By Robert E. Reis
This article originally appeared on Mystagogy, the blog of John Sanidopoulos under the Title: Septuagint vs. Masoretic: Which is more authentic? Not even taking into account that the Septuagint is most often quoted in the New Testament, and therefore most often used by St. Paul and the other biblical writers, this article simply states the facts.
Once upon a time there was a tribe living in the Middle East that had a collection of sacred texts written in Hebrew, Chaldean and Aramaic. It is the nature of sacred texts to be venerated and transmitted from generation to generation unaltered.
As time passed members of this tribe emigrated to areas where Hebrew and Aramaic and Chaldean were not spoken. A large community settled and prospered in the city of Alexandria in Egypt. Greek replaced their tribal language. They needed an accurate translation of their venerated documents into Greek.
Around 250 B.C. seventy rabbis translated the sacred texts into Greek. This translation was not a bootleg edition. The project was approved by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. The Septuagint, the translation of the seventy, was an official document.
A Hebrew Bible exists today. It is used by Jews everywhere. It is called the Masoretic text. It was compiled around 700 A.D. It is almost one thousand years newer than the Septuagint. The rabbis who compiled the Masoretic text were not accountable to the High Priest in Jerusalem. There no longer was a High Priest. The rabbis who compiled the Masoretic text were not accountable to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. There no longer was a Sanhedrin.
The Septuagint predates the first appearance of the Masoretic text by almost ten centuries. The Septuagint is based upon Hebrew texts at least twelve centuries older than the texts upon which the Masoretic version is based. .Yet, modern Christian translations of the Old Testament rely on the Masoretic Text, not the Septuagint.
Where is the problem?
Most of the quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament used the Septuagint as their primary source. The integrity and truthfulness of the Septuagint is completely dependant on the Septuagint being a truthful translation. Discredit the Septuagint and there is no New Testament.
There was no controversy about the integrity of the Septuagint from 250 B.C. until 135 A. D.
What had happened to provoke dissatisfaction with the Septuagint among the Jews?
Annas and Caiphas and the Sanhedrin had rejected the messianic claims of Jesus. The New Testament documents had been written and were circulating by A.D. 70. The Jews knew that the credibility of the Christian Gospels depended on the credibility of the Septuagint. Something had to be done.
How is the Masoretic text different from the Septuagint?
Psalm 22:16 the word “pierced” has been replaced by “lion”.
Psalm 145: 13 omitted entirely.
Isaiah 53:11 the word “light” is omitted.
On 134 occasions the Tetragrammaton, the name of God, has been replaced by “Adonai”.
Psalm 151 was omitted entirely. (It is now omitted by almost all Christian Bibles!)
Exodus 1: The number 75 replaced by 70
Genesis 10:24 some generations removed.
Deuteronomy 32:8 “Angels Of Elohim” replaced with “children of Israel.”
Jeremiah 10 verses 6 and 7 have been added in the Masoretic.
Psalm 96:10 “Say among the nations, YHWH reigns from the wood” omitted.
Isaiah 19:18 “city of righteousness” changed to the “city of the sun” or in some versions “the city of destruction.”
The Masoretic scribes purposely and willfully rearranged the original chapter order in the prophetic Book of Daniel, so that the chapters make no sense chronologically.
Isaiah 61:1 “recovery of sight to the blind.”Omitted.
In Psalm 40:6 “a body you have prepared for me” was replaced by “you opened my ears.” (lit. in Hebrew “You have dug out ears for me. Ed.)
Deuteronomy 32:43 ‘Let all the messengers of Elohim worship him.’” Omitted.
Genesis 4:8: “Let us go into the field” is omitted.
Deuteronomy 32:43. Moses’ song is shortened.
Isaiah 53 contains 10 spelling differences, 4 stylistic changes and 3 missing letters for light in verse 11, for a total of 17 differences.
Isaiah 7:14. “Virgin” replaced by “young woman.”
(When Aquila made his Greek translation of the Old Testament at the behest of Rabbi Akiva, he changed the Septuagint’s “virgin” into “young woman”. The Masoretic compilers may have followed his lead.)
The Masoretic text differs from the Septuagint in hundreds of places.
How do we know which text is accurate?
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered just after World War II.
According to carbon dating, textual analysis, and handwriting analysis the documents were written at various times between the middle of the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD. There are fragments from all of the books of the Hebrew Bible fragments except the Book of Esther and the Book of Nehemiah.
In addition an independent Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible exists, the Peshitta.
Control of the Dead Sea Scrolls was a military objective of Israelis. It was achieved by their victory in the Six Days War.
The publication of the scrolls slowed to a trickle.
After 1971, the international team even refused to allow the publication of photographs of the material. They excluded scholars who wanted to make independent evaluations.
The embargo was not broken until 1991.
An addition to the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars can use the Peshitta to decide between the Masoretic text and the Septuagint.
I have given examples above of some of the places the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Peshitta, and the Septuagint agree.
The Masoretic Text is part of a tradition that began with Rabbi Akiva. Rabbis rewrote the Jewish Bible to destroy the credibility of the New Testament.
The Hebrew versions of the Old Testament have been used to proclaim scores of “messiahs” . The Septuagint was only used once.