Tag Archives: Septuagint

When God Spoke Greek: A Short Review

When I first started to read the Bible as a young Christian, I bought myself a study Bible. As I was reading the New Testament, I would run across quotations of the Old Testament. I rarely took the time to go back and read the various Old Testament references. But for the past two years, I have taken a “deep dive” into the Book of Romans, so I decided to look up some of those cross-references…finally. What I found at first surprised me, then it bothered me, and then it captivated me.

Here is the surprise: On more than one occasion, a New Testament writer will quote something from the Old Testament. But if you compare the quotation in the New Testament with what you have in our English translations of the Old Testament, the quotations typically do not match, word-for-word.

Are these typos in our Bibles?  Apparently not.

Not sure if you believe me? Come take a little trip with me into the Book of Romans, and I can show you…

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A Day at the Museum

Clarke referenced the Codex Sinaiticus and the Septuagint in a couple of posts last week, so Marion and I decided to hop a plane to London and have a look at the original. (That’s not exactly how things progressed, but isn’t far from the truth.)

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We’re in London this week to learn about the Codex Sinaiticus and other artifacts that point to the veracity of the text of the Bible.

Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. It contains the oldest complete New Testament in existence, and dates to around 350 A.D. The Old Testament portion is a copy of the Septuagint. Codex Sinaiticus is used by scholars today to create the most accurate translations of the biblical text. The manuscript is served in high definition on the Internet, and it doesn’t take long to see how scribes painstakingly corrected the original writing. There are corrections plastered in the margins everywhere. It was obviously important for the scribes to make sure the work was as accurate as possible and up to par with the best copies of the Bible in existence at the time.

The British Library’s portion of Sinaiticus is currently on display in a special exhibit at the British Museum. We asked Clive Anderson, co-author of Through the British Museum with the Bible, if he could guide us through the exhibits. Although Clive wasn’t scheduled to conduct a tour while we were in town, he graciously agreed.

Some days are better than others. Today was the day for our tour.
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Is the Virgin Birth Prophecy a Mistranslation?

The media coverage of the burning of the RSV, the “Revised Satanic Version” of the Bible. From the November 25, 1952 edition of the Courier Mail, Brisbane, Australia. Luther Hux made quite a news splash all over the world.

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emman′u-el” (Matthew 1:23 RSV)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman′u-el. (Isaiah 7:14 RSV)

Bible Burning

Luther Hux knew full well that the RSV was unholy, and accordingly he announced his intention to burn a copy of the new Bible,” so reports historian Peter Johannes Thuessen, from his In Discordance with the Scriptures: American Protestant Battles over Translating the Bible (p.96). Hux, a North Carolina Baptist pastor, had recently received a copy of the new “Revised Standard Version” of the Bible, published that year in 1952. In his fury over what he saw as a “mistranslation” of Isaiah 7:14, Luther Hux was determined to make a show over this “Bible burning” in front of as many press reporters as possible. Isaiah 7:14 is the famous prophecy of the virgin birth, as referenced by the Gospel writer Matthew. All previous English translations of this verse referred to a “virgin,” not a more generic “young woman,” as the new Revised Standard Version had done. Thuessen continues:

On the night of 30 November Hux delivered a two-hour oration and then led his congregation from the white-frame Temple Baptist Church into the cold autumn air, where every member received a small American flag. Climbing onto the bed of a waiting truck, Hux held aloft a copy of the RSV on which he had written the word “fraud.” Instead of burning the whole book, however he ripped out and ignited the page bearing Isaiah 7:14. “This has been the dream of modernists for centuries,” he shouted, ” to make Jesus Christ the son of a bad woman.” (p. 97)

Burning part of a Bible? It would hardly register a blip on the 24-hour news cycle at CNN today. But back in 1950s North Carolina, the “Buckle of the Bible Belt,” you just did not do things like that.

Well, at least he was being patriotic about it.

But what if Luther Hux was right? Was the Revised Standard Version (RSV) a fraud? Was the RSV, from Hux’s own word’s, “the Master Stroke of Satan?

I am not approving of “Bible burning,” but actually Luther Hux was onto something. What Hux did not know at the time is that he had stumbled upon an issue that has puzzled Bible scholars now for decades,… if not centuries.
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Benedictus, Hanukkah and Jesus

Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanies persecuted the Jews, which later triggered the Maccabean revolt, remembered today during Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (source Wikipedia: Altes Museum, Berlin)

Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanies persecuted the Jews, which later triggered the Maccabean revolt, remembered today during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (source Wikipedia: Altes Museum, Berlin)

Following on last week’s post on the Magnificat, from our church’s Advent sermon series on the “Gospel in Song,” we now consider the Benedictus, the Song of Zechariah, from Luke 1:68-79. The Benedictus is the great prophecy given by Zechariah regarding the birth of his son, John the Baptist (Luke 1).

In the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, in the very last few verses, we read:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6 ESV).

After this, the prophetic voice found in sacred Scripture is silent for some four hundred years. When would this “Elijah the prophet” come and prepare the way for the Lord?

Readers of the New Testament understand that this new “Elijah” is none other than John the Baptist.  Zechariah, the boy’s father, would sing of the “blessing”, or “benedictus”, in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible, of the coming prophet who would announce that the Lord “has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (verse 69), where the “horn” is a reference to the deadly weapon and tremendous power of Jesus, the coming Messiah.

However, it is important to set the Benedictus within its proper historical context. Many Christians assume that since there is a Scriptural gap between Malachi and the New Testament, that nothing of significance happened here. But this would be terribly wrong.

A body of Jewish writings, primarily written in ancient Greek, did appear during this four hundred year “silent” period. Many of these writings found their way into the Septuagint, a collection of Greek translations of the Old Testament that effectively became the “Bible” for the early Christian movement. These writings that were not of Hebrew origin are typically known as the Apocrypha. In Roman Catholicism, the Apocrypha are considered to be deuterocanonical, or “second canon,” whereas for Protestants, these writings are simply known for being useful in terms of spiritual edification, but not sufficient for establishing doctrine. Consequentially, the lesser status of these writings has meant that the significance of these writings are often forgotten in our churches today.

But one very important incident, the Maccabean revolt, is preserved for us in the apocryphal writings of 1 and 2 Maccabees. When the Syrian Greeks led by Antiochus Epiphanes took over the land of Israel, they desecrated the Jewish temple and forbade the worship of the one True God. In response, Jewish revolutionaries led by a Judas Maccabeus resisted and successfully defeated the pagan invaders, against tremendous odds. This remarkable incident in Jewish history became the foundation for the celebration of Hanukkah.  Jesus Himself celebrated Hanukkah during his earthly ministry (John 10:22-23).

Some scholars have even suggested that the Benedictus, and perhaps the Magnificat, as well, have their historical roots, in some way, as Maccabean war songs. One might be able to see a connection here when Zechariah sings “that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us “(verse 71). Whether or not these scholars are correct, is not so important. What is important is that we can surely appreciate how the early Jewish followers of Jesus saw that the message of Christmas was not simply about a sweet boy lying in a manger. Rather, they could see that the message of the Gospel, as announced by Zechariah, was a bold cry for light in the midst of a dark and hopeless world, which dovetails in rather nicely with the celebration of Hanukkah. Zechariah ends his song with:

To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79).

May we better understand that revolutionary message today, too.

The following 4-minute video from a Messianic Jewish community in Israel sums up the connection between Hanukkah and Yeshua (Jesus) rather well.


The Septuagint and the Original Old Testament?

The first part of the Book of Genesis, from the Septuagint, the early Old Testament Greek translation used by the early Christian church.

The first part of the Book of Genesis, from the Septuagint, an early  Greek translation of the Old Testament, which served as the “Bible” of the early Christian church before the completion of the New Testament.  Is this translation the closest thing we have to the “original” Old Testament?

I noticed sometimes the quotes of the Old Testament passages in [the Book of] Hebrews do not exactly match the wording when I go back and look up the verses in the Old Testament. I am just wondering what is going on.” This was a question sent to our pastors for our summer Bible study series on the Book of Hebrews. I do not know who asked the question in our congregation, but I want that person in my small group. What an awesome question!

The problem is that when you read a number of Old Testament citations in the New Testament, the New Testament writers are actually quoting from the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. Most of the Old Testament was written originally in Hebrew, so it comes as a shock to people to learn that this ancient Greek version of the Old Testament is referenced quite a bit in the New. Critics of Biblical faith will ask if the New Testament writers are at best sloppy when quoting from the original Old Testament, or are they downright fraudulent and terribly mistranslate the Old Testament by relying so much on the Septuagint instead of the original Hebrew?

Get your thinking caps on. This is really a good question.
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