A New Look at the Origin of the Bible
The SEPTUAGINT --
Is It a Fraud or Forgery?
Recently the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament has come in for
a great deal of criticism, one writer calling it a fraud, forgery, and "utterly
corrupt." But is this true? When was the Septuagint translated? And for
whom? What is the TRUTH? Did Christ and the apostles quote from
the Septuagint? Was it commonly used in Jewish synagogues throughout
the Greek speaking world? Why then did they cease to use it? Was there
a CONSPIRACY to edit and emend the ORIGINAL BIBLE? The truth
behind this story is a shocking, incredible Bombshell which will shake
the world of Judaism and Christianity! There is much more to this story
than we have ever known!
William F. Dankenbring
In a recent research paper, submitted to the Worldwide Church of God, and distributed to many of its ministers, it was claimed that the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament -- the Greek LXX as it has been called -- is "totally corrupt and unreliable!" Claiming that the "only evidence" that a "Septuagint translation was ever made" was a document called the "letter of Aristeas," the author asserts nonchalantly that
"THERE IS NO OTHER EVIDENCE OF ANY KIND THAT SUCH AN LXX TRANS-
LATION WAS EVER MADE!" (emphasis his, p.44).
Is this claim true? Or is it a patent falsehood? I would normally not spend any time with refuting this kind of writing subterfuge. However, it has impressed many ministers and several others, to my dismay and consternation. For the truth is, the author of this paper very obviously is extremely prejudiced and biased and does not hesitate to make outlandish claims and reach incredible conclusions, based on the flimsiest evidence and most superficial research!
Claims the author, there is only "ONE and one only" Greek manuscript of the Old Testament written before the time of Christ. He asserts, "it is a minute scrap dated at 150 B.C." -- the Rylands Papyrus #458 which contains only the 23-28 chapters
of the book of Deuteronomy. He goes on, "That is hardly convincing evidence that the whole Pentateuch had been translated 130 years earlier."
The author then claims that the early church theologian Origen, out of a motive of vanity and desire for fame, apparently, sought to have official church recognition for his work, and produced a 6-column harmony of the available Greek texts of his time, called the Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, and LXX (Septuagint). But the author declares that "in reality this presents nothing more than ORIGEN'S OWN ATTEMPT AT PRODUCING A GREEK VERSION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT FOR WHICH HE WANTED OFFICIAL CHURCH REC0GNITION!" (emphasis his).
Besides the books of the Old Testament canon, the Septuagint includes other ancient Jewish books called the "Apocrypha," such as the first and second books of Maccabees. The author claims that even these books were supposed to have been translated by the 72 scholars sent to Egypt, along with the entire Septuagint. He asserts that no Hebrew high priest would ever have sent these apocryphal books to be translated into Greek, and boasts,
"The fraud that is the LXX should be clear for all to see" (p.48).
The author accuses Origen of having deliberately and knowingly taking the New Testament quotations from the Old Testament and inserting them into his Septuagint version as found in his Hexapla. He charges:
"When Origen, in the process of putting together his version of the LXX, came to an
O.T. passage that he knew is quoted in the N.T., he simply wrote the Greek text from
the New Testament into the Greek LXX. In plain English, he made the Greek version
of the O.T. quote the Greek of the N.T. verbatim . . . to give greater credibility to his
work. That way it would look as if the New Testament writers were quoting from his
LXX text . . ." (p.51).
This ludicrous statement implies clearly that Origen was a crook -- a deceitful manipulator, full of vain intrigue, who falsified his copy of the LXX by deliberately changing all Old Testament portions quoted in the Greek New Testament to conform to the New Testament! Our critic points out that in Hebrew 1:10 we read, "And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth," which he says, is quoted from Psalm 102:25: "Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth." But, says the author, Origen added the word "Lord" to his Septuagint version, making it identical to the quotation from the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. This, the author claims, proves that Origen simply "COPIED the text from Hebrews 1:10-12 back into his version of the LXX," and concludes:
"THE FORGERY STANDS EXPOSED!" (p.52).
These are very strong allegations. These are terrible accusations. But are they true? The apostle Paul warns us, "PROVE ALL THINGS; hold fast that which is GOOD" (I Thess.5:21).
In Hebrews 1:6, we read: "And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he said, And let all the angels of God worship him." The author claims this was not intended to be a quotation from the Old Testament, but just a claim made by Paul. The author then claims that Origen deliberately put this phrase into Deut.32:43 to make it appear that Paul quoted the phrase from the Septuagint. Interestingly, the phrase is nowhere found in the Masoretic text of the Old Testament! The author then claims this is a fraud. He says:
"THERE IS NO WAY ANY TRANSLATORS IN 280 B.C. COULD HAVE GOTTEN
THAT PHRASE FROM THE HEBREW MANUSCRIPTS AVAILABLE TO THEM!
"ONCE AGAIN ORIGEN'S FORGERY STANDS EXPOSED!" (p.55, his emphasis).
Unfortunately for our critic, his ignorance is showing. The truth is, modern biblical scholars now know there were a number of variant texts of the Hebrew Scriptures in the time before Christ, and one of these other variations was the primary source material for the Septuagint version itself -- a version in some respects distinctly different from the Masoretic text which is the commonly accepted version of the Old Testament, which was itself finalized during the time of the Masoretes, about 500 years after the time of Christ.
In summary, then, our researcher concludes, "The only LXX we have today stands exposed as a corrupt forgery!" Unfortunately, a number of people seem to take his assertions at face value. To do so, however, is to believe a fairy tale or fable is the truth!
Let's take, now, and honest look at the Septuagint, and its origin -- from unbiased and scholarly sources, who don't have an ax to grind, but who are simply seeking the truth.
The Facts, Just the Facts
Werner Keller in his book The Bible As History: Second Revised Edition, gives us an interesting insight into the origin of the Greek Scriptures. He has no ax to grind. He isn't writing "contra" anything, but simply showing how archaeology and science delve 4,000 years into the past to document the Bible as history. He writes:
"Two unusually far-sighted rulers, Ptolemy I and his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus,
developed their capital city of Alexandria into a nursery of Hellenistic culture and
learning . . . and made it a radiant center of attraction for emigrants from Judah among
others. In this crucible they steeped themselves in the beauty of the Greek language
. . . It was the international language of learning and of commerce, the language of
tens of thousands of Israelites who knew no other home.
"The rising generation no longer knew Hebrew as their mother tongue. They could
no longer follow the sacred text in the services of the synagogue. Thus it came about
that the Jews in Egypt decided to translate the Hebrew scriptures. About 250 B.C. the
Torah was translated into Greek, a fact of immeasurable import for Western civilization.
"The translation of the Bible into the Greek tongue was for the Jews in Egypt such an
incredible step forward that legend took hold of it. The story is told in an apocryphal
letter of Aristeas of Alexandria.
"Philadelphus, the second of the Ptolemaic dynasty, took great pride in the fact that he
possessed a collection of the finest books in the world. One day the librarian said to the
monarch that he had brought together in his 995 books the best literature of all nations.
But, he added, the greatest books of all, the five books of Moses, were not included
among them. Therefore Ptolemy II Philadelphus sent envoys to the high Priest to ask
for a copy of these books. At the same time he asked for men to be sent who could
translate them into Greek. The High Priest granted his request and sent together with
the copy of the Torah 72 learned and wise scribes. Great celebrations were organized
in honour of the visitors from Jerusalem, at whose wisdom and knowledge the king
and his courtiers were greatly astonished. After the festivities they betook themselves
to the extremely difficult task which had been assigned to them . . ." (p.312).
Max I. Dimont, in his book Jews, God and History, also discusses the Septuagint. He shows that it was not a forgery or a fraud perpetrated by Origen upon the world 230 years after Christ! Dimont states:
"There is an interesting legend telling how the Greek translation of the Old Testament
came to be called the Septuagint. About 250 B.C., word of a famous and beautifully
written book possessed by the Jews had reached the ear of the Ptolemaic King Philadelphus.
He suggested that seventy Jewish scholars translate the work into Greek. According to this
pious legend, each of the seventy scholars worked independently, yet all seventy translations,
when completed, were identical, word for word, thus proving God's guiding hand. And so
the work became known as the book of the 'Seventy,' or Septuagint in Greek" (p.114).
Modern scholars tend to discount this legend, as preserved in a "Letter of Aristeas." Nevertheless, whether the letter itself is part fact, part legend, is not the real issue. All scholars agree that the first five books of Moses were translated in Alexandria, Egypt, during the time of the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus! Furthermore, all the ANCIENT sources agree that the essentials of the "letter of Aristeas" are true -- including the Jewish high priest Aristobulus who lived in Alexandria less than a century later, the Jewish historian Josephus of the first century A.D., and the Jewish philosopher and moralist Philo, who lived in Alexandria during the time of Peter and the apostles.
The Witness of Philo of Alexandria
Philo, in his account of the history of the Septuagint, relates the following:
"Some persons, thinking it a scandalous thing that these laws [of Moses] should only
be known among one half portion of the human race, namely, among the barbarians,
and that the Greek nations should be wholly and entirely ignorant of them, turned their
attention to their translation.
"And since this undertaking was an important one, tending to the general advantage,
not only of private persons, but also of rulers, of whom the number was not great,
it was entrusted to kings, and to the most illustrious of all kings. Ptolemy, surnamed
Philadelphus, was the third in succession after Alexander, the monarch who subdued
Egypt; and he was, in virtues which can be displayed in government, the most excellent
sovereign, not only of all those of his time, but of all that ever lived; so that even now,
after the lapse of so many generations, his fame is still celebrated . . . .
"He, then, being a sovereign of this character, and having conceived a great admiration
for and love of the legislation of Moses, conceived the idea of having our laws translated
into the Greek language; and immediately he sent ambassadors to the high-priest and
king of Judea, for they were the same person. And having explained his wishes, and
having requested him to pick him out a number of men, of perfect fitness for the task,
who should translate the law, the high-priest, as was natural, being greatly pleased,
and thinking that the king had only felt the inclination to undertake a work of such
character from having been influenced by the providence of God, considered, and with
great care selected the most respectable of the Hebrews whom he had about him, who
in addition to their knowledge of their national scriptures, had also been well instructed
in Grecian literature, and cheerfully sent them.
"And when they arrived at the king's court they were hospitably received by the king;
and while they feasted, they in return feasted their entertainer with witty and virtuous
conversation; for he made experiment of the wisdom of each individual among them,
putting them to a succession of new and extraordinary questions; and they, since the
time did not allow of their being prolix in their answers, replied with great propriety
and fidelity as if they were delivering apothegms which they had already prepared"
(The Works of Philo, p.494).
Philo relates that "they, like men inspired, prophesied, not one saying one thing and another another, but every one of them employed the self-same nouns and verbs, as if some unseen prompter had suggested all their language to them." This feat was so extraordinary and remarkable, and of such importance, Philo relates, that it was then commemorated by an annual festival!
"On which account, even to this very day, there is EVERY YEAR a solemn assembly
held and a festival celebrated in the island of Pharos, to which not only the Jews but a
great number of persons of other nations sail across, reverencing the place in which the
first light of interpretation shone forth, and thanking God for that ancient piece of bene-
ficence which was always young and fresh" (ibid.).
This fact alone clearly attests to the creation of this extraordinary document of translation during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and further proves it was at the island of Pharos, just like the letter of Aristeas, and writings of Josephus declare. This festival was still being held in the days of Philo, who "lived from about 20 B.C. to about 50 A.D.. He is one of the most important Jewish authors of the Second Temple period of Judaism and was a contemporary of both Jesus and Paul" (ibid., "Foreword," xi, by David Scholer).
Commenting on the origin of the Septuagint, H.B. Swete in Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, writes:
"Philo, on the other hand, represents an Alexandrian tradition which was perhaps origin-
ally independent of the letter [of Aristeas], and is certainly not entirely consistent with
it. He states that the completion of the work of the LXX was celebrated at Alexandria
down to his own time by a yearly festival at the Pharos . . . A popular anniversary of this
kind can scarcely have grown out of a literary work so artificial . . . as the letter of Aristeas"
The Witness of Aristobulus, the High Priest
Says The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible about the origin of the Septuagint:
"1. The Septuagint. The Old Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures and the earliest
complete translation of them. It was called the Septuagint, commonly designated by
LXX, after the 70 translators reputed to have been employed on the Pentateuch in the time
of Ptolemy Philadelphus, 285-246 B.C. The number 70 may be an approximation for 72,
or it may have developed traditionally . . . Originally the name was applied to the transla-
tion of the Pentateuch, but eventually to the whole Greek O.T. ARISTOBULUS, a Jewish
high priest who lived in ALEXANDRIA DURING THE REIGN OF PTOLEMY PHILO-
METOR 181/180-145 B.C., and who is mentioned in II Maccabees 1:10b, is quoted by
Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius as stating that while portions relating to Hebrew history
had been translated into Greek previously, THE ENTIRE LAW WAS TRANSLATED from
the Hebrew IN THE REIGN OF PTOLEMY PHILADELPHUS under the direction of Deme-
trius Phalereus" (p.971).
Before we go on, notice that this man, Aristobulus, himself was a high-ranking HIGH PRIEST and obviously a well-informed, intelligent man, and he lived in Alexandria, Egypt for a while, and that he lived between 60-100 years after the translation was reputed to have taken place. This is important to consider. He very likely had access to knowledge and information we do not have, today. His testimony ought to be considered conclusive on this point. He testifies that indeed the law of Moses was translated from Hebrew to Greek during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus. There was no doubt in his mind, and he lived there -- and only one or two generations removed from the actual event itself!
This would be like the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, today, testifying on a major matter of law or legal precedent concerning the Supreme Court itself in Washington, D.C., which occurred just 60 to 100 years before his time -- a subject with which a person in his august position should be very familiar! The testimony of Aristobulus, therefore, ought to be very persuasive that the Septuagint is not a forgery or a fraud, and that the essential points of the Aristeas letter are correct!
This authority continues:
"The same tradition, but considerably embellished, is contained in a letter purporting to
have been written by Aristeas to Philocrates. This letter is generally regarded by modern
scholars as spurious THE SAME STORY AS THAT TOLD BY ARISTEAS IS
REPEATED WITH SLIGHT VARIATIONS BY JOSEPHUS, who may have had access
to the letter" (p.971).
Notice! Now we have two ancient authorities who confirm the essential story of the translation of the Pentateuch into Greek during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus. "In the mouth of two or three witnesses he every word be established," God says. The fact that Josephus' account differs slightly -- has "variations" -- from the letter of Aristeas is proof that he did not just copy the letter or get his information from the letter itself, entirely, but had other sources at his disposal. These slight "variations" add further weight to the evidence that the story is true, in its important aspects.
Concerning Aristobulus' account of the origin of the Septuagint, H. B. Swete asserts:
The fragment of Aristobulus carries us much further back than the witness of Philo
and Josephus. It was addressed to a Ptolemy who was a descendant of Philadelphus,
and who is identified both by Eusebius and by Clement with Philometor. Whether
Aristobulus derived his information from Aristeas is uncertain, but his words, if we
admit their genuineness, ESTABLISH THE FACT THAT THE MAIN FEATURES
OF THE STORY WERE BELIEVED BY THE LITERARY JEWS OF ALEXANDRIA,
and even at the Court, MORE THAN A CENTURY AND A HALF BEFORE THE
CHRISTIAN ERA and within a century of the date assigned by Aristeas to the transla-
tion of the Law" (Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, p.13).
H. B. Swete, who has studied these matters extensively, believes that the "letter of Aristeas" itself is "to a large extent legendary." But, he says, in its defense --
"On the other hand, though the story as 'Aristeas' tells it is doubtless a romance, it
must not be hastily inferred that it has no historical basis. That the writer was a Jew
who lived in Egypt under the Ptolemies seems to be demonstrated by the knowledge
he displays of life at the Alexandrian Court. There is also reason to suppose that he wrote
within fifty years of the death of Philadelphus, and HIS PRINCIPAL FACTS ARE
ENDORSED, as we have seen, BY A WRITER OF THE NEXT GENERATION. It
is difficult to believe that a document, which within a century of the events relates the
history of a literary undertaking in which the Court and the scholars of Alexandria were
concerned, can be altogether destitute of truth" (p.16).
The Witness of Josephus, First Century Historian
Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century, gives us additional insight into the origin of the Septuagint. His version tends to confirm at least the essentials of the so-called "legend" as given in the "Letter of Aristeas." Josephus, who lived in the generation following Christ, and who fought in the Jewish-Roman war of 70 A.D., wrote in his Antiquities of the Jews this straightforward account:
". . .Philadelphus then took the kingdom of Egypt, and held it forty years within one.
He procured the law to be interpreted, and set free those that were come from Jerusalem
into Egypt, and were in slavery there, who were a hundred and twenty thousand. The
occasion was this: -- Demetrius Pharerius, who was library-keeper to the king, was now
endeavoring, if it were possible, to gather together all the books that were in the habitable
earth, and buying whatsoever was anywhere valuable, or agreeable to the king's inclination,
(who was very earnestly set upon collecting of books;) to which inclination of his, Demetrius
was zealously subservient. And when once Ptolemy asked him how many ten thousands of
books he had collected, he replied, that he had already about twenty times ten thousand; but
that in a little time, he should have fifty times ten thousand. But he said he had been informed
that there were many books of laws among the Jews worthy of inquiring after, and worthy of
the king's library, but which, being written in characters and in a dialect of their own, will
cause no small pains in getting them translated into the Greek tongue . . . So the king thought
that Demetrius was very zealous to procure him abundance of books, and that he suggested
what was exceeding proper for him to do; and therefore he wrote to the Jewish high priest
that he should act accordingly" (Antiquities, Book XII, 1, p.246).
Josephus gives a very in depth presentation of the details of this event. He tells how Aristeus, one of the king's most intimate friends, resolved to petition the king to set all the captive Jews in his kingdom free. Knowing of the desire to get the Jewish books of the law, for the king, he made the following speech to the king:
"It is not fit for us, O king, to overlook things hastily, or to deceive ourselves, but to
lay the truth open: for since we have determined not only to get the laws of the Jews
transcribed, but interpreted also, for thy satisfaction, by what means can we do this, while
so many of the Jews are now slaves in thy kingdom? Do thou then what will be agree-
able to thy magnanimity, and to thy good-nature: free them from the miserable condition
they are in, because that God, who supporteth thy kingdom, was the author of their laws,
as I have learned by particular inquiry; for both these people and we also worship the same
God, the framer of all things" (XII, 2).
The entire account, preserved in Josephus, rings true. The king was appealed to and his counselors backed up the request, and the slaves who had been captured by his father or himself were released. Josephus quotes the king's decree. The king then sent fifty talents of gold to the Jewish high priest, and a huge quantity of precious stones, and appointed one hundred talents in money to be used for temple sacrifices in Jerusalem, accompanied by a letter to the high priest Eleazar, stating, in part:
"I have determined to procure an interpretation of your law, and to have it translated out
of Hebrew into Greek, and to be deposited in my library. Thou wilt therefore do well to
choose out and send to me men of a good character, who are now elders in age, and six
in number out of every tribe. These, by their age, must be skillful in the laws, and of
abilities to make an accurate interpretation of them; and when this shall be finished, I
shall think that I have done a work glorious to myself . . ."
Eleazar the high priest send back a reply as follows:
"When we received thy epistle, we greatly rejoiced at thy intentions; and when the multitude
were gathered together, we read it to them, and thereby made them sensible of the piety thou
hast towards God. . . . Know then that we will gratify thee in what is for thy advantage,
though we do what we used not to do before. . . We have also chosen six elders out of every
tribe, which we have sent, and the law with them . . ."
The details that Josephus brings to the whole account, together with the witnesses of Philo, Aristobulus, and Biblical scholarship, all prove conclusively that the translation of the five books of Moses during the time of Ptolemy Philadelpus was not a mere legend, but that the essential contents of the "letter of Aristeas" are based on actual fact. Josephus gives rich incredible detail as to the gifts sent, the return to Egypt, the celebrations, and the journey to the island where the work of translation of the five books of Moses was to be undertaken. Josephus records:
"When he had brought them thither, he entreated them (now they had all things about
them which they wanted for the interpretation of their law), that they would suffer
nothing to interrupt them in their work. Accordingly, they made an ACCURATE
INTERPRETATION , with great zeal and great pains; and they continued to do
until the ninth hour of the day; after which time they relaxed and took care of their
body, while their food was provided for them in great plenty . . . . Now when the
law was transcribed, and the labour of interpretation was over, which came to its
conclusion in seventy-two days, Demetrius gathered all the Jews together to the place
where the laws were translated, and where the interpreters were, and read them over.
The multitude did also approve of those elders that were the interpreters of the law"
(Antiquities, Bk XII, 13-14).
Now, our critic claims that Josephus fantasized his whole account, and lied, presumably, and that there was no authentic Jewish translation of the Old Testament, or the five books of Moses, but that there were only small "private" attempts to do so, and that Origen in 230 A.D. created the Septuagint for his own nefarious purposes to gain favor and fame in the Catholic Church. One is forced to wonder -- why would somebody invent a "letter to Aristeas" purporting to show the reasons for the ORIGIN of the Septuagint -- the Greek translation of the five books of Moses -- in about 250 B.C. if there were no such translation in existence whose origin demanded to be explained?
One also wonders how both Josephus, a priest and general of the Jewish army in the rebellion of 70 A.D., could have been "taken in" by such a "fraud" -- how Philo, a very learned Jewish wise man of Alexandria, Egypt, could have fallen for the "concocted plot," and how Aristobulus -- high priest of the Jews just 60 years or so after the "fait accompli" was supposed to have occurred, could have been so completely "deceived"!
Or, is it our "critic" who has deceived himself?
The Witness of Justin Martyr
What need have we of further witness? Nevertheless, there is much more. The early church leader Justin Martyr, circa 110-165 A.D., also wrote concerning the Septuagint and its origin and importance. In his "Hortatory Address to the Greeks," Justin declares that he was an eye-witness and personally saw the very cubicles that the Jewish translators had used to transcribe the text of the Torah into Greek. We read his own words:
"But if any one says that the writings of Moses and of the rest of the prophets were also
written in the Greek character, let him read profane histories, and know that Ptolemy,
king of Egypt, when he had built the library in Alexandria, and by gathering books from
every quarter had filled it, then learnt that very ancient histories written in Hebrew happened
to be carefully preserved; and wishing to know their contents, he sent for seventy wise men
from Jerusalem, who were acquainted with both the Greek and Hebrew language, and appointed
them to translate the books; and that in freedom from all disturbance they might the more
speedily complete the translation, he ordered that there should be constructed, not in the city
itself, but seven stadia off (where the Pharos was built), as many little cots as there were
translators, so that each by himself might complete his own translation; and enjoined upon
those officers who were appointed to this duty, to afford them all attendance, but to prevent
communication with one another, in order that the accuracy of the translation might be
discernible even by their agreement. And when he ascertained that the seventy men had not
only given the same meaning, but had employed the same words, and had failed in agreement
with one another not even to the extent of one word, but had written the same things, he was
struck with amazement, and believed that the translation had been written by divine power,
and perceived that the men were worthy of all honor, as beloved of God; and with many gifts
ordered them to return to their own country. And having, as was natural, marvelled at the
books, and concluded them to be divine, he consecrated them in that library. These things,
ye men of Greece, are no fable, nor do we narrate fictions; BUT WE OURSELVES HAVING
BEEN IN ALEXANDRIA, SAW THE REMAINS OF THE LITTLE COTS AT THE
PHAROS STILL PRESERVED, and having heard these things from the inhabitants, who
had received them as part of their country's tradition, we now tell to you what you can also
learn from others, and specially from those wise and esteemed men who have written of these
things, Philo and Josephus, and many others" (Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol.1, "Justin's Hortatory
Address to the Greeks," XIII).
Justin says that the essential FACTS concerning the Septuagintal books of Moses having been translated at the behest of Ptolemy Philadelphus was absolutely true, and that "MANY OTHERS" had written and borne witness of these things, and that he himself had seens the "little cots" at Pharos that the original translators had used!
When Was the Septuagint Written?
Says Unger's Bible Dictionary, about the origin of the Septuagint:
"1. The Greek Septuagint. The Hebrew Old Testament enjoys the unique distinction
of being the first book or rather library of books, for such it is, known to be translated
into another language. This translation is called the Septuagint and was made IN THE
THIRD AND SECOND CENTURIES B.C. During this period the entire Hebrew Bible
was put into the Greek language. It was in the reign of PTOLEMY PHILADELPHUS
(285-246 B.C.) that the Pentateuch was put into the Greek tongue . . . . Certainly by the
middle of the second century B.C. the Old Testament was COMPLETELY RENDERED
IN GREEK. The name Septuagint was eventually applied to the entire Greek Old Testa-
The dean of evangelical Biblical scholars, F. F. Bruce, says in his excellent book The Canon of Scripture concerning the Septuagint:
"The Greek translation of the scriptures was made available from time to time in the third
and second centuries B.C. (say during the century 250-150 B.C.). The law, comprising
the five books of Moses, was the first part of the scriptures to appear in a Greek version;
the reading of the law was essential to synagogue worship, and it was important that what
was read should be intelligible to the congregation" (p.43-44).
It should be perfectly clear that there is no truth whatsoever in the claim of our critic who attempts to prove that the Septuagint is a "fraud" and a "forgery" and " completely corrupt"!
The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, under the heading "Septuagint," tells us about the character of the Septuagint, which our critic finds "utterly corrupt." Says this multi-volume authority:
"The Greek OT as it exists today is a composite book, the work of various translators
of varied ability who worked at different times. The WHOLE OT WAS PROBABLY
COMPLETE BY THE MIDDLE, CERTAINLY BY THE END, OF THE SECOND
CENTURY B.C. It is generally held that the provenance of all of them was Egypt . . .
The Pentateuch was undoubtedly translated first, probably during the reign of Philadelphus"
(volume 4, p.276).
Peloubet's Bible Dictionary tells us further, about the Septuagint:
"The Jews of Alexandria had probably still less knowledge of Hebrew than their
brethren in Palestine; their familiar language was Alexandrian Greek. They had
settled in Alexandria in large numbers soon after the time of Alexander, and under
the early Ptolemies. They would naturally follow the same practice as the Jews
in Palestine; and hence would arise in time an entire Greek version. The commonly
received story respecting its origin is contained in an extant letter ascribed to Aristeas
. . . This is the story which probably gave to the version the title of the Septuagint,
and which has been repeated in various forms by the Christian writers. But it is now
generally admitted that the letter is spurious, and is probably the fabrication of an
Alexandrian Jews shortly before the Christian era. STILL, THERE CAN BE NO
DOUBT THAT THERE WAS A BASIS OF FACT for the fiction; on three points
of the story there is no material difference of opinion, and they are CONFIRMED
by the study of the version itself: -- 1. The version was made at Alexandria. 2. It
was begun in the TIME OF THE EARLY PTOLEMIES, about 280 B.C. 3. The
law (i.e., the Pentateuch) alone was translated at first. The Septuagint version was
HIGHLY ESTEEMED BY THE HELLENISTIC JEWS BEFORE THE COMING
OF CHRIST. Because of the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world the Greek
translation of their Scriptures was AN IMPORTANT FACTOR IN PREPARING
THE WAY FOR CHRIST'S COMING. Its existence in a language which could be
read throughout the world made even the Gentiles familiar with the beliefs of the
Jews, and their wonderful history which would of course include the guiding Provi-
dence of God, and his promise of a Saviour to come, throughout the nations. No less
wide was the influence of the Septuagint in the spread of the GOSPEL. For a long
period the Septuagint was the Old Testament of the far larger part of the Christian
The New Bible Dictionary tells us more about the Septuagint. It corroborates the account of Peloubet, and other scholars, and provides additional details for us to consider. As to the origin of the Septuagint, it declares:
"1. ORIGINS. Its precise origins are still debated. A letter, purporting to be written
by a certain Aristeas to his brother Philocrates in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus
(285-246 B.C.), relates how Philadelphus, persuaded by his librarian to get a translation
of the Hebrew scriptures for his royal library, appealed to the high priest at Jerusalem
. . . . The same story is told WITH VARIATIONS by Josephus [indicating that Josephus
the historian also had OTHER SOURCES for his detailed version of the event], but later
writers embellish it with miraculous details. A Jewish priest ARISTOBULUS, who
lived in the 2nd century B.C., is quoted by Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius as
stating that while portions relating to Hebrew history had been translated into Greek
previously, THE ENTIRE LAW WAS TRANSLATED IN THE REIGN OF PTOLEMY
PHILADELPHUS . . ." (p.1258).
This same authority describes the value of the Septuagint by pointing out:
"But in numerous places the unrevised LXX text disagrees with the MT in meaning,
order, and content; and this is important, since the LXX was, until recently, the earliest
witness to the Old Testament text. No Hebrew MS, until the discovery of the Dead
Sea Scrolls, was earlier than the late 9th century A.D. Moreover, these Hebrew MSS
all contained the text as edited by the Masoretes, whereas the LXX (i.e., before the
main revisions) witness to a pre-Masoretic text. Where it differs from the MT, the
LXX is in some places evidently inferior, in other places just as clearly superior;
sometimes it is supported by the Samaritan text or one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These
latter occasionally agree with the LXX, where formerly we thought that the LXX was
merely a loose paraphrase, unauthorized by any Hebrew . . ." (p.1260).
Was Origen Able to Foresee the Future?
Now, if the Septuagint was a complete forgery and a fraud, as our critic claims, one wonders why it is corroborated and supported by passages in other ancient texts such as the Samaritan text and the Dead Sea Scrolls? Our critic claims that Origen wrote the Septuagint about 230 A.D., and falsely claimed it was older. Yet the Dead Sea Scrolls confirm the text of the Septuagint! Was Origen so clever and "psychic" that he could foretell 1,700 years in advance what readings in the Dead Sea Scrolls, WHICH WERE NOT DISCOVERED UNTIL 1948, would say?
Not so! Says F.F. Bruce:
"Origen's chief contribution to Old Testament studies was the compilation called the
Hexapla (Greek for 'sixfold'). This was an edition of the Old Testament which exhibited
side by side in six vertical columns (1) the Hebrew text, (2) the Hebrew text transcribed
into Greek letters, (3) Aquila's Greek version, (4) Symmachus' Greek version, (5) the
Septuagint, (6) Theodotion's Greek version. For certain books two and even three other
Greek versions were added in further columns. Origen paid special attention to the
Septuagint column; his aim was to present AS ACCURATE AN EDITION OF THIS
VERSION AS WAS POSSIBLE. By means of critical signs, for example, he indicated
places where the Septuagint omitted something found in the Hebrew text or added some-
thing absent from the Hebrew text" (The Canon of Scripture, p.73).
Why was Origen so careful and concerned about making the best possible edition of the Septuagint? Because the Church of his time believed that the original Septuagint, as translated into Greek, was divinely inspired!
Irenaeus, who was born and brought up in the province of Asia, was in his youth a disciple of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, and remembered with gratitude the instruction he had received from him, including Polycarp's reminiscences with the apostle John, and others who had been eye witnesses of the Lord. According to the writings of Irenaeus, "The Old Testament writings are indispensable witnesses to the history of salvation; the Septuagint version was DIVINELY INSPIRED" (Bruce, p.173; Iraneaus, Against Heresies, 3.21.2).
Clement, also, stresses the inspiration of the Septuagint version of the Old Testament (Bruce, p.188; Clement, Strom. 1.22). He spent the last quarter of the second century, in Alexandria, before migrating to Asia Minor when persecution came on the church in Alexandria in 202 A.D.
With all this historical witness which leads support and credibility to the Septuagint, how should we view this ancient translation? Is there more to it than we have ever imagined?
What Version Did Christ and the Apostles Quote From?
Contrary to our critic who despises the Septuagint, and claims that New Testament authors did not quote from it, modern scholarship totally disagrees. We read in The New Bible Dictionary::
"V. SIGNIFICANCE. Valuable as a monument of Hellenistic Greek, the LXX occasion-
ally preserves meanings of Hebrew words that were current when the LXX translation was
made, but which were subsequently lost. It acts also as a linguistic and theological bridge-
head between the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New; for it served as
'Bible' to generations of Greek-speaking Jews in many countries, and it is OFTEN
QUOTED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. (Luke and the writer to the Hebrews use it most.
Matthew least. The New Testament quotations which do not agree with the LXX can be
attributed to inexact quotation from memory, the writer's own translation, translation of
Aramaic sources, translation of Hebrew texts different from the MT, perhaps to other
Greek translations, perhaps also to deliberate adaptation of the Hebrew under the Holy
Spirit's guidance.)" (p.1261).
The fact that the Septuagint was the translation of choice in the vast majority of New Testament quotations from the Old Testament, by Christ and the apostles, ought to tell us something. This fact alone bolsters the authority and importance of the Septuagint version, as it was used at that time! Since the Septuagint was already being used for hundreds of years before Origen was even born, there is no way he could have rewritten the Septuagint to conform to Old Testament quotations found in the New Testament! Such an attempt would have been immediately discovered and exposed. It would be comparable to trying to re-write the U.S. Constitution, today, claiming that the "new" version was the original version of two centuries ago!
Who Was Origen, Anyway?
What was, then, the involvement of Origen, the early church theologian, of Alexandria, and the Septuagint? Was Origen really such a bad fellow, as our critic paints him to be? Was he a scheming paranoid pretentiously seeking his own exaltation and fame? Was he a forger and a fraud? Not at all. He was a brilliant and gifted man of his time, who performed a very valuable work for the Christian church as a whole. Says Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible:
"Modern LXX criticism inevitably goes back to the prodigious work of Origen (d.254),
the father of LXX criticism. By the beginning of the third century the history of the
Greek text was already complex. Origen accordingly determined to make a critical
edition of the LXX. To this end he studied Hebrew already early in life. By 240 he had
collected immense amounts of materials and began active work on his mammoth Hexapla,
so named from the six columns of texts it contained. Column 1 contained the Hebrew
text which served as the basis for his textual studies. The other columns contained the
following texts: II -- the Hebrew text in Greek transcription; III -- Aq.; IV -- Symm.;
V -- LXX; VI -- Theod." (p.275).
Says F. F. Bruce, Origen was the leading Biblical scholar of the entire Greek early church:
"The next surviving Christian list of Old Testament books was drawn up by Origen
(AD 285-254), the greatest biblical scholar among the Greek fathers. He spent the
greater part of his life in his native Alexandria, where from an early age he was head
of the catechetical school in the church of that city; then, in AD 231 he moved to
Caesaria in Palestine, where he discharged a similar ministry. He was an indefatigable
commentator on the books of the Bible: to this work he devoted his mastery of the
long-established techniques of Alexandrian scholarship. . . .
"Origen's chief contribution to Old Testament studies was the compilation called
the Hexapla (Greek for 'sixfold'). This was an edition of the Old Testament which
exhibited side by side in six vertical columns (1) the Hebrew text, (2) the Hebrew text
transcribed into Greek letters, (3) Aquila's Greek version, (4) Symmachus's Greek
version, (5) the Septuagint, (6) Theodotion's Greek version. . . . Origen paid special
attention to the Septuagint column; his aim was to present AS ACCURATE AN
EDITION OF THIS VERSION AS WAS POSSIBLE. By means of critical signs,
for example, he indicated places where the Septuagint omitted something found in
the Hebrew text or added something absent from the Hebrew text" (The Canon of
Scripture, F. F. Bruce, p.73).
It is a shame for a modern "critic" to try to bring obloquy and opprobrium upon the name and reputation of an eminent biblical scholar who lived some 17 centuries ago, and is no longer alive to defend himself from the accusations, insinuations and slander. Nevertheless, the reputation of Origen as a prodigious, hard-working and painstaking scholar stands defended, and attested to by his very own works, and the ablest of scholars who have studied his writings.
Variant Hebrew Texts
The Samaritan community separated from the Jewish community at some point during the post-exilic period (between 540 B.C. and 100 B.C.). During that time, they canonized their own version of the Hebrew Scriptures. Biblical scholars soon learned that the Samaritan Pentateuch differed from the Masoretic text in some 6,000 instances. At first they thought these differences were due to sectarian disagreements. However, we read in "Manuscripts of the Old Testament," by Mark R. Norton:
"After further assessment, however, it became clear that the Samaritan Pentateuch
represented a text of much earlier origin than the Masoretic Text. And although a
few of the distinctions of the Samaritan Pentateuch were clearly the result of sectarian
concerns, MOST of the differences were NEUTRAL in this respect. . . The fact that
the Samaritan Pentateuch had MUCH IN COMMON WITH THE SEPTUAGINT,
SOME OF THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS, AND THE NEW TESTAMENT, revealed
that most of the differences with the Masoretic Text were not due to sectarian differ-
ences. More likely, they were due to the USE OF A DIFFERENT TEXTUAL BASE,
WHICH WAS PROBABLY IN WIDE USE IN THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST UNTIL
WELL AFTER THE TIME OF CHRIST" (The Origin of the Bible, edited by Philip
Wesley Comfort, Tyndale House Publishers, 1992, p.163).
This text, like that of the Septuagint, seems to reflect an early Hebrew Old Testament text which was considered authoritative in the centuries prior to and during the time of Christ -- yet both of them differ significantly from the Masoretic text which was finalized by Jewish rabbinic scribes during the time 500-900 A.D. Says this same author, concerning the Septuagint itself:
"The Septuagint is the oldest Greek translation of the Old Testament, its witness being
significantly OLDER than that of the Masoretic Text. According to tradition, the Septua-
gint Pentateuch was translated by a team of seventy scholars in Alexandria, Egypt. (Hence
its common designation LXX, the Roman numerals for 70.) The Jewish community in
Egypt spoke Greek, not Hebrew, so a Greek translation of the Old Testament was sincerely
needed by that community of Jews. The exact date of translation is not known, but evidence
indicates that the Septuagint Pentateuch was completed in the third century B.C. . . .
"The value of the Septuagint to textual criticism varies widely from book to book. It might
be said that the Septuagint is not a single version but a collection of versions made by various
authors, who differed greatly in their methods and their knowledge of Hebrew. The translations
of the individual books are in no way uniform. Many books are translated almost literally,
while others like Job and Daniel are quite dynamic. So the value of each book for textual
criticism must be assessed on a book-by-book basis. . .
"The content of some books is significantly different when comparing the Septuagint and
the Masoretic Text. For example, the Septuagint's Jeremiah is missing significant portions
found in the Masoretic Text, and the order of the text is significantly different as well. What
these differences mean is difficult to know with certainty. It has been conjectured that the
Septuagint is simply a poor translation and is therefore missing portions of the original
Hebrew. BUT THESE SAME DIFFERENCES COULD ALSO INDICATE THAT EDI-
TORIAL ADDITIONS AND CHANGES WORKED THEIR WAY INTO THE MASORETIC
But why would the Jews want to change the text, and alter the text which became known as the Masoretic Text? Perhaps there is much more to this question than meets the eye at first glance!
The Septuagint Text was the standard text used by Jews in the synagogues in the Gentile world, and also became the standard text used by early Christians. For hundreds of years it served its purpose well, without any controversy. Even among the Jews in Judea, Greek was a language spoken by the majority of the people, and there were many Greek-speaking synagogues, even in Palestine. The Septuagint was considered the "official" Greek version of the Scriptures, ever since its original translation. But what happened? Says this same author:
"By the time of Christ, even among the Jews, a majority of the people spoke Aramaic AND
GREEK, not Hebrew. The New Testament writers evidence their inclination to the Septua-
gint by using it when quoting the Old Testament. . . Because of the broad acceptance and
use of the Septuagint among Christians, the Jews RENOUNCED IT in favor of a number
of other Greek versions. Aquila, a proselyte and disciple of Rabbi Akiba, produced a new
translation around A.D. 130. In the spirit of his teacher, Aquila wrote an extremely literal
translation, often to the point of communicating poorly in Greek. This literal approach,
however, gained this version wide acceptance among Jews" (p.165).
Consider for a moment the strangeness of this situation. The Jews were so upset with the fact that the Christians were quoting from the Jewish Septuagint to promulgate their new "heresy," that they themselves came to "renounce" the Septuagint, which they had endorsed and accepted for the past four hundred years, and accepted in its place a comparatively poor translation -- very literal but which communicated poorly in Greek!
This was a gigantic step for Rabbinic Judaism to take. This was a major change, and occurred at the inception of the Bar Kochba rebellion, in 130 A.D. Rabbi Akiba, the leading Jewish sage of that time, himself endorsed Bar Kochba as the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies, and supported him in his rebellion against Rome. Jewish Christians, then called Nazarenes, of course, could not go along with this identification, nor support the rebellion against Rome -- thus causing a deeper wedge to separate them from the rabbinic Jewish community.
The SOURCE of the Septuagint Text
Where, then, did the original text itself of the Septuagint come from? Since it differs from the Masoretic text, in several places, yet was originally the OFFICIAL BIBLE OF JEWISH SYNAGOGUES throughout the Roman Empire, where Greek was spoken, why is it different, and what do these differences mean? What is their significance? Says The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible:
"The LXX REPRESENTS A PRE-MASORETIC HEBREW TEXT and accordingly is
important for textual and exegetical studies . . . .
"The LXX became the O.T. of the Christians, who used it in their controversies with the
Jews, even though it differed in various words or passages from the Hebrew text then in
vogue. The QUOTATIONS FROM THE O.T. IN THE N.T. ARE USUALLY CITA-
TIONS FROM THE LXX, either verbatim or with unimportant verbal changes; in other
cases, the N.T. writers apparently themselves translated from the original Hebrew. The
Ethiopian eunuch whom Philip met was reading the LXX (Acts 8:30-33)" (p.972).
The Septuagint text actually represents a PRE-MASORETIC HEBREW TEXT, which appears to have been lost over the centuries. It is THIS PRE-MASORETIC TEXT, the basis of the LXX, that Jesus and the apostles and the New Testament writers quoted from!
The Battle over the Bible
Scholars have long poo-poohed the veracity and accuracy of the
Septuagint version of the Old Testament. Yet the fact remains,
Jesus and the apostles quoted from it the vast majority of the time!
Why? And why did the Jews, who originally translated the LXX,
abolish and banish it in the second century, and replaced it with
new Greek translations? Were Jewish scribes and rabbis really
honest with the Scriptures? Here is shocking, incredible new
revelation about the Word of God, and the Proof Jesus Christ is
the Promised Messiah!
William F. Dankenbring
Scholars have long denied the veracity of the New Testament Scriptures, claiming that the earliest gospels were not eye-witness accounts of Christ and His life, but were written some one hundred years afterward, or about the middle of the second century, and were based on hearsay, myth, fable, and oral stories which had been passed down. Thus many scholars have regarded the very words of Christ, as recorded in the gospels, as "suspect."
Astonishing as it may seem, however, bits of papyrus in an Oxford University library puts the lie to the cherished theories of unbelieving, skeptical scholars! Three scraps of text of the gospel of Matthew, inscribed in Greek, have traditionally been believed to have been written in the late second century. But German papyrus expert Carsten Thiede has published a paper arguing that these fragments kept at Oxford's Magdalen College could be an EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT of the life of Jesus!
The London Times reported that the evidence on an early form of writing paper was a potentially "important breakthrough in biblical scholarship, on a level with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947" (Los Angeles Times, Dec.25, 1994, "Gospel Fragments in Britain May Be Contemporary Account of Life of Jesus Christ, p.A42).
Some scholars have questioned the accuracy of the New Testament as historical, believing that the earliest texts were written long after the actual events described. However, if Thiede has correctly dated the fragments, they would be evidence that the Matthew Gospel was written only a generation after the crucifixion, or even earlier! Says William Tuohy of the Los Angeles Times, "Parts of the New Testament may have been written by men who actually knew Christ, rather than authors recounting a 2nd-Century version of an oral tradition."
The Magdalen fragments have been at the Oxford college since 1901. Little work has been done on them since 1953 when they were last edited by biblical scholars. But earlier this year, Thiede visited Oxford and inspected the papyrus. He concluded,
"The Magdalen fragment now appears to belong to a style of handwriting that was
current in the 1st Century A.D., and that slowly petered out around the mid-1st
Century. Even a hesitant approach to questions of dating would therefore seem to
justify a date in the 1st Century, about 100 years earlier than previously thought."
The lines on the fragments are from Matthew 26 and include the oldest written reference to Mary Magdalene and the betrayal of Christ by Judas.
This new discovery by Professor Carsten Thiede, a papyrus expert, will provoke controversy among scholars, if not even dismay and consternation on the part of disbelievers and skeptics. His discovery, if true, is strong evidence that the gospel accounts regarding the life of Jesus Christ are accurate, and reliable historical documents. Of course, true Christians have believed this all along. One wonders, however, how Jewish rabbis who have never given serious thought to the Messianic claims of Christ, will view the evidence, as it impacts on Judaism.
The Jews and the Septuagint
The Jews of course have never accepted the New Testament as either historically reliable or as Scripture, although the apostle Peter regarded it as such (II Pet.3:18-19). But the Jews, as we saw in last month's Prophecy Flash, also rejected the Septuagint, because of its clear power in endorsing the Messianic claims of Jesus.
Scholars now know that the Septuagint represents a powerful pre-Masoretic version of the Old Testament text. The early Christians quoted it repeatedly in their controversies with the Jews over the Messiahship of Christ. These facts must not be glossed over, or set aside, or ignored, as if of no importance. The very claims of Christ's being the Messiah may well be at
There is much more to this story than meets the eye, at first glance! It should rock the world of biblical scholarship like a "bombshell." Consider! If Jesus and the apostles clearly used quotations from the Septuagint, or a Hebrew original text upon which it must have been based -- this is an ASTOUNDING fact of far reaching implications. Such a "PRE-MASORETIC HEBREW TEXT" is thereby attested to as having been AUTHORITATIVE!
But why is it we don't have a copy of it, today? Why is it that the Jewish rabbis did not preserve this text, along with the "Masoretic text"?
Far from down-grading the importance and value of the Septuagint, therefore, this fact alone establishes its incredible usefulness and importance to the modern Christian who sincerely desires to follow Christ! Let's look into this matter, once and for all.
Ulterior Motives to Suppress Evidence
Says The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, in answer to this remarkable question:
"After the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the LXX lost favor among the Jews,
partly because of the successful use made of it by the Christians in establishing the
claims of Jesus . . . " (p.972).
Unger's Bible Dictionary asserts that the Jewish leaders of the second century of the present era deliberately rejected the Septuagint, and removed it from Jewish synagogues, and translated a NEW "Greek" version of the Old Testament. Why? Such a arduous undertaking would hardly be worth the effort unless there were some very compelling cause or motivation to do it. Consider for a moment. The Septuagint had served the Jewish community well for 350-400 years. It was well accepted over the whole world. So why try to introduce a NEW translation, and BANISH the old one, all of a sudden? Says Unger:
"From the place of its origin in Egypt, the Septuagint spread to all parts of the Hellen-
istic-Jewish world. Centers like Antioch, Alexandria and Caesarea developed different
textual traditions. Since the Septuagint became the Old Testament of the Christians,
who employed it in their arguments with the Jews, a need arose for a NEW RENDER-
ING of the Old Testament in Greek, which would be true to the Hebrew. This was
accomplished by AQUILA'S RIVAL JEWISH VERSION MADE AROUND 130 A.D."
In other words, a NEW Hebrew-into-Greek translation was made by the Jewish rabbis during the time of Rabbi Akiba, circa 130 A.D. Akiba was the leading Jewish rabbi in Judaea at the time, and the one who dubbed the Jewish partisan terrorist Bar Kochba as the "Messiah", thus finalizing the Jewish rejection of Jesus Christ/Yeshuah Moshiach as the true Messiah!
The Jewish rabbis of the first and second centuries were having "fits" in fighting the clear expositions of the apostles and early Christians, who were using the plain statements in the Septuagint to prove that Jesus is the Christ. They therefore rejected the Septuagint version and created a new translation to suit their own religious purposes. Says Unger, further:
"The importance of the Septuagint from every angle can scarcely be overestimated.
This can be asserted despite its deficiencies and limitations. Religiously and spirit-
ually the Septuagint gave the great revealed truths concerning creation, redemption,
sin and salvation to the world. It released these from the narrow isolation of the Hebrew
language and people and gave them to the Graeco-Roman world through the divinely
prepared instrument of the Greek language, the lingua franca of the Graeco-Roman
world (300 B.C. to A.D. 300). The Septuagint was a definite factor in the preparation
for the coming of Christianity and the New Testament revelation. . . .
"The Septuagint was the Bible of early Christianity before the New Testament was written.
After the New Testament Scriptures came on the scene, they were added to the Septuagint
to form the completed Scriptures of Christianity.
"Besides this momentous ministry, the Septuagint met the religious and liturgical needs
of Jews living in Alexandria, Egypt. This was the center of culture and learning of ancient
Judaism. It also met the needs of Jewish proselytes in the Graeco-Roman world. . . .
Historically as well as religiously and spiritually, the Septuagint is of immense impor-
tance. As the first translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into a foreign language, the
Septuagint gained great fame" (p.1149).
However, Unger points out, the fact that early Christians used and quoted the Septuagint widely in controversies with the Jews led to increased resentment and hostility from the Jews, who had up to that time accepted and used the Septuagint. He continues:
"By the beginning of the second century, A.D., reaction against the Septuagint took place
in Jewish circles. By this time Christians had come to venerate the Septuagint as inspired
and authoritative, and used it in controversy with Jews to prove the Messiahship of Jesus.
By this time many mistakes had crept into the Septuagint and the Jews were particularly
annoyed by the use made of it by Christians. Resulting HOSTILITY by Jewish scholars
toward the Septuagint led to Aquila's rival Jewish version. This extremely literal Greek
translation of the second-century Hebrew text, made about A.D. 130, became a substitute
for the Septuagint for Jews who spoke Greek. Aquila was trained under Rabbi Akiba and
perfected in Jewish tradition. He stuck very closely to the literal Hebrew text and for that
reason his version is of critical importance" (p.1149).
The Great Division and Gulf
Conservative scholar F.F. Bruce in his very helpful book The Canon of Scripture points out that the Septuagint scriptures were used even in some of the synagogues in Judaea itself. He writes, "But even in Palestine, and not least in Jerusalem itself, there were many Greek-speaking Jews, Hellenists, and there were synagogues where they might go to hear the scriptures read and the prayers recited in Greek. Such was the Synagogue of the Freedmen where Stephen held debate in Jerusalem (Acts 6:9)" (p.49). Says Bruce:
"However much the wording of Stephen's defense in Acts 7 may owe to the narrator, the
consistency with which its biblical quotations and allusions are based on the Septuagint
is true to life. Since Stephen was a Hellenist, the Septuagint was the edition of the scrip-
tures which he would naturally use" (p.49).
Throughout the Roman Empire, the Septuagint was in use in JEWISH synagogues during the apostolic period. Bruce continues:
"When Paul at Thessalonica visited the synagogue on three successive sabbaths and 'argued
with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ
to suffer and to rise from the dead' (Acts 17:2f.), IT WAS ON THE SEPTUAGINT THAT
HE BASED HIS ARGUMENTS" (ibid.).
Notice! The New Testament itself therefore bears witness, in Acts 17:2, that it was "FROM THE SCRIPTURES" that Paul reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue -- and the Scriptures he was using at the time was the SEPTUAGINT! Therefore, the version of the Septuagint which was extant in Paul's day, and used in the synagogues, were regarded by the writers of the New Testament, who wrote under divine inspiration, as "SCRIPTURE"! Obviously, the Jews would not have been using a "fraudulent" or "corrupt" version of the Scriptures in their synagogues -- nor would the apostolic writers have resorted to "forgeries" or "fraudulent" documents to "PROVE" that Jesus was the Christ!
Here, then, is proof positive from the New Testament itself that the Septuagint, used during the days of the apostles, was regarded and accepted as DIVINELY INSPIRED SCRIPTURE! How clear!
"'Greek Judaism,' it has been said, 'with the Septuagint had ploughed the furrows for
the gospel seed in the Western world'; but it was the Christian preachers who sowed
the seed. So thoroughly, indeed, did Christians APPROPRIATE THE SEPTUA-
GINT AS THEIR VERSION OF THE SCRIPTURES THAT THE JEWS BECAME
INCREASINGLY DISENCHANTED WITH IT. The time came when one rabbi com-
pared 'the accursed day on which the seventy elders wrote the Law in Greek for the king'
TO THE DAY ON WHICH ISRAEL MADE THE GOLDEN CALF. New Greek
versions were made for JEWISH use -- in particular, the very literal rendering of Aquila
and a more idiomatic rendering by Theodotion" (The Canon of Scripture, p.50).
Notice the vehemence of the Jewish attitude expressed in this matter. Obviously, the hatred of some Jewish rabbis for Christianity was profound -- they compared the translation of the Septuagint, quoted often by Paul and other early leaders of the Church, to the infamous day of national humiliation when the golden calf was made and worshipped, when Moses was still on Mount Sinai, receiving the Laws of God!
Even though the Septuagint had been used in Jewish synagogues for over three centuries, and greatly loved, it was only the fact that Christians used it to prove Jesus was the Christ that impelled another translation into the Greek during the time of rabbi Akiba! Why had the Jews come to hate the Septuagint so much, so suddenly?
The POWER of the Septuagint
Why, indeed! Scholar F. F. Bruce shows us why the Jewish rabbis who rejected the Messianic evidence that Jesus was and is the Christ felt they also had to reject the Septuagint. Notice:
"There are several places in which the Septuagint translators used a form of words which
(without their being able to foresee it, naturally) lent itself to the purposes of New Testament
writers better than the Hebrew text would have done. Thus, Matthew can quote as a prophecy
of the virginal conception of Christ the Septuagint version of Isaiah 7:14, 'Behold, a virgin
shall conceive and bear a son . . .' (Matt.1:23), where the Greek word parthenos means
specifically 'virgin,' as the Hebrew almah need not. (Aquila, who provided a new Greek
version of the Old Testament for Jewish use to replace the Septuagint, took care to employ
the less specific Greek word neanis, 'girl' or 'young woman,' to blunt the point of a
Christian 'argument from prophecy.')" (The Canon of Scripture, p.53).
Notice! These powerful Scriptural proofs that lent themselves to demonstrating the Messiahship of Christ were too much for the rabbis to handle. It frustrated them no end -- so they decided to get rid of the Septuagint, even as they had gotten "rid" of the Messiah Himself!
Justin Martyr, circa 160 A.D., evidently regarded the Septuagint as the only reliable text of the Old Testament. Says F. F. Bruce, "Where it differs from the Hebrew text, as read and interpreted by the Jews, the Jews (he says) have corrupted the text so as to obscure the scriptures' plain prophetic testimony to Jesus as the Christ. He tells how the compositions of the prophets were read in the weekly meetings of Christians along with the memoirs of the apostles; the memoirs of the apostles indicated the lines along which the prophets' words were to be understood" (Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, p.70).
Quite simply, although the Jews and Christians read from the same Scriptures, they could not agree upon the interpretation of those Scriptures as they pertained to the Messiah, or the Messianic claims of Christ. Paul alluded to this fact when he wrote, "What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (according as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day" (Rom.11:7-8). Paul added: "I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the
riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fullness?" (Rom.1:11-12).
As time passed, however, the distance between the visible Church and the remnant of the Jews in dispersion became greater and greater. The gap widened; the gulf that separated their interpretations of the Old Testament Scriptures increased in width and depth. Says Bruce:
"The accepted Christian tradition became more sharply anti-Judaic, and the Jewish tradition
` in turn became increasingly careful to EXCLUDE renderings or interpretations, PREVIOUS-
LY QUITE ACCEPTABLE, which now proved to lend themselves all too readily to a
Christian purpose. So, in spite of the shared heritage of the holy book, the two opposed
traditions HARDENED. Only in more recent times, with the acceptance on both sides of
the principles of grammatico-historical exegesis, have the hard outlines softened, so that
today Jews and Christians of varying traditions can collaborate happily in the common task
of biblical interpretation" (p.66-67).
The "Servant Songs" of Isaiah
One of the greatest issues which divide Christians and Jews in biblical interpretation, however, which remains to this day, are what scholars today call the "Servant Songs" found in the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 40-45). In particular, the fourth Servant Song -- Isaiah 52:13-Isaiah 53:12 -- has been identified by Christians, and even by Christ, as portraying Jesus Himself. This was the very Scripture which Philip explained to the Ethiopian eunuch, who was puzzled about it! We read in the book of Acts:
"And behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of
the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem to
worship [he was obviously a "Falasha Jew"], was returning, and sitting in his chariot
read Isaiah the prophet. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet
Isaiah, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except
some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit
with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to
the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation?
for his life is taken from the earth.
"And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet
this? of himself, or of some other man?
"Then Philip opened his mouth, and BEGAN AT THE SAME SCRIPTURE, and
preached unto him Jesus" (Acts 8:27-35).
The awesome power of this Scripture, Isaiah 53, undoubtedly has led MANY Jews, as well as Gentiles, to see the truth of the Messiahship of Jesus Christ. No one else in all human history even comes close to fulfilling the majesty and detail of this Scripture. The ministry, death and crucifixion of Christ as portrayed 700 years earlier by the prophet Isaiah is powerful evidence, together with many other Scriptures, that Jesus was and is indeed the One and Only Messiah! This identification of the "suffering Servant" in Isaiah with Christ has been standard in the Church, down through history.
But, says, F. F. Bruce:
"One would not expect it to be standard in the synagogue: indeed, the synagogue
seems to have REACTED VIGOROUSLY AGAINST IT. At one time an accept-
able Jewish interpretation identified some at least of the Servant references with
the expected Messiah, and this could well have been in line with the prophet's
intention. But, because the church adopted this interpretation (with the corollary
that the Messiah was Jesus), the messianic interpretation of the Servant Songs
FELL OUT OF FAVOR with the synagogue" (Bruce, p.295).
F.F. Bruce continues in a footnote:
"According to H. Loewe, it was sensitiveness to the Christian application of Is.
52:13---53:12 that was responsible for the NON-INCLUSION of this passage in
the regular synagogue readings of the Prophets, although the passages immediately
preceding and following are included (C.G. Montefiore and H. Loewe, A Rabbinic
Anthology[London, 1938], pp.544). In general it may be said that the combination
of the Old Testament with the New (first as oral teaching and ultimately as a literary
canon) made all the difference between the church's understanding of the Old Testament
and the synagogue's" (ibid.).
As this passage in Isaiah is still left out of the regular synagogue readings of the Scriptures, to this very day, we must conclude that "blindness" is STILL in part happened to the children of Israel, as the apostle Paul wrote some 1934 years ago, in A.D. 60!
The Incredible Testimony of Justin Martyr
Justin was a Gentile, born in Samaria near Jacob's well, and lived approximately A.D. 110 to 165, when he was martyred by decapitation at Rome, like the apostle Paul. In his "Dialogue with Trypho," a learned Jew, he makes some remarkable statements which need to be analyzed, as they pertain to the Septuagint and the alleged "missing verses" not found in the Jewish Masoretic text. Remember, the Jewish rabbis had by this time rejected the Septuagint from the synagogues, and had replaced it with their own new Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures. But, Justin says in his dialogue, they had left off many of the Scriptural verses which had previously been used to prove Jesus was the Christ!
Justin, speaking to Trypho, declares:
"'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 SCRIP-
TURES from the 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; but since
I am aware that this is DENIED by all of your nation, I do not address myself
to these points, but I proceed to carry on my discussions by means of those passages
which are still admitted by you. For you assent to those which I have brought before
your attention except that you contradict the statement, "Behold, the virgin shall
conceive," and say it ought to be read, "Behold, the young woman shall conceive."
And I promised to prove that the prophecy referred, not, as you were taught, to
Hezekiah, but to this Christ of mine: and now I shall go to the proof.'
"Here Trypho remarked, 'We ask you first of all to tell us some of the Scriptures
which you allege have been completely canceled."
"And I said, 'I shall do as you please. From the statements, then, which Esdras
made in reference to the law of the passover, they have taken away the following:
"And Esdras [Ezra] said to the people, This passover is our Saviour
and our refuge. And if you have understood, and your heart has taken
it in, that we shall humble Him on a standard, and thereafter hope in
Him, then this place shall not be forsaken for ever, says the Lord of
hosts. But if you will not believe Him, and will not listen to His
declaration, you shall be a laughingstock to the nations." And from the
sayings of Jeremiah they have cut out the following: "I [was] like a lamb that is
brought to the slaughter: they devised a device against me, saying,
Come, let us lay on wood on His bread, and let us blot Him out from
the land of the living; and His name shall no more be remembered."
And since this passage from the sayings of Jeremiah is still written in some copies
[of the Scriptures] IN THE SYNAGOGUES OF THE JEWS (for it is only a short time
since they were cut out), and since from these words it is demonstrated that the Jews
deliberated about the Christ Himself, to crucify and put Him to death, He Himself is both
declared to be led as a sheep to the slaughter, as was predicted by Isaiah, and is here repre-
sented as a harmless lamb; but being in a difficulty about them, they give themselves
over to blasphemy. And again, from the sayings of the same Jeremiah these have been
cut out: '"The Lord God remembered His dead people of Israel who lay
in the graves; and He descended to preach to them His own salvation."
"'And from the ninety-fifth (ninety-sixth) Psalm they have taken away this short saying
of the words of David: "From the wood." For when the passage said, "Tell ye among
the nations, the Lord hath reigned from the wood," they have left, "Tell ye among the
nations, The Lord hath reigned." Now no one of your people has ever been said to have
reigned as God and Lord among the nations, with the exception of Him only who was
crucified, of whom also the Holy Spirit affirms in the same Psalm that He was raised
again, and freed from [the grave], declaring that there is none like Him among the gods
of the nations; for they are idols of demons. But I shall repeat the whole Psalm to you,
that you may perceive what has been said. It is thus: "Sing unto the Lord a new song;
sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Sing unto the Lord, and bless His name; show forth His
salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all
people. For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all the
gods. For all the gods of the nations are demons but the Lord made the heavens. Confession
and beauty are in His presence; holiness and magnificence are in His sanctuary. Bring to the
Lord, O ye countries of the nations, bring to the Lord glory and honour, bring to the Lord
glory in His name. Take sacrifices, and go into His courts; worship the Lord in His holy
temple. Let the whole earth be moved before Him; tell ye among the nations, the Lord
hath reigned. For He hath established the world, which shall not be moved; He shall judge
the nations with equity. Let the heavens rejoice, and the earth be glad; let the sea and its
fulness shake. Let the fields and all therein be joyful. Let all the trees of the wood be glad
before the Lord: for He comes, for He comes to judge the earth. He shall judge the world
with righteousness, and the people with His truth."'
"Here Trypho remarked, 'Whether [or not] the rulers of the people have erased any portion
of the Scriptures, as you affirm, God knows; but it seems incredible.'
"'Assuredly,' said I, 'it does seem incredible. For it is MORE HORRIBLE THAN THE
CALF WHICH THEY MADE, when satisfied with manna on the earth; or than the
sacrifice of children to demons; or than the slaying of the prophets. But,' said I, 'you appear
not to have heard the Scriptures which I said they had STOLEN AWAY. For such as have
been quoted are more than enough to prove the points in dispute, besides those which are
still retained by us, and shall yet be brought forward" (Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol.1, "Dialogue
with Trypho, LXXI-LXXIII).
I have quoted this long passage from Justin Martyr, from his "Dialogue with Trypho," because it not only verifies the fact that the Rabbis of that time were not only endorsing a new rival translation of the Old Testament Scriptures into Greek, but that they had deliberately CUT OUT certain passages which had been in the original Hebrew Scriptures, and which had been translated into the Septuagint in the centuries before Christ.
"More Horrible Than the Calf"
This may seem shocking to those of us who have believed for years that the Masoretic Text is the one and only true text of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and that the Jewish rabbis have preserved it faultlessly -- but let's reconsider this question. Does it not make sense that any people who would crucify the very "Word of God," the Logos, in the flesh, would also "cut up" the written Word of God, which bears testimony to Him? We have perfect testimony that this was done. We have the witness, not only of Justin Martyr, but of the incredible evidence of the New Testament Scriptures themselves, which in many places QUOTE PASSAGES from the Old Testament which are NOT FOUND IN THE MASORETIC TEXT!!! But in the vast majority of cases, they are found in the Septuagint, and in some cases in the Aramaic!
This proves that when it comes to the Son of God, who called Himself the "Son of Man," that the Jewish rabbis of the first two centuries were less than honest -- less than candid -- and they did violence not only to the Son of God Himself, the Logos, but also to the WRITTEN Word of God, when certain prophecies CLEARLY pointed to Christ as the Messiah!
With this in mind, then, we need to understand that this "hatchet" job on the missing verses of the Old Testament will not go unpunished, overlooked, or forgotten by God. As the apostle Paul wrote, "What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto THEM were committed the ORACLES OF GOD. For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? GOD FORBID! Yea, let God be true, but every man a LIAR; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged" (Rom.3:1-4).
"Every Man a Liar"
We have normally emphasized the first part of this passage, to prove that the Jews, and the rabbis of Judaism, were entrusted with the preservation of the oracles -- the Words -- of God. And on the whole, we know from history that they did a remarkable and extraordinary job -- even counting the vowels, letters, and numbering them so as to insure accuracy of the text. The care and deliberate concern the scribes exercised in copying the Scriptures faithfully is well known.
However, this fact does not necessarily mean that during the turbulent period of the first and second century, A.D., when Judaism was facing its greatest crisis ever, in the form of the threat posed to it by the Messiahship of Christ -- Yeshua the Nazarene -- that the very rulers who condemned the Messiah to death and their successors then deliberately sought to cover up their horrible deed, and deliberately purged the Old Testament Scriptures of any and all plain references which tended to support the claims of Christians that Jesus was the Christ! That they did this very thing stands exposed -- otherwise, why did they expunge the very existence of the Septuagint from Jewish synagogues throughtout the whole world, where it had been revered and accepted for centuries prior to Christ's coming? Consider the enormity of this crime. Because of their trepidation and fear of the new faith, their alarm at its success, they did the unprecedented thing and BANISHED THE VERY BIBLE THEN IN VOGUE IN ALL GREEK-SPEAKING SYNAGOGUES AROUND THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA! They replaced it with another "new" and supposedly more "accurate" translation.
Their wickedness stands exposed for all the world to see, however, because there is NO DOUBT that almost all quotes from the Old Testament in the New Testament come from the SEPTUAGINT, or from a Hebrew text upon which it was based! The authenticity of that text -- which is demonstrated and proved conclusively by its approval and acceptance by the Messiah, Christ Jesus Himself, and the apostles -- cannot be in doubt. Since Jesus Himself sanctioned it, and it differs from the "Masoretic text," there can only be one explanation for its non-existence, today: The Jews, in desperation and fear for their religion, declared the Septuagint "corrupt," and replaced it in all the synagogues where it had held sway for over three centuries. They no longer copied it and preserved it, allowing it to disappear, and be replaced by a less "controversial" text.
It is for this reason, that after the time of Christ and the apostles, the Septuagint, over the succeeding years, languished, and in following generations more variations and errors crept in, resulting in the need by the time of Origen in 240 A.D. to transcribe the text and emend it in his famous Hexapla, to clean it up and resolve the difficulties which had arisen due to neglect.
Why should it seem so remarkable, then, that the rabbis rejected the Septuagint, and spurned the original Hebrew text upon which it was based? Did they not reject the Messiah Himself -- the Word of God who was "made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14)? Did not Paul say in the very passage we just quoted in Romans 3:4, where he admitted that the oracles of God were entrusted to the Jews, that "let GOD be true, but every man a LIAR"?
It is certainly a blasphemous deed to pervert, alter, tamper with, and "edit" the very Word of God -- but no more blasphemous than to reject the Messiah and spill the blood of the Saviour of the world -- God in the flesh!
These "edited" passages, which Justin Martyr plainly says were a part of the Scriptures, in his day, certainly do prove the Messiahship of Christ! Did he invent them out of his own fervent imagination and fantasy? Or was he simply telling Trypho the truth? More and more, the evidence tends to support the allegations of Justin -- to the everlasting shame and discredit of those wicked priests and rabbis who would resort to every trick and artifice and sham in order to deny the Christ and mislead the wonderful Jewish people!
A growing body of evidence suggests strongly that not only a few copyists' errors have crept into the transmission of the text, here and there, during its sojourn here on earth, but that also there was a concerted plot -- a high level conspiracy -- by second century rabbis to efface the Scriptural evidence and to "edit" Scripture to "protect" the Jewish people from the overwhelming evidence in the Old Testament that Jesus Christ of Nazareth was -- and is -- the Messiah!
This plot was Satan's attempt to work through the rabbis of that time to "bury" Christianity, and to safeguard the Jewish religion based on "the tradition of the elders." They claimed to follow Abraham and his covenant, but Jesus said to them, "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham" (John 8:39-40).
They claimed to follow Moses, and the Torah, but they had strayed far afield from the precepts of Moses. Jesus Himself said of them, "Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even MOSES, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (John 5:45-47). On another occasion, Jesus said of them: "Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?" (John 7:19).
The Plot and Conspiracy Against the Bible
After Jesus arose from the dead, fulfilling the "sign" that He said He would fulfill -- being in the grave three days, just as Jonah was in the fish's belly for three days (Matt.12:40) -- the Jewish leaders were besides themselves with anger and venom. Matthew tells us in his gospel, "Now when they [the disciples] were going, behold, some of the watch [those soldiers the Pharisees and Sadducees had appointed to watch over Jesus' grave to make certain that His disciples didn't steal His body] came into the city, and shewed unto the CHIEF PRIESTS ALL THE THINGS THAT WERE DONE" (Matt.28:11). Thus the Jewish leaders KNEW beyond doubt that Jesus had risen from the grave!
But did they repent, when they saw this "sign" of Jonah fulfilled in Christ, just as He had fortold? Matthew continues:
"And when they were assembled with the ELDERS [the rabbis and religious leaders],
and had taken COUNSEL, they gave LARGE MONEY [a huge bribe] unto the soldiers,
saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And
if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took
the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is COMMONLY REPORTED
AMONG THE JEWS UNTO THIS DAY" (Matt.28:12-15).
Notice! The leaders among the Jews actually KNEW that Christ arose from the dead -- but they refused to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, anyway! Or, knowing that He was the promised Messiah, they still deliberately REJECTED Him, even after His resurrection!
What colossal wickedness! What stupendous evil! No wonder, looking into the character of these leading religious rabbis amongst the Jews, Jesus had said of them: "Who unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" (Matt.23:13, 14, 15). "Woe unto you, ye blind guides" (v.16, 24). No wonder He said of them, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matt.23:33).
The gospel of Matthew is believed to have been written about the middle of the first century A.D., or between 45-50 A.D. When it was written, this false report on the body of Jesus being stolen by His disciples was still being circulated amongst the Jewish population!
But Justin Martyr, in his "Dialogue with Trypho," shows this story was still being maliciously spread by Jesus' detractors long afterward. In his "Dialogue with Trypho," the Jew, he reports just how antagonistic the Jewish leaders were to the Messiahship of Christ. He declares:
"'And though all the men of your nation knew the incidents in the life of Jonah, and
though Christ said amongst you that He would give the sign of Jonah, exhorting you to repent of your wicked deeds at least after He rose again from the dead, and to mourn
before God as did the Ninevites, in order that your nation and city might not be taken
and destroyed, as they have been destroyed; yet you not only have not repented, after
you learned that He rose from the dead, but, as I said before, you have sent chosen and
ordained men throughout all the world to proclaim that a godless and lawless heresy had
sprung from one Jesus, a Galilean deceiver, whom we crucified, but his disciples stole
him by night from the tomb, where he was laid when unfastened from the cross, and
now deceive men by asserting that he has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven.
Moreover, you accuse Him of having taught those godless, lawless, and unholy doctrines
which you mention to the condemnation of thosewho confess Him to be Christ, and a
Teacher from and Son of God. Besides this, even when your city is captured, and your
land ravaged, you do not repent, but dare to utter imprecations on Him and all who believe
in Him. Yet we do not hate you or those who, by your means, have CONCEIVED SUCH
PREJUDICES AGAINST US; but we pray that even now all of you may repent and obtain
mercy from God, the compassionate and long suffering Father of all" (ANF, "Dialogue with
Thus the Jewish religous leaders of the first and second century deliberately spread false reports, and conspired to suppress and destroy the new Messianic faith in Jesus Christ.
They scoured the world to attempt to thwart the faith. They even rejected the hallowed and sacred text of the Scriptures, the Septuagint, which had been used in the synagogues for 415 years, and destroyed it from the synagogues, because of its testimony and prophecies which pointed to Jesus as the clear and obvious Messiah!
"The Stone the Builders Rejected"
Nevertheless, the time is coming -- soon -- when all these evil deeds will be exposed. The apostle Paul declared: "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after" (I Tim.5:24). Jesus Christ foretold, "Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known" (Matt.10:26).
In a dramatic prophecy at the birth of Christ, the aged Simeon, a just and devout man who was waiting for the coming of the Messiah, took the young child up in his arms and blessed God, and said:
"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine
eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And Joseph and his
mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them,
and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the FALL and RISING
AGAIN of many in Israel; and for a SIGN which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword
shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be
revealed" (Luke 2:25-35).
Jesus Christ was indeed the "stone which the builders refused" (Psalm 118:22). He is the One of whom Isaiah prophesied:
"Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a STONE,
a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make
haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the
hail shall sweep away the REFUGE OF LIES, and the waters shall overflow the hiding
place" (Isaiah 28:16-17).
The time is coming soon when all the hidden secrets shall be revealed -- the Word of the Lord has spoken it. The time is soon coming when ALL THINGS shall be restored to their original form and shape -- including the Holy Scriptures of God!
On that first day of Shavuot (Pentecost), in A.D. 30, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Jerusalem, the apostle Peter announced to the assembled pious Jews worshipping in Jerusalem, at the Temple, that Jesus was the promised Messiah, fulfilling the many prophecies of the Scriptures. He said:
"For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for
he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice,
and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt
not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. . .
Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both
dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet,
and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins,
according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this
before spake of the RESURRECTION OF CHRIST, THAT HIS SOUL WAS NOT
LEFT IN HELL, NEITHER DID HIS FLESH SEE CORRUPTION. This Jesus hath
God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God
exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath shed
forth this, which ye now see and hear.
"For DAVID IS NOT ASCENDED into the heavens: but he saith himself, the LORD
said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool.
THEREFORE LET ALL THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL KNOW ASSUREDLY, that
God hath made that same JESUS, whom ye have crucified, BOTH LORD AND
MESSIAH" (Acts 2:29-36).
On the following day, after Peter and John had healed a man lame from birth by the power of the Spirit of God, he addressed the amazed, awe-struck, assembled Jews, and said to them:
"Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us,
as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?
The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath
GLORIFIED HIS SON JESUS; WHOM YE DELIVERED UP, AND DENIED
in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But YE
DENIED THE HOLY ONE AND THE JUST, and desired a murderer to be granted
unto you; and KILLED THE PRINCE OF PEACE, whom GOD hath RAISED
from the DEAD; whereof we are WITNESSES. And his name through faith in
his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which
is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
"And now, brethren, I wot that through IGNORANCE ye did it, as did also your
rulers. But those things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his
prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.
"REPENT YE THEREFORE, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out,
when the TIMES OF REFRESHING SHALL COME from the presence of the Lord;
and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the
heaven must receive UNTIL THE TIMES OF RESTITUTION OF ALL THINGS,
which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
"For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A PROPHET SHALL THE LORD YOUR
GOD RAISE UP UNTO YOU of your brethren, LIKE UNTO ME; him shall ye
hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass,
that every soul which will NOT hear that Prophet, shall be destroyed from among
"Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as
have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the
prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto
Abraham, And in THY SEED shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. Unto
you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning
away every one of you from his iniquities" (Acts 3:12-26).
Jesus Christ is the Messiah! He is coming SOON to restore the Kingdom of God to this earth, to punish the wicked, and to RESTORE ALL THINGS -- including the Holy Scriptures -- to their original PERFECTION!
We may be surprised to see the true "original Bible" which will be restored at that precious time in history. But make no mistake! The truth endures forever. Even if some men from time to time pervert, distort, or "edit" the word of God in a wrong manner, God will bring them to judgment -- and He will restore the TRUTH completely! At that time, we won't have to depend on Biblical scholars who attempt to restore the original text, or their conclusions based on what evidence they are able to uncover from various sources, caves around the Dead Sea, or hidden in obscure monasteries.
The Word of God will endure forever. Any mistakes or errors made by men, in its transmission over the centuries and millennia, will be corrected.
Until that time, the value of constructive and conservative Biblical textual "criticism" must be carefully judged and evaluated according to the best research, knowledge available, and understanding. Although the Masoretic text is no doubt very valuable and useful, and may in most cases be very accurate and represents the Word of God, for the Old Testament, it is not perfect, and appears to have itself been the object of mishandling in its transmission by the Jewish rabbis in the first and second centuries of the present era.
These facts, however, should in no way cause us to not regard the Scriptures as the Word of God -- for they are. They are "God-breathed" (I Tim.3:16). Even so, God has allowed men certain leeway in preserving the Scriptures -- and He has allowed certain errors to have crept into the texts of both Old and New Testaments. The very fact that God warned men not to "add to" nor to "subtract from" His Word proves, in a way, that He knew in advance that some men would do that very thing -- and He therefore pronounced a divine CURSE on those who would do so! He declared, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God" (see Deut.4:2).
In the New Testament book of Revelation the apostle John gives us the same warning. He declared, "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life . . ." (Rev.22:18-19).
Which Canon Is "Inspired"?
Since there were evidently several different texts in existence during the time of Christ and the apostles, did they pinpoint and select a particular text as being the ONLY truly divinely inspired one? We have no proof of that. In fact, just the opposite -- the evidence is that they quoted from several different texts, and sometimes even from textual material found in ancient Jewish commentaries, called the Targums, such as the Onkelos Targum. Says F.F. Bruce:
"But which form of the Old Testament was recognized as canonical, or at least author-
itative, by our Lord and his apostles, or by the New Testament writers in general? No
"One might expect that writers in Greek would use an accessible Greek version of the
ancient scriptures, that is to say, the Septuagint. The New Testament writers did this
TO A VERY CONSIDERABLE EXTENT. Luke and the writer to the Hebrews in their
biblical citations and allusions adhere quite closely to the Septuagint wording. But other
New Testament writers exercise greater freedom.
"In Matthew 12:18-21 there is a quotation from Isaiah 42:1-4 in a Greek form which is
markedly different from the Septuagint. . . . A New Testament writer may quote the
Old Testament in a form closer to the Hebrew construction; he may even quote it in a
form paralleled neither in the Septuagint nor in the traditional Hebrew text, but in an
Aramaic paraphrase or targum. . . . It looks at times as if the New Testament writers
enjoyed liberty to select a form of Old Testament text which promoted their immediate
purpose in quoting it: certainly they did not regard ANY ONE FORM OF TEXT as
"In this they have provided a helpful precedent for us when we are told (especially on
theological, not critical, grounds) that one form of New Testament text is uniquely
authoritative" (The Canon of Scripture, p.285).
Clearly, God has preserved His Word. But He has used MANY texts and versions to accomplish this task -- and He has allowed, if not "inspired," MANY different translations of His Word into the English language! We cannot say that any one translation is "perfect" -- for none are. Based on the evidence available to us, however, the BEST overall English translation of the Bible is the King James Version. Other newer versions may be read, however, and much may be learned from them. The spade of archaeology and the research of scholars continually adds to our knowledge of both the Scriptures, the meaning of ancient Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic words, and the ancient society in which the Scriptures were written.
Therefore, we can rest assured, that as the apostle Peter wrote:
"For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The
grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: BUT THE WORD OF
THE LORD ENDURETH FOR EVER. And this is the Word which by the
gospel is preached unto you" (I Peter 1:24-25).
Praise God, for the good news of that ineffable Gospel -- and the GOOD NEWS that Jesus Christ, Yeshua the Messiah, is coming SOON! May God speed that glorious, wonderful Day!
Baruch attah Adonai, Elohenu va vahenu, Melech ha olam!
"Blessed be the Lord, our God and our Father, Ruler of the Universe!"