THE KEY ARGUMENT AGAINST THE SEPTUAGINT – IT WAS WRITTEN AFTER THE NEW TESTAMENT!

Perhaps the most incredible argument against the historical validity of the Septuagint (as a third-to-second-century-B.C. creation) is this: It was fabricated, following rather than preceding the composition of the New Testament (NT). It’s a heated area of debate because the King-James-only argument stands or falls based on when the LXX translation was commenced and completed. A valid LXX puts the King James Version at odds with itself, i.e., the two KJV Testaments really don’t agree with one another!

[The following is drawn from an Appendix to A BIOGRAPHY OF THE CHRISTIAN BIBLE.] 

A typical unfavorable argument (against the Septuagint, LXX, comes from David W. Daniels of Chick Publications. [His brief video is linked below]

In a summary statement, he asserts:

The Septuagint story is a hoax. It was not written before Christ; so it was not used by Jesus or His apostles. It is the only set of manuscripts to include the Apocrypha mixed in with the books of the Bible, so as to justify the Roman Catholic inclusion of them in their Bibles. And it is just those same, perverted Alexandrian codices —the same ones that mess up the New Testament —dressed up in pretty packaging. [1]

Only occasionally will one run across a paragraph full of assertions in which every single assertion is totally false.  But that statement is one such example as we will highlight below.

Secondly, Samuel C. Gipp, a noted spokesperson for King James Onlyism, indicates the Septuagint is “a figment of someone’s imagination.” He builds his argument against the LXX, primarily based on challenging the historicity of the Letter of Aristeas:

(The) “Letter of Aristeas” is the sole evidence for the existence of this mystical document. There are absolutely NO Greek Old Testament manuscripts existent with a date of 250 BC or anywhere near it. Neither is there any record in Jewish history of such a work being contemplated or performed. [2] [Emphasis mine]

[Sam Gipp’s full argument is found here: LINK.]   

The Letter of Aristeas is hardly the primary argument in favor of the LXX. It is useful to understand its history – and the fact that it was written 200 YEARS BEFORE THE NEW TESTAMENT about how the the Septuagint was created in Alexandria, Egypt… Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether every one of its statements about the Septuagint are false… it still validates that the LXX was written LONG BEFORE the New Testament.  Oops.  Chick’s Daniels missed that point.

[Chick’s Tracts – Always a fun read… and sometimes, they’re right!]

The Existence of the Septuagint Undermines King James Onlyism

The argument against the Septuagint is vigorously put forth by the King-James-only advocates for a simple reason: If the Septuagint exists and was the source of the New Testament citations, it completely undermines the claim that the King James Bible which based its Old Testament on the Hebrew, Biblia Hebraica, of R. Akiba, is free from error. How so?

In short, as I said at the outset of this chapter: The two Bibles do NOT agree on the wording of the Messianic prophecies and the chronology of the primeval history of the Bible stated in Genesis 5 and 11. Therefore, one of them must be wrong.

Gipp and Daniel’s reason that since the King James uses the Biblia Hebraica, it must be the Septuagint that is wrong. For them, the King James Bible comprises the preserved, received text.

Furthermore, and astoundingly, they argue the Septuagint must have been a hoax that could only have been written AFTER the New Testament because the wording of the Septuagint and the New Testament closely agree – the two are virtually mirror images of one another every time the NT cites the OT.

Since the conflict between the Septuagint and the Hebrew OT plainly appears to anyone who compares the wording of the New Testament to the Old Testament, it’s obvious one was copying the other. So, which came first? The LXX or the NT? Unlike the controversy of the Chicken and the Egg, this one has a certain, logical answer.

[AND, FOR THE RECORD, BOTH THE CHICKEN AND THE EGG CAME LONG BEFORE CHICK PUBLICATIONS, DESPITE RUMORS TO THE CONTRARY].

The Negative Arguments and a Response

The following 10 arguments based upon this blatantly false premise, are quite easy to take down. But they have gone without much rebuff or rebuke to date. Perhaps because no scholar could take the allegation seriously (and that’s a reasonable justification).  But let’s dig a bit deeper and look more closely at the issues raised by these critics. If you look at these arguments with an open mind and then consider the counter-point I offer below, I think you’ll agree the arguments are not just wrong, they are embarrassingly wrong:

ONE – The Letter of Aristeas is a legend. Today’s advocates for the LXX would agree on this. The Letter is a legend and was developed to support the authority of the Greek Version with the Jews. However, what it states regarding the timing and location is likely true as historical evidence shows. As we will see, there are also many early Church figures which corroborate the Septuagint as the early Christian Bible. Additionally, since the Letter of Aristeas is generally acknowledged to have been written circa 150-130 B.C., the LXX, which it advocates, must have been written before it. Furthermore, the cacophony of criticism makes one conclude that the critics are beating a dead horse. [3]

TWO – The Apocrypha is included in the LXX and is in the Catholic Bible. Daniel dismisses the LXX with its Apocrypha because it is what the Catholics have in their Bible. Underneath this criticism, as covered earlier, is animosity toward Catholicism. Recall, the Apocrypha was included in the original King James of 1611 and was in virtually all Protestant Bibles until nearly the end of the nineteenth century. Afterward, the Apocrypha was omitted for cost and convenience reasons – not theological.

THREE – The Septuagint Should Be Rejected Because It’s an Alexandrian Text. This argument against the LXX stems from its origin in a city that was home to Philo and Origen. While this is true, it was also a city that was home to Alexander of Alexandria and Athanasius. Additionally, one aspect of this criticism follows from the argument that all New Testament Alexandrian texts are inferior to the Antiochian texts. Clearly, this is mixing up an Old Testament text (the LXX) with the New Testament debate regarding which New Testament text-type should be regarded as the most authentic to the autographs. This is a common mistake.

FOUR – There are no “jots and tittles” in the Septuagint; therefore, Christ must have only used the Hebrew Bible. That’s true enough. However, no one is saying that Christ did not use the Hebrew Bible, just that there are examples in the gospels where what Christ is quoted as saying is the identical way the verse reads in the Septuagint, not the Hebrew. Several angles might be considered here. But the main point is that the gospel writer was using the Septuagint as the source for the quotation. Even if Jesus quoted the OT when speaking Hebrew (he also spoke Aramaic by the way), that would not automatically mean the gospel evangelist had to cite Jesus with Hebrew words – after all, the evangelist was writing in Greek to communicate to persons who spoke Greek, not Hebrew. Even Jews that did not converse in Hebrew no doubt knew the alphabet intimately just we most educated today known the Greek alphabet as well as Roman – without speaking it.

FIVE – Jesus assumed the Jewish division of the Scriptures: The Law and the Prophets. The third section was “the writings,” such as the Psalms and Proverbs. Daniels argues that because Jesus mentions this sectioning of the Hebrew scripture, he must have only used the Hebrew. For Daniels, the Septuagint is messy – the apocryphal books are mixed in, and this makes the Hebrew categorization meaningless in the Greek. Of course, this assumes that the books were organized then, the same way they are today. We do not know that. By the time of Athanasius, the follow the same order as our quote regarding his canon shows. The order of the books wasn’t finalized until sometime long after the life of Christ. The Christian canon wasn’t fixed until the fourth century.

SIX – The Roman Catholics need the Septuagint to be inspired because they have the Apocrypha in their Bible. The Apocrypha indeed remains in the Catholic Bible, but as stated in argument two above, the King James Bible had it between its covers for 274 years after it was first published. It was removed in 1885. [1] It is hard to argue the King James Version as created initially was wrong for almost three centuries – and still maintain that it is God’s Inerrant Word – as it was compiled and translated with the Apocrypha in it.

SEVEN – “The supposed text of the Septuagint is found today only in certain manuscripts. The main ones are Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph); Codex Vaticanus (B); and Codex Alexandrinus (A). That’s right. The Alexandrian manuscripts are the very texts we call the Septuagint.” Here we see Daniels mixing up the criticism of Alexandrian text-types with the three oldest virtually complete extant manuscripts – which the King-James- only sect reject. While these codices do follow the Alexandrian text-type, for the most part, they are hardly the only manuscripts or even “the main ones.”  The Chester Beatty II Papyrus (Pauline epistles) and Bodmer II (Gospels) are highly prized manuscripts of the Alexandrian text-type. Additionally, there are hundreds of manuscripts that follow the Alexandrian text-type, not just these three codices.  This is patently false. A list of the most notable Alexandrian-text-type manuscripts is presented below:

EIGHT – “There is only one scrap of evidence, the Rylands Papyrus #458 from 150 B.C., that indicates there was a Greek translation of the Old Testament.” After dismissing the Letter of Aristeas as fiction, Sam Gipp bases his second argument against the Septuagint by claiming there is only one Greek papyrus dated before the time of Christ. However, the evidence indicates otherwise.  The examples fall into two location categories: (1) The Judean desert; and (2) Egypt. The first group includes several cases from caves 4 and 7 of Qumran. The second group is mostly found in Egypt. [6]

  • (1) 4QLXXLeva. A small number of lexical discrepancies between the Leviticus manuscripts and later available LXX text. Late second century B.C.
  • (1) 4QpapLXXlevb. Leviticus 2-5 with lacunae. First century BCE. Uses a different manner of representing Yahweh (the Tetragrammaton) using three Greek letters: (Iota)(Alpha)(Omega) instead of kurios (Lord).
  • (1) 4QLXXNum, 4QLXXDeut. Less confident regarding their text-critical value.
  • (1) 8HevXII gr: Portions of the Minor Prophets. First century A.D. Includes 25 columns of Greek in a scroll indicating an earlier form of the LXX – an intermediate stage known as Kaige revision.
  • (2) Papyrus Fouad 266. Portions of Deuteronomy. Noted for using familiar square Hebrew letters to form the Tetragrammaton. 100 B.C.
  • (2) Papyrus Rylands 458. 20 scattered verses of Deuteronomy. 150 B.C. Known for empty spaces in place of the Tetragrammaton.

NINE – The New Testament quotations are merely citations from Origen’s Hexapla. The close match is due to the Holy Spirit supplying the words to the New Testament author. Gipp assures us that, “We can rest assured that He (the Holy Spirit) is not quoting any non-existent Septuagint.” Unless, of course, one believes that the evidence is far stronger that the NT author was quoting a-then-existing Septuagint than using a “special pleading” involving a supernatural cause instead of a natural one.

TEN – The Hebrew language is hard to learn. Scholars want to reference the Greek Old Testament because they are familiar with Greek and can much more easily multiply their efforts to their benefit financially and reputationally. Gipp asserts that proponents of the Septuagint are selfishly motivated due to “pride and voracity.” He argues no scholar could claim the Old Testament is authoritative when referencing the King James Bible, and in the same breath say that the Greek translation should carry equal weight. Of course, as was shown earlier, this is what the Church Fathers did – embracing a “dual system” of inspiration and authority, even though we caution against the inspiration of the Septuagint in quite the same way as the autographs.

We will take up this subject in the next article coming next week.  Sign up for my postings automatically to come to your email in the column adjacent.

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If you would like to study the issue of our Bible’s history (how it was composed and transmitted to us), I hope you will consider buying my most recent book, A BIOGRAPHY OF THE CHRISTIAN BIBLE.