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.

 

 

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Bible Beatdown! The Septuagint Text VS. The Masoretic Text

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Septuagint (LXX) text vs. Masoretic (MT) text Old Testament – know your Bible!

by Fr. John Whiteford

In the “Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchsof 1848, which was a reply to the epistle of Pope Pius IX, “To The Easterns,” the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, along with the other assembled bishops stated:

“Our Church holds the infallible and genuine deposit of the Holy Scriptures: of the Old Testament a true and perfect version, of the New the divine original itself.”

And so we have always held that the Septuagint is the authoritative version of the Old Testament.

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) notes:

…the basis of the Old Testament text in the Orthodox tradition is the Septuagint, a Greek translation by the “seventy interpreters” made in the third to second centuries BCE for the Alexandrian Hebrews and the Jewish diaspora. The authority of the Septuagint is based on three factors. First of all, though the Greek text is not the original language of the Old Testament books, the Septuagint does reflect the state of the original text as it would have been found in the third to second centuries BCE, while the current Hebrew text of the Bible, which is called the “Masoretic,” was edited up until the eighth century CE. Second, some of the citations taken from the Old Testament and found in the New mainly use the Septuagint text. Third, the Septuagint was used by both the Greek Fathers of the Church, and Orthodox liturgical services (in other words, this text became part of the Orthodox church Tradition). Taking into account the three factors enumerated above, St. Philaret of Moscow considers it possible to maintain that “in the Orthodox teaching of Holy Scripture it is necessary to attribute a dogmatic merit to the Translation of the Seventy, in some cases placing it on equal level with the original and even elevating it above the Hebrew text, as is generally accepted in the most recent editions (Orthodox Christianity, Volume II: Doctrine and Teaching of the Orthodox Church, (New York: St. Vladimir Seminary Press, 2012) p. 34).

And in the above quote, I think there may be a translation problem, though I don’t have the Russian text, and my Russian would probably be too limited to tell for sure by myself — but when it says

“some of the citations taken from the Old Testament and found in the New mainly use the Septuagint text,”

it is awkwardly worded enough for me to guess that Metropolitan Hilarion meant to say that most (not just “some”) of the quotes of the Old Testament in the New Testament are based on the Septuagint… because as a matter of fact, that is true.

Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy, in his classic catechetical text, wrote:

“…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” (The Law of God: For Study at Home and School (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1994) p. 440).

There was a time when many Protestant scholars assumed that the Septuagint was an often loose translation of the Hebrew text, and that when it differed from the Masoretic Text, it was due to changes made by the translators. However, since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we now know that the Septuagint is based on a different, and older Hebrew text than the Masoretic text.

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. This is well after the Septuagint was translated (3rd century before Christ), the Peshitta (1st and 2nd Centuries A.D.), or the Latin Vulgate (4th Century A.D.). According to Christian tradition, the non-Christian Jews began making changes in the Old Testament text to undercut the Christian use of Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of Christ. In any case, the Hebrew Text that we now have was preserved outside the Church. The Septuagint and Peshitta texts were preserved within the Church, and so the Church believes that the text of the Old Testament was been authoritatively preserved in these textual traditions.

Furthermore, it is clear that the text that Christ and the Apostles used most closely matches the Septuagint rather than the Masoretic text. For example, in Acts 7:43, the Protomartyr Stephen quotes from the book of Amos as follows:

Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them (Acts 7:43 KJV).

But when you look this quote up in Amos 5:26 in most translations, you will find that the quotation doesn’t match:

You also carried Sikkuth your king and Chiun, your idols, the star of your gods, which you made for yourselves (NKJV).

Compare the above with the Latin Vulgate:

But you carried a tabernacle for your Moloch, and the image of your idols, the star of your god, which you made to yourselves (Douay-Rheims translation of the Vulgate).

And then with the Septuagint:

Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Raephan, the images of them which ye made for yourselves (Sir Lancelot Brenton translation of the Septuagint).

Also, there are several sections of the Hebrew text that are simply unreadable without keeping one eye on the Hebrew text and one eye on the Septuagint. For example, if you look at the footnotes for the book of Habbakuk in the NRSV there are 5 places in which it states that the Hebrew text is uncertain, and 3 times in which they state that they are simply translating from the Septuagint, Peshitta, and/or the Vulgate, because the Hebrew text is so unclear.

Another example of a clearly corrupt reading in the Masoretic text is 1 Sameule 14:41, which reads as follows:

Therefore Saul said unto the LORD God of Israel, “Give Thummim”. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped.

Several modern translations correct this clearly erroneous text based on the Septuagint and Vulgate to read:

Therefore Saul said, “O LORD God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant this day? If this guilt is in me or in Jonathan my son, O LORD, God of Israel, give Urim. But if this guilt is in your people Israel, give Thummim.” And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped.

The Masoretic text simply makes no sense, and obviously at some point a scribe skipped an entire line or two of the text. This is obvious because of the reference to the Urim and Thummim, which were two objects used by the priest of the Old Testament for discerning the will of God on matters such as that described in 1 Samuel 14.

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.

It should be pointed out that the Hebrew text should not be ignored entirely. Particularly when the Septuagint and the Hebrew text are in agreement, we will better understand the Septuagint as a translation if we compare it with the Hebrew text that it is clearly a translation of. It is extremely helpful to understand the range of meaning of the original Hebrew text (when we clearly have it). For example, it is helpful to know that Hebrew does not have a past or future tense, but only a perfect and imperfect tense… and so just because an English translation is clearly in either the past, present, or future tense, it does not necessarily mean that this is what is implied by the Hebrew original. One often encounters the use of the “prophetic perfect”, where a prophecy of something that has not yet come to pass is in the perfect tense, and so is often translated with the English past tense, e.g. …with His stripes, we were healed (Isaiah 53:5), when from the perspective of the prophet, he was speaking of something in the future.

That the Septuagint is the most authoritative text in the Orthodox Church is something that is confirmed in just about any Orthodox catechetical text you could consult. The Septuagint text is the text that the Church has preserved. The Masoretic text is a text that has not been preserved by the Church, and so while it is worthy of study and comparison, it is not equally trustworthy. We have the promise that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all Truth (John 16:13), and so can indeed affirm that

“Our Church holds the infallible and genuine deposit of the Holy Scriptures”

(“Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs” of 1848).

 

overly manly man

Winner: LXX/Septuagint Text

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Take the Old Testament Challenge starting this September 15th.

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Bible Beatdown! The Septuagint Text VS. The Masoretic Text

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More on the Star of Bethlehem

Star of Bethlehem

On the Star of Bethlehem

Every year around Christmas, reports appear in the papers or on television which claim to give an astronomical explanation of the Star of Bethlehem: It was a comet, we’re told, or a supernova, or a reading in an astrological horoscope. These speculations miss the early Christian understanding of the Star that led the Magi.

St John Chrysostom, in his homily on Matthew chapter 2, explains clearly why the Star could not have been a natural phenomenon, but that it was an angelic appearance, like the Pillar of Cloud in the Old Testament.

You know that a spot of such small dimensions, being only as much as a shed would occupy, or rather as much as the body of a little infant would take up, could not possibly be marked out by a star. For by reason of its immense height, it could not sufficiently distinguish so confined a spot, and reveal it to those who were desiring to see it. And this anyone may see by the moon, which being so far superior to the stars, seems to all that dwell in the world to be near to each and every one of them. How then, tell me, did the star point out a spot so confined, just the space of a manger and shed, unless it left that height and came down, and stood over the very head of the young child? And at this the evangelist was hinting when he said, “Lo, the star went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.”

— The Gospel of St. Matthew, Homily VI. 3, 4

To recognize the Star we must look in the Old Testament, in Numbers 24:17, where the seer Balaam utters his great prophecy,

“I will point to him, but not now; I bless him, but he does not come near. A Star shall dawn from Jacob, a Man shall arise out of Israel.”

This is what we read in the Orthodox text, the Septuagint. The Hebrew says, instead, “a sceptre shall arise out of Israel.” St Justin, in his Dialogue with Trypho 106, cites the verse, though instead of “man” he uses the word “ruler,” which is the word used in Matthew 2:6 in the citation of Micah.

Origen links the Magi with the prophecy of Balaam, implying the Star is a revelation of Christ Himself; Eusebius does the same. St Gregory of Nyssa also links the Magi with the prophecy of Balaam, and the hymnographer St Romanos, in his Kontakion for the Nativity, implies that the Star is Christ:

Ikos 5 (the Magi are speaking):

For Balaam laid before us precisely
The meaning of the words he spoke in prophecy,
When he said that a star would dawn,
A star that quenches all prophecies and auguries;
A star which resolves the parables of the wise,
And their sayings and their riddles,
A star far more brilliant than the star
Which has appeared, for he is the Maker of all the stars,
Of whom it was written of old, From Jacob there dawns
A little Child, God before the ages.

 

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Last Preparations for the OT Challenge

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by Fr. John A. Peck

This Saturday, Sept. 12, we will direct you to the password for access to the reading schedule in our ebook “Learning the Old Testament the Orthodox Way.” Before we get into the Challenge itself, here is a final checklist of things you should have or have planned for.

  1. Tell your priest you are taking the Challenge, and ask him to bless you. There is a service in the Book of Needs, “A Service of Prayer Before Beginning Any Good Work.” Ask him to pray this service on Sunday for you and any other OT Challenge participants. If he can’t do it Sunday, be there when he schedules it.
  2. Print up the Prayer Before Reading Scripture, if you don’t already have it, and begin each reading session by praying it.
  3. Get A Bible with ALL the Books. This is a challenge for the Orthodox Canon of the Old Testament.

Most other Bibles won’t do, as they will be missing important books from the OT Canon of Scripture. Remember, this is the version of the Old Testment used by our Lord, and quoted in the New Testament by Peter, Paul, Matthew and all the Apostles. It is the Old Testament used by the Church from the beginning, and it is the oldest version of the Old Testament we have in existence today. Remember, the Orthodox Canon has 49 books in the Old Testament. Make sure you have them all. (hint: if 3 Maccabees is in there, you’re probably safe)

Also, while I recommend a print Bible, an electronic reader which is easy on your eyes is probably fine. Your call. Amazon has plenty of Ebook Bibles. 

4.  Join us at the Old Testament Challenge Warrior Saints Collective on Facebook. We are putting technology to our use, and sticking together. Don’t miss this important help!

5. Get fired up! This is a Challenge you’ll probably never do again! So get excited. This is 85%+ of the Bible. The bragging rights alone are worth it.

 

Masoretic Text vs. Original Hebrew

a text in hebrew   

by Fr. Joseph Gleason

The Masoretic Text is significantly different from the original Hebrew Scriptures.

 I used to believe the Masoretic Text was a perfect copy of the original Old Testament.  I used to believe that the Masoretic Text was how God divinely preserved the Hebrew Scriptures throughout the ages.

I was wrong.

The oldest copies of the Masoretic Text only date back to the 10th century, nearly 1000 years after the time of Christ. And these texts differ from the originals in many specific ways. The Masoretic text is named after theMasoretes, who were scribes and Torah scholars who worked in the middle-east between the 7th and 11th centuries. The texts they received, and the edits they provided, ensured that the modern Jewish texts would manifest a notable departure from the original Hebrew Scriptures.

Historical research reveals five significant ways in which the Masoretic Text is different from the original Old Testament:

  1. The Masoretes admitted that they received corrupted texts to begin with.
  2. The Masoretic Text is written with a radically different alphabet than the original.
  3. The Masoretes added vowel points which did not exist in the original.
  4. The Masoretic Text excluded several books from the Old Testament scriptures.
  5. The Masoretic Text includes changes to prophecy and doctrine.

We will consider each point in turn:

Receiving Corrupted Texts

Many people believe that the ancient Hebrew text of Scripture was divinely preserved for many centuries, and was ultimately recorded in what we now call the “Masoretic Text”. But what did the Masoretes themselves believe?  Did they believe they were perfectly preserving the ancient text?  Did they even think they had received a perfect text to begin with?

History says “no” . . .

Scribal emendations – Tikkune Soferim

Early rabbinic sources, from around 200 CE, mention several passages of Scripture in which the conclusion is inevitable that the ancient reading must have differed from that of the present text. . . . Rabbi Simon ben Pazzi (3rd century) calls these readings “emendations of the Scribes” (tikkune Soferim; Midrash Genesis Rabbah xlix. 7), assuming that the Scribes actually made the changes. This view was adopted by the later Midrash and by the majority of Masoretes.

In other words, the Masorites themselves felt they had received a partly corrupted text.  

A stream cannot rise higher than its source.  If the texts they started with were corrupted, then even a perfect transmission of those texts would only serve to preserve the mistakes. Even if the Masoretes demonstrated great care when copying the texts, their diligence would not bring about the correction of even one error.

In addition to these intentional changes by Hebrew scribes, there also appear to be a number of accidental changes which they allowed to creep into the Hebrew text.  For example, consider Psalm 145 . . .

Psalm 145 is an acrostic poem. Each line of the Psalm starts with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Yet in the Masoretic Text, one of the lines is completely missing:

Yet the Septuagint (LXX) Greek translation of the Old Testament does include the missing verse. And when that verse is translated back into Hebrew, it starts with the Hebrew letter ? (nun) which was missing from the Masoretic Text.

In the early 20th century, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in caves near Qumran. They revealed an ancient Hebrew textual tradition which differed from the tradition preserved by the Masoretes. Written in Hebrew, copies of Psalm 145 were found which include the missing verse:

The missing verse reads,

The Lord is faithful in His words and holy in all His works.

This verse can be found in the Orthodox Study Bible, which relies on the Septuagint. But this verse is absent from the King James Version (KJV), the New King James Version(NKJV), the Complete Jewish Bible, and every other translation which is based on the Masoretic Text.

In this particular case, it is easy to demonstrate that the Masoretic Text is in error, for it is obvious that Psalm 145 was originally written as an acrostic Psalm. But what are we to make of the thousands of other locations where the Masoretic Text diverges from the Septuagint? If the Masoretic Text could completely erase an entire verse from one of the Psalms, how many other passages of Scripture have been edited? How many other verses have been erased?

A Radically Different Alphabet

If Moses were to see a copy of the Masoretic Text, he wouldn’t be able to read it.

As discussed in this recent post, the original Old Testament scriptures were written in Paleo-Hebrew, a text closely related to the ancient Phonecian writing system.

The Masoretic Text is written with an alphabet which was borrowed from Assyria (Persia) around the 6th-7th century B.C., and is almost 1000 years newer than the form of writing used by Moses, David, and most of the Old Testament authors.

Adding Vowel Points

For thousands of years, ancient Hebrew was only written with consonants, no vowels. When reading these texts, they had to supply all of the vowels from memory, based on oral tradition.

In Hebrew, just like modern languages, vowels can make a big difference. The change of a single vowel can radically change the meaning of a word. An example in English is the difference between “SLAP” and “SLIP”. These words have very different definitions. Yet if our language was written without vowels, both of these words would be written “SLP”. Thus the vowels are very important.

The most extensive change the Masoretes brought to the Hebrew text was the addition ofvowel points. In an attempt to solidfy for all-time the “correct” readings of all the Hebrew Scriptures, the Masoretes added a series of dots to the text, identifying which vowel to use in any given location.

Adam Clarke, an 18th Century Protestant scholar, demonstrates that the vowel-point system is actually a running commentary which was incorporated into the text itself.
In the General Preface of his biblical commentary published in 1810, Clarke writes:

“The Masorets were the most extensive Jewish commentators which that nation could ever boast. The system of punctuation, probably invented by them, is a continual gloss on the Law and the Prophets; their vowel points, and prosaic and metrical accents, &c., give every word to which they are affixed a peculiar kind of meaning, which in their simple state, multitudes of them can by no means bear. The vowel points alone add whole conjugations to the language. This system is one of the most artificial, particular, and extensive comments ever written on the Word of God; for there is not one word in the Bible that is not the subject of a particular gloss through its influence.”

Another early scholar who investigated this matter was Louis Cappel, who wrote during the early 17th century. An article in the 1948 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica includes the following information regarding his research of the Masoretic Text:

“As a Hebrew scholar, he concluded that the vowel points and accents were not an original part of Hebrew, but were inserted by the Masorete Jews of Tiberias, not earlier then the 5th Century AD, and that the primitive Hebrew characters are Aramaic and were substituted for the more ancient at the time of the captivity. . . The various readings in the Old Testament Text and the differences between the ancient versions and the Masoretic Text convinced him that the integrity of the Hebrew text as held by Protestants, was untenable.”

Many Protestants love the Masoretic Text, believing it to be a trustworthy representation of the original Hebrew text of Scripture. Yet, at the same time, most Protestants reject Orthodox Church Tradition as being untrustworthy. They believe that the Church’s oral tradition could not possibly preserve Truth over a long period of time.

Therefore, the vowel points of the Masoretic Text put Protestants in a precarious position. If they believe that the Masoretic vowels are not trustworthy, then they call the Masoretic Text itself into question. But if they believe that the Masoretic vowels are trustworthy, then they are forced to believe that the Jews successfully preserved the vowels of Scripture for thousands of years, through oral tradition alone, until the Masoretes finally invented the vowel points hundreds of years after Christ. Either conclusion is at odds with mainstream Protestant thought.

Either oral tradition can be trusted, or it can’t. If it can be trusted, then there is no reason to reject the Traditions of the Orthodox Church, which have been preserved for nearly 2000 years. But if traditions are always untrustworthy, then the Masoretic vowel points are also untrustworthy, and should be rejected.

Excluding Books of Scripture from the Old Testament

The Masoretic Text promotes a canon of the Old Testament which is significantly shorter than the canon represented by the Septuagint. Meanwhile, Orthodox Christians and Catholics have Bibles which incorporate the canon of the Septuagint. The books of Scripture found in the Septuagint, but not found in the Masoretic Text, are commonly called either the Deuterocanon or the anagignoskomena. While it is outside the scope of this article to perform an in-depth study of the canon of Scripture, a few points relevant to the Masoretic Text should be made here:

  • With the exception of two books, the Deuterocanon was originally written in Hebrew.
  • In three places, the Talmud explicitly refers to the book of Sirach as “Scripture”.
  • Jesus celebrated Hanukkah, a feast which originates in the book of 1 Maccabees, and nowhere else in the Old Testament.
  • The New Testament book of Hebrews recounts the stories of multiple Old Testament saints, including a reference to martyrs in the book of 2 Maccabees.
  • The book of Wisdom includes a striking prophecy of Christ, and its fulfillment is recorded in Matthew 27.
  • Numerous findings among the Dead Sea Scrolls suggest the existence of 1st century Jewish communities which accepted many of the Deuterocanonical books as authentic Scripture.
  • Many thousands of 1st-century Christians were converts from Judaism. The early Church accepted the inspiration of the Deuterocanon, and frequently quoted authoritatively from books such as Wisdom, Sirach, and Tobit. This early Christian practice suggests that many Jews accepted these books, even prior to their conversion to Christianity.
  • Ethiopian Jews preserved the ancient Jewish acceptance of the Septuagint, including much of its canon of Scripture. Sirach, Judith, Baruch, and Tobit are among the books included in the canon of the Ethiopian Jews.

These reasons, among others, suggest the existence of a large 1st-century Jewish community which accepted the Deuterocanon as inspired Scripture. 

Changes to Prophecy and Doctrine

When compiling any given passage of Scripture, the Masoretes had to choose among multiple versions of the ancient Hebrew texts. In some cases the textual differences were relatively inconsequential. For example, two texts may differ over the spelling of a person’s name.

However, in other cases they were presented with textual variants which made a considerable impact upon doctrine or prophecy. In cases like these, were the Masoretes completely objective? Or did their anti-Christian biases influence any of their editing decisions?

In the 2nd century A.D., hundreds of years before the time of the Masoretes, Justin Martyr investigated a number of Old Testament texts in various Jewish synagogues.
He ultimately concluded that the Jews who had rejected Christ had also rejected the Septuagint, and were now tampering with the Hebrew Scriptures themselves:

“But I am far from putting reliance in your teachers, who refuse to admit that the interpretation made by the seventy elders who were with Ptolemy [king] of the Egyptians is a correct one; and they attempt to frame another. And I wish you to observe, that they have altogether taken away many Scriptures from the [Septuagint] translations effected by those seventy elders who were with Ptolemy, and by which this very man who was crucified is proved to have been set forth expressly as God, and man, and as being crucified, and as dying” (~150 A.D., Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Chapter LXXI)

If Justin Martyr’s findings are correct, then it is likely that the Masoretes inherited a Hebrew textual tradition which had already been corrupted with an anti-Christian bias. And if we look at some of the most significant differences between the Septuagint and the Masoretic Text, that is precisely what we see. For example, consider the following comparisons:

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. The Jewish scribes were able to edit Jesus out of many important passages, simply by rejecting one Hebrew text, and selecting (or editing) another text instead.

Thus, the Masoretic Text has not perfectly preserved the original Hebrew text of Scripture. The Masoretes received corrupted texts to begin with, they used an alphabet which was radically different from the original Hebrew, they added countless vowel points which did not exist in the original, they excluded several books from the Old Testament scriptures, and they included a number of significant changes to prophecy and doctrine.

It would seem that the Septuagint (LXX) translation is not only far more ancient than the Masoretic Text . . . the Septuagint is far more accurate as well. It is a more faithful representation of the original Hebrew Scriptures.

Perhaps that is why Jesus and the apostles frequently quoted from the Septuagint, and accorded it full authority as the inspired Word of God.

Source

Resurrection in the Old Testament?

The Scroll

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

When we search for Old Testament evidence that ‘Christ must rise,’ we should be prepared to look at the Hebrew Scriptures through the lens used by the New Testament writers. Simply put, what prophetic passage did they have in mind when they declared,

“it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day”?

A rather obvious answer, surely, appears in the Septuagint version of Hosea:

“On the third day we shall arise—en te hemera te trite anastesometha” (6:2).

It is nearly impossible not to think that this is the text Paul had in mind when he declared that Christ

“was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures—egegertai te hemera te trite kata tas graphas” (1 Corinthians 15:4).

Likewise, these “three days” in Hosea, I submit, certainly evoked in the minds of the first Christians those three days Jonah spent in the belly of the sea monster.

Even without the mention of “three days,” numerous Old Testament passages informed the Church that the Christ must rise. Peter—famously—perceived in the Psalter a prophecy of the Resurrection:

“For David says, with respect to him (eis avton), ‘I envisage the Lord before me in all things. / For He is at my right hand / lest ever I be shaken. / Because of this my heart rejoiced, / and my tongue was loosed in laughter. / Indeed, my flesh, as well, will rest in hope. / For You will not abandon my soul unto the nether world (hades), / nor will You consign Your holy one to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; / You will make me full of joy with Your face (meta tou prosopou Sou).”

Particularly to be noted, perhaps, is this final quoted verse, according to which the joy of God’s presence follows the Resurrection. In fact, our text from Hosea, cited above, conveys the same idea; after declaring,

“On the third day we shall arise,” the prophet goes on to declare, “we shall live in His presence” (Hosea 6:2).

In the Psalter there is no shortage of prayers referring to God’s deliverance from death. For example:

“Many and evil were the sorrows You showed me, / But You turned again and gave me life. / You raised me up again from the depths of the earth.”

Particularly note-worthy is Psalm 20 (21), in which the Church prays to the Father, glorifying Him for the Son’s paschal victory over sin, death, and hell. The psalm begins, “O Lord, the King will rejoice in Your strength, / and greatly will he exult in Your salvation.

” This is the rejoicing of Jesus himself, “the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

In this psalm the Resurrection is God’s response to Christ’s own prayer:

“You have given him his heart’s desire, nor have You denied him the request of His lips.” The Gospels tell of that prayer for deliverance from death. Some words of that prayer, indeed, were audible to those nearby and were recorded for all the Church to know. With respect to this prayer during the Passion we are told that Jesus “was heard because of His godly fear” (Heb. 5:7).

And for what did Jesus pray during those “days of his flesh”? “He asked life of You,” answers our psalm. And what sort of life? The mere survival of his earthly body? Hardly. The object of Jesus’ prayer was, rather, the total life that stands forever victorious over death, the irruption of the divine life into the world by reason of his own passage through death to glory.

The true eternal life is not a simple continuation of man’s earthly existence. It is something new altogether:

“He asked life of You, and You gave him length of days unto ages of ages.”

This is the divine life given in the Resurrection, of which Jesus said:

“Amen, Amen, I say to you, the hour is coming-and now is-when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in himself (John 5:25, 26).

By reason of the Resurrection, says this psalm, Jesus reigns as King, the very title that Pilate, in God’s providential irony, affixed to the Cross itself:

“O Lord, the King will rejoice in Your strength.” And because he is King, He is crowned: “A crown of precious stones have You placed upon his head.”

 

 

The Great Book of Kings

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon 

CrownThe division between the two Books of Kings comes from the Greek translation known as the Septuagint. When this translation was made in the third century before Christ, a purely physical consideration obliged the copyists to break Kings into two parts. Whereas the Hebrew language has no formal vowels, Greek does.

This meant that the Book of Kings was physically longer in Greek than in Hebrew and had to be inscribed on two scrolls. This is how we came to have First and Second Kings.

Even when Christians replaced the scroll with the codex form, the same division of the work prevailed among scribes of the Septuagint. The Jewish copyists of the Massoretic Text, however, ignored it. Both Josephus and the Talmud speak of Kings as a singe book. Not until the invention of the printing press was the Hebrew text of Kings divided, a feature first appearing in the Venice edition of 1517.

This division into two books, however, is artificial and has nothing to do with the real structure of Kings. This is, in fact, a single and unique literary work, with its own recognizable structure, and it should be read, treated, and understood as an integral narrative.

The content of Kings covers the period of the First Temple, from the beginning of Solomon’s reign in 961 to the fall of Jerusalem in 586. In fact, the book is chiefly concerned with asking the cause of the latter tragedy. It poses the question: How did it come about that a history begun with so much promise-on the basis of so sound a covenant with God-ended in ruin and despair? This underlying question explains pretty much everything contained in Kings.

It also explains why the Talmud ascribes the composition of Kings to the Prophet Jeremiah (cf. “Bava Batra” 14b-15a). Jeremiah was on the scene during the final tragedy and displayed, in his own book, a profound appreciation of its significance.

For all that, it is not clear that Jeremiah had the makings or resources of a historiographer. It seems more likely that Kings comes from professional chroniclers exiled to Babylon with King Jehoiachin in 598, a decade before the destruction of the Temple (cf. 2 Kings 24:12). These were the men who had at their disposal sufficient resources to compose the book sometime during the Babylonian Captivity. There is no reason to date Kings to a period later than 539.

The Book of Kings appears to be structured on an easily discerned outline:

  • Part 1: the reign of Solomon over the united kingdom (961-922), covering I Kings 1-11;
  • Part II: the divided kingdoms (922-722), covering I Kings 12-II Kings 15;
  • Part III: the solitary kingdom of Judah (722-587), covering II Kings 18-25.

Twin refrains form the spine of this book: The kings of Judah are individually assessed by whether or not they followed the example of David, while the kings of Israel are all condemned because they followed the example of Jeroboam I. Each in his own way, both men are the exemplars!

Never, however, during the two centuries shared by both kingdoms, is either realm allowed to disappear from the reader’s attention. The year of each king’s ascent is determined by his relationship to his counterpart in the other kingdom, and this set format of synchronization keeps us abreast of both kingdoms at all times. Both of them, on spite of their political (and even theological) separation, still pertain to the People of God. Both kingdoms were responsible, too, for the great loss of what had seemed, during Solomon’s time, so promising. Israel and Judah were finally joined in a common tragedy.

The narrative in Kings follows several determined patterns; we are invariably given: the year of each king’s ascent, the length of his reign, a qualitative assessment of it, significant events associated with each king, and a reference to every king’s death, burial, and successor. In addition, the mothers of the kings of Judah are usually named, perhaps simply because they were preserved in the archival material available to the author.

The book’s recourse to set formulas should preserve us from a too-literal interpretation of certain passages. For instance, it is hard to think that Zimri, whose reign lasted only one week, really did manage, in so short a time, to accomplish all the accumulated evil done by Jeroboam over the span of twenty-two years (1 Kings 16:19). Zimri would be much worse than Jeroboam.

 

 

The Lost Heroine Of The Old Testament: Part 3

Susannah, Jesus & the Church

Part Three of this series shows precisely why young Christians today should ALL know the story of Susannah.

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

susanna_and_the_eldersBut if Susannah is to be likened to the unjustly accused Joseph, how much more to Jesus in the context of His passion. Both Jesus and Susannah were betrayed in a garden, noted Maximus of Turin, a circumstance that would prompt a further comparison between the two lustful elders and Judas Iscariot. The sorely tried and unjustly accused Susannah, then, becomes a “type” of the Lord in His saving passion. Jerome and Eric of Auxerre remarked that Susannah and Jesus were alike in their being maliciously accused by false witnesses. Other writers noted that both remained similarly silent when indicted. Jerome, for example, when he read of the resounding clamor raised for the execution of Susannah, thought immediately of the loud “Crucify him” uttered against the Lord on Good Friday.

This comparison of the contrived criminal trials of Jesus and Susannah inevitably led to a studied contrast between the radically varying judgments of Daniel and Pontius Pilate. It is a striking resemblance between the Susannah story and Matthew 27:24 that both Daniel and Pontius Pilate believed that the respective trial was ending in a miscarriage of justice, and both claimed to be “innocent of the blood” about to be shed. How different, nonetheless, the two cases! Susannah was saved from the crowd by the bravery of Daniel, whereas Jesus was handed over to the crowd by the cowardice of Pilate.

Even before she was likened to Jesus, however, Susannah was perceived as a symbol of the Church. Indeed, this line of interpretation is already found in our first full commentary on the Book of Daniel, that of Hippolytus of Rome from the early third century:

“It is within our ability to understand the true meaning of all that befell Susannah, for you can find all these things fulfilled in the present condition of the Church.”

For Hippolytus the entire story of Susannah is especially replete with a deep mystic symbolism having to do with the union of the Lord with His Church:

“Susannah prefigured the Church; and her husband Joachim, Christ; and the garden, the summoning of the saints, who are planted in the Church like trees laden with fruit.”

Similarly, Hippolytus finds references to the Church’s sacraments in the details of this account. To Hippolytus, Susannah’s bath in the garden manifestly signifies baptism, in which the Church

“washed herself in order to be presented as a pure bride to God.”

As to the two maids who serve Susannah, these represent faith and love; Hippolytus explains:

“For it is by faith in Christ and love for God that the Church confesses and receives the washing.”

Thus, he goes on to say that the story of Susannah exhorts Christians to

“follow the truth and aim at the exactitude of the faith.”

And the ointments that Susannah requests of her handmaids? Obviously these are

“the commandments of the holy Word.”

The oil, of course, refers to the sacrament of chrismation:

And what was the oil but the power of the Holy Spirit, with which the believers are anointed after their washing. For our sakes all these things were figuratively represented in blessed Susannah, that we who believe in God might not find strange the things that are done in the Church, but believe them to have been presented figuratively by the patriarchs of old.

Still pursuing this symbolism, Hippolytus observes that the entire story takes place in Babylon, a symbol of exile in the world, where the Church is persecuted by two groups of enemies symbolized in the two wicked elders. These enemies of the Church are the Jews and the Gentiles.

“Slaves of the prince of this world,”

these two are forever bringing afflictions on the Church, even

“though they do not agree with one another.”

Alas, Hippolytus goes on, the Church is likewise persecuted by those who are Christians in name only.

Following this last emphasis, but with a less allegorical and more strictly moral interest, other Christians found somewhat different lessons to be drawn from the negative example of these two corrupt elders, or “presbyters.” Thus, in the earliest Christian reference to the story of Susan-nah, Irenaeus of Lyons took them to be examples of wicked, self-serving pastors. Indeed, references to these two elders more than once led Gregory the Theologian to make critical observations about wicked presbyters in the Church. Didymus of Alexandria called them “pseudo-presbyters.”

Christians were also to take note of the rash action of the crowd, criticized by Daniel for being so quick to condemn an innocent woman. This remembrance would always stand in the Church, particularly in her judicial proceedings, as a warning against hasty judgments, a lesson that seems to have made a special impression among the Christians of Syria and Egypt.

The Youthful Hero

In the trial of chaste Susannah, the champion of the hour was, of course, Daniel. The drama of this young man’s sudden appearance is somewhat muted in the Western or Latin tradition, in which the Susannah story forms Chapter 13 of the Book of Daniel, a position that gives the account almost the aspect of an appendix to the book. Far more effective as drama, surely, is the structural arrangement in the traditional Greek text, in which the Susannah story stands at the very beginning. Thus, in the sequence known to Eastern Orthodox Christians, we first meet the character of Daniel in the Bible when his yet boyish voice cries out suddenly:

“I am innocent of this woman’s blood!”

That is to say, the reader hears Daniel, and rather loudly, before he really sees him. Daniel’s first shape, so to speak, is that of a startling prophetic voice ringing out against injustice. Thus, a very young man dramatically takes his stand beside Elijah, Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.

Ambrose compared the wisdom of Daniel in this scene to that of the twelve-year-old Jesus amidst the doctors in the Temple, as described in Luke 2. Cyril of Jerusalem referred to Daniel’s spiritual precocity as manifest in the trial of Susannah, and Ambrose compared him to the prophets Samuel and Jeremiah, both of whom were called at an early age.

God’s Foreknowledge

The case can be made that Susannah’s major contribution to the history of theology is to be found in that line of her prayer where she says to God:

“O Eternal God, Reader of secrets, who know all things before they come to be.”

This is the Old Testament’s clearest expression of God’s knowledge of future events, events which have not yet occurred and which are, in fact, contingent upon the free decisions of men acting within history. It is the mystery of God’s foreknowledge of things that do not yet exist. Susannah invokes God using an adjective essentially related to His ability to know the future—God is “eternal.” He has a single existence, both before and after time; it is all one,

“from eternity to eternity” (Greek text of Psalm 89:2).

As God embraces all time in His eternity, His knowledge of things is not contingent on future historical events in such a way as to render that knowledge doubtful. He embraces history, His majestic freedom in no way lessened by the freedom of human beings who make choices within the historical stream. For He is the everlasting channel, the very bed in which that raging stream races and runs its course.

It is to this eternal God, then, that chaste Susannah commits her destiny, for in His eternity He knows all things, even “before their happening.” This expression of faithful Susannah—even “before their happening”—was to appear repeatedly in Christian literature. Whenever the Church of old sought to give expression to her faith in God’s foreknowledge of history, it was ever to Susannah’s prayer that she had recourse. This line of the prayer was quoted even by Church Fathers who made no other reference to the Susannah story. Starting with the Liturgy of St. James, we find citations of this line and clear references to it universally among the patristic traditions, whether Egyptian, Syrian, Palestinian, Cappadocian, Byzantine, African, Italian, or Gallic.

Luther removing books from the BibleAt the end of this brief survey of what the story of Susannah has meant to Christian readers from the very earliest times, one is perhaps justified in inquiring just what was accomplished by Luther’s removal of that story from the Bible, in spite of its being contained in every single manuscript of the Book of Daniel, without exception, throughout all of Christian history. I ask, but I do not really expect an answer.

We know what was lost by Luther’s eccentric decision. It is less clear what was gained.