THE SEP TWO A WHAT?
Where the Apostles quoted Old Testament scriptures, their quotations in our Protestant New Testaments do not match the text of our Protestant Old Testaments because we Protestants have rejected the text from which the Apostles quoted. Their text was the Jewish translation of the Old Testament in Greek called the "Septuagint." Entire books have been written which properly introduce the Jewish Septuagint. While this article cannot provide so thorough an introduction, it hopefully provides a good starting point from which interested readers will further investigate the Septuagint. Hereafter, the Septuagint will be referenced by the Roman numerals "LXX":
- The LXX is a translation of scripture dating in whole or in part1 to the third century BC.
- The LXX is named "Septuagint" from the Latin word for "seventy" because it was translated by at least seventy Jewish rabbis. By such an origin, the LXX is both scholarly and authoritatively Jewish.
- The agreement of 70 or more rabbis was described as miraculous by early Jews including the philosopher Philo and the historian Josephus.
- Early Christians considered the LXX to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. Such statements survive from Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Augustine and others.
- The Apostles' Old Testament quotations in the New Testament
reflect the LXX rather than the "Masoretic" manuscript line which
Protestant translations use.2 The famous difference is where Matthew quoted, "the virgin will be
child." The Masoretic which underlies Protestant Old
Testaments actually reads, "the maiden will be with child."
- The Masoretic manuscript line which underlies our Protestant Old Testaments, did not begin to be compiled until AD 700, making it approximately 1,000 years newer than the Jewish LXX.
- The Masoretic text was created by Jewish scholars who rejected the claims of Jesus. In contrast, the Jewish LXX was compiled and translated by Jews prior to Jesus' birth.
- The Masoretic text which underlies our Protestant Old Testaments
is missing seven complete books of the Jewish LXX and large sections of
both Esther and Daniel.
No less an authority than Augustine of Hippo called Jerome to task for his audacity. Augustine asked how Jerome with only a few years of Hebrew study could correct the collective authority of the seventy Jewish rabbis who translated the LXX. If something in the Hebrew were so difficult that seventy rabbis could not understand it, how could Jerome exceed their wisdom? If in contrast, something in Hebrew were obvious enough for Jerome to know it needed a different translation, how could seventy rabbis have failed to do so?4 Last, how could Jerome submit his work to be judged and corrected by fellow Spirit-filled Christians since no one else in Christendom knew Hebrew?5
While Jerome was unable in his day to change the unanimous Christian view of the LXX, he created a spark of criticism against the LXX which would catch fire more than a thousand years later. In the early centuries of our faith, Latin translations of scripture abounded but differed quite often from one another. To solve the differences, the patriarch of Rome commissioned Jerome in AD 382 to compile an authoritative Latin translation of the gospels. Jerome eventually translated the entire New Testament, and his version came to be known as the Latin Vulgate.
While working on his Vulgate, Jerome wrote private letters in which he rejected the inspiration of every book and every portion of a book for which he could not find a Hebrew manuscript. He not only rejected their inspiration, but also gave them the insulting title of "apocrypha," the title which Apostolic bishops in earlier centuries had used to reject the heretical writings of the gnostics. Excerpts of Jerome's private letters were posthumously included in the Latin Vulgate in introductions to books of the Bible, preserving his skepticism for later generations.
Despite Jerome's doubts and despite his insults, all of the LXX books were included in Rome's Latin Vulgate in the same order as in LXX. The portions of scripture which Jerome doubted, Rome kept intermingled throughout the Old Testament without distinction. More than a thousand years later, Martin Luther doubled down on Jerome's skepticism. Luther veered from 1,500 years of worldwide Christian practice by moving the books that Jerome had questioned into a new section of his Lutheran Bible.
Martin Luther innovated by creating an "intertestamental" section of the Bible for his fellow Protestors as if the books Jerome doubted had been written after all other Old Testament books and were not holy Scripture. He also claimed that the new Testament Epistle of James and the Book of Revelation were not scripture. He moved these (along with Hebrews and Jude) to the end of his Lutheran New Testament as the inferior, disputed section of his New Testament. Rather than a two part Bible of Old and New, Luther's Bible had four parts, calling into question several books of both the Old and New Testaments. Thankfully, Luther's rejection of parts of the New Testament gained no traction among Protestants. Tragically, his rejection of seven books of the Old Testament became the Protestant norm.
TESTIMONY OF THE BODY
The apostles said those who believe Jesus is the Christ are the "body" of the King (Christ). When one part of the worldwide body disagrees with the rest, we should be very concerned. The Protestant arm of the body of King Jesus is the only part of His body which rejects seven books of the Jewish LXX in contrast with Roman Catholic Old Testament, Eastern Orthodox Old Testament, Oriental Orthodox Old Testament, and Assyrian Church of the East's Old Testament.6 Protestants are the new kids on the Christian block at barely five hundred years of age, yet we obstinately reject the authority of our 2,000 year old parents.
As for me, I bought an Eastern Orthodox Bible. Its New Testament quotations better match7 their Old Testament counterparts, and I have in my Bible all of the books agreed upon8 by rest of Christianity. Imagine my joy to learn that every Christian in the world outside of my Protestant clique had affirmed additional books of holy Scripture since the earliest centuries of Christianity! Let the reader investigate whether this audacious claim is true.
UPDATE: I've posted more about the Septuagint. Click here
for the second article.
1. When discussing the creation of the LXX, at least one Jewish source referenced only the Pentateuch, therefore modern critics assume only the Pentateuch was created by the seventy rabbis. While some Christians believe the seventy rabbis translated the entire LXX, we have no proof for either side of the argument. The evidence however of universal-church-adoption weighs formidably in favor of a BC completion. If the LXX were completed AD, one would expect the enemies of Christianity to attack the age of Christian scripture. Among the many surviving attacks on Christianity we find no such accusation, nor is there a defense by early Christian writers of the age of their scriptures. Most importantly, the LXX canon (in distinction to the Masoretic) was employed in Rome, Byzantium, Africa, and Persia by all four theological sectors of Christianity. If the early church cannot be trusted to corporately identify holy scripture, her claim to have the Holy Spirit hangs by a thread. I submit that in order to believe the early church was the "body of Christ," we must believe her ability to identify scripture was Spirit-led. She canonized the books of the LXX with very little disagreement between the Latin Vulgate, the Syriac Peshitta, the Greek Byzantine canons, and the Coptic Egyptian canons. See also note five below.
2. In searching for counter-arguments against the LXX, I have only found one New Testament quotation which matches the Masoretic in favor of the LXX. That sole verse is Romans 11:35. For this exception, two explanations are available. First, Paul may have correctly quoted the original LXX, in which case our modern LXX manuscripts are simply incorrect in the source chapter of the book of Job. Alternatively, Paul may have been inspired by the Holy Spirit to bring out another meaning from Job, a meaning which was reflected in the Masoretic. There are a few other places where the New Testament differs from the LXX, but none of the others match the Masoretic. In such remaining instances, either our manuscipts of the LXX are incorrect or the Apostles were inspired to "bring out of his treasure new things" as Jesus described in Matthew 13:52 so that their quotations are not word-for-word, but rewordings of scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit for our benefit.
3. Law, Timothy Michael, "When God Spoke Greek," 2013 (New York: Oxford University Press) p 164.
4. ibid, p 163.
6. Many in the Assyriac Church of the East use the Aramaic (Syriac) "Peshitta" which may have been translated from the Hebrew as early as 200BC. The similarity of the Peshitta to the LXX and the obscurity of its origin leads many to claim it was translated from the LXX. Whether the Peshitta was the original language, a translation from Hebrew, or a translation from the LXX: it still affirms the LXX by its similarity and antiquity.
7. Where the Byzantine New Testament differs from the LXX, I believe the writer was inspired to "bring out of his treasure new things" as Jesus described in Matthew 13:52 so that Apostolic quotations are not always intended to be word-for-word, but rather re-wordings of scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit for our benefit.
8. The books universally accepted by Christians outside of Protestantism are Maccabees (I&II), Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Baruch, and the Letter of Jeremiah along with portions of Daniel and Esther. Some Christians also recognize 3rd and 4th Maccabees as well as a 3rd and 4th Esdras. Two of the books titled Esdras are called Ezra and Nehemiah among Protestants. These last four books (two each of Maccabees and Esdras) do not enjoy unanimous affirmation.
"The Sep Two a What?" by Matthew Bryan was first published at www.matthewbryan.net on July 16th, 2014. All rights are reserved.