1-11; Hebrews 8:5; Romans 11:4-5; Romans 9:13-21, etc.) Diodore of Tarsus in the fourth century attended only to the letter of Scripture. Theodore of Mopsuestia pursued the grammatical method so exclusively that he rejected rationalistically the Old Testament prophetic references, as if the application to Messiah was only by accommodation. Chrysostom accepted the literal and spiritual, and especially dwelt on the moral sense.

Theodoret similarly combined the literal, historical, allegorical, and prophetical. Hilary of Poictiers drew forth the sense that Scripture intended, not what might be forced out of it. Augustine made the literal sense of Scripture history the basis of the mystical, so that the latter should not be "a building resting on air" (Serm. ii. 6). Luther truly says, "the best grammatical (literal) interpreter is also the best theologian." On the Old Testament Jarchi (A.D. 1105), Aben Ezra (1167), Kimchi (1240), and especially Nicholas of Lyre (1341, in his Postillae Perpetuae) set the example of literal interpretation. It was said, "Si Lyra non lyrasset, Luther non saltasset "; if Lyra had not piped, Luther would not have danced. The moral must rest on the grammatical (literal) historical, and the spiritual on both. These four in some passages co-exist. Others, as the genealogies and many historical details, are links joining together the significant parts. Others are simply moral and spiritual, as Proverbs. Often the moral teaching lies not in separate passages, as, for instance, the speeches of the book of Job, but in the general tenor and issue of the whole, to unfold which the separate passages work together. The New Testament is the key to the Old Testament.

As Christ and His apostles in the New Testament interpreted many parts and facts of the Old Testament, so we must interpret other parts and facts of the Old Testament which they have left uninterpreted, on analogous principles of interpretation. The New Testament does not note the spiritual meaning of every Old Testament type and history, and the fulfillment of every prophecy; space would not admit of it. That is our part, with prayer for the Holy Spirit. "Ιn Vetere Τestamenlo Νovum latet, in Νovo Vetus patet "; the New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament, the Old Testament is revealed in the New (2 Corinthians 3:6-18). The whole substance of the Old Testament is in the New Testament, but the details are to be unfolded by prayerful search.

The literal interpretation is quite consistent with recognizing metonymies, as "mouth" substituted for "word," the cause put for the effect; metaphors, as "hardness" said of the heart; parabolic images (Isaiah 5:1-7; Judges 9:8-15, where the history can be discerned only by recognizing the allegory); personifications; anthropomorphisms, or human conceptions as the "hand," "fingers," "wrath," etc., applied to God; allegory, having no outward reality, as the Song of Solomon is nevertheless the vehicle of representing the historical being, the heavenly Bridegroom, and His church the bride. Again, the prophets depict events as accomplished at once, which in fact were the work of a long period, e.g. Babylon's destruction (Isaiah 13). Each fresh stage in the gradually fulfilled accomplishment is an earliest of a further stage, and at length of the final consummation. Preliminary typical fulfillments do not exhaust but point onward to the exhaustive fulfillment. The moral aim is the reason for the disproportionate space occupied by personal biographies of men remarkable for piety or wickedness, and for the gaps which occur in parts of the Old Testament history.

Whatever illustrates God's providence, man's sinfulness, believers' frailties, God's mercy and faithfulness, is narrated at length at the sacrifice of symmetry. Important wars and political revolutions are briefly noticed. Those events are made prominent and full which illustrate the onward march of the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit's inspiration alone could enable the writers to put the events in the due proportion of God's design. Christ and His apostles bring to light the moral and spiritual truths wrapped up in the Old Testament letter (Matthew 5-7; Matthew 19:5-6; Matthew 22:32; John 10:34-35; Acts 7:48-49; 1 Corinthians 9:9-10; 2 Corinthians 8:13-15). So in the Old Testament histories (Luke 6:3; Romans 4; Romans 9:12-13; Romans 9:17; 1 Corinthians 10:6-11; Hebrews 3:7-11; Hebrew 11; 2 Peter 2:15-16; 1 John 3:11-15). Scripture does not sanction every act of a believer which it records, even though it expresses no condemnation (Judges 3:21; 1 Samuel 21:13; 1 Samuel 27:8-12).

Elisha's non-condemnation of Naaman's temporizing with his master's idolatry for expediency does not sanction it (2 Kings 5:18-19); its record of Jephthah's rash vow gives no approval. The praise of one's faith does not involve commendation of all his or her recorded acts. The speeches of Job's friends are recorded; it is our part, by comparing them with God's revealed will in other parts of Scripture, to ascertain which sentiments are true and which erroneous, and in the end of the book disapproved by God (Job 42:7). Jacob's deceits toward his father, and taking advantage of his brother's recklessness, are not approved of, but his faith at the root is what constituted him heir of the promises. It is God's design that spiritual truths should not lie always on the surface, but often need reverent, diligent, and prayerful search. This is our probation; it is also an excellence of the Bible, that it presents to us living men as they are, faulty like the best of us (excepting the one faultless model), so that we may copy the good and shun the evil. "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10).

The Old Testament is one great type and prophecy, which finds and will find its fullest accomplishment in Him (Luke 24:44; Matthew 26:54; Matthew 5:17-18). It cannot be mere accident that the evangelic history runs parallel with the Mosaic; Genesis 3:15 is the germ of all succeeding revelation; its one subject is man in conflict with Satan, Satan's temporary successes, man's final victory. In the Case of Jonah the spiritual Antitype confirms the reality of the typical outward fact, the Antitype was even more marvelous than the marvelous type. Moreover the spiritual must rest upon the literal and moral; therefore mere outward fulfillments of prophecy do not suffice; e.g. there must be a further deeper and more spiritual fulfillment of the type, Israel's sojourn in Egypt, than that of our Lord's sojourn there; it marks Him as the true Israel with high destiny before Him after His temporary sojourn in this Egypt world. The New Testament quotes Old Testament prophecies as "fulfilled" in certain events, but not necessarily completely, for the same prophecy has progressive fulfillments down to the final one.

There is a succession of events, each of which partially fills up but does not cover the whole ground, which shall only be covered when the whole succession shall be filled up; like concentric circles all referable to one center (Acts 2:17-21). So the same verse has manifold bearings, as Psalms 24:1, quoted for opposite aspects of the same truth (1 Corinthians 10:26; 1 Corinthians 10:28). Jesus and His apostles alone use "fulfill" for the New Testament accomplishment of Old Testament Scripture. Matthew (Matthew 2:15; Matthew 2:18; Matthew 2:23) alleges three events in Jesus' youth as occurring "in order that it (Scripture) might be fulfilled," for the Old Testament word divinely causes its own fulfillment in the New Testament. Again, the New Testament writers show the Holy Spirit's inspiration in the liberty they take in altering the Old Testament words for their purpose (Matthew 26:31, compare Zechariah 13:7; Romans 11:26-27, compare Isaiah 59:20; Isaiah 2:3; Matthew 8:17; Isaiah 53:4).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Old Testament'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/fbd/o/old-testament.html. 1949.

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