Q&A: Old Testaments Scarce?

Old Testaments Scarce?

Question

I've heard that Old Testaments were rare in the first century, that perhaps each synagogue maybe had a partial scroll or two from an Old Testament book. Is this true? Any source books that would explore these questions further would be appreciated.

Answer

Certainly Old Testament texts were more rare in the first century than they are today because all copies had to be made by hand. Still, synagogues worked hard to gather and maintain the Scriptures. The fact that many people were skilled and knowledgeable in the Scriptures indicates that the Scriptures were largely available at least to those of means. The Scriptures they collected in the first century probably included both Greek and Hebrew scrolls.

Frank Cross has a useful article on Qumran in the Interpreter's Bible Dictionary's supplemental volume. He has also written some books on Qumran that touch on these subjects. Ernst Wurthwein has a text critical analysis of the text of the Old Testament that is a bit heady, but is also good. I think F.F. Bruce also has a book on the Old Testament Scriptures and manuscripts used in the first century, but I can't remember what it is called (sorry).


Answer by Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. is Co-Founder and President of Third Millennium Ministries who served as Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary and has authored numerous books.