Septuagint vs. Masoretic Text

The Septuagint, also known as the Greek Old Testament, is the earliest translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek dated to three centuries before Christ walked the earth. The Church has the promise that the Holy Spirit will guide her in truth, I will seek to show this truth is preserved in the text of the Septuagint and not of the Masoretic Text, of which most Protestant bibles get their Old Testament from, as the Septuagint has been used by Orthodox and Roman Catholics. This timeline may surprise some:

  • 3rd Century B.C. – The Septuagint (Greek Translation)
  • 1st-2nd Century A.D. – The Peshitta (Syriac Translation)
  • 4th Century A.D. – Latin Vulgate
  • 6th Century A.D. – Masoretic Text Started
  • 11th Century A.D. – Masoretic Text Finalized

This makes the Septuagint roughly 1200 years older than the Masoretic text. So why do many Protestant Bibles use the Masoretic Text? Let’s see how this timeline is reached.

The Masoretic Text

The Masoretic Text is the traditional Hebrew text of the Jewish bible, “This monumental work was begun around the 6th century ad and completed in the 10th by scholars at Talmudic academies in Babylonia and Palestine.” (1). Right on the outset, the question arises why do Christians value the translation of scholars at the Talmudic academy? The Talmud that blasphemes our Lord Jesus Christ saying He is burning in hell (Gittin 57a) and that our Holy Lady Theotokos is a whore.

Non-Christian Jews began making changes to the Old Testament texts to undermine the Christian use of prophecies concerning Jesus Christ, it makes no logical sense as to why their translation should be held above that which the apostles themselves used. “The Hebrew Text that has served as the basis for most translations of the Old Testament into English is based almost entirely on the Leningrad Codex, which dates from 1008 A.D. In comparison to the textual evidence that we have for the New Testament Greek text, this is a very late manuscript. It is an example of the Masoretic recension, which is usually dated to have been shaped between the 6th and 10th centuries A.D.” (2).

I’m not implying Hebrew is not important or not extremely helpful, I’m making a case against this particular version. Nor am I saying older automatically equals more valid, although it does help the case, for example the Hebrew Bible itself is older than the Septuagint, dating to the 6th-10th Century B.C. (depending on your source). However, this is not the same translation used in so many bibles across America for the OT. Fr. John Whiteford points out an example of translation inconsistency, “Another example is the text quoted in Hebrews 1:6 (And let all the angels of God worship him) which is nowhere to be found in the Masoretic text, but is found in both the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls Hebrew text in Deuteronomy 32:43.” (2).

Another issue with the Masoretic text is that the Masoretes are saying they received corrupted texts to begin with, which would invalidate the authenticity of their own beliefs. Some may say, “but wouldn’t this apply to the Septuagint too? Since they are making a new version from the Hebrew Bible as well?” No, because the difference is the Septuagint only translates from Hebrew to Greek with precision, while the Masoretic text isn’t even technically a translation as they are both using Hebrew, meaning it’s a change. What change? I will add a chart of examples made by Fr. Joseph Gleason of Preachers Institute. (3).

“These are not random, inconsequential differences between the texts. Rather, these appear to be places where the Masoretes (or their forebears) had a varied selection of texts to consider, and their decisions were influenced by anti-Christian bias. Simply by choosing one Hebrew text over another, they were able to subvert the Incarnation, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, His healing of the blind, His crucifixion, and His salvation of the Gentiles.” (3). As we can see, the Masoretic text is not the preserved original Hebrew text of scripture, they changed significant things regarding prophecy and doctrine, they admit texts were corrupted to begin with, they excluded texts widely accepted by Christians for centuries, they used an alphabet different from the original Hebrew, etc. The Septuagint (LXX) translation is both more accurate and more ancient than the Masoretic Text.

The Septuagint

It is called the Septuagint or “Translation of the Seventy” because 70 Hebrew scholars of the time translated the Hebrew into Greek with each one verifying the exact same translation for accuracy. In the Letter of Aristeas, the Hebrew was translated into Greek at the request of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–247 B.C.). It is the authoritative text of the Old Testament for the Orthodox Church, and the text that the Holy Spirit has preserved for us. “…it is clear why the Church prefers the Septuagint and Peshitta translations for the authoritative text of the Old Testament, and principally the first, for the Septuagint text was produced under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by the concerted effort of the Old Testament Church.” (4).

“The Old Testament Scriptures were translated into Greek two centuries before Christ, and were read and expounded in the public worship of God, which was open to all.” (6). Schaff is citing that the Greek Septuagint was widely used during the time of Jesus Christ and Apostolic Christianity. The text of the Greek Old Testament is quoted more often than the original Hebrew Bible text in the Greek New Testament, especially by the apostle Paul. (7). This validates the Septuagint even more, as we have the apostles of Christ directly quoting from it, and the fact that the New Testament itself was written in Greek. Of the approximately 300 Old Testament quotes in the New Testament, over 2/3 of them came from the Septuagint. How do we know? Here are a couple examples, one of which St. Ireneaus points out himself.

Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; John 1:23 / Isaiah 40:3
Greek – make “His paths straight.”
Hebrew – make “level in the desert a highway.”
Matt. 9:13; 12:7 / Hosea 6:6
Greek – I desire “mercy” and not sacrifice.
Hebrew – I desire “goodness” and not sacrifice.
Matt. 1:23 / Isaiah 7:14 (As already mentioned above).
Greek – behold, a “virgin” shall conceive.
Hebrew – behold, a “young woman” shall conceive.

This last example is noted by St. Ireneaus in Against Heresies Book III, that the Septuagint clearly identifies a virgin (Greek παρθένος; bethulah in Hebrew) who would conceive. The word almah in the Hebrew text was, according to Irenaeus, interpreted by Jewish converts as a “young woman” who would conceive to which the heretical Ebionites would run with this to claim that Joseph was the biological father of Jesus and that Jesus could not be the Son of God. To St. Ireneaus, Ebionism and other heresies were aided by anti-Christian alterations of the Hebrew scripture, as evident by the comparison to the pre-Christian Septaugint. In the early Christian Church, this mindset is common that the Septaugint lends itself to the correct Christological interpretation while the Jewish interpretation attempted to reconstruct the true meaning of the text. St. Augustine is another saint who asserts the same as St. Ireneaus does.

The direct quote from St. Ireneaus, “Moreover this version of those Scriptures (Septuagint) having been made before our Lord came down, and finished before any Christians were to be seen; (for our Lord was born about the forty-first year of Augustus’ reign, but Ptolemy, under whom the Scriptures were translated, was much more ancient:) truly shameless and bold are they proved, who would fain now translate otherwise, upon our refuting them out of the very Scriptures and shutting them up unto the faith of the coming of the Son of God. But firm, and unfeigned, and alone true, is the Faith which we have, clearly evidenced by those Scriptures (Septuagint) the translation which was conducted in the aforesaid manner: and the Church’s message is without interpolation. Yea, all the Apostles too, who are more ancient than all these, agree with the aforesaid translation, and the translation harmonizes with the Apostolical tradition.” (8).

St. Ireneaus makes a decisive point that the Septuagint was completed before any Christians were around, leaving no possibility of a pro-Christian bias for these scriptures. However, those “who would fain now translate otherwise” do not have the same luxury of protection, such as the Masoretic text. It being written centuries after Christ leaves itself open to suspicions of anti-Christian bias. These suspicions are only confirmed when passages are substantially different in the Masoretic Text vs. The Septuagint such as the one noted by St. Ireneaus and the others mentioned earlier in this article.

The Jewish rabbis wanted to distinguish their tradition from the emerging tradition of Christianity, which frequently used the Septuagint. There is no escaping the fact that the Jewish scholars of the Masoretic Text have a scriptural bias of anything that would lend credence to the Christian faith, and it is quite literally their own interpretation. The Septuagint was used for centuries by Christians before the introduction of the Masoretic text, before other events like the Reformation and is older than both of them. It is a more faithful representation of the original Scriptures, and perhaps this is one reason why the apostles quoted from it and accorded it fully as the inspired Word of God.

Sources: 1. Encyclopaedia Britannica – Masoretic Text and the Jewish Bible. 2. Father John Whiteford – OrthoChristian.com. 3. Father Joseph Gleason and Father John A. Peck – Preachers Institute. 4. The Law of God: For Study at Home and School (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1994) p. 440. 5. Letter of Aristeas at the request of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. 6. Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church Volume 1, 1858 Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 7. Toy, Crawford; Gottheil, Richard (1906). “Bible Translations – The Septuagint”. Jewish Encyclopedia. The Kopleman Foundation. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 8. St. Ireneaus, Against Heresies, Book 3 page 289, dated 174-189 A.D.

2 Comments

  1. The Purpose of Writing this blog. To some degree bases itself upon the book: Six Days of War, by Michael B. Oren. P.2: While it may be useless to try to pinpoint the cause or causes of the Middle East war of 1967, one can describe the context in which that war became possible. Much like the hypothetical butterfly that, flapping its wings, gives rise to currents that eventually generate a storm, so, too, might small, seemingly insignificant events spark processes leading ultimately to cataclysm.

    View myself as a totally insignificant butterfly of a person. But this tiny, mostly ignored blog, hopes to spark public criticism of Reshonim scholarship decisions made and expressed through their commentaries written on the Talmud and T’NaCH literature. Yeshiva Orthodox education forbids criticism of these early secondary sources. This decision, it seems to me — just plain wrong. The current cat-fights within the Israeli Knesset, I bring as primary evidence that leadership decisions inspire open and critical debates.

    Any study of rabbinic scholarship, especially during the Middle Ages prior to Napoleon liberating our People from the war criminal ghetto gulags, merits criticism and close scrutiny. It takes two hands to clap. Despite the lack of physical evidence which supports this thesis, my gut tells me that church leadership alone in the 16th Century, could never have succeeded in implementing ghetto gulags, spread across Europe and Russia, without the support of Kapo like Jews – modeled after Max Naumann (12 January 1875 – May 1939), founder of Verband nationaldeutscher Juden. This disgrace for a human being compares to the likes of Benedict Arnold, John Amery, Harold Cole, Vidkun Quisling, Philippe Pétain etc., criminals who supported the Nazis, and assisted in the war against the Jews of Europe.

    The introduction of political Zionism late in the 19th Century, it serves as an example of the butterfly effect, which so aroused nationalism and international wars that followed thereafter. Rabbinic Orthodoxy’s reaction to Zionism so contrasts with their total failure to denounce and destroy the Ari false gnostic kabbala\forbidden additions to the sealed Jewish masoret. This radical mystic kabbala perverted the classic מעשה בראשית masoret, as expressed through the Siddur; it opened the gates of tuma which history refers to as the false messiah heresies. That gnostic kabbala butterfly effect produced, so to speak, a unique social chaos chain reaction which culminated in the Cossack pogroms of 1648.

    A study of history entails much more than people, dates, and places. Before the Peace of Westphalia (1648), the numerous German principalities under the Holy Roman Empire restricted and limited their autonomy; these principalities could not conduct foreign affairs that resulted mutual treaties with other countries or empires. The removal of these legal restrictions effectively transformed these German principalities into Independent States.

    According to Frank Chiang, The One-China Policy: State, Sovereignty, and Taiwan’s International Legal Status, 2018. Modern States share some four common features: (1) the people; (2) a territory in which the people inhabit; (3) a ruler—a king or a sovereign prince—who bears sovereignty; and (4) the capability to engage in relations with other States. It seems to me, that European hostile rhetoric propaganda seeks to subvert the Jewish State; by shoving these four rules, magically concealed through false but repeated declarations of “International Law”, which intend to turn Samaria and Eastern Jerusalem into a kind of “Foie Gras”! As if Israel exists as a domesticated goose under the authority of the EU, Russia, and UN.

    Arab refugees populations, captured as a consequence of the victory of the 2nd Israeli War of Independence, have no rights. The moral outrage expressed by European Capitals completely ignores the treatment Jews received under European rule for over 2000 years, which terminated in the Shoah\Final Solution. European Capital lost their First among equals, first world status – following their defeat in WW ll. Israel does not recognize the right of any European government to sit as a permanent member on the UN Security Council. Both London and Paris merit no respect, they both aided the Nazi war effort to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

    These dethroned and defrocked ‘Great Powers’, the moral cowardice of their leaders, openly encouraged the lessor States of Europe to follow suit. The same holds true with the Reshonim scholarship on the Talmud following the Rambam Civil War. The same chain of consequences resulted in the Yankee war of aggression against the South. The Yankee victors replaced a Constitutional Republic of States, with a corrupt democracy.

    This post Civil War democracy, continually expands the voting franchise unto individuals not politically educated, and who have little or no stake in the political decisions, that these ‘democratically elected leaders’ effect upon the lives of the People; lobbies have replaced Governors and State Legislatures as the dominating influence over the Federal Congress persons and Senators. Lobbies write the Bills which bribed Congressmen and Senators present to Congress. Herein defines the corruption of Washington which ultimately define American law.

    The Rambam Civil War produced a similar corrosive deterioration upon the scholarship of both the Talmud and T’NaCH. Rabbinic leadership thereafter gave but mere lip service to the contrasting kabbala masoret of פרדס ומעשה בראשית as did the post Civil War Yankee governments in Washington honor and respect States Rights. Yeshiva educated, and how much more so, the common man on the street, neither Jew has the slightest idea how the kabbala of מעשה בראשית defines the k’vanna required to da’aven through the Siddur; the mitzvot of kiddushin and get\agunah and all positive time oriented commandments דאורייתא ודרבנן.

    Rabbinic Judaism does not strive to define tohor, contrasted by tuma, middot. Despite the fact that the Gemara of ברכות emphatically teaches that tefillot function in the stead of korbanot. Today the rote ritual of da’avening tefilla duplicates the offering of a barbeque unto Heaven, whereby king Shaul defied the commandment of the prophet Shmuel, and profaned his anointing as the Moshiach. King Shaul effectively turned the Moshiach blessing, into a Torah curse; just as when the people who originally asked the prophet Shmuel for a king; and rain, during the dry season, immediately thereafter fell!

    In 1948 and 1967 secular Jewry secured victory for the Jewish people by winning our two wars of Independence. A tremendous accomplishment. But the continued home rule of the Jewish people upon these lands, based upon the Torah as our Constitutional masoret, requires from all generations of Jews thereafter, strive to establish: (1) The Torah as the Written Constitution of the Cohen Republic of States. (2) Rebuild the Cities of Refuge, and therein establish the lateral courts of common law; the small and Great Sanhedrin(s) authorized to impose lashes as the defining criminal code of Jewish law as opposed & contrasted by Penitentiary Ghettos which define the western codes of criminal justice. Justice must restore compensation for damages imposed – in a quick and fair manner by the lateral Common Law Courts. (3) Cut a canal which connects the Mediterranean with the Salt Sea; to cause rain to fall upon the Negev and Sahara deserts. The intent, to send the Arab refugee populations, currently temporarily residing within Israel, to farm these now fertile crop producing lands of North Africa. The Torah blessing of causing rain to give life unto barren Wilderness lands, promises to transform Egypt and North African States unto the main trading partners of the Cohen Republic of Israel.

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