The OT Text: Tampering?
- Greetings Hiren ~
The claim that the Christian church made huge modifications to the
Hebrew text of the Old Testament books is basically incorrect.
However, there are many differences between the Masoretic (also
spelled Massoretic) Text and the text(s) used as the basis for most
modern English translations. Often in modern translations, a
footnote appears where the Masoretic Text has been rejected in favor
of a reading from another source (such as the Septuagint, Syriac, or
Dead Sea Scrolls) but not always.
Also, the Masoretic vowel-pointing and word-division can sometimes
make a major interpretive difference. For instance, in Psalm 22 --
which the Gospels record as a psalm quoted by Jesus on the cross, I'm
sure you recall -- we find a phrase in v. 16/17 which says "They
pierced my hands and my feet." Or do we?
"Look," a Christian evangelist might tell a Jew, "Here David's
situation serves as a foreshadowing of the Son of David; David's
inspired hyperbole, which described his own situation non-literally,
aptly described the suffering of the Son of David literally. Why
reject this clear Scriptural sign that Jesus is the Son of David?
Who else but Jesus could David, under the inspiration of the Spirit
of God, be prophetically describing?"
To counter such attempts at persuasion, one could reply, "Ah, but the
true text says no such thing. Read properly, the verse merely says
that David's enemies are 'Like a lion at my hands and my feet.' Many
a man in jeopardy can claim this verse as his own, and take comfort
that our God who delivered David shall, if it be best, deliver him
also. But the passage does not describe the piercing of David's
hands and feet; thus it certainly does not allude to the piercing of
Jesus' hands and feet. The Christians are simply squinting a
prophecy into existence!"
I leave it to others to settle the question of whether or not Psalm
22:16b originally was intended by its author to mean "Like a lion at
my hands and my feet" or "They pierced my hands and my feet." (I
think the earliest evidence favors the latter, but I won't get into
that since I'm just casually recollecting this example, and since
it's a more specific issue that what you were asking about.) You can
see that if the same consonantal text is persistently read two
different ways, the readers won't be able to recommend the other's
system of vowel-pointing and word-division, at least not in the
places where they differ. Which inevitably leads to mutual charges
Regarding the material at www.messiahtruth.com, it seems to me that
the creator(s) of that site has an agenda which goes way beyond the
realm of textual criticism; the material there was written to counter-
act the efforts of Christian evangelists who are attempting to
convert Jews, using prophecies and typologies in the Hebrew Bible as
Instead of critiquing the site, I offer you a few resources which may
help answer (a form of) your question -- i.e., the question of
whether or not the Bibles used by Christians nowadays reflect
tampering done by Christians.
For a somewhat pessimistic summary of the reliability of the Hebrew
text-bases on which modern English translations of the Old Testament
A somewhat optimistic summary of the same thing:
An outdated, but informative essay on the subject, by F.C. Kenyon:
And, if you really want to dive into the subject of OTTC (Old
Testament Textual Criticism), see Emanuel Tov's material and resource-
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.
Curtisville Christian Church