The Septuagint Factor

A similar situation exists in relation to the Septuagint. First of all let me define the word “Septuagint.” The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, it is a translation made by the Jewish community somewhere between the third and first centuries BC. As a result, this Greek version of the Old Testament existed at the beginning of the first century AD.

In other words, this Greek version of the Bible was made by the Jewish community long before Jesus or the Church came on the scene. The Septuagint found widespread use in the Greek speaking Jewish community before Jesus or the Church came on the scene. As a result, the writers of the New Testament quoted from the Septuagint frequently. The importance of all this lies in the translation technique that the Jewish scholars utilized when they produced the Septuagint.

Encyclopedia Judaica describes their translation technique as “targumic” in nature.[1] Its objective was essentially to teach and explain the Hebrew text. As a result we run into the occurrence of free translation again. The Septuagint does not always quote the Hebrew Bible in a word for word manner. When the New Testament quotes the Hebrew Bible it often is quoting from the Septuagint.

Anti-missionaries claim that the Church and the New Testament tamper with the text of the Hebrew Bible. Again, this is an invalid argument. The first-century Messianic Jews were simply quoting from a version of the Bible that was widespread in their community. They were simply quoting from a version of the Bible that was widely accepted in the Greek speaking Jewish community. There is no tampering with the text going on.

What is going on is Messianic Jews simply quoting a recognized Jewish translation. This brings us to the issue of reliability again. Can we trust the Septuagint? I will say the same thing I said in relation to the Targumim Factor. If we believe in divine inspiration, since the practice is found in the New Testament, the practice does not bother God. Since God oversaw the production of the New Testament then we can have confidence in the New Testament text.

God saw to it that the proper understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures was communicated through the pages of the New Testament. God was quite willing to use the Septuagint in this process. Therefore, slight differences in quotations should not bother us as well.

The anti-missionaries use this as an argument to discredit the New Testament. When they do that they are actually criticizing Jewish translators.

  1. ^ EJ, CD Rom Edition, Bible Translations: Greek, The Septuagint