The Septuagint and Modern Bible Versions, Part 6
Author unknown; edited by Dr. James W. Bruggeman. All underlining is emphasis by JWB. Also, all comments in [brackets] is by JWB, except author’s source references are also in brackets.
Among the early Masoretic Texts there are just minor variations. Similarly those that follow the tenth century are in the same vein. Most of the time, any differences can be ascribed to scribal error. What is simply amazing is that the texts from Tiberius, a major center of early textual preservation and copying on the western bank of the Sea of Galilee, are largely consistent up to the first modern printed texts, showing that in most instances, the majority of the texts came to us through two thousand years of history with little variation.
It is, however, possible to distinguish scribal practices between Sephardic texts and Ashkenazi texts, with the Sephardic scribes preserving the minutiae of orthography in greater fealty than the Ashkenazic texts have shown. “The accurate transmission of the standard Tiberian Masoretic consonantal text is found also in the unvocalized scrolls that have been preserved from the Middle Ages.” [The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible, page 66] Writings of the earliest rabbis concerned with the accurate transmission of the texts indicate that those found in Palestine were generally the most accurate. Modern translations generally do not use this stream, but use Maimonides-approved Alexandrian text.
Who were the Masoretes? The word Massorah has a root word, masar, which in Hebrew means to deliver something into the hands of another. They were entrusted with the transmission of the Old Testament unto succeeding generations. To understand their beginning, we need first to show how they originated. Before the Masoretes there were the Sopherim, a word which means, in its root, to count or number. Following the return of a small portion of the tribe of Judah from Babylonian captivity, the Sopherim were established and worked under Ezra and Nehemiah to set the text in order. You can read a bit about them in Nehemiah 8:8 and Ezra 7:6, 11. These men of the Great Synagogue worked diligently upon the sacred text from 410-300 B.C., or for 110 years to restore them after the Babylonian captivity, and to accurately note any problem areas. Their work now completed after over a century of settling the text, they then entrusted it to the Masoretes for preservation and keeping.
The work that they performed had locked all the words and letters in their place or “behind a fence,” if you will, not for a distorted or perverse interest, but to safeguard the sacred text and prevent the loss or misplacement of a single letter or word. It records the number of letters, words and verses, as well as various facts and phenomena of the sacred text so that any future scribe could check that his work was accurate by comparing against the detailed text notes.
The text notes about the scriptures were “outside the fence,” and did not intrude into the sacred text, which was preserved within the fence. These notes were written in lines above the text, below the text, in the side margins, and between the columns as needed to make reference for any special considerations. The Companion Bible by Bullinger is the only Bible that brings forth many of these text notes so that serious Bible students may profit from them, as well as the additional notes and 198 appendices provided by the renowned Bible scholar and translator, Dr. Bullinger. [The Companion Bible (KJV), Appendix 30, by Dr. E.W. Bullinger, D.D., (originally printed approx. 1898) Kregel Publishing,1990 (all rights reserved)]
Scholars are now in general agreement that a Greek Pentateuch of good quality was possibly in existence at the time the letter of Aristeas was written. The remaining books that formed the Septuagint came from different periods and many different hands, and with its additions to some books, omissions in other places and the addition of newer non-canonical books, it must have posed a struggle for Origen to collate.
There is no evidence that any version of the Septuagint ever had a fixed or closed canon of books. No two early Greek manuscripts agree as to which books are to be included in the Septuagint, and not all of those included in the Septuagint are accepted by the Roman Catholic church either. While these Apocryphal books became incorporated into various Greek and Latin Bibles, the number that Origen said were canonical was 27, the very same books we have today.
One apocryphal book, 2nd Esdras, isn’t found in any manuscript of the Septuagint. [How We Got the Bible, page 169] When Jerome made his translation of the Hebrew and Greek into Latin at Origen’s library in Caesarea, he was forced to defend his work. He is reported to have said to his detractors who held to the Septuagint, “If they dislike water drawn from the clear spring, let them drink of the muddy streamlet.” [How We Got the Bible, page 72]
We need to discuss Origen’s background a bit so that you can more easily evaluate his works. Origen did not believe that the Bible was the infallible Word of God. [Let’s Weigh the Evidence, page 64] The New International Bible Encyclopedia says that one of Origen’s most notable ideas was the Logos Doctrine. In the fourth century this became the foundation for the Arian heresy.
The name Logos that he applied was the divine principle of creation and rational world order that he followed, after Philo’s philosophical Platonic teachings. He applied this to Christ’s person and work, subordinating the Son to the Father. He treated Jesus Christ like the Jehovah’s Witnesses do today, that He was created by God, and was a god, but not God. He corrupted John 1:1 to say “the word was a god.” Origen did not believe that Jesus lived physically on earth either, and there were many other contradictions in his writings, as he would say one thing and then deny it elsewhere. [Let’s Weigh the Evidence, page 64-65]
The school begun by the Jewish philosopher and mystic Philo in Alexandria attracted students from all over the Roman Empire. Between 190 to 215 A.D. it was headed by Clement and his precocious pupil Origen. These men were regarded as sophisticated thinkers who were deeply read in the Greek philosophies. They were susceptible to pagan emperors whose children and high-born subjects were sent there for an education, and from Christian bishops who likewise scorned their “originality”.
Clement and Origen were ultimately forced to flee Alexandria, with Origen being excommunicated from the priesthood in 231 A.D. [The Faith— A History of Christianity, by Brian Moynahan, page 56, published by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., © 2002— (see also Final Authority, page 90)] This was the ancient method of being tarred, feathered, and being run out of town on a rail. It was here in Alexandria that Origen castrated himself, as Eusebius maintains, rather than be tempted by the charms of Alexandrian women. [The Faith— A History of Christianity, by Brian Moynahan, page 66] If he was the grandest Christian scholar of his time, as many Nicolaitans say, he ought to have been more concerned with this passage:
He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord. Deut 23: 1 (KJV)
The eminent historian of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbons, noted that “It seems unfortunate, in this instance only, he should have adopted the literal sense.” [The Story of Civilization, by Will and Ariel Durant, Vol. 3, page 613, Simon and Schuster © 1944] This was said in regards to his overzealous application of Mathew 19:12.
While our focus has been on the larger movers and shakers of history, there are some smaller and equally vital documents for us to evaluate and take into the picture. The first Christians did not all speak Greek, as many in Italy, France, Spain, England and North Africa spoke Latin and they had translations made of the Holy Writ in their areas, which we call today the Old Latin manuscripts. They were also known as Vulgate Bibles, for the word vulgar in Latin means the common tongue. Earlier we mentioned the fact that certain Bible passages and even a whole book were missing from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate Bible, and the Roman Catholic church was suspected in having them removed.
With the Alexandrian tradition, newer, counterfeit Jerome Vulgate Bibles appearing, the old ones were either being lost to usage over time, accident, or being turned into the churches where many disappeared. [Answers To Your Bible Version Questions, by David W. Daniels, page 12, Chick Publications, page 12, © 2003] But not all disappeared, and while the new Vulgate was restricted to the priests and used in the church only, some of the Old Latin Vulgates remained in circulation and were copied, translated and recopied all through the centuries. This began about 120 A.D., when the Old Latin manuscripts that have survived, first began. In the majority of cases, they “coincidentally” follow the Masoretic Text and all preceded the Septuagint by Origen.
When Jerome’s translation was released, there soon wasn’t room for two Vulgate Latin Bibles, and those found holding the Old Latin Bible were many times relentlessly and ruthlessly pursued and then slaughtered by the Roman Catholic church. Whole populations such as the godly and gentle Waldensians in 1655 were brutally attacked, being decimated, along with the Albigensians, in horrible slaughters within their peaceful valleys in a vain attempt by the pope to stop the true Word of God from getting into any other peoples’ hands.
The Waldenses church in the Vaudois valley of Northern Italy dated from 120 A.D. and their Bible from at least 157 A.D. It was a translation of the true text into the low Latin of the second century, being translated into Italian in the sixteenth century by Diodati.
Historians have documented the people’s use of this Old Latin Bible through the centuries, with the people enduring severe persecution from the fourth through the thirteenth century by the church of Rome. Many fled to other nations taking this precious text with them. There are about 50 Old Latin copies surviving.
Olivetan, a pastor of the Waldensian people, translated the Old Latin Bible into French. This French translation came into the hands of Calvin, who was related to Olivetan, and it became the basis for the Geneva Bible. Luther used the German Tepl Bible, which represented a German translation of the Waldensian Bible, to make “Luther’s Bible.” [Which Bible Is God’s Word?, by Gail Riplinger with N.W. Hutchings, Hearthstone Publishing, page 53, © 1994] These became more of the support and foundation upon which the King James Bible was soundly built.
Modern Bible translations often acknowledge being “indebted” to the Septuagint version. Some even claim that it contains true readings not found in the Hebrew text. Scholars then make the claim that Jesus Christ and the Apostles used the Septuagint, instead of the preserved Hebrew text, which was available in the Temple. How can that be when two centuries separates Jesus Christ from Origen? Apart from a couple of biblical fragments in Greek that predate Jesus Christ, there is absolutely nothing to prove that the Septuagint existed or was available for use by anyone during His life on earth, let alone for any time in centuries before His life.
The letter of Aristeas is a problem for Septuagint supporters. Let’s deal with that issue and follow our Bible translation trail more closely. In the letter, Aristeas allegedly gives the names of many of the translation scholars. That’s nice of him, because we know now that many of them are from the Maccabean period, about 75 years too late for the claimed date of the letter. Others peculiarly have Greek names, not the names of Hebrew scholars. The identity of the letter writer is even suspect, because the head librarian he names under Ptolemy II Philadelphus, actually served under a previous ruler, Ptolemy I Soter.
In the beginning of this essay I gave the name of the real librarian during the time period in question; it was Callimachus. Demetrius was never the librarian under Ptolemy II Philadelphus. The letter further embellishes itself by recounting how when the scholars allegedly arrived, they were greeted by news of a great naval victory by the Egyptians over Antigonas (Aristeas 7:14), but the only recorded victory occurred after Demetrius death. [Answers To Your Bible Questions, page 48-49]
The letter is but a cleverly contrived fraud to sell a bill of goods. It has been doing so for quite a long time. The story about a pre-Christian Septuagint is a hoax. The letter of Aristeas may be as old as the proverbial hills now, but what it tells are lies, and lies don’t get better with age; it is as sour wine, and just as bad for us if consumed.
Jesus Christ said that neither one jot nor tittle of the law would pass, until all was fulfilled (Matt. 5:18), therefore He had to be using Hebrew, because while the jot was a Hebrew letter, the tittle was the small mark used to distinguish between Hebrew letters. Jots and tittles wouldn’t appear in a Greek language Septuagint for Him to quote from. The Companion Bible has an interesting article regarding and refuting the alleged corruption of the Hebrew Text, and it affirms that Jesus must have had these smallest marks and tags in the Hebrew text from which He was quoting. [The Companion Bible, Appendix 93]
There is another witness in the Bible, and it is Luke 24:44, where Jesus speaks of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms as being witness of Him. This is the division of books found only in a Hebrew Bible. It is not found in the Septuagint, which has a different order (canonical books intermixed with Apocryphal non-canonical books, and different renderings of many of the books).
Here is more data supporting my contention that the letter of Aristeas is a fraud. There are no Biblical Greek manuscripts that have been found with a date of 250 B.C., as claimed by this letter, or anywhere near it. There are no records in Hebrew historical accounts to affirm this account either. The Hexapla was written about 200 A.D. and it took 28 years to complete from its inception. The Hexapla only began to be circulated a full century after the last of the New Testament books were written, making it rather easy for it to appear that the Apostles quoted exactly the Septuagint.
Now here is a curious conundrum that the Septuagint promoters overlook. If the Septuagint is what it is purported to be, and faithfully executed by Origen, how did the Apocryphal books get intermixed with the “original” Septuagint Greek Old Testament centuries before they were written? Could it be that Origen has instead run afoul of the warning in Rev. 22:18, if he deliberately deleted some and added other books to make rags into whole cloth?
The oldest Greek manuscript of the Old Testament is the Ryland Papyrus, #458, written about 150 B.C.; it contains Deuteronomy chapters 23-28, and nothing else. From this, is it plausible that Philo, Eusebius and Origen took the existence of this fragment and made the letter of Aristeas take on a life that wasn’t merited? Some scholars believe that the letter of Aristeas was actually written by Philo, which would place its existence in the post-Christ era, not before Jesus Christ.
If there was an Aristeas, how did he manage to find and bring back six qualified scholars from each of the twelve tribes? That must have been an amazing feat since Josephus records that Israel was beyond the Araxes River Mountains and a numerous people. Then again, if this feat had been accomplished, why would the priests permit their Holy Book to be transmitted into another tongue to supplant the Hebrew Text, and why would any Hebrew scholar even dare to touch the Biblical record but the priests of the tribe of Levi, to whom the sacred records were entrusted by God? [The Answer Book- A Helpbook for Christians, by Dr. Samuel C. Gipp, DayStar Publishing, page 53 © 1989] (End of part 6. To be continued.)