The wording of the KJV Old Testament seems to follow (in general) that of the Tanakh, so can I conclude that it is specifically a translation of the Hebrew texts rather than a translation of the Greek (LXX)?

  • 3
    have you tried finding an answer before asking like: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_James_Version#Old_Testament
    – depperm
    Dec 15, 2017 at 19:57
  • Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. For more on what this site is all about, see: How we are different than other sites. Meanwhile, I hope you'll browse some of the other questions and answers on this site. Dec 16, 2017 at 0:07
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    Thanks. I suspect that the downvote was due to the answer being readily available on Wikipedia. Personally, I don't think it's a bad question. Dec 16, 2017 at 0:22
  • @JamesShewey The above comment reference from James Shewey sends one to a very old question on Bible Hermeneutics, which has only recently been answered. It's an excellent response; very worthwhile to read. I believe it also shows that, although my question, here, is an unintentional duplicate, that the background information is something that should be revisited / and discussed more often.
    – robin
    Dec 17, 2017 at 19:38

1 Answer 1


Following up on the "comment from depperm," it seems I get to answer my own question; I hope that's not frowned upon because there were some things of interest on Wikipedia, and I was hoping that my summary of these facts (?) could be confirmed?

From Wikipedia:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_James_Version#Old_Testament –

[Note: This is my summary, my understanding of what I found on Wikipedia, so I've not put it in quotes, but only summarized what I found there, hoping that someone will either confirm that, both, the information is correct, and, that I've understood it correctly? ]

The Masoretic Text was used as the basis for translations of the Old Testament in Protestant Bibles, such as the King James Version (KJV), and American Standard Version, and for some versions of Catholic Bibles (after 1943). However, the text is sometimes adjusted to conform to the Greek LXX in passages where clarification or Christological interpretation was felt necessary. For example, the Septuagint (LXX) reading of Psalm 22:16 “They pierced my hands and my feet” was used instead of the Masoretes’ reading of “like lions my hands and feet.” The Masoretic Text (MT) has many differences, of both greater and lesser significance when compared to the manuscripts of the Septuagint (LXX), a Greek translation (about 1000 years older than the MT) of the Hebrew Scriptures. The LXX was used in the quotations in the New Testament, especially those by the Apostle Paul.

The Masoretic Text (MT or M) is the authoritative Hebrew and Aramaic text of the Tanakh. It was primarily copied, edited and distributed by a group of Jews known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries Common Era (CE). The ben Asher family was largely responsible for the preservation and production of the Masoretic Text, although an alternate Masoretic text of the ben Naphtali Masoretes, which has around 875 differences. The ben Asher family and majority of the Masoretes were Karaites, a Jewish religious movement characterized by the recognition of the Tanakh alone as its supreme authority in the Halakha (the collective body of religious laws derived from the Written and Oral Torah). When interpreting the Tanakh, Karaites strive to adhere to the plain or most obvious meaning or Peshat (not necessarily the literal meaning, but rather the meaning that would have been naturally understood by the ancient Israelites when the books of the Tanakh were first written. By contrast, Rabbinic Judaism relies on the legal rulings of the Sanhedrin as they are codified in the Midrash, Talmud or Oral Torah, and other sources to indicate the authentic meaning of the Torah. Karaites maintain that all of the commandments handed down to Moses were recorded in the written Torah without additional Oral Law or explanation. As a result, Karaite Jews do not accept as binding the written collections of the oral tradition in the Midrash or Talmud.

Bottom line, the answer to my question is ... Yes ...The KJV Old Testament is based on the Hebrew wording found in the TANAKH, rather than that of the Greek wording of the Septuagint (LXX). Please, if I've come to the wrong conclusions, someone, please, respond with the better answer.

So now, with that established, I'd like move on from this basis, and ask another related question (to be posted).

Addendum: Although the question initially concerned "only" the KJV, it was also intended to simply find out more about the LXX and Masoretic Text background. And so, I though it helpful to include this informative summary from the NIV.

The Introduction provided in the 2011 New International Version states:

For the Old Testament the standard Hebrew text, the Masoretic Text as published in the latest edition of Biblia Hebraica, has been used throughout. The Masoretic Text tradition contains marginal notations that offer variant readings. These have sometimes been followed instead of the text itself. Because such instances involve variants within the Masoretic tradition, they have not been indicated in the textual notes. In a few cases, words in the basic consonantal text [the original Hebrew used no vowels] have been divided differently than in the Masoretic Text. Such cases are usually indicated in the textual footnotes. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain biblical texts that represent an earlier stage of the transmission of the Hebrew text. They have been consulted, as have been the Samaritan Pentateuch and the ancient scribal traditions concerning deliberate textual changes. The translators also consulted the more important early versions—the Greek Septuagint, Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion, the Latin Vulgate, the Syriac Peshitta, the Aramaic Targums, and for the Psalms, the Juxta Hebraica of Jerome. Readings from these versions, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the scribal traditions were occasionally followed where the Masoretic Text seemed doubtful and where accepted principles of textual criticism showed that one or more of these textual witnesses appeared to provide the correct reading. In rare cases, the committee has emended the Hebrew text where it appears to have become corrupted at an even earlier stage of its transmission. These departures from the Masoretic Text are also indicated in the textual footnotes. Sometimes the vowel indicators (which are later additions to the basic consonantal text) found in the Masoretic Text did not, in the judgment of the committee, represent the correct vowels for the original text. Accordingly, some words have been read with a different set of vowels. These instances are usually not indicated in the footnotes.

  • You have mentioned Psalm 22:16. Another important verse where the KJV has not followed the Masoretic Text (correctly in both cases imho) is Daniel 9:25. Sep 3, 2020 at 20:05
  • Your interest in the Greek Old Testament is appreciated. I invite you to read a complete study at www.fitforfaith.ca/bible/#septuagint which will answer many of your questions and might give your new inspiration. Nov 4 at 21:36

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