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I've previously used the Apostolic Bible for digging deeper into the meanings of passages. However, I've found that some passages in the Old Testament make no sense compared to the modern translations.

I figured out that the problem was that the Apostolic Bible was using the Septuagint ("LXX") version for the Old Testament. (The Septuagint, for those who don't know, is an ancient translation from the original Hebrew into Greek.)

Once I realized this, I stopped using the Apostolic Bible out of fear that it would lead me down the wrong path. Now I'm curious how valid is this fear?

So, the question is: Can we trust the Septuagint as a valid translation of the original Hebrew?

Alternatively, what can we learn by using the Septuagint compared to going straight to the current Hebrew editions of the Old Testament (such as the Online Hebrew Interlinear Bible)?

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3 Answers 3

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The Masoretic (Hebrew) text is closer to the Bible Jesus used, but Septuagint (LXX) was the one used by the New Testament writers.

In most of the Old Testament, the differences are not very significant. However, in a few places the Masoretic and LXX have sharp differences. For example:

Isaiah 7:14 NRSV from Masoretic Text: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Many modern Bible translations prefer the LXX in passages that are quoted in the New Testament:

Isaiah 7:14 ESV from Septuagint: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

When this verse is quoted in the gospel of Matthew, it is clearly the Septuagint version:

Matthew 1:23 NRSV "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."

For that reason alone, I'd be reluctant to dismiss the Septuagint entirely. The ideal (short of learning Hebrew and Greek) would be a translation with lots of footnotes to indicate where the Hebrew and the LXX disagree, and explanations of why the translators prefer one or the other. Failing that, it's beneficial to have several translations available to see how different translators handled these passages.

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I don't think the example you give is a good one - the Hebrew in Isaiah 7:14 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaiah_7:14) can mean either virgin or young woman. The LXX translation is only "different" in the sense that it's translators chose a different way to render an ambiguous Hebrew word than the NRSV translators did. –  gmoothart Oct 18 '11 at 14:36
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Do you have any source/proof for your first statement: "The Masoretic (Hebrew) text is closer to the Bible Jesus used"? –  Dan Jan 30 '13 at 21:26
    
@DanO'Day: That statement is based on the likelihood that Jesus spoke Aramaic (a variant of Hebrew) rather than Greek. Jesus is often represented in the Gospels using Aramaic phrases (e.g. "Talitha kum," Mark 5:41; "Eli Eli lema sabachthani", Matthew 27:46; and elsewhere). An Aramaic speaker would not likely have used a Greek Bible translation. I'll edit the question to clarify. –  Bruce Alderman Feb 1 '13 at 16:41
    
@BruceAlderman I was just curious. I don't know either way. I am curious if the synagogues themselves were reading the LXX (although likely not in the temple). –  Dan Feb 1 '13 at 17:53

According to some of the church fathers, some of the rabbis changed some readings in their Hebrew Bible to make it less Messianic. If you read the Septuagint (or an English translation of it), you will notice the Septuagint (which was a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures done by Jews a few hundred years before Christ was ever born) seems to be more messianic than the Masoretic text (the standard Hebrew text of the Hebrew Scriptures). Whether the original text of the old testament was closer to the Septuagint and the rabbis changed it to be less messianic (as some of the early church fathers claim), or whether the Masoretic text is faithful to the original and the Jews who translated the Septuagint just did a bad job, I don't know. What I do know is that when the apostles quoted the Old Testament in the New Testament Greek, they usually quoted the Septuagint. So I am willing to give the Septuagint a fair look when comparing translations.

My suspicion is that the original was somewhere between the Septuagint, the Masoretic Text, the Dead Sea scroll, and the Samaritan Torah. I think all these are derivatives of the original, and the original could probably be reconstructed applying textual criticism to these like we have done with the New Testament.

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I would be interested on your take of this issue: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/14382/… –  fredsbend May 20 '13 at 22:02

Septuagint

Exodus 1:5 But Joseph was in Egypt. And all the souls born of Jacob were seventy-five.

"I prayed therefore unto the Lord, and said, O Lord, lord, king of the gods, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance... - Deuteronomy 9:25 (Septuagint)

According to my copy of the Septuagint, Noe is 167 years old when he has his son Lamech. Lamech is 188 years old when he has his son Noe and Noe enters the ark at the ripe old age of 600 years. Now I'm no mathematician but.... That adds up to good old Mathusala, the oldest man to ever live, living past the flood by 14 years! How can that be?

3 Kings 16:28 has Josaphat ascending the throne of Judah in the 11th year of king Ambri of Israel. But then he ascends the same throne again in 3 kings 22:41 but this time in the 4th year of king Achaab of Israel.

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Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. Here are some meta posts about this site to help you learn how we do it here: What Christianity.StackExchange is (and more importantly, what it isn't) and How we are different than other sites Please also take the tour and see the help center. I hope to see you post again soon. Please also keep in mind that I and other users are willing to help you, so ask us anything if you need help. –  fredsbend Jan 29 at 3:52
    
I'm not sure what point you are making. –  fredsbend Jan 29 at 3:52
    
Interesting point. But I thought that lineage wasn't always direct lineage. So, X begat Y doesn't mean that X was the father of Y, merely the ancestor. Maybe that would be a good question to post. :) –  Richard Jan 29 at 11:51
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I agree, it could use a small summary stating that we can't trust the Septuagint due to the overlap between Methuselah surviving the flood. –  Richard Jan 29 at 11:53

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