Was the Old Testament Attested in Hebrew?


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I know the Torah or Old Testament to Christians was attested in Greek which was apparently derived from Hebrew versions, but what evidence do we have that these Hebrew versions actually existed? What are the modern day Torahs derived from?
Uh... Hebrew manuscripts going back thousands of years? With only minor copyist glitches separating the most ancient texts from the text we have today? This is really a most astonishing question.
Re: Was the Torah or Old Testament Attested in Hebrew?

Could you kindly give me an example of one of the earliest manuscripts, if not the earliest?
You have never heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran? I thought they were quite famous. They were stored during the first century CE, probably at the time of the war with the Romans, but some of the manuscripts are from centuries earlier. This is hundreds of years before our first preservations of Greek translations, which are some manuscripts of Origen's "Hexapla" (sixfold) editions, containing six columns for a transcribed Hebrew (that is, Hebrew rewritten in the Greek alphabet, revealing some peculiarities in the pronunciation of the Hebrew at that time), the standard "Septuagint" (named for the "Seventy" who translated the first five books under Ptolemy II, although the translations of the other books were by various later people), the translations by Aquila, Jonathan, and Symmachus, and sometimes in a sixth column some alternate translation.
Isn't that some of the OTs claim to fame...that being written without vowels or spaces or punctuation, while having some translation issues also allowed all copies to be exact...it was rows and columns of letters one write above the other so any page/scribe could be easily crosss checked for accuracy...
The better medieval manuscripts have what is called a masorah (literally "fence") which is a bunch of notations in the margins with things like letter counts up to that point, indications of an unusual spelling that is similar to something more common, etc. This kind of extreme effort to get every single letter copied correctly is not yet found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, but obviously by that time there was already a strong emphasis on copying with exactitude, since the number of changes from the texts then to the text as it has come down to us is remarkably small.
Bob where does the Hebrew language originate? Was it from a geographical area (ie spoken by everyone, not just Jewish people) or a Jewish tribe or group of tribes?
"Hebrew" was originally just one dialect in the Canaanite group, in a continuum from Phoenician on the coast (eventually developing into the "Punic" that spread to western colonies like Carthage in Tunisia and Cartagena etc. in Spain) through central Canaan to the Moabite and Ammonite dialects inland; there would not have been much difficulty in mutual comprehension between speakers of any of these dialects. In the oldest forms, the Canaanite, Aramaic, and Arabic speeches were not too far apart, although by historic times they had diverged enough to create comprehension barriers (compare, say, the linguistic distance between English, German, and Swedish); together those are the "Central Semitic" group, more distantly related to the "East Semitic" group (Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian: totally extinct), and the "South Semitic" group (the major Ethiopic languages like the official Amharic, and formerly the "Sabaean" languages of Yemen and adjoining regions, now displaced by Arabic except the Soqotri spoken on one off-shore island). More distantly still, the whole Semitic group plus an endangered North African group (Old Egyptian survives only in the Coptic liturgical language; the Berber languages further west have been largely displaced by Arabic), the Cu****ic group (Somali and some lesser languages in Ethiopia), the Chaddic group (Hausa in northern Nigeria and others around Lake Chad), and some exotic African tongues form the "Afro-Asiatic" superfamily, which has become non-controversial even among conservative linguists-- as mojobadshah points out on another thread, tracing relationships more distant than that is pooh-poohed by many.
Ok, I have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but they were discovered in the 1900's. What did Jews refer to before then for like litergical purposes?
Ok, I have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but they were discovered in the 1900's. What did Jews refer to before then for like litergical purposes?
The Hebrew scrolls that they have ALWAYS had in the synagogues, each one copied from an older exemplar with painstaking care to avoid even a single-letter change.

I didn't realize that you didn't even know that the Jews have always been keeping the text in Hebrew; I thought you were just asking for evidence that the Hebrew text has been preserved from a long time ago, and what the Dead Sea Scrolls show is that the error rate in the copying has been exceedingly low for thousands of years.
Interesting, thank you.
What is particularly interesting about the distribution is that the inheritance of languages often is quite different from the genetic ancestry. Of course, we can see modern examples: Jamaicans speak English, but have only a little Anglo-Saxon in their ancestry. In Ethiopia, where there are South Semitic languages and the "Cush" group (the forum won't let me write "Cush" with the "-itic" suffix!), there is a minority genetic type with as dark a skin-tone as other Africans but a different facial structure, lacking the broadened nose and lips of the "Negroid" face; this used to be called the "Hamitic" type but now the anthropologists scramble for a different word for it because "Hamite" is thought of as derogatory ("Negroid" isn't considered acceptable by everyone either).

So in that case one can see that the languages were brought in to the African population by immigrants from further north mixing in with the pre-existing population: but in the Chaddic case further west, the Hausa and other tribes speaking these languages are thoroughly Negroid, indistinguishable in visible traits as well as subtler genetic markers from the tribes around them speaking African languages of the Niger-Congo superfamily. There too we have to suppose that an immigrant group brought the language and imposed it on everybody, but however successful they were as a conquering aristocracy they were so outnumbered that they have left little genetic trace.

So what's puzzling is that there is not much correlation between the size of an incoming (often conquering) group, as reflected in the percentage of genetic contribution they make to the descendant population, and the linguistic outcome. The old native language may be completely displaced: as among the Hausa; or in cases like Egypt and Morocco, where the actual number of Arabians moving in during the Muslim Conquest was trivial compared to the populations (Egypt has always, of course, supported a lot more people than Arabia; the Arabs did not slaughter everybody and breed like rabbits to refill the country!) but Arabic has taken over. Or the old and new languages may mix to some extent: in Norman England, the resulting English language was mostly a continuation of Anglo-Saxon, but with an import of a much bigger percentage of French vocabulary than the percentage of actual French immigrants, and considerable reshaping of the grammar; while in Roman Gaul, the resulting Old French was almost entirely a vulgar Latin, little of the old Gaulish vocabulary surviving but with the Latin words deformed by Celtic pronunciation habits like dropping consonants.

Or, the newcomers can adopt the native language and leave no trace of their old language: in post-Roman Gaul, the German-speaking Franks dominated totally, but there is no Frankish at all in French. And this is what seems to have happened with the "Abrahamic" immigrants to the Middle East. We do find shared between Jews and Arabs (Arabs of the peninsula, Palestine, Jordan, and Syria that is: those with lots of Arabian ancestry, not Arabic-speakers from further afield) genetic markers of a population not shared with other Middle Easterners, related to the Caucasus mountains. That is, there is scientific substance to the tradition that descendants of the survivors of a big flood around Mt. Ararat moved down south. But, the languages in the Caucasus are very strange, and what we now of the ancient languages from around there indicate that the Caucasian groups have long been quite alien; yet there is no linguistic trace of this whatsoever in the Central Semitic speeches (the Canaanite/Arabic/Aramaic grouping).