The Emendations of the
Sopherim

You shall not add to the word which I command you,
Nor take anything from it, ...
Deut. 4:2a

      The history of the Holy Scriptures is most fascinating. These ancient documents have been passed down trough many hands and translated into many different languages over a period of time that spans approximately 3500 years. How can one know that the Scriptures we have today are accurate? Is it not possible that people who had improper understanding, or evil intent, might have changed the original scriptures?
      When it comes to the Hebrew Scriptures, one can pretty much lay these concerns to rest. For example, the ancient Scroll of Isaiah, which is on display at the Israeli Museum in Jerusalem, dates back to at least the first century BCE, yet it contains only a handful of discrepancies when compared to the modern Hebrew copies of the same book. Not only that, the variations that do occur between the ancient and modern copies do not in any way change the meaning of the original text.

      How could such an ancient document be preserved over such a long period of time without significant errors creeping into it? The answer lies in the practice of the people whom God put in charge of this most important task. They were the Sopherim (Soh-fehr-eem’), also know as the Scribes.’ All who love the Scriptures can be ever grateful to the Scribes for their magnificent work in preserving intact the accuracy of the Scriptures.

      Probably the best known Scribe mentioned in Scripture is Ezra the Priest:

      "... Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given.
      "... Ezra the priest, the scribe, expert in the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of His statutes to Israel."
(Ezra 7:6,11)

      Ezra was the first in a long line of Sopherim (Scribes) who were given the task of refining the scriptures, maintaining their accuracy, and providing a correct interpretation of their meaning. There are a number of earlier Sopherim mentioned in the Scriptures. They include; Seraiah (II Sam. 8:17), Sheva (II Sam. 20;25), Shaphan (II Kings 22:8), Nethaneel (I Chron. 24:6), and Baruch, the secretary to Jeremiah (Jer. 36:26) to name just a few. Undoubtedly some of these men were responsible for recording the words of the Prophets. Baruch would be a prime example of this type of Sopher (soh-fehr’ = singular form).

      There were also Sopherim active in the time of Yeshua HaMashiach, however by that time their job no longer included the refining of the Scriptures, for that task had been finalized long before the first century CE. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the Scriptures were finalized by the time of Alexander the Great, about 325 BCE. The last Sopher in this eminent lineage, which began with Ezra, was Simeon the Just.
      The Scribes of Yeshua’s day had a different (though similar) set of tasks than those who immediately followed Ezra. It was their job to teach the Jewish masses, and their children, the words and meaning of the Torah and to transcribe correctly the Word of God when copies were made. Their mode of teaching followed the model found in the book of Nehemiah.

      "So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading."
(Neh. 8:8)

      Their method of teaching took the following form:

      The charges that Yeshua brought against the Scribes of His day had to do with their interpretation, application and teaching of certain aspects of the oral law or traditions; not with their work of accurately copying the written scriptures, which work remained impeccable.

      "Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."
(Matt. 23:28)

      The problem was not even so much what they taught, but rather how some of them took advantage of those who were poor or otherwise unable to defend themselves. (Sound familiar?)
      Being a Sopher (Scribe) did not have anything to do with one’s character, it had to do with their ability to maintain the integrity of the Hebrew Scriptures as well as work with other important religious and state documents.

~ The Emendations ~

      An emendation is an "alteration intended to improve." The Sopherim, in a misguided zeal for God and the Scriptures, took it upon themselves to make some changes to the manuscripts which were handed down to them. This might seem like a terrible thing to do, to make changes to the very Word of God. However, the Sopherim believed they were either: 1.) making necessary corrections to errors that had crept into their copies, 2.) were clarifying the actual intent of the Scriptures, or 3.) (in the case of the Tetragrammaton, YHVH) were showing extreme reverence for the scared name of God. In any case, they felt they were handling the Scriptures in a way that would be approved by God.
      While one may condemn what the Sopherim did, in making alterations to the Scriptures, one must also praise them for keeping accurate records of their changes. This enables us to ‘look over their shoulder’ as it were, and see exactly what changes they made. The record of these emendations are found in what is know as the Massorah (Mahs-sohr’ah). The following details about the Massorah are taken from Appendix 30 of The Companion Bible. This is the Authorized Version of 1611 (KJV), with copious notes and 170 appendices written by E.W. Bullinger. It is published by Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI 49506. This Bible contains a wealth of information and is highly recommended by Hebrew Roots. Bullinger writes:

      "Readers of The Companion Bible are put in possession of information denied to former generations of translators, commentators, critics, and general Bible students.
...
      "All the oldest and best manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible contain on every page, beside the Text (which is arranged in two or more columns), a varying number of lines of smaller writing, distributed between the upper and lower margins. This smaller writing is called the Massorah Magna or Great Massorah, while that in the side margins and between the columns is called the Massorah Parva or Small Massorah.
      "The word Massorah is from the root masar, to deliver something into the hand of another, so as to commit it to his trust. Hence the name is given to the small writing referred to, because it contains information necessary to the Massorites (those into whose trust the Sacred Text was committed), so that they might transcribe it, and hand it down correctly.
      "When the Hebrew Text was printed, only the large type in the columns was regarded, and the small type of the Massorah was left, unheeded, in the MSS from which the Text was taken.
      "When translators came to the printed Hebrew Text, they were necessarily destitute of the information contained in the Massorah; so that the Revisers as well as the Translators of the Authorized Version carried out their work without any idea of the treasures contained in the Massorah; and therefore, without giving a hint of it to their readers."

      Some of the important lists of emended words, which are contained in the Massorah, are given in Bullinger’s Companion Bible in separate appendices as follows:

      The men called ‘Massorites,’ mentioned in the previous quote, The Fifteen Points of the were keepers of the Scriptures. They followed in the period of time after that of the Sopherim, and were the ones who correctly copied the Hebrew Scriptures as handed down from the Sopherim. Even the smallest error rendered an entire scroll invalid. It is from their title, ‘Massorites’ that we receive the term ‘Masoretic Text, which is the chief source text for modem Old Testament translations.

~ The Emendations ~
~ Of the Name of God ~

      The remainder of this article will be devoted to examining the 134 passages of Scripture where the Sopherim altered the Hebrew name for God (YHVH) to read Adonai (Ah-doh-nigh’). Some very interesting, even remarkable, concepts can be learned from this study.
      The Tetragrammaton (YHVH) is the very name of God. In Hebrew it consists of the letters yod, hey, vav, hey. Although this word first appears in Genesis 2:4, we are told that it was not until the time of Moshe (Mohshay’ = Moses) that God revealed YHVH as His proper name. Up until that time God had been known as El Shaddai (Ehl Shahd-die’ = God Almighty).

      "And God spoke to Moses and said to him: "I am the LORD (YHVH). I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD (YHVH) I was not known to them."
(Ex. 3:2-3)

      Sometime during the days of the Prophets the use of the Tetragrammaton (YHVH) in common speech became forbidden. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia this decision was based on; "... a somewhat extreme interpretation of Ex. xx. 7 and Lev. xxiv. 11. Written only in consonants, the true pronunciation was forgotten by them. The Septuagint, and after it the New Testament, invariably render (it) ‘the Lord.’" (vol. IX, page 161)

      From that time forth the name YHVH was allowed to be pronounced aloud only on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and then only by the High Priest. Each time The Name was enunciated all the people who heard it prostrated themselves. Much later, vowel points were added to the original text so that the correct pronunciations of the Hebrew words would not be lost. At that time the vowel points for the word Adonai were placed with the letters for ‘The Name.’ Thus it became common practice to substitute the word Adonai (which means Lord in Hebrew) whenever one was speaking of or reading the name YHVH. Another common practice was to use the phrase HaShem (Hah Shehm = the Name) whenever encountering the name YHVH.
      Today most English Bibles, whether Christian or Jewish, translated the Hebrew name YHVH as ‘LORD’ or ‘the LORD,’ using all upper case letters. Since the Hebrew word Adonai is also used in the Scriptures (449 times to be exact), it is always translated using a capital ‘L’ with the other letters being lower case (thus; ‘Lord’). This creates some problems as the word Adonai is used in conjunction with YHVH 315 times in the Scriptures. Again, the Jewish Encyclopedia explains: "Originally an appellation of God (speaking of the name YHVH), the word became a definite tide, and when the Tetragram became too holy for utterance Adonai was substituted for it, so that, as a rule the name written YHVH receives the points of Adonai and is read Adonai, except in cases where Adonai precedes or succeeds it in the text, when it is read Elohim." (vol. 1, page 201).

~ The 134 Occurrences ~
~ Where Adonai Was ~
~ Substituted For YHVH ~

      Generally, the above plan works well. Readers of the Scriptures can easily pick out the 6,823 times the name YHVH is used (as opposed to the Hebrew word Adonai) merely by noticing whether it is all upper case (LORD) or mixed case (Lord). However, there are 134 places where the Sopherim actually substituted the word Adonai when the original scriptures rendered it YHVH. These changes were noted in the Massorah so that reconstruction of the original is possible. Bullinger writes in the Companion Bible; "Out of extreme (but mistaken) reverence for the Ineffable Name Jehovah’, the ancient custodians of the Sacred Text substituted in many places ‘Adonai.’" (Appendix 32, p. 31).
      Following is a list of where these 134 emendations occur. Most English translations (including the King James Version) will render these instances ‘Lord’ rather than ‘LORD.’ Some newer translations may have corrected some or all of them.

[* This reference appears to be in error as there is no usage of either Adonai or YHVH in this verse.]

~ Similar Passages ~

      The Sopherim followed some general guidelines in their alterations of the Tetragrammaton. These can be grouped by type:

~ Special Emendations ~

      A few of the emendations have special significance to the Believer. A proper rendering of these passages can clarify our understanding of them. This is true of the very first set of emendations which were made in Genesis chapter 18. (Note: The places where the emendation occurred will be corrected by the bold capital letters YHVH. All of the following references are from the King James Version.)

      "And said, My YHVH, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:"
(Gen. 18:3)

      "And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto YHVH, which am but dust and ashes:"
(Gen. 18:27)

      "And he said unto him, Oh let not YHVH be angry, and I will speak: ..."
(Gen. 18:30)

      "And he said, Oh let not YHVH be angry, and I will speak yet but this once; ..."
(Gen. 18:32)

      These very first occurrences of the emendation of Adonai for YHVH are very important, for Yeshua said:

      "And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape."
(John 5:37)

      Yet here we find Abraham seeing YHVH, speaking to Him, hearing His voice and eating a meal with Him. Who, then, was this mysterious YHVH? That is a question that each Believer needs to study for himself.

      The next occurrence is also significant:

      "And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so my YHVH"
(Gen. 19:18)

      At first glance this verse seems to imply that Lot is addressing the two angels as YHVH. Yet as one reads on in the text it is apparent that Lot is actually speaking with YHVH Himself for he is speaking to a single individual. (See vs. 19, 21 and 22). Thus, both Abraham and Lot seem to have had direct contact with God.
      The final emendation in the book of Genesis is:

      "But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, YHVH, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?"
(Gen. 20:4)

      These are the first of many occurrences where the Sopherim changed YHVH to Adonai whenever an individual was addressing YHVH directly. Apparently they felt it was not appropriate for these individuals to address God by His name. As noted earlier, when the events of these verses took place God had not yet revealed Himself as YHVH but was known as El Shaddai. Thus one can assume that neither Abraham, Lot, or especially Abimelech, ever used the name YHVH when addressing God, but rather referred to Him as ‘El Shaddai’ However, these accounts were written at a later time by Moshe, and he used the Tetragrammaton in relating the stories so there would be no doubt about who they were speaking with, for El Shaddai and YHVH are one and the same.
      Moving on to the book of Exodus we find the following encounter between Moshe and YHVH.

      "And Moses said unto the LORD, O My YHVH, ..."
(Ex. 4:10)

      This is the first place where the Tetragrammaton is used twice in the same verse. In this case the Sopherim rendered the first one correctly (which is indicated in the English text as LORD) but changed the second occurrence to Adonai (which is now corrected to read YHVH). Many of the 134 emendations contain this structure.
      Another passage that needs special attention, because of the implications of the change, occurs in Psalm 110. We will begin by quoting the entire Psalm as found in the New King James Version:

"The LORD said to my Lord,
‘Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’
The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.
Rule in the midst of Your enemies!

"Your people
shall be volunteers
In the day of Your power;
In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,
You have the dew of Your youth.
The LORD has sworn
And will not relent,
‘You
are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.’

(v.5)The Lord is at Your right hand;
He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath.
He shall judge among the nations,
He shall fill
the places with dead bodies,
He shall execute the heads of many countries.
He shall drink of the brook by the wayside;
Therefore He shall lift up the head."
(Psalm 110:1-7)

      It is obvious from verse one that this Psalm is speaking of two different beings. One is obviously God, for He is identified in verse one as being "The LORD" or YHVH. The other is called "my Lord," or (in Hebrew) my Adonai." These translations in verse one are correct. As one reads on it becomes apparent that the one called "my Lord" or "Adonai" is actually the Messiah. He sits at the right hand of YHVH, He rules from Zion, He is a priest forever, and He will judge the nations. These are all pictures of the Messiah and His rule.
      In Jewish interpretation, the one here who is called Adonai, is the King Messiah, who is to be born of a woman just prior to the end of the age. To them He is not equal to God because God is one God, as stated in the Shema. (See Hebrew Roots issue 96-4). According to their belief, King Messiah is a human agent of God, responsible for bringing the Kingdom of God to earth for a one thousand year period, commonly called ‘The Millennium. As a case in point, a few years ago one Ultra-Orthodox group believed their aged rabbi was the Messiah, until he died without bringing in the prophesied Kingdom.
      If the Ultra-Orthodox view is correct, then what is one to do with verse 5? Here is one of those places in Scripture where the original word YHVH was changed to Adonai. The word ‘Lord’ in this verse should be ‘YHVH.’ Now we are faced with the necessity of admitting that in this Psalm there are two YHVH’s mentioned; one YHVH who is in charge overall, and another YHVH who sits at His right hand and is the prophesied Messiah. Once the emendation is corrected it is not possible to have only one YHVH in this passage.

~ Time for Serious Study ~

      It is our recommendation that each of you take your Bible, and a pen, and correct each of the 134 places where the sopherim changed the Tetragrammaton (YHVH) to Adonai. This can easily be done by drawing a line through the word "bind" and writing either "LORD" (in all caps) or "YHVH" in the margin. That way, every time you read any of these passages in the future, you will have the correct translation.
      Once this is accomplished, take the time to study each of these changes. You may find that knowing the correct translation enhances your understanding of the Word of God.

      Study and Be Blessed.

            DEW

~ ~ ~

~ Sources ~

Bullinger, EW., The Companion Bible, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, 1974.
The Jewish Encyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls, New York and London, 1905,
The Holy Bible, (King James Version), Oxford University Press, London.
The Open Bible, The New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1965.
Shanks, Hershel, (Ed.) Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, Random House, New York, 1962.
Strong, James, S.T.D., L.L.D., Strong’s New Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, World Bible Publishers, Inc., Iowa Falls, IA, 1966.

Defining Love

In Leviticus 19:18b, we read "Love your fellow as yourself". It has also been translated as "You shall love your neighbor as you do yourself", and it is generally interpreted in this way. However, Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, in his book titled "Growing Each Day," page 230, has written that: "The Torah is stating here a definition of ‘love’: ve’a-havta, the sensation or the experience of love, is lerei’acha kamocha, when you wish for another that which you wish for yourself.

"What some people consider love may be nothing more than a self-serving relationship. They may ‘love’ something because it satisfies their needs, but when the object cannot satisfy the need, or the need itself disappears, the love evaporates.

"True love is not self-serving, but self-giving. We love only when we have as intense a desire to please the other person as to be pleased ourselves. Such an attitude calls for sacrifice, because it may be that we will have to deprive ourselves in order to provide what will please the other person.

"As children, we are selfish. As we mature, we should develop a spiritual love, which is quite different from our childish physical love. This spiritual, other-directed love can withstand all challenges. As the Song of Songs says, Even abundant waters cannot extinguish love (8:7)."

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