Go Home
The BIBLE       Definitions       Images       Topics       Versions    
stitch border
stitch border


to'-ra (law)
Bible, Law, Moses, Old Testament, Pentateuch
READ: Deuteronomy, Exodus, Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers
2.5 star rating


Easton's Bible Dictionary

(no entry)


Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names

(no entry)


Smith's Bible Dictionary

(no entry)


International Standard Bible Encyclopedia



III. The Change of Script.

It is now almost universally agreed that the script in which the Old Testament was written was at some time changed from the Phoenician to the Aramaic. But in the past many opinions have been held on the a subject.

1. Various Theories:

Rabbi Eleazar of Modin (died 135 AD), from the mention of the hooks (waws) in Exodus 27:10 and from Esther 8:9, denied any change at all. Rabbi Jehuda (died circa 210) maintained that the Law was given in the New Hebrew, which was later changed to the Old as a punishment, and then back to the New, on the people repenting in the time of Ezra. Texts bearing on the matter are 2 Kings 5:7; 18:26; Isaiah 8:1, from which various deductions have been drawn. There may have been two scripts in use at the same time, as in Egypt (Herod. ii.36).

2. The Change in the Law:

In regard to the change in the Law, the oldest authority, Eleazar ben Jacob (latter part of the 1st century AD), declared that a Prophet at the time of the Return commanded to write the Torah in the new or square character. Next Rabbi Jose (a century later) states (after Ezra 4:7) that Ezra introduced a new script and language. But the locus classicus is a passage in the Talmud (Sanhedhrin 21b):

"Originally the Law was given to Israel in the Hebrew character and in the Holy Tongue; it was given again to them in the days of Ezra in the Assyrian characters and in the Aramaic tongue. Israel chose for herself the Assyrian character and the Holy Tongue, and left the Hebrew character and the Aramaic tongue to the hedhyoToth." Here Hebrew = Old Hebrew; Assyrian = the new square character, and hedhyoToth is the Greek idiotai = the Hebrew `am ha-'arets, the illiterate multitude. From the 2nd century on (but not before), the Talmudic tradition is unanimous in ascribing the change of script in the Law to Ezra. The testimony of Josephus points to the Law at least being in the square character in his day (Ant., XII, ii, 1, 4). The Samaritan Pentateuch was almost certainly drawn up in the time of Nehemiah (compare 13:28; also Ant, XI, vii, 2), and points to the Old Hebrew being then in use. So Rabbi Chasda (died 309) refers the word hedhyoToth above to the Samaritans. On the other hand, the Samaritan Pentateuch may have been the original Law, common to both Israel and Judah. In any case it is written in a form of the Old Hebrew character.

VIII. History of the Text.

The consonantal text of the Old Testament was what it now is by the 1st or at latest the 2nd Christian century. During the next four centuries it was minutely studied, the number of its words and even of its letters being counted. The results of this study are found chiefly in the Talmud. All such study was oral. During this period the text remained a purely consonantal text plus the puncta extraordinaria.

1. Changes Made in Reading:

The text was not always read, however, exactly as it was written. Soon after the return from Babylon changes were made. Perhaps the earliest was that the proper name Yahweh was read Adonai, whence the Septuagint, and through it the New Testament "Lord." The reason will be found in Leviticus 24:11, where render "pronounced the name." Sometimes the change was due to motives of taste (Deuteronomy 28:30 ; 1 Samuel 6:11 ; 2 Kings 18:27); but the commonest ground was grammar or logic. Thus a word was frequently read which was not in the text at all (Judges 20:13 ; 2 Samuel 18:20); or a word was omitted in reading (2 Samuel 15:21 ; 2 Kings 5:18); or the letters of a word were transposed, as in Joshua 6:13; or one letter was put for another, especially waw for yodh or yodh for waw; or words were divided in reading otherwise than in the text (see above V, 1). The written text is called the Kethibh ("written"); what was read is called the Qere ("read").

2. Preservation of Text:

The scribes during these centuries, besides fixing the reading, took means to preserve the text by counting the words and letters, and finding the middle verse (Judges 10:8 ; Isaiah 33:21), and so forth. The middle verse of the Law is Leviticus 8:7, and the middle of the words falls in 10:16. The middle verse of the Hebrew Bible is Jeremiah 6:7. Note was made of words written abnormally (Hosea 10:14 ; Micah 1:15 ; Isaiah 3:8) and lists were made up. All such lists were retained in the mind; nothing was written.

3. Division into Verses:

When the public reading of the Law was accompanied by an Aramaic translation (Nehemiah 8:8), the division of the text into verses would arise spontaneously. The Mishna gives rules for the number of verses to be read at a time before translating. These verses were separated by a space only, as the words were. Hence, versions frequently divide differently for the Hebrew, as Hosea 4:11 ; Isaiah 1:12. In the Hebrew itself there are 28 old verse divisions no longer observed (see Baer on Hosea 1:2). The space is called picqa' and the verse pacuq.

4. Sections of the Law:

About the same time the Law was divided into sections (parashah) for the annual reading. In Palestine the Law was read through once in 3 1/2 years; in Babylon once a year. Hence, the Law is divided into 54 sections (Genesis 6:9 ; 12:1, etc.) for the annual reading. It is also divided into 379 "shut" sections, indicated by a space in the middle of a line, and 290 "open" sections, indicated by a space at the end of a line. In printed texts these sections are noted by the letters c and p, but, if they coincide with one of the 54, by ccc or ppp. The Palestinian division was into 154 cedharim.

5. Sections of the Prophets:

From Maccabean times 54 passages (haphTaroth) were selected from the Prophets for the purposes of the synagogue (Luke 4:17). The Prophets were also divided into smaller sections. As in the case of the Law (Exodus 6:28), there are cases of false division (Isaiah 56:9 ; Haggai 1:15).

6. Poetical Passages:

In the Hebrew Bible certain passages were early written in a peculiar way to resemble the bricks in the wall of a house, either in three columns, a half-brick upon a brick and a brick upon a half-brick (Exodus 15 ; Judges 5 ; 2 Samuel 22), or in two columns, a half-brick upon a half-brick and a brick upon a brick (Deuteronomy 32 ; Joshua 12 ; Esther 9). In the Septuagint, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiates, Canticles, Job are written in stichs; but that this was not done in Hebrew seems proved by the variations as to the number of lines (Psalms 65:8 ; 90:2 , 11).

7. Division into Books:

The number of books is 24, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles each counting as one, Ezra including Nehemiah, the twelve Minor Prophets counting one book (Micah 3:12 is the middle). The Law counts 5 books, Psalms one, though the division of it into 5 books is ancient (compare Psalms 106:48 with 1 Chronicles 16:35 , 36). By joining Ruth to Judges and Lamentations to Jeremiah, the number 22 was obtained--the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. When, probably about the 3rd century AD, leather rolls gave place to parchment books, it would be possible to have the whole Bible in one volume and the question of the order of the books would arise. The order in the Talmud is as follows:

The Law (5), the Prophets (8), Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the XII, the Hagiographa or Kethubhim (11), Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiates, Canticles, Lamentation, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Chronicles. The Prophets are usually subdivided into Former: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings; and Latter: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah and the XII. The traditional or "Masoretic" order places Isaiah before Jeremiah, and in the Hagiographa the order is: Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Canticles, Ecclesiates, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, the middle verse being Psalms 130:3. The order found in printed texts is that of German manuscripts. The books receive their names from a word near the beginning, from their contents, or from their supposed author.



bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, define, deuteronomy, first 5 books of the bible, genesis, exodus, law, leviticus, numbers, torah, written by moses



top page
spacer spacer
stitch border
stitch border


  Easter Egg





BIBLEing.com - reDISCOVER the Holy Bible!

The American Standard Version Bible, Chinese Union Version Bible, King James Version Bible, Easton's Bible Dictionary, Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia and Smith's Bible Dictionary are Public Domain and may be freely used and distributed. The New American Standard Bible Copyright (c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved http://www.lockman.org. The "NASB," "NAS," "New American Standard Bible," and "New American Standard" trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by The Lockman Foundation. Use of these trademarks requires the permission of The Lockman Foundation. For Permission To Quote information visit www.lockman.org.  All trademarks and tradenames are the sole property of their respective owners. Not responsible for typographical errors. (c) Copyright 2012 - 2014 BIBLEing.com. All rights reserved.