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The Masoretes (ba'alei hamasorah, Hebrew בעלי המסורה) were groups of mostly Karaite scribes and scholars working between the 7th and 11th centuries, based primarily in present-day Israel in the cities of Tiberias and Jerusalem, as well as in Iraq (Babylonia). Each group compiled a system of pronunciation and grammatical guides in the form of diacritical notes on the external form of the Biblical text in an attempt to fix the pronunciation, paragraph and verse divisions and cantillation of the Jewish Bible, the Tanakh, for the worldwide Jewish community. (See the article on the Masoretic text for a full discussion of their work.)

The Ben Asher family of Masoretes was largely responsible for the preservation and production of the Masoretic Text, although an alternate Masoretic text of the Ben Naphtali Masoretes which differs slightly from the Ben Asher text existed. The halakhic authority Maimonides endorsed the Ben Asher as superior, although the Egyptian Jewish scholar, Saadya Gaon al-Fayyumi, had preferred the Ben Naphtali system, because Ben Asher was a Karaite. The Ben Asher family and the majority of the Masoretes appear to have been Karaites[1]. Geoffrey Khan says that it is now believed that they were not.[2]

The Masoretes devised the vowel notation system for Hebrew that is still widely used as well as the trope symbols used for cantillation.

Further reading

  • In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language, Chapter 5. ISBN 0-8147-3654-8
  • The Text of the Old Testament. ISBN 0-8028-0788-7
  • Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah. ISBN 0-89130-374-X


External links



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