What a Difference the Septuagint Makes

I’ve set Jeremiah 31:32 as it reads in the Hebrew Bible compared to how it reads in the Septuagint (LXX). There is a striking difference in the way they read. The Hebrew reading is on the left and the LXX reading is on the right.

It will not be like the covenant I made with  their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though  I was a husband to  them,” declares the Lord. (NIV)  It will not be like the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by their hand to bring them out of  the land of Egypt, because they did not abide in my covenant, and I was unconcerned for them, quoth the Lord,(A New English Translation of the Septuagint).

 

The reading of the LXX is followed by the writer of the book of Hebrews (8:9). How do we explain this? George Guthrie says “It seems that the translator of the LXX reads bʿl as gʿl.” In other words the LXX is wrong since it misread the original Hebrew. But it is entirely possible that the translator of the LXX was following different Hebrew manuscripts than those which became the basis for the Masoretic text. Timothy Law offers an alternative explanation than that of Guthrie:

“The later editors of the Hebrew Bible considered the suggestion that God was ‘unconcerned’ for disobedient Israel out of sync with the faithfulness that writers of other scriptural texts claimed was characteristic of God. They changed this startling phrase in the text to reinforce God’s faithfulness, having him say ‘though I was their husband,’ which means ‘though I remained faithful to them in spite of their disobedience.’ (When God Spoke Greek, 52)

Law’s book has really renewed in me the importance of the LXX. It is significant to understand that “the writers of the New Testament used almost exclusively the Greek Septuagint” (85) and “the Septuagint and especially the Dead Sea Scrolls offer proof that the Hebrew Bible was not fixed before the second century CE and, perhaps more surprisingly, that many readers and users of the scriptural texts before then were not bothered about it.” (79) But also Law points out that though we speak of the “Septuagint” it was “not a singular entity.” (86) Because of this “the New Testament authors, finding the ‘original text’—a modern, often apologetically motivated concern—was not a priority.” (86)

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About Louis

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

  1. Rev. Bryant J. Williams III says:

    Dear Louis,

    Beale and Carson’s New Testament Commentary on the Use of the Old Testament is one of the best books published in the last several years. A colleague and I both agree that the use of the OG and LXX by the authors of the NT is one of the most important facts that is neglected by TC and NT scholars. It is no accident it was the Greek translation of the OT that was used in the Diaspora. This should make us all stand back and look at the LXX. It is similar to the use of the KJV as the English Bible par excellence for over 400 years. I still use the KJV, as well as the NIV, NASB, RSV and ESV.

    Like

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