The following article contains information from my latest book, Rebooting the Bible.
Corrupting the Tanakh to Reduce Jewish Conversions to Christianity
Only a few short years after the destruction of Herod’s Temple, the rabbis (aka “sages”) formed an instruction academy in the village of Jamnia (outside of today’s Tel Aviv), allegedly with permission directly from Titus himself to preserve the Jewish religion. The rabbi’s would teach young students the ways of Torah, preparing them for a life of leadership in synagogues inside and outside of Israel. In the course of their work, not only did they begin to write down their “Oral Torah” forming the Mishnah, they also decided to alter the words of the Tanakh. According to their leader Rabbi Akiba ben Yosef (50-135 A.D.), this startling practice was permissible since the rabbis were now the exclusive elders charged with determining what the Torah demanded. In essence, they saw themselves as the sole authorities of a new Judaism (no longer tied to a religion built around sacrificial worship and other Temple rites).
Their focus, in order to thwart the heretical sect called Christianity, was to alter the words of scripture associated with the Messiah – his metaphysical identity, his messianic mission, his means to bring salvation to the Jews, and the signs that accompanied his ministry. Therefore, any passage that was a favorite of Christian evangelists expressing why Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the prophecies of Messiah must be occluded. To accomplish this, first a new Hebrew Bible was created which became the new “original” (to wit., Vorlage) Hebrew Bible. Then, a Greek version was fashioned that rigidly adhered to the exact wording of the Hebrew to make sure that any seeming correlation between Jesus of Nazareth and the prophesied Messiah was hidden by orthodox Jewish perspectives and practice. Examples of this treachery follows.
The Messiah’s Mission and Means of Salvation
For instance, Isaiah spoke of how the Gentiles would hope and trust in the Christ. In the LXX, Isaiah 11:12 reads as follows: “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse and he that shall rise to rule over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust, and his rest shall be glorious.” The Masoretic Text (MT) as translated in the King James Version, reduced the appetite and acclaim of the Gentiles for the Messiah as only something they sought merely as a sign or symbol. It says rather impersonally, “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” When Paul the Apostle quotes the OT, it’s obvious he cites the LXX instead: “And again Isaiah says, ‘The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.’” (Romans 15:12)
We see the same treatment of Isaiah 42:4 when comparing the LXX with the Masoretic: “He shall shine out, and shall not be discouraged, until he has set judgment on the earth: and in his name shall the Gentiles trust.” On the other hand, the Masoretic Text (KJV) states, “He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he has set judgment in the earth; and the isles (in Hebrew, ey, also translated ‘coastlands’) shall wait for his law.” Therefore, in the Masoretic Text, not only do the Gentiles equate to little more than an idiom equivalent to “faraway places,” the MT alters their relationship from one of faith to one focused on the law. Consequently, it is easy to see that Matthew 12:20-21 clearly references the LXX when quoting Isaiah 42:4, for its reading is, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in this name the Gentiles will hope.” Throughout these passages, please note the Gentiles are not told they must follow the Torah as the means to obtain salvation. They simply trust and hope in Him.
The Incarnation of Yahweh in the Messiah
As to the incarnation of the Messiah – being both God and man – the LXX says one thing and the MT another. In the LXX, we see his deity stressed as not only superior to the law but even to the heavenly angels; for we read the following (in the LXX) from Psalm 40:6, “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body thou hast prepared me: whole-burnt-offering and sacrifice for sin thou didst not require.” Once again, we see a radical difference regarding the same passage in the Masoretic: “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire, mine ears hast thou opened; burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.” Given the contrast, isn’t it totally obvious which version the New Testament cites? “For when Christ came into the world, He said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.’” (Hebrews 10:5) The Messiah was divine and yet he would also be human. Psalm 40:6 provides us with was a clear-cut case of foreshadowing the incarnation. This was not a picture of messiah compatible with the Jewish mind. The LXX prophesies the incarnation; the MT doesn’t.
Another unmistakable affirmation of the deity of the Messiah is provided by the OT in Deuteronomy 32:43 (unmistakable, that is, if you are reading the LXX’s account): “Rejoice, ye heavens with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people.” The writer to the Hebrews celebrates the mention of the angels aka the sons of God who not only worship the Messiah but strengthen themselves through the Messiah’s power. We read in the NT, “And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “’Let all God’s angels worship him.” (Hebrews 1:6) Neither Abraham nor Moses merited angelic worship. But the Messiah does. Angels worship Him and draw strength from His power. Such worship remains something which any good Jew knows God alone deserves. So why did the Messiah merit worship?
When we encounter the Masoretic Text, we don’t enjoy in its witness the same astonishment regarding Messiah’s essence and mission. We find instead the plain words of the Masoretic Text: “Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people; for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.” There is no mention of the Gentiles. And, there is especially no mention of worshipping angels nor the sons of God drawing strength from the supernatural power of the Messiah.
The Accompanying Signs Authenticating His Identity
Next, we observe how the miracles and signs that accompany and authenticate the identity of the Messiah are described differently too. We
see an important distinction between the LXX and the MT in Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken in heart, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind…” In contrast, there is no mention of the miracle of restoring the sight of a blind man in the Masoretic Text as translated by the King James Old Testament, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” The messiah of the Masoretic Text doesn’t have the ability to heal the blind or raise the dead. Social justice, yes. Miracles, no.
Oh, you say surely Jesus read just the Hebrew in the synagogue. I’m rather sure he did read a Hebrew scroll. But one thing is rather obvious. He wasn’t reading the same Hebrew as what became the Masoretic Text. Listen to what Jesus spoke forth according to Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…”
If we agree that this passage was altered by the rabbis as part of their cover-up conspiracy, we may arrive at a rather obvious insight: The story of “the man born blind” as recorded in chapter nine of John’s gospel, continued to be a topic of interest that set Jesus apart from all other teachers roaming about in Judea claiming to be the Messiah. As the man born blind said directly and without fear of the Pharisees who would throw him out of the synagogue, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:32,33)
And of course, there is the matter of how Jesus came into the world. The LXX said one thing, but the Masoretic Text, as recorded in the Biblia Hebraica told a different story. We read there, “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) This is certainly not how the LXX read. Its prophecy stated the following, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Emmanuel.” Once again, Luke confirms what the LXX predicts. The Masoretic? Not so much.
Errors in the King James and Masoretic Text?
There are many who argue that there are no errors in the Masoretic Text. But if one simply compares the passages of the New Testament with the Old Testament in the King James Bible, the verdict is clear and concise. The two Testaments do not agree with one another. Logically, one of them must be wrong.
Therefore, we have a genuine dilemma: (1) Either the New Testament twisted the words of the Jewish Old Testament to make them fit the Christian view of who the Messiah is, or (2) the New Testament wasn’t quoting the Masoretic Text at all.
Therefore, we are wont to ask: “If Christians seek to demonstrate the truthfulness of our faith, is it wise to admit we have misled the world by showing how we misquoted the scripture concerning the nature, mission, and manner of our salvation; or should we simply point out that our New Testament quoted a different Bible?” While no writer or speaker should ever answer a rhetorical question (as it’s stating the obvious), I will break with tradition and provide the answer. Here goes: It isn’t wise to admit trickery. However, no worries. The issue is easily resolved. There is a Greek Old Testament that the Greek New Testament quoted. And this Greek Old Testament was so ancient that it rendered the original Hebrew writings through its prophets accurately, despite being translated from Hebrew into Greek. And yet, few Christians know their history well enough to realize the reason for the difference is the New Testament quotes the Greek Septuagint.
Although it’s awkward to point this out to those asserting the King James Bible never errs, nevertheless, I must go further to press the point: Since the Septuagint and the Masoretic Text (upon which the KJV is based) disagree on these most vital issues concerning who the Messiah is and what He did to achieve our salvation, isn’t it apparent that one or the other is in fact wrong? Furthermore, given it is the Septuagint that agrees with the New Testament and not the other way around, isn’t it also clear which Old Testament version is right, and which is wrong?
Again, I’ll answer my own rhetorical question to keep suspense at a minimum: Without any fear of contradiction, the Septuagint stands correct and while the Masoretic passages are corrupted. They err. And I’m much rather defend the deity of Jesus Christ than defend the inerrancy of the KJV. And please note, the matter at stake resides at the heart of Christianity; that is – namely, “Who is Jesus Christ?” And, “What must we do to be saved?”
Finally, to conclude this line of thought: The King James Only Club often argues that the Septuagint agrees with the New Testament because it was written after the New Testament was already completed. They allege the Septuagint only masquerades as the earlier version. I’m not sure why the creators of the Septuagint would want to claim it preceded the Hebrew Old Testament unless it in fact did, but I’ll go along for the sake of argument.
So, let’s say that the LXX came after the New Testament was written. If we believe the New Testament speaks the truth and Jesus is the Messiah, born of a virgin, who came to “rescue the perishing” (a great ol’ standard hymn), the Masoretic Old Testament still disagrees with the New Testament. So, even if the Septuagint never existed, it doesn’t change the fact that the New Testament of the King James Bible contradicts the King James Old Testament. In other words, it doesn’t matter which version came first. The King James OT and NT still don’t say the same things. Better that the KJ OT is wrong than the KJ NT. That’s why I have said on record that my problem with the KJV ONLY crowd is not regarding the NT. It’s only about the OT.
The rules of logic tell us that ought to be enough to cinch my argument. The contradictions mean there are errors in the King James. However, what’s more ironic: The source that informs us that the KJV errs is the King James Version itself. Its New Testament proclaims Jesus is the Messiah. Its Old Testament, as a result of the work of the arch-enemies of Jesus – the Pharisees-cum-rabbis – demotes the Messiah’s identity, denies His mission, and diminishes the signs of His incarnation.
Why is this important? It’s not to harm the faith of those who rely upon the KJV. Rather, it is to point out to them that God preserves His Word through a different mechanism. It is through the existence of thousands of copies of the biblical manuscripts, which upon investigation yield what the original autographs set forth. There is no need to put your faith on the line by counting on the KJV’s inerrancy as the KJV ONLY crowd does. If you belong to the KJV ONLY club, forgive me, but you put your faith on the chopping block every day because even one insignificant error threatens everything you hold dear. You entertain this unnecessary risk because you insist upon the inerrancy of the KJV translation, presumably to increase your confidence that you have the Word of God in tangible form. You should ask yourself if this is not the case.
Yes, I’ll admit as many KJV ONLY adherents assert, you can hold this Bible translation in your hands while you can’t hold only the original writings of the prophets and apostles in your hands – unless that is, you recognize that the original words are in the Bible we have today. Sure, there were many little additions and a small number of deletions made in the Bible. Nevertheless, scholars confirm again and again that no material alterations occurred in the Bible except for what I am pointing out about the Masoretic Text. The only major provable error – and it is provable just as I’ve shown you here – is the rabbinical conspiracy to hide the fact that Jesus was the Messiah. But there is hope. For the good news is that God in His providence has given us the means to fix this problem in the Old Testament of the Masoretic Text since we have the Old Greek Septuagint that supplies what the original Hebrew writings before 285 B.C. revealed.