Michael S. Heiser has written an informative article on the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. His article, “The Role of the Septuagint in the Transmission of the Scriptures,” was published by Associates for Biblical Research.
Most Old Testament scholars know that there are several different readings between the Septuagint and the Hebrew text. Heiser provides some examples of these different readings and explains how the early church coped with this problem.
Below is an excerpt from Heiser’s article:
First, in a number of differences textual critics can fairly easily discern that the variance is due to divergent manuscripts; that is, the Hebrew text from which the LXX was translated had different words than what is found in the MT. Two of the most well-known examples are Deuteronomy 32:8 and the book of 1 Samuel. The MT has “sons of Israel” and the LXX has “sons of God” in Deuteronomy 32:8. Textual critics agree unanimously that the LXX is the correct text due to manuscript evidence (the Dead Sea Scrolls agree with the LXX here and elsewhere in Deuteronomy 32) and logical coherence.2 With respect to 1 Samuel, the Dead Sea Scrolls support the LXX in numerous instances against the MT, but not always.
Second, in many instances scholars feel that the most likely answer to a disagreement between the LXX and the MT is that the LXX translator had the text of the MT, or something nearly identical, and simply translated very freely or interpretively. Already in the early Church there was sensitivity to this phenomenon. The great textual scholar Origen (185–254 AD), well versed in Hebrew and Greek, undertook the task of “adjusting” the text of his LXX to the traditional Hebrew text. While well-meaning, the result of this amazing endeavor was that it made the task of parsing differences between the LXX and the MT even harder for modern scholars.
Most Christians know little about the influence of the Septuagint on the followers of Christ. Heiser’s article is a good attempt at acquainting Christians with the Septuagint.
Read Heiser’s article by visiting Associates for Biblical Research online.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary