Monday, February 4, 2013

Why Did the Apostles Quote from the Septuagint Rather than the "Superior" Masoretic Text?

I had a conversation with an anti-missionary once on this blog.  He attempted to discredit the writers of the New Testament who quoted from the Septuagint.  I asked him to cite evidence for his claim that the Septuagint was inaccurate (specifically with regard to the virgin birth passage).

He had no evidence.

Wanna know why?

THE OLDEST MANUSCRIPTS FOR THE SEPTUAGINT ARE ROUGHLY ONE THOUSAND YEARS OLDER THAN THE OLDEST MANUSCRIPTS FOR THE MASORETIC TEXT.

Here's the dating for the MT:

"These manuscripts, the earliest of which dates only to the ninth century, were produced by the Masoretes..." pg. 147 of Invitation to the Septuagint by Jobes and Silva

Here's the earliest dating for the LXX:

"Among important biblical texts in Greek, the two earliest documents deserve special notice.  Papyrus Fouad 266, dated to ca. 100 B.C.E., contains small portions of Deuteronomy that have great significance for the reconstruction of the text.  Even earlier by perhaps half a century  is Papyrus Rylands 458 (Rahlfs 957), which contains about twenty scattered verses from Deuteronomy 23-28...the Dead Sea Scrolls...All of these documents are dated to the first century of our era or earlier." pg. 59 of Invitation to the Septuagint by Jobes and Silva.

Also, it's important to keep in mind WHY ancient Jews respected the Septuagint:  IT WAS APPROVED BY THE SANHEDRIN AND WAS THUS AN OFFICIAL AND BINDING DOCUMENT.

[This is demonstrated by Philo, the Talmud, and, most importantly, the Letter of Aristeas]

So don't let any anti-missionaries give you a hard time.  The Septuagint is a well-attested and much-respected translation of its parent Hebrew text (which, by the way, was a proto-Masoretic Text).  Philo, for example, considered the translators of the LXX to be prophets (see Greenspoon's essay entitled "The Septuagint").

Hope this helps,

Peter


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