- Old Testament
- Old Testament• The Apostle St. Paul declares himself (II Cor., iii, 6) a minister 'of the new testament', and calls (iii, 14) the covenant entered into on Mount Sinai 'the old testament'
Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006.
- Old TestamentThe Old Testament† Catholic_Encyclopedia ► The Old TestamentI. NAMEThe word "testament", Hebrew berîth, Greek diatheke, primarily signifies the covenant which God entered into first with Abraham, then with the people of Israel. The Prophets had knowledge of a new covenant to which the one concluded on Mount Sinai should give away. Accordingly Christ at the Last Supper speaks of the blood of the new testament. The Apostle St. Paul declares himself (II Cor., iii, 6) a minister "of the new testament", and calls (iii, 14) the covenant entered into on Mount Sinai "the old testament". The Greek expression diatheke is employed in the Septuagint for the Hebrew "berîth". The later interpreters Aquila and Symmachus substituted for diatheke the more common syntheke, which probably agreed more with their literary taste. The Latin term is "f dus" and oftener testamentum", a word corresponding more exactly to the Greek.As regards Christian times, the expression at an early period came to signify the whole of God's Revelation as exhibited in the history of Israelites, and because this old covenant was incorporated into the Canonical Books, it was but an easy step to make the term signify the Canonical Scriptures. Even the text referred to above (II Cor., iii, 14) points to that. So, the Scriptures are called "books of the Old Testament" by Melito of Sardis and Clement of Alexandria (ta palaia biblia; ta tes palaias diathekes biblia). It is not clear whether with these authors "Old Testament" and "Scriptures of the Old Testament" mean the same. Origen shows that in his time the transition was complete, although in his writing signs of the gradual fixing of the expression may be still traced. For he repeatedly speaks of the "so-called" Old Testament, when meaning the Scriptures. With the Western writers this use of term in the most ancient period cannot yet be proved. To the lawyer Tertullian the Sacred Books are, above all, documents and sources of argument, and he therefore frequently calls them "vetus and novum instrumentum". Cyprian once mentions the "scriptur veteres et nov ". Subsequently the Greek use of the term becomes established among the Latins as well, and through them it has been made common property of the Christian world. In this meaning, as signifying the Canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament, the expression "Old Testament" will be used in what follows.II. HISTORY OF THE TEXTThe canon of the Old Testament, its manuscripts, editions and ancient versions are treated in the articles BIBLE; CANON OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES; CODEX ALEXANDRINUS, etc.; HEBREW BIBLE; MASSORAH; MANUSCRIPTS OF THE BIBLE; VERSIONS OF THE BIBLE. Questions concerning the origin and contents of the single books are proposed and answered in articles on the respective books. This article is confined to the general introduction on the text of the parts of the Old Testament written in Hebrew; for the few books originally composed in Greek (Wisdom; II Machabees) and those of which the Semitic original has been lost (Judith; Tobias; Sirach, i.e. Ecclus.; I Machabees) call for no special treatment.A. Text of the Manuscripts and MassoretesThe sure starting-point for a correct estimation of the text of the Old Testament is the evidence obtained from the manuscripts. In this connection, the first thing to observe is that however distant the oldest manuscripts are — the earliest are of the ninth century A.D. — from the time when the books were composed, there is a uniform and homogeneous tradition concerning the text. The fact is all the more striking, as the history of the New Testament is quite different. We have New Testament manuscripts written not much more than 300 years after the composition of the books, and in them we find numerous differences, though but few of them are important. The textual variants n the manuscripts of the Old Testament are limited to quite insignificant differences of vowels and more rarely of consonants. Even when we take into account the discrepancies between the Eastern, or Babylonian, and Western, or Palestinian schools, no essential differences are found. The proof for the agreement between the manuscripts was established by B. Kennicott after comparing more than 600 manuscripts ("Vetus Testamentum Hebraicum cum cariis lectionibus", Oxford, 1776, 1780). De Rossi has added considerably to this material ("Variæ lectiones veteris Testamenti", Parma, 1784-88). It is obvious that this striking uniformity cannot be due to chance; it is unique in the history of text-tradition, and all the more remarkable as the imperfect Hebrew system of writing could not but occasion many and various errors and slips. Besides many peculiarities in the method of writing show themselves uniformly everywhere. False readings are retained in the same manner, so that the text is clearly the result of artificial equalization.The question now arises: How far back can we trace this care in handing down the text to posterity? Philo, many authorities on the Talmud, and alter Jewish rabbis and savants of the sixteenth and seventeenth century favoured the opinion that the Hebrew text, as it is now read in our manuscripts, was written down from the outset and bequeathed to us unadulterated. The works of Elias Levita, Morinus, Cappelus have shown this view to be untenable; and later investigations have established the history of the text in its essential features. The uniformity of the manuscripts is ultimately the outcome of the labours of the Massoretes, which were not concluded till after the writing of the oldest manuscripts. The work of the Massoretes chiefly consisted in the faithful preservation of the transmitted text. This they accomplished by maintaining accurate statistics on the entire state of the Sacred Books. Verses, words, letters were counted; lists were complied of like words and of forms of words with full and effective spelling, and possibilities of easy mistakes were catalogued. The invention of the signs for vowels and accents — about the seventh century — facilitated a faithful preservation of the text. Incorrect separation and connection of syllables and words was henceforth all but excluded.Textual criticism was employed by the Massoretes very moderately, and even the little they did, shows that as mush as possible they left untouched all that had been handed down. If a reading proved untenable, they did not correct the text itself, but were satisfied with noting the proper reading on the margin as "Qerê" (read), in opposition to "Kethîbh" (written). Such corrections were of various kinds. They were first of all corrections of real mistakes, whether of letters or of entire words. A letter or a word in the text had, according to the note on the margin, either to be changed, or inserted, or omitted by the reader. Such were the so-called "Tiqqunê Sopherîm", corrections of the scribes. The second group of corrections consisted in changing an ambiguous word, — of such eighteen are recorded in the Massorah. In the Talmud no mention has as yet been made of them. But its compilers were aware of the " Itturê Sopherîm", or erasures of the connecting Waw, which had been made in several places in opposition to the Septuagint and the Samaritan Versions. When later the Massoretes speak only of four or five instances, we must say with Ginsburg that these are merely recorded as typical. Cases are not rare when consideration for religious or moral feeling has led to the substitution of a more harmless euphemism for an ill-sounding word. The vowels of the expression to be read are attached to the written word of the text, whilst the consonants are noted on the margin. Well known is the ever-recurring "Qerê" Adonai instead of Jahvê; it seems to date back to the time before Christ, and probably even the first Greek interpreters were acquainted with it.The fact that the Massoretes did not dare insert the changes described in the Sacred Text itself shows that the latter was already fixed. Other peculiarities point to the same reverence for tradition. We repeatedly find in the text a so-called inverted Nun (e.g., Num., x, 35-36). In Isaiah 9:6, there is a final Mêm within the word. A Waw is interrupted or letters are made bigger, whilst others are placed higher up — the so-called suspended letters. Not a few of these oddities are already recorded in the Talmud, and therefore must be of great age. Letters with points are mentioned even in the "Mishna". The counting of the letters also probably belongs to the older period. Records serving for textual criticism are extant from the same time. In its essentials the work is completed with the post-Talmdic treatise "Sopher m". This treatise, which gives a careful introduction to the writing of the Sacred Text, is one of the most conclusive proofs of the scrupulosity with which at the time of its origin (not before the seventh century) the text was generally treated.B. Older WitnessesThe condition of the text previous to the age of the Massoretes is guaranteed by the "Talmud" with its notes on text-criticism and its innumerable quotations, which are however, frequently drawn only from memory. Another help are the "Targums", or free Aramaic versions of the Sacred Books, composed from the last centuries B.C. to the fifth A.D. But the state of the text is chiefly evidenced by the Vulgate Version made by St. Jerome at the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth centuries. He followed the Hebrew original, and his occasional remarks on how a word was spelt or read enable us to arrive at a sure judgment on the text of the fourth century. As was to be expected form the statements of the Talmud, the consonant-text of the manuscripts tallies almost in every respect with the original of St. Jerome. There appear greater discrepancies in vocalization, which is not to be wondered at, for at that time the marking of vowels was not known. Thus the reading is necessarily often ambiguous, as the saint expressly states. His comment on Is., xxxviii, 11, shows that this statement is not only to be taken as learned note, but that thereby the interpretation might often be influenced practically. When St. Jerome occasionally speaks of vowels, he means the quiescent or vowel letters. Nevertheless, the opinion that in the fourth century the pronunciation was still fluctuating, would be erroneous. For the saint knew how, in a definite case, ambiguous word was to be vocalized; he appealed to the custom of the Jews standing in opposition to the interpretation of the Septuagint. A fixed pronunciation had already resulted from the practice, in vogue for centuries, of reading the Holy Writ publicly in the synagogue. There might be doubt in particular cases, but, on the whole, even the vowel-text was secured.The letters in which the manuscripts of that time were written are the "square characters", as appears from St. Jerome's remarks. This writing distinguished the final forms of the well-known five letters (Prologus galeatus), and probably supposed the separation of words which, excepting a few places, is the same as in our Massoretic Text. Sometimes the Vulgate alone seems to have preserved the correct separation in opposition to the Massoretes and the Greek Version.The loss of Origen's hexapla is very much to be regretted. This work in its first two columns would have handed down to us both the consonant-text and the vocalization. But only a few scattered remnants of the second are left. They show that the pronunciation, especially of the proper names, in the third century disagrees not infrequently with the one used later. The alphabet at the time of Origen was the same as that of a century and a half afterwards. As regards the consonants there is little change, and the text shows no essential transformationWe are led still further back by the Greek versions originating in the second century. The most valuable is Aqulia s, as it was based upon the Hebrew text, and rendered it to the letter, with the greatest fidelity, thus enabling us to draw reliable conclusions as to the condition of the original. The work is all the more valuable, as Aquila does not care about the Greek position of words and the peculiar Greek idiom. More over, he consciously differs from the Septuagint, taking the then official text for his norm. Being a disciple of Rabbi Aqiba he presumably maintains the views and principles of the Jewish scribes in the beginning of the second century. The two other versions of the same period are of less importance for the critic. Theodotion depends upon the Septuagint, and Symmachus allows himself greater liberty in the treatment of the text. Of the three versions only very small fragments have come down to us. The form of the text which we gather from them is almost the one transmitted by the Massoretes; the differences naturally became more numerous, but it remains the one recension we know of from our manuscripts. It must, therefore, be scribed at least to the beginning of the second century, and recent investigations in fact assign it to that period.But that is not all. The perfect agreement of the manuscripts, even in their critical remarks and seemingly irrelevant and casual peculiarities, has led to the assumption that the present text not only represents a single recension, but that this recension is even built upon one archetype containing the very peculiarities that now strike us in the manuscripts. In favour of this hypothesis, which, since the time of Olshausen, has been defended and based upon a deeper argument especially by de Lagarde, evidence has been brought forward which seems overwhelming. Hence it is not surprising that, of late, the assertion was made that this view had long since become an admitted fact in the textual criticism of the Old Testament. Yet, however persuasive the argument appears at first sight its validity has been constantly impugned by authorities such as Kuenen, Strack, Buhl, König, and others distinguished by their knowledge of the subject. The present state of the Hebrew text is doubtless the outcome of systematic labour during the course of several centuries, but the question is whether the supposed archetype ever existed.At the outset the very assumption that about A.D. 150 only a single copy was available for the preparation of the Bible text is so improbable as scarcely to deserve consideration. For even if during the insurrection of Bar-Cocheba a great number of Scripture rolls perished, there nevertheless existed enough of them in Egypt and Persia, so that there was no need to rely on one damaged copy. And how could this copy, the defective peculiarities of which could not have been overlooked, attain to such undisputed authority? This could have happened only if it had much greater weight than the others, for instance, for its being a temple scroll; this would imply further that there existed official texts and copies, and so the uniformity goes further back. On the supposition that it were but a private scroll, preserved merely by chance, it would be impossible to explain how the obvious mistakes were retained. Why, for instance, should all copies have a closed Qoph, or a letter casually made larger, or a final Mem within a word? Such improbabilities arise necessarily from the hypothesis of a single archetype. Is it not much more likely that the supposed mistakes are really not erroneous, but have some critical signification? For several of them a satisfactory explanation has already been given. Thus the inverted Nun points to the uncertainly of the respective passages: in Prov., xvi, 28, for instance, the small Nun, as Blau rightly conjectures, might owe its origin to a textual emendation suggested by the feeling prevalent later on. The larger letters served perhaps to mark the middle of a book. Possibly something similar may have given rise to the other peculiarities for which we cannot at present account. As long as there exists the possibility of a probable explanation, we should not make chance responsible for the condition of our text, though we do not deny that here and there chance has been at play. But the complete agreement was certainly brought about gradually. The older the witnesses, the more they differ, even though the recension remains the same. And yet it might have been expected, the more ancient they were the more uniform they should become.Besides, if one codex had been the source of all the rest, it cannot be explained why trifling oddities were everywhere taken over faithfully, whilst the consonant-text was less cared for. If, again, in later times the differences were maintained by the Western and Eastern schools, it is clear that the supposed codex did not possess the necessarily decisive authority.The present text on the contrary seems to have resulted from the critical labour of the scribes from the first century B.C. to the second century A.D. Considering the reading of the Bible in the synagogue and the statements of Josephus (Contra Apionem, I, viii) and of Plato (Eusebius, "Præp. Evang.", VIII, vi) on the treatment of the Scriptures, we may rightly suppose that greater changes of the text did not occur at that time. Even the word of Jesus in Matt., v, 18, about the jot and tittle not passing away, seem to point to a scrupulous care in the preservation of the very letter; and the unconditional authority of the Scripture presuppose a high opinion of the letter of Holy Writ.How the work of the scribes was carried out in detail, we cannot ascertain. Some statements of Jewish tradition suggest that they were satisfied with superficial investigation and criticism, which however, is all that could have been expected at a time when serious textual criticism was not even thought of. When difficulties arose, it is said that the witnesses were counted and the question decided according to numerical majority. However simple and imperfect his method was, under the circumstances an objective account of the actual state of the question was much more valuable than a series of hypotheses the claims of which we could not now examine. Nor is there any reason for supposing, with some early Christian writers, conscious changes or falsifications of the text. But we are, perhaps, justified in holding that the disputes between the Jews and Christians about the text of the Scriptures were one of the reasons why the former hastened the work of unifying and fixing the text.The manuscripts of that period probably showed little difference from those of the subsequent epoch. The consonant-text was written in a more ancient form of the square characters; the so-called final letters presumably came into use then. The Nash Papyrus (the Ten Commandments) would give some information if it were only certain that it really belongs to the first century. The question cannot be decided, as our knowledge of Hebrew writing from the first to the third century is quite imperfect. The papyrus is written in well-developed square characters, exhibits division of words throughout., and always uses the "final letters". As in the Talmud, the memory of the relatively late distinction of the double forms of the five letters is still alive, their application in Holy Writ cannot be dated back too far. Even the Massorah contains a number of phrases having final letters which are divided differently in the text and on the margin, and must, therefore, belong to a period when the distinction was not as yet in use. From the Nabat n and Palmyrian inscriptions we learn that at the time of Christ the distinction already existed, but it does not follow that the same usage prevailed in the land west of Jordan and, in particular, in the Sacred Books. The Palmyrian inscriptions of the first to the third century apply the final form of only one letter, viz., Nun, whilst the Nabat an go beyond the Hebrew and use, though not consistently, double forms also for Aleph and Hê. The time when the Jewish copyists began to distinguish the double forms must then remain an open question. Moreover, the term "final letters" does not seem very appropriate, considering the historical development. It is not the final forms then invented, but rather the others, that seem to be the product of a new writing. For, with the single exception of Mêm, the so-called final forms are those of the old characters as exhibited partly at least even in the oldest inscriptions, or at any rate in use in the Aramaic papyri of the fifth century B.C.C. The Bible Text before ChristAs regards the preceding centuries, we are relatively well informed. In place of the missing manuscripts we have the ancient Greek Version of the Old Testament, the so- called Septuagint, or Alexandrian, Version. The Pentateuch was translated in the first half of the third century, but it cannot be determined in what order and at what intervals the other books followed. Yet in the case of the majority of the books the work was probably completed about the middle of the second century B.C. Of primary importance for us is the question of the state of the text at the time of the translation. As the version is not the work of one man — not even the Pentateuch has only one translator — nor the work of one period, but is extended over more than a hundred years, it cannot all be judged by the same criterion. The same holds good of its Hebrew original Some of the Old-Testament Scriptures and, at the time of the translation, existed for about a thousand years, whilst others had just been composed. Considering this historical development, we must, in judging the texts, not simply oppose the whole of the M. T. (Massoretic Text) on the one hand to the whole Septuagint on the other. Results of any practical value can be obtained only by a separate study of the different books of the Holy Scripture.The oldest, the Pentateuch, presents considerable differences from the M.T. only in Exodus 36-40, and in Numbers. Greater divergences appear in Sam., Jer., Job, Prov., and Daniel. The M.T. of the Books of Samuel has suffered in many places. The Greek Version often serves to correct it, though not always. In Jeremias text-tradition is very unsettled. In the Greek Version not less than 2700 words of the M. T., about an eighth part of the whole, are missing. Additions to the M. T. are inconsiderable. Some of the parts wanting in Septuagint may be later additions, whilst others belong to the original text. The transpositions of the Greek text seem to be secondary. Still the order of the M.T. is not unobjectionable either, and sometimes Septuagint is right in opposition to M.T. On the whole, the text of Septuagint seems to be preferable to the M.T. In Job the textual problem is quite similar. The Greek text is considerably shorter than the M.T. The Greek rendering of Proverbs diverges still more from the Hebrew. Lastly, the Greek Ecclesiasticius, a translation which we must consider to have been made by the author's grandson, is a altogether different from the Hebrew recension lately found. These facts prove that during the third-second century B.C. texts were circulated which manifest traces of careless treatment. But it must be remembered that translators, sometimes, may have treated the text more freely, and that even our Greek Version has not come down to us in its original form. It is hard to determine how far we may recognize the official text of the period in the present form of the Greek text. The legend of the solemn mission to Jerusalem and the deputation of the translators to Egypt cannot be treated as historical. On the other hand it is arbitrary to assume that the original of the Greek Version represents a corrupted text every time if differs from M.T. We have to distinguish various forms of the text, whether we call them recensions or not.For a judgment on the Septuagint and its original, the knowledge of the Hebrew writing then in vogue is indispensable. In the case of the Minor Prophets attempts have been made by Vollers to discover the characters employed. The Books of Samuel have been investigated by Wellhausen and Driver; Jeremias by K hler; Ezechiel by Cornill; Job by Beer; Ecclesiasticus by Peters. Full certainty as to the characters of the Hebrew scrolls of the third-second century B.C. has not as yet been obtained. According to Jewish tradition, Esdras brought over the new (Assyrian) writing when returning from the Exile, in which script the Sacred Books were thereafter transcribed. A sudden change is improbable. It is not possible that the writing of the fourth century was quite similar to that of the Nash Papyrus or of the first-century inscriptions. The Aramaic writing of the fifth century shows an unmistakable tendency towards the latter forms, yet many letters are still closely related to the ancient alphabet: as Bêth, Caph, Mêm, Samech, Ayin, Tasade. How did this change take place? Did it pass through the Samaritan alphabet, which clearly betrays its connection with the Phoenician? We know the Samaritan letters only after the time of Christ. The oldest inscription belongs, perhaps, to the fourth century A.D.; another, that of Nablus, to the sixth. But this writing is undoubtedly decorative, displaying care and art, and offers, therefore, no sure basis for a decision. Still there was presumably a time in which the Sacred Scriptures were written in an ancient form of the Samaritan characters which are closely related with those of the Hasmon an coin inscription.Others suggest the Palmyrian alphabet. Some letters, indeed, agree with the square characters; but Ghimel, Hê, Pê, Tsade, and Qôph differ so much that a direct relation is inadmissible. In short, considering the local nature of this artificial writing, it is hardly credible that it exerted a wider influence towards the west. The Hebrew square characters come nearer to the Nabataean, the sphere of which is more extended and is immediately adjacent to Palestine.As the change of the alphabet probably took place step by step, we must reckon with transition writings, the form and relation of which can perhaps be approximately determined by comparison. The Greek Version offers excellent material; its very mistakes are an inestimable help to us. For the errors in reading or writing, occasioned, or already supposed, by the original, will often find their reason and explanation in the form of the characters. A group of letters repeatedly read erroneously is a clue as to the form of the alphabet of the original. For the well-known possibilities in the square writing of confusing Daleth with Rêsh, Yôdh with Waw, Bêth with Caph do not exist in the same way in the transition writings. The interchanging of Hê and Hêth, of Yôdh and Waw, so easy with the new characters, is scarcely conceivable with the old ones; and the mistaking of Bêth for Caph is altogether excluded. Aleph and Tau on the other hand can easily be mixed up. Now in Chronicles, in itself recent and translated into Greek long after the Pentateuch, Waw and Tau, Yôdh and Hê, Caph and Rêsh have been mistaken for each other. This can be accounted for only an older form of writing were employed. Hence we are compelled to suppose that the old alphabet, or a transition form like it, was in use up to the second or first century B.C. From Christ's words about the jot (Matt., v, 18) it has been concluded that Yôdh must have been regarded as the smallest letter; this holds good with the square characters. We know otherwise that, at the time of Christ, the new writing was all but developed; at least the inscriptions of the Benê Chezîr and of many ossuaries sufficiently testify to this. But in these inscriptions Zayin and Waw are as small as or even smaller the Yôdh.In addition to the form of the characters, orthography is of importance. The unpointed consonant-text can be made essentially clearer by writing "plene", i.e., by using the so-called quiescent letters (matres lectionis). This means was often absent in the original of the Septuagint. In the text of the Minor Prophets Aleph seems not to have been written as a vowel-letter. Thus it came about that the translators and the M.T. diverge, according as they suppose the Aleph or not. If the vowel-letter was written, only one interpretation was possible. The same applies to the use of Waw and Yôdh. Their omission occasions mistakes on the one or other side. The liberty prevailing in this regard is expressly testified even for a much later period. But it is going too far to consider the omission of the vowel-letters as the rule commonly observed. The oldest inscriptions (Mesha, Siloah) and the hole history of Semitic writing prove that this practical device was known.In particular cases the possibility of connecting or separating the letters differently must be considered as another source of divers interpretations. Whether the division of the words was expressed in the ancient manuscripts or not cannot be shown by direct testimonies. The Mesha and Siloah inscriptions and some of the oldest Aramaic and Phoenician divide the words by a dot. The later monuments do not abide by this usage, but mark the division here and there by a little interval. This custom is universal in the Aramaic papyri from the fifth century downwards. The Hebrew fragments make no exception, and the Syriac writing applies the word-division in the earliest manuscripts. Therefore the conjecture that word-division was used in the old scrolls is not to be rejected at the outset. Still the intervals must have been so small that wrong connections easily came about. Instances are not wanting, and both the Massorah and the Greek Version testify to that. Thus Gen., xlix, 19-20, is correctly divided in the Greek and in the Vulgate, whilst the M.T. erroneously carries the Mêm, that belongs to the end of verse 19, over to the following word "Asher". The passage, moreover, is poetical and a new stanza begins with verse 20. Hence in the archetype of our M.T. the stichic writing, known perhaps at an earlier period and used in the later manuscripts, was not applied.The mistakes occurring in consequence of interchanging of letters, of wrong vocalization or connection, show how text-corruption originated, and thus suggest ways of repairing the damaged passages. Other slips which always occur in the handing down of manuscripts, such as haplography, dittography, insertion of glosses, transposition, even of entire columns, must also be taken into consideration whilst estimating the text of the Sacred Books. In books or passages of poetical nature, metre, alphabetical order of verses and stanzas, and their structure, supply a means of textual emendation, which ought nevertheless, to be sued with great prudence, especially where the manuscripts seem disarranged.We must, however, beware of comparing the Septuagint as a unit with the Massorah. In textual criticism we must distinguish between the questions: What is the relation of the Greek Version of the Scriptures in general to the Hebrew? and, How far in a particular case may one text be corrected by the other? The Septuagint may on the whole differ considerably from the M.T., and yet often clear up an obscure passage in the Hebrew, while the reverse happens just a frequently. Apart from the Septuagint there is but little to assist us. The Samaritan Text throws light on the Pentateuch, at least up the fourth century, perhaps up the time before Esdras. Yet until the critical edition, announced a couple of years ago, appears it must remain an open question whether the Samaritan Text was not influenced by the Septuagint at a later period. Regarding shorter passages, the parallel texts allow of comparison. The deviations observed in them show that changes have taken place, which betray carelessness or intentional or accidental variations. Jewish tradition tells of a restoration of the Sacred Scriptures by Esdras. Underlying this narrative may be recollection of historical events that proved disastrous both to the political and religious life of the people of Israel and to its Sacred Books. The consequences do not everywhere manifest themselves as much as in the books of Samuel and Jeremias, for instance, but often enough are such that the application of all critical means is needed to come to a readable text. Sometimes in spite of all nothing can be done and the passage is irremediably disfigured. It will be impossible to make the M.T. agree entirely with the Septuagint until we are favoured by some unexpected discoveries. However, all these discrepancies do not alter the Sacred Texts to such a degree as to affect in any way the religious content of the Old Testament.AUGUST MERKTranscribed by Augustine Chau
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. — New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat. 1910.