Tuesday, June 02, 2020
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Old Testament Copying Procedures

The Jews had a tremendous reverence for Scripture. Their copying procedure were very detailed and meticulous. Samuel Davidson provides a listing of the regulations followed by the scribes: [1]

  1. A synagogue roll must be written on the skins of clean animals,
  2. prepared for the particular use of the synagogue by a Jew.
  3. These must be fastened together with strings taken from certain clean animals.
  4. Each skin must contain a certain number of columns, equal throughout the entire codex.
  5. The length of each column must not extend over less than forty-eight or more than sixty lines; and the breadth must consist of thirty letters.
  6. The whole copy must be first lined; and if three words be written without a line, it is worthless.
  7. The ink should be black, neither red, green, nor any other color, and be prepared according to a definite recipe.
  8. An authentic copy must be from an exemplar, from which the transcriber ought not in the least deviate.
  9. No word or letter, not even a yod, must be written from memory, the scribe not having looked at the codex before him
  10. Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene;
  11. Between every new ... section, the breadth of nine consonants;
  12. Between every book, three lines.
  13. The fifth book of Moses must terminate exactly with a line; but the rest need not do so.
  14. Besides this, the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress,
  15. Wash his whole body,
  16. Not begin to write the name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink, [2]
  17. And should a king address him while writing that name he must take no notice of him.

[1] Samuel Davidson, “The Hebrew Text of the Old Testament,” 2nd ed., London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1859, p. 89 as shown in “What Everyone Needs To Know About The Bible,” by Don Stewart, Dart Press, p. 62.
[2] Meaning that a new pen would be used every time the name of God was written, as opposed to a used pen newly dipped in ink.

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