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In Christianity, recent Bible translations in most languages use the Hebrew text edition from the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1983 edition) while consulting other ancient manuscripts (such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint, or other codex) for difficult verses.

What prompted me to ask this question at Mi Yodeya is my recent finding that:

I'm aware, as @Elie commented, that most religious Jews can read Tanach in Hebrew. But the above findings made me question whether I should take for granted that the Hebrew text editions they use is the same with what 21st century Christian scholars use.

Therefore, my questions are:

  • Do various branches of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed, etc.) authorize the same Hebrew text edition of the Tanach?
  • Do they also use an edition similar to Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (based on the Leningrad codex) or do they have their own preferred Hebrew edition for the study / public reading at the Synagogues?
  • Which Hebrew text edition is most likely used at popular Hebrew Scripture study websites such as Sefaria, Chabad.org, TanachStudy.com, or others?
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    For OP - I don't have a definitive answer but most of the religious sects today follow the same standard Masoretic text. Karaism (and definitely Samaritans) may not - very, very few of each are still around today. IIRC Samaritans replace (depending how you look at it, of course) almost every instance of "Israel" with "Mt. Gerizim". English translations of the standard text exist and are abundant, but the preferred reading is always in Hebrew and most religious Jews can read it in its native language. With the exception of a few scattered letters, the entire text is the same.
    – Elie
    Aug 17, 2021 at 23:58
  • @Elie Thank you for your input. I thoroughly revised the question to focus on which Hebrew text edition that various Jewish communities use. Aug 18, 2021 at 4:31
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    You should note that among Jews there's virtually no debate on the Hebrew (consonantal) text, there are only a few discussions about vowels, metegs and cantillation marks. Most regard the Aleppo Codex authoritative, but it's lacking the Torah. There are some new editions based on that text, among them the Jerusalem Crown, which is regarded by most scholars as authoritative, although some branches of Charedim prefer to use other editions. Aug 18, 2021 at 6:17
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    @Kazibácsi Thanks, really helpful and along the line of the answer that I'm looking for. Aug 18, 2021 at 6:53
  • Just a side note, as I experienced, using the Hebrew text is mostly a Protestant thing. Kahle, who was the brain behind BHS, was Lutheran. Catholics are perfectly happy with their translations (maybe Jerome was the last one who wasn't), not to mention the different Orthodox churches. Aug 18, 2021 at 10:31

2 Answers 2

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The Masoretic Text is the basis for all Jewish translations of the Tanakh. (Incidentally it is also the basis for most Protestant translations of the Christian Old Testament, although the Septuagint and Latin Vulgate are usually also considered.)

Traditionally, Jewish communities study the Tanakh in its original language. For instance, when the Torah is read in syangogue, it is read from a scroll and in Hebrew. This is the standard in all communities regardless of affiliation be it Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform.

There is no "standard translation" of the Tanakh in any branch of Judaism. There are translations or editions which are recommended or more popular, but there will almost always be other translations readily available in the synagogue library.

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    There is no governing body that regulates or oversees all congregations that align themselves with the label of Orthodox Judaism, therefore there can be no "standard". In the US, Reform congregations are overseen by the CCAR and Conservative congregations by the RA, and each of these bodies produce a translation/commentary of the Torah, but it is not "protocol" that communities use those editions. Every community uses the translation of the Tanakh that they see fit for their own individual purposes, and those reasons may vary.
    – ezra
    Aug 18, 2021 at 2:47
  • Thank you for your initial input. I have revised the question thoroughly to focus not on translation, but on the original Hebrew text edition itself. Which edition do various Jewish communities use? Do they take advantage of variant readings supplied by non Leningrad codex? Aug 18, 2021 at 4:33
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    Orthodox Jews use our own Masoretic tradition handed down through the generations. The only variations considered are variations within that tradition. The authoritative work on the topic is Minchas Shai by Jedidiah Norzi, published in many versions of the Mikraot Gedolot (see Wikipedia). In terms of modern day scholarship, Rabbi Breuer and Koren are considered the best, from what I gather. They have slight differences in punctuation (usually between chataf-patach and shva, which is very minor). The Koren has a list of variant readings in the back. They total around 100 words.
    – N.T.
    Aug 18, 2021 at 8:42
  • Reform and Conservative, as offshoots of Traditional/Orthodox Judaism, use the Masoretic Text because that was the standard set by OJs. What about Karaites (pretty much the last non-inherently-Orthodox branch left)?
    – Harel13
    Aug 18, 2021 at 9:27
  • I'm not an expert of the field, but Jerome used a Hebrew version very close to the Masoretic text, which had clearly not been the case for the Septuagint. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulgate#Critical_value Aug 18, 2021 at 10:39
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According to Sefaria, they use the Wikisource version of the Hebrew text. According to the website's description, they use the Leningrad codex but change it where it differs from the Masoretic text. Their preferred version of the Masoretic text is the Teimani (Yemenite) version, which also correlates best with the results reached by scholars of the Masoretic system. They provide a list of where the Leningrad codex differs from their research.

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    My policy is not to downvote answers, but this one is full of imprecise statements. Dovi is using the Aleppo Codex, whenever it's available, except for a few documented cases. The Yemenite tradition happens to corroborate the text of the Aleppo Codex in most cases, and its reconstruction at the missing parts. Aug 18, 2021 at 9:09
  • @Kazibácsi Go ahead and downvote; honest feedback is good. If you write a better answer, I'll delete mine.
    – N.T.
    Aug 19, 2021 at 8:29

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