Daniels’ internet article entitled “What is the Septuagint” (available at http://www.scionofzion.com/septuagint1.htm) makes the following assertions about the Septuagint (LXX): it was composed sometime after the New Testament, it is not referenced by the New Testament, and it should not be referred to for critical studies. According to Daniels’ website, he believes that the KJV is the inspired Word of God and should be heralded exclusively as such to the preclusion of any other translation. This post seeks to redress some of Daniels’ dishonest and misinformed supporting evidences and conclusions.
The study of the textual development of the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament reveals that the presence of textual variation or variant readings actually increases the further back one examines a manuscript. Hence, an Old Testament (OT) manuscript from 200 BCE will have more variation (viz., a greater diversity of readings) than a text from 500 CE or later. This contrasts with the cataloguing of New Testament (NT) textual diversity as the NT manuscripts (mss) actually display a decrease in variation the further back in time one sampels and a corresponding increase in variation the later from which a manuscript is sampled from. When one samples from the available 2nd Temple mss, one finds an incredibly diverse range of readings when compared to readings present in the post 10th century standardized Masoretic Text (MT).
None of the extant OT mss samplings form the 2nd Temple era match the modern MT. Instead of displaying absolute textual continuity, the mss tend to fall into categories that are generally labeled as “proto-Masoretic” or LXX. Further adding to the diversity of textual groupings, there appears to have been at least three textual families identified by geographical provenance: Egyptian, Palestinian/Judean, and Babylonian. The Babylonian is the deemed the closest to today’s MT. The Egyptian is identified with the LXX, and the Palestinian/Judean family is evidenced by readings in the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS). All of these texts are Hebrew groupings, though some of the variant readings are only preserved in translation in such sources as the Samaritan Pentateuch or the LXX.
Before scholarly acquaintance with the Samaritan Pentateuch began, it was believed that the LXX demonstrated the existence of a Hebrew text that differed from the MT. The cataloguing of the unique readings of the Samaritan Pentateuch provided Hebrew correspondences between many of the unique Greek Pentateuchal readings of the LXX. However, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, there was an immediate proliferation of Hebrew readings that agreed with the LXX. One of these readings is that in Psalm 22:16.
“For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet” (Psalm 22:16, KJV).
Christologically, this passage is derived from the same where Jesus states, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1), and many Christians have considered the reference to the piercing of hands and feet an explicit foretelling of the crucifixion. Of interest, only two mss of the modern, standardized MT contain the reading “they pierced my hands and my feet,” and these mss (of hundreds sampled) have only been identified in the last one-hundred years. Hence MT itself did not contain this Christological reading as it is translated in the KJV. The only mss that contained this reading was the LXX! The KJV translators deferred to the LXX for this translation! They jettisoned the MT text that they apparently love so much.
The Hebrew MT reading of this verse is as follows:
ורגלי ידי כארי
This reading can be translated as it is in Jewish translations as:
..like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet
Before the uncovering of the DSS (Dead Sea Scrolls), there were virtually no authoritative mss with a Hebrew basis for this reading. The only textual foundation for this reading was the LXX. However, the DSS display a preference for the “Christological reading” of “they have pierced.” Yet, again, it must be emphasized, that the KJV translators allowed the LXX to influence their translation.
The DSS not only evidence a Hebrew mss preference for the “pierced reading” they also contain Greek translations of the OT that fall within the LXX family of texts. Additionally, there are Hebrew mss among the DSS that fall both into the proto-Masoretic (Babylonian), Palestinian, and Egyptian-LXX families of textual variance. To argue that the LXX did not exist before the completion of the NT is to ignore this evidence.
The NT itself quotes frequently, though not exclusively, from the LXX textual family. Examples of this can be found by comparing, in the KJV, the readings of Isaiah 40:3 compared with Matthew 3:3 where the NT agrees with the LXX. Additional examples of the same can be found in Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18; Isaiah 29:13 and Mark 7:8; et. al. in which the NT Greek quotation of the OT differs from the Hebrew in favor of the LXX reading.
The example of Psalm 22:16 is interesting as it pertains to a single-letter variation that can be easily corrected. The difference is between a yod (“jot”) and a waw (or vav). If the interpretation of Jesus that Daniels’ makes regarding the preservation of the each “jot” is correct, then Jesus’ statement is wrong, and Jesus is either a lunatic or a liar (to use popular parlance, though I prefer to not to be so polarized). The KJV prefers the LXX reading here (and elsewhere) despite the reading of the MT.
I conclude: textually critical consideration of the LXX was good enough for King James, and it is good enough for me!