What a Difference the Septuagint Makes

I’ve spent the last few weeks in the books of 1 & 2 Samuel and it’s been quite interesting. I’ve learned again what a difference the Septuagint can make when compared to the Masoretic text. In 1 Samuel 17 alone there is quite a difference. Victor Hamilton notes that the “Greek text contains about 55 percent of the Hebrew text and offers this breakdown: (Handbook on the Historical Books, 259)

 

Verses present in the Hebrew and the Greek

Verses present only in the Hebrew

1-11

12-31

32-40

41

42-48a

48b

49

50

51-54

55-58

There is a great discussion of this in An Introduction to the Old Testament by Tremper Longman III and Raymond Dillard from Zondervan. The following is taken from them along with the charts provided.

“Scholars have long suspected that the Masoretic Text of Samuel, though comparatively intact, is nevertheless among the least well transmitted books of the Bible. At many places there are significant divergences from the Hebrew text that was used by the translators of the Septuagint, and when the writer of Chronicles quotes Samuel, he also often appears to follow a text of Samuel different from the Masoretic Text (MT). For generations scholars debated the merits of these variant readings. Was the Chronicler theologically editing the earlier text or following some independent source? Were the Septuagint translators incorporating their own theology, embellishing, or being careless—or were they carefully following a Hebrew text that differed from the MT?”

“With the discovery of the Qumran manuscripts and fragments, this debate was largely settled. Among three different fragmentary manuscripts of Samuel found in cave 4 at Qumran, two appeared in large measure to agree with the MT, whereas the bits and scraps of the third manuscript (what the worms left) contained a text resembling the exemplar that was used by both the Chronicler and the Septuagint translators. The existence of an alternative Hebrew manuscript type (or types) was now no longer an issue.” (161)

Septuagint

Masoretic Text

Then Saul said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant today? If this guilt is in me or in my son Jonathan, O Lord God of Israel, give Urim, but if this guilt is in your people Israel, give Thummim, (tmyt).” And Jonathan and Saul were indicated by the lot, but the people were cleared.

 

Then Saul said, “O Lord God of Israel,

 

Give me the right answer”

tmyt

The eye of the Hebrew scribe at some point appears to have jumped from the first occurrence of the phrase “O Lord God of Israel” to the second, and then from the first occurrence to the command ‘give’ to the second, resulting in substantial omissions in the Hebrew text. The Hebrew word tmym underlies both the translation ‘Thummim’ and ‘the right answer,’ although translating ‘the right answer’ is otherwise unattested as the meaning for this word; that is to say, the translation ‘right answer’ is a   somewhat artificial adjustment because the word Urim was missing from the Masoretic text.” (162)

 

2 Samuel   5:21

1   Chronicles 14:12

The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David and his men carried them off. The Philistines had abandoned their gods there, and David gave orders to burn them in the fire.
Scholars had often argued that the Chronicler edited his source in order to bring David’s actions into   conformity with God’s commands about burning the foreign idols (Deut. 12:2-3). However, the Lucianic recension of the Septuagint for 2 Samuel 5:21 preserves a reading that agrees with the text of Chronicles. It is at least possible that the Chronicler here was following a text of Samuel that differed from the MT.

 

 

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About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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2 Responses to What a Difference the Septuagint Makes

  1. Pingback: Longman and Dillard on the book of Samuel in the Septuagint and Masoretic Text | Zondervan Academic Blog | Zondervan Academic

  2. Pingback: The Righteous Shall Live By Faith | Veracity

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