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Title: Masoretes  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Hebrew grammar, Shomer Masoret, Biblical Hebrew, Tetragrammaton, Bernard Ramm
Collection: Ancient Near Eastern Scribes, Hebrew Bible Topics, Hebrew Grammar
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


The Masoretes (Hebrew: בעלי המסורה, ba'alei hamasorah) were groups of Jewish scribe-scholars who worked between the 6th and 10th centuries CE,[1] based primarily in present-day Israel in the cities of Tiberias and Jerusalem, as well as in Iraq (Babylonia). Each group compiled a system of pronunciation and grammatical guides in the form of diacritical notes on the external form of the biblical text in an attempt to standardize the pronunciation, paragraph and verse divisions and cantillation of the Jewish Bible, the Tanakh, for the worldwide Jewish community.

The ben Asher family of Masoretes was largely responsible for the preservation and production of the Masoretic Text, although an alternate Masoretic text of the ben Naphtali Masoretes, which differs slightly from the ben Asher text, existed. The halakhic authority Maimonides endorsed the ben Asher as superior, although the Egyptian Jewish scholar, Saadya Gaon al-Fayyumi, had preferred the ben Naphtali system. The ben Asher family and the majority of the Masoretes appear to have been Karaites.[2] However, Geoffrey Khan believes that the ben Asher family was probably not Karaite.[3]

The Masoretes devised the vowel notation system for Hebrew that is still widely used, as well as the trope symbols used for cantillation.

See also


  1. ^ Wegner, Paul (1999). The Journey From Texts to Translations. Baker Academic. p. 172.  
  2. ^ Jewish Virtual Library: Aaron ben Moses ben Asher
  3. ^ Khan, Geoffrey (2000). Early Karaite grammatical texts. Society of Biblical Literature. p. 52 ISBN 978-1589830004.
    cf. Khan, Geoffrey (1990). Karaite Bible Manuscripts from the Cairo Genizah. CUP Archive. p. 20 ISBN 978-0521392273.

Further reading

  • In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language, Chapter 5. ISBN 0-8147-3654-8
  • The Text of the Old Testament. ISBN 0-8028-0788-7
  • Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah. ISBN 0-89130-374-X
  •  §2 Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar,, §3

External links

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