Monday, February 23, 2009

Christian David Ginsburg (1831-1914) Dr. C.D. Ginsburg

Dr. Christian David Ginsburg (also known as C.D. Ginsburg) was a Polish born scholar, ans student of the masoretic tradition in Judaism.

He was born on December 25th, 1831 to a Jewish family in Warsaw, Poland. He later converted to Christianity, at 15, after being educated in traditional yeshiva.

Ginsburg went to England shortly after his education at a Rabbinic College in Warsaw was completed. There he continued his studies in the Hebrew Scriptures paying special attention to the megillot (also known as "The Five Scrolls" - The Song of Songs; Book of Ruth; Book of Lamentations; Ecclesiastes; and the Book of Esther). Dr. C.D. Ginsburg completed his first studies with the "Song of Songs", which was a historical and critical commentary, published in 1857. Later translations of "Ecclesiastes", followed by treatises on the "Karaites" (meaning "Followers of the Hebrew Scriptures"), the Essenes, and the Kabbala kept the author before his biblical students while he was preparing his magnum opus, the critical study of the Masorah.


Beginning in 1867 with the publication of Jacob ben Hayyim's "Introduction to the Rabbinic Bible", and the "Masoret haMasoret" of Elias Levita, Ginsburg took rank as an eminent Hebrew scholar. He was appointed one of the first members of the committee for the revision of the English version of the Old Testament, in 1870. This was under contract with the Trinitarian Bible Society. His life work came to a culmination with the publication of the "Masorah". It was written in three volumes from 1880-1886, followed by a fourth edition called the "Masoretico-critical edition of the Hebrew Bible", in 1894 and an elaborate introduction to it followed in 1897.

Ginsburg had only a single predecessor in the field, the well educated Jacob ben Hayyim, who in 1524-1525 published the "Second Rabbinic Bible", containing what has ever since been known as the "Masorah". The works did not reach completion though because of lack of resources, and sufficient criticism to bring full translation to the forefront. Where Jacob ben Hayyim left off is where Dr. C.D. Ginsburg picked up his works. He collected pieces of the Masorah from countless manuscripts scattered throughout Europe, and the East. Dr. Ginsburg published "Facsimiles of Manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible" (1897-1898) 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 "...Codex-Babylonicus..." his intention is to prove that the "St. Petersburg Codex" is in reality a Palestinian text carefully altered so as to render it conformable to the Babylonian recension. This is VERY important because for so many years the "St. Petersburg Codex" was accepted as the genuine text of the Babylonian school. Dr. Christian David Ginsburg subsequently undertook the preparation of a new edition of the Hebrew Bible for the British and Foreign Bible Society.