Skip to comments.The Septuagint Old Testament Translation verses the Jamnian
Posted on 02/27/2007 2:52:48 PM PST by stfassisi
The Septuagint Old Testament Translation verses the Jamnian (Palestinian) and Massoretic Old Testament translations
Is the Catholic Old Testament Accurate? Why is it different from the Jewish Old Testament and Protestant translations?
The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament formulated by the 72 best Hebrew scholars using the oldest and most perfect scrolls of sacred scripture circa 250BC, was used universally by Jews at the time Jesus preached the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. It was the principal scriptural translation that Jesus and the Apostles used (probably along with its Aramaic translations) in referring to Old Testament passages. When Jesus read from prophecy in the synagogue, it was the Septuagint translation of Isaiah that He read from in Luke 4:16-21, and when He said, search through Scripture in John 5:39, He meant the Greek translation Septuagint!
The events and teachings recorded in the books of the Septuagint, St. Augustine explained, were events and teachings That were observed and celebrated in obedience to the Law. He went on to write that they were by the way of prior announcement of Christ who was to come. The Church naturally adopted the Septuagint as the only inspired Testament to Christs nature and mission as promised by the Old Covenant. To this day, the Septuagint is the sole and official canon of the Churchs Old Testament, and when the Septuagint is compared with other Old Testament translations against the Old Testament manuscripts discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls it is amazing to discover that it is more faithful to the ancient text than any other translations including the Jewish Old Testament translation, the Tanach.
In 66AD the Roman occupied province of Judea rose up against the power of its Roman oppressors. The Roman Empire responded with characteristic ferocity. In 70AD the Roman army conquered Jerusalem and set fire to the Holy Temple, which was utterly destroyed. Of course, Gods people no longer needed a Temple to worship the One True God. We now had immediate access to God through Jesus Christ as our Savior. Before the revolt thousands of Jews had converted to Christianity and during the revolt more than a million Jews had been killed by the Romans, with most of the survivors sold into slavery. The Jewish Rabbis were desperate to save their Old Covenant faith but with the death of almost all the priestly families and the destruction of the Temple [the only place where sacrifice to Yahweh could be offered] they would have to re-invent the Jewish faith. Jochanan ben Zakkai, one of the great surviving Jewish scholars, took other scholars, rabbis and scribes with him to the village of Jamnia where they settled and began to assess the situation. The surviving rabbis were determined to fight Christianity and to preserve the sacred trust, as they understood it.
The surviving Jewish scholars needed to develop a new form of Judaism that would unite all Jews, at least until the Temple could be rebuilt, and to somehow undercut the Christian claims of the divinity of Jesus and His identity as the long awaited Messiah. During this time the rabbis responded to the use by Christians of the prophetic passages in Septuagint to prove Jesus was indeed the Messiah by assembling a completely new Greek version of Jewish scripture. The reinterpretation and reinventing of Judaism at Jamnia at the close of the first century AD was heavily influenced by rabbis who were particularly zealous enemies of Christianity (Acts 5:17-19). By this time the Greek translation known as the Septuagint had become an anathema to them because it was being successfully used by Christians to proselytize Jews. In order to undermine the Christian claim that Jesus was the Messiah they rewrote the prophetic texts that Christians used as proof of the Messiahship and divinity of Christ. One of them for example, a scholar named Aquila, removed the word parthenos = virgin form Isaiah 7:14 and rewrote the passage as neanis = young woman, so that the passage now read a young woman shall conceive instead of the virgin shall conceive. This deception allowed them to assert that the prophecy didnt match what the Christians were teaching about the very nature of Christ. It was easy for them to get away with this rewriting of sacred scripture because the Romans had been so thorough in their destruction of sacred texts that very few survived, and those that did survive were in the hands of the Jamnian scholars.
While the Jamnian Palestinian canon (still written in the Greek language) may have been composed in good faith in an attempt to save Judaism, it was really a fabrication, in the sense of being a set of texts purposefully changed and then presented as if it was the genuine ancient version which was eventually retranslated back into Hebrew by the Massoretic scholars in the early Middle Ages. It is profoundly different from the original text of the Greek Septuagint, which is the Old Testament of the Catholic Church.
As Christianity exploded out of Palestine and into Syria and Asia Minor it was difficult for the Church to produce copies fast enough of the Septuagint translated into the various common spoken languages of new Christians. As a result, errors crept into the manuscripts by the late fourth century. I am not so ignorant as to suppose that any of the Lords words are in need of correction, St. Jerome complained, but the Latin books are proved to be faulty by the discrepancies that they all exhibit among themselves.
To solve this problem, Pope St. Damasus sent St Jerome out into the desert near Bethlehem with the task of making a complete standard Latin translation, corrected from beginning to end and compared carefully against the best surviving Hebrew and Aramaic texts as well as against oldest Greek texts. Jerome was the most learned biblical scholar of his time. He knew more about Hebrew Scriptures than anyone else alive -- even the Jewish scholars, who had begun working on a Hebrew translation of the Old Testament from the Greek (a Hebrew Jewish Bible no longer existed), used to visit Jerome and consult with him when they had questions. St. Jerome is still regarded as an authority among Jewish scholars today because he alone preserved many pre-Jamnian texts that had been destroyed. He completed his work after only 35 years in 426AD. His translation is called the Vulgate because it is written in the vulgar or common language, the non-classical Latin that the common people spoke. For more than a thousand years this was the only Bible translation that Christians used.
As Christianity continued to gain ground, Jewish scholars decided it was time to re-translate the Sacred Texts back into Hebrew. It wasnt until the early Middle Ages that a translation back into Hebrew was completed. This translation omitted 7 books and parts of Daniel and Esther that were included in both the Septuagint and the later Greek Old Testament translation. This re-translation back into the original tongue of the Old Covenant people is known as the Masoretic Texts and is named for the German Jewish scholars known as the Masorites who produced the Hebrew text. It was decided at that time that only those books whose copies were available in the Hebrew language would be accepted into the Jewish canon. The result changed Judaism forever [however, a Hebrew text of Tobit was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls!]
The Protestant Reformation in the 16th century spawned many translations of Sacred Scripture in the common language of western European nations but the Protestant scholars did not use Jeromes translation. Instead, for their Old Testament translations, they consulted the reworked Jewish Masoretic texts which were finally completed circa 800 AD. Of course, in many ways it fitted their theology better than the Catholic texts. Most Protestants rejected the existence of Purgatory so they disposed of Maccabees I and II like the Massoretic scholars (which is quite amazing when you consider that the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates an event only recorded in the books of I & 2 Maccabees), and they disposed of Tobit as well because it didnt agree with their theology of salvation by faith alone. Like the Massoretic translation, the Protestants would drop 7 Old Testament books and well as parts of Esther and Daniel that could only be found in the Greek. That is why the Old Testament of a Protestant Bible is so different from that of the Catholic Churchs Bible translations; whole books have been taken out of the Protestant versions, and the texts that remains have been thoroughly rewritten. Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has revealed that the Catholic version of the Old Testament is far more accurate than the Jewish or Protestant versions, most Protestant publishing companies [with the exception of the King James Version Bibles] have corrected many of the errors in their Old Testament translations. Jewish publishing companies, however, have failed to make these corrections [please note that the oldest copies of the Dead Sea Scrolls Old Testament texts predate the Massoretic texts by almost 1000 years!].
The Catholic Church has updated the language of her Old Testament and New Testament translations when necessary but has never changed its substance. The Old Testament texts of the New Jerusalem Bible, the New American Bible, and other Catholic translations are materially the same as they were when Christ read them himself and the Churchs attitude toward them is the same as that stated by Pope St. Leo the Great fifteen centuries ago: In the area of moral precepts, no decrees of the earlier Testament are rejected; rather, in the Gospel teaching many of them are augmented, so that the things that give salvation might be more perfectly and more lucid than those that promise a Savior.
The 7 Deuterocanonical Texts no longer found in Protestant translations nor in the Jewish Tanach:
· 1 & 2 Maccabees
· Ecclesiasticus [Ben Sira]
and parts of Esther and Daniel
The 7 books were among the last additions to the Greek Septuagint canon of the 1st century and were accepted into the Catholic canon only after a hesitancy among certain 3rd century Church Fathers. But they have been quoted in the letters of the Church Fathers from the earliest centuries of the Church and appeared in the official canonical lists in the West from the time of the Roman Synod of 382 AD and in the East from 692 AD in the Council of Trullo. Even Protestant reformer Martin Luther did not discard these texts from his German language Old Testament translation but placed them between the Old and New Testaments
Seems like a nice historical summary from the RC perspective.
Here we go. Another everyone else but Jews are more qualified to interpret their own scriptures. Gets tiring.
You guys should give up posting outright lies like this one during Lent. This article is full of so many lies that the writer was probably in the confessional for three hours and is still saying his Hail Mary's as Penance.
This is very unlikely ....seeing that in [Luke 24:44] He quotes from the Hebrew saying: And he said unto them, "These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me." The Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, of course.....would not include the Deuts.
He goes on to say: (verse 25)"Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.
He speaks to Paul in Hebrew [Acts 26:14], He quotes scripture from the Hebrew, He never quotes the Deuts (Greek) and He was a Hebrew.
Where in the world do you folks get the idea he used the Septuagint?
Because this is what Luke 4 says:
he hath anointed me to preach good news to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.
This is what Isaiah 61 says, according to the Masoretic text:
the LORD hath anointed me to preach good news unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound;
As you can see, they are very different. Yet the Septuagint Isaiah 61 passage is identical to Luke 4.
>> He speaks to Paul in Hebrew [Acts 26:14], He quotes scripture from the Hebrew, He never quotes the Deuts (Greek) and He was a Hebrew. <<
He also never quotes 1/3rd of the books of the Protestant Old Testament, because the Pharisees did not use them to teach from. Would you throw out also Job, Chronicles, and Joshua?
It appears to have been a tradition in the synagogues to read from the Hebrew text first, then to read the same passage from a Greek text which even Jews of the 1st century BC often criticized as being full of interpolations, paraphrases, and inaccuracies.
The tradition of reading from these often inaccurate and paraphrased Greek texts after reading from the Hebrew was a Pharisaical tradition. It appeared to have been a tradition, which if the translation reflected the Hebrew was no problem, but if not, then it was one of those many traditions of the Pharisees [Mark 7;13], that Jesus criticized as making "the word of God of no effect."
>> You're correct that the Luke 4 passage and the Isaiah 61 passage differ. The book from which Jesus read was given to him and He read from it as it was written in it. It is possible that He realized that the passage was not entirely accurate, but He read it anyway as it was written on the page in front of him as He was supposed to do without correcting it. <<
That's desperate. You think he had a stenographer with him? Luke records the Septuagint because that's what LUKE had and/or that's what the Holy Spirit inspired him to record. 300 out of 350 citations in the New Testament use the Septuagint; that's simply one of the longest passages, so the differences are most plain.
>> It appears to have been a tradition in the synagogues to read from the Hebrew text first, then to read the same passage from a Greek text <<
Says who? Or does is this simply conjecture to fit your model? (It would make sense if this were done among the Jews in exile, but it seems bizarre to read Greek to Jews in Palestine unless the Greek were somehow thought to be superior to the Hebrew, like Catholics who would read Latin before their vernacular.)
>> which even Jews of the 1st century BC often criticized as being full of interpolations, paraphrases, and inaccuracies. <<
Which would make it all the more bizarre to cite the Greek, if Jesus also read the Hebrew... unless Luke was deliberately using the Greek for some other reason. That reason is clear: the Septuagint was what was known to first century Christians and exilic Jews whom the Christians hoped to convert.
Incidentally, while I'm sure that Jews of different sects criticized each others' translations (like the King James Only folks, for instance), the name "Septuagint" refers to a legend, very widely believed at the time of Christ, that 70 translators, all working in complete isolation, produced the exact same translation, thus supposedly demonstrating that there was among them a unique gift of inspiration. Christians never asserted the factuality of that notion, but it certainly demonstrates that a sizeable portion of the New Testament's target audience thought very highly of the Septuagint.
Jerome, while accepting the Church's authority on using the canon of the Septuagint, certainly believed the Jews of his day who complained that the Septuagint was filled with translation errors. That is quite unfortunate, because if the congruity of the Greek New Testament and the Greek Old Testament were apparent to the laypeople of the medieval era, Luther's lies wouldn't have been nearly as successful.
>> One of the rather interesting things about the Qumran (sp?) scrolls, or the Dead Sea Scrolls, is that they follow the LXX version of Isaiah and Jeremiah more than the Masoretic text. Which, according to the scholarship of the day, they shouldn't. <<
Yes. This article does seem to slightly overstate or oversimplify the case to assert that the Masoretic Text is a back-translation of the Septuagint; From the Qumran and other sources, it seems to be a later translation from something which was much more recent.
The other interesting thing about the Qumran is that it contains many of the deuterocanonicals, which, at the time of Jerome, were not known to exist in Hebrew. In fact, it contains all the books of the bible, except one of the deuterocanonicals (I forget which), Esther, and Daniel 13. Yes, Daniel includes the dueterocanonical portions... This suggests that the term "deuterocanonical" is too large of a concession.
I think it was Ester, but not to sure.
From what I can discern, Cave 4 is where a lot of fragments were discovered but no manuscripts that had been placed in jars for preservation. Some are concluding that Cave 4 may have been a place where discarded and unwanted manuscripts were tossed or set aside. Thus to draw conclusions from anything taken from this cave is questionable at its source.
"Matthew, also called Levi, apostle and aforetimes publican, composed a gospel of Christ at first published in Judea in Hebrew for the sake of those of the circumcision who believed, but this was afterwards translated into Greek though by what author is uncertain. The Hebrew itself has been preserved until the present day in the library at Caesarea which Pamphilus so diligently gathered. I have also had the opportunity of having the volume described to me by the Nazarenes of Beroea, a city of Syria, who use it. In this it is to be noted that wherever the Evangelist, whether on his own account or in the person of our Lord the Saviour, quotes the testimony of the Old Testament, he does not follow the authority of the translators of the Septuagint but the Hebrew. Wherefore these two forms exist "Out of Egypt have I called my son, " and "for he shall be called a Nazarene" (Jerome. De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men). Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 3. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1892. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).
The Septuagint has been under revision for two thousand years. Everyone and their brother has been engaged in the revision of the Septuagint. So who is to say that at some point in time, some of the passages of the NT were not placed back into the Septuagint from the NT --- by the likes of Origen for his Hexapla.
I point out that in Origen's day there appeared to be no authoritative Septuagint. He had to use Aquila, Symmachus, and mainly Theodotian to write his fifth column LXX. Why??? What had happened to that beloved Septuagint??? Is it possible that some Christians had been using Aquila and Theodotian, with minor adjustments of course, and then calling them "the Septuagint"???
Origen recognized that there was one Hebrew text and that was in his first column, but he needed four other columns for assistance in writing his LXX in the fifth column. So even Origen recognized that the Hebrew text of his day was unchanging and singular, as did Jerome, but "the Septuagint" was always under perpetual revision and still is today.
>> The Septuagint has been under revision for two thousand years. Everyone and their brother has been engaged in the revision of the Septuagint. So who is to say that at some point in time, some of the passages of the NT were not placed back into the Septuagint from the NT --- by the likes of Origen for his Hexapla. <<
Sure, some copies could be redacted as such, but the notion that all copies would be is preposterous. Don't forget: communication in those days was so abyssmal that Jerome didn't even know of multiple Jewish texts! And besides: why would they preserve inconsistencies? Why wouldn't they make it conform 100% to the New Testament? Why would there exist passages which are more similar to the Septuagint, but not exactly? Plus, you seem to forget that Origen's purpose was to compare translations.
>> Here is what Jerome says about Matthew: <<
Yes, Matthew is unique in that it was written in Hebrew, and THEN translated into Greek. The rest of the New Testament was almost certainly composed directly in Greek. But that is ONLY Matthew who did that. It is VERY likely that Jesus, himself, did cite the Hebrew text to those who spoke only Hebrew; How bizarre would it be to speak Greek to them!
The point is that when the apostles wrote to a Greek audience, they did not translate the scripture from Hebrew to Greek, as they did their own thoughts, but rather used Greek documents already available. This would certainly seem to suggest that the Greek documents were deemed acceptable by the apostles.
Luther asserted that the Hebrew canon (which did not even exist as a canon at the time of Christ) was authoritative over the Greek canon. How bizarre!
Given what we now know, can you imagine this?: The Greek Jews had been reading the Septuagint as scripture all along. Many Greek gentiles even knew of it and read it to learn about Judaism. Now, these Jews come from Israel, establishing a new faith, based on the Jewish faith, and claiming it is the fulfillment of the Jewish faith. And no-one ever informed them (for 1600 years) that there Septuagint had seven extra books -- with dangerous theology -- in them?
We have NO historical record of ANYONE in the early church denying the status of the Septuagint's canon. Even Origen's alleged denial is an argument from silence: he failed to include the Septuagint books in his Hexalpa. But his reason is obvious, and it wasn't that he didn't consider them scripture: He was comparing translations, and he had no Hebrew version of the Septuagint available!
Several people have cited cases of Church Fathers blasting the authenticity of the apocrypha, as if ignorant of the fact that the term apocrypha (prior to Luther) meant "hidden writings," and could hardly be applied to books which were in the published bibles. Many of these Church Fathers elsewhere stated exactly what they meant by "apocrypha."
And I should point out, of course, that even this is nailing down the impossibility of a conspiracy of sorts to change the Septuagint for which there is absolutely no evidence, anyway.