Do we have the complete Torah from the Dead Sea Scrolls? If not, how can we know for sure that the Torah we have today is the same from the time of the Second Temple Period, for example?


1 Answer 1


According to Prof. Emanuel Tov in part 2 of his series of articles on the history of the Masoretic Text (abbreviated MT):

"No complete proto-MT scrolls have been found; just partial scrolls and fragments. Thus, only a very small percentage of the proto-MT biblical text has survived, possibly five percent. Nevertheless, since the surviving texts are virtually identical with the medieval MT, we believe that the non-extant portions of proto-MT would have been identical with the consonants of the medieval text."

  • I consider it very wrong to claim, that since thousands of existing fragments are indeed very close to MT we can infer that at least one scroll was occasionally identical to it.
    – Al Berko
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 12:36
  • @AlBerko But we have some of the material by the Masoretes. I'm not aware of any evidence that there were any significant differences between the various scrolls they compared. So why are you certain this was not the case? The Orthodox Jews of the past - Prushim and most of Klal Yisrael - had scrolls with minor differences. The Hellenistic Jews had multiple different Septuagints after the original was lost. But we kept our scrolls.
    – Harel13
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 18:09
  • I am familiar with this doctrine, where everybody else makes mistakes, miswrites the text, adds, or edits, but we never fall for errors, our texts are error-free forever. I don't find any support for this claim in the Talmud either, Rabbis frequently misquote and Rashi and others present different versions of what we know. I remind you, there even were no Halachot of writing Sefer Torah until the late first Millennium. So, strong claims require strong evidence.
    – Al Berko
    Commented May 11, 2021 at 5:37
  • @AlBerko I never said "error-free". Neither did Emanuel Tov. I recommend re-reading. There are multiple textual variations and we were always aware of the existence of these. But they were always minor: a Vav here, a Yod there, etc. There were also some really rare cases, such as the three books found in the mikdash. These however are all incomparable to the differences between the Masoretic/proto-Masoretic and the various septuagints, which are massive and significant.
    – Harel13
    Commented May 11, 2021 at 5:51
  • Strangely enough, it's still being debated whether or not Rashi or our sages in the Talmud actually had those verses that we don't have in our Tanach. It's a big subject that has nothing to do with "the doctrine of inerrancy" or whatever. I recommend checking out Rabbi Reuven Margolies' המקרא והמסורה.
    – Harel13
    Commented May 11, 2021 at 5:53

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