Why we should care about the Greek Old Testament.

The Septuagint (LXX) is a collection of various Old Testament texts translated into Greek from the Hebrew and Aramaic. The texts were translated between 300-100 BC. Of the 300 Old Testament quotes in the New Testament, many of them agree with the Old Greek translation (referred to as the LXX along with revised Greek translations) compared with the modern Hebrew Masoretic text. Paul especially quotes the Septuagint a lot and it was officially adopted as the Old Testament of the Christian Church (due in part to the Gentile nature of the Church, many could not read Hebrew).

As such early Christian Bibles (Codices Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus) included the LXX and some revised Greek versions along with the New Testament. Until Jerome Christians had translated the Old Testament from the Old Greek (LXX) into other languages (this was because most Christians couldn’t read Hebrew). The oldest Latin Bible (the Vetus Latina) was translated from the Old Greek (LXX) not the Hebrew text.

Early Christian writers like Irenaeus and Tertullian believed that God had inspired the translation itself. The switch from Hebrew to Greek they said had brought clarity.

With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the last century we have discovered that the Old Greek (LXX) was translated from different (perhaps older) Hebrew texts (that in places agree with the Dead Sea Scrolls) compared with the modern Hebrew Masoretic Text passed down to us from Judaism.

In order to show some comparisons between the various texts I will use the Modern English Version (MEV) because it has been translated from the Jacob ben Hayyim edition of the Masoretic Text (the one used for the King James Bible). Most other English Old Testaments add in bits from the Old Greek (LXX) and are more eclectic texts getting their text from various sources.

The Apostle Paul when wanting to tell the Romans that Christ was the cornerstone of faith in whom they should believe he quotes…
New Testament Greek OT Hebrew OT
“For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be ashamed.

(Romans 10:11 MEV)

“Therefore thus says the Lord, even the Lord, Behold, I lay for the foundations of Sion a costly stone, a choice, a corner-stone, a precious stone, for its foundations; and he that believes on him shall by no means be ashamed.”

(Isaiah 28:16 LXX2012)

“Therefore, thus says the Lord God: See, I lay in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, firmly placed; he who believes shall not act hastily.

(Isaiah 28:16 MEV)

Jesus when wanting the children to be brought to him says…
New Testament Greek OT Hebrew OT
“Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of children and infants You have perfected praise’?”

(Matthew 21:16 MEV)

“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings have you perfected praise,”

(Psalm 8:2 LXX2012)

“Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength

(Psalm 8:2 MEV)

Jesus and Paul are both quoted as using the Old Greek (LXX) readings rather than the modern Hebrew Masoretic Text. The differences between the Greek and Hebrew Old Testaments become a bit more alarming when you start to look at prophecies about Jesus Christ. Here are some examples…

New Testament quotation… … depends on the Greek Septuagint (LXX) … … to show that God had  prophesied… …but the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT) reads…
“Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifices and offerings You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have had no pleasure.”

(Hebrews 10:5-6 MEV)

“Sacrifice and offering you would not; but a body have you prepared me: whole burnt offering and sacrifice for sin you did not require.”

(Psalm 39:6 LXX2012)

The Incarnation “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; You have opened up my ears to listen. Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.

(Psalm 40:6 MEV)

A virgin shall be with child, and will bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is interpreted, “God with us.”

(Matthew 1:23 MEV)

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name Emmanuel.”

(Isaiah 7:14 LXX2012)

The Virgin Birth “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: a young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name God with us.”

(Isaiah 7:14 MEV incorporating the footnotes)

 “And again, when He brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

(Hebrews 1:6 MEV)

“Rejoice, you heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice you Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people.”

(Deuteronomy 32:43 LXX2012)

The Deity of Christ “Rejoice, O you nations, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants and will render vengeance on His adversaries and will be merciful to His land and people.” (Deuteronomy 32:43 MEV. The Hebrew MT has no mention of angels worshipping the Messiah.)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed;” (Luke 4:18 MEV) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken in heart, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind;

(Isaiah 61:1 LXX2012)

Jesus Healing the Blind “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;”

(Isaiah 61:1 MEV. The Hebrew MT has no mention of the Messiah restoring the sight of the blind)

See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Feel Me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

(Luke 24:39 MEV and many others)

“For many dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked doers has beset me round: they pierced my hands and my feet.”

(Psalm 22:16 LXX2012)

The Messiah’s death by Crucifixion “For dogs have encompassed me;  the assembly of the wicked has enclosed me; like a lion they pin my hands and my feet;”

(Psalm 22:16 MEV)

“…and in His name will the Gentiles trust.”

(Matthew 12:21 MEV)

“…and in his name shall the Gentiles trust.”

(Isaiah 42:4 LXX2012)

Gentiles trusting in the Messiah “…and the coastlands shall wait for his law.”

(Isaiah 42:4 MEV)

It is obvious from the quotes above that Jesus and the Apostles quoted on occasion from the Old Greek (LXX) translation rather than the Hebrew Masoretic Text.

The church father Jerome was perhaps the first Christian to really question the Old Greek (LXX). When he translated the Bible into Latin he chose to translate from the Hebrew manuscripts of the Rabbis rather than the Old Greek (LXX) texts. This brought upon him severe criticism from other Christians like Augustine. Some Christians believed you could not trust the Hebrew manuscripts of the Pharisees as they might have edited them to remove prophesies about Christ. When Jerome’s translation from the Hebrew was read in the churches of North Africa there were riots as it differed from the Old Latin Bible (the Vetus Latina) which had been translated from the Old Greek (LXX).

Thanks to Jerome Western Christians to this day continue to use the Hebrew text rather than the Greek Old Testament.

Useful links:

https://blog.oup.com/2013/07/septuagint-christianity-bible-dead-sea-scrolls/

http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2012/02/17/The-Role-of-the-Septuagint-in-the-Transmission-of-the-Scriptures.aspx#Article

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