The Hebrew text of the Old Testament has survived thousands of years in a substantially and remarkably pure form. There are about 284,000,000 letters in the manuscripts considered by Kennicott and that among these manuscripts there are about 900,000 variants, approximately 750,000 of which are the quite trivial variation of w and y.
The agreement which exists among the extant manuscripts of the Hebrew Old Testament which date from the Christian era is a sign of the extraordinary care exercised in the transmission of the text by the Jews.
The text of our Hebrew Bible goes back, first of all, to the Masoretes, a succession of Jewish scholars, notably connected with a school at Tiberias, whose painstaking work on the text began about A.D. 600 or before. The Masoretes introduced a system of accent and vowel notations, and notes on the text.
The state of the text of the Hebrew Bible about the time of Christ and somewhat earlier has been illumined in the last two decades by the discovery of a great many manuscripts in the area of the Dead Sea, including a particularly significant scroll, containing the entire book of Isaiah, dating from 100 B.C. or earlier.
The scrolls show us that the Hebrew text between c. 150 and c. 50 B.C. was already fixed and that the variations between it and our Hebrew Bibles today are rarely of significance.
The Septuagint, a translation of the Old Testament into Greek, comprised a number of distinct translations of different books or sections made at different times. The Pentateuch, the oldest section of the Septuagint, dates back to about 250 B.C.
In its correct spelling of the names of numerous kings of foreign nations, the Hebrew text, as it has been transmitted, is almost unbelievably accurate. The spelling of the names of twenty-six or more foreign kings in our Hebrew text can be compared with the spelling on the monuments of the kings and in documents of their own times. In 143 cases of transliteration from Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Moabite into Hebrew and in 40 cases of the opposite, or 184 in all, the evidence shows that for 2300 to 3900 years the text of the proper names in the Hebrew Bible has been transmitted with the most minute accuracy.