Thursday, March 10, 2011

The most accurate edition of the Bible, according to a Jerusalem Perushi disciple of R. Chaim of Volozhin.

In the early 19th century Christian missionaries were very active in the Holy Land. They promised not only eternal salvation, but also much material benefit, which they were in position to deliver, having wealthy sponsors and contacts with European governments. Not surprisingly, therefore, the stance that the Jews took toward them was very different from what one sees today, which is total shunning. The Jews could not afford to completely ignore them. At least in the early period, the rabbis seemed to have adopted the strategy of welcoming them to theological dialog - with themselves, but not with the common man, who were not supposed to talk to them. I guess the idea was that the rabbis felt that they could spend the energy of the missionaries and satisfy their desire for such discussions. (This is, at least, the attitude of the Ashkenazi rabbis. The Sefaradim were much more hostile toward them at this early period.)

So you get lengthy descriptions of these conversations in the diaries of the missionaries, which were sent back to Europe and printed in the journals of the Missionary societies. I've posted several times about the converted Jew Joseph Wolff's diaries, which contain much interesting information about the Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere, as well as his extensive conversations with Rabbi Mendel of Shklov.

Here we see a little note from the diary of Massachusetts-born Jonas King, from early in 1825. Rabbi Sapira is Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Shapira, who was one of the leaders of the Perushim group which moved to Jerusalem in 1813.

This certainly is interesting. The Van Der Hooght edition of 1705 was exceedingly popular, probably the most popular edition through well into the 19th century, and the source of numerous reprints. Rabbi Shapira is saying that this edition contained many mistakes. However, the edition which he considers most correct is the 1699 Berlin edition of Daniel Ernst Jablonski (1660-1741).

Here are two sample pages:


  1. Do we have any examples of these "errors?"

  2. Here is the original 1705 edition. Go to Gen. 29:20, where it reads אחדיס instead of אחדים.

  3. Did you somehow think errors meant something besides errors?

  4. I was hoping for something juicier, like the omission of the word "lo" in one of the Commandments. Or this:

  5. Sorry:

  6. But how could that be? The Van der Hooght edition was considered very accurate, so of course it wouldn't have any major mistakes.

    Nu, so can you tell me which rabbonim today can compare 140 year old editions and have an intelligent opinion about which is more accurate. Did I just say that?

  7. S:

    "can you tell me which rabbonim today can compare 140 year old editions and have an intelligent opinion about which is more accurate"

    why would they need to? today we have artscroll, mikraos gedolos hamaor, etc. so why is there any need for these non-jewish editions?

    i once saw a third edition of cassoutto's tanach on a shaimos shelf. i was really excited to have found it and asked the rav of the shul if i can have it. he said i would have to check with his father (the real rav of the shul) if it's really for shaimos and also to make sure its a good edition because a lot of tanach's are published by goyyim (i guess cassotto doesn't sound heimish enough, and of course in any case he's not one of us). i looked around and shook my head. the vast majorty of hebrew bibles printed have been of non-jewish origin (or from meshumadim), including the ones in this shul, but he was concerned about this one particular edition?

  8. Jews were involved in the Jablonski edition, including the author of this sefer.

  9. Prettt funny. The rabbi of my shul also happens to have a tanach on his shelf edited by Yakkov Cassuto. This rabbi is totally ignorant of who Cassuto was. If he knew he'd have to get himself a diffrent Tanach.

  10. Why? M.D. Cassutto is the mighty Bible professor who destroyed the Documentary Hypothesis.



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