Who were the Masoretic Scribes?

Scribes at work

Until the printing press was invented, the Bible, and all writings for that matter, had to be hand copied.  The Bible was written on different types of materials, and over time they showed signs of wear and needed to be replaced.  The Masoretes were a group of Jewish scribes who produced new handmade copies of the Bible.  They held the Bible in high regard and understood it to be God’s Word; therefore they were compelled to carefully copy the Scriptures. 

The Masoretes used an intricate counting system to verify that they correctly copied the text.  The Hebrew and Greek languages have letters that also equal numbers.  When the scribe copied one line of text, the words actually had a numerical value.  The scribe could then add the sums on the older copy and compare it with that of the newer copy to verify that they had correctly written down the text.  The different translations of the Bible we have today are from the Masoretic copies.