HOW THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS SPOIL THE RABBINIC STRATAGEM TO DESTROY THE SEPTUAGINT

Going for the Juggler: The Plan to Destroy the Old Greek Septuagint.

INTRODUCTION: At the end of the first century, with its temple in ruins, tens of thousands killed in the revolt that ended in the tragedy at Masada, and Rome still in control of their land, how could the new rabbinic form of Judaism rid itself of their rival pesky Jewish sect, the Christians?  Rabbi Akiba, its newly acknowledged leader, elected to attack Christianity’s principaltext; namely, the Septuagint translated from the old Hebrew in Alexandria 400 years earlier.How could he do this? And is it speculation to think this course of action was a deliberate attack plan?

Author, scientist, and scholar Barry Setterfield comments:

The changes we find dating from the time of the Council of Jamnia are deliberate.  There are too many… in specific places to be the result of accumulated errors by isolated copyists over the centuries or millennia. Evidence of the many changes dispels any impression that Akiba’s scribes were careful “not to lose a jot or tittle,” as rabbinic tradition has indicated.  That is simplynot true. Akiba and his colleagues had a specific agenda to fulfill andthey left no stone unturned to accomplish that.[1]

Setterfield cites a paper by Dr. S. H. Horn (Ph.D. in Archeology from Andrews University), who wrote:

However, the facts – that a unified [Hebrew] text suddenly became the standard at the end of the first century and that not one copy of a divergent text survived, except the Dead Sea Scrolls (already hidden when Jamnia convened), clearly indicate that the Council of Jamnia must have taken action in this matter. Moreover, the fact that Aquila, one of Akiba’s pupils, soon… produced a new Greek translation that slavishly translated the ‘new’ unified Hebrew text for the use of the Diaspora Jews,gives credence to the idea that Akiba must have been a key influence in the standardization of the Hebrew text.[2]

Aquila’s new Greek Bible was completed ca. 128 A.D., three decades after Jamnia.  His translation was not based on the original Hebrew Temple “Vorlage” used at Alexandria 400 years earlier. Instead, it was based on a “new version” of the Hebrew text prepared at Jamnia’s academies. This new Hebrew version, from which Aquila’s new Greek Bible was translated, would one day become known as the Masoretic Text.

450 pages, released January 2019

Unfortunately, as I’ve stated several times already, it’s Akiba’s version that would become the basis for Protestant Bibles down to our day. Additionally, we should recognize that Akiba’s Hebrew Vorlage (a master copy – the original from which other copies were made) was not the same one used in Alexandria.  In fact, it‘s possible that the Temple scrolls had been taken as spoil by the Romans (they may be identified in the Arch of Titus in Rome, along with other Temple artifacts, celebrating Titus’ victory in the Jewish War of 66-72 A.D.)  That Aquila “slavishly” followed the Hebrew, indicates that Aquila was careful that the text the rabbinic school had created, would be followed “to the letter.” The Rabbis were nothing if they were not rigid; thus, the Greek version they created was rigidly fashioned too after their newly modified Hebrew Bible.

Old Greek vs. New Greek – It’s All Greek to Me

You may recall that a “good translation” translates idioms which mean one thing in one language, to mean the same in the other although the literal wording may differ. This was not the way of Aquila. Akiba used copies of copies to create his Hebrew version.  Then Aquila used Akiba’s Hebrew version to create his Greek translation that would become the new Greek standard for the Diaspora’s use, from Akiba’s much more recent set of texts. After that, it would be the accepted “standard Bible” for Greek-speaking Jews – instead ofthe “Old Greek” Alexandrian LXX. (Aquila’s Greek Bible dates to 128 A.D. Remember: The Old Greek Septuagint dates almost exactly 400 years earlier, circa 282-285 B.C.).

While simplified, the “flow chart” illustrates the descent of the two textual lineages. First, we see the Old Greek Septuagint (created beginning ca. 285 B.C., most likely from a fourth-century copy of the authentic Temple Vorlage compiled by Ezra); and secondly, a nascent Hebrew version developed by Akiba and the Jamnia academy.  In fact, many scholars believe that Ezra (and perhaps Nehemiah) assembled what was the Temple Vorlage, ca. 450 B.C. when a second return of Jews came back from Babylon. This event transpired almost 70 years after the first return of a small contingent of Jews from Babylon – led by Zerubbabel and Joshua ca. 520 B.C. – had begun work on the Second Temple.[3]  So, the point is this: The LXX was likely created from a first generation copy of the original Vorlage, only 170 years after Ezra. Consequently, the chance that errors crept into the LXX was significantly less than with the Masoretic Text.     Indeed, the New Testament cited the Old Greek LXX in the latter half of the first century A.D., only four to five decades before Akiba formulated his new Hebrew edition and Aquila his new Greek Bible.[4]

If the Temple Vorlage (the original scrolls) had been carted off to Rome by Titus as one of the many spoils from the Jewish Temple, the “original” Temple Vorlage was lost to them. The rabbis must assemble their rabbinic version from a different textual family, likely copies of copies. Afterward, they would destroy all other copies, treating them as spurious. However, what they didn’t know that would one day spoil their strategy, was that The Dead Sea Scrolls had been hidden away by the Essenes and would survive despite Akiba’s textual purge. [5]

The Septuagint – The Seventy

The Dead Sea Scrolls Spoil the Rabbinic Stratagem

Abegg, Flint, & Ulrich, in their introduction to The Dead Sea Scroll Bible, confirm this author’s assertion of the superiority of the LXX’s authenticity (and perhaps greater accuracy) through the following critical assessment:

The Septuagint is important for several reasons:

First, almost all the books it contains weretranslated from an earlier Hebrew or Aramaic form. … This means that the Septuagint gives readers a window on an ancient Hebrew form of the Old Testament that is earlier than the time of Jesus.

Second, the Septuagint sometimes offers striking evidence of different ancientforms of biblical books (for example, Jeremiah is about 13 percent shorter in the Greek than in the Masoretic Text) as well as different ancientreadings in specific passages.

Third, because the Septuagint was the Bible of Hellenistic Judaism, it offers importantinsights into how Greek-speaking Jews used and understood Scripture.

Fourth, since the Septuagint is quoted in the New Testament and was used by early Christian authors, it constitutes the Bible of the early church and helps to explain early Christian exegesis of Scripture.

Finally, the Septuagint contains the books of the Old Testament in the fourfold arrangement that is found in modern Christian Bibles: Pentateuch, Historical Books, Poetical Books, and Prophets (though the specific order of books sometimes varies between Septuagint manuscripts).

It is from the Septuagint that most modern Bibles have adopted this grouping and that Catholic Bibles have included the deuterocanonical books (or Apocrypha).[6]

To paraphrase and abbreviate the five key reasons cited by Abegg as to why the LXX is essential:

  1. Its translation was based on a textual tradition much earlier than the Masoretic.
  2. It contains more books and many variant The rabbis elected not to include these books (even though they were almost all written by Jews, not Greeks).
  3. From the LXX, we learn how Greek Jews used the Bible hundreds of years before Christ.
  4. The LXX was the Old Testament “representative” selected by the New Testament to give authority to the claims of Christ and the Apostles.
  5. It arranged the books of the Bible (the same way as today’s) in a four-fold structure: Law, History, Poetry, & Prophets.

We can also add that in most cases the deuterocanonical books (i.e., the so-called Apocrypha), are somewhat separated from the canonical texts, but this is less clear than in the Roman Catholic Bible. Protestants Bibles (most notably the King James Version and all modern versions like the New American Standard, New International Bible, English Standard Version, etc.) drop the Apocrypha – following Akiba’s approach – but not the LXX OG.

Regarding point number four, as we have said previously, the Church Fathers (e.g., Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Justin Martyr) used the LXX, seldom referencing the Hebrew (since – except for Origen – their knowledge of Hebrew was little more than mine!)  It was the Church’s exclusive Bible with wide circulation for over 300 years until Jerome’s Latin Vulgate caught on after its completion in the fifth century. (This is admittedly discounting the Syriac, Coptic, and Aramaic versions each with much more limited audience). The LXX remains the Bible of the Eastern Orthodox Church today among several other branches of Christendom (e.g., the Coptic and Syriac Churches are based on translating from the Septuagint). And as argued here, it was subject to less corruption (due to the ravages of time and transmission errors) as well as due to alterations made by the Jamnia Academy.[7]

Danish biblical scholar Mogens Muller contends that:

Historically the Septuagint should be endowed with special significance considered as a translation, because to some circles of Greek-speaking Jewry, it replaced the Biblia Hebraica, and thus became their Bible. Because it was accepted as conclusive evidence of the biblical revelation, it was used by the authors of the New Testament writings, and accordingly came to have a decisive impact on the theology of the New Testament.  In a historicalperspective, it became, to an even greater extent than the Biblia Hebraica, the Old Testament of the New Testament.  This circumstance is fundamental insofar as this translation as a witness to the handing on of traditions represents a reappraisal of the basic content of the Old Testament. According to Robert Hanhart, it even expresses a more profound appreciation for the Old Testament’s testimony of revelation (i.e., than the Hebrew). [8]

The Qumran Caves – Where the Dead Sea Scrolls Were Found in 1947.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint

The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) fall into two groups: Group onecontains the DSS written before the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. (approximately 250 B.C to 70 A.D.); and Group Two,those partial texts that were writtenafter 100 A.D. The Essenes occupied the caves of Qumran beginning ca. 150 B.C.  They brought with them documents from the previous 100 years, andthey created copies of various texts during their “undisturbed” stay, from 150 B.C. to 68 A.D.[9]A few Essenes likely survived after this date.

  • Group one includes over 170 manuscripts from eleven Qumran caves and fragments from Masada. This collection containsfragmentsand scrolls from the Pentateuch and the Book of Job. They were written in pre-exilic, paleo-Hebrew text – the same alphabet used in the Samaritan Pentateuch (which generally follows the LXX).
  • Group two encapsulates documents hidden after 100 A.D. According to Dr. Horn, these documents are found at other locations (not Qumran): Wadi Murabba’at, the Nahal Hever, and the Nahal Se’elim. These are second-centurytexts which follow the Proto-Masoretic – but not the Septuagint.[10]

Abegg’s summary analysis of the contents of the DSS shows that parts of every book of the Jewish and Protestant Old Testaments are there, the only exceptions being Esther and Nehemiah. Books included in the LXX (and later the Vulgate) were present too: Tobit, Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus), and the so-called “Letter of Jeremiah.” Abegg et al.also posits that the Essenes viewed the books of 1 Enoch and Jubilees as canonical Scripture.In Part 2 of Rebooting the Bible, we will evaluate, to a limited extent, several popular books in this category, known as pseudepigrapha.

Abegg notes that most various fragments found among the DSS are the Psalms (37 manuscripts), Deuteronomy (30 manuscripts), and Isaiah (21 manuscripts). Interestingly, he also points out:

If we count the number of times an Old Testament passage is quoted or referred to in the New Testament, the same three books turn up most: The Psalms (cited about sixty-eight times), Isaiah (sixty-three times), and Deuteronomy (thirty-nine times).[11]

Dr. Horn compares scrolls of the DSS’ Book of Samuel from the LXX and from the Masoretic with these words:

In an article dealing with one of the Samuel scrolls from Qumran Cave 4, Frank Cross informed the scholarly world of new developments in our understanding of the pre-Masoretic Text form. Cross showed that this particular manuscript agrees more with the Septuagintal than with the Masoretic Text.[12]

Setterfield quotes the Biblia Hebraica which admits the greater accuracy of the LXX: “Recent Aramaic findings among the Dead Sea Scrolls read most closely with the LXX, and not with the Masoretic Text … This suggests that the older LXX may be more accurate than the newer Masoretic Text which was given to Jerome.”[13] And Setterfield points out that Jerome used the Masoretic Text for the greater part of his Latin translation (the Vulgate) because his Jewish friends argued that it was more accurate than the “old Alexandrian Septuagint” used at the time by the third century Christian Church. That was a most unfortunate error. We will learn about the impact of this significant mistake.

And one more supportive citation provided by Setterfield:

In a review of some of this scholarship, Hershal Shanks notes that “many Hebrew texts [are available] that were the base text for Septuagintal translations…” Further, he [Shanks] notes that what “texts like 4QSama show is that the Septuagintal translations are really quite reliable [and] …gives new authority to the Greek translations against the Masoretic Text.” [Emphasis added]

Quoting Frank Moore Cross (a co-author of the book), Hershal continued, “We could scarcely hope to find closer agreement between the Old Greek [Septuagintal] tradition and 4QSama than actually is found in our fragments.”[14]

Conclusion

If we seek the most authentic Old Testament available today, the verdict must be the Alexandrian (OG) Septuagint. While the Hebrew Bible brings forth Jewish words without translation, in many cases the facts have been altered. In other cases, phrases have been changed to intentionally alter the meaning of the original Hebrew.

Rebooting the Bible – Published January 2019

We can say this about the Septuagint: It was the Church’s Bible for hundreds of years, it has the best textual support, and it offerssplendidbacking for the affirmation that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Additionally, it was the intent of Rabbi Akiba ben Josef and the Jamnia Academy to muddle the biblical testimony that God Himself would come in the flesh as our Redeemer. Thus, the most  essential attribute of the Messiah was rejected by rabbinical Judaism – that is, the Messiah was not just “anointed” – He was a member of the Godhead.

For the rabbis, the Messiah was no more than their mighty warrior and politicalleader who would fulfill the promises of the Kingdom to the land of Israel. But the Messiah, like Bar Kokhba, would never be more thanhuman. Christian testimony stands utterly divergent: The Christ would be more than a political ruler and conqueror – He would be an incarnated deity. To reiterate, he would not be just any deity, He was the Angel of God of the Old Testament, the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, the Logos, and the Only Begotten of the Father.

Simply put: The LXX makes this claim clearly. The Masoretic doesn’t.  Indeed, the MT seeks to discredit such a claim by Jesus of Nazareth and all of His followers, both then and now. If you disagree with this last statement, read the New Testament quotations of the Old Testament and then the Old Testament quotes in the Old Testament.  Use the King James Bible.  The difference should be rather obvious if you have an open mind and read it carefully.


PRAISE FOR REBOOTING THE BIBLE

5 out of 5 stars
A must read book for servants of the Lord and Biblical scholars
May 4, 2019
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Well written and well researched. It took courage to reveal that the messianic prophecies and the original chronology of the Bible had been tampered with and modified. As the facts are presented, it’s very understandable and enlightening. I think it’s God’s hand that this is being presented now in these end times. The date of the Exodus of 1628 is supported by biblical, archeological, and dramatic Earth change evidence. I agree with the date 1628 BC. I enjoyed reading the book and look forward to book 2.


Notes

[1]  Setterfield, Barry. “History of the Septuagint.” Retrieved 4/28/18 from www.setterfield.org/Septuagint.History.html, p. 5.

[2] Horn, S.H. “The Old Testament Text in Antiquity, Ministry, (November 1987), p. 6. Cited by Setterfield, op. cit., p. 5.

[3] The completion of the Second Temple was official until King Herod finished his modifications and additions almost 500 years later Zerrubabel and Joshua “broke ground.”

[4] “It was only from the second century CE onward that one type of Judaism— that of the Pharisees and their descendants, the Rabbis— became standard for the Jewish people as a whole.” Abegg et al, op. cit., Kindle Loc. 244.

[5] This textual lineage would undergo changes for the next 800 years or so despite the meticulous MasoretesThe Masoretes were noted for their scribal scrutiny to avoid errors..

[6] Abegg et al, op. cit., Kindle Loc. 177. Deuterocanonical expresses a sentiment akin to “of secondary importance.”

[7] As mentioned earlier, the matter of the preservation of the text and biblical “inerrancy” will be taken up in Appendix 5 at this book’s conclusion.

[8] Muller, M: The First Bible of the Church, Sheffield Academic Press, 1996, p. 115-116. Hanhart published a German version of the LXX in 2006.

[9] Abegg et al, op. cit., p. 14-15.

[10] Horn op. cit. quoting Y. Aharoni, Israel Exploration Journal11 (1961), pp.22-23, and Yadin, Israel Exploration Journal, 11 (1961), p.40. Cited by Setterfield, op. cit. p. 6.

[11] Abegg et al, op. cit., Kindle Loc. 266.

[12] Horn, op. cit., p. 6-7.  Cited by Setterfield, op. cit., p. 6. Frank Moore Cross (1921 – 2012) was Professor Emeritus at Harvard, most notable for his work interpreting the Dead Sea Scrolls. He had previously been Professor of Old Testament at the Harvard Divinity School and Hebrew Professor at Harvard from 1958 – 1987.

[13] Biblica Hebraica, “The Septuagint.” Cited by Setterfield, op. cit., p. 6.

[14] Hershal Shanks, 4QSama – The Difficult Life of a Dead Sea Scroll, Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol 33 No 3, May/June 2007, p. 66-70. Cited by Satterfield, op. cit., p. 7.

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