Old Testament Canon
Goal: Simply show plausibility, through history - and the motives/reasons of those who deemed it not plausible.
Put in responses to archibald here
- Trust early christians for canon, or Jews who denied Christ (from after the time of Christ)?
- 1 Old Testament Books
- 2 Deuterocanon
- 3 Protestant View
- 4 Letters between Origen and Africanus
- 5 Letters between Augustine and Jerome
- 6 Asterisks
- 7 The Hebrew Text
- 8 Pursue Jeremiah through history
- 9 References
Old Testament Books
According to the Catholic Canon (differences from the Protestant Canon in bold):
Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings 2 Kings 1 Chronicles 2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Tobit Judith Esther + 1 Maccabees 2 Maccabees Job Psalm Proverbs Ecclesiastes Song of Solomon Wisdom Sirach Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Baruch Ezekiel Daniel + Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi
Tobit Judith Esther + 1 Maccabees 2 Maccabees Wisdom Sirach Baruch Daniel +
Church History in Plain Language
In "Church History in Plain Language, Third Edition" by Bruce L. Shelley, we see a Protestant interpretation of how the Old Testament canon came to be. This popular book is frequently used by Protestant universities. Quoting from page 60:
[The] debate centers around the fact that Jews in Palestine in the early years of Christianity had a canon corresponding to the thirty-nine books of the Protestant Old Testament. Jesus referred to this list when he spoke of the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms (Luke 24:44). The evidence seems to indicate that neither Jesus nor his apostles ever quoted from the Apocrypha as Scripture. Beyond Palestine, however, Jews were more inclined to consider as Scripture writings not included in this list of books. The Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint was especially influential in making known certain books of the Apocrypha because it included these books along with the Old Testament books accepted in Palestine. Early Christians also differed, then, over the question of the Apocrypha. Believers in the eastern portion of the Roman Empire, nearest Palestine, tended to agree with the Jews in that area. In the West, however, Christians under the influence of Augustine, the well-known bishop of Hippo, usually received the Apocrypha as part of the canon of Scripture. During the sixteenth-century Reformation most Protestants accepted the view of early eastern Christians and rejected the Apocrypha as canonical. The Roman Catholic church, following Augustine, accepted the books. And that is how the churches differ to this day.
Points to consider:
1) Jesus and his apostles accepted the Protestant OT list, and never quoted from Apocrypha as Scripture
- NT quotations of OT, primarily Septuagint.
2) Beyond Palestine, Jews and Christians (influenced by Augustine) usually received the Apocrypha as Scripture.
- Actually, as Augustine noted, all Christians were using it [proof].
- Also they were very aware of the different Jewish canon, and discussed several possibilities [historical snippets here, theory on Jews taking stuff out].
- Origen made an attempt to reconcile, but not removing Septuagint books (which he thought Jews removed).
- Jerome (and Rufinus) believed the Hebrew version to be better, as original is better than translation. Helmeted preface... but he still accepted including it in his Latin Vulgate (Judith preface, seen by council of Nicea as scripture).
- This "original is better than translation" idea was proven wrong with dead sea scrolls [evidence].
3) The sixteenth-century Reformation accepted the view of early eastern Christians and rejected the Apocrypha as canonical.
- The only early Christians who thought that did that on a basis of original is better than translation (Jerome), which proved wrong with Dead Sea scrolls (reference above section).
- Rather, here is true history of what happened: Prior to Jerome, deuterocanon was accepted. Around 390 councils, canon of NT was declared, AND canon of OT included deuterocanon. Jerome's latin vulgate included deuterocanon. Latin Vulgate was primary bible used for a thousand years, and included deuterocanon. Protestant reformation history of these changes here, with Luther and Calvin.
The complete canon of the Old Testament wasn't completed until after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, but parts had been recognized far earlier. The books of the law (also known as the Torah or Pentateuch—Genesis-Deuteronomy) were acknowledged as early as 2 Kings 22. The prophets were identified as Scripture by the end of the second century BC. The Psalms were accepted, but the remaining books varied depending on Jewish sect. The rabbinical school of the Pharisees in Jamnia arrived at a final list of twenty-four books, which equate to the thirty-nine books of the Christian Old Testament. Ten books interpreted in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) were rejected because of the strict guidelines for canon: books must have conformed to the Torah, and had to have been written in Palestine, in Hebrew, and not after the time of Ezra (about 400 BC). Although the Catholic Bible today includes the Apocrypha, the vast majority of Hebrew scholars considered them to be good historical and religious documents, but not on the same level as the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947, have a few minor differences, but they are remarkably similar to the accepted Hebrew Scriptures we have today. - Quoted from here, 2-26-2018
- Parts of the Old Testament were 'locked in' from a very early time.
- The complete canon was established by the rabbinical school of the Pharisees in Jamnia (theory largely discredited)
Compared to the New Testament, there was much less controversy over the canon of the Old Testament. Hebrew believers recognized God’s messengers and accepted their writings as inspired of God. While there was undeniably some debate in regards to the Old Testament canon, by A.D. 250 there was nearly universal agreement on the canon of Hebrew Scripture. The only issue that remained was the Apocrypha, with some debate and discussion continuing today. The vast majority of Hebrew scholars considered the Apocrypha to be good historical and religious documents, but not on the same level as the Hebrew Scriptures. - Quoted from here, 2-26-2018
- By 250 AD, nearly universal agreement on canon of Hebrew Scripture - only issue that remained was the Apocrypha.
- The vast majority of Hebrew scholars considered the Apocrypha to be good historical and religious documents, but not on the same level as the Hebrew Scriptures.
Appears to simply appeal to the authority of Hebrew scholars? Why accept what they say? And who are they?
Letters between Origen and Africanus
Origen's most important contribution to biblical literature was his elaborate attempt to rectify the text of the Septuagint by collating it with the Hebrew original and other Greek versions. On this he spent twenty-eight years, during which he travelled through the East collecting materials.
- All Christian churches were using the Greek Septuagint translation of the OT
- Origen was aware of all the differences between the Hebrew Text and the Septuagint.
- He was against declaring the Septuagint invalid, because God would not have allowed the church to be led so astray that it would have to beg and ask for valid copies from the Jews again.
- He rather believed the Jews had removed various stories that spoke negatively of elders, and gave examples of New Testament references to things no longer in existence - if true, the things in the Septuagint missing from the Hebrew Text were maliciously removed by Jewish elders!
From Africanus Greeting, my lord and son, most worthy Origen, from Africanus. In your sacred discussion with Agnomon you referred to that prophecy of Daniel which is related of his youth. This at that time, as was meet, I accepted as genuine. Now, however, I cannot understand how it escaped you that this part of the book is spurious. For, in sooth, this section, although apart from this it is elegantly written, is plainly a more modern forgery. There are many proofs of this... And when the one said, "Under a holm-tree" ( prinos ), he answered that the angel would saw him asunder ( prisein ); and in a similar fashion menaced the other who said, "Under a mastich-tree" ( schinos ), with being rent asunder ( schisthenai ). Now, in Greek, it happens that "holm-tree" and "saw asunder," and "rend" and "mastich-tree" sound alike; but in Hebrew they are quite distinct. But all the books of the Old Testament have been translated from Hebrew into Greek... But a more fatal objection is, that this section, along with the other two at the end of it, is not contained in the Daniel received among the Jews... From all this I infer that this section is a later addition. Moreover, the style is different. I have struck the blow; do you give the echo; answer, and instruct me.
From Origen You say that you praise this passage as elegantly written, but find fault with it as a more modern composition, and a forgery; and you add that the forger has had recourse to something which not even Philistion the play-writer would have used in his puns between prinos and prisein, schinos and schisis, which words as they sound in Greek can be used in this way, but not in Hebrew. In answer to this, I have to tell you what it behooves us to do in the cases not only of the History of Susanna, which is found in every Church of Christ in that Greek copy which the Greeks use, but is not in the Hebrew, or of the two other passages you mention at the end of the book containing the history of Bel and the Dragon, which likewise are not in the Hebrew copy of Daniel; but of thousands of other passages also which I found in many places when with my little strength I was collating the Hebrew copies with ours. For in Daniel itself I found the word "bound" followed in our versions by very many verses which are not in the Hebrew at all, beginning (according to one of the copies which circulate in the Churches) thus: "Ananias, and Azarias, and Misael prayed and sang unto God," down to "O, all ye that worship the Lord, bless ye the God of gods. Praise Him, and say that His mercy endures for ever and ever. And it came to pass, when the king heard them singing, and saw them that they were alive." Or, as in another copy, from "And they walked in the midst of the fire, praising God and blessing the Lord," down to "O, all ye that worship the Lord, bless ye the God of gods. Praise Him, and say that His mercy endures to all generations." [The Song of the Three Holy Children, which appears after Daniel 3:23 in some manuscripts like the Septuagint] But in the Hebrew copies the words, "And these three men, Sedrach, Misach, and Abednego fell down bound into the midst of the fire," are immediately followed by the verse, "Nabouchodonosor the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spoke, and said unto his counsellors." For so Aquila, following the Hebrew reading, gives it, who has obtained the credit among the Jews of having interpreted the Scriptures with no ordinary care, and whose version is most commonly used by those who do not know Hebrew, as the one which has been most successful. Of the copies in my possession whose readings I gave, one follows the Seventy [Septuagint], and the other Theodotion; and just as the History of Susanna which you call a forgery is found in both, together with the passages at the end of Daniel, so they give also these passages, amounting, to make a rough guess, to more than two hundred verses... And in many other of the sacred books I found sometimes more in our copies than in the Hebrew, sometimes less. I shall adduce a few examples, since it is impossible to give them all. Of the Book of Esther neither the prayer of Mardochaios nor that of Esther, both fitted to edify the reader, is found in the Hebrew. Neither are the letters; nor the one written to Amman about the rooting up of the Jewish nation, nor that of Mardochaios in the name of Artaxerxes delivering the nation from death. Then in Job, the words from "It is written, that he shall rise again with those whom the Lord raises," to the end, are not in the Hebrew, and so not in Aquila's edition; while they are found in the Septuagint and in Theodotion's version, agreeing with each other at least in sense. And many other places I found in Job where our copies have more than the Hebrew ones, sometimes a little more, and sometimes a great deal more: a little more, as when to the words, "Rising up in the morning, he offered burnt-offerings for them according to their number," they add, "one heifer for the sin of their soul;" and to the words, "The angels of God came to present themselves before God, and the devil came with them," "from going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it." Again, after "The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away," the Hebrew has not, "It was so, as seemed good to the Lord." Then our copies are very much fuller than the Hebrew, when Job's wife speaks to him, from "How long will you hold out? And he said, Lo, I wait yet a little while, looking for the hope of my salvation," down to "that I may cease from my troubles, and my sorrows which compass me." For they have only these words of the woman, "But say a word against God, and die." Again, through the whole of Job there are many passages in the Hebrew which are wanting in our copies, generally four or five verses, but sometimes, however, even fourteen, and nineteen, and sixteen. But why should I enumerate all the instances I collected with so much labor, to prove that the difference between our copies and those of the Jews did not escape me? In Jeremiah I noticed many instances, and indeed in that book I found much transposition and variation in the readings of the prophecies. Again, in Genesis, the words, "God saw that it was good," when the firmament was made, are not found in the Hebrew, and there is no small dispute among them about this; and other instances are to be found in Genesis, which I marked, for the sake of distinction, with the sign the Greeks call an obelisk, as on the other hand I marked with an asterisk those passages in our copies which are not found in the Hebrew. What needs there to speak of Exodus, where there is such diversity in what is said about the tabernacle and its court, and the ark, and the garments of the high priest and the priests, that sometimes the meaning even does not seem to be akin? And, forsooth, when we notice such things, we are immediately to reject as spurious the copies in use in our Churches, and enjoin the brotherhood to put away the sacred books current among them, and to coax the Jews, and persuade them to give us copies which shall be untampered with, and free from forgery! Are we to suppose that that Providence which in the sacred Scriptures has ministered to the edification of all the Churches of Christ, had no thought for those bought with a price, for whom Christ died; [1 Corinthians 6:20; Romans 14:15] whom, although His Son, God who is love spared not, but gave Him up for us all, that with Him He might freely give us all things? [Romans 8:32] In all these cases consider whether it would not be well to remember the words, "You shall not remove the ancient landmarks which your fathers have set." [Proverbs 22:28] Nor do I say this because I shun the labor of investigating the Jewish Scriptures, and comparing them with ours, and noticing their various readings. This, if it be not arrogant to say it, I have already to a great extent done to the best of my ability, laboring hard to get at the meaning in all the editions and various readings; while I paid particular attention to the interpretation of the Seventy [Septuagint], lest I might to be found to accredit any forgery to the Churches which are under heaven, and give an occasion to those who seek such a starting-point for gratifying their desire to slander the common brethren, and to bring some accusation against those who shine forth in our community. And I make it my endeavor not to be ignorant of their various readings, lest in my controversies with the Jews I should quote to them what is not found in their copies, and that I may make some use of what is found there, even although it should not be in our Scriptures. For if we are so prepared for them in our discussions, they will not, as is their manner, scornfully laugh at Gentile believers for their ignorance of the true reading as they have them. So far as to the History of Susanna not being found in the Hebrew. Let us now look at the things you find fault with in the story itself. And here let us begin with what would probably make any one averse to receiving the history: I mean the play of words between prinos and prisis, schinos and schisis. You say that you can see how this can be in Greek, but that in Hebrew the words are altogether distinct. On this point, however, I am still in doubt; because, when I was considering this passage (for I myself saw this difficulty), I consulted not a few Jews about it, asking them the Hebrew words for prinos and prisein, and how they would translate schinos the tree, and how schisis. And they said that they did not know these Greek words prinos and schinos, and asked me to show them the trees, that they might see what they called them. And I at once (for the truth's dear sake) put before them pieces of the different trees. One of them then said, that he could not with any certainty give the Hebrew name of anything not mentioned in Scripture, since, if one was at a loss, he was prone to use the Syriac word instead of the Hebrew one; and he went on to say, that some words the very wisest could not translate. "If, then," said he, "you can adduce a passage in any Scripture where the schinos is mentioned, or the prinos, you will find there the words you seek, together with the words which have the same sound; but if it is nowhere mentioned, we also do not know it." This, then, being what the Hebrews said to whom I had recourse, and who were acquainted with the history, I am cautious of affirming whether or not there is any correspondence to this play of words in the Hebrew. Your reason for affirming that there is not, you yourself probably know. But probably to this you will say, Why then is the "History" not in their Daniel, if, as you say, their wise men hand down by tradition such stories? The answer is, that they hid from the knowledge of the people as many of the passages which contained any scandal against the elders, rulers, and judges, as they could, some of which have been preserved in uncanonical writings (Apocrypha). As an example, take the story told about Esaias; and guaranteed by the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is found in none of their public books. For the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in speaking of the prophets, and what they suffered, says, "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were slain with the sword." [Hebrews 11:37] To whom, I ask, does the "sawn asunder" refer (for by an old idiom, not peculiar to Hebrew, but found also in Greek, this is said in the plural, although it refers to but one person)? Now we know very well that tradition says that Esaias the prophet was sawn asunder; and this is found in some apocryphal work, which probably the Jews have purposely tampered with, introducing some phrases manifestly incorrect, that discredit might be thrown on the whole. However, some one hard pressed by this argument may have recourse to the opinion of those who reject this Epistle as not being Paul's; against whom I must at some other time use other arguments to prove that it is Paul's. At present I shall adduce from the Gospel what Jesus Christ testifies concerning the prophets, together with a story which He refers to, but which is not found in the Old Testament, since in it also there is a scandal against unjust judges in Israel. The words of our Savior run thus: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partaken with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore be ye witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Gehenna? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation." And what follows is of the same tenor: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone them which are sent unto you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." [Matthew 23:29-38] Let us see now if in these cases we are not forced to the conclusion, that while the Savior gives a true account of them, none of the Scriptures which could prove what He tells are to be found. For they who build the tombs of the prophets and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, condemning the crimes their fathers committed against the righteous and the prophets, say, "If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets." [Matthew 23:30] In the blood of what prophets, can any one tell me? For where do we find anything like this written of Esaias, or Jeremias, or any of the twelve, or Daniel? Then about Zacharias the son of Barachias, who was slain between the temple and the altar, we learn from Jesus only, not knowing it otherwise from any Scripture. Wherefore I think no other supposition is possible, than that they who had the reputation of wisdom, and the rulers and elders, took away from the people every passage which might bring them into discredit among the people. We need not wonder, then, if this history of the evil device of the licentious elders against Susanna is true, but was concealed and removed from the Scriptures by men themselves not very far removed from the counsel of these elders. In the Acts of the Apostles also, Stephen, in his other testimony, says, "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers." [Acts 7:52] That Stephen speaks the truth, every one will admit who receives the Acts of the Apostles; but it is impossible to show from the extant books of the Old Testament how with any justice he throws the blame of having persecuted and slain the prophets on the fathers of those who believed not in Christ. And Paul, in the first Epistle to the Thessalonians, testifies this concerning the Jews: "For ye, brethren, became followers of the Churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews; who both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men." [1 Thessalonians 2:14,15] What I have said is, I think, sufficient to prove that it would be nothing wonderful if this history were true, and the licentious and cruel attack was actually made on Susanna by those who were at that time elders, and written down by the wisdom of the Spirit, but removed by these rulers of Sodom, [Isaiah 1:10] as the Spirit would call them... Where you get your "lost and won at play, and thrown out unburied on the streets," I know not, unless it is from Tobias; and Tobias (as also Judith), we ought to notice, the Jews do not use. They are not even found in the Hebrew Apocrypha, as I learned from the Jews themselves. However, since the Churches use Tobias, you must know that even in the captivity some of the captives were rich and well to do...
Letters between Augustine and Jerome
Augustine: For if your translation begins to be more generally read in many churches, it will be a grievous thing that, in the reading of Scripture, differences must arise between the Latin Churches and the Greek Churches, especially seeing that the discrepancy is easily condemned in a Latin version by the production of the original in Greek, which is a language very widely known; whereas, if anyone has been disturbed by the occurrence of something to which he was not accustomed in the translation taken from the Hebrew, and alleges that the new translation is wrong, it will be found difficult, if not impossible, to get at the Hebrew documents by which the version to which exception is taken may be defended. And when they are obtained, who will submit to have so many Latin and Greek authorities pronounced to be in the wrong? Besides all this, Jews, if consulted as to the meaning of the Hebrew text, may give a different opinion from yours: in which case it will seem as if your presence were indispensable, as being the only one who could refute their view; and it would be a miracle if one could be found capable of acting as arbiter between you and them... I wish you would have the kindness to open up to me what you think to be the reason of the frequent discrepancies between the text supported by the Hebrew codices and the Greek Septuagint version. For the latter has no mean authority, seeing that it has obtained so wide circulation, and was the one which the apostles used, as is not only proved by looking to the text itself, but has also been, as I remember, affirmed by yourself. You would therefore confer upon us a much greater boon if you gave an exact Latin translation of the Greek Septuagint version: for the variations found in the different codices of the Latin text are intolerably numerous; and it is so justly open to suspicion as possibly different from what is to be found in the Greek, that one has no confidence in either quoting it or proving anything by its help.
Jerome: It is, however, more in keeping with your enlightened judgment, to grant to all others the liberty which you tolerate in yourself for in my attempt to translate into Latin, for the benefit of those who speak the same language with myself, the corrected Greek version of the Scriptures, I have labored not to supersede what has been long esteemed, but only to bring prominently forward those things which have been either omitted or tampered with by the Jews, in order that Latin readers might know what is found in the original Hebrew. If anyone is averse to reading it, none compels him against his will. Let him drink with satisfaction the old wine, and despise my new wine, i.e. the sentences which I have published in explanation of former writers, with the design of making more obvious by my remarks what in them seemed to me to be obscure... ...it would have been but fair to have given me credit for the same fidelity in the Old Testament; for I have not followed my own imagination, but have rendered the divine words as I found them understood by those who speak the Hebrew language. If you have any doubt of this in any passage, ask the Jews what is the meaning of the original.
Augustine: As to your translation, you have now convinced me of the benefits to be secured by your proposal to translate the Scriptures from the original Hebrew, in order that you may bring to light those things which have been either omitted or perverted by the Jews. But I beg you to be so good as state by what Jews this has been done, whether by those who before the Lord's advent translated the Old Testament--and if so, by what one or more of them--or by the Jews of later times, who may be supposed to have mutilated or corrupted the Greek Mss., in order to prevent themselves from being unable to answer the evidence given by these concerning the Christian faith. I cannot find any reason which should have prompted the earlier Jewish translators to such unfaithfulness... ...my only reason for objecting to the public reading of your translation from the Hebrew in our churches was, lest, bringing forward anything which was, as it were, new and opposed to the authority of the Septuagint version, we should trouble by serious cause of offense the flocks of Christ, whose ears and hearts have become accustomed to listen to that version to which the seal of approbation was given by the apostles themselves.
Origen (Letter to Africanus): Again, through the whole of Job there are many passages in the Hebrew which are wanting in our copies, generally four or five verses, but sometimes, however, even fourteen, and nineteen, and sixteen. But why should I enumerate all the instances I collected with so much labor, to prove that the difference between our copies and those of the Jews did not escape me? In Jeremiah I noticed many instances, and indeed in that book I found much transposition and variation in the readings of the prophecies. Again, in Genesis, the words, "God saw that it was good," when the firmament was made, are not found in the Hebrew, and there is no small dispute among them about this; and other instances are to be found in Genesis, which I marked, for the sake of distinction, with the sign the Greeks call an obelisk, as on the other hand I marked with an asterisk those passages in our copies which are not found in the Hebrew.
Augustine (Letter 71): In this letter I have further to say, that I have since heard that you have translated Job out of the original Hebrew, although in your own translation of the same prophet from the Greek tongue we had already a version of that book. In that earlier version you marked with asterisks the words found in the Hebrew but wanting in the Greek, and with obelisks the words found in the Greek but wanting in the Hebrew; and this was done with such astonishing exactness, that in some places we have every word distinguished by a separate asterisk, as a sign that these words are in the Hebrew, but not in the Greek. Now, however, in this more recent version from the Hebrew, there is not the same scrupulous fidelity as to the words; and it perplexes any thoughtful reader to understand either what was the reason for marking the asterisks in the former version with so much care that they indicate the absence from the Greek version of even the smallest grammatical particles which have not been rendered from the Hebrew, or what is the reason for so much less care having been taken in this recent version from the Hebrew to secure that these same particles be found in their own places. I would have put down here an extract or two in illustration of this criticism; but at present I have not access to the Ms. of the translation from the Hebrew. Since, however, your quick discernment anticipates and goes beyond not only what I have said, but also what I meant to say, you already understand, I think, enough to be able, by giving the reason for the plan which you have adopted, to explain what perplexes me.
Jerome (Letter 75): In another letter you ask why a former translation which I made of some of the canonical books was carefully marked with asterisks and obelisks, whereas I afterwards published a translation without these. You must pardon my saying that you seem to me not to understand the matter: for the former translation is from the Septuagint; and wherever obelisks are placed, they are designed to indicate that the Seventy have said more than is found in the Hebrew. But the asterisks indicate what has been added by Origen from the version of Theodotion. In that version I was translating from the Greek: but in the later version, translating from the Hebrew itself, I have expressed what I understood it to mean, being careful to preserve rather the exact sense than the order of the words. I am surprised that you do not read the books of the Seventy translators in the genuine form in which they were originally given to the world, but as they have been corrected, or rather corrupted, by Origen, with his obelisks and asterisks; and that you refuse to follow the translation, however feeble, which has been given by a Christian man, especially seeing that Origen borrowed the things which he has added from the edition of a man who, after the passion of Christ, was a Jew and a blasphemer. Do you wish to be a true admirer and partisan of the Seventy translators? Then do not read what you find under the asterisks; rather erase them from the volumes, that you may approve yourself indeed a follower of the ancients. If, however, you do this, you will be compelled to find fault with all the libraries of the Churches; for you will scarcely find more than one Ms. here and there which has not these interpolations.
Augustine (Letter 82): I beg of you, moreover, to send us your translation of the Septuagint, which I did not know that you had published... I desire, moreover, your translation of the Septuagint, in order that we may be delivered, so far as is possible, from the consequences of the notable incompetency of those who, whether qualified or not, have attempted a Latin translation...
Jerome (Letter 172): We suffer in this province from a grievous scarcity of clerks acquainted with the Latin language; this is the reason why we are not able to comply with your instructions, especially in regard to that version of the Septuagint which is furnished with distinctive asterisks and obelisks; for we have lost, through some one's dishonesty, the most of the results of our earlier labor.
Augustine (City of God, Book 18, Chapter 43): Some, however, have thought that the Greek copies of the Septuagint version should be emended from the Hebrew copies; yet they did not dare to take away what the Hebrew lacked and the Septuagint had, but only added what was found in the Hebrew copies and was lacking in the Septuagint, and noted them by placing at the beginning of the verses certain marks in the form of stars which they call asterisks. And those things which the Hebrew copies have not, but the Septuagint have, they have in like manner marked at the beginning of the verses by horizontal spit-shaped marks like those by which we denote ounces; and many copies having these marks are circulated even in Latin. But we cannot, without inspecting both kinds of copies, find out those things which are neither omitted nor added, but expressed differently, whether they yield another meaning not in itself unsuitable, or can be shown to explain the same meaning in another way. If, then, as it behooves us, we behold nothing else in these Scriptures than what the Spirit of God has spoken through men, if anything is in the Hebrew copies and is not in the version of the Seventy, the Spirit of God did not choose to say it through them, but only through the prophets. But whatever is in the Septuagint and not in the Hebrew copies, the same Spirit chose rather to say through the latter, thus showing that both were prophets.
The Hebrew Text
Commonly the Hebrew Text is thought to be the Masoretic Text. Certainly in the day of Jerome this was the case. However, Jews did not have a set canon by the time of Christ, and only developed their canon in response to the growth of the Christian sect, which had adopted the Septuagint as its text.
The problem is the Septuagint text, and the Hebrew Text that the Jews adopted by the time of Jerome have numerous differences. This led Jerome (and modern Protestants) to conclude that the Septuagint was a poor translation of the Hebrew Text, and that it was the Hebrew Text that was inspired, not the poorly translated Septuagint.
Besides this, the order of visions, which is entirely confused among the Greeks and Latins, we have corrected to the original truth. And the Book of Baruch, his scribe, which is neither read nor found among the Hebrews - Jerome, preface to Jeremiah
The Dead Sea scrolls change everything. We now know that there was no definitive Hebrew Text at the time of Christ. What Jerome and Protestants refer to as the Hebrew Text was just a Proto-Masoretic Text, one of three different versions of Hebrew Texts that existed in the centuries before Christ.
The Biblical manuscripts found in Qumran, commonly known as the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), have prompted comparisons of the various texts associated with the Hebrew Bible, including the Septuagint. Peter Flint cites Emanuel Tov, the chief editor of the scrolls, who identifies five broad variation categories of DSS texts:
- Proto-Masoretic: This consists of a stable text and numerous and distinctive agreements with the Masoretic Text. About 60% of the Biblical scrolls fall into this category (e.g. 1QIsa-b)
- Pre-Septuagint: These are the manuscripts which have distinctive affinities with the Greek Bible. These number only about 5% of the Biblical scrolls, for example, 4QDeut-q, 4QSam-a, and 4QJer-b, 4QJer-d. In addition to these manuscripts, several others share distinctive individual readings with the Septuagint, although they do not fall in this category.
- The Qumran "Living Bible": These are the manuscripts which, according to Tov, were copied in accordance with the "Qumran practice" (i.e. with distinctive long orthography and morphology, frequent errors and corrections, and a free approach to the text. Such scrolls comprise about 20% of the Biblical corpus, including the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa-a):
- Pre-Samaritan: These are DSS manuscripts which reflect the textual form found in the Samaritan Pentateuch, although the Samaritan Bible itself is later and contains information not found in these earlier scrolls, (e.g. God's holy mountain at Shechem rather than Jerusalem). The Qumran witnesses—which are characterized by orthographic corrections and harmonizations with parallel texts elsewhere in the Pentateuch—comprise about 5% of the Biblical scrolls. (e.g. 4QpaleoExod-m)
- Non-Aligned: This is a category which shows no consistent alignment with any of the other four text-types. These number approximately 10% of the Biblical scrolls, and include 4QDeut-b, 4QDeut-c, 4QDeut-h, 4QIsa-c, and 4QDan-a.
From Emanuel Tov
Emanuel Tov, in "Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible" (Third Edition, page 107), says:
Due to the absence of objective criteria for classifying the Qumran scrolls, they are classified here according to their textual character. Only 121 of the 210-212 biblical scrolls can be classified in this way. In this classification, an attempt is made to characterize and analyze three groups and a cluster of texts, three of which were unknown before Qumran discoveries (2, 3, 4)...
In the 46 Torah texts that are sufficiently extensive for analysis, 22 (48%) are Masoretic-like (Proto-Masoretic) (or, in a few cases, are equally close to the Masoretic and the Pre-Samaritan Text), 5 exclusively reflect the Pre-Samaritan Text (11%), one reflects the Septuagint (2%), and 18 are non-aligned (39%). In the remainder of the Hebrew-Aramaic Scripture, in the 75 texts that are sufficiently extensive for analysis, 33 texts (44%) are Masoretic-like (Proto-Masoretic) (or, in a few cases, are equally close to the Masoretic and the Septuagint), 5 reflect the Septuagint (7%), and 37 form a cluster of non-aligned texts (49%).
4QpaleoExodm, 4QExod-Levf, 4QNumb, 4QRPa (4Q158), and 4QRPb (4Q364) reflect the characteristics of the Pre-Samaritan Text... and was popular in Palestine.
Texts close to the Hebrew Source of the Septuagint (called Pre-Septuagint Texts)
- 4QJerb,d bears a strong resemblance to the Septuagint in characteristic details (ch. 7B1)
- Similarly close to the Septuagint, though not to the same degree, is 4QDeutq (ch. 4, Table 8, page 249-250) [agrees with the Septuagint against the Masoretic Text in the addition of two significant stichs in Deut 32:43...]
- Similarly close to the Septuagint, though not to the same degree, is 4QSama (close to the Septuagint and the SeptuagintLuc; group 4 in book)
- Similarly close to the Septuagint, though not to the same degree, is 4QSamb
- Similarly close to the Septuagint, though not to the same degree, is 11QPsa Psalm 151
- Occasional agreements with the Septuagint, but being close to the Pre-Samaritan Text, is 4QNumb
- 4QJosha agrees with the Septuagint in two details and its reconstructed text lacks most of 8:11b-13, as does the Septuagint.
On all these texts, see Tov* 2011
Many Qumran texts are not exclusively close to the Proto-Masoretic Text, the Pre-Septuagint Text, or the Pre-Samaritan Text and are therefore considered non-aligned (indicating they follow an inconsistent pattern of agreements and disagreements with the Proto-Masoretic Text, the Pre-Septuagint Text, and the Pre-Samaritan Text).
Digging into Proto-Septuagint text 4QJerb,d
From pg 286, chapter 7B1:
Noted by Origen in ad Afric. 4, where he mentioned the distinctive nature of the Septuagint-Jeremiah, in which he found many deviations from the Hebrew text known to him... The question that has pre-occupied scholars is whether the translator changed his Vorlage, or whether he had a different Hebrew text of the book before him. With the discovery of 4QJerb and 4QJerd, which, though fragmentary, reflect the two main editorial characteristics, of the Septuagint, this question has been solved, especially in studies by Janzen*, Tov 1985-199, and Bogaert* 1981-1994. It seems very likely that the Septuagint was translated from a Hebrew text that was very close to these two Qumran texts.
More info on the above on Emanuel Tov's The Qumran Hebrew Texts and the Septuagint: An Overview
- The Septuagint in these texts is shorter by one-sixth, which is reflected in 4QJerb,d
- The Septuagint deviates from the order of the Masoretic in several sections and chapters. The Masoretic 23:7-8 are found in the Septuagint after 23:40, and the internal arrangement of 10:5-12 in the Septuagint and 4QJerb differs from the Masoretic.
- The most striking difference in this regard pertains to the chapters containing the prophecies against the nations, which in the Masoretic are found at the end of the book in chapters 46-51, before the historical "appendix," ch. 52, whereas in the Septuagint they occur in the middle, after 25:13.
- Verses 10:6-8, 10 are lacking in this scroll as in the Septuagint. In spite of the fragmentary condition of the scroll, Tov, DJD XV (1997) 173 and Saley* 2010 showed that the order of the verses in 4QJerb cannot be reconstructed in any way other than that of the Septuagint, i.e., 3, 4, 5a, 9, 5b, 11.
Pursue Jeremiah through history
Noted by Origen in ad Afric. 4, where he mentioned the distinctive nature of the Septuagint-Jeremiah, in which he found many deviations from the Hebrew text known to him... The question that has pre-occupied scholars is whether the translator changed his Vorlage, or whether he had a different Hebrew text of the book before him. With the discovery of 4QJerb and 4QJerd, which, though fragmentary, reflect the two main editorial characteristics, of the Septuagint, this question has been solved, especially in studies by Janzen*, Tov 1985-199, and Bogaert* 1981-1994. It seems very likely that the Septuagint was translated from a Hebrew text that was very close to these two Qumran texts. - Emanuel Tov
Besides this, the order of visions, which is entirely confused among the Greeks and Latins, we have corrected to the original truth. And the Book of Baruch, his scribe, which is neither read nor found among the Hebrews - Jerome, preface to Jeremiah
- Dr. Peter Flint. Curriculum Vitae. Trinity Western University. Langley, BC, Canada. Accessed 26 March 2011.
- Edwin Yamauchi, "Bastiaan Van Elderen, 1924– 2004", SBL Forum Accessed 26 March 2011.
- Tov, E. 2001. Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (2nd ed.) Assen/Maastricht: Van Gocum; Philadelphia: Fortress Press. As cited in Flint, Peter W. 2002. The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls as presented in Bible and computer: the Stellenbosch AIBI-6 Conference: proceedings of the Association internationale Bible et informatique, "From alpha to byte", University of Stellenbosch, 17–21 July, 2000 Association internationale Bible et informatique. Conference, Johann Cook (ed.) Leiden/Boston BRILL, 2002
- Laurence Shiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 172
- Note that these percentages are disputed. Other scholars credit the Proto-Masoretic texts with only 40%, and posit larger contributions from Qumran-style and non-aligned texts. The Canon Debate, McDonald & Sanders editors, 2002, chapter 6: Questions of Canon through the Dead Sea Scrolls by James C. VanderKam, page 94, citing private communication with Emanuel Tov on biblical manuscripts: Qumran scribe type c.25%, proto-Masoretic Text c. 40%, pre-Samaritan texts c.5%, texts close to the Hebrew model for the Septuagint c.5% and nonaligned c.25%.