The Aleppo Codex and other Masoretic manuscripts were written in Tiberius, Israel. That is a very interesting bit of information because we are told that during the time of the Second Temple there were three manuscripts of the Scriptures in the Temple. They were called the “Temple Courtyard Manuscripts.” We are even told there was a guild of scribes called the “Temple Courtyard Proofreaders” who would take Bibles written anywhere in the world that were brought to Jerusalem and compare them with these three Temple Courtyard Manuscripts.
We know that two of these manuscripts survived the destruction of the Temple, and one was brought to Rome because Josephus mentions it. It was kept in the palace of the Emperor. The other one according to a third century rabbi is called the “Manuscript of Maon.” Why is it called by this name? Because this rabbi says “Today it is Beit Maon.” As it turns out, Beit Maon is up on the hill overlooking Tiberius, just a few miles. The scribes are based in Tiberius and they are copying the Aleppo Codex that matches these proto-Masoretic Dead Sea Scrolls of over 1000 years earlier. They are writing it right next door to the place where one of the Temple manuscripts survived to at least the third century AD.
Some will say that the Jews who copied the Scriptures “invented” the vowels out of their hearts. They also say they falsified the consonants, but let’s stick to the vowels for now. One of the evidences that this is not true is in Lev 23.4, which says, “These are the appointed times of Yehovah, which you shall proclaim them (otam).” We are to proclaim the festivals at the time God appointed them. This became a big point of conflict at the end of the first century, in the time of Rabbi Akiva. There was a rabbi who was the head of the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel II. He is the grandson of the Gamaliel in the book of Acts, Paul’s teacher. Two witnesses came before him to testify they had seen the new moon. He accepted their testimony and proclaimed the beginning of the month and were able to set Yom Kippur.
Rabbi Joshua was sitting in the back and he knows the witnesses were lying. He decided that he could not observe Yom Kippur based on the testimony of these two witnesses. We would celebrate Yom Kippur with his family alone, one day after everyone else. Gamaliel ordered Rabbi Joshua to appear before him on the day Rabbi Joshua believed to Yom Kippur, and to publicly desecrate that day. This is how religious men think. They talk about “unity” but what they really mean is “uniformity.” Rabbi Joshua doesn’t know what to do, so he seeks advice because he can’t go to Gamaliel on the day he knows is Yom Kippur because of Lev 23.4 He does not know what to do.
Rabbi Akiva comes along and tells Rabbi Joshua not to worry, he will interpret this away for him. He changes the vowels in “otam” (them) to read “atem” (yourselves). Now it can read “You shall proclaim yourselves.” That means that whenever you proclaim those days, even if you are mistaken, etc, God has no other times than what you yourself proclaim. This is based on a change of the vowels. This is a key component in rabbinical thinking. They think they have the authority based on Lev 23.4 to make the festivals whenever they want them to be. This is how Hillel II came along in 359 AD and made up what is now the Jewish Calendar. He used the best science he had at the time but it was been outdated for 1600 years. We can go outside for ourselves and see the new moon, and we can see the Jewish Calendar is several days off. Why is this important? This happened about the year 90 AD, and what Rabbi Akiva did was change the vowels of “otam” to “atem.”
Now, which way do you think they read this in the synagogues? They read it as “otam.” That’s because Rabbi Akiva can make any interpretation he wants, but he did not have the ability or authority to change the vowels. They were fixed in stone, even in 90 AD. So, don’t let anyone tell you that the scribes made up the vowels.
There is a list of the twelve stones in the breastplate of the High Priest. One of those stones in Exo 28.17 and 39.10 called “bareket.” It means “emerald” or “carbuncle.” When the word “bareket” appears in Ezekiel 28.13 this word is vocalized as “barkat.” Why is that important? Because every Jew at that time knew the book of Exodus. If you are going to vocalize it, you would say it the way it was in Exodus. This shows that the scribes were not just making up the vowels but they were prescribing a pronunciation tradition that went back to the time of Moses and Ezekiel. It preserved how this word was pronounced.
There was a mayor of Jerusalem named “Nir Barkat” or is it “Bareket?” Some call him Nir Barkat, and some call him Nir Barekat because that is the way they heard it in the synagogue when the book of Exodus is read. So, there are differences in pronunciation but the vowels are the same. If the scribes were just making it up they would have written “barkat” with the vowels markings in Ezekiel.
We will conclude this teaching on the Name of God next time.