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Comparing any scroll of the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) – the Torah (Pentateuch), for instance – with its print version, quite a few (non-textual) differences stand out.

By Dov Chaikin |

 Aside from chapter and verse division, absent in the scrolls, the printed form also has two other major differences: vowel points and cantillation marks. These allow for correct reading of the Scriptures, both in public – in the synagogue – and in private, with the cantillation marks providing both the liturgical melody and the accentuation and punctuation.

 

The extant vowel points and cantillation marks in the Masoretic Text were introduced by the Sages of Tiberias, a class of Masorites (or Masoretes) that flourished towards the end of the first millennium of the Common Era. The Masorites took over from the Scribes – mentioned in the New Testament (the first biblical reference to a scribe is ascribed to Ezra) – the function of preserving the Holy Writ for onward transmission.

 

These innovations of the Sages of Tiberias were no doubt based on an oral tradition of correct reading of Scriptures (dating possibly from the days of Ezra), handed down from generation to generation; they form the foundation of Hebrew...

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