The Masoretes (Hebrew: בעלי המסורה, ba'alei hamasorah) were groups of mostly Karaite scribes and scholars who worked between the 7th and 11th centuries CE, based primarily in present-day Israel in the cities of Tiberias and Jerusalem, as well as in Iraq (Babylonia). Each group compiled a system of pronunciation and grammatical guides in the form of diacritical notes on the external form of the Biblical text in an attempt to fix the pronunciation, paragraph and verse divisions and cantillation of the Jewish Bible, the Tanakh, for the worldwide Jewish community.
The ben Asher family of Masoretes was largely responsible for the preservation and production of the Masoretic Text, although an alternate Masoretic text of the ben Naphtali Masoretes, which differs slightly from the ben Asher text, existed. The halakhic authority Maimonides endorsed the ben Asher as superior, although the Egyptian Jewish scholar, Saadya Gaon al-Fayyumi, had preferred the ben Naphtali system, possibly because ben Asher was probably a Karaite. The ben Asher family and the majority of the Masoretes appear to have been Karaites. Geoffrey Khan says that it is now "generally believed" that the ben Asher family were not Karaite.
See also 
Further reading 
- In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language, Chapter 5. ISBN 0-8147-3654-8
- The Text of the Old Testament. ISBN 0-8028-0788-7
- Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah. ISBN 0-89130-374-X
- Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, §2, §3
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