I vividly remember the time when a friend of mine, at that time studying Semitic languages, told me about textual variations in the Torah.
The example he gave me was Parshas Korach (this week’s Parsha for those ammeratzim that didn’t know ;):
וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח, בֶּן-יִצְהָר בֶּן-קְהָת בֶּן-לֵוִי; וְדָתָן וַאֲבִירָם בְּנֵי אֱלִיאָב, וְאוֹן בֶּן-פֶּלֶת--בְּנֵי רְאוּבֵן
The translation somehow doesn’t seem to flow since vayikach (and he took) does not seem to refer to anyone else than Korach since it doesn’t say “Korach, the son of Izhar took Datan and Aviram the sons of Eliav and On ben Pelet the sons of Reuven took” but it says “Korach, the son of Izhar took and Datan and Aviram the sons of Eliav and On ben Pelet the sons of Reuven”.
So what did they take? Where does the verb (‘took’) act upon?
He took himself to a different side, to be disassociated from the community and to cast aspersion on the kehunah. This is why Onkelos translates, he separated himself from the rest of the community in order to maintain the dispute. Similarly, "why does your heart take you?"--- (i.e.,) it takes you to separate you from other people. Another interpretation [of] "Korach took": He won over the heads of the Sanhedrin among them, with flattering words, as it is said, "take Aharon," "take words with you."
So it either would mean “he took himself” or he convinced the Sanhedrin (‘caused to be taken?), which either way is problematic.
He showed me a different version of Chumash where it said ‘vayakom’ (and he got up), which seemed to fit in better:
And Korach, the son of Izhar stood up, and Datan and Aviram the sons of Eliav, and On ben Pelet the sons of Reuven”.
Now, we were taught that there are hardly any chilufei girsaot (different readings) of the Torah except for 9 differences between our scrolls and the Yemenite scrolls.
However, there are many more manuscripts that can shed light on different verses in the Torah. And I didn’t know about it! I remember how uncomfortable I was in this situation and how I tried to talk myself out of it.
Of course, things are a bit different at the moment.
In light of the above, I can warmly recommend an interesting article on the website of the Biblical Archeological Review by Harvey Minkoff (professor of linguistics at Hunter College in New York City) called “Searching for the Better Text - How errors crept into the Bible and what can be done to correct them”.