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Are there any versions of the Jewish bible (Tanach) preserved today that pre-date Jesus (B.C.E.)? I feel that any version published after this time has a good chance of being biased towards or against Christianity.

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    If you consider this an answer, the Isaiah scroll found in Qumran: "has been carbon-14 dated at least four times, giving calibrated date ranges between 335-324 BC and 202-107 BC; there have also been numerous paleographic and scribal dating studies placing the scroll around 150-100 BC." This isnt an entire Bible, just that book. – mevaqesh Jun 14 '15 at 23:42
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    Additionally scrolls found in Ketef Hinnom contain the Priestly blessing as preserved from the First Temple Era (700-650 BCE) – mevaqesh Jun 14 '15 at 23:57
  • I will definitely vote it up :) – Nick Rolando Jun 15 '15 at 0:07
  • The oldest complete Tanakh TTBOMK is the Leningrad codex. – Double AA Jun 15 '15 at 0:41
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    @sabbahillel I believe that sevara is used in regards to R. Tam / Rashi tefillin manuscript evidence, but I am not convinced. No sofer tries writing something and makes hundreds of mistakes before finally giving up. If the point is to reconcile with the Masoretic text, remember that the Gemara already says that they werent bekiim in meleios ad chaseros. – mevaqesh Jun 15 '15 at 3:46
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Scrolls found in Ketef Hinnom contain the priestly blessing (of Numbers ch. 6) as preserved from the First Temple Era (700-650 BCE)

The Isaiah scroll found in Qumran: "has been carbon-14 dated at least four times, giving calibrated date ranges between 335-324 BC and 202-107 BC; there have also been numerous paleographic and scribal dating studies placing the scroll around 150-100 BC." These aren't an entire Bible, just the priestly blessing and Isaiah respectively.

The Nash Papyrus dated to 150-100 BC contains the Decalogue followed by the "Sh'ma Yisrael" prayer, with some variation from the Masoretic text.

Although not necessarily part of a cohesive unit, according to Wikipedia, fragments from Qumran (i.e. the Dead Sea Scrolls) identified thus far include every book of Tanakh except for the Book of Esther.

These mostly seem to pre-date even the earliest sects of Christianity (see cited Wikipedia page regarding the dating of the fragments).

For a summary of Tanakh fragments and their dates see here.


See also the discussion here regarding the oldest Torah scrolls. Noted there is that the Lenningrad Codex (just over a thousand years old) appears to be the oldest currently extant complete Tanakh.

The oldest manuscript of the entire Chumash (five books of Moses) to my knowledge is the Keter Damesek (Damascus Ms.) from the 9th or 10th century. (This should not be confused with another manuscript of the same name from the 13th century).

It should be noted that variation exists between the exact texts of the Dead Sea scrolls and of the Masoretic text. I believe that these consist primarily of differences in plene spelling. (someone please confirm). Although some, such as the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa), show remarkable consistency with the Masoretic text, others, e.g. the Jeremiah scrolls, are quite different. From the introduction to Jeremiah in this English translation:

Two important scrolls are 4QJerb and 4QJerd, which reflect a Hebrew text that is very different than the Masoretic form of Jeremiah from which modern Bibles have been translated. [...] This is true not only in small details but also in major aspects. [...] 4QJerb and 4QJerd (before they were damaged) and the Septuagint present a version of Jeremiah that is about 13 percent shorter than the longer version found in modern Bibles!

Furthermore, (please confirm) there is variation in the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves.

Worthwhile to note, is that just as Christian scribes no doubt had biases and agendas, Essene scribes in Qumran (or whoever authored the Dead Sea scrolls) may have similarly had biases.

Also worth noting that traditional Jewish literature discusses when we correct the Masoretic text to fit with other texts, e.g. those of the Talmud. Thus, the Masoretic text doesn't hold the exclusive rights to the "Jewish text". For more on this topic see this article.

  • Please note that some of the fragments found in Qumran disagree with the Mesorah, such as a small scroll with Ps. 145 (Ashrei) with a verse for "נ" and a refrain at the end of each line. – Noach MiFrankfurt Jun 15 '15 at 1:07
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt do you have a link with more info? – mevaqesh Jun 15 '15 at 1:09
  • No, I saw this in person when some of the scrolls were in Boston at an exhibit. – Noach MiFrankfurt Jun 15 '15 at 1:09
  • Also please note - The Biblical Archaeology Society's book "Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls"(a collection fm BAReview)has an article by Frank Moore Cross "The Text Behind the Text of the Hebrew Bible" that explains how most of the DSS can be grouped into three text types: the one that became the Masoretic Text, the one that that became the Samaritan Text, and the one resembling the Septuagint. There's a lot more elaboration in the article, but that's one of it's main points. – Gary Jun 20 '15 at 2:45
  • @Gary interesting. Do you have a link? – mevaqesh Jun 21 '15 at 3:51

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