Biblical Hebraica and Ancient Manuscripts

A.  THE BIBLICA HEBRAICA by Rudolph Kittel

There were two editions earlier than the 1937 edition. One in 1906 and one in 1912.

  1. He was an apostate German rationalist.
  2. Did not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture.
  3. He used the Ben Asher Text instead of the Ben Chayyim Text.
  4. NASV notes in the in preface (p.viii) that it uses the Biblica Hebraica.
  5. 1937 Edition has about 15-20 suggested changes in the footnotes on each page.
  6. Kittel's Old Testament has 1424 pages, multiplied by the 15-20 suggested changes, it comes to about 20,000 to 30,000 changes in the Old Testament.

B. THE BEN CHAYYIM HEBREW TEXT (1524-25) was used by Kittel in the first two editions 1906 and 1912. This was the same Hebrew text as used by the King James translators.

  1. In 1937, Kittel changed his Hebrew edition and followed the Ben Asher text, which followed the Leningrad Manuscript (B19a or L), dated 1008 A.D., instead of the Ben Chayyim Masoretic text used by the King James translators.
  2. The Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia edition of 1967/77. This was a revision of Rudolf Kittel's Biblica Hebraica, so named because it is from Stuttgart, Germany.

C.   GERHARD KITTEL - Younger Brother of Rudolph Kittel.

  1. Edited the 10 volume standard reference work used in the N.T. Greek word studies entitled "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.”
  2. Almost without exception, all translations including the NIV translators re­lied on and referred to Kittel for his judgment when selecting words in their translation.
  3. Gerhard Kittel joined the Nazi party in 1933 and the same year began working on his 10 volume Greek Word Theological Dictionary until completed in 1944.
  4. At this time he was taking a leadership role in the Nazi organization and became a key contributor to their propaganda journal. He wrote 6 of the 8 volumes be­fore publication was cut short by the end of the war. He was Hitler's hired man.
  5. He recommended in his writings that all German Jews be dismissed from their jobs, stripped of their German citizenship, and their property confiscated.
  6. Kittel was tried, convicted, and imprisoned for his key part in the extermination of two-thirds of Europe's Jewish population.
  7. It is amazing that this was hidden from those who were seeking Greek definitions from a 10 volume set of books penned by one of Satan’s agents.
  8. This 10 volume set appears in the majority of the pastors’ libraries today.

C.  THE SAMARITAN PENTATEUCH - differs from the Masoretic text.

  1. Written about 430 B.C., and covers only the Pentateuch.
  2. Taken from Hebrew copies of the Pentateuch and written in Samaritan letters.
  3. The theory held by the majority is that the Hebrew priests that were expelled went to Samaria and copied the copies of the Hebrew copies which made up the Samaritan script.
  4. It is estimated that they contain about 6,000 variations from the Hebrew Text, some offset doctrinal issues, and some do not.
  5. History. The first manuscript was secured from some Samaritans at Damascus in 1616 and placed in the Library of the Oratory at Paris, France, in 1623.
  6. The oldest known dated manuscript is in the New York Public Library and dated 1232.
  7. There are probably around 100 copies in different places in Europe and America.

D.  AQUILA’S TRANSLATION - a Greek Version (128 A.D. omits the Apocrypha.

  1. Aquila was a Gentile, born at Sinope, a seaport of Pontus.
  2. It is said that he was a relative of the emperor Hadrian.

(a)   He was converted to Christianity and, because he would not give up his so-called heathen practice of astrology, he was excommunicated from the Christian church.

(b) Because of this, he went over to Judaism, became cir-cumcised, and made his translation to spite the Christians. He became a proselyte to Judaism and a pupil of the Rabbis.

(c)   He became so proficient in Hebrew and Greek that he was considered qualified to make a Greek translation from the revised official Hebrew text to replace the Septuagint.

(d) His ambition was to keep the Hebrew text as pure as possible, while bringing it into the Greek for the Greek-speaking Jews.

D.  IMPORTANCE. - His translation is slavishly literal as he attempted to supply a Greek word for every Hebrew word and particle, disregarding Greek idioms and grammatical rules.

(1)   The translation is therefore, in some cases, meaningless.

(2)   It has some value in Biblical criticism since it is an exact reproduction of the new 2nd Century Hebrew text and shows the meaning which the interpreters of that day gave to the TEXT.

E.  SYMMACHUS - according to Eusebius and Jerome was a Chris-tian. Epiphonius represents him as a Samaritan who became a proselyte to Judaism.

  1. His version is dated about 200 A.D.

(a)  It is believed he made use of three earlier Greek versions and also the Hebrew text.

(b). He desired to give the sense rather than a literal rendering.

(c). Jerome used it in preparing the Vulgate.

(d). Only some fragments of it still remain.

(e). It did not contain the Apocryphal books.

F.  THEODOTIAN - His version is dated about 180 A.D.

  1. According to Irenaeus, Theodotian was a native of Ephesus and a proselyte to Judaism.
  2. His version was but a revision of the Septuagint corrected by the standard Hebrew text, with the aim of bringing it into harmony with that text.
  3. It contains much transliteration, even where it is not necessary.
  4. His version does not include the Apocrypha in full, only the addi-tions to Daniel, (1). The Three Holy Children, (2). The History of Susanna, (3). Bel and the Dragon.
  5. Only one copy of the Septuagint version of Daniel has survived.

G. SYRIAC PESHITTA - This version was made about 150 A.D. for the churches of Syria.

  1. Peshitta means "simple, common and literal".

(1)   It corresponds to the Koine of the Greek, the Vulgate of the Latin.

2. The Need . The spread of Christianity beyond Palestine brought a need for those Christians to have the word of God in their own language.

3. The Country - Syria (Heb. Aram) was in general the country north of Palestine and the Arabian Desert, east of Phoenicia, the Mediterranean Sea, and Asia Minor, and west of the Tigris River and including Mesopotamia, north of Babylon.

4. The Translators are unknown by name. It is believed it was translated by Jews who had been converted to Christianity.

5. The Syrian Language - (Hebrew, Aram) or Greek, Syriac, is closely related to the Hebrew language as its alphabet has the same number and names of letters as the Hebrew, but the forms of the letters are different.

6. It contained none of the Apocrypha, but they later were added by some of the copyists.

7. An excellent collection of these manuscripts, secured mainly from the monastery, or convent, of St. Mary Deipara in the Natron Desert in Egypt, is now in the British Museum, London.


  1. Origen - (185-254), a great Biblical teacher and writer.

2. His Purpose - He was determined to give the church a com-parative view of the Hebrew text and the versions, to show divergences between the Septuagint and the current Hebrew text. He wanted to show the superiority of Aquila's versions and other later versions as far as they were more faithful to the original.

3. The Hexapla (six-fold) was a polyglot containing the Old Testament six times in six parallel columns. (Dated 250 A.D.)

4.  His Plan.

(a).    First Column.  The Hebrew text as it existed in his day.

(b).    Second Column. A transliteration of the Hebrew into Greek letters.

(c).    Third Column - Aquila’s version, the one most literally translated from the Hebrew.

(d).    Fourth Column - Symmachus' version, which was practically a revision of Aquila's.

(e).    Fifth Column - Origen's own revision of the Septuagint.

(f).    Sixth Column - Theodotian's version, which was a revision of the Septuagint.

Note:      Origen, in his revision, corrected the corruptions, omissions, additions, and transpositions. These corruptions were made either from other Septuagint manuscripts which conformed more closely to the Hebrew, or from one of the other Greek Versions.

When a passage was found in the Septuagint that did not appear in the Hebrew, he marked it with an OBELUS (- or +) at the beginning and a METEBELUS at the end. When a passage in the Hebrew did not appear in the Septuagint, he inserted it and marked it with an asterisk (*) at the beginning and a metebelus at the end.

  1. The massive work covering the entire Old Testament six times and, part of it, seven, eight, and 9 times, occupied 28 years of Origen’s life.

(a)   It was placed in the library at Caesarea, probably by Origen, himself.

(b)   It was here that Jerome saw and studied it in the 4th Century.

(c)   The great library still existed in the 6th Century, but later disappeared. It was probably burned by the Mohammedans who captured the city in 638 A.D.

(d)   The work was so vast that it was never copied as a whole.

I. The Syriac Translation, also called the "Syro-Hexaplaric." For-tunately, there now exists a part of a Syriac translation of the fifth column, made by Bishop Paulus of Tella, Mesopotamia, in 617 A.D. It contains the poetical and prophetical books, with all the critical symbols.

1. It is now in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, Italy.

2. The First Volume, containing the Pentateuch and the His-torical Books, was in existence in 1574, but it has since disappeared.

3.  Fragments of other manuscripts, containing portions of these sections (Esther and Ruth complete, portions of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Kings) are now in the British Museum.

J.  DIATESSARON. A Harmony of our four Gospels, so arranged as to form a single narrative.

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