The identity of the first Masoretes

Lea Himmelfarb

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The paper focuses on the question of the identity of the early Masoretes. We propose that the priests who were occupied with and preserved the Biblical text and its exact language from the time it was received, should properly be regarded as the original Masoretes whose activity was oral at the beginning, and some time later in writing. We began our discussion based on Dotan's assertion that "the transmission of the Bible is as old as the Bible itself." The commentary of Rashi on the Song of Songs and Urbach's statement tutor us with a first clew concerning the linkage between the priests and the Masorah. We add proofs that teach of a historical reality of such a connection, an association that is expressed in a number of realms: the proximity of the accurate copies of the Bible to the Ark of the Covenant (in the Temple Court), thus enabling access to the scrolls by the priests, who were active in the Tabernacle and afterwards in the Temple. The priests' expertise in the Bible, gained from their occupation with its teaching, reading, singing and copying, also enabled them to actively engage in the preservation of the Biblical text.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-50
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007


  • Levites
  • Masoretes
  • Priests
  • Rashi
  • Transmission of the Torah


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