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I haven’t studied the differences between the Septuagint and the Hebrew Bible yet. I’m looking forward to getting a copy of the LXX soon though. Until then I’m wondering what the differences are? I know there are spots where the HB translates reads one way while the LXX translates reads another. Are there any significant differences though? Which is to be trusted more in those instances, the HB or LXX? Are there any good books on the subject?



10 Responses

  1. I made a powerpoint slide show once upon a time on some of the differences between the LLX, MT, Samaritan pentateuch and possibly the Qumran texts. There are a number of expansions here and there, and if I remember correctly a lot of them came across in 1/2 Kings or 1/2 Chronicles but I wouldn’t quote me on that. It is a pity that I lost the slideshow.

    I wasn’t too interested in the topic so it doesn’t seem to have stuck in my head at all. I do remember dabbling with the small book “Textual criticism of the Old Testament : the Septuagint after Qumran” by Ralph W. Klein. However, again, I don’t remember how useful it was.

  2. The LXX is in Greek and the HB is in Hebrew! JK! 😉

  3. Matt: Question: When you say that you know there are spots where the HB Bible translates one way, what do you mean? In this case isn’t the HB the exemplar while the LXX is the translation? As far as significant differences I suppose it all depends on what you consider significant. There are pretty substantial differences in LXX Isaiah for instance. This can be said to be a more functional (= dynamic) equivalent than say, the Pentateuch. A book I’d recommend is Moises Silva and Karen jobes’ Invitation to the Septuagint. I’ve not finished it yet but what I’ve read so far has been very informative.

    BTW, BibleWorks8 has both Rahlfs’ LXX and their own which as far as I can tell is the same as Rahlfs’ as well as the Masoretic Hebrew (Westminster Leningrad Codex if memory serves), so you can set up a parallel Bible between the two and check out the differences and similarities. Or, you can use the Parallel Hebrew-LXX module (under ‘resources’) that BW8 already has set up (this would probably be better for what you’re wondering about).

  4. Bad wording. I’ll correct this. I mean to say, “the HB reads one way, while the LXX reads another.”

    I’ve got the LXX up on BW8 with Stuttgartensia, but I can’t read all the OT in one sitting, so I was hoping to hear of some major differences that I could reference quickly.

    I had heard (and remember I’ve done next to no study in this so I could be completely wrong) that the LXX dates back farther than Stuttgartensia or the Leningrad Codex. This makes one wonder if the LXX holds a truer form of the OT. Or is that just a load?

  5. Matt: Yeah, the LXX was produced between 250 B.C. (beginning with the Pentateuch) to 150 B.C. (approximately). So far as I know the oldest Masoretic Hebrew fragment dates to the 8th century A.D. (the Aleppo Codex dates to the 10th century A.D. with the Leningrad Codex not too far after it). I think the chances of the LXX holding a truer form of the original Hebrew is unlikely though given how careful Jewish scribes were in copying the Tanakh. Also, if I’m not mistaken, the Dead Sea Scrolls go a long way in showing just how accurate the MT actually is. I haven’t looked into this subject seriously in about 3-4 years but I spent some time on it back then because I had come across an article on a Jewish anti-missionary website that was riddled with misinformation and I sent the author some corrections. Unfortunately I lost all of my notes when my computer crashed in January.

    • Nick:

      A few brief comments:

      1) The oldest COMPLETE Hebrew manuscript is the Leningrad Codex dating to approx 1008 BCE. And yes, you are correctly that the DSS evidence quite well the fidelity of the Masoretes in preserving the textual tradition in the MT.

      2) That said, however, there are plenty of places (and no I don’t have an example at the tip of my mind, unfortunately) where the LXX may provide the more original reading. Text-critically, such evaluations need to be made on a case-by-case basis. The antiquity of the LXX is helpful. The fact it is a translation is a strike against it.

      3) I would both agree and disagree with you regarding the care of those copying the Tanak. Yes, indeed they were and intended to be quite careful. Yet again, there are a wealth of places (just see the textual apparatus at the bottom of BHS) where this is not the case. Scribes had no problem intentionally changing the text if they felt the compunction. I would suggest you look at Emanuel Tov’s seminal monograph Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, especially the section on types of changes. I think it would be helpful.

  6. One important difference is in Jeremiah. The LXX is about 15% shorter (approximately 300 words) than the MT version of Jeremiah. Additionally, the LXX is ordered differently: the oracles against the nations that close out Hebrew Jeremiah are actually in the middle of the book in the LXX. And, the oracles themselves are in a different order, specifically the oracle against Babylon. The prophet himself also seems to be portrayed a bit differently. In the LXX he is much more the typical prophet with the standard relationship one would expect with God, whereas in the Hebrew version he is much more the surly, irascible figure who laments his prophetic calling and challenges God’s selection of him as a prophet.

    An interesting text-critical note: scholars originally thought the LXX was a later editing down/distillation of the Hebrew version. But then Qumran happened. At the Dead Sea site was discovered HEBREW manuscript(s) of Jeremiah that were equal in length to the LXX. This leads scholars now to see, as Emanuel Tov has argued, two editions (or final forms) of Jeremiah: a shorter one preserved in the LXX and Qumran Hebrew manuscripts, and a longer one in the MT.

    I believe Joshua also has some severe differences between LXX and MT, though I do not have that information at the tip of my mind right now.

  7. John: I’ve not seen your comment until right now. There’s nothing you said that I disagree with. There might be certain readings that the LXX more faithfully preserves, but I wouldn’t think that it’s an overall more faithful witness to the original, one of the reasons being, as you stated, it’s a translation. And I’m well aware that there are textual variants in the Tanakh (what ancient document doesn’t have them?) but again, I wouldn’t take them as a knock against the general fidelity of the copyists.

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