The scribes of ancient Israel were a small literate minority in one overwhelmingly illiterate and oral-based culture. It to be these scribes who placed their people’s oral traditions right into writing, that edited elevation stories into books, and who created new compositions. Some of them show up to have belonged come the priestly class, a landless tribe v the time and resources to communicate in literature activities. Various other scribes, such together the record-keepers, “historians,” and also letter-writers in the imperial palaces and urban bureaucratic centers, to be affiliated with the ancient equivalent of experienced guilds.

Modern scholars space divided concerning the presence of scribal colleges in Israel during the Iron period (1200–539 B.C.E.). But the ultimate standardization that the Hebrew letter forms and also writing system between the eighth and sixth century B.C.E. Would certainly presumably have given rise to encode rules and principles of language that scribes would then have actually learned. The education of scribes in old Israel was supported at the very least in component by the state and the temple cult, although some scribal arts can have to be taught in ~ a small variety of families.

Even after some of the earliest parts of what later ended up being Scripture were committed to writing (perhaps in the eighth to saturday centuries B.C.E.), orality to be still the primary method of transmitting the product that would eventually become the Hebrew Bible. In truth, the oral/aural tradition continued to it is in the dominant way by which most civilization encountered “Scripture” throughout the biblical period and beyond. Most human being did no read the texts that would become parts of the Bible, yet rather heard them. Literacy rates in the old Near East, including Israel, were extremely low—between 5 and 15 percent the the total population, with urban centers averaging higher percentages. And while the vast majority of literate individuals and also scribes show up to have actually been guys from the upper finish of the socioeconomic and also societal spectrum, texts recovered from ancient Mesopotamia and also Egypt show that women—daughters of scribes or members that the imperial entourage–occasionally additionally functioned together scribes.

Ancient Israelite scribes had actually many avenues for contact with literate individuals from various other cultures—through sellers who traded both goods and also stories, for example, or with military and governmental figures, foreign and also local. These verbal interactions available a method to interact with the shared theoretical landscape and also linguistic legacies of the more comprehensive ancient close to East. Part non-Israelite myths, traditions, law, and also lore came to be integrated right into Israelite tradition. However as the Israelites’ identity and beliefs began to come into sharper relief in the centuries leading approximately the Babylonian Exile, Jewish scribes began to invest an ext and more time in defining themselves and also their spiritual tradition end and against neighboring cultures. This trend concerned a head throughout the Babylonian Exile (586-538 B.C.E.), when the bulk of the Jewish elites, consisting of the scribes, to be forcibly relocated to Babylon. Many scholars now believe that most of the “biblical” publications were composed and also edited in the decades and centuries after ~ the exile of 586 B.C.E. Yet also though plenty of of this compositions address maintaining the Israelites’ country and spiritual distinctiveness, they also exhibit numerous social and theological similarities with their Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, and also Greek neighbors.

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Our ideal evidence because that scribal activity in ancient Judaism, and also its relation to the Hebrew Bible, originates from the witness the the Dead Sea Scrolls. Discovered start in 1947 and dating from approximately 250 B.C.E. Come 68 C.E., the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran have actually yielded copies of every “biblical” book except Esther, and also multiple copies and also versions of specific books, such as Psalms, Deuteronomy, and also Isaiah. Some 220 that the 980 scrolls recovered indigenous the caves along the northwest coast of the Dead Sea space “biblical,” an interpretation they contain fragments of what would later end up being the Hebrew Bible. Although countless of this manuscripts are nearly identical to the consonantal message that would end up being standard in later Judaism (the Masoretic Text), others diverge native that message in to mark ways. (These are much more similar to the Hebrew message from i beg your pardon the Septuagint, the at an early stage Greek Bible, to be translated). When the scribes that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls were no “authors” in the contemporary sense, they were responsible for writing, copying, and editing. It is unclear how much freedom and autonomy scribes take it on as soon as transmitting a text, however they at least preserved others’ expansions, addressing silences in the texts, articulating new theological opinions, or combining rules that were situated in different “biblical” books. Till the revolve of the millennium, the scribes that the Dead Sea Scrolls and their related areas lived in one era in which lock were free to innovate. There was, together yet, no finalized type of the Hebrew Bible.

The reality that scribes, editors, and copyists were not wedded to “authenticity,” or come the idea the word-for-word accuracy preserved the sacredness that a text, is clear in the innumerable sports in the early resource materials that eventually became known together “the Bible.” This defines why the Hebrew message of Gen 1:2 says that “God ceased on the saturday day,” when the Septuagint and also other old versions (the Samaritan and also the Peshitta) reflect a message that says, “God ceased on the 6th day.” Similarly, the Masoretic text of Exod 1:5 claims that 70 descendants of Jacob came under to Egypt, when the Septuagint, 2 Dead Sea role fragments, and some other witnesses sell the number 75. In many versions of Isa 6:2, words “holy” is found three times, yet the an excellent Isaiah scroll from Qumran converts it only twice: “Holy, holy is the lord of hosts.” A cautious comparison the the biblical text’s old attestations mirrors such “small” sports in practically every verse, indicating that copyists with the late second Temple period did not watch themselves as Xerox devices or believe that they should reproduce texts exactly and also precisely.

This type of inexact copying, even if it is in the situation of books showing up in fundamentally different editions or in words differing here and also there, fairly possibly had its beginning in the oral society that originally created what became the Bible. In most such cultures, people were not meant to memorize the “text” exactly, yet had the liberty come switch approximately elements of the story, come embellish, to adjust length for particular performance contexts, and also certainly to paraphrase. This may help explain why even when written down, “biblical texts” to be much much more flexible in their contents and phraseology than we can have imagined. Indeed, we have the right to even suggest to examples from the Dead Sea Scrolls, such as the Genesis Apocryphon and Jubilees, which interpret the “Bible” and also rewrite the extensively. These also reflect a milieu in which texts that ended up being the holy bible were extremely flexible.

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Even once the arsenal of books that developed the holy bible (the canon) began to stabilize, each variation of a publication retained variations. This is not surprising; in the ancient Near east world, crucial works typically circulated in different versions and amongst different communities. Such variations to be a have fun of diverse oral traditions and scribal interpretation of the tradition.