Acrostic Signatures in Masoretic Notes

in Vetus Testamentum
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


The practice of creating an acrostic to spell out the name of the author of a Hebrew liturgical poem started in the classical period (5th or 6th century). An acrostic may sometimes indicate the name of the scribe who copied the manuscript. In recent years some examples of acrostics have been discovered in the Masoretic notes accompanying ancient manuscripts of the Bible. David Lyons exposed three acrostic signatures in ms British Library Or. 4445. I have discovered two further acrostics: one in a biblical manuscript, the other on a page of a Masoretic work. The article addresses the ways in which the Masoretes create their acrostic signatures, and what we may deduce from these acrostics concerning the location of their creators and their time. The main point is that the place of the masorete of ms Or. 4445 is included in his acrostic, and has not been recognized before.

Acrostic Signatures in Masoretic Notes

in Vetus Testamentum



Beit-AriéMalakhi Hebrew Codicology Typology of the Making of the Hebrew Book etc. 2013 pre-publication internet version 0.2 (in the website of the National Library of Israel)

BreuerM. The Masorah Magna to the Pentateuch by Shemuel ben Ya’aqov (Ms. למ) 1992 New York (in Hebrew)

Diaz EstabanFernando Sefer Okhla-weOkhla 1975 Madrid C.S.I.C. Institute

DotanA. “Reflections towards a Critical Edition of Pentateuch Codex Or. 4445” Estudios Masoreticos 1993 Madrid 39 51 (x Congreso de la ioms) 1993

DotanA. The Awakening of Word Lore: From the Masora to the beginning of Hebrew Lexicography 2005a Jerusalem 2005 (in Hebrew)

DotanA. “Babylonian Residues in the London Pentateuch Codex” Studies in Bible and Exegesis 2005b VII Ramat Gan 33 40 (Presented to Menachem Cohen) 2005 (in Hebrew)

FleischerE. Hebrew Liturgical Poetry in the Middle Ages 2008 Jerusalem 2 (in Hebrew)

FrensdorffS. Das Buch Ochlah W’ochlah (Massora) 1864 Hannover

GilM. Palestine during the first Muslim period 1983 I-III Tel Aviv 634 1099 (in Hebrew)

GinsburgC.D. The Massorah Compiled from manuscripts alphabetically and lexically arranged 1885 London 1885 (photographic reprint Jerusalem 1971)

GinsburgC.D. Introduction to the Critical Edition of the Massoretico-Hebrew Bible 1897 London 1897 (repr. New York 1966)

KahleP. Masoreten des Westens 1927 Stuttgart 1927

KahleP. “The Hebrew Ben Asher Bible Manuscripts” Vetus Testamentum 1951 1 161 167 (1951)

KlarB. YalonH. “Matters of Masora and Accent according to Qirqisani” ‘Inyanei Lashon 1942 Jerusalem 31 38 (in Hebrew)

LyonsD. Vocalization Accentuation and the Massorah of Codex Or. 4445 (Brit. Mus.) and their Place in the Development of the Tiberian Massorah 1983 London Diss. 1983

LyonsD. “An Acrostic Signature in a Masoretic List” Qiryat Sefer 1987 61 141 145 (1987) (in Hebrew)

LyonsD. The Cumulative Masora: Text Form and Transmission 1999 Beer Sheva 1999 (in Hebrew)

MargoliouthG. Catalogue of Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts in the British Museum 1899 London

NemoyL. Kitab al-Anwar wal-maraqib:‎ code of Karaite law by Yaqub al-Qirqisani edited from the manuscripts in the State Public Library at Leningrad and the British Museum at London 1939-1943 I-V New York

OferY. RevellE.J. “Masoretic List of Babylonian Origin of Dotted Words in the Pentateuch” Proceedings of the Twelfth International Congress of the International Organization for Masoretic Studies—Masoretic Studies 1996 8 71 85 (1996)

OferY. The Babylonian Masora of the Pentateuch its Principles and Methods 2001 Jerusalem 2001 (in Hebrew)

OferY. “The Accumulative Masorah and Word Study” Leshonenu 2005 LXVII 399 413 (on: Dotan 2005a) (2005) (in Hebrew)

Halle Okhla weOkhla the University Qu. 10/1 Yb; Cf. Diez-Estaban

Paris Okhla weOkhla Bibliothèque Nationale Heb 148; Cf. Fransdorf Okhla we-Okhla.

PenkowerJ. S. “A Tenth–Century Pentateuchal ms from Jerusalem (ms C3), Corrected by Mishael ben Uzziel” Tarbiz 1989 58 49 74 (in Hebrew)

YeivinI. RevellE.J. Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah 1980 Missoula 1980

YeivinI. “Ms. Leningrad L2” Textus 1982 10 51 65 (1982) (in Hebrew)

YeivinI. The Hebrew Language Tradition as reflected in the Babylonian Vocalization 1985 Jerusalem 1985 (in Hebrew)

YonahM. Kurdish Jewish Encyclopaedia 2003 Jerusalem I II (in Hebrew)


Cf. Lyons 1983pp. 411-413; Lyons 1987; Dotan 1993 pp. 48-49; Lyons (1987 n. 12) pointed out that already in 1899 Margoliouth noticed that the Masorete wrote “on the name of the vocalizer and Masorete” (Gen. 49; fol. 40r) but did not notice the acrostic and thus did not catch the Masorete’s intention (Margoliouth par. 64 vol. 1 pp. 38-39).


Cf. Kahle 1927pp. 59-60; Yeivin 1982; Penkower p. 55. nos. 23057 and 63239 in the Institute.


Ibid. pp. 118-119.


Cf. also: Lyons 1983p. 365. List no. 23 (in Okhla waOkhla Ms. P) is richer than list no. 40 and includes in most cases more than one pair of words for each letter of the alphabet but nevertheless the Masorete could not have relied on it exclusively because he needed an item for the letter dalet and list no. 23 does not have that letter.


Ginsburg 1885par. ל 21d. The source is unknown. In the list in Ms. P there are 71 entries among them three that do not appear in other lists (לכל גוים [Ps. 59:9]—added by another hand; לשנת חמש [ii Chr. 15:10]—no verse without the letter lamed exists in Scripture; לתשעת המטות [Num. 34:14; Jos. 14:2—not unique]). In the list in Ms. H there are 71 entries three of which do not appear in the list in Ms. P (למאה ועשרים [ii Chr. 5:12] למשה איש [Ps. 90:1] למעשה ידיך [Job 14:15]). Ginsburg’s list includes all the entries in Ms. H (which may have been the basis of his list) and three additional entries (לחנכת המזבח [Num. 7:11] לגבול מואב [Num. 21:15] לגבול ארנן [not found in Scripture!]).


Ginsburg 1897pp. 249-250 470; Margoliouth p. 38; Kahle 1951 p. 167; Dotan 1993 pp. 43-44.


Dotan 2005b. The citations are from that study—Ibid. p. 40.


Dotan 2005bp. 39


Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 10 10 8
Full Text Views 7 7 7
PDF Downloads 2 2 2
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0