Re: Septuagint: better than the oldest Hebrew manuscripts?

Paul Zellmer (
Thu, 05 Dec 1996 23:42:38 -0800

Jonathan Robie wrote:
> I just read this on an Orthodox bulletin board. They apparantly see the
> Septuagint as more authoritative than the Hebrew scriptures, and take
> exception to our translations because the translate the Hebrew rather than
> the Greek. One person stated the following:
> "it's interesting to note that the Septuagent (LXX) is generally considered
> to be a better translation of the original Hebrew than the oldest Hebrew
> manuscripts we have. This is due to textual variations, since we are very
> distanced from the original autographs of the Hebrew. Also because of the
> nature of the Greek language, you can get a better translation of Hebew in
> Greek than you can in English (or any other modern language for that matter)"


Just a quick observation based on the fact that the LXX is a

A week or so ago, Carl reminded us that we cannot assume a one-to-one
correspondence between the Greek and English. This is also true between
the Hebrew and Greek, or any source and target languages in
translation. There is ALWAYS some distortion going from one language to
another. Even if the LXX is based on an earlier manuscript of the HB,
even if the current text of the HB has been corrupted (something which
is NOT established, BTW), the fact that the LXX is a translation in a
language which is not even related to the original Hebrew would make it
suspect as an authoritative source.

As far as the preciseness of Greek, you deal with programming. This
implies somewhat of a familiarity with mathematics. If you have a
calculator which is accurate to nine places, but the information which
you input is only accurate to two, will the answer be accurate to two or
nine? If, and I repeat the word, _if_ Greek actually is more accurate
than Hebrew, does it necessarily follow that a _Greek translation_ based
on _Hebrew_ is more accurate than the Hebrew original?

My guess is that the argument you were reading is based on a belief that
the LXX translators were as inspired as the original authors of the
Hebrew text. There may be a tradition about this, but I see no
scriptural basis for this to be the case.

Sorry, Jonathan, I still see no shortcut to an accurate understanding of
the HB without a knowledge of the Hebrew language.

Paul Zellmer
Southern Methodist Missions