The Hebrew Cannon

The traditional Hebrew Canon consists of three parts: Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim: the Law, The Prophets and The Writings. This form of the Canon is known to have existed from at least the 6th century BCE, while references just to The Torah ante-date that by some centuries. 

Until the 20th century, the earliest manuscripts of any of the Old Testament books came from approximately 916 CE. Thus it is evident that there was likely to be, and has proved to be, some variation from the original text by scribal error or in oral transmission. The copying of the Torah for use in synagogues is now carefully controlled and monitored to avoid any mistakes. 

Hebrew is traditionally written from right to left (as is Arabic) and without punctuation or vowels. This can lead to difficulties in translation and interpretation - for instance, if punctuation is lacking, should Isaiah 40:3 be read: "The voice of one ctying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord"' (as in the King James Version), or should it be read: "The voice of one crying: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord"'? This difference in interpretation led to the establishment of the Essene Monastery by the Dead Sea, where scrolls were found which have been linked to that group, although not positively.

[click thumbnail for large view]

Scroll with text 
Torah Scroll
1 7th Century, Baghdad
Scrolls
Page of hand written text 
Torah Scroll 
17th Century, Baghdad
Scrolls
Page of hand written textPage of hand written textHebrew Old Testament 
with Vowel Pointing 
Berlin, 1912  #90

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