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Comments and Questions regarding the Alexandrian Septuagint article
from Barry: Thanks for the question. Here is the clarification.
There are a number of DSS which originated prior to 70 AD which are written in Paleo-Hebrew, while there are others in the square modern characters. It is often the Pentateuch and Job which are written in the old script. At the time of Christ, both types of writing were being used. After the Council of Jamnia, it was the square Hebrew characters exclusively.
How did this situation come about and when? It is traditional to state that square Hebrew characters originated with the Babylonian Captivity. However, the evidence for that is definitely not compelling. Indeed, as late as the Maccabean Period down to the time of Roman domination, the coins still used the old script. Here is a comment on that from the Jewish Encyclopedia:
The reference to the Siloam inscription is to the paleo-Hebrew script used in the days of Hezekiah which recorded the completion of the tunnel to the Pool of Siloam. The statement above says that this script was used for another 100 years, that is until about 50 BC at which time the Romans gained complete control of the Holy Land. This means that the square characters were being introduced from about 50 BC to 100 AD. It was at the Council of Jamnia that the characters were standardized, as were many other things in Jewish life. Thus the DSS to 70 AD covered the period when both types of writing were being used. After Jamnia, only the square characters were used, and this is also the case for the DSS hidden after Jamnia.
I hope that this clarifies the situation for you. If there are further difficulties, please let me know.
What was the rather strange reason, in your view? You may have stated it somewhere and I missed it.
from Barry: You ask about the "strange reason" for the changes in the age of the Patriarchs at the birth of their heir in Genesis 5 and 11 in the Masoretic text when compared with the Septuagint or LXX. There are several strands to this answer, so please bear with me.
First of all, the Masoretic text and its shortened chrono-genealogies originated about 100 AD at the Council of Jamnia under the dictates of Rabbi Akiba. He was establishing a Rabbinical system that would rule Jewish life and Scriptural interpretation right through to the present. The full extent of Akiba's planning and execution of this, along with its on-going effects, is outlined in Daniel Gruber's book "Rabbi Akiba's Messiah," Elijah Publishing, 1999. One of Akiba's aims was to ensure that his interpretation and thinking about the Scriptures was maintained. Gruber writes, pp.108-109 "Here, as with the text of the Tanakh [Old Testament], Akiba authorized a new Targum [commentary] for those who spoke Aramaic, and a new Greek translation [performed by Aquila in 128 AD] for those who did not. No matter what language a person used, Akiba established the authority. He did the same with the oral tradition. He put it in writing to increase his leverage against the traditional rabbis..."
It is against this background that two rabbinic interpretations have been retained which specifically relate to Genesis 5 and 11. Since Akiba authorized both the commentaries and the traditions, as well as amending the Scriptures to support these views, there can be little doubt that he is either responsible for the two interpretations which flow on from these chapters or else fully supported them. Let us start with the most straightforward illustration first. In Genesis 14:18 we find Abraham having a conversation with Melchizedek. The Jewish Targum comment on this passage says that Melchizedek claimed that he came forth safely from the Ark at the end of the Flood because he fed "...the animals, beasts, and birds. We did not sleep but gave each its food throughout the night." From here the identification is that Melchizedek is Shem, who was indeed on the Ark. [See A. Cohen, "Everyman's Talmud", p.236, E.P. Dutton & Co., 1949]. But the paleo-Hebrew text on which the ancient LXX was based did not support that tradition. Neither does the Samaritan Pentateuch which was also written in paleo-Hebrew and agrees almost exactly with the LXX in Genesis 11. On the ancient LXX, Shem died 2758 years after Creation, while Abraham did not enter Canaan until 3433 years after Creation. This tradition involves a mis-match of at least 675 years when the LXX text is used. In order for this interpretation to be sustained, and for Shem to still be living in the times of Abraham, some 700 years had to be dropped from Genesis 11. It is not coincidence that seven Patriarchs (Arphaxad, Selah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug and Nahor) all had 100 years dropped from their age at the birth of their heir in Akiba's new Masoretic text.
This was easy for Akiba to do since he had a precedent to follow. The Samaritan Pentateuch had earlier made a 'correction' to their paleo-Hebrew text of Genesis 5, and it is here that another aspect of the 'strange reason' emerges. The Samaritans felt that it was either dishonoring to God or lacked historical credibility to state that the Patriarchs had children after they were 150. Because of this tradition, they systematically dropped 100 years from all the Genesis 5 Patriarchs who had heirs after they were 150. For further information on this see these URL's:
This systematic omission of 100 years from the Samaritan Pentateuch was unquestioningly deliberate for the reason stated. However, there was no such problem for the Samaritans in Genesis 11 because all Patriarchs had their heirs before the critical age of 150. It is interesting that in Genesis 11, the Samatritan Pentateuch follows the LXX almost exactly. The only discrepancy is Terah's age at the birth of his heir. In the case of the LXX that heir was Nahor when Terah was 70; in the case of the Samaritan, the heir is Abram when Terah was 130. Thus in Genesis 11, Akiba felt he had a precedent based on a tradition for systematically dropping 100 years from the ancient LXX ages of the Patriarchs at the birth of the heir. In this case it was from each of the Patriarchs between Shem and Abraham. In so doing, he kept Terah's age at 70 and had his heir indefinite.
This procedure of dropping 100 years was easy to adopt for another reason. The Hebrew expression that was used to express the ages of the Patriarchs followed the same custom as that in Genesis 5:18. There it literally says: "And lived Jared two and sixty years and one hundred years; and fathered Enoch..." In other words the age was expressed numerically in terms of units first, then tens, then the hundred last. As a consequence, it was easy to drop the cypher for one hundred.
In view of these attitudes, we now turn to the tradition that developed with regard to Genesis 5. Akiba rightly saw Noah as the progenitor of the New World after the Flood, just as Adam had been the progenitor in the Old World that perished. In that sense, Akiba saw Noah as the second Adam in contradistinction to Jesus who had been proclaimed as holding that position by the Christians. In defence of his position he could point to Genesis 6:9 which states that "Noah walked with God" in a similar way to Adam. Furthermore, God's command to Noah in Genesis 9:1 was exactly the same as that to Adam in 1:28. In addition there are the 7 Noahide Laws that the Akiba-supported Talmud claims were given to mankind. They comprise the six laws given to Adam according to the Talmud's interpretation of Genesis 2:16 and a seventh one given to Noah after the Flood. [See The Seven Laws of Noah ]. As additional support for this contention, there is the strange comment in the Talmud that just as Noah drank from the fruit of the vine, so, too, the forbidden fruit for Adam was the vine. [See Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin folio 70a ]. Remember that Akiba was largely responsible for what went into or was removed from the Talmud, so these ideas positively reflect Akiba's views. As a result, Noah in Jewish tradition became the second Adam rather than Christ fulfilling that role. For a current illustration of this, see "The Noah Covenant with Mankind" in the Arutz Sheva, October 31, 2008.
But in order to give his view the necessary credence, Akiba had to support the usual Jewish thinking on these matters. This thinking stated that the head of the Old Order (Adam) had to die first before the head of the New Order (Noah) could arise to take his place. Therefore, in order to be eligible to fulfil this office, Noah had to be the first heir born in the righteous line after the death of Adam. However, once again, this tradition strikes trouble with the ancient LXX text.
At this juncture, it should be noted that before the time of Akiba, Josephus had already quoted the ages of the Patriarchs at the birth of their heirs in Genesis 5, and those ages were the same as in the Alexandrian Septuagint. So the evidence is that those were the standard ages in the original paleo-Hebrew text. Thus in Genesis 5 we have the testimony of Josephus to the accuracy of the ancient LXX, while the Samaritan Pentateuch written in paleo-Hebrew, gives strong support to the ancient LXX in Genesis 11.
That having been said, it is now important to note that, on the LXX text, the chronology gives Adam's death in the year 930 after Creation with Noah's birth occurring in 1662. This meant that there was a mis-match of about 600 years. In this period, the birth of Jared, Enoch, Methuselah and Lamech also occurred on the LXX. Furthermore, Seth, Enos, Cainan and Mahalaleel died in that interval. If Noah was to be born shortly after the death of Adam, with no other births or deaths intervening, so that the Noah could be the progenitor of the new race, as the tradition required, then at least 600 years needed to be dropped from the listing. This was done by again omitting one hundred years in the case of six Patriarchs, in accord with the Samaritan text, but with three remaining unchanged from the LXX. If those other three (Jared, Methuselah and Lamech) had the one hundred years removed as the Samaritan text had already done, then Akiba's case would again be destroyed. So it was obvious that Akiba was trying to achieve harmony with the tradition he supported against the Christians. Akiba's manoeuvering produced the Masoretic text where the death of Adam was in the year 930, while Noah's birth was in the year 1056 with no other events intervening. This achieved his purpose.
Therefore, the summary of the answer to your question is this: the basic reason why the Council of Jamnia changed the chrono-genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 was to bolster Akiba's traditions about Noah being the Second Adam and Shem being Melchizedek. In order to do this exactly, Akiba had to omit 600 years from Genesis 5 and 700 years from Genesis 11. He had the precedent of the Samaritan Pentateuch to back him up since the Samaritans had changed their text of Genesis 5 in a similar way in order to accomodate a strange tradition that they held, so he felt he could act in a similar way.
I trust this has been of some help.
from Barry: Josephus chronology followed the LXX in Genesis 5, for we find the same figures given for the birth of the son in the Divine Line as in the LXX in Josephus Antiquities Book 1, Chapter 3 section 4. This is what I had in mind, as in section 3 he also gives the corresponding date of the Flood as on the LXX. It is interesting that he gives different dates for the Flood in his later works. However, it is important to note that it is only here in Antiquities, Book 1, Chapter 3, Section 4 that the ages of the patriarchs before the Flood are given, and they are definitely in complete accord with the LXX for Genesis 5. The other references do NOT include the genealogies and the birth dates of the sons. Therefore, the prime reference is here in Antiquities Book 1.
However, the situation is even more interesting than that. In the Introduction to the works of Josephus, it is mentioned that he wrote his first work "The Wars of the Jews" shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The comment is then made that "The Antiquities of the Jews" was written over 20 years later. That means that he started writing Antiquities around 90 AD, and completed it some time later. It is precisely at this time that the Council of Jamnia was convening. The earliest Book of Antiquities, Book 1, contains the genealogy in accord with the Paleo-Hebrew and LXX text. This was written before the Jamnia results were publicised. However, the later Books contain dates that are more in accord with the Council of Jamnia's textual revision which was then becoming known. The variation in the dates for the Flood after Creation may therefore reflect the uncertainty which later existed as to which manuscript to follow.
This is backed up by the fact that in Antiquities Book 4, Chapter 5, Section 7 Josephus refers to Petra as being in Arabia. Petra was annexed by the Romans and made capital of Arabia in 106 AD. Thus by the time Josephus was writing Antiquities, Book 4, the Council of Jamnia would have done its work. Thus, by the time Book 8 and Book 10 were written (when the discrepant Flood dates are given), the results of that Council were becoming known. Therefore Josephus is in a unique position to confirm the effects of the Council of Jamnia on Biblical chronology.
I trust that this is helpful to you.
from Barry: As far as the LXX is concerned, the statements made in most of these responses are invalid. Several point must be emphasized. First, the Dead Sea Scrolls contain the LXX passages in those scrolls which were written prior to 70 AD. This in itself is proof that the LXX existed at that time as well as other evidence attesting to that fact. Second, the Apostles and the Church Fathers, and even Josephus quoted directly from that LXX version, including the genealogies, NOT the version of the Old Testament that appears in so many Bibles today. Third, there is direct evidence that the Masoretic text, on which our Old Testaments are based was written about 100 AD and was not in existence prior to that. This Masoretic text was written by Rabbi Akiba, who freely altered the original text to conform with a Rabbinic tradition that he supported or had originated in order to discredit the Christians who were quoting the LXX text in their discussions. This is documented in detail in the book "Rabbi Akiba's Messiah" by Dan Gruber. Dan (a Jewish Christian) has presented this message to Jewish communities across Europe about Akiba's distortion of the Scriptures to promote Akiba's own form of Rabbinic control over the Jewish people and keep them from accepting Christianity.
In view of Akiba's action, it is entirely incorrect to say that: "The LXX was unmistakably the labor of men not possessing that almost superstitious veneration for the letter of Scripture which characterized the Hebrews of Palestine. A Palestinian Jew would never have dared to add, take from, or alter a single letter of the "Original" text." as a commentator put it in one of the URL's that you gave. He seemed not to understand the fact that the translators of the LXX were doing it for the Jews spread around the Mediterranean whose first language was Greek as that was the prevailing language of the day. These translators were wanting to give a faithful copy of the existing Paleo-Hebrew text to the synagogues so that a rough and ready verbal translation into Greek did not have to be given when the paleo-Hebrew Scriptures were read. Their heart was good, and their purpose noble. The above statement is completely at odds with these facts. Second he seemed not to understand the sinister motives of Akiba in originating the Masoretic Text, where it is admitted he made serious changes to accomodate his own views with the purpose of having those views perpetuated by future generations. In other words, the above statement had the entire story back to front. All this is outlined in the article on our website on the LXX and the questions and answers that go with it.
There is also a fourth reason, since there are many who unfortunately do not accept sound scholarship and the historical facts surrounding the LXX. There are some who take this negative approach to the LXX because it calls into question the validity of the KJV Old Testament. In my period of time in the USA it has become apparent that the KJV is held by some to be almost a divinely inspired translation. This attitude is not evident among the peoples of Europe with their various versions into the Dutch or French or German or whatever other language is used. It is recognised that they are simply translations, and not documents without error. In contrast, there are those in the USA who argue their position from the KJV English text instead of going back to the original Greek or paleo-Hebrew which alone are inspired. As a consequence, they make some serious errors of judgement on important issues, and invite others to make similar errors. It is important to these believers to maintain the absolute correctness of the KJV, and so the LXX of necessity must be side-lined. There are even tenured Professors in Bible colleges who take this position, which makes it difficult for their students to come to an independent assessment of what is actually true.
One final point also needs to be made. Today it has become fashionable to call any translation into Greek from the Hebrew an LXX text. That is very poor discernment. There were a number of such Greek texts, including Origen's hexapla. These are not the same as the original Alexandrian LXX, whose history is given on our website. These versions should not be called LXX as it is a misleading use of the word, and the documents on which they were based was not the original paleo-Hebrew text. The alternative is to state that the version of the LXX we follow is the Alexandrian LXX which was translated from the original paleo-Hebrew into Greek about 280 BC.
I trust that this makes the matter plain. Any argument which does not take account of these historical facts must therefore be labelled as spurious.
Questions on the Septuagint Accuracy
Furthermore, it can be seen to be fallacious when checked with the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) which originated prior to 70 AD. The scrolls from this period actually contain this verse in its entirety just as it appears in the LXX. Therefore it was not a matter of the Apostles interpreting or adding to the meaning as prophets of God. It was already in their Tenach and in this case specifically in the Torah prior to 70 AD. When the Temple Scroll was destroyed in 70 AD, and Rabbi Akiba took the opportunity to produce a new one around 100 AD, he made the alterations which gave rise to the current MT. This fact is anathema to many Jews, but I urge them to read “Rabbi Akiba’s Messiah” by Daniel Gruber to get a feel for Akiba’s attitude to the Scriptures and what his plan was.
How is this discrepancy resolved? By a simple examination of Genesis 46:20. There the MT lists two sons of Joseph. Thus 66 persons plus Jacob plus Joseph plus Joseph’s two sons make 70. In contrast, the LXX lists the same two sons, plus 4 grandsons and one great grandson which give the extra 5 persons making a full total of 75. This is all very straightforward. The MT only included the two sons of Joseph, making 70, whereas the LXX included an additional 5 grandchildren, making 75. There is nothing very complicated about that. This is typical of the approach that Akiba and his collaborators pursued.
You ask which is correct and which one do I hold to? They are both correct, but they are counting in a different way. But what do the most ancient manuscripts say is correct? We know that the LXX says 75. We know that Stephen said 75 and he was quoting from the LXX. What about the Dead Sea scrolls? The DSS does not have that section of Genesis retained in its entirety so we cannot get information from there. However we do have a parallel statement in Exodus 1:5 in both the LXX and the DSS. In that verse, both the LXX and the DSS written prior to 70 AD state the number as 75. Therefore, it was well-accepted at the time that Stephen spoke that 75 of Jacob’s descendants were in Egypt initially. Akiba and his scribes obviously decided that 70 was a better number as it reflected the 70 elders of Israel who appeared before God on Mount Sinai in Exodus 24:1 and the 70 members of the Sanhedrin under the control of the High Priest.
Setterfield: In response to your additional questions, let me take them in reverse order. You say it does not seem right that Joseph's grandsons (and great grandson) be listed in the context of the beginning of the sojourn in the LXX. My answer is simple: If you have a look at the lists of children in the earlier part of Genesis 46 in the LXX, you will notice that not only children, but also grandchildren and great grandchildren are listed for other brothers of Joseph, such as in 46:17 and 21. In the eyes of Mid-easterners, since Joseph held such a high position, it would be considered demeaning to him and his position if he did not have grandchildren and great grandchildren listed against his name when his other brothers had this courtesy. Therefore it was an important acknowledgement of his superior position to include these "children".
As far as your first question is concerned, look at Gen.46:7, 15, 17, etc. There we find some daughters (but not all) mentioned as well as the listed sons. We have Joseph's 2 sons, his 4 grandsons, and his great grandson mentioned giving a total of 7 coming from him in his life-time. But as you point out, in Gen. 46:27 it says that 9 souls were born to Joseph. In view of the fact that some important daughters are mentioned in the case of the other sons of Israel, it would be discourteous not to hint that Joseph had two daughters in addition to his two direct two sons. This hint then gives the number of 9 which the LXX preserves for us.
Therefore, in this way, it seems that the LXX is a far more complete account than the MT (Masoretic Text), which has obviously omitted some details.
Is the Masoretic Text Actually a Corruption?
Setterfield: Many thanks for your letter; it is appreciated. Please forgive my delay in replying; I have been extremely busy. So, rather than giving you a hasty reply, I wanted time to sit down and go over your letter in detail. This I have now done and can see the problem that you raise; a slightly complex one. Nevertheless, I do thank you for bringing it to my attention. Let’s work through this.
Let me first start with your comment reproduced here:
My response is to ask why we should use a text which has been partially corrupted to find the truth? Let me come down on some historical facts. First, it is generally acknowledged that many New Testament quotes do not correspond with the Masoretic passage being quoted from the Old Testament. Rather, these quotes from the Apostles tend to follow the Alexandrian LXX. The Apostles had the mind of Christ on this matter. In addition, the quotes and chronologies from the Church Fathers also are in agreement with the Alexandrian LXX. These Church Fathers had been in touch with the Apostles and therefore had some guidance on this matter. We must not neglect this testimony to the truth. These quotes and chronologies from the Church Fathers were being written around the time that the Masoretic was being formulated by Akiba and coming into acceptance by the Jewish community but they persisted with the LXX. Therefore, since the Apostles and Church Fathers used the LXX version despite other options, it strongly suggests that this is closer to the original than a text that originated about 100 AD or soon after.
It is also of importance to note that the early chapters and chronology of Josephus also used a version of the Old Testament which corresponded with the LXX. It is only in his later work that he uses the newly produced Masoretic text from Akiba. This in itself indicates that a change had occurred in the text used by the Jewish community about 100 AD, and that the earlier text is to be preferred.
There is actually a reason that necessitated the production of a new standard text which task Akiba undertook. The Temple and everything in it had been destroyed in 70 AD. This destruction included the standard copies of the Tenach which had been kept in the Temple for reference. Now that this standard had been lost, it had to be replaced. Akiba and the Council of Jamnia had the specific task of doing that. However, because of Akiba’s twin desires, namely to bring all Israel under Rabbinic control and to remove the possibility of Christianity gaining any more ground from Judaism, certain passages of the Scripture had to be altered or omitted. These were his two driving aims. That is why he and the Council supported Bar Kochba as Messiah. There is much more detail in Dan Gruber’s well-researched book Rabbi Akiba’s Messiah. Dan is a Messianic Jew who has looked at the historical tragedy for the Jewish people that Akiba and his actions represent. This is basically the same outlook as that presented by Professor S.H. Horn in his article on the Biblical Text in Antiquity published in Ministry for November 1987. Professor Horn’s views were not unique as many archaeologists studying the events and writings of that era had come to similar conclusions.
So my answer to the first segment from your letter is to take a clue from the historical use of the LXX by the Apostles and Church Fathers. The accumulated evidence from them gives us an indication that the ancient LXX has precedence in reliability compared with the later Masoretic text.
Then comes the body of your comments with several sub-sections. A lot of the problems that you raise hold the potential to be resolved fairly simply if several facts are taken into account. Let’s look at it this way: the LXX was translated from the original paleo-Hebrew text. The copy of the Tenach in the Temple prior to 70 AD was also taken from this original paleo-Hebrew.
It is at this point that a little further history is needed. After the Maccabean revolt in 165 BC, and the waning of the powers of the Seleucid Empire soon after, the Hasmonean Dynasty came to power in Judea. In 141 BC Simon Maccabaeus was elected and then proclaimed as the first High Priest of that Dynasty. By 110 BC the Hasmonean Dynasty became independent of the Seleucid Empire. It was at this stage that the order of the Sadducees arose and Temple rites were established. The Hasmonean dynasty lasted until wiped out by Herod who came to power in 37 BC. At the time the Sadducees came to power, the use of Paleo-Hebrew was still common. Indeed, the Sadducees preserved the texts of the Pentateuch and Job in their Paleo-Hebrew form as they considered these books to be the basis of the canon. However, at this time, the form of square (so-called ‘modern’) Hebrew writing was becoming widespread. Consequently, the Dead Sea Scrolls of that period contain both paleo-Hebrew and square ‘modern’ Hebrew. By the time of Herod and the birth of Christ, the ‘modern’ form of Hebrew was in general use, and the standard scrolls used in the Temple and synagogues had to reflect this usage in order to be read aloud as the custom was. Therefore, by the time of the birth of Christ, the DSS material was usually in the form of ‘modern’ Hebrew.
It is important to note that this ‘modern’ Hebrew was written without the vowel points. This is again evidenced by the DSS material of this period. For example many Psalms written in this way (see Abegg, Flint and Ulrich referenced shortly). Thus the Temple copy of the Tenach in existence prior to 70 AD was a translation from paleo-Hebrew into’modern’ Hebrew without the vowel points, while the LXX was a translation of the paleo-Hebrew into Greek. Both processes were effectively a translation. As Sir Frederic Kenyon in “Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts” p.49 stated, the process whereby the paleo-Hebrew was translated into ‘modern’ Hebrew without the vowel points could easily be “one considerable source of error and corruption.” This fact places the Temple copy on the same translation level as the LXX. The Dead Sea Scrolls could therefore use one of three sources as their original. There was the LXX Greek or the Temple Hebrew or, in some cases, the original Paleo-Hebrew which was available with some extant portions of the Pentateuch and Job. All three were based on the original Paleo-Hebrew, so it might be expected that there would be relatively minor variations between them, apart from the problem of the vowel points. It is from one or other of these three sources that the Isaiah scrolls from the Dead Sea were written during the period from 125 BC to 60 AD, some being written in the square characters of ‘modern’ Hebrew.
As far as the book of Isaiah itself is concerned, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, by Abegg, Flint and Ulrich lists 1480 variations between the 21various texts of Isaiah available from the relevant caves occupied prior to 70 AD (pp. 271-381, T & T Clark, Edinburgh 1999). Many of these variations are within what is considered to be the “masoretic text” because they are written in square characters. They point out that “these scrolls contain hundreds of highly instructive variants from the traditional form of the Hebrew text.” (p.267). However, despite these 1480 variations there are only about 440 variations between these texts and the LXX. In other words, the variations within the Hebrew texts themselves account for about two-thirds of the variations in Isaiah, while the variations from LXX make up about one-third. Of that one-third, a significant proportion differs only because a singular is used instead of a plural, or vice versa. Thus the indications are that the DSS versions of Isaiah are frequently found to follow the LXX more closely than they do the Masoretic Hebrew of today. However, there are places where a significant difference does occur. Thus in one Hebrew version of Isaiah 40:3 the document reads “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” In contrast the LXX as quoted in the New Testament reads “The voice of one proclaiming in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths’.” Part of this discrepancy may be due to the vowel pointing problem; the other part will be due to the track that the various translators and copyists took in getting their particular document into “modern” Hebrew in the first place. In contrast, the LXX translators had only one obstacle to surmount in going direct from paleo-Hebrew straight to Greek.
In summary of the Isaiah situation, it can be said that some 1480 variations are found between the 21 texts. Only about one-third of these variants (roughly 440) involve differences from the LXX and these differences are often due to a singular and plural being interchanged. The conclusion is that in about two-thirds of the cases of variation, the DSS Isaiah texts agree with the LXX. Therefore, I have difficulty in accepting that the Masoretic Isaiah of 900 AD is more accurate than the LXX.
I conclude, then, that the original paleo-Hebrew was the (‘vorlage’) version that both the LXX Greek and the Hebrew text in square characters in the Temple was translated from. We might add the Samaritan Pentateuch to that as well. The Dead Sea Scrolls hidden before 70 AD therefore had these 4 text types to copy from. Because the copies available from these 4 texts may have had scribal errors, such as mixing singulars for plurals and vice versa, the DSS documents will retain those errors and add others of their own. In addition, since the latest that the Isaiah scrolls originated was 60 AD, rabbinic tradition would not have become strong enough to enforce a particular reading of the missing vowel points, so variant texts arose from that source as well. Therefore, with these considerations, it seems that the best translation we have of any book from the original paleo-Hebrew Bible is the LXX.
Response to Additional Challenges
[Note: the letter was too long to put in here, but Barry's responses are geared to each point the author raised.]
Setterfield: I’ll try to respond point by point.
First of all, a word about the Alexandrian Septuagint. It was not translated by Greeks, it was translated by Hebrew scholars in Alexandria, Egypt. The later “Septuagints” are not the same at all, and I think this is what you might be mixing up. The later translations into Greek are also called Septuagints and were not translated by the Hebrews themselves and not before Christ. The later Septuagints were translated as a result of something Origen did. In the second century, he wrote what was called his “Hexapla”. In that Hexapla he took a number of texts and tried to bring them into conformity with the Masoretic text. It is said that he introduced changes with utmost freedom in this process. In “Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts” (Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 4th edition 1939), p. 58:
“Origen’s efforts were not directed towards the recovery of the original form of the Septuagint LXX, but at bringing it into harmony with the Masoretic Hebrew Text then current, and t do this he introduced alterations into it with the utmost freedom.”
So we need to make it quite clear that what we are referring to when we talk about the Alexandrian Septuagint is ONLY the translation done by Hebrew scholars in Egypt about 300 or so BC. The purpose of this translation was because many Jews were Greek speaking and did not understand Hebrew then. Israel was then part of the Grecian Empire. The LXX of that time enabled Jews to read their own Scriptures in a language they understood.
Now, you asked where the Old Testament we have differs from the chronologies in the Alexandrian LXX. Here are a few
Genesis 5:3 – our versions – “When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son….”
Genesis 5:6 – our versions – “When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh.”
Genesis 5:9 – our versions – “When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan.”
Genesis 5:12 – our versions – “When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel.”
Yes, the NIV is the same as the KJV and other modern texts here, continuing the dropped 100.
You asked which prophetic statements were changed or dropped in the Masoretic. Here are the two you asked for. There are others:
In Hebrews 1:6, we find, in our New Testaments, “And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’”
If you look at a quote Matthew uses to confirm the Person of Christ in Matthew 13:35, you will find that these secrets, or dark sayings, are said to be from the foundation or creation of the world (depending on your translation). However, if you go into your old Testament to the referenced verse in Psalm 78:2, you will only find “things from of old” or similar. Now, if we look at the Alexandrian LXX, we find “I will open my mouth in parables: I will utter dark sayings which have been from the beginning.”
It’s not a mammoth change, but it is a significant one.
Note that Romans 2:24, we read in the NIV “As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’” In the New King James it reads ‘“For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.’
Now, when we go to the Alexandrian LXX, here is Isaiah 52:5: “’ And now, why are you here?’ thus saith the Lord, ‘because my people was taken for nothing, wonder ye and howl.’ Thus saith the Lord, ‘On account of you my name is continually blasphemed among the Gentiles.’”
You asked about the virgin reference in Isaiah 7. In the Alexandrian LXX, we read:
So there is no problem with that in the Alexandrian.
In response to your next question, yes, the NIV translators did have access to materials not available to the King James translators. The KJ translators went directly back to the Received Text, dating 1488, by way of the Bishops Bible of 1602. The NIV translators were able to have access to the Vulgate, the Syriac Peshitta, the Targums, and, for the Psalms the Juxta Hebraica of Jerome. They also cross-checked with other texts, including the Dead Sea Scrolls. That does not say they were more accurate, but it does answer your question about them having access to materials which dated much earlier than those available to the King James translators.
Yes, I am aware of the doings of the Roman Catholic church where not just Bible translators were concerned, but Bible believers as well. It is a deep problem that the majority of the world considers the history of the Roman Catholic church to actually be the history of Christianity. It most definitely is not.
Where does science clarify a little? Well, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” We all have the pictures in our Bible story books of a nice round little earth. But that is NOT what the Hebrew is saying and science itself is showing that the real meanings of those words for ‘heavens’ and ‘earth’ are the correct ones. The word for ‘heavens’ is ‘shamayim’, from an unused root meaning ‘to be lofty, lifted up.’ The word for ‘earth’ is eretz (spelled differently by different folk), which means ‘that which is firm.’ And this firm stuff was without form and void. There is some very strong scientific evidence that the actual formation of the universe took place via plasma filaments, which ends up fitting with exactly the order Genesis 1 presents, but does not fit with a nice tidy little round world at the beginning of day one! So this is one case in which our conceptions of what a Bible verse seems to mean may well be being corrected by science. And in this case, the science fits exactly with a six literal day creation model, the earth being formed before the sun, and some of the other details given in Genesis 1.
You asked where the NIV is doctrinally correct where the KJV is wrong. The most famous is in one of the commandments: Is it “Thou shalt not kill,” as the KJV translates it, or “You shall not commit murder,” as the NIV translates it. Since all translations not only give the order for capital punishment for murder in Genesis 9 and yet command a great deal of killing later on as Israel takes the Promised Land, the difference between the two translations becomes critical regarding whether the Bible contradicts itself or not.
Questions about Criticisms about the Septuagint
Setterfield: Thank you also for your question. It is one which is often raised because of a mix-up regarding the term “Septuagint.” The most ancient is the original Alexandrian Septuagint, translated by Hebrew scholars from ancient Hebrew into classical Greek about 280 years before Christ. However the term ‘septuagint’ later became used for other translations from Hebrew to Greek. It is the later versions which yield the errors you are referring to. We have here the Brenton’s Septuagint, which contains both the errant chronology as well as the actual Alexandrian version in footnotes when it differs from the common version. We show the compared chronologies (ancient Alexandrian and our common Masoretic, which we find in our Old Testaments now) in our Genesis 1-11 Bible study.
In the original, ancient version, Methuselah dies six years before the Flood. This means the comments by the website you linked to are not referring to the original Septuagint, but rather to the later ones.
It is important to remember that the Scriptures were considered holy and sacred by the Hebrew/Jewish people and the thought of making any changes in them at all was considered blasphemous. Any and all copies of the original, if they were found to contain even one error, were burned. The Hebrew scholars and rabbis who translated the original Septuagint were operating under that historical and cultural dictum.
As an additional matter, the early church Fathers had a chronology in accord with the Alexandrian LXX as seen by their writings in which they stated that the creation was about 5500 years old about the close of the first century.
Some final comments:
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