Text of the Old Testament
|| I. EARLIEST FORM OF WRITING IN ISRAEL
1. Invention of Alphabet
2. The Cuneiform
3. References to Writing in the
4. Inscriptions after Settlement in Canaan
5. Orthography of the Period
II. THE TWO HEBREW SCRIPTS
1. The Old Hebrew Alphabet
2. Aramean Alphabets
3. The New Hebrew Script
4. New Hebrew Inscriptions
III. THE CHANGE OF SCRIPT
1. Various Theories
2. The Change in the Law
3. In the Other Books
4. Evidence of the Septuagint
5. Evidence of the Text Itself
IV. PRESERVATION OF THE TEXT
1. Internal Conditions
2. External Circumstances
3. The Septuagint Version
V. THE TEXT IN THE 1ST CENTURY AD
1. Word Separation
2. Other Breaks in the Text
3. Final Forms of Letters
4. Their Origin
6. The Vowel-Letters
7. Anomalous Forms
8. The Dotted Words
9. Their Antiquity
10. The Inverted Nuns ("n")
11. Large and Small Letters
12. Suspended Letters and Divided Waw ("w")
VI. ALTERATION OF PRINCIPAL DOCUMENTS
1. Yahweh and Baal
2. Euphemistic Expressions
3. "Tiqqun copherim"
VII. SCRIBAL ERRORS IN THE TEXT
2. Errors of the Eye
3. Errors of the Ear
4. Errors of Memory
5. Errors of Carelessness and Ignorance
VIII. HISTORY OF THE TEXT
1. Changes Made in Reading
2. Preservation of Text
3. Division into Verses
4. Sections of the Law
5. Sections of the Prophets
6. Poetical Passages
7. Division into Books
IX. VOCALIZATION OF THE TEXT
1. Antiquity of the Points
2. Probable Date of Invention
3. Various Systems and Recensions
X. THE PALESTINIAN SYSTEM
1. The Consonants
2. The Vowels
3. The Accents
4. Anomalous Pointings
XI. THE MASORAH
1. Meaning of the Term
2. The "Qere" and "Kethibh"
3. Other: Features
XII. MANUSCRIPTS AND PRINTED TEXTS
2. Early Printed Texts
3. Later Editions
4. Chapters and Verses
I. Earliest Form of Writing in Israel.
The art of writing is not referred to in the Book of Genesis, even where we might expect a reference to it, e.g. in
1. Invention of Alphabet:
About the year 1500 BC alphabetic writing was practiced by the Phoenicians, but in Palestine the syllabic Babylonian cuneiform was in use (see Alphabet). The Israelites probably did not employ any form of writing in their nomadic state, and when they entered Canaan the only script they seem ever to have used was the Phoenicia. This is not disproved by the discovery there of two cuneiform contracts of the 7th century, as these probably belonged to strangers. There is only one alphabet in the world, which has taken many forms to suit the languages for which it was employed. This original alphabet was the invention of the Semites, for it has letters peculiar to the Semitic languages, and probably of the Phoenicians (so Lucan, Pharsalia iii.220; compare Herodotus v.58), who evolved it from the Egyptian hieroglyphics.
2. The Cuneiform:
Of the literature of Canaan before the Israelites entered it the remains consist of a number of cuneiform tablets found since 1892 at Lachish, Gezer, Taanach and Megiddo, but especially of the famous the Tell el-Amarna Letters, discovered in Egypt in 1887. Although this non-alphabetic script was in use in Canaan when the Israelites entered it, they do not seem to have adopted it.
3. References to Writing in the Old Testament:
The earliest reference to writing in the Old Testament is
4. Inscriptions after Settlement in Canaan:
The Phoenician script prevailed in Palestine after the conquest as well as in the countries bordering on it. This is shown by the inscriptions which have been discovered. The chief of these are: the Baal Lebanon inscription found in Cyprus (beginning of the 9th century); the manuscript of about the year 896 of the ordinary chronology; a Hebrew agricultural calendar of the 8th century; fifteen lion-weights from Nineveh of about the year 700; the Siloam Inscription of the time of Hezekiah; about a score of seals; and, in 1911, a large number of ostraca of the time of Ahab.
5. Orthography of the Period:
In this oldest writing the vowels are rarely expressed, not even final vowels being indicated. The only mark besides the letters is a point separating the words. There are no special forms for final letters. Words are often divided at the ends of lines. The writing is from right to left. The characters of the Siloam Inscription and the ostraca show some attempt at elegant writing.
II. The Two Hebrew Scripts.
1. The Old Hebrew Alphabet:
Two distinct scripts were used by the Hebrews, an earlier and a later. The Old Hebrew alphabet contained 22 letters, all consonants. The order of these letters is known from that of the Greek, taken in order of their numerical values, and later by the alphabetic psalms, etc., and by the figure called ’at-bash (see Sheshach). In the acrostic passages, however, the order is not always the same; this may be due to corruption of the text. In the alphabet, letters standing together bear similar names. These are ancient, being the same in Greek as in Semitic. They were probably given from some fancied resemblance which the Phoenicians saw in the original Egyptian sign to some object.
2. Aramean Alphabets:
The development of the Phoenician alphabet called Aramaic begins about the 7th century BC. It is found inscribed as dockets on the cuneiform clay tablets of Nineveh, as the Phoenician letters were upon the lion-weights; on coins of the Persian satraps to the time of Alexander; on Egyptian inscriptions and papyri; and on the Palmyrene inscriptions. The features of this script are the following: The loops of the Hebrew letters beth (b), daleth (d), Teth (T), qoph (q) and resh (r), which are closed in the Phoenician and Old Hebrew, are open, the bars of the Hebrew letters he (h), waw (w), zayin (z), cheth (ch) and taw (t) are lost, and the tails of kaph (k), lamedh (l), mem (m), pe (p) and tsadhe (ts), which are vertical in the old Aramaic, begin in the Egyptian Aramaic to curve toward the left; words are divided, except in Palmyrene, by a space instead of a point; vowel-letters are freely used; and the use of ligatures involves a distinction of initial, medial and final forms. There are of course no vowel-marks.
3. The New Hebrew Scripture:
After the Jews returned from the exile, the Aramaic language was the lingua franca of the Seleucid empire, displacing Assyrian, Old Hebrew and Phoenician. The Phoenician script also had given place to the Aramaic in Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt. In Syria it divided into two branches, a northern which grew into Syriac, and a southern, or Jewish, from which the New Hebrew character was produced.
4. New Hebrew Inscriptions:
What is believed to be the oldest inscription in the modern Hebrew character is that in a cave at `Araq al-`Amir near Heshbon, which was used as a place of retreat in the year 176 BC (Ant., XII, iv, 11; CIH, number 1). Others are: four boundary stones found at Gezer; the inscriptions over the "Tomb of James" really of the Beni Hezir (
The inscriptions show that the familiar Hebrew character is a branch of the Aramaic. In the 3rd century BC the latter script was in general use in those countries where Assyrio-Babylonian, Old Hebrew and Phoenician had been used before. The Jews, however, continued to employ the Old Hebrew for religious purposes especially, and the Samaritans still retain a form of it in their Bible (the Pentateuch).
III. The Change of Script.
It is now almost universally agreed that the script in which the Old Testament was written was at some time changed from the Phoenician to the Aramaic. But in the past many opinions have been held on the a subject.
1. Various Theories:
Rabbi Eleazar of Modin (died 135 AD), from the mention of the hooks (waws) in
2. The Change in the Law:
In regard to the change in the Law, the oldest authority, Eleazar ben Jacob (latter part of the 1st century AD), declared that a Prophet at the time of the Return commanded to write the Torah in the new or square character. Next Rabbi Jose (a century later) states (after
3. In the Other Books:
In regard to the other books, the old script was used after Ezra’s time.
4. Evidence of the Septuagint:
The Greek translation known as the Septuagint was made in Alexandria, and is hardly evidence for Palestine. The Law was probably translated under Ptolemy II (284-247 BC), and the other books by the end of the 2nd century BC (compare Ecclesiasticus, Prologue). The variations of the Septuagint from the Massoretic Text point to an early form of the square character as being in use; but the Jews of Egypt had used Aramaic for some centuries before that.
5. Evidence of the Text Itself:
The variations between parallel passages in the Massoretic Text itself, such as
The square character was ascribed to Ezra as the last person who could have made so great a change, the text after his time being considered sacred. This is disproved by the fact of the coins of the Maccabees and of Bar Cochba being in the old character. The Talmud permits Jews resident outside Palestine to possess copies of the Law in Coptic, Median, Hebrew, etc. Here Hebrew can only mean the Old Hebrew script.
IV. Preservation of the Text.
1. Internal Conditions:
Judaism has always been a book religion: it stands or falls with the Old Testament, especially with the Pentateuch. Although no manuscript of the Hebrew Old Testament is older than the 10th century AD, save for one minute papyrus, we know, from citations, translations, etc., that the consonantal text of the Old Testament was in the 1st century AD practically what it is today. The Jews transliterated as well as translated their Bible. All the most important translations--the Septuagint, Aquila, Theodotion, Symmachus--were made by Jews and aimed at a more literal rendering of the Hebrew--that of Aquila being hardly Greek. The Syriac (Peshitta) seems to be also by Jews or Jewish Christians. Great care was taken of the text itself, and the slightest variant readings of manuscripts were noted. One manuscript belonging to Rabbi Meir (2nd century) is said to have omitted the references to "Admah and Zeboiim" in
2. External Circumstances:
Religious persecution makes for the purity of the Scriptures by reducing the number of copies and increasing the care bestowed on those saved. The chief moments in which the existence of the Jewish Scriptures was threatened were the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple under Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC, in which theand that of the Wars of the Lord may have been lost; the persecution under , during which the possession of the sacred books was a capital offense (1 Macc 1:56,57; Ant, XII, v), in which the sources used by the Chronicler may have perished; and the capture of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 AD. By this time, however, the Law at least was known by heart. Josephus says Titus made him a gift of the sacred books (Vita, 75). It is also said that at one time only three copies of the Law were left, and that a text was obtained by taking the readings of two against one. However that may be, it is a fact that there are no variant readings in the Massoretic Text, such as there are in the .
3. The Septuagint Version: The only ancient version which can come into competition with the Massoretic Text is the Septuagint, and that on two grounds. First, the manuscripts of the Septuagint are of the 4th century AD, those of the Massoretic Text of the 10th. Secondly, the Septuagint translation was made before a uniform Hebrew text, such as our Massoretic Text, existed. The quotations in the New Testament are mainly from the Septuagint. Only in the, however, are the variations striking, and there they do not greatly affect the sense of individual passages. The Greek has also the Apocrypha. The Septuagint is an invaluable aid to restoring the Hebrew where the latter is corrupt.
V. The Text in the 1st Century AD.
The Massoretic Text of the 1st Christian century consisted solely of consonants of an early form of the square character. There was no division into chapters or, probably, verses, but words were separated by an interstice, as well as indicated by the final letters. The four vowel-letters were used most freely in the later books. A few words were marked by the scribes with dots placed over them.
1. Word Separation:
The Samaritan Pentateuch still employs the point found on theto separate words. This point was probably dropped when the books came to be written in the square character. Wrong division of words was not uncommon.
2. Other Breaks in the Text:
3. Final Forms of Letters:
Final forms of letters are a result of the employment of ligatures. In the Old Hebrew they do not occur, nor apparently in the text used by the Septuagint. Ligatures begin to make their appearance in Egyptian, Aramaic, and Palmyrene. Final forms for the letters k, margin, n, p, ts, were accepted by the 1st century, and all other final forms were apparently rejected.
4. Their Origin:
After the adoption of the square character, therefore, the only breaks in the text of prose books were the spaces left between the words. Before the 1st century there was much uncertainty as to the grouping of the letters into words. After that the word-division was retained in the copies, even when it was not read (as in
6. The Vowel-Letters:
The four letters, ’, h, w, y, seem to have been used to represent vowel sounds from the first. They are found in the manuscripts, but naturally less freely on stone inscriptions than in books. The later the text the more freely they occur, though they are commoner in the Samaritan Pentateuch than in the Massoretic Text. The copies used by the Septuagint had fewer of them than the
7. Anomalous Forms:
8. The Dotted Words:
9. Their Antiquity:
These points are found even on synagogue rolls which have, with one exception, no other marks upon them, beyond the bare consonants and vowel-letters. Only those in the Pentateuch and Psalms are mentioned in the Talmud or Midrashim, and only one,
10. The Inverted Nuns ("n"):
11. Large and Small Letters:
12. Suspended Letters and Divided Waw ("w"):
There are four letters suspended above the line in the Massoretic Text. They will be found in
Such was the Hebrew text in the 1st Christian century. It was a Received Text obtained by collating manuscripts and rejecting variant readings. Henceforward there are no variant readings. But before that date there were, for the Greek and Samaritan often differ from the Hebrew. The(middle of 1st century) also varies. The fidelity of the scribes who drew up this text is proved by the many palpable errors which it contains.
VI. Alteration of Principal Documents.
1. Yahweh and Baal:
2. Euphemistic Expressions:
Words have been changed from motives of taste, e.g. "bless" is put for "curse" or "blaspheme" (
3. "Tiqqun Copherim":
VII. Scribal Errors in the Text.
The Hebrew text of the Old Testament in no way resembles a text of one of the classics which is obtained by collating many manuscripts and eliminating all errors as far as possible. It is to all intents and purposes a manuscript, and displays all the forms of error found in all manuscripts. These are the following, classifying them according to their source.
Failure to understand the sense gives rise to wrong division into words, e.g.
2. Errors of the Eye:
3. Errors of the Ear:
Errors du to the ear would arise when one scribe was dictating to another. Such are: lo’ = "not," for lo = "to him," in 15 places (
4. Errors of Memory:
Failure of memory in copying would explain the occurrence of synonymous words in parallel passages without any apparent motive, as for "I call" in
5. Errors of Carelessness and Ignorance:
VIII. History of the Text.
The consonantal text of the Old Testament was what it now is by the 1st or at latest the 2nd Christian century. During the next four centuries it was minutely studied, the number of its words and even of its letters being counted. The results of this study are found chiefly in the Talmud. All such study was oral. During this period the text remained a purely consonantal text plus the puncta extraordinaria.
1. Changes Made in Reading:
2. Preservation of Text:
The scribes during these centuries, besides fixing the reading, took means to preserve the text by counting the words and letters, and finding the middle verse (
3. Division into Verses:
When the public reading of the Law was accompanied by an Aramaic translation (
4. Sections of the Law:
About the same time the Law was divided into sections (parashah) for the annual reading. In Palestine the Law was read through once in 3 1/2 years; in Babylon once a year. Hence, the Law is divided into 54 sections (
5. Sections of the Prophets:
From Maccabean times 54 passages (haphTaroth) were selected from the Prophets for the purposes of the synagogue (
6. Poetical Passages:
7. Division into Books:
The number of books is 24, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles each counting as one, Ezr including Neh, the twelve Minor Prophets counting one book (
IX. Vocalization of the Text.
About the time of the Reformation it was the universal belief that the vowel-marks and other points were of equal antiquity with the consonants. The Jews believed Moses received them orally and Ezra reduced them to writing.
1. Antiquity of the Points:
The first to assign a late date to the points was Elias Levita (1468-1549). The battle was fought out in the 17th century. Ludovicus Cappellus (died 1658) argued for a date about 600 AD. The Buxtorfs defended the old view. The following are the facts.
2. Probable Date of Invention:
When the Septuagint was made, the Hebrew text had not even as many vowel-letters as it has now, and still less points; nor when the Syriac version was made in the 2nd century, or Jerome’s Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) between 393-405, or the earlier Targums. Lastly, the points were unknown to the Talmud. They, therefore, did not exist before 600 AD. The earliest authority on the points is Aaron ben Asher of the school of Tiberias (died about 989). He wrote a copy of the Hebrew Bible with all the points, which became the standard codex. The probable date is, therefore, taken to be about the year 700; and this agrees with what was taking place in regard to Greek, Syriac and Arabic manuscripts. The Jews probably borrowed from the Syrians.
3. Various Systems and Recensions:
No doubt, at first, many systems of pointing existed. Of these, two survived, the Palestinian and Babylonian, or superlinear. The chief features of the latter are that the signs are placed above the line; it has no sign for "e" (ceghol), and has but one system of accents. The Palestinian, the one familiar to us, exists in two recensions, those of Ben Asher and of his contemporary, Ben Naphtali of Babylon; hence, a Western and an Eastern.
X. The Palestinian System.
Since the vocalization of the text took place about 700 AD, it will be understood that it differs considerably from the living language. What that was may be found from the transliteration of proper names in the Septuagint, in Origen and Jerome, and from a comparison with modern Arabic.
1. The Consonants:
A comparison with Arabic indicates that the Hebrew letter cheth (ch), and it is certain from the Septuagint that the Hebrew letter `ayin (`), had each two distinct sounds. This difference is not shown in the pointing, though a point was used to distinguish the two sounds of "b", "g", "d", "k", "p", "t", and of "s", and "sh" and the two values of "h". The absence of this point is indicated by rapheh. The same point marks the doubling of a consonant. The gutturals and "r" are not doubled, though they certainly were when the language was spoken (compare
2. The Vowels:
The system of vowel-marks attempts to reproduce the sounds exactly. Thus the short a-sound which must precede a guttural letter is indicated, and before a guttural "i" and "u" are replaced by "e" and "o". On the other hand, "y" before "i" does not seem to have been sounded in some cases. Thus the Septuagint has Israel, but Ieremias. Shewa’ is said by Ben Asher to sound "i" before "y"; before a guttural it took the sound of the guttural’s vowel, as mo’odh (me’odh), and had other values as well.
3. The Accents:
There is a special accentual system for the poetical books, Proverbs, Psalms, and Job (except the prose parts). The titles and such marks as celah are in the Psalms accented as forming part of the verse. The accents had three values, musical, interpunctional, and strictly accentual. But these values have to do with the language, not as it was spoken, but as it was chanted in the public reading of the synagogue.
4. Anomalous Pointings:
XI. The Masorah.
1. Meaning of the Term:
The Hebrew text as printed with all the points and accents is called the Masoretic text. Masorah, or better, Maccoreth, is derived from a root meaning "to hand down" (
2. The "Qere" and "Kethibh":
The oldest and most important part of the Masorah lies in the readings which differ from the written text, called Qere. These may represent, variant readings of manuscripts, especially of them called cebhir. The most are mere errata and corrigenda of the text. Such are the four Q. perpetua, ’adhonay (for YHWH), Jerusalem, Issachar and hu’, in the case of which the read form is not appended at the foot of the page. Sometimes the emendation is right, as in
A Qere was inserted at
3. Other Features:
Other notes at the foot of the page draw attention to redundant or defective writing. Directions for the arrangement of the text are in
XII. Manuscripts and Printed Texts.
The manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible are not nearly so old as those of the Greek, old Hebrew manuscripts being generally destroyed. By far the oldest manuscript of any part of the Bible is the Papyrus Nash of about 150 AD, containing the Decalogue and Shema` (
2. Early Printed Texts:
The following are the chief printed texts: The Psalter of 1477, place unknown, with commentary of Kimchi. The first few psalms are voweled; the Pentateuch, 1482, Bologna, with Rashi and Targum Onkelos; perhaps the Five Rolls appeared at the same time; the Prophets, unpointed, 1485-86, at Soncino, with Rashi and Kimchi; the Hagiographa, 1486-87, at Naples, with points, but not accents, and commentaries (In the last two YHWH and ’Elohim are spelled YHDH and ’Elodhim); the 2nd edition of the Pentateuch at Faro in Portugal, 1487, first without commentary; the editio princeps of the whole Old Testament with points and accents, but no commentary, finished at Soncino, February 14, 1488, reprinted in 1491-93, and in the Brescia Bible of 1494. The last was the one used by Luther. Owing to persecution, the next edition was not till 1511-1517.
3. Later Editions:
The first Christian edition of the Hebrew text is that contained in the
4. Chapters and Verses:
In modern editions of the Hebrew text the numbers of the Christian chapters are inserted. The chapters had their origin in the Vulgate, and are variously ascribed to Lanfranc (died 1089),
Benzinger, Hebraische Archaologie, Leipzig, 1894; Berger, Histoire de l’ecriture dans l’antiquite, Paris, 1892; Blau, Masoretische Untersuchungen, Strassburg, 1891; Einleitung in die heilige Schrift, Budapest, 1894; Studien zum althebraischen Buchwesen, Pt. I, Strassburg, 1902; Buhl, Canon and Text (English translation by J. Macpherson), Edinburgh, 1892; Butin, The Ten Nequdoth of the Torah, Baltimore, 1906; Buxtorf (father), Tiberias side Commentarius Masorethicus, Basel, 1620; Buxtorf (son), Tractatus de Punctorum Origins, etc., Basel, 1648; Cappellus, Arcanum Punctationis Revelatum, Leyden, 1624; Chwolson, Corpus Inscriptionum Hebraicarum, Petersburg, 1882; Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text of Samuel, Oxford, 1913; Edersheim, History of the Jewish Nation, London, 1896; Etheridge, Jerusalem and Tiberias ("Post-Biblical Hebrew Literature"), London, 1856; Frankel, Ueber palastinische und alexandrinische Schriftforschung, Breslau, 1854; Geden, The Massoretic Notes Contained in the Edition of the Hebrew Scriptures, Published by the British and Foreign Bible Society, London, 1905; Geiger, Urschrift und Uebersetzungen der Bibel, Breslau, 1857; Ginsburg, Introduction to the .... Hebrew Bible, London, 1897; The Massorah, London, 1880-85; Kennedy, The Note-Line in the Hebrew Scriptures, Edinburgh, 1903; Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient manuscripts, London, 1898; King, The Psalms in Three Collections (on the triennial cycle), Cambridge, 1898; Konig, Einleitung in das Altes Testament, Bonn, 1893; Loisy, Histoire critique du texts et des versions de la Bible, Paris, 1892-95; Nowack, Lehrbuch der hebraischen Archaologie, Freiburg and Leipzig, 1894; De Rouge, Memoire sur l’origine egyptienne de l’alphabet phenicien, Paris, 1874; Schurer, Geschichte des judischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi (English translation by John Macpherson and others), Edinburgh, 1890; Schwab, Jerusalem Talmud (French translation), Paris, 1871-90; Strack, Prolegomena Critica in Vetus Testamentum Hebraicum, Leipzig, 1873; Einleitung in den Talmud, Lelpzig, 1894; Taylor, The Alphabet, London, 1883; T.H. Weir, A Short History of the Hebrew, London, 1907; Winckler, Die Thontafeln yon Tell-el-Amarna, Berlin, 1896; The Tell-el-Amarna Letters, Berlin, London and New York, 1896; Wolf, Bibliotheca Hebraea, Hamburg and Leipzig, 1715-33; Wunsche, Bibliotheca Rabbinica, Leipzig, 1880.
Cheyne and Black, EB, London, 1899-1903; Fairbairn, Imperial Bible Dict., London, 1866 ("OT," "Scriptures," "Writing," by D. H. Weir); HDB, Edinburgh, 1898-1904 ("Text of the Old Testament," by H. L. Strack); Herzog, RE, Leipzig, 1896 ff; Jew Encyclopedia, New York and London, 1901-6; Vigoureux, Dictionnaire de la Bible, Paris, 1891 ff.
Dikduke ha Te`amim des Ahron .... ben Asher, edition by Baer and Strack, Leipzig, 1879; Massoreth ha-Massoreth of Elias Levita, with English translation and notes by C.D. Ginsburg, London, 1867; Midrash hag-Gadol: Genesis, edition by S. Schechter, Cambridge, 1902; Das Buch, Ochla Weochla, edition by Frensdorff, Hanover, 1864; Mishna, With Latin translation, by Guil. Surenhusius, Amsterdam, 1698-1703; Sifra, edition by Jacob Schlossberg, Vienna, 1862; Sifre, edition by M. Friedmann (first part), Vienna, 1864; Soferim, edition by Joe Muller, Vienna, 1878; Babylonian Talmud, edition (With German translation) by Lazarus Goldschmidt, Berlin, 1896--.
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Thomas Hunter Weir