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Masorite; flourished about 890-940 C.E., probably in Tiberias. Of his life little is known. His first name is in dispute. Some medieval authorities called him "Jacob"; two Tchufut-Kalè manuscripts have "Moses b. David"; a thirdcontains his autoepigraph, which unfortunately is incomplete, only "Ben David ben Naphtali" remaining.

Ben Naphtali wrote a Bible with vowels, accents, and Masorah, wherein he differed in some respects from his contemporary and rival, Aaron b. Moses ben Asher. This Bible codex has not been preserved, but the differences between its author and Ben Asher are found in more or less complete Masoretic lists and in quotations in David Ḳimḥi, Norzi, and other medieval writers. These lists are printed in the rabbinical Bibles, in the texts of Baer-Delitzsch and of Ginsburg, and in the latter's Masorah, vol. iii. The differences between Ben Naphtali and Ben Asher number about 875, nine-tenths of which refer to the placing of the accents and . The remaining ones have reference to and , to vowels, accents, and consonantal spelling. The variations may be classified as follows, Ben Asher being referred to as B. A. and Ben Naphtali as B. N.:

Differences Between the Two.
  • (1) The proper name constitutes the first point of difference. B. A. vocalizes it , B. N. has . For the reading of B. N. in this case, various sources give different accounts.
  • (2) Certain forms of the verb b ("to eat"). According to B. A., wherever a form of this verb occurs with a suffix and the ל has "segol," the כ has "ḥaṭef-pataḥ," except in one instance (Eccl. v. 10); whereas B. N. always points it with simple "sheva."
  • (3) Some forms of the verb ("to drive away"). Wherever the forms of this verb occur with a suffix and the ש has segol, B. A. points the ר with ḥaṭef-pataḥ, with the exception of (Ps. xxxiv. 1), where the ש has "ṣere"; while B. N. always points the ר with simple sheva.
  • (4) The "dagesh" in the ת in the forms of the word , when it has two accents. According to B. A., this word has extra dagesh only in two instances (Deut. vi. 11; I Chron. xxviii. 11); according to B. N., there are more instances where it has two accents and has the extra dagesh in the ת; viz., Ex. ii. 7, viii. 7; Deut. vi. 11; I Chron. xxviii. 11; II Chron. xxxiv. 11. The term "extra dagesh" probably means "dagesh forte," as both consider the dagesh in the word , whenever it has only one accent, as a "dagesh lene."
  • (5) The prefixes ב and ל, in words which begin with a י having the vowel i. To B. A. this prefix takes sheva and the י retains its vowel. Thus he would vocalize B. N. asserts that the prefix takes the vowel of the י and the latter loses its consonantal force; e.g., , a feature analogous to the usage of the Syriac language. As this is also the method of the Easterns (compare Masorah), the statement of E. Levita is confirmed that the Westerns follow B. A. and the Easterns B. N.
  • (6) The presence or absence of the dagesh in the letters under certain conditions.
  • (7) Individual cases of orthography and textual readings; e.g., B. A. reads (I Kings iii. 20), B. N. spells ; B. A. reads (Isa. xxx. 23), B. N. ; B. A. (Ez. xiv. 16), B. N. .
Relation of Both to Received Text.

The differences between the two Masorites 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 above, 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 all MSS. and printed editions, in the words (Ps. xlv. 10) and (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.

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