Mysteries of the Kingdom

            in awe of scripture, viewing it through the lens of the kingship of Jesus



5th century Septuagint manuscript with purple tinting. Because purple.

Differences Between the Masoretic and the Septuagint Old Testaments

   This article marks my third article on the Jewish Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. I'm sharing the shocking news that the Old Testament version which we Protestants use is based on a comparatively new version of the Old Testament and that the newer version of the Old Testament is rejected by all four apostolic branches of Christianity. Few Protestants realize there are four apostolic branches of Christianity, much less that the four apostolic branches have always used an older version of the Old Testament than we Protestants use.1
    The plan today is to share specific verses that are very different between the Protestant Old Testament and the older Septuagint. Before sharing those specific verses, let me recap information from my first two articles to catch readers up:
  • The Jewish Septuagint translation of the Old Testament predates the Masoretic which we Protestants use by approximately 1,000 years.

  • The Masoretic text was compiled by Jews several hundred years AD, therefore by Jews who had rejected Jesus. In contrast, the Septuagint was compiled by Jews prior to the arrival of Jesus, therefore bearing no bias against the prophecies concerning Him.

  • The four branches of Christianity which trace their leaders all the way back to the original apostles of Jesus are: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and the Assyrian Church of the East.

  • At the council of Trent, the Roman church did not innovate by affirming the Septuagint canon. They simply affirmed the same canon they had always used. Likewise the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Assyrian Christians had recognized the Septuagint canon as scripture ever since the early centuries of Christianity, including seven books which Protestants reject.2

  • The Apostles quoted the Septuagint text when writing our Christian scriptures.

  • Early Christians repeatedly affirmed that the Septuagint translation was inspired by the Holy Spirit and superior to even the original Hebrew writings themselves.3  
    While most attention is given to the books of the Septuagint which are missing in our Protestant Bibles, individual verses in the Septuagint are often remarkably different. Some of these verses are key verses of prophecy about Jesus. Oddly our Protestant Bibles actually reflect the Septuagint instead of the Masoretic in some places like Isaiah 7:14, but perhaps consistency calls us to choose one version as the reliable standard.
    I have sincerely searched for anyone who can offer a New Testament quote which favors the Masoretic text. Looking high and low, I have not found one instance in which the New Testament reflects a Masoretic Old Testament reading which differs from the older Septuagint. While many examples could be offered, I offer here ten New Testament quotes in which the Jewish Septuagint most directly contradicts the new Masoretic version:

  1. Matthew in 1:23 of his gospel quoted the pivotal prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 that the "virgin" will conceive a child, referring to Jesus. As the Masorete scholars had it, a "maiden" will conceive, avoiding the obvious Hebrew word for "virgin."

  2. In Luke 4:18, Jesus quotes the crucial gospel passage of Isaiah 61:1, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me to preach the gospel to the poor ..." As Jesus quotes it and as the Jewish Septuagint reads, this passage includes "recovering of sight to the blind," a phrase the Masoretes did not include in their text. Then as Jesus quotes it and as the Jewish Septuagint reads, the verse ends with, "let the oppressed go free." The Masoretic ends instead with, "release to the prisoners."

  3. In Acts 7:14, Luke quotes the Jewish Septuagint saying Jacob had 75 descendents. The Masorete compilers gave him 70 descendents in their version.

  4. In Acts 15:16-18, James the brother of Jesus quotes Amos 9:11-12 from the Jewish Septuagint, stating that other nations than Israel may seek the Lord. The Masoretes rendered Amos 9:11-12 as saying the house of David (Israel) will possess the nations, entirely robbing the text of the meaning which James quoted.

  5. In Romans 9:33, Paul quotes Isaiah 28:16 of the Jewish Septuagint. In this crucial passage, holy scripture calls Jesus the foundation stone which God lays in Zion, then, "whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame." In contrast, the Masoretes rendered the stone not as a person in Whom one should trust. Instead, their version makes the stone a promise from God followed with, "one who trusts will not panic."

  6. In the great gospel passage of Romans ten, Paul in 10:15 quotes Isaiah 52:7 of the Jewish Septuagint in which a messenger announces "the gospel" or "good news," literally "evangelion." The Masoretic does not announce good news or gospel, but peace. While peace is certainly good news, Paul has distinctly quoted the Jewish Septuagint in contrast with the text which the Masoretes developed centuries after his death.

  7. Five verses later in Romans 10:20, Paul returns to the Jewish Septuagint of Isaiah 65:1-2. As Paul quotes the Septuagint, God is found by people who did not look for Him. Those people in Paul's version are Gentiles. The Masoretic of Isaiah 65:1-2 only indicates God is ready for Israel to find Him. Masorete scholars gave no place to Gentiles in their new version of Isaiah 65:1-2.

  8. In the very next verse, Paul quotes the Jewish Septuagint of Isaiah 11:10 including, "the One who rises to rule." Again, these words do not exist in the Old Testament offered later on by Masoretic Jews.

  9. The first epistle of Peter stands out by containing more Old Testament references per verse than any other New Testament writing. Peter's emphasis in the letter is Psalm 33. Not one of his references reflect the Masoretic version.

  10. In Revelation 2:26-27, Jesus quotes Psalm two, the great Psalm of the Christos or Christ King. Jesus in verse 26 promises to extend His own power over the nations to the believer who endures to the end, then in verse 27 as He quotes Psalm 2:9 and the early Jewish Septuagint reads, He will "rule" the nations. The Masoretes rendered Psalm 2:9 as, "break" the nations. Again in the visions of Revelation 12:5 and 19:15 John quotes the Jewish Septuagint of Psalm 2:9, prophecying Jesus will "rule," not "break" them with His rod of iron.
    I fear this article may be quite a jolt for some readers, but rest assured that even the Masoretic version of the Old Testament will not alter a Christian's theology. The manuscripts of the Masoretes are quite simply inferior (as best I can tell) to the earlier Old Testament upon which all Christians except for Protestants base their canon. It seems we Protestants are not perfect. While I won't try to explain here why Protestantism prefers the work of the Masorete Jews who had rejected Jesus, I can say that it is based on our having been born in a Protest. Some things which the Protesters protested should not have been protested in this writers opinion, including the fifteen hundred year old Christian practice of using the Jewish Septuagint canon of the Old Testament scriptures.
    I will close my series of Septuagint blogs next time by visiting the fascinating "Isaiahine Comma," not to be confused with the Johanine Comma. As referenced prior,
I recommend to interested readers The Orthodox Study Bible, because its Old Testament is based on the more reliable Jewish Septuagint employed by the apostles and trusted by all of Christianity for our first fifteen hundred years.
                                                    

UPDATE: The 4th and final article on the Jewish Septuagint may be found by clicking here.


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"Differences between the Masoretic and Septuagint Old Testaments" by Matthew Bryan was first published at www.matthewbryan.net on December 5th, 2014. All rights are reserved.
1. While the Septuagint canon underlies the canon of all 4 elder branches of Christianity, the Septuagint text does not. The Eastern Orthodox rely on both the Septuagint canon and the Septuagint text. The Assyrian Church of the East relies on the Peshitta which reflects the Septuagint canon, but claims to be based on an earlier text than the Septuagint. Roman Bibles are based on the Septuagint canon with their text developed by Jerome to reflect (at least in part) Hebrew manuscripts which predate the Masoretic. The Oriental Orthodox canon reflects the Septuagint canon with such a wide variety of texts that I have not yet investigated their text sources for translation.
2. Some branches recognize 3rd and 4th Esdras as inspired. Some branches recognize 3rd and 4th Maccabees. All four apostolic branches recognize Judith, Tobit, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Baruch, and 1st and 2nd Maccabees as holy scripture.
3. I provided many quotations in the previous article which can be found by clicking <here>. Perhaps the most authoritative quote is by the great Augustine of Hippo who said, "We are right in believing that the translators of the Septuagint had received the spirit of prophecy; and so if, with its authority, they altered anything and used expressions in their translation different from those of the original, we should not doubt that these expressions also were divinely inspired." (City of God 15.23)