David Marcus

Professor Emeritus of Bible and Masorah

Department: Bible, German Bible Society, Masorah

Email: damarcus@jtsa.edu

Building Room: Unterberg 611

Office Hours: Monday, 1:00–2:30 p.m., and by appointment


BA, Trinity College, Dublin; MA, Cambridge University; PhD, Columbia University

David Marcus is professor emeritus of Bible and Masorah at The Jewish Theological Seminary, teaching courses in Bible and ancient languages, including Babylonian Aramaic and biblical Hebrew. His area of expertise is the Bible and the ancient Near East. Dr. Marcus’s book Jephthah and His Vow challenges the widespread opinion that Jephthah put his daughter to death, and his book From Balaam to Jonah explores the use of satire in the Hebrew Bible. Dr. Marcus is part of a team involved in the production of a new critical Hebrew Bible being produced by the German Bible Society. He was the editor for the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and is the Masorah editor for the entire series.

Dr. Marcus’s most recent book is Scribal Wit: The Aramaic Mnemonics of the Leningrad Codex, published in February 2014 in the Texts and Studies series by Gorgias Press. This book presents, for the first time, a detailed analysis of the Aramaic mnemonics: the short, witty sentences meant as memory aids, written in Aramaic on the margins of one of the oldest extant biblical Hebrew manuscripts, that of the Leningrad Codex (1008 CE). In Scribal Wit, that material is presented in clear, user-friendly charts. Each mnemonic is set alongside the Hebrew verses it represents, every Aramaic part of the mnemonic is placed on a matching line with its Hebrew equivalent, and both are highlighted in different fonts. This book demonstrates the ingenuity of the Masoretes in their grand endeavor to preserve the text of the Hebrew Bible precisely in the form that it had reached them.


  • Scribal Wit: The Aramaic Mnemonics of the Leningrad Codex. Texts and Studies 10. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2014. 
  • “The Practical Use of the Masorah for the Elucidation of the Story of Samuel’s Birth.” In Fixing, Transmitting, and Preserving: Early Jewish and Rabbinic Literature in the History of the Hebrew Bible, edited by Elvira Martín-Contreras et al., 215–21. Proceedings of an international symposium held at the Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales in Madrid, September 20–21, 2010. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 2014. 
  • “How to Use the Masorah in Teaching of the Hebrew Bible.” Hebrew Higher Education 16 (2014): 111–18. 
  • “What’s Critical About a Critical Edition of the Bible?” With James A. Sanders. Biblical Archaeology Review 39, no. 6 (November/December 2013): 60–65. 
  • Doublet Catchwords in the Leningrad Codex.” TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism 12 (2007): n.p. 
  • Ezra and Nehemiah. Editor. BibliaHebraica Quinta 20. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006. 
  • From Balaam to Jonah: Anti–prophetic Satire in the Hebrew Bible. Atlanta, GA: Scholar’s Press, 1995. 
  •  Jephthah and His Vow. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech Press, 1986.


  • “The New Critical Edition of Ezra–Nehemiah.” Alliance Theological Seminary, Nyack, NY, March 4, 2013.
  •  Additional Notations to Catchwords in Masorah Magna Notes.” Society of Biblical Literature, Baltimore, MD, November 24, 2013.



Dr. Marcus is transcribing, translating, and annotating the Masorah of the Former Prophets contained in the Leningrad Codex. The corpus consists of 147 chapters of the Bible, containing more than 10,000 Masoretic notes, and the number of printed pages for this project is estimated to be more than 3,500. 

Some of the key features of this project are:  

· Everything, other than the actual Masorah text, is in English.

· All biblical references are given for every note. 

· The presentation is user-friendly. Larger entries are grouped in units of five, and the Masorah magna lists are arranged vertically so that the catchwords given for every note directly face their corresponding biblical references. 

· All Hebrew words cited are presented fully pointed and, where appropriate, with their accents. 

· As far as is possible, a suggestion is offered as to the reason for every note.        

· Every reference—other than the lemma under discussion—that has a Masoretic note is highlighted in bold type. 

· Every reference—including the lemma under discussion—that has a Masorah magna note is highlighted in italic type.