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Some time ago I published Jewish Biblical Manipulations, a short article that showed one of the most dramatic examples of text manipulation in the Old Testament by a group then known as Pharisees and today as rabbis. There, I commented on the difference between the texts in Acts 15:16-18 (New Testament) and Amos 9:11-12 (Old Testament).

Acts 15:16-18 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

Amos 9:11-12 In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.

Both texts were taken from the King James Bible, an English translation finished in 1611 and which is widely considered being one of the finest ever translations of the Book. It is remarkable faithful to the content and style of the original texts and thus allows understanding the issue without studying Koine Greek and Hebrew. The two cited texts are very different. The one in Acts talks about the redemption of all people, regardless their ethnicity; all would be reached by God. However, the text in Amos tells a very different story, claiming the tabernacle (i.e. the Jewish holiest place, and by association the Jewish people) would be risen and would possess - i.e. enslave - all Edom and other surviving people.

The source of the discrepancy is clear. The apostles kept faithful to the Septuagint, which the Talmud rates as "exact translation." The Septuagint, also known as the LXX, is the Koine Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, translated between the 3rd and 2nd century BC in Alexandria. Finished in 132 BC, it contains only books from the Old Testament; the New Testament was still in the future. Oddly, the event was recorded in the sacrilegious Talmud (Megilah): "King Ptolemy once gathered 72 Elders. He placed them in 72 chambers, each of them in a separate one, without revealing to them why they were summoned. He entered each one's room and said: ‘Write for me the Torah of Moshe, your teacher." God put it in the heart of each one to translate identically as all the others did.’ Yet, later handwritten copies of the Hebrew Bible show a radically changed text that rejects Jesus and brings a racist, enslaving text which has nothing to do with God. That means the scribes were caught here (and in many other places) red-handed. First, rabbis changed the Bible in order to accommodate it to their plans, then, they compiled the pervert Talmudic literature, that interpreted the already falsified text into a wild preach to criminality. Jesus spoke extensively of their lack of morals; the whole of Chapter 23 in the Gospel of Matthew is a good example of that, though many similar words of Jesus appear in other places. I got many comments and questions; which were compiled here. The facts were unsettling, especially for Jews and Israelis that keep sending reactions, sometimes obliquely menacing towards me.

Their main argument is amusing: “this cannot be true!” As usual, the best is facing them with their own testimonies, as used elsewhere. Despite the Talmud claiming the Septuagint is a good translation, I know most Jews would reject it as a pagan, unreliable, Greek text. “Mityaven” and “Meshumad” (“Becomes a Greek” and “Utterly Destroyed”) are words used in Hebrew to describe converts to Christianity; thus you can imagine a Greek translation is not well seen among Jews. Thus, let’s look at other resources.

How Loyal?

The Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible was consolidated in Tiberias in the 10th century and codified by Aaron Ben Asher. Its important characteristics are the diacritical marks (vocalization and other punctuation), and the cantillation marks for chanting. This text was authorized by Maimonides, who in the Mishneh Torah certified that "the codex that we used in these works is known in Egypt ... and was edited by Ben Asher, who studied it carefully for many years and edited it many times." However, it is unsure to which specific manuscript he referred to and then there is an embarrassing fact: he says “edited it many times.” That means “made unspecified changes.” The Masoretic text formed the basis of the most important printed version of the Bible, which was edited by Jacob ben Hayyim ben Isaac ibn Adonijah, and printed in Venice between 1516 and 1518. This version is the basis of most printed copies of the Bible up to the present day. During the 20th century, other editions of the Bible were printed, including the Biblia Hebraica editions and the Aron Dotan edition, both based on the St. Petersburg manuscript of the Bible, which is the oldest entire Bible ever found and is just a thousand years old. Despite minor differences in these editions, all are named “Masoretic.”

How loyal is the Masoretic text to the oldest known version of the Bible? There are two types of earlier versions of the Bible: ancient translations, and Hebrew versions that predate the Masoretic text. Three vital examples of translations are the abovementioned Greek Septuagint translation, the Onkelos Aramaic translation and the Vulgate Latin Bible. I commented already on the discrepancies between the Hebrew and the translations. The most famous historic Hebrew text is known as the Dead Sea Scrolls; many would rejoice to find all the books of the Old Testament appear there, except the odd Book of Esther. And then, there is the Samaritan Torah.

The Samaritan Torah

Nowadays, the Samaritans comprise less than a thousand people, living primarily in Nablus and Holon. They are best known from the Good Samaritan, in Luke 10:30-37, where a Samaritan is used to show the wrongdoing of priests and Levites. The Samaritans venerate the Pentateuch, which serves as their sole source of religious law. They view the Masoretic text - the rabbinical Hebrew Bible - as a forgery created by Ezra Hasofer in the fifth century, and keep their own version of the Pentateuch. Other scriptures are not recognized by them.

Samaritan Torah Scroll

Samaritan Torah Scroll | Closer to LXX

Thus we have two people, both recognizing the holy nature of the Pentateuch and reading it in the same old language – Hebrew, though written in slightly different characters. The books (I mean scrolls) should read the same, right? But, they not.

It is claimed by Tal and Florentin - two researchers from Tel Aviv University – that the Samaritan Pentateuch went through a process of linguistic adaptation and that it features language patterns from the Second Temple Period, considerably after the first redaction of the text. They also claim there are 6000 differences between the two versions of the Torah. They divide the discrepancies into two broad categories: unintentional ones, where most of the differences fall into, and deliberate ones, which are subdivided into linguistic editing and content editing. The main intention of linguistic editing is to remove grammatical forms and structures that seem irregular, while content editing includes logical arrangement of the writing and religious-ideological revision. Often the Samaritan version is identical to the Septuagint and to the Vulgate Latin translations. For example, that’s the case with Genesis 4:8 "And Cain spoke unto Abel his brother. And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him," where the Samaritan version adds to the Masoretic text the words "Let us walk out to the field" as in the other translations.

Yet, also the Samaritan version is not completely reliable because it includes a religious-ideological revision; even of the Ten Commandments. The commandment to worship God, as described in Deuteronomy, conveys no hint of Jerusalem; and whereas Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Torah, there is a reference to Mount Gerizim (Deuteronomy 27:12: "These shall stand upon Mount Gerizim to bless the people"). Thus, the Samaritan Tenth Commandment alludes to the building of an altar on Mount Gerizim. A comparison of the texts shows that the changes derive from additions inserted by the Samaritans, rather than omissions in the Masoretic text.

Who should I Trust?

As stated in the early articles of this series, the New Testament is rather reliable, at least in its most orthodox versions. If reading in English, then stick to King James and avoid interpreted versions. I understand the apprehension of many readers while finding out about these disturbing Pharisaic manipulations. However, even if mistrusting the entire non-Biblical literature, we can read serious warnings about the Old Testament texts in the Old Testament itself:

the pen of the scribes is in vain Jeremiah 8:8.

Even some of Jeremiah’s prophecies were intentionally destroyed by the king. So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll: and he took it out of Elishama the scribe's chamber. And Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes which stood beside the king. Now the king sat in the winterhouse in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him. And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth. Jeremiah 36:21-23.

God’s answer was clear: “Thou hast burned this roll, saying, Why hast thou written therein, saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land” Jeremiah 36:30.

Jesus was alluding also to these awful practices when He said: teaching for doctrines the commandments of men Matthew 15:9

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