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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

The Emergence of MT as the Authoritative Text

There is no scholarly consensus regarding the history of the biblical text. Some argue for a gradual development between the 5th and 1st centuries BCE in three geographical areas: the land of Israel, Egypt, and some third locality, in all probability Babylonia. Others suggest that the Rabbis, the Samaritans, and the Christians each preserved a particular collection of biblical texts, derived from a larger variety of text forms, which were lost with the disappearance of the groups that had presumably saved them.

The presence of diverse texts and text types at Qumran led other scholars to argue for a paradigm reflecting textual variety, based on three main text types but including texts with a free approach to the biblical one. Clearly, based on the Qumran evidence, plurality of texts was the rule from the 3rd to the 1st century BCE. The additional finds from the Judean Desert document a shift in this state of affairs, however. At Masada, the much more limited number of biblical finds represents only the so‐called proto‐Masoretic (or proto‐rabbinic) type, as is the case for the later finds from the Bar Kokhba Revolt refuge caves. This supports the view that this text type achieved authoritative status during the period between the Great Revolt and the Bar Kokhba Revolt (between 70 and 135 CE), pushing the other variants out. Thus, by the end of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, the textual pluriformity attested in the pre‐destruction period gave way to the exclusive choice of the already prominent proto‐Masoretic text type as binding. Thus, the destruction of the Temple and its aftermath served as a strong impetus for creating a more unified text. Given the lack of evidence for the biblical libraries in the possession of the different groups in Second Temple Judaism—with the Qumran library serving as perhaps only a sampling of biblical texts circulating among various groups—it is impossible to establish a definite link between particular groups and specific text types. The sole known exception is the Samaritan community, which chose harmonistic texts for its Holy Writings at a date preceding the acceptance of MT as the authoritative text version. It is possible that, in the absence of a tradition similar to rabbinic oral law, the Samaritans preferred a text relatively free of internal contradictions as the basis for their Holy Writings.

In sum, the discovery of biblical texts in the Judean Desert has been of inestimable value for biblical scholarship. By significantly enlarging the number of ancient witnesses to the biblical text, the finds shed light on manifold aspects of the development of the biblical canon and text as represented by MT and the other variants and facilitate better understanding of when MT emerged as the authoritative witness to the biblical text.

[ESTHER ESHEL]

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Oxford University Press

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