Historical Background of The Bible
The Leningrad Codex
Most modern translations of the Old Testament are based upon the Leningrad Codex. This manuscript was written about 1008 AD and is the earliest complete example of the Masoretic Text. Another, even earlier copy of the Masoretic text exists, the Aleppo Codex. It was copied about 925 AD. Unfortunately, a substantial portion of this manuscript has been lost.
Earlier texts of the Old Testament had been copied by scribes. Their efforts to preserve the text accurately can be seen on the Dead Sea Scrolls. An interesting example is on a scroll of Jeremiah, where a second scribe added an omission by writing between the lines, then down the side and finished the omitted text upside down on the bottom of the column. Before the Masoretes standardized the text, it had consisted of Hebrew consonants only. Without the vowels, many words could be read in more than one way. Consequently, in some places, the text could be understood in more than one way.
The Masoretes were a group of Jewish scholars who, from the eighth century onward, established and maintained traditions for copying the old Testament text precisely. They standardized the text of the Old Testament in a form, which they believed was true to the scriptures as revealed by God in ancient times. This standardized text was prepared complete with vowel signs and liturgical markings. From the eighth century onward, the text has been transmitted with almost complete uniformity. The Masoretes established a standardized text of the Old Testament, which they believed was true to the scriptures as revealed by God in ancient times.
The published version of the Leningrad Codex is known as the Biblia Hebraica.
Source: James VanderKam & Peter Flint, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Harper, San Francisco 2002 467 pp