We are taking a look at how we got the Old Testament as part of a survey of the Bible. Let’s continue.
Because all we have are copies, some may worry about how careful the Old Testament copyists were. We know that we make mistakes copying information. It might be interesting at this point to talk about how the Old Testament was physically written. Almost all of it was written in Hebrew, with the exception of a few small portions, which were written in Aramaic. Most writing material was papyrus, made from the inner bark of the papyrus plant that grew plentifully along the banks of the Nile River. It was easy to write on, easy to roll, and cheap to produce. The problem was that it was not strong or long-lasting.
Until about 600 years after the birth of Christ, Hebrew was never written with any indication of what vowels should be used. The Jews knew how to pronounce the words only by the way they learned them in the school or synagogue. By the 10th century A.D., Jewish Masoretes introduced the vowel points which were worked into Jewish letters. Before then Hebrew writing was unpunctuated and missing vowels as well as having no space between the words. Isaiah 7:14 in English and without vowels, punctuation, or spacing would look something like this: THRFRTHLRDHMSLFWLLGVYSGNTHVRGNWLLBWTHCHLDNDWLLGVBRTHTSNNDWLLCLLHMMMNL. Hard to read, right?
By the way, that’s why we’re not sure about the sacred name for God since it was written out without vowels– YHWH. That word has been called the Tetragrammaton (having four letters); the best guess is that it was pronounced “Yahweh.”