Virgin birth and Septuagint

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Baptist Vine, Dec 1, 2002.

  1. Baptist Vine

    Baptist Vine
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    I have two general questions and discussions. Which text is more accurate, septuagint or the masoretic text? And what does this imply for the virgin birth doctrine if anything?

    Concerning the verses in Isaiah that predict the virgin birth, I have read on various websites and a few books that the Masoretic text uses the Hebrew word for young girl (almah, whereas virgin is bethulah), whereas the Greek Septuagint has translated from a Hebrew OT text and uses the greek word virgin (parthenos).

    I've also read that the Septuagint is generally dated around 300 B.C.E, and the Masoretic text around 1000 A.C.E. I don't know if these dates are generally accepted or not.

    I've read that the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Old Testament was translated by Jewish scholars into Greek, and that the Masoretic text was compiled also by Jewish scholars.

    Why would one set of Jewish scholars seem to believe that the Isaiah verses are specifically talking about "virgin", whereas another set, (possibly 1300 years later?) belive that the proper meaning is "young girl"?

    Did Jesus and the apostles refer to the OT Septuagint? I've read that this was the common version of the OT around that time. I've also read that Jesus used a Hebrew version of the OT?

    Were there different Hebrew versions of the OT around at the time of Jesus that are no longer available? Were there some Hebrew OT versions at the time of Jesus that contained the reading "virgin", and others that contained the "young girl" reading?

    Does the New Testament refer to the Septuagint when it refers to the OT scripture fulfillment of prophecy when speaking of the virgin birth?

    Do the Dead Sea Scrolls support the Greek Septuagint or the Masoretic text when it comes to Isaiah virgin birth prophecies?
     
  2. BrianT

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    In general, the Masoretic is believed to be much more accurate than the Septuagint (LXX).

    The dates you mention are basically correct, although it should be noted that although the "Masoretic" is quite late, it is a extremely accurate representation of the Hebrew texts from earlier times.

    In Jewish culture, a "young maiden" was assumed to be a "virgin". The terms were basically synonyms. The NT could have been referring to either the Greek or Hebrew O.T. here.
     
  3. kman

    kman
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    Hebrews 1:6:
    "Let all the angels of God worship Him"

    According to the textual notes in my NKJV and the notes in my MacArthur study bible this is a quote from the Septuagint version of Deut. 32:43.

    It is also found in some Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

    -kman
     
  4. Jude

    Jude
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    Careful! The Jews around the time of Christ used the Septuagint. Note that in the NT, when OT passages are quoted, that they often do not 'match' the OT texts we have today. That's because those quotes come from the Septuagint. Interestingly, the Septuagint also contained what some call 'the Apocrypha'.
     
  5. Baptist Vine

    Baptist Vine
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    I think the Septuigant contains the Apocrypha only because it was gradually abandoned by the Jews and became adopted by the Christian church, and of course, for thousands of years, the only 'church' there was to speak of was the Catholic and Orthodox institutions. The Catholic and Orthodox adopted the Hebrew-to-Greek OT alright, but they also added to the original work books the Jews never considered 'inspired', ie the Apocryphal writings.

    So the Septuigant we know today contains the apocrypha only because these writings were added to the original work. The LXX started out as a Jewish scholary rabbinical work it seems, but became abandoned by Jews and adopted by Christians over time.

    I find it very interesting that no one disputes the date of the orginal Greek translation around 300 BC. This means that Jewish rabbis and scholars were content with it's accuracy for how many years? Hundreds? Yes, it must have been. How can it be called 'inacurrate' categorically?

    I wonder if there is some real politics at play in this story.

    I am beginning to suspect that the LXX really cannot be that 'inaccurate'. After all, the introduction in the translation section of almost all bibles I look at contains remarks indicating the LXX is still oftern referred to. And of course the majority of bibles still translate Isaiah 7:14 according to the LXX.

    It seems that as the relationship between Christianity and Judiasm soured, the Jews abandoned the LXX and Christians adopted it. I wonder if, in more modern times, protestant bible translators and scholars are contemplating some political effects determined by which translation to pay homage to. By backing the Maoretic text, a reconciliatory gesture is provided to Judiasm. Although still a good translation, backing the LXX would at this date provide tacit recognition to Apocryphal writings and the theology of the Catholic and Orthodox. So, what is done is pay homage to the Masoretic text, meanwhile the LXX is still relied upon in places to determine translation.
     
  6. BrianT

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    The LXX is substantially different from the Masoretic. Today's English Bibles almost universally accept the Masoretic as the text to translate the OT from, that's what I meant when I said "In general, the Masoretic is believed to be much more accurate than the Septuagint". I don't believe I've even ever seen an OT published based on the LXX, except for things that are explicit LXX translations/interlinears.

    The NT is fairly split over when it quotes from the LXX as we have it today, when it quotes from the Masoretic as we have it today, and when it quotes from something not quite either. This leads me to believe that textual variations existed even at the time of Christ and they were generally not a concern - not that one text was universally accurate and another was considered corrupt.

    I think it is impossible to tell which (the Masoretic or the LXX) was referred to when Matt quoted Isaiah. If the translators of the LXX saw the Hebrew "almah" and translated it "parthenos" in the LXX in Isa 7:14, Matt could have simply done the same thing in Matt 1:23 - again because "young maiden" and "virgin" were basically equivalent, not like today. In short, I don't see a difference here in Isa 7:14 between the Mas. and the LXX.

    Two potentially discussion-generating side notes: 1. The *context* of Isa 7 shows that verse 14 was primarily NOT a prophecy about Christ, but a sign for Ahaz, hundreds of years before Christ. Matthew is applying an Midrashic interpretation technique to show how Christ fulfills prophecy in general, not just specifically about him.
    2. There is some interesting evidence that indicates the book of Matthew may have been written in Hebrew, and if this is so then Matthew likely also used the word "almah" in 1:23.
     

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