1. There is no single authoritative version of the Old Testament text in existence. The Hebrew text printed in both the older BH3 and the current standard BHS, is merely an edited arrangement of the Leningrad Codex, a manuscript from the early eleventh century A.D., one manuscript among many from ancient and medieval times. We can still say that certain copies and versions are generally considered less reliable than others are.
2. The alternative readings called variants are themselves only a selection of the possible different readings from a great variety of ancient manuscripts of the Old Testament in various languages, each of which was considered both authoritative and standard by some community of faith at some time in the past.
3. The choice to print one particular eleventh-century manuscript because of its good state of preservation and early date is not wrong but misleading. If a slightly earlier medieval manuscript had been in the same good state of preservation, it would have been chosen for printing, even though its readings might be different at many hundreds of places throughout the OT. In other words, the variants given in the footnotes of BH3 and BHS, along with many other variants not mentioned by the rather selective editors of those editions, should be accorded fair consideration along with the Leningrad Codex.
4. There are many differences between the various versions and many obvious corruptions within a given manuscript tradition such as ungrammatical, illogical or unintelligible wordings. Moreover, they are hidden corruptions – those which subsequent copyists reworked into wordings that seem on their surface faultless, but are shown to be unoriginal when the full information from a variety of versions is compared and analyzed.
5. You may be tempted to not make any decisions at all about the text and only work from your BHS Hebrew Bible, but in doing so you just have made thousands of decisions automatically. You would have elsewhere in the OT chosen the Masoretic readings of the Leningrad Codex, some of which are best, but some of which are the very worst. You would have then committed yourself to trying to interpret garbled and incoherent sentences and verses – easily clarifiable by reference to the other versions. You would also have insulted not only the (intelligence) of the original human author, but the Holy Spirit’s inspiration of the text. This happens when you accept uncritically the MT and are not willing to expend the necessary labor to look them up and evaluate them.
6. The Masorah is the medieval Jewish repository of text notes on the Hebrew Bible. Most of these Masorah notes are statistical. A typical note, for example, might say how many times a given word occurs in the masculine plural in Ezekiel and therefore not terribly useful in modern times when computer concordances can generate the same data even more quickly and with even more data.
7. In addition to the Masoretic Text (MT) – one manuscript of which is printed in edited form as the basis of the BHS and older BH3 – there are five other main ancient versions of the Old Testament in four languages. Listed in descending order of importance they are: The (Greek) OT called the Septuagint (LXX), the (Qumran) scrolls called the Dead Sea Scrolls, the (Syriac) OT called the Peshitta, the (Aramaic) OT called the Targum, and the Latin OT called the Vulgate. The languages are Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin.
8. In general, the BHS textual notes are superior to those of BH3 but neither exhaustive nor always definitive. They tend to be partial, selective, and occasionally even misleading, so must be used with proper caution. In other words, they are a good starting point, but may not provide all the information you need to analyze the state of the text fully.
9. The Hebrew University project begun in (1965) will eventually produce a massive, multivolume critical edition of the Hebrews OT used the Aleppo Codex, which dates to about 900-925 A.D. Unfortunately, the Aleppo Codex is incomplete, lacking almost the entire Pentateuch, as well as some or all of Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, and Ezra. The project of course will, cover these gaps by using the Leningrad Codex and other ancient MSS as necessary.
10. A new edition of the Hebrew Bible is under way with the expectation that it will replace BHS. This new edition is called Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BH5 – BHS was essentially “BH4”), and it is based on the same excellent manuscript as that of its predecessors, the Leningrad Codex of 1008 A.D. The big change with the Quinta will be the notes and commentary “apparatus” that will distinguish text issues that are based on “external evidence” other versions from issues based on “internal evidence (in the MT tradition itself) and will address questions of the MT’s literary development over time.
11. For most purposes of exegesis, the Masora itself is paid little attention by scholars because of it’s truly significant observations are already incorporated into the notes in BH3 and BHS or can be duplicated by quick reference to a concordance. It is quite common to ignore the Masora in doing exegesis. You will be in good company to do so. Remember that the Masora is the medieval Jewish repository of text notes on the Hebrew Bible. Most of the notes are statistical and therefore, not terribly useful in modern times when computer concordances can generate the same data.
12. A good translation not only renders the words of the original into their best English equivalents, it also reflects the style, the spirit, and even the impact of the original wherever possible. Your familiarity with the passage in the original, and with the audience for whom you write or preach, allows you to choose your words to maximize the accuracy of the translation. Remember that accuracy does not require wooden literalism. The words of different languages do not correspond to one another on a one-for-one basis. It is the concepts that must correspond. Your translation should leave the same impression with you when you read it, as does the original.
13. Even if your knowledge of Hebrew, Greek, and other languages is not adequate, you can still work profitably with the original languages by using a fast and versatile basic translation aid, which come in the form of computer software, the two most powerful being AcCordance and Bible Works. Computer concordances are much faster and much more powerful than book concordances.
14. Theological dictionaries provide the reader with the results of concept studies but the writers must limit themselves to the broad, general usage of words and cannot usually focus on individual passages. Nevertheless, they are invaluable as timesaving, informative exegetical resources. Caution must be exercised when using these theological dictionaries as to blindly accept the conclusions of any article. It is best to follow with a critical eye the arguments and the evidence contained in the article.
15. Very often, OT exegetes neglect the New Testament data on the grounds that these represent later interpretations, muddying the exegetical waters. Unless you would go so far as to reject NT inspiration and authority, however, you are bound in the final analysis to relate the OT passage to any NT uses or classification of it. A general introduction to the principles involved can be found in The New Testament Development of Old Testament Themes by F. F. Bruce.

This session focused exclusively on providing the reader with exegesis aids and resources. The helps and bibliographical referrals are arranged according to the outline for the full exegesis found above. The books that are listed are in English, regardless of theological slant. However, in the case of OT and Christian theologies, some attention is paid to differing theological viewpoints. I have taken the liberty to list the recommended books listed by exegetical category, name of the author, and the book. This will allow the student, in the final analysis, to research these aids and improve on his/her exegetical skills. The works selected below were chosen based on their simplicity of learning and familiarity of the author(s) according to my preference.
If the whole concept of textual criticism is new to you, a good place to get a brief overview of the issues is Emmanuel Tov, “Textual Criticism (OT)” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 4, pp. 393-412 (Doubleday, 1992)
To begin to learn the method, however, the clearest, most step-by-step introduction to OT textual criticism is found in the following textbook: Ellis R. Brotzman, Old Testament Criticism: A Practical Introduction (Baker Book House, 1994)
Fortunately, all the ancient versions have been translated into English and if carefully used, those English translations can give a fairly accurate sense of whether the given ancient version supports or differs from the MT. Much insight on text issues can be found in the major “critical detailed scholarly” commentaries that pay special attention to textual criticism such as the Anchor Bible, Hermeneia, the Word Biblical Commentary, and the old but very useful International Critical Commentary.
Two major multivolume critical editions of the LXX now exist. Each series is incomplete, but the two together largely complement each other so that almost the entire OT is covered: Alan E. Brooke, Norman Mclean, and Henry St. J. Thackeray, The Old Testament in Greek (Cambridge University Press, 1906-1940)
A critical edition of the text is gradually under way, and now covers quite a few portions of the OT: The Old Testament in Syriac, ed. By the Peshitta Institute of Leiden (Brill Academic, 1972)
There are inexpensive editions of the Vulgate available. Two common ones are Alberto Colunga, Laurentio Turrado (eds), Biblia Vulgata (Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1953; 1965), and Biblia Sacra iuxta Vulgatam versionem, 4th ed. (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1969, 1994)
Essential to your library is the BHS as a Hebrew Bible. The latest aid to using the BHS is Reinhard Wonneberger, Understanding BHS: A Manual for the Users of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 2nd ed. (Pontifical Biblical Institute Press, 1990). Just as the BHS has now almost completely replaced the use of the older BH3, a new edition of the Hebrew Bible is under way with the expectation that it will replace BHS. This new edition is called Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BH5 because the BHS was essentially BH4), and it is based on the same excellent manuscript as that of its predecessors, the Leningrad Codex of 1008 A.D. The big change will be its apparatus (notes and commentaries). The real improvement is the textual commentary, which will explain how textual choices were made. The first fascicle to appear so far covers only the book of Ruth, but its current value is its introduction to the whole project.

Two books on Bible translation remain valuable. Both should be read in their entirety, rather than referred to only for specific information: Eugene A. Nida and Charles R. Taber, The Theory and Practice of Translation (E.J.Brill, 1974). The second is John Beekman and John Callow, Translating the Word of God (Zondervan publishing House, 1974)
Even if your knowledge of Hebrew, Greek, and other languages has deteriorated (or was never adequate), you can still work profitably with the original languages by using several English-oriented texts. The fastest and most versatile basic translation aids come in the form of computer software, the two most powerful being AcCordance and Bible Works. They provide instant lexical and grammatical data for any word; they can assemble various contexts where a given word is used throughout the rest of scripture so that you can examine for yourself the range of its usages. They also can instantly provide a complete list of translated contexts in any of the modern translations whose modules you have purchased so that you can readily examine how various modern translations have dealt with your word or wording in various parts of their translations. However, these computer software aids do not automatically render useless the book references. A book can show judiciously selected combinations of contexts that may prove more helpful to you in some instances than the automatic complete screen formats generated by the computer concordances. For the Hebrew OT, the publication by Jay P. Green (ed.), Interlinear Bible: Hebrew, Greek, English (Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1997) is useful for skimming though larger passages.
No interlinear is available for the LXX, but a convenient side-by-side Greek and English publication does exist: The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament with an English Translation (Samuel Bagster & Sons, n.d; repr. Zondervan Publishing House, 1972).
A translation of the Syriac Peshitta into English can be found with George M. Lamsa, The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts (A.J. Holman Co., 1957)
The Latin Vulgate is also translated into English: Ronald Knox, The Old Testament: Newly Translated from the Vulgate Latin, 2 vols. (Sheed & Ward, 1950)
HISTORY – General Chronology, Archaeology, Maps, Geographies, and Atlases
A convenient, short treatment of chronological issues specifically involving Israel can be found with Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology (Hendrickson, 1998).
The two excellent multivolume dictionaries of archaeology are Eric M. Meyers (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, 5 Vols. (Oxford University Press, 1996) and Ephraim Stern (ed.), New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, 4 vols. (Israel Exploration Society and Carta; and Simon and Schuster, 1993). For a collection of maps, illustrations, and generally reliable commentary, consult Gaalyahu Cornfeld, Archaeology of the Bible: Book by Book; David Noel Freedman, consulting ed. (Harper & Row, 1976). The newest geography of the Bible is one of the best: Leslie J. Hoppe, A guide to the Lands of the Bible (Michael Glazier, 1999).

A corrective to the kind of unchecked skepticism that has characterized some OT historical studies in the name of objectivity is Kenneth A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient, and Old Testament (Intervarsity Fellowship, Tyndale Press, 1966).
The study of the history of oral traditions as they functioned to preserve the literature and especially the history of ancient Israel before formalization in writing is called tradition criticism. A useful overview is found in Douglas A. Knight, “Tradition History” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 6, pp. 633-38 (Doubleday, 1992).
If you need to refresh your knowledge of Hebrew using a basic grammar, Gary D. Pratico and Miles Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew (Zondervan Publishing House, 2001) will provide a valuable resource. Coverage of Targumic Aramaic is found in Marcus David, A Manual of Babylonian Jewish Aramaic (University Pres America, 1981).
If you do exegesis of passages of poetry, especially the Psalms or Job, you may find in the secondary literature frequent reference to two languages, Ugaritic and Phoenician, which are very similar to Hebrew. Even if you have not studies these languages, you may be able to understand something of relevance and helpfulness on specific points by consulting Stanislav Segert, Basic Grammar of the Ugaritic Language: With Selected Texts and Glossary (University of California press, 1985).
Theological dictionaries provide the reader with the results of careful word/concept studies; however, caution must be taken to read with a critical eye because a given writer’s view can be slanted. An invaluable tool is G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren (eds.), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vols. 1-10, through ‘zb (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1974-1999). In progress is a full set not yet complete.
The Thompson Chain Reference Bible (Kirkbride Bible Co., 1998) – KJV Harper Study Bible (HarperCollins, 1991) – NRSV
Recommended additions to your library are Bruce C. Birch, Walter Brueggermann, and David L. Peterson, A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament (Abingdon Press, 1999). Another resource is F.F. Bruce The New Testament Development of Old Testament Themes (wm. B. Eerdmans, 1969). For Christian Theology refer to Charles W. Carter (gen. ed.), A Contemporary Wesleyan Theology, 2 vols. (Zondervan Publishing House, 1984).
If you make it a habit to read and pay attention to these journals, you will be rewarded by exposure to a steady flow of high-level exegetical content and variation. Read the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Expository Times, and The Westminster Theological Journal.
Be sure to evaluate each volume on its own merit when reading commentaries. Especially useful is D.A. Carson, et al. (eds), The New Bible commentary: Twenty-first-Century Edition (Intervarsity Press, 1994). Of significant importance to me are the commentaries produced by Chuck Smith from the Calvary Chapel Movement and Stanley M. Horton, from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.
The most comprehensive Bible dictionary is the ABD: David Noel Freedman (ed.), The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 6 vols. (Doubleday, 1992).
Hermeneutics is the theory of understanding a passage’s meaning. Traditionally and simplistically, four different kinds of meanings have been discovered in biblical passages: 1. The literal (historical) meaning 2. The allegorical (mystical or “spiritual”) meaning; 3. The anagogic (typological – especially as relating to the end times and eternity) meaning and 4. The tropological (moral) meaning. The difficult task of the interpreter then is to be sure that everything the passage means is brought out, but that nothing additional is read into the passage. We do not want to “miss” anything, but we do not want to “find” anything that is not there, either. Hermeneutics properly applied is thus interested in the boundaries of interpretation – the upper and lower limits – which are intended by the Spirit of God for the reader. Listed below are some sound resources for the study of hermeneutics:
1. Godeon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 2d ed. (Zondervan Publishing House, 1993)
2. Robert L Hubbard, Jr., Craig L. Blomberg, William Klein, and Kermit L. Eckelbarger, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Word Publishing, 1993)
3. Wayne E. Ward, The Word Comes Alive (Broadman Press, 1969)
4. George L. Klein (ed.), Reclaiming the Prophetic Mantle: Preaching the Old Testament Faithfully (Broadman Press, 1992)

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Comment by Christopher R. Dockrey on March 16, 2010 at 9:06am
Rev. Wakefield, I understand where you're coming from. Hopefully none of us wants a religion of human origin. But the formation of theology is unavoidable. We all basically read from the same Bible, but even some of the most zealous people come away with some very faulty conclusions when they neglect to put into practice principles of sound Bible interpretation.

Exegesis is simply rightly dividing the Word of Truth. It is a way of presenting ourselves as one who is approved by God in order to avoid the shame of preaching something that does not accurately reflect His character. We must strive to interpret the Scriptures in such a way as to understand what they are intended to mean. Otherwise, whether we have the help of the Holy Spirit or not, we will lack understanding and will pass that on to our audience. And we know that those of us who teach the Scriptures are held to a higher standard of judgment than those who do not (James 3:1). The Holy Ghost leads us into all Truth, but He isn't going to lead us into much apart from our study. To that end He is limited by our study.

I'm as much as a novice as anyone else when it comes to the deeper aspects of exegesis, but I still must acknowledge its importance. Any time you read a Bible you are reaping the benefits of somebody's exegesis. But if their exegesis is flawed, your understanding of it might also be flawed.

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