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ben Naphtali was a rabbi and Masorete who flourished about 890-940, probably in Tiberias. Of his life little is known. His first name is in dispute. Some medieval authorities called him "Jacob"; two Chufut-Kale manuscripts have "Moses b. David"; a third contains his autoepigraph, which unfortunately is incomplete, only "ben David ben Naphtali" remaining. His name is most likely Abu Imrān, Moshe Ben David Ben Naphtali as preserved in Mishael Ben Uzziel's 11th century treatise (see below) and in the Geniza fragment T-S, K27, 36 in the University Library at Cambridge.


ben Naphtali and ben AsherEdit

ben Naphtali wrote a Bible with vowels, accents, and Masorah, wherein he differed in some respects from his contemporary and rival, Aaron ben Moses ben Asher. This Bible codex has not been preserved, but the differences between its author and Abu Sa'id Aharon Ben Moshe Ben Asher (generally called: Ben Asher) are found in incomplete Masoretic lists found in quotations in David Ḳimḥi, Norzi, and other medieval writers as well as in MSS such as British Museum MS. Harley 1528 [5]. These lists are printed in the rabbinical Bibles, in the texts of Baer-Delitzsch and Ginsburg's Masorah vol. iii [starting page 6, [6]. A complete list of these differences can be found in Mishael Ben Uzziel's treatise Kitāb Al-Khilaf, the book of the Ḥillufim (Differences), which is thought to have been written before 1050.[1] It was reconstructed from fragments and critically edited by Lazar Lipschütz in 1965. The differences between ben Naphtali and ben Asher number about 860,[2] about nine-tenths of which refer to the placing of the accents מתג and געיא. The remaining ones have reference to דגש and רפה, to vowels, accents, and consonantal spelling. For a simple list of differences between ben Naphtali and ben Asher, see ben Naphtali at the Jewish Encyclopedia. For the complete list of differences between Ben Naphtali and ben Asher, see the Kitab al-Khilaf above as it was published by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Relation of Both to Received TextEdit

The differences between the two Masoretes do not represent solely personal opinions; the two rivals represent different schools. Like the ben Ashers there seem to have been several ben Naphtalis. The statement of E. Levita (Mas. ha-Masoret, ed. Ginsburg, p. 144), that the Westerns follow ben Asher, and the Easterns ben Naphtali, is not without many exceptions. Thus, for instance, in the difference concerning I Kings iii. 20 (see ben Naphtali, No. 7), the Westerns are said to agree with ben Naphtali, while the Easterns follow ben Asher. The rule of ben Naphtali given under No. 5 is followed in most MSS. and printed editions, in the words ביקרותיך (Ps. xlv. 10)[3] and ליקהת (Prov. xxx. 17), etc. The Masoretic lists often do not agree on the precise nature of the differences between the two rival authorities; it is, therefore, impossible to define with exactness their differences in every case; and it is probably due to this fact that the received text does not follow uniformly the system of either ben Asher or ben Naphtali. The attempt is likewise futile to describe the one codex as Western or Eastern.

Jewish Encyclopedia bibliographyEdit

  • Diḳduḳe ha-Ṭe'amim, ed. Baer and Strack, p. 11; [7]
  • Harris, Jew. Quart. Rev. i. 250; [8]
  • Ginsburg, Introduction to the Masoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible, pp. 241 et seq. [9]

Other sourcesEdit

  • Kahle, Paul, Masoreten des Westens I: 1927, repr. 1967 and 2005
  • Kahle, Paul, Masoreten des Westens II: 1930 [10]

External linksEdit


  1. ^ see [1] for the English version, [2], and [3] for the Hebrew versions of Lipschütz's edition of Mishael Ben Uzziel's 11th century treatise.
  2. ^ Lipschütz has some issues counting in the English version and this reference needs to be replaced by a proper count at some point.
  3. ^ Examples of ביקרותיך following ben Naphtali can be seen in 1) the Aleppo (Syria) tradition in "Tehillat Yesharim" Tehillim book edited by H Saleh Jacob Mansour (1946) at [4] or "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2015-05-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) and 2) the Constantinople tradition (now Turkey) at File:Tehillim_45_Constantinople_1836.jpg with a sample title page at File:Title_Page_Tehillim_Constantinople_1836.jpg. Examples of ביקרותיך following ben Asher can be seen in 1) the Pisa (Italy) tradition following Chaim Joseph David Azulai at File:Tehillim_45_Pisa_1803.jpg with title page at File:Title_Page_Tehillim_Pisa_1803.jpg, 2) the Djerba (Tunisia) tradition at File:Tehillim_45_Djerba_1951.jpg with title page at File:Title_Page_Tehillim_Djerba_1951.jpg with title page at File:Title_Page_Tehillim_Djerba_1951.jpg and 3) the Casablanca (Morocco) tradition at File:Tehillim_45_Casablanca_1972.jpg with title page at File:Title_Page_Tehillim_Casablanca_1972.jpg.