Re: The Septuaginta

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Mon Aug 30 1999 - 18:56:27 EDT

<x-flowed>Two articles published recently in Christianity Today address the question
of whether the LXX is based on an older Hebrew manuscript than the MT and
whether Jesus used an Aramaic version of the Old Testament. I have no
understanding of these matters, so the fact that these articles seemed
sensible to me has no relevance to anything ;->

The article discusses
Flint's analysis of the differences between the LXX and the MT, and how
these compare to the Dead Sea Scrolls. He believes that the LXX is based on
a Hebrew Original older than the MT, and closer to the LXX than to the MT.
A few examples cited in this article:

<begin quote>
One example is an ambiguous Hebrew phrase in Psalm 22:16. Translators have
often rendered it "They have pierced my hands and feet," following the
reading of the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures,
the earliest complete manuscripts coming from the late third century A.D.).
The more direct translation from the Hebrew Masoretic Text, however, is
"Like a lion are my hands and feet." But in a technical monograph, just off
the press in July, titled The Dead Sea Psalms Scrolls (Brill), Flint shows
that the "pierced" reading is indeed the preferred option in the Hebrew
Dead Sea Psalms--dispelling charges that the phrase was a later Christian
messianic misrendering. Other interesting "textual variants" include the

--Goliath's height in a Hebrew manuscript of Samuel dated to the mid-third
century B.C. (4QSam-b) is given as six foot, nine inches, not nine foot,
nine inches, as found in the Masoretic Text (4QSam-b designates the text as
being the second--or b--Samuel manuscript found in Cave 4 at Qumran).

--The number of Jacob's descendants who traveled with him to Egypt is 70 in
the Masoretic Text, but 75 in 4QExod-a. This corresponds to the number
Stephen uses in his sermon in Acts 7:14 as well as to the Septuagint, which
Stephen may have been using.

--A new text found in 4QSam-a contains a paragraph at the end of 1 Samuel
10 that explains that "Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had been grievously
oppressing the Gadites and the Reubenites. He would gouge out the right eye
of each of them and would not grant Israel a deliverer." These words,
missing from our Bibles, provide the context for Nahash's threats to gouge
out the right eyes of the Israelites in chapter 11. The New Revised
Standard Version is the first translation to incorporate this new paragraph.
<end quote>

The article argues that
Jesus used various translations of the Old Testament, including Aramaic,
and cites similarities between the quotes of Jesus and the Aramaic targums:

<begin quote>

Further evidence for this can be seen in the fact that when Jesus alludes
to Scriptures in the Gospels, he usually does so in a manner that agrees
with the Aramaic Targum, not the Greek or Hebrew versions. Some examples:
In Mark 9:42 ö50, Jesus warns of judgment by speaking of Gehenna and
alluding to Isaiah 66:24, "where their worm does not die, and the fire is
not quenched." The word Gehenna does not appear in the Hebrew or Greek, but
only in the Aramaic. In Matthew 26:52, Jesus commands his disciple to put
away his sword, "for all those who take the sword, by the sword they will
perish." These words, which arenāt in our Hebrew-based Isaiah, probably
allude to the Aramaic paraphrase of Isaiah 50:11: "all you who take a sword
. . . go fall . . . on the sword which you have taken!" Jesusā well-known
saying "Be merciful as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36) reflects the
Aramaic expansion of Leviticus 22:28: "My people, children of Israel, as
our Father is merciful in heaven, so shall you be merciful on earth." And
Jesusā very proclamation of the gospel, namely, that the kingdom of God has
come (Mark 1:14ö15), probably reflects the Aramaic paraphrasing of passages
such as Isaiah 40:9 and 52:7. In these Aramaic paraphrases we find the
distinctive words "The kingdom of your God is revealed!"

Understanding the usage of Aramaic in Jesusā time explains another often
puzzling passage. In the parable of the wicked vineyard tenants (Mark
12:1ö12), Jesus alludes to Isaiah 5:1ö7. In the Hebrew version of Isaiah
(on which our English translations are based), the people of Judah as a
whole (and not their leaders) are condemned as guilty of bloodshed. But
when Jesus told the parable, the ruling priests understood that Jesus had
told the parable "against them." This is because Jesus applies the passage
in his parable in a way that reflects the Aramaic Targumās interpretation
of it, in which Godās judgment is directed primarily against the temple
establishment. (The tower of Isaiahās parable is understood as the temple,
and the wine vat is understood as the altar.)

<end quote>


Jonathan Robie
R&D Fellow, Software AG

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