Septuagint Quotes in the New Testament

Yes, the proper understanding of Scripture is a game changer (as it should be). 

Of the multitude of Old Testament quotes in the New Testament, most of them came from the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX – the Greek translation of the Old Testament). This translation of the Old Testament is the oldest in existence, was widely used by the Apostles and all Jews at the time of Christ, and included the so-called “apocryphal” or “deuterocanonical” books that Protestants later removed.

Arranged as following: NT verse/LXX verse quoted – with the Hebrew for comparison

Here are some examples:

Matt. 1:23 / Isaiah 7:14 – behold, a “virgin” shall conceive. Hebrew – behold, a “young woman” shall conceive.

Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; John 1:23 / Isaiah 40:3 – make “His paths straight.” Hebrew – make “level in the desert a highway.”

Matt. 6:7/Sirach 7:14 – About prattling on in the assembly like the Gentiles do. 

Matt. 9:13; 12:7 / Hosea 6:6 – I desire “mercy” and not sacrifice. Hebrew – I desire “goodness” and not sacrifice.

Matt. 12:21 / Isaiah 42:4 – in His name will the Gentiles hope (or trust). Hebrew – the isles shall wait for his law.

Matt. 13:15 / Isaiah 6:10 – heart grown dull; eyes have closed; to heal. Hebrew – heart is fat; ears are heavy; eyes are shut; be healed.

Matt. 15:9; Mark 7:7 / Isaiah 29:13 – teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. Hebrew – a commandment of men (not doctrines).

Matt. 21:16 / Psalm 8:2 – out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou has “perfect praise.” Hebrew – thou has “established strength.”

Matt. 23:37 / 2 Esdras 1:30 – “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing!” compare LXX “I gathered you together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings: but now, what shall I do unto you? I will cast you out from my face.” Absent from the Hebrew texts entirely.

Matt. 27:43 / Wisdom 2:16 – “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” compare LXX “We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father...

Mark 7:6-8 – Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 from the Septuagint (LXX) – “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

Luke 3:5-6 / Isaiah 40:4-5 – crooked be made straight, rough ways smooth, shall see salvation. Hebrew – omits these phrases.

Luke 4:18 / Isaiah 61:1 – and recovering of sight to the blind. Hebrew – the opening of prison to them that are bound.

Luke 4:18 / Isaiah 58:6 – to set at liberty those that are oppressed (or bruised). Hebrew – to let the oppressed go free.

Luke 6:31 / Tobit 4:15 – The Golden Rule, absent from the Hebrew texts!

Luke 14:13 / Tobit 4:7 – “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” compare LXX “Give alms from your possessions to all who live uprightly, and do not let your eye begrudge the gift when you make it. Do not turn your face away from any poor man, and the face of God will not be turned away from you.”

John 6:31 / Psalm 78:24 – He gave them “bread” out of heaven to eat. Hebrew – gave them “food” or “grain” from heaven.

John 10:22 / 1 Macc. 4:59 – A reference to the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah), established in 1 Macc. 4:59, and which is absent from the Hebrew text.

John 12:38 / Isaiah 53:1 – who has believed our “report?” Hebrew – who has believed our “message?”

John 12:40 / Isaiah 6:10 – lest they should see with eyes…turn for me to heal them. Hebrew – shut their eyes…and be healed.

Acts 2:19 / Joel 2:30 – blood and fire and “vapor” of smoke. Hebrew – blood and fire and “pillars” or “columns” of smoke.

Acts 2:25-26 / Psalm 16:8 – I saw…tongue rejoiced…dwell in hope.. Hebrew – I have set…glory rejoiced…dwell in safety.

Acts 4:26 / Psalm 2:1 – the rulers “were gathered together.” Hebrew – rulers “take counsel together.”

Acts 7:14 / Gen. 46:27; Deut. 10:22 – Stephen says “seventy-five” souls went down to Egypt. Hebrew – “seventy” people went.

Acts 7:27-28 / Exodus 2:14 – uses “ruler” and judge; killed the Egyptian “yesterday.” Hebrew – uses “prince” and there is no reference to “yesterday.”

Acts 7:43 / Amos 5:26-27 – the tent of “Moloch” and star of god of Rephan. Hebrew – “your king,” shrine, and star of your god.

Acts 8:33 / Isaiah 53:7-8 – in his humiliation justice was denied him. Hebrew – by oppression…he was taken away.

Acts 13:41 / Habakkuk 1:5 – you “scoffers” and wonder and “perish.” Hebrew – you “among the nations,” and “be astounded.”

Acts 15:17 / Amos 9:12 – the rest (or remnant) of “men.” Hebrew – the remnant of “Edom.”

Rom. 2:24 / Isaiah 52:5 – the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles. Hebrew – blasphemed (there is no mention of the Gentiles).

Rom. 3:4 / Psalm 51:4 – thou mayest “prevail” (or overcome) when thou art judged. Hebrew – thou might “be clear” when thou judges.

Rom. 3:12 / Psalm 14:1,3 – they “have gone wrong.” Hebrew – they are “corrupt” or “filthy.”

Rom. 3:13 / Psalm 5:9 – they use their tongues to deceive. Hebrew – they flatter with their tongues. There is no “deceit” language.

Rom. 3:13 / Psalm 140:3 – the venom of “asps” is under their lips. Hebrew – “Adder’s” poison is under their lips.

Rom. 3:14 / Psalm 10:7 – whose mouth is full of curses and “bitterness.” Hebrew – cursing and “deceit and oppression.”

Rom. 9:17 / Exodus 9:16 – my power “in you”; my name may be “proclaimed.” Hebrew – show “thee”; may name might be “declared.”

Rom. 9:21 / Wisdom 15:7 – a reference to the potter having the right to choose what he makes out of the clay. No Hebrew reference.

Rom. 9:25 / Hosea 2:23 – I will call my people; I will call my beloved. Hebrew – I will have mercy (love versus mercy).

Rom. 9:27 / Isaiah 10:22 – only a remnant of them “will be saved.” Hebrew – only a remnant of them “will return.”

Rom. 9:29 / Isaiah 1:9 – had not left us “children.” Hebrew – Jehovah had left us a “very small remnant.”

Rom. 9:33; 10:11; 1 Peter 2:6 / Isaiah 28:16 – he who believes will not be “put to shame.” Hebrew – shall not be “in haste.”

Rom. 10:18 / Psalm 19:4 – their “voice” has gone out. Hebrew – their “line” is gone out.

Rom. 10:20 / Isaiah 65:1 – I have “shown myself” to those who did not ask for me. Hebrew – I am “inquired of” by them.

Rom. 10:21 / Isaiah 65:2 – a “disobedient and contrary” people. Hebrew – a “rebellious” people.

Rom. 11:9-10 / Psalm 69:22-23 – “pitfall” and “retribution” and “bend their backs.” Hebrew – “trap” and “make their loins shake.”

Rom. 11:26 / Isaiah 59:20 – will banish “ungodliness.” Hebrew – turn from “transgression.”

Rom. 11:27 / Isaiah 27:9 – when I take away their sins. Hebrew – this is all the fruit of taking away his sin.

Rom. 11:34; 1 Cor. 2:16 / Isaiah 40:13 (also Wisdom 9:13) -the “mind” of the Lord; His “counselor.” Hebrew – “spirit” of the Lord; “taught” Him. 

Rom. 12:20 / Prov. 25:21 – feed him and give him to drink. Hebrew – give him “bread” to eat and “water” to drink.

Rom. 15:12 / Isaiah 11:10 – the root of Jesse…”to rule the Gentiles.” Hebrew – stands for an ensign. There is nothing about the Gentiles.

Rom. 15:21 / Isaiah 52:15 – been told “of him”; heard “of him.” Hebrew – does not mention “him” (the object of the prophecy).

1 Cor. 1:19 / Isaiah 29:14 – “I will destroy” the wisdom of the wise. Hebrew – wisdom of their wise men “shall perish.”

1 Cor. 5:13 / Deut. 17:7 – remove the “wicked person.” Hebrew – purge the “evil.” This is more generic evil in the MT.

1 Cor. 15:55 / Hosea 13:14 – O death, where is thy “sting?” Hebrew – O death, where are your “plagues?”

2 Cor. 4:13 / Psalm 116:10 – I believed and so I spoke (past tense). Hebrew – I believe, for I will speak (future tense).

2 Cor. 6:2 / Isaiah 49:8 – I have “listened” to you. Hebrew – I have “answered” you.

2 Cor. 9:7 / Sirach 35:9  – “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” compare LXX “With every gift show a cheerful face, and dedicate your tithe with gladness.”

Gal. 3:10 / Deut. 27:26 – cursed be every one who does not “abide” by all things. Hebrew – does not “confirm” the words.

Gal. 3:13 / Deut. 21:23 – cursed is everyone who hangs on a “tree.” Hebrew – a hanged man is accursed. The word “tree” does not follow.

Gal. 4:27 / Isaiah 54:1 – “rejoice” and “break forth and shout.” Hebrew – “sing” and “break forth into singing.”

2 Tim. 2:19 / Num. 16:5 – The Lord “knows” those who are His. Hebrew – God will “show” who are His.

Heb. 1:3 / Wisdom 7:26 – “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact representation of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” compare LXX “[the Wisdom of God] is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.”

Heb. 1:6 / Deut. 32:43 – let all the angels of God worship Him. Hebrew – the Masoretic text omits this phrase from Deut. 32:43.

Heb. 1:12 / Psalm 102:25 – like a “mantle” … “roll them”… “will be changed.” Hebrew – “raiment”… “change”…”pass away.”

Heb. 2:7 / Psalm 8:5 – thou has made Him a little “lower than angels.” Hebrew – made Him but a little “lower than God.”

Heb. 2:12 / Psalm 22:22 – I will ” sing” thy praise. Hebrew – I will praise thee. The LXX and most NTs (but not the RSV) have “sing.”

Heb. 2:13 / Isaiah 8:17 – I will “put my trust in Him.” Hebrew – I will “look for Him.”

Heb. 3:15 / Psalm 95:8 – do not harden your hearts as “in the rebellion.” Hebrew – harden not your hearts “as at Meribah.”

Heb. 3:15; 4:7 / Psalm 95:7 – when you hear His voice do not harden not your hearts. Hebrew – oh that you would hear His voice!

Heb. 8:9-10 / Jer. 31:32-33 – (nothing about husband); laws into their mind. Hebrew – I was a husband; law in their inward parts.

Heb. 9:28 / Isaiah 10:22 – “to save those” who are eagerly awaiting for Him. Hebrew – a remnant of them “shall return.”

Heb. 10:5 / Psalm 40:6 – “but a body hast thou prepared for me.” Hebrew – “mine ears hast thou opened.”

Heb. 10:38 / Hab. 2:3-4 – if he shrinks (or draws) back, my soul shall have no pleasure. Hebrew – his soul is puffed up, not upright.

Heb. 11:5 / Gen. 5:24 – Enoch was not “found.” Hebrew – Enoch was “not.”

Heb. 11:21 / Gen. 47:31 – Israel, bowing “over the head of his staff.” Hebrew – there is nothing about bowing over the head of his staff.

Heb. 11:35 / 2 Macc 7 – A direct reference to 2 Macc. 7 – the martyrdom of the 7 Brothers, which does not exist in the Hebrew text.

Heb. 12:6 / Prov. 3:12 – He chastises every son whom He receives. Hebrew – even as a father the son in whom he delights.

Heb. 13:6 / Psalm 118:6 – the Lord “is my helper.” Hebrew – Jehovah “is on my side.” The LXX and the NT are identical.

James 4:6 / Prov. 3:34 – God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Hebrew – He scoffs at scoffers and gives grace to the lowly.

1 Peter 1:24 / Isaiah 40:6 – all its “glory” like the flower. Hebrew – all the “goodliness” as the flower.

1 Pet. 2:9 / Exodus 19:6 – you are a “royal priesthood.” Hebrew – you shall be to me a “kingdom of priests.”

1 Pet. 2:9 / Isaiah 43:21 – God’s own people…who called you out of darkness. Heb. – which I formed myself. These are different actions.

1 Pet. 2:22 / Isaiah 53:9 – he “committed no sin.” Hebrew – he “had done no violence.”

1 Pet. 4:18 / Prov. 11:31 – if a righteous man “is scarcely saved.” Hebrew – if the righteous “is recompensed.”

1 Pet. 5:5 / Prov. 3:34 – God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Hebrew – He scoffs at scoffers and gives grace to lowly.

Isaiah 11:2 – this verse describes the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, but the seventh gift, “piety,” is only found in the Septuagint.




Why Read the Old Testament: The Basics

Fiery Furnace found when you read the Old Testament

by Fr. John A. Peck

One question that I don’t get often, but do get consistently is,

“Why read the entire Old Testament?”

In other words, why not skip to the good parts, (the Psalms, Genesis, whatever) and leave the rest?

My answer is this is really simple, and not probably what you’d expect.

We read the Old Testament for the same reason we read the New Testament

Specifically, so that we can better,

  • Preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
  • Teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
  • Live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yes, the Old Testament tells us a great deal about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament informs it, gives the New Testament context, and keeps us from isolating New Testament concepts and themes from their Hebraic understandings. That’s how you end up with Calvinism, Mormonism, and a whole host of other heresies. You separate the contect of the New Testament from the Old, and you are in big trouble.

If you are reading the Old Testament for any other reason, you’re missing one of the most exciting, invigorating, and powerful ways empower your own life, witness, and experience in Christ Jesus. Live the Gospel. Teach the Gospel. Preach the Gospel – in every way possible, to everyone you know.

This is why we read the entire Old Testament. It’s part of the written witness of Christ Jesus.


‘Oral’ Tradition in the New Testament

by Benedict Seraphim

That there is not only solid evidence of oral tradition in the New Testament, but that Christians were commanded to hold to the oral tradition (along with the written tradition) is also based on solid evidence, and I will draw the immediate implications of these facts.

First, let’s examine the evidence (all emphases below added).

We note the preaching of the Gospel has always been by oral preaching, even if literary forms of the Gospel are canonized in our Scriptures. So we are not surprised to hear St. Paul say to the Thessalonians:

Because of this we also give thanks to God unceasingly, so that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you received not the word of men, but just as it truly is, the word of God, which also is at work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

Indeed, the Apostolic transmission of this Gospel was essential to God’s redemptive plan for the cosmos. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts his readers:

[H]ow shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which in the beginning was spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him (Hebrews 2:3)

St. John echoes this:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have gazed upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life–and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and we declare to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us–that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, in order that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that our joy may be fulfilled. And this is the message which we have heard from Him and we announce to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:1-5)

From the beginning of the world, God’s redemption is communicated orally. Not only that, however, it is also transmitted from generation to generation orally. St. Paul writes:

The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you. (Philippians 4:9)

Note that St. Paul does not spell out in detail to the Church in Philippi all the things that they had ‘learned and received and heard and saw’  in him here in his epistle to them. He presumes a certain content to their understanding, a content embodied by his way of life among them, that he need only note in summary here in his epistle. That is to say, there was an oral tradition in addition to his letter which he calls them to practice.

St. Paul goes on to say to St. Timothy:

Hold to the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 1:13)

St. Paul doesn’t say here, ‘Put into practice the Scriptures you have studied from your youth,’ but enjoins upon them the things they hear and saw him say and do. Which is not to say that St. Paul would not want St. Timothy to put the Old Testament into practice; but it is to say that it was the oral tradition St. Timothy was to put into practice.

Note also that this exhortation, and the following one, are from the very same text that will later claim that all Scripture (the primary reference here is to the Old Testament) is ‘God-out-breathed,’ and is profitable for the leaders of the Church in their ministry to Church members of teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness (3:16-17). Indeed, it is ironic that those who misinterpret these verses to teach the all-sufficiency of Scripture (over and against oral tradition), fail to reckon with the fact that St. Paul does not enjoin St. Timothy to

‘ask for the ancient paths of the Lord’ (Jeremiah 6:16),

but instead exhorts him to ‘hold to the pattern of sound words’ which he had heard from St. Paul. He continues to exhort St. Timothy:

And the things which you have heard from me through many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be competent to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2)

Again: St. Timothy was not enjoined to write about it, nor to disseminate the Old Testament or St. Paul’s letter, but to disseminate what he had heard. I don’t deny the essentiality of the Scriptures, nor that Christians ought to hold to them and disseminate them. But I am pointing out that St. Paul commanded St. Timothy to do something quite specific: hold to the oral tradition and to pass it on.

Indeed, that this keeping of the oral tradition is important to the Christian way of life is further supported by the letter to the Hebrews. The author of Hebrews notes that the surpassing nature of the final revelation in Christ demands that we give earnest attention to that which we’ve heard:

On account of this we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. (Hebrews 2:1)

Here, the emphasis on the oral tradition is clear: The author of Hebrews is writing that which will later be canonized as Scripture (and, I would argue, is Scripture from its initial composition) and could refer to the Old Testament Scriptures. But he does not encourage his readers to give more earnest heed to the Scriptures, but to the oral tradition that they had received. And that failure to do so would be for them to drift away.

The key to this oral tradition was its antiquity; i. e., it predates all the New Testament writings and goes back to ?the beginning.?

Brothers, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. . . . Therefore let that which you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. (1 John 2:7, 24)


This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. (2 John 6)

Once again, adherence to the oral tradition is essential for the life of faith’ doing so will enable us to abide in the Son and in the Father.

Not only does the final revelation of God in Christ begin with the oral declaration of St. John the Forerunner, it ends with the oral declaration of St. John the Revelator in the Apocalypse, as Jesus exhorts his Church in Sardis:

Remember therefore how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you like a thief, and by no means shall you know what hour I will come upon you. (Revelation 3:3)

The Church in Sardis was called back to the oral tradition. Once again, whether or not we hold to the oral tradition has eternal consequences. For not only is the oral word to be heard, it is to be lived:

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you, of whom considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7)

Indeed, we do this so that we may increase our diligence and avoid dullness:

But we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, lest you become dull, but become imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11-12)

In fact, imitation is a frequent exhortation from St. Paul to his readers:

Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. . . . Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. . . . Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children. . . . Be fellow imitators of me, brothers, and look out for those walking this way, just as you have us for a pattern. . . . And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, in that you received the word in much tribulation, with joy of the Holy Spirit . . . . For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus, because you suffered the same things from your fellow countrymen, just as also they did by the Jews . . . (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Ephesians 5:1; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2:14)

And what is it that the readers are to imitate? The oral tradition as lived by the Apostles and those leaders who themselves are passing on the oral tradition.

The implications are clear: Christians ought not merely hold to Scripture alone, but are also to hold to that which has been believed

“always, everywhere, and by all” (St. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory, 2).

It is essential to our life in Christ to do so, and if we are not doing so, we must repent and return again to that which the Church heard and received from the beginning.

The challenge, however, is not necessarily that there was an oral tradition–it seems even sola scriptura adherents would agree to that–but rather that there was an oral tradition in addition to the written tradition, and, further, what the content is of that oral tradition.

Here, due to the presuppositions surrounding sola scriptura, I am forced to articulate my case–if I am to have any chance as to plausibility and persuasiveness–within presuppositional constraints I do not accept. If I argue for oral traditional content that is also clearly expressed in the Scripture, my interlocutors will reply, “Ah, but this is just what we are claiming: all oral tradition is confined within the written tradition (i.e., the Scriptures).” If I argue for oral traditional content that is not clearly expressed in Scripture, then my interlocutors will reply, “Ah, but since this is not in Scripture, it is merely the tradition of men.” So, I’m sort of damned if I do, and damned if I don’t.

However, despite this seemingly impossible scenario, I will, in fact, demonstrate that there is an oral tradition that is different from but in concert with the written tradition. To do so I will have to confine myself to the earliest witnesses, the ones closest in time to the Apostles. For the closer historically I can be to the Apostles, the more plausible will be my case that the oral tradition for which I am providing citations is connected to the Apostles. Furthermore, I will also have to demonstrate that the oral traditional content I am claiming as apostolic is believed “always, everywhere and by all.” Since the earliest witnesses we have are few, demonstrating that at least two of these witnesses agree will have to at least plausibly suggest–if it cannot be conclusively proven due to the nature of the evidenciary limitations–that such beliefs were, indeed, held always, everywhere, and by all.

That being said, then, the following are some aspects of oral tradition which are not expressly stated or are obscure in the New Testament:

1. The extent of the canon of Scripture (Muratorian canon, citations by the Apostolic Fathers, St. Athansios’ festal letter).
2. Triune baptism accompanied with fasting, both by the baptisand and by the sponsors (Didache 7, St Justin’s First Apology 61).
3. Only one (Sunday) Eucharist celebrated by one president of the presbytery or bishop (1 Clement 41; St Ignatios to the Philadelphians 4).
4. Orderly succession of leadership from the apostles (1 Clement 44; St Irenaeus Against Heresies III.3).
5. A specific order of worship with specific prayers recited (Didache 9-10; St Justin’s First Apology 65-67).
6. Eucharistic elements are sacramentally the body and blood of Jesus (St Ignatios to the Ephesians 20; St Ignatios to the Smyrnaens 7; St Justin’s First Apology 66; St Irenaeus’ Against Heresies V.2,2-3).
7. Closed communion (no unbaptized communicants) (Didache 9; St Justin’s First Apology 66).
8. The Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) is the Christian Old Testament (as opposed to the Hebrew, or as it is later known, the Masoretic, text) (St Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho 71-73; St Justin’s Address to the Greeks 13; St Irenaeus’ Against Heresies III.21).

Clearly this is not an exhaustive list, and some items (Triune baptism; Sacramental Eucharist) are expressly stated in the New Testament but about them there is present dispute. But it is, nonetheless, a list of substantive items.

And it shows, I think, even to adherents of sola scriptura, that the tradition of the Church is both more than merely the content of the Scriptures and is apostolic in origin.


I have made reference above to St. Irenaeus’ Against Heresies as a source for several of the items of the apostolic oral tradition. Some might wonder how it is that I can claim that St. Irenaeus, who wrote his work c. A.D. 185, can lay a claim to faithful transmission of the oral apostolic tradition. Let me cite one passage from Against Heresies to make this claim clear:

4. But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time,-a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles,-that, namely, which is handed down by the Church. There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me? “”I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.” Such was the horror which the apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth; as Paul also says, “A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” There is also a very powerful Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who choose to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth. Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles. (Against Heresies, Bk III.3,4, emphases added)

In other words, we have this chain of transferral of the apostolic tradition: the Apostle John to St. Polycarp to St. Irenaeus. If 2 Timothy 2:2 above can be delineated thus: St. Paul to St. Timothy to faithful men to others–then we may note that the transmission from the Apostle John to St. Irenaeus is three connections where 2 Timothy 2:2 notes four, thus being well within the literal apostolic exhortation (and of course within its intended meaning).


The 2011 New Testament Challenge

Beginning Nov. 15th (the beginning of the Advent/Nativity Fast), we will once again be embarking on our annual challenge event to read through the entire New Testament (aloud) by Christmas! This is a great endeavor and exercise and you should join it! Read with your spouse as an Advent discipline!

Join the many of us who do this every year and prosper your soul in the effort. You won’t be the same. Remember, we begin Nov. 15th!

If you are a veteran of this event, you can see that the schedule is quite a bit different this year. For those who would prefer the old New Testament Challenge schedule, CLICK HERE.

The New Testament Challenge is kind of a tradition here at Preachers Institute. We invite you to join us in this 40 day offering and make more

The 2011 New Testament Challenge





Tues. Nov. 15

Matthew 1-7


Wed. Nov. 16

Matthew 8-12


Thurs. Nov. 17

Mathew 13-18


Fri. Nov. 18

Matthew 19-24


Sat. Nov. 19

Sabbath: Rest up or Catch Up


Sun. Nov. 20

Lord’s Day: Rest up or Catch Up


Mon. Nov. 21

Matthew 25-28


Tues. Nov. 22

Acts 1:1 – 4:37


Wed. Nov. 23

Acts 5:1 -15:41


Thurs. Nov. 24

Thanksgiving Day: Rest Up or Catch Up


Fri. Nov. 25

Acts 16:1 – 28:31


Sat. Nov. 26

Sabbath: Rest up or Catch Up


Sun. Nov. 27

Lord’s Day: Rest up or Catch Up


Mon. Nov. 28

Mark 1:1 – 11:33


Tues. Nov. 29

Mark 12:1 – 16:20


Wed. Nov. 30

James, 1-2 Peter


Thurs. Dec. 1

Galatians, Ephesians


Fri. Dec. 2

1 -2 Thessalonians


Sat. Dec. 3

Sabbath: Rest up or Catch Up


Sun. Dec. 4

Lord’s Day: Rest up or Catch Up


Mon. Dec. 5

1-2 Timothy


Tues. Dec. 6

1 Corinthians 1:1 – 11:34


Wed. Dec. 7

1 Corinthians 12:1 – 2 Corinthians


Thurs. Dec. 8

Romans 1-8


Fri. Dec. 9

Romans 9-16


Sat. Dec. 10

Sabbath: Rest up or Catch Up


Sun. Dec. 11

Lord’s Day: Rest up or Catch Up


Mon. Dec. 12



Tues. Dec. 13

Luke 8-16


Wed. Dec. 14

Luke 17-20


Thurs. Dec. 15

Philippians, Colossians


Fri. Dec. 16

1,2,3 John – Jude


Sat. Dec. 17

Sabbath: Rest up or Catch Up


Sun. Dec. 18

Lord’s Day: Rest up or Catch Up


Mon. Dec. 19

John 1-7


Tues. Dec. 20

John 8-14


Wed. Dec. 21

John 15-21


Thurs. Dec. 22

Titus, Philemon, Hebrews


Fri. Dec. 23

Revelation 1 – 11



Sat. Dec. 24

Revelation 12 – 22



The Church in the New Testament

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

With the incarnation of Christ we have the manifestation of the Church. The Church becomes the Body of Christ and acquires its Head, Who is Christ. Let us recall the passage in Clement of Rome which we mentioned before, according to which the Church was

“first created spiritual from above, before the sun and moon, and being spiritual, was manifested in the flesh of Christ”

And St. Maximos the Confessor says characteristically:

“the mystery hidden from the ages and from the generations, was now made manifest by the true and perfect incarnation of the son of God, who united our nature to Himself inseparably and unconfusedly”.

By the incarnation of Christ the human nature which Christ assumed was made divine, and through this the Christians, the members of the Church, are full members of the Body of Christ.

Here too we find the difference between the New and Old Testaments. At this point there needs to be an explanation, so that we can place things in their true dimensions.

We said before that in the Old Testament the holy Prophets attained deification. For according to the teaching of the holy Fathers, and of St. Gregory Palamas as well, the vision of God, which is the vision of the uncreated Light, comes through man’s deification. The man is deified and thus made worthy of seeing the uncreated glory of God. Man cannot see God by his own powers. In the Church we sing:

“in Thy light shall we see light”.

Thus the vision of God comes from within, not from outside, that is to say it takes place through man’s deification. It is not a matter of seeing external things and signs. This is a crucial point in patristic theology. In this sense the holy Fathers speak of the friends of the Cross who existed in the Old Testament, and say that the righteous ones of the Old Testament, such as Abraham, Moses, etc., experienced the mystery of the Cross.

However, this deification of the Prophets was temporary, because death had not yet been abolished, and that is why they were brought to Hades and the vision was outside the Body of the divine human Christ. This is seen in the difference between the experience of the Apostles at the Transfiguration of Christ and the experience which they themselves had on the day of Pentecost.

At the Transfiguration the Disciples saw the uncreated glory of the Holy Trinity in the human nature of the Logos. In order for them to attain this great experience, they had to have been

transfigured beforehand:

“they were changed in turn, and they saw the change”.

This change of the Disciples is identical with deification. Through deification they attained the vision of God, and therefore in the patristic teaching the vision of God is connected with men’s deification. However, although the vision of the uncreated glory of God came from within, that is to say, through deification, nevertheless the Light which poured forth from the Divine human Body of Christ was external to the holy Apostles, since they had not yet become members of the Body of Christ.

At Pentecost we have this great gift. The Disciples saw the glory of God inwardly, that is to say through deification, but also from within the Divine-human Body of Christ, since with the coming of the Holy Spirit they had become members of the Body of Christ. At Pentecost the Body of Christ was not external to the Apostles, as it was at the Transfiguration, but internal, in the sense that the Disciples had become members of the Body of Christ and as members of the Body of Christ they were worthy of this experience.

With the incarnation of Christ the Church became a Body. The Sacraments of the New Testament are different in this way from the Sacraments of the Old Testament. They are performed within the Church, which is the Body of Christ, and they have reference to and conclude in the Sacrament of the divine Eucharist, in which we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ. Through the Sacrament of marriage God’s blessing is offered, as in the Old Testament, but at the same time it is linked with the Sacrament of the Divine Eucharist as well, and thus the relationship of the couple is not only a biological unity, but also an ecclesiastical, eucharistic unity. This has great significance and gives a different perspective and a different authentication to the Sacraments.


Source: Mystagogy
From the book titled The Mind of the Orthodox Church.

The Case For Byzantine Priority: Part 4

by Maurice A. Robinson

Principles to be Applied toward Restoration of the Text

The Byzantine-priority position (or especially the so-called “majority text” position) is often caricatured as only interested in the weight of numbers and simple “nose-counting” of MSS when attempting to restore the original form of the NT text. Aside from the fact that such a mechanical and simplistic method would offer no solution in the many places where the Byzantine Textform is divided among its mass of witnesses, such a caricature leads one to infer that no serious application of principles of NT textual criticism exist within such a theory. This of course is not correct. There are external and internal criteria which characterize a Byzantine-priority praxis, and many of these closely resemble or are identical to the principles espoused within other schools of textual restoration. Of course, the principles of Byzantine-priority necessarily differ in application from those found elsewhere.

The Byzantine-priority principles reflect a “reasoned transmissionalism” which evaluates internal and external evidence in the light of transmissional probabilities. This approach emphasizes the effect of scribal habits in preserving, altering, or otherwise corrupting the text, the recognition of transmissional development leading to family and texttype groupings, and the ongoing maintenance of the text in its general integrity as demonstrated within our critical apparatuses.

The overriding principle is that textual criticism without a history of transmission is impossible.

To achieve this end, all readings in sequence need to be accounted for within a transmissional history, and no reading can be considered in isolation as a “variant unit” unrelated to the rest of the text.

In this system, final judgment on readings requires the strong application of internal evidence after an initial evaluation of the external data has been made. Being primarily transmissionally-based, the Byzantine-priority theory continually links its internal criteria to external considerations. This methodology always asks the prior question: does the reading which may appear “best” on internal grounds (no matter how plausible such might appear) really accord with known transmissional factors regarding the perpetuation and preservation of texts? Such an approach parallels Westcott and Hort, but with the added caveat against dismissing the Byzantine Textform as a significant transmissional factor. Indeed, the present theory in many respects remains quite close to that of Westcott and Hort; the primary variance is reflected in certain key assumptions and a few less obvious principles.

Because of these initial considerations, the conclusions regarding the original form of the NT text will necessarily differ significantly from those of Westcott and Hort.


Part Five will be published July 11th.

This excellent article is reprinted with permission of TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism .

© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 2001.


The Case for Byzantine Priority: Part 3

by Maurice A. Robinson

The essence of a Byzantine-priority method

Any method which would restore the original text of the NT must follow certain guidelines and procedures within normative NT text-critical scholarship. It will not suffice merely to declare one form of the text superior in the absence of evidence, nor to support any theory with only selected and partial evidence which favors the case in question. The lack of balance in such matters plagues much of modern reasoned eclecticism, since preferred readings are all too often defended as primary simply because they are non-Byzantine. Principles of internal evidence are similarly manipulated, as witnessed by the repeated statements as to what “most scribes” (i. e., those responsible for the Byzantine Textform) would do in a given situation, when in fact “most scribes” did nothing of the kind on any regular basis.

The real issue facing NT textual criticism is the need to offer a transmissional explanation of the history of the text which includes an accurate view of scribal habits and normal transmissional considerations. Such must accord with the facts and must not prejudge the case against the Byzantine Textform. That this is not a new procedure or a departure from a previous consensus can be seen by the expression of an essential Byzantine-priority hypothesis in the theory of Westcott and Hort (quite differently applied, of course). The resultant methodology of the Byzantine-priority school is in fact more closely aligned with that of Westcott and Hort than any other.

Despite his myriad of qualifying remarks, Hort stated quite clearly in his Introduction the principles which, if applied directly, would legitimately support the Byzantine-priority position: As soon as the numbers of a minority exceed what can be explained by accidental coincidence, … their agreement … can only be explained on genealogical grounds[. W]e have thereby passed beyond purely numerical relations, and the necessity of examining the genealogy of both minority and majority has become apparent.

A theoretical presumption indeed remains that a majority of extant documents is more likely to represent a majority of ancestral documents at each stage of transmission than vice versa.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Hort’s “theoretical presumption.” Apart from the various anti-Byzantine qualifications made throughout the entire Introduction, the Westcott-Hort theory would revert to an implicit acceptance and following of this initial principle in accord with other good and solid principles which they elsewhere state. Thus, a “proper” Westcott-Hort theory which did not initially exclude the Byzantine Textform would reflect what might be expected to occur under “normal” textual transmission. Indeed, Hort’s initial “theoretical presumption” finds clear acceptance in the non-biblical realm. Fredson Bowers assumes a basic “normality” of transmission as the controlling factor in the promulgation of all handwritten documents; he also holds that a text reflected in an overwhelming majority of MSS is more likely to have a chronological origin preceding that of any text which might be found in a small minority:

[Stemmatic textual analysis] joins with science in requiring the assumption of normality as the basis for any working hypothesis… If one collates 20 copies of a book and finds … that only 1 copy shows the uncorrected state … , “normality” makes it highly probable that the correction … was made at an earlier point in time … than [a form] … that shows 19 with uncorrected type and only 1 with corrected… The mathematical odds are excellent that this sampling of 20 copies can be extrapolated in accord with normality.

Such a claim differs but little from that made by Scrivener 150 years ago, and suggests that perhaps it is modern scholarship which has moved beyond “normality”–a scientific view of transmissional development in light of probability–in favor of a subjectively-based approach to the data. To complete the comparison in the non-biblical realm, modern eclectics should also consider the recent comments of D. C. Greetham:

Reliance upon individual critical perceptions (often masquerading as “scientific” methodology) … can result in extreme eclecticism, subjectivism, and normalization according to the esthetic dictates of the critic… The opposite extreme … maintains that … the only honest recourse is to select that specific … extant document which … seems best to represent authorial intention, and once having made that selection, to follow the readings of the document as closely as possible.”

When considering the above possibilities, Hort’s initial “theoretical presumption” is found to be that representing the scientifically-based middle ground, positioned as a corrective to both of Greetham’s extremes. As Colwell stated,

We need Hort Redivivus. We need him as a counter-influence to the two errors I have discussed: (1) the ignoring of the history of the manuscript tradition, and (2) overemphasis upon the internal evidence of readings. In Hort’s work two principles (and only two) are regarded as so important that they are printed in capital letters in the text and in italics in the table of contents. One is

“All trustworthy restoration of corrupted texts is founded on the study of their history,” and the other, “Knowledge of documents should precede final judgment upon readings.”

Beyond an antipathy for the Byzantine Textform and a historical reconstruction which attempted to define that Textform as the secondary result of a formal revision of the fourth century, Westcott and Hort made no idle claim regarding the importance of transmissional history and its related elements as the key to determining the original text of the NT. Had all things been equal, the more likely scenario which favored a predominantly Byzantine text would have been played out. In that sense, the present Byzantine-priority theory reflects a return to Hort, with the intent to explore the matter of textual transmission when a presumed formal Byzantine recension is no longer a factor.

A transmissional approach to textual criticism is not unparalleled. The criticism of the Homeric epics proceeds on much the same line. Not only do Homer’s works have more manuscript evidence available than any other piece of classical literature (though far less than that available for the NT), but Homer also is represented by MSS from a wide chronological and geographical range, from the early papyri through the uncials and Byzantine-era minuscules. The parallels to the NT transmissional situation are remarkably similar, since the Homeric texts exist in three forms: one shorter, one longer, and one in-between.

  1. The shorter form in Homer is considered to reflect Alexandrian critical know-how and scholarly revision applied to the text; the Alexandrian text of the NT is clearly shorter, has apparent Alexandrian connections, and may well reflect recensional activity.
  2. The longer form of the Homeric text is characterized by popular expansion and scribal “improvement”; the NT Western text generally is considered the “uncontrolled popular text” of the second century with similar characteristics.
  3. Between these extremes, a “medium” or “vulgate” text exists, which resisted both the popular expansions and the critical revisions; this text continued in much the same form from the early period into the minuscule era. The NT Byzantine Textform reflects a similar continuance from at least the fourth century onward.

Yet the conclusions of Homeric scholarship based on a transmissional-historical approach stand in sharp contrast to those of NT eclecticism:

We have to assume that the original … was a medium [= vulgate] text… The longer texts … were gradually shaken out: if there had been … free trade in long, medium, and short copies at all periods, it is hard to see how this process could have commenced. Accordingly the need of accounting for the eventual predominance of the medium text, when the critics are shown to have been incapable of producing it, leads us to assume a medium text or vulgate in existence during the whole time of the hand-transmission of Homer. This consideration … revives the view … that the Homeric vulgate was in existence before the Alexandrian period… [Such] compels us to assume a central, average, or vulgate text.

Not only is the parallel between NT transmissional history and that of Homer striking, but the same situation exists regarding the works of Hippocrates. Allen notes that “the actual text of Hippocrates in Galen’s day was essentially the same as that of the mediaeval MSS … [just as] the text of [Homer in] the first century B.C. … is the same as that of the tenth-century minuscules.

In both classical and NT traditions there thus seems to be a “scribal continuity” of a basic “standard text” which remained relatively stable, preserved by the unforced action of copyists through the centuries who merely copied faithfully the text which lay before them. Further, such a text appears to prevail in the larger quantity of copies in Homer, Hippocrates, and the NT tradition. Apart from a clear indication that such consensus texts were produced by formal recension, it would appear that normal scribal activity and transmissional continuity would preserve in most manuscripts

“not only a very ancient text, but a very pure line of very ancient text.”


Part Four will be published July 9th.

This excellent article is reprinted with permission of TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism .

© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 2001.


The Case for Byzantine Priority: Part 2

by Maurice A. Robinson

A Problem of Modern Eclecticism: Sequential Variant Units and the Resultant “Original” Text

Modern eclectic praxis operates on a variant unit basis without any apparent consideration of the consequences. The resultant situation is simple: the best modern eclectic texts simply have no proven existence within transmissional history, and their claim to represent the autograph or the closest approximation thereunto cannot be substantiated from the extant MS, versional or patristic data. Calvin L. Porter has noted pointedly that modern eclecticism, although

“not based upon a theory of the history of the text … does reflect a certain presupposition about that history. It seems to assume that very early the original text was rent piecemeal and so carried to the ends of the earth where the textual critic, like lamenting Isis, must seek it by his skill.”

Such a scenario imposes an impossible burden upon textual restoration, since not only is the original text no longer extant in any known MS or texttype, but no MS or group of MSS reflects such in its overall pattern of readings. There thus remains no transmissional guide to suggest how such an “original” text would appear when found. One should not be surprised to find that the only certain conclusions of modern eclecticism seem to be that the original form of the NT text

(a) will not resemble the Byzantine Textform; but

(b) will resemble the Alexandrian texttype.

It is one thing for modern eclecticism to defend numerous readings when considered solely as isolated units of variation. It is quite another matter for modern eclecticism to claim that the sequential result of such isolated decisions will produce a text closer to the autograph (or canonical archetype) than that produced by any other method.While all eclectic methods utilize what appear to be sufficient internal and external criteria to provide a convincing and persuasive case for an “original” reading at any given point of variation, strangely lacking is any attempt to defend the resultant sequential text as a transmissional entity. The lay reader can be overwhelmingly convinced regarding any individual eclectic decision due to its apparent plausibility, consistency, and presumed credibility; arguments offered at this level are persuasive. A major problem arises, however, as soon as those same readings are viewed as a connected sequence; at such a point the resultant text must be scrutinized in transmissional and historical terms.

Colwell noted that

“Westcott and Hort’s genealogical method slew the Textus Receptus.”

Westcott and Hort appealed to a purely hypothetical stemma of descent which they

“did not apply … to the manuscripts of the New Testament”;

yet they claimed thereby to

“show clearly that a majority of manuscripts is not necessarily to be preferred as correct.”

Possibility (which is all that was claimed) does not amount to probability; the latter requires evidence which the former does not. As Colwell noted, by an

a priori possibility” Westcott and Hort could “demolish the argument based on the numerical superiority urged by the adherents of the Textus Receptus.”

The TR (and for all practical purposes, the Byzantine Textform) thus was overthrown on the basis of a hypothesis which was not demonstrable as probable. Hort’s reader of the stemmatic chart was left uninformed that the diagrammed possibility which discredited the Byzantine Textform was not only unprovable, but highly improbable in light of transmissional considerations. Thus on the basis of unproven possibilities the Westcott-Hort theory postulated its “Syrian [Byzantine] recension” of ca. AD 350.

A parallel exists: modern eclecticism faces a greater problem than did the Byzantine text under the theoretical stemma of Westcott and Hort. Not only does its resultant text lack genealogical support within transmissional theory, but it fails the probability test as well. That the original text or anything close to such would fail to perpetuate itself sequentially within reasonably short sections is a key weakness affecting the entire modern eclectic theory and method.

The problem is not that the entire text of a NT book nor even of a chapter might be unattested by any single MS; most MSS (including those of the Byzantine Textform) have unique or divergent readings within any extended portion of text; no two MSS agree completely in all particulars. However, the problem with the resultant sequential aspect of modern eclectic theory is that its preferred text repeatedly can be shown to have no known MS support over even short stretches of text–and at times even within a single verse. The problem increases geometrically as a sequence of variants extends over two, three, five, or more verses.

This raises serious questions about the supposed transmissional history required by eclectic choice. As with Hort’s genealogical appeal to a possible but not probable transmission, it is transmissionally unlikely that a short sequence of variants would leave no supporting witness within the manuscript tradition; the probability that such would occur repeatedly is virtually nil.

Modern eclecticism creates a text which, within repeated short sequences, rapidly degenerates into one possessing no support among manuscript, versional, or patristic witnesses. The problem deteriorates further as the scope of sequential variation increases. One of the complaints against the Byzantine Textform has been that such could not have existed at an early date due to the lack of a single pre-fourth century MS reflecting the specific pattern of agreement characteristic of that Textform, even though the Byzantine Textform can demonstrate its specific pattern within the vast majority of witnesses from at least the fourth century onward.

Yet those who use the modern eclectic texts are expected to accept a proffered “original” which similarly lacks any pattern of agreement over even a short stretch of text that would link it with what is found in any MS, group of MSS, version, or patristic witness in the entire manuscript tradition. Such remains a perpetual crux for the “original” text of modern eclecticism.

If a legitimate critique can be made against the Byzantine Textform because early witnesses fail to reflect its specific pattern of readings, the current eclectic models (regardless of edition) can be criticized more severely, since their resultant texts demonstrate a pattern of readings even less attested among the extant witnesses. The principle of Ockham’s Razor applies, and the cautious scholar seriously must ask which theory possesses the fewest speculative or questionable points when considered from all angles.

Modern eclectic proponents fail to see their resultant text as falling under a greater condemnation, even though such a text is not only barely possible to imagine having occurred under any reasonable historical process of transmission, but whatever transmissional history would be required to explain their resultant text is not even remotely probable to have occurred under any normal circumstances. Yet modern eclectics continue to reject a lesser argument ex silentio regarding the likelihood of Byzantine propagation in areas outside of Egypt during the early centuries (where archaeological data happen not to be forthcoming), while their own reconstructed text requires a hypothetical transmissional history which transcends the status of the text in all centuries. The parallels do not compare well.

It seems extremely difficult to maintain archetype or autograph authenticity for any artificially-constructed eclectic text when such a text taken in sequence fails to leave its pattern or reconstructable traces within even one extant witness to the text of the NT; this is especially so when other supposedly “secondary” texttypes and Textforms are preserved in a reasonable body of extant witnesses with an acceptable level of reconstructability.


Part Three will be published on July 7th.

This excellent article is reprinted with permission of TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism .

© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 2001.