Emendations of the Sopherim

Dear Brethren,

The question was asked this week, "What are the Emendations of the Sopherim?"  We should be careful when using highfalutin' sounding language, because we do not want to sound pretentious.  However, the emendations of the Sopherim are important to the serious Bible student.

The Sopherim, Old Testament Scribes, in a well-meaning but misguided zeal for the Holy Scriptures, took it upon themselves to make some changes to the earliest manuscripts they were charged with reproducing by hand.  Remember, that was long before the printing press.  The Sopherim were not converted men, and though adequate Scribes, they labored under some misconceptions.

Emendations are alterations to the Bible, made by the Sopherim, intended to improve the meaning of the text.  The Sopherim did not think they were violating God's instruction, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it."  (Deuteronomy 4:2)  The Sopherim thought that they were making corrections to previous errors, by clarifying the intent of the Scripture.  They also took the liberty in 134 places of reserving respect for the scared name of God, Yahweh, ;the tetragrammaton, YHVH, by substituting Adonai, Lord.  "Tetragrammaton" is another highfalutin' word that simply means, "four letters."

Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."  (2 Peter 1:21)  A Bible translation must conform, as nearly as is possible, to the inspired original.  All English Bibles are translations.  The words of the King James translation, or any other English version, has Divine authority, only so far as it expresses the meaning of the Divinely inspired original text.

Are the Holy Scriptures we possess today accurate?  Yes, the Scriptures have maintained a remarkable degree of accuracy due to the extreme diligence of the Sopherim.  The variations of the text that have occurred between the old and recent copies do not significantly change the meaning of the original text.  What's more, the Sopherim kept accurate records of the changes they made - allowing us to go back and restore the original text!

E.W. Bullinger writes about the recording of the "Massorah," tiny marginal notes of all changes made by the Sopherim.  "Readers of The Companion Bible are put in possession of information denied to former generations of translators, commentators, critics, and general Bible students...  All the oldest and best manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible contain on every page, beside the Text (which is arranged in two or more columns), a varying number of lines of smaller writing, distributed between the upper and lower margins. This smaller writing is called the Massorah Magna or Great Massorah, while that in the side margins and between the columns is called the Massorah Parva or Small Massorah.

"The word Massorah is from the root masar, to deliver something into the hand of another, so as to commit it to his trust. Hence the name is given to the small writing referred to, because it contains information necessary to the Massorites (those into whose trust the Sacred Text was committed), so that they might transcribe it, and hand it down correctly.

"When the Hebrew Text was printed, only the large type in the columns was regarded, and the small type of the Massorah was left, unheeded, in the MSS from which the Text was taken.

"When translators came to the printed Hebrew Text, they were necessarily destitute of the information contained in the Massorah; so that the Revisers as well as the Translators of the Authorized Version carried out their work without any idea of the treasures contained in the Massorah; and therefore, without giving a hint of it to their readers."

Brethren, it is recommended that we make corrections in the margins of our own Bibles - back to the originally inspired meaning.  We can simply mark "ES" in our margin for Emendations of the Sopherim.  When this is completed, we find that knowing the correct translation enhances our understanding of the Word of God.  Please request a list of the Emendations of the Sopherim if you do not have The Companion Bible.  They are listed there under Appendixes 31-33 with a beautifully reduced facsimile of an example of the small Massorah.  Please request a free printout.


Sermon: "Ye are Gods"