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Authors of the books contained in the Tanakh include kings, shepherds, prophets and various
leaders of the people, whose writings were captured on leather scrolls and tablets over
centuries. Around 450 BC, the three sets of writings, forming part of the Jewish Scriptures,
were arranged by councils of rabbis (Jewish teachers), who then recognised the complete set
as the inspired and sacred authority of God (Elohim).
Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Egypt, started as early as 250 BC with the translation of the
Jewish Scriptures into Greek. This translation became known as the "Septuagint", referring to
the team of 70 or more scholars who were involved in the translation project. It was also during
this process that the book order was altered to the order we have in the Bible today: Historical
(Genesis - Esther), poetic (Job - Song of Songs), and prophetic (Isaiah – Malachi).
The first question people normally ask when encountering manuscripts that are copied is: “How
accurate are the copies when compared to the originals?” or “How well were these manuscripts
preserved through the ages since the days of Moses?” Although these manuscripts were
copied by hand, until the invention of the printing press in the 1,400's AD, the Jewish scribes
had an intricate and ritualistic system by which this was done. This ensured that each copy of a
manuscript was letter-for-letter an exact match of that of the original. These rituals included
counting of letters, words and paragraphs to avoid any errors from slipping in and even washing
their hands every time they encountered a situation where they needed to write down the
unpronounceable name of God. Should a mistake have been made during the copying process,
the entire scroll or tablet would have been destroyed and the scribe would have to start afresh.3
Jewish scribes responsible for the preservation of the holy books would dedicate their entire
lives to this process.4 The discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in the Qumran caves between
1947 and 1956, confirmed the accuracy that was maintained over centuries. These
manuscripts, comprising around 900 Biblical and extra-Biblical documents, were written in
Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and are estimated to have originated around the period of 150 BC
to 70 AD. When a modern-day manuscript is compared to one found in the Qumran collection,
the remarkable reliability and accuracy with which the scribes copied the documents, is evident
and the teachings contained in these documents, is found to be identical, with some stylistic
variances and slight variances on spelling here and there.5 However, for our purposes we will
consider the Masoretic text, which is used today by both Jews and Christians for our analysis as
this is the official text used by both faiths that underwent the stringent copying process.