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About the Ancient Hebrew Torah
By Jeff A. Benner

Viewing the Hebrew

To view the Ancient Hebrew script of this text you will need to downlowd the Ancient Hebrew font and install it in your fonts folder.

The Waw and Yud

Until 1947, the oldest manuscript of the Hebrew Bible was the codex Leningrad which is dated to around 1,000 A.D. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 we now have manuscripts that are 1000 years older than the codex Leningrad. While the Hebrew texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls (2000 years old) and the Hebrew text from the codex Leningrad (1000 years old) are very similar, there are differences. One of the largest differences are the vowels used for the text. Throughout the codex Leningrad the vowel sound 'o' is represented by a dot placed over a letter. For instance the Hebrew word for 'no', as it appears in the codex, is לֹא (lo). The dot above the text, called a hholam, represents the vowel sound 'o'. These dots and dashes (called nikkudot, nikkud in the singular) were created by the Masorites during the time the codex Leningrad was written. The Dead Sea Scrolls, written long before the Masorites, used the letter ו (waw, vav in modern Hebrew) for the consonant 'w' but also the vowel sound 'o'. Through the Dead Sea Scrolls this word appears as לוא. In the Masoretic text the name David is written as דָוִד (dawid). The dot, called the hhireq, below the ו represents the 'i' sound. However, in the Dead Sea Scrolls the name David is written as דויד where the letter י (yud) is used for the 'i' sound.

From the vast amount of manuscripts unearthed in the Dead Sea Caves it has been discovered that the letters waw and yud (and to a lesser extent the letters hey and aleph) were widely used as vowels. But when and why they were removed from the text and replaced with the nikkudot appears to be a mystery. In the "Ancient Hebrew Bible" all of the hholam and hhireq nikkud have been replaced with the letter waw and yud respectively in order to attempt to restore the text to its pre-Masoretic state.

The Shin, Sin and Samehh

In the Modern Hebrew alphabet the letter shin (ש) represents two different sounds, a "sh" and an "s". To differentiate between these two sounds, a dot is placed above the shin in different locations. For the "sh" sound, the dot is placed on the right () and is called a shin and for the "s" sound it is placed on the left () and called a sin.

In most cases, words spelled with the sin () are more closely related in meaning with words spelled with the samehh (ס). In addition, Hebrew words in the Masoretic text spelled with the sin () in some places, are also written with a samehh in other places. For these reasons, Hebrew words that are spelled with a sin () in the Masoretic text, will be written with a samehh (ס) in the Ancient Hebrew Torah. As an example, in the Masoretic text you will find the name ישׂראל (yisra'el/Israel), but in the Ancient Hebrew Torah it will be written as .

The Pictographic Script

Because the original manuscripts of the Bible are long gone there is no way to know which Hebrew script was used. We can make an educated guess that most of them were written with the middle Hebrew script (also called Paleo-Hebrew) while the older books may have been written in the early Hebrew script (pictographic letters such as the hieroglyphs of Egypt). The "Ancient Hebrew Bible" employs the early Hebrew script for the sole reason that this script is the foundation to all later scripts and because each Hebrew letter represents an object of action that is rooted in the original pictographs of the letters.

Chapter and Verse Numbers

The original texts did not include any numbering system, these were added later for ease of finding a particular passage within the text. The "Ancient Hebrew Bible" includes the traditional Hebrew Bible numbering system for the same reason.

Get the Books or eBooks

The Ancient Hebrew Torah and its companion volume the Ancient Hebrew Torah Lexicon are available through the bookstore.