“What authority, however, this version should command is uncertain. The ancients used to hold it in the highest estimation, and looked upon it as unique and divine. Epiphanius, in his book of Weights and Measures, says that the translators were not mere interpreters, but, in some sort, prophets also. And Augustine (de Doct. Christ. Lib. 2. c. 15) says, that this version was made by a divine dispensation, and was held in greatest repute among the best learned churches, since the translators were said to have been “aided by such a presence of the Holy Spirit in their interpretation as that they all had but one mouth.” Upon this subject he hath also written largely in his City of God, Lib. 18. c. 42 and 43. In like manner, Irenæus (Lib. 3. c. 25) writes that, though each made his translation apart, yet in the end, when they all met together and compared their several versions, “they all recited the same thing and in the very same words and terms from beginning to the end; so as that the gentiles who stood by might easily perceive, that it was by the inspiration of God that the scriptures were translated.” So Augustine, in the City of God, Lib. 18. c. 42: “The tradition is that there was so wonderful, stupendous, and absolutely divine agreement in their expressions, that although each sat down separately to this task (for so Ptolemy chose to try their fidelity), yet none differed from another even in a single word, though it were synonymous and equivalent, or in the order and placing of the words. But, as if there had been but one translator, so the translation was one; as, indeed, it was one and the same Holy Spirit which was in them all.” Now, while I doubt not that this version was held in high authority, and that deservedly too, I cannot think that the miracles which are told to magnify its authority deserve credit; and, indeed, we find that they are treated as fables by Jerome in the Preface to the Pentateuch. However great may have been the authority of this version, it could not have been greater than that of our version. They, therefore, attribute too much to it, who make it inspired, and equal to the authentic scriptures themselves. For the authority of those interpreters was not so illustrious and certain as that of the prophets: nor is it the same thing to be an interpreter and to be a prophet. Rightly, therefore, does Jerome, in the Preface to the Pentateuch, call the seventy interpreters, not prophets. In his Commentaries also he frequently blames the Greek version of the seventy translators, not only as depraved by the scribes, but even as faulty in itself; which he surely would not have done, if he had deemed that translation to be possessed of such divine and supereminent authority.
Learned men question, whether the Greek version of the scriptures now extant be or be not the version of the seventy elders. The sounder opinion seems to be that of those who determine that the true Septuagint is wholly lost, and that the Greek text, as we have it, is a mixed and miserably corrupted document. Aristæus says that the Septuagint version was exactly conformable to the Hebrew originals, so that, when read and diligently examined by skilful judges, it was highly approved by the general suffrage of them all. But this of ours differs amazingly from the Hebrew copies, as well in other places and books, as specially in the Psalms of David. Nor is there room for any one to reply that the Hebrew is corrupt. For even the papists will not venture to maintain that the Greek is purer than the Hebrew. If they did, they would be obliged to condemn their own Latin version, which agrees much more closely with the Hebrew than with the Greek. Nay, the faults of the Greek translation are so manifest, that it is impossible to find any way of excusing them. There is the greatest difference between the Hebrew and Greek books in the account of times and years. The Greek books reckon 2242 years from Adam and the beginning of the world to the flood, as we read in Augustine, Eusebius, and Nicephorus’ Chronology. But in the Hebrew books we see that there were no more than 1656. Thus the Greek calculation exceeds the Hebrew by 586 years. Again, from the deluge to Abraham there is, according to the LXX., an interval of 1082 years. But if you consult the Hebrew verity, you will not find more than 292. Thus the Greek books exhibit 790 years more than the Hebrew: and all concede the Hebrew numbers to be much truer than the Greek. Genesis 5., in the Greek books, Adam is said to have lived 230 years, or, according to some copies, 330, when he begat Seth. But the Hebrew text shews that Seth was born when Adam was 130 years old. In the rest there is a similar discordance of reckoning times, so as to prove that it was not without reason that Jerome wrote that the LXX. sometimes erred in their numbers. It is even a laughable mistake in the Greek by which Methusalem is made to survive the flood fourteen years. Where did he remain during the deluge? or how was he preserved? Certainly he was not in the ark; in which the scripture testifies that there were no more than eight persons. This, therefore, is a manifest falsity in the Greek edition. But the Hebrew text speaks much more truly of the years and age of Methusalem; and we collect from it that he died in that same year in which the world was overwhelmed by the deluge. Augustine treats of this matter in his City of God, Lib. 15. c. 11. So Jonah 3., according to the Hebrew reading, destruction is denounced against the Ninevites after 40 days. But in the Greek we read otherwise, “Yet three days, and Nineve shall be destroyed:” which is manifestly a false reading; for he could scarcely have traversed the whole city in three days. Augustine (Civit. Dei. Lib. 18. c. 44) invents I know not what mystery in this change of numbers to preserve the authority of the Septuagint, which, nevertheless, in the former place about Methusalem he is unable to defend.
From these and innumerable examples of the like sort we may conclude, either that this Greek version which hath come down to our times is not the same as that published by the seventy Jewish elders, or that it hath suffered such infinite and shameful corruptions as to be now of very slight authority. Even Jerome had not the Greek translation of the seventy interpreters in its purity; since he often complains in his commentaries that what he had was faulty and corrupt.
— William Whitaker, A Disputation on Holy Scripture (1588), pages 121-122
21 thoughts on “William Whitaker on the Corruption of the Greek Septuagint”
This is an interesting piece, but it only presents one side of the argument. The counter-argument is that the Masoretic Text’s references that reinforce Jesus as the Messiah were corrupted by Jews in the early AD centuries in an effort to stamp out Christianity. Justin Martyr alludes to this in his ‘Dialogue with Trypho’. I’ve also had my desire to know more on this subject piqued by Max Weber’s ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ as well as this piece by Adi in Faith and Heritage:
I have heard those arguments against the Masoretic Text and I do not believe they hold water. I do not believe that the Septuagint is what it is claimed to be and Jerome considered what was being called the Septuagint in his day to be a badly corrupted and untrustworthy document. John Owen and others believed that the passages in the Septuagint which match the NT Scriptures were back-translated after the fact — meaning that they were made to match sometime after the publication of the NT Scriptures.
If the Jews perverted the Masoretic Text to try to stamp out Christianity, then they did not do a very good job of it because the Protestant Reformation era churches used it and the Reformers found no lack of support in it for the doctrine that Jesus was the promised Christ. Also, keep in mind that the Septuagint, if the story of its origin is true (which I do not believe), is only a translation from the original Hebrew, not the original itself, and it is a translation made by Jews. So there were Jews involved in both the MT and the LXX and there is no reason to believe that the Jews would have perverted the original Hebrew but not have perverted a translation of the Hebrew. The Talmud, in fact, praises the LXX (see next comment below).
I believe we have the infallible Word of God contaned in the Masoretic Text and the Textus Receptus just as the Reformers believed. Those who believe otherwise are only sowing doubt in the minds of Christians, which is the real undermining of Christianity. This unscholarly generation needs to stop second-guessing the Reformers and follow their lead.
The LXX is praised in the Talmud and the anti-Trinitarian changes that were introduced into the LXX when the Hebrew was translated into the Greek are also approved of in the Talmud.
Here the Talmud speaks of the Septuagint’s translation as a miraculous event guided by “the Holy One” where the translators all came to the exact same translation (and the exact same changes), though each one of them was separated into a different room. As you will see below this quote, the Talmud also approves of the changes introduced into the Greek to clarify (i.e., pervert) the meanings of the original Hebrew.
“The Gemara continues: And this was due to the incident of King Ptolemy, as it is taught in a baraita: There was an incident involving King Ptolemy of Egypt, who assembled seventy-two Elders from the Sages of Israel, and put them into seventy-two separate rooms, and did not reveal to them for what purpose he assembled them, so that they would not coordinate their responses. He entered and approached each and every one, and said to each of them: Write for me a translation of the Torah of Moses your teacher. The Holy One, Blessed be He, placed wisdom in the heart of each and every one, and they all agreed to one common understanding. Not only did they all translate the text correctly, they all introduced the same changes into the translated text.” (Megilla 9a11)
Notice the anti-Trinitarian mistranslations introduced into the LXX, according to the Talmud citations below. These are changes that whoever wrote this passage in the Talmud is praising and they immediately follow the paragraph quoted above.
“And they wrote: I shall make man in image and in likeness, rather than: “Let us make man in our image and in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26), as from there too one could mistakenly conclude that there are multiple powers [i.e., multiple persons in the Godhead – SD] and that God has human form.” (Megilla 9a12)
“Instead of: “Come, let us go down, and there confound their language” (Genesis 11:7), which indicates multiple authorities [i.e., multiple persons in the Godhead – SD], they wrote in the singular: “Come, let me go down, and there confound their language.”” (Megilla 9a14)
You can see all this on the following linked page:
Thanks for your reply Stuart. You make some very convincing arguments in favor of the Masoretic text. God forbid I should ally myself with the Talmudists! I’m attaching a few excerpts from the ‘Dialogue with Trypho’ that I found unsettling. Have you read these?
Will you not be obliged to doubt your teachers who dare to assert that the translation made by your seventy elders at the court of the Egyptian king Ptolemy is inaccurate in some places? For, whenever there arises in the Scriptures an evident contradiction of their silly and conceited doctrine, your teachers boldly affirm that it was not so written in the original text … claiming that they have been spoken not of this our Jesus Christ, but of him of whom they attempt to interpret them. p. 106. If he was to be born as a result of human intercourse like any other first-born son, why did God solemnly announce that he would give a sign which all first-born have in common? p. 130.
I would also have you know that, from the version composed by those elders at the court of Ptolemy, they have deleted entire passages in which it is clearly indicated that the crucified one was foretold as God and man, and as about to suffer death on the cross. … Thus far, you have admitted the authenticity of all my quotations, except this, Behold a virgin shall conceive, which you claim should read, Behold a young woman shall conceive. (Perhaps the translations of Aquila, Theodotian, and Symmachus. -footnote 1) p. 111.
Justin Martyr, ‘Dialogue with Trypho’, trans. Thomas P. Halton
You and your teachers venture to assert that the real words of Isaiah are not: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, but Behold, a young woman shall conceive, and bear a son [p. 66] … and that the prophecy as a whole refers to Hezekiah. … Besides, [you say], in the Greek myths there is a story of how Perseus was born of Danae, while she was a virgin. … Justin gives many parallels between pagan and Christians motifs, including this one. He ascribes the pagan ones to demons. – (footnote 15). pp. 102-3.
Rest assured, then, Trypho … that my knowledge of the Scriptures and my faith in them have been confirmed by the things which he who is called the Devil counterfeited in the fictions circulated among the Greeks (just as he accomplished them through the Egyptian magicians and the false prophets in the days of Elijah). p. 107.
Justin Martyr, ‘Dialogue with Trypho’, trans. Thomas P. Halton
No, I had not seen that before. Very interesting.
At one point in his booklet “The Divine Original of the Scriptures” (Collected Works, Vol. 16, pages 301-302), the Puritan divine John Owen addressed the work of a contemporary “learned man” Ludovicus Capellus who attempted to correct the Hebrew text of the OT by using the Greek Septuagint.
“Whether that plea of his be more unreasonable in itself and devoid of any real ground of truth, or more injurious to the love and care of God over his Word and church, I know not; sure I am, it is both in high degree. The translation insisted on by him is that of the LXX. That this translation—either from the mistakes of its first authors, (if it be theirs whose name and number it bears), or the carelessness, or ignorance, or worse, of its transcribers—is corrupted and gone off from the original in a thousand places twice told, is acknowledged by all who know aught of these things. Strange that so corrupt a stream should be judged a fit measure to correct the original by; and yet on account hereof, with some others not one whit better (or scarce so good,) we have one thousand eight hundred and twenty-six various lections exhibited unto us, with frequent insinuations of an infinite number more yet to be collected. It were desirable that men would be content to show their learning, reading, and diligence, about things where there is less danger in adventures.”
Another one from Owen:
“Concerning these, and some other places, many confidently affirm, that the apostle waived the original, and reported the words from the translation of the LXX… [T]his boldness in correcting the text, and fancying without proof, testimony, or probability, of other ancient copies of the Scripture of the Old Testament, differing in many things from them which alone remain, and which indeed were ever in the world, may quickly prove pernicious to the church of God… [I]t is highly probable, that the apostle, according to his wonted manner, which appears in almost all the citations used by him in this epistle, reporting the sense and import of the places, in words of his own, the Christian transcribers of the Greek Bible inserted his expressions into the text, either as judging them a more proper version of the original, (whereof they were ignorant) than that of the LXX, or out of a preposterous zeal to take away the appearance of a diversity between the text and the apostle’s citation of it. And thus in those testimonies where there is a real variation from the Hebrew original, the apostle took not his words from the translation of the LXX but his words were afterwards inserted into that translation.”
— John Owen, Commentary on Hebrews , Volume 1, pages 67-68
Part of Psalm 14 in the Septuagint matches verbatim a quote in Romans, while in the Masoretic text it does not match at all. Advocates for the Septuagint claim this as proof that it is more trustworthy. But in Adam Clarke’s commentary on Psalm 14 (see below) he says Jerome contended that Paul was drawing from several parts of Scripture in the Romans passage so that the two should not match, and that the reason the Romans passage matches the Psalm 14 passage verbatim in the Septuagint is because it was inserted there by scribes after the fact:
“Yet it has been contended, particularly by St. Jerome, that Paul did not quote them [the verses in Romans 3:10-18] from this Psalm; but…he collected from different parts of several passages that bore upon the subject, and united them there…and that succeeding copyists, finding them in Romans, inserted them into the Septuagint, from which it was presumed they had been lost. It does not appear that they made a part of this Psalm in Origen’s Hexapla. In the portions that still exist of this Psalm there is not a word of these additional verses referred to in that collection, neither here nor in the parallel Psalm 53.”
Now keep in mind, that in working on the Latin Vulgate in 380 A.D., Jerome began to consult the Hebrew texts. Here is testimony from a learned scholar way back in 380 A.D. who held to the idea that the LXX borrowed whole verses from the already completed NT text, and transplanted them back into their LXX version.
Jerome originally thought the Greek translation of the LXX contained in Origen’s Hexpla was the inspired version, but later in life he came to believe that the LXX was not inspired, but instead, it was the Hebrew texts which were the inspired words of God. Jerome then began to write several works on the supremacy of the Hebrew texts over the various Greek translations. Jerome writes:
“It would be tedious now to enumerate, what great additions and omissions the Septuagint has made, and all the passages which in church-copies are marked with daggers and asterisks [symbols indicating words present in the Greek but absent in the Hebrew, and vice versa]. The Jews generally laugh when they hear our version of this passage of Isaiah, ‘Blessed is he that hath seed in Zion and servants in Jerusalem [Is. 31.9].’ In Amos also … But how shall we deal with the Hebrew originals in which these passages and others like them are omitted, passages so numerous that to reproduce them would require books without number?”
— Jerome’s Letter LVII
Thanks very much for the reinforcing quotes. This is undoubtedly a question I won’t resolve thoroughly during what remains of my lifetime. One of the South African writers for Faith & Heritage, Gic Serry, points out that there’s no unanimity of thought even among Reformed Protestants on this question. His article on the corruption of the Dutch Reformed Church in South African hits really close to home since two of my great grandfathers on my mother’s side were Dutch Reformed ministers.
From Higher Criticism to Marxism
The Puritans as Radical Reformers
The Book of Acts alerts us to the wormwood of the Judaizers in the early church. It seems, from Justin Martyr, that the Septuagint was (at least at one time) a reliable translation of Holy Writ. That even Reformed Protestants are not immune from Jewish deception also seems a safe assumption.
The Reformation-era church did have unanimity, or near-unanimity on this point, and the scholarship of that time was far superior to that which we have today, as I said before.
I do not believe there is any reason to doubt this statement from the Westminster Confession: “The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical.”
If you have doubt about whether Scripture has been preserved pure by God, then you cannot not have doubts about the Bible’s teaching, and so your faith will be undermined.
Keep in mind that the Septuagint, whatever it really is, is only a Greek translation from the original Hebrew, not the original itself. To give a translation the authority of the original autograph and to say that it is inspired, or treat it as if it is, is what the “King James Only” people do with an English translation of the Bible. Not that the KJV is not trustworthy, it surely is, but it is still only a translation from the original inspired Hebrew and Greek texts. A Greek translation of the inspired Hebrew can never be considered equal to the inpired Hebrew itself and to accept the Septuagint story is to believe that the early church had inspired originals of the Old Testament text in two different languages. It would also mean that there were two different inspired originals of the OT text which did not agree with each other, because Jerome made clear that they did not agree.
The authority of the original Septuagint is based on a fantastical story contained in The Letter of Aristeas which, it is said, was shown to be a fraud by English scholar Humphrey Hody (1659-1707). From Wikipedia: “In 1684 he published Contra historiam Aristeae de LXX interpretibus dissertatio, in which he argued that the so-called “Letter of Aristeas”, containing an account of the production of the Septuagint, was the late forgery of a Hellenic Jew originally circulated to lend authority to that version.” Hody’s work is still around but it has never been translated from the original Latin, as far as I know.
As I have shown, Jerome, Owen, and Whitaker considered what was being called the Septuagint in their times to be very corrupt and the great majority of scholars in the Reformation-era church did not give it much authority, to the best of my knowledge.
Frankly, I do not believe that “the Septuagint” even exists or ever did exist. Of course, there was a Greek translation in the early church being called “the Septuagint” but I do not believe it originated from the seventy elders in Alexandria, as is claimed, and I believe it was not the only Greek translation being circulated at the time. I also do not believe that what we have today is the same text that was being called the Septuagint in the early church.
It’s my understanding that the edition of the Masoretic text used by the Reformers was produced under the oversight of three Jewish converts to Christianity — Daniel Bomberg, Felix Pratensis and Jacob Ben-Hayyim.
The LXX, if it is a pre-Christian document as claimed, also was produced by Jews, even if it was not really produced by the seventy-two Jewish elders according to the story. And even if it was not pre-Christian, as it is claimed to be, it very likely would have been translated by Jewish scholars as they almost certainly would have been the only ones capable of doing it in the very early Christian era.
So there are Jews on both sides. You cannot get away from that.
However, keep in mind that the religious establishment in charge of keeping the Holy Scriptures at the time of Christ, and for years before that, consisted of the Sadducees and also the dastardly “scribes and Pharisees” who were Scripture-twisting Anti-Christ hypocrites of the worst sort and yet Christ never once accused any of them of doctoring the Scriptures. So it is an error to believe that God cannot use Jews, and even unconverted ones, at times to preserve His word, and it is an error to believe that unconverted Jews necessarily will pervert it or have done so.
I am not advocating that Christians should willingly entrust the Scriptures to Jews, or any other unbelievers, but I am just pointing out that there have been times in history that this has happened and yet the text was preserved.
The bottom line is that I do not believe there are two sides to the story, as I believe the Septuagint side is completely bogus, I do not believe there is any reason to call into question the underlying texts of the King James version or other Bible translations based on the same texts, and I believe that to do so is to undermine the authority of the Bible itself.
You’ve given me much to think about and I appreciate it.
I suppose what makes me question all of this is that it seems like the RC and EO churches have been more on guard in defending Christendom against Jewish ideas and influences than our own Protestant church.
I’ve read that Calvin (unlike Luther) had a moderate stance on usury; and it was Cromwell (with his protege Menasseh Ben Israel) who opened the doors to Jews in the British Commonwealth. Bernard Lazare, himself a Jew, writes this about the social changes introduced by the ascendancy of Protestantism:
“Now that the Jew has entered into society, he has become a source of disorder, and, like the mole, he is busily engaged in undermining the ancient foundations upon which rest[ed] the Christian state. … The admission of the Jew into the body of nations has proved fatal to them; they are doomed for having received him. … He is necessarily anti-Christian, by definition, in being a Jew. p. 158.
To the impartial observer, however, it is not the Jew that is destroying Christianity. The Christian religion is … passing away under the slow blows of reason and science. [But are not ‘reason and science’ also being manipulated, just as Saint-Simon advised that the State should be co-opted by industry?] … The nineteenth century witnessed the last effort on the part of the Christian state to retain its dominance. Antisemitism represents one phase of the struggle between the feudal state, based upon unity of belief, and the opposite notion of a neutral and secular state, upon which the greater number of political entities are at present based.” p. 162.
Bernard Lazare, ‘Antisemitism, Its History and Causes’ (1894)
“I suppose what makes me question all of this is that it seems like the RC and EO churches have been more on guard in defending Christendom against Jewish ideas and influences than our own Protestant church.”
RC and EO do not have the gospel and both are pseudo-Christian religions. The assertion that they have been better at defending Christendom against Jewish ideas and influences is a separate matter from the textual issue. However, I do not agree that it is true. Cromwell unofficially let some of the Jews back into England, and that was a mistake, but he could not do it officially because of opposition in Parliament. It seems the majority of the Protestants were opposed to it. It was under Charles II, who immediately followed Cromwell’s rule and would have liked to have returned England to Roman Catholicism but was hindered from doing it by Parliament, that toleration of the Jews was made official. So it was not just a Protestant error.
“Despite the ceaseless recitation of the myth that ‘Oliver Cromwell readmitted the Jews into England,’ the fact is that Parliament rebuffed Cromwell’s attempt at readmitting them, largely due to the widespread circulation of a book by the Puritan William Prynne, which he compiled expressly to support the ancient Catholic laws which forbade the presence of Jews in England. During the Protectorate, an address was presented on behalf of the Jews, soliciting the free exercise of their religion; a measure which Prynne opposed in his laborious tract, ‘A short demurrer to the Jewes long discontinued barred remitter into England’…The Jews failed to obtain a legal establishment under Cromwell… their return occurred in the reign of Charles II.”
— Michael Hoffman, The Occult Renaissance Church of Rome, pg. 127
I believe Calvin’s laxity on usury was not good but have there been any Christian nations, Protestant or otherwise, that have kept the Jewish banking establishment out (besides Hitler’s Germany)? Also, the largest nation in the world under Eastern Orthodox influence in the early 20th century was Russia, and it was the first to succumb to the Jewish Bolsheviks, which happened because of a laxity toward them, and the other eastern European nations which were also under EO influence did likewise, so I cannot see how EO has been any bulwark against the Jews.
I am not denying that some Protestants went off the tracks regarding the Jews even as early as the middle of the 17th century. Thomas Goodwin is a good example:
“In December 1655 Goodwin attended the Whitehall Conference on the resettlement of the Jews, where he (with fellow Independent Philip Nye) argued for readmittance on the grounds that England was being punished by God for not readmitting the Jews, which was necessary for their conversion.”
— Excerpt from Wikipedia article on English Puritan Thomas Goodwin
There is no doubt that Protestants let down their guard against the Jews but so did everyone else (the RC’s are no better on this point today, although maybe the EO’s have learned something from harsh Communist persecution) and there is nothing in the Protestant Masoretic Text/Textus Receptus canon of Scripture that necessitates all the Jew love we see today or even toleration of these anti-Christs in our nations.
It would be a mistake to throw the Protestant Reformation baby, with all its achievements, out the window with the Jew infected bath water, and an error to think that there is something rotten in our Bibles which caused Protestants to allow anti-Christs to gain influence and power in our nations.
“There is nothing in the Protestant Masoretic Text/Textus Receptus canon of Scripture that necessitates all the Jew love we see today or even toleration of these anti-Christs in our nations … and an error to think that there is something rotten in our Bibles which caused Protestants to allow anti-Christs to gain influence and power in our nations.”
Very true … unless we want to talk about Scofield’s Reference Bible. I don’t think we do. I think you’d agree that dispensationalism is also a pseudo-Christian religion.
I’ll have to admit I’ve gone off point somewhat. I was alluding to the social changes that Protestantism has brought in its wake: capitalism and an undue emphasis on individual rights, rather than duty to something greater than the self.
I have to agree with you that EO (at least as practiced by the Romanovs) did nothing to slow the Bolsheviks, but men like Wrangel, Krasnov, and the Cossack white Russians would have crushed and stamped out the Reds without the financial support they received from Jewish financiers and their lackeys in liberal-democratic America.
I think you are talking more about apostasy from Protestantism than Protestantism itself. The first generation Protestants were nationalistic, devoted to defending their nations, and not lenient toward the Jews.
The Scofield Bible is an example of what the Pharisees did — not tampering with the text itself but perverting it through misinterpretation.
Western civilization was lost when the Jews began to be tolerated. The first Jew to receive a knighthood in England was in the year 1700.
None of this has to do with the textual matter.
You’re quite right. It has nothing to do with the textual matter. I was reading in the Faith & Heritage anthology this morning and came upon an apropos quote from Augustine:
“While the hot restlessness of heretics stirs questions about many articles of the Catholic faith, the necessity of defending them forces us both to investigate them more accurately, to understand them more clearly, and to proclaim them more earnestly; and the question mooted by an adversary becomes the occasion of instruction.”
Augustine, ‘City of God’, Book XVI, Chap. 2
I’ve learned from our discussion, hope others benefit from it, and thank you for it.
Here is more commentary on The Septuagint from a guy named Scott Jones. I had this saved in my notes. I believe it was taken from the Confessional Bibliology Facebook group:
“I have just concluded an in-depth study on the Septuagint, and I want to clear up a few misconceptions, for there are a great many misconceptions about this issue on both sides of the aisle.
First, there is little doubt that Greek translations of portions of the Old Testament were attempted by private enterprises prior to Christianity.
However, these attempts were scattered; they were alienated not only by parties, but by geography, and thus none of them were alike. Thus, there is no such thing as “THE” Septuagint prior to Christianity. There is only scattered attempts at translation, with radically differing texts. Radically.
Consequently, there is no doubt whatsoever that Jesus and the apostles quoted strictly from the Hebrew Masoretic text. Not only would they have done so out of sound doctrinal concerns, but there was no such thing as “THE” Septuagint in their lifetimes. There were probably different Greek translations of PORTIONS of the OT, but nothing even remotely standardized.
Kenyon, Wurthwein, Swete, Silva, and other OT/Septuagint scholars would agree that we have no earthly idea what the original form of the so-called Septuagint was. For example, notice the following quotations –
“None of the various surviving forms of the text has preserved the original form of the version.”
— Ernst Wurthwein, The Text Of The Old Testament, page 61
(This next quotation is widely quoted on the internet, but the quotation on the internet is inaccurate – the following is the exact quote from Kenyon’s book verbatim).
“A considerable number of MSS exist which give information as to ORIGEN’s HEXAPLARIC TEXT and PARTICULAR PASSAGES in the other columns, as well as Paul of Tella’s Syro-Hexaplar version (see p. 58 below), BUT THESE DO NOT GO
FAR towards enabling us to recover the LXX text AS IT EXISTED BEFORE ORIGEN; AND THIS REMAINS THE GREATEST PROBLEM WHICH CONFRONTS THE TEXTUAL STUDENT OF THE SEPTUAGINT.”
— F. G. Kenyon, “The Text of the Greek Bible”, page 24 (emphasis added)
“It may also be doubted whether in the year 285 BC there were Jews in Palestine who had sufficient intercourse with the Greeks to have executed a translation into that language; for it must be borne in mind how recently they had become the subjects of Greek monarchs… we must also bear in mind that we find at this period NO TRACE OF ANY VERSIONS HAVING BEEN MADE BY THE JEWS INTO THE LANGUAGES OF OTHER COUNTRIES in which they had continued for periods much longer than that of their settlement at Alexandria.”
— Lancelot C. L. Brenton, Septuagint, Introduction, p ii. (emphasis added)
“In effect, the great task of Septuagint textual criticism is to reconstruct the pre-Hexaplaric text, which means undoing Origen’s labors so as to rediscover the form of the “Septuagint” in the second century. Without Greek manuscripts predating Origen, however, that goal is not easily reached.”
— Karen Jobes & Moises Silva, “Invitation To The Septuagint,” p 53
I could provide many additional quotes. In short, these scholars – while they firmly believe that the Septuagint existed prior to Christianity – are all forced to admit that they have no evidence that any standard text form even remotely existed.
This is their problem. They make a quantum leap from a mass of evidence that reveals every conceivable mishmash of text forms AFTER Christianity began to flourish, to the unfounded assumption that a standard Greek OT text existed prior to Christianity, and that Jesus and the apostles quoted from this mythical standard text.
Of course, there is not a shred of evidence for this latter assumption.
The greatest witness to any form of Septuagintal text is Origen. Origen employed a number of symbols in his Hexapla to differentiate his columns of Aquilla, Symmachus, and Theodotian from what Origen considered to be the “LXX,” or at least some form of it. These symbols are preserved in many Greek manuscripts, and are thus known as Hexaplaric manuscripts.
However, there is only a paucity of information in these manuscripts, comparatively speaking. Much of the reconstruction of the LXX and Origen’s Hexapla comes from patristic quotations. Thus, once again there is no sound foundation for even recovering Origen’s Hexapla, let alone a “Septuagint.”
Further still, it is recognized by virtually everyone that various portions of what passes for the LXX today (Rahlf’s, Brenton, etc.), were translated by different scribes in different time periods. That’s why the translation varies so radically from book to book against the Hebrew MT. In the Torah, for example, the current edition of the “LXX” follows the Hebrew relatively closely, but in Jeremiah, Judges, Daniel, Job, and other places, the translation is so radically different from the Hebrew in some cases that it
is almost unrecognizable.
As Wurthwein noted – “We may say in summary that what we find in Septuagint is not a single version but a collection of versions made by various writers who differed greatly in their translation methods, their knowledge of Hebrew, their styles, and in other ways. This diversity which makes it necessary to consider each book of the Bible individually is a large part of the problem posed by Septuagint, making it impossible to formulate the value of the version as a whole for textual criticism in any uniform way.”
— Wurthwein, “The Text Of The Old Testament,” pages 53-54
Well, I’ve been very, very basic, but the bottom line is this:
It is a mistake for KJV adherents to insist that there were no Greek translations of the OT prior to Christianity. There undoubtedly were translations of portions of the OT, but there is not a shred of evidence that any of them were widely used or accepted, or that any document such as THE Septuagint existed in any type of vulgar or standardized form.
Even though modern scholars insist that the Septuagint was a widely read and accepted document, not a single, solitary copy was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls – only a paltry cache of scattered fragments, the dates of which are highly
questionable – and thus the evidence just doesn’t support their assertion. Ergo, if the Septuagint was such a widely used and accepted document, why weren’t any copies preserved among all the great finds at Qumran? Why can no standardized text form be ascertained, such as we are able to discern with the NT in Greek and the OT in Hebrew? Et cetera.
I remind you again of Wurthwein’s admission – “None of the various surviving forms of the text has preserved the original form of the version.”
— Ernst Wurthwein, The Text Of The Old Testament, p 61.
In other words, they say that this “original” form existed (known by the term Vorlage), but they can’t find a shred of evidence to support their belief. To wit:
No text type of this so-called “Septuagint” has been preserved, and thus, how strange for a document that was supposed to be THE standard was unable to preserve ANY type of standard form.
Accordingly, it is grossly inaccurate to assert that Jesus and the apostles quoted from the “LXX,” as most of you have seen my short demonstration on Hebrews 11:21 where I show conclusively that the so-called “LXX” quoted from
the book of Hebrews, not the other way around. I’ve appended my short treatise below in case you haven’t seen it.
In conclusion, it seems certain that there were a few independent Greek translations of portions of the OT prior to Christianity, each differing from translation to translation, but there was no standard LXX whatsoever.
Since no standard LXX existed, it is clear that Jesus and the apostles didn’t quote from it, as per the reasons previously stated, as well as others which are too involved to go into here.
Suffice it to say that when Jacob Ben Chayyim amassed all the vast hordes of Hebrew manuscripts and Masoretic literature, he made it possible for the KJV and Luther and others who followed the OT Textus Receptus to produce the most accurate version of the OT that ever existed in one book at one time.
It is quite comical to see just how shoddy mainstream biblical scholarship is. For example, it is common fare for mainstream biblical scholarship to state that the writer of Hebrews quoted from the LXX’s rendering of Genesis 47:31 when he penned Hebrews 11:21. In other words, that the writer of Hebrews was copying the Greek LXX from Genesis 47:31. Of course, this
assertion is ludicrous and is ignorantly made on the following basis …
The Hebrew text states that Jacob “bowed himself upon the bed’s head.” The LXX declares that Jacob “bowed himself on the top of his staff.” Naturally, since the writer of Hebrews used the word “staff” instead of “bed’s head” he
must be quoting the LXX – according to the THEORY, that is.
As is habitual with mainstream biblical scholarship, however, they have failed to observe the SIMPLE context. You see, in Genesis 47:31 Jacob is in the tent with Joseph ALONE. Just the two of them. In Hebrews 11:21, on the other hand, the context is ENTIRELY different. In this case, Jacob AND HIS SONS are in the tent with Joseph, an event which is found LATER in the
Genesis passage in 48:1-12, and it is this LATTER passage that the writer of Hebrews is describing, NOT Genesis 47:31 which mainstream biblical scholarship so ignorantly presupposes. It gets better.
A straight-forward reading of the Hebrew reveals clearly what happened. Joseph, still in the prone position, leaned on his bed when Jacob first entered the tent in Genesis 47:31. But when Joseph brought his two sons into the tent later in Genesis 48, then Joseph SAT UP and LEANED UPON HIS STAFF. This LATTER event is what the writer of Hebrews is recording (all four
persons are now present), and a SIMPLE adherence to context (which is really asking too much of mainstream bible scholars who don’t even know what evidence is, let alone how to analyze or interpret it) would have prevented mainstream biblical scholars from making such a bad exhibition of themselves in this matter. There’s more.
It becomes eminently clear that the writer of the LXX had the NT before him when he WROTE the LXX – the exact OPPOSITE of what mainstream biblical scholarship ASSERTS. The writer of the LXX confused the context exactly like mainstream bible scholars have confused the context.
Accordingly, the writer of the LXX decided he would help God out and prevent the Holy Spirit from making an error. Consequently, the writer of the LXX interposed the Greek word for “STAFF” into Genesis 47:31 based on the Greek text of Hebrews 11:21, which he had in front of him as he penned the book of Genesis in Greek. In other words, the writer of the LXX decided he was going to harmonize Genesis with the book of Hebrews by clarifying the account in Genesis, only he – like mainstream bible scholars – didn’t pay attention to the context and thus, not only did he fail to “harmonize” the account, but in fact introduced yet another of his many legions of errors into the text. In other words, the writer of the LXX copied Genesis FROM the book of Hebrews – the exact OPPOSITE of what mainstream biblical scholarship so ignorantly asserts.”
Here is another comment from Matthew Winzer, who is a minister in the Australian Free Church:
“My view is that it is a gratuitous assumption to suppose a single literary source (conveniently called the “LXX”) is quoted in the NT. The NT never refers to the textual source it is supposedly quoting. Sometimes it doesn’t claim to be quoting from a literary source at all, as the importance is placed on what is “said.” This equally allows for an oral source. Besides this, it is not clear that the words are being “quoted” in the proper sense of that term. It is often simply an allusion or an adaptation that is made.
The penmen of the NT were probably multilingual, which supposes a facility to move in and out of a language with some ease without any need to refer to a written source. Moreover, it was an oral culture, which meant they could remember large portions of words without the use of a manuscript.
Then we have the fact that there is no single Greek translation to which we can compare the “quotations.” The term “LXX” is serving to convey the idea of a unified and stable text, but there is no historical evidence for it.
Besides Whitaker I would also recommend John Owen, Works, 18:113-117. He looks at all the word for word references to the OT in the Epistle to the Hebrews (sect. 13), and shows the penman differs from the so-called LXX in many quotations (sect. 14). It is clear that the penman did not confine himself exactly to any verbal source, but only gave the sense (sect. 15). The sense given by him accorded with the principles of the Hebrews (sect. 16). There is only a coincidence of words with the “Greek Bible” now extant (sect. 17). There are different views held by scholars on this “coincidence,” but not satisfactory (Sect. 18). There is a strong likelihood that Christian transcribers inserted the penman’s words into the “Greek Bible” (sect. 19). Owen questions whether any translation of the “Seventy” (LXX) existed, and questions certain renderings as having no reason for them (sect. 20). He gives evidence and example of the apostle’s words being inserted into the “Greek Bible” (sec. 21). There is at least one place (Heb. 1:6) where the inserters have placed his words into Deut. 32:43 instead of Ps. 97:7, where it should have been placed; and the same example is found in Apocryphal books (sect. 22). Owen concludes that it was more probable his words were inserted into the “Greek Bible” than that he quoted them from the “Greek Bible” (sect. 23).”
Ron, you mentioned Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew. I found an interesting comment by Justin in chapter 71 of that dialogue. It seems that he accused the Jews of tampering with what he was calling the Septuagint. I wanted to be sure that the quote was really in the original, so I checked two different translations online which are quoted below:
“And I wish you to observe, that they have altogether taken away many Scriptures from the translations effected by the seventy elders who were with Ptolemy, and by which this very man who was crucified is proved to have been set forth expressly as God, and man, and as being crucified, and as dying.”
“And I would have you know that they have completely removed from the interpretations which were made by the elders at the court of Ptolemy many passages by which this very One who was crucified is plainly proved to have been proclaimed as God, and man, and crucified, and dying.”
On Oct. 7th you wrote:
“It was under Charles II, who immediately followed Cromwell’s rule and would have liked to have returned England to Roman Catholicism but was hindered from doing it by Parliament, that toleration of the Jews was made official.”
I don’t know but that this may have been the case, but found it interesting what Gerard Menuhin wrote in his ‘Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil’:
Edward 1 had expelled the Jews in 1290; they found a willing creature and hireling in Oliver Cromwell. … On June 16, 1647 (Oliver Cromwell) writes to Ebenezer Pratt of the Mulheim Synagogue in Amsterdam: “In return for financial support will advocate admission of Jews to England. This however impossible while Charles living. Charles cannot be executed without trial, adequate grounds for which do not at present exist. Therefore advise that Charles be assassinated, but will have nothing to do with arrangements for procuring an assassin, though willing to help in his escape.” p. 227. … Despite purging the parliament of all those who might show favor to the king, no English lawyer could be found to draw up a charge against him, but a Dutch-English Jew carried out the task and Charles was executed—for “high treason” in January 1649. The same Amsterdam Jews who had financed Cromwell … installed William of Orange and his “Dutch” mob. … William’s reign brought a closer connection between the predominantly Sephardic communities of London and Amsterdam. p. 228.
Gerard Menuhin, ‘Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil’
If Mr. Menuhin is correct about the ‘letter from Cromwell to Pratt’ it raises serious questions about Cromwell’s Christian integrity.
I have never heard of any such letter by Cromwell, so it seems suspect. I know Menuhin is of Jewish descent but speaks against the Jews. What religion does he affiliate himself with?
From the book I’d gather that he’s a secularist. Still, I think his book contains much that is very good. I always find it somewhat unsettling that oftentimes there’s more discernment among those who profess no particular religious faith than among those who should be being “guided into all truth”.
Hi Guys – I have been following this discussion with interest as I am currently investigating issues with the LXX. I note that you quote someone who states that Heb 1:6 has been read into Deut 32:43 instead of Ps 97:7. However, I have recently stumbled across DSS 4Q44 which appears to have the same reading for Deut 32:43 as the LXX. I think this renders this theory very unlikely in this instance. What do you think?
I would add to this that I generally do not put a lot of credence in the DSS. My theory about the DSS scrolls is that they were not proper copies of scripture but were the output of trainee scribes, hence the numerous “school boy errors”. However, the community held the scriptures in such high esteem that they could not bear to even destroy these error strewn scrolls and so buried them in caves!