Christian David Ginsburg

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Christian David Ginsburg (25 December 1831 in Warsaw, Congress Poland (now Poland) – 7 March 1914 in Palmers Green, Middlesex, England) was a Polish-born, British Bible scholar and student of the masoretic tradition in Judaism.

Early life[edit]

He was born to a Jewish family in Warsaw, converting to Christianity at the age of 15.


Coming to England shortly after the completion of his education in the Rabbinic College at Warsaw, Ginsburg continued his study of the Hebrew Scriptures, with special attention to the Megillot. The first result of these studies was a translation of the Song of Songs, with a historical and critical commentary, published in 1857. A similar translation of Ecclesiastes, followed by treatises on the Karaites, the Essenes, and the Kabbala, kept the author prominently before biblical students while he was preparing the first sections of his magnum opus, the critical study of the Masorah.

Magnum opus[edit]

1883 Punch magazine cartoon of Ginsberg with forger Moses Shapira

Beginning in 1867 with the publication of Jacob ben Hayyim's Introduction to the Rabbinic Bible, Hebrew and English, with notices, and the Masoret haMasoret of Elias Levita, in Hebrew, with translation and commentary, Ginsburg took rank as an eminent Hebrew scholar. In 1870 he was appointed one of the first members of the committee for the revision of the English version of the Old Testament under contract with the Trinitarian Bible Society. His life-work culminated in the publication of the Masorah, in three volumes (1880–1886), followed by the Massoretico-critical edition of the Hebrew Bible (1894), and the elaborate introduction to it (1897).

Ginsburg had one predecessor in the field, the learned Jacob ben Hayyim, who in 1524-1525 had published the second Rabbinic Bible, containing what has ever since been known as the Masorah; but neither were the materials available nor was criticism sufficiently advanced for a complete edition. Ginsburg took up the subject almost where it was left off by those early pioneers, and collected portions of the Masorah from the countless manuscripts scattered throughout Europe and the East. Ginsburg published Facsimiles of Manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible (1897 and 1898), and The Text of the Hebrew Bible in Abbreviations (1903), in addition to a critical treatise On the relationship of the so-called Codex Babylonicus of A.D. 916 to the Eastern Recension of the Hebrew Text (1899, for private circulation). In the last-mentioned work he seeks to prove that the St. Petersburg Codex, for so many years accepted as the genuine text of the Babylonian school, is in reality a Palestinian text carefully altered so as to render it conformable to the Babylonian recension. He subsequently undertook the preparation of a new edition of the Hebrew Bible for the British and Foreign Bible Society.


He also contributed many articles to John Kitto's Encyclopaedia, William Smith (lexicographer)'s Dictionary of Christian Biography, and the Encyclopædia Britannica (1877–1887).


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