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I read claims by some on the far Right that the Masoretic text changed the original Hebrew to edit out prophecies related to Jesus -- such as changing "virgin" to "young woman". Didn't know what to think of the argument at the time. Your article has me thinking more on this.

And it also has me wanting to look more carefully at George Lamsa's translation of the Aramaic Peshitta for Old Testament as well as New Testament differences.

The Ethiopian Bibles might provide some tie-breakers where versions differ -- given how there was Hebrew commerce with Ethiopia in Solomon's day.

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So, at one point there was a probably a text that is no longer extant that served as the model for what became the Hebrew text translated into the Septuagint in Egypt and also the text that remained in Hebrew and evolved into the MT. There are things missing in the LXX that are in the MT and things in the MT missing from the LXX, which points to there having been a single text with both. But because the Hebrew text that the LXX was translated from itself no longer survives it’s impossible to know the origin of παρθένος fully. It may be that the word virgin appears in the Hebrew in that version. It may be that it says “almah” but the translator went with “virgin” because that’s what he thought “almah” meant. The terms aren’t mutually exclusive after all; the French word for a single person is celibataire, but no one takes that to mean said person is necessarily literally celibate. The point is we don’t know. The Christians and Jews both seized on language like that to make their cases for their respective preferred versions.

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Apr 21Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

Substantively the LXX is preferable here. The average reader, particularly in the Pagan world, could not see the matter in the way that Isaiah or his original audience could. To the prophet a category of 'young woman' who was not a virgin simply did not exist. He would have called her a 'wife' or a 'whore'. The Hellenistic world required a more precise word to make the prophet's meaning clear.

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I agree; I’ve always thought ‘Virgin’ would be the normative understanding of young woman. Otherwise, why even note it as significant- a married young woman giving birth isn’t something you’d need to emphasize.

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Apr 23Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

Are the terms MT, LXX etc defined? Asking for a XL friend

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They are in the article, but MT is Masoretic Text, LXX is Septuagint (70 in Roman numerals), OT and NT are Old and New Testaments, respectively.

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Apr 24Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

Thanks

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Apr 20Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

> There are things missing in the LXX that are in the MT and things in the MT missing from the LXX, which points to there having been a single text with both.

Why a single text with both, as opposed to a single text with neither, or to the LXX version having derived from an earlier and more authentic original (with the MT adding and removing the differences, respectively?)

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Apr 20·edited Apr 20Author

The Septuagint certainly represents a slightly different textual tradition than the MT. But it is important to remember that it was the individual books, not the whole of the OT, that were translated by individual authors, so some parts of the LXX, like Jeremiah, are shorter and probably older than their MS counterparts, but in other cases the texts mainly agree or the MS versions are to be preferred (they generally correspond more to material found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, for instance). The MS text preserves texts in various forms of Hebrew and record historical details pointing to them having been put together at varying points in the past, with the Pentateuch and pre-Exile material having been written by four authors known to critics as the J, E, D, and P sources. J and E were combined after the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel following its conquest by Assyria, P was added a bit later, possibly in reaction to JE, and D was added last. I follow R. E. Friedman, F. Cross and others in their contention that based on historical and linguistic evidence that all of this material was pre-Exilic. There was therefore an established textual tradition that both the LXX and MS compilers were drawing upon, and both probably preserved an essential core of that tradition while varying at the margins.

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Apr 18Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

I've been interested in this viewpoint as well, particularly if the Septuagint is the oldest of the manuscripts we have.

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Apr 18·edited Apr 23Author

Septuagint translations figure in the oldest manuscripts, but are not necessarily reflections of the oldest text. And since we don’t have the Hebrew original from which the Septuagint was translated it’s harder still to know.

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Apr 18Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

Thank you for replying! That's what I thought but was not sure.

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Apr 17Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

Thanks for sharing this!

I often wonder if other manuscripts have the same multilayered, winding translation history as the Scriptures. Have your studies offered you any insight into that? Any Greek texts translated at various times into various Latin dialects that are later fused together? Anything from Chinese or Japanese literature? I believe God has guided the historical development of the Scriptures, but I wonder if that development has occurred to a unique degree, or the processes you described were more routine.

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I’m not familiar enough with eastern literature to give an educated opinion on that. But one thing that’s important to keep in mind when thinking about the Classical world is that literally everything we have from Classical Greece comes through Alexandria. The Iliad and Odyssey, all the plays, the histories, the philosophy, everything. All of the various versions floating around, however many there were, were tracked down by the librarians, collated, edited, and published in ‘official’ versions. After that bottleneck, the manuscript tradition varies from place to place, and text by text. Some were forgotten until they were rediscovered by Late Medieval and Renaissance scholars. Some went through a bit more editing, occasionally haphazard. But the vast majority were lost. SO MUCH was lost.

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Apr 18Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

Thanks for the reply. I'm off to do some more research on the library at Alexandria!

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Apr 18Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

Thank you for the article very good read!

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Apr 17Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

Very interesting read. Thank you.

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Apr 20Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

The book of Tobit in the Greek of the Septuagint is a plot point in my novella Cloak and Stola.

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Apr 20Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

Much more interesting and informative than expected. Thank you for sharing.

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author

Thank you very much for reading.

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Apr 18Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

Just found this Substack and already loving it!

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author

Thanks so much for the kind words. If you’re interested, check out some of my older stuff.

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Apr 18Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

This was a great article. I'm in seminary, so parts of this were helpful reviews, and other parts my professors failed to mention! Especially the history of the Septuagint after the time of Jesus. I really only learned about Origen and then Jerome, and that's about it. It is a shame that the Septuagint has been largely forgotten by the laity outside of the eastern orthodox church. However, from what I can tell at least, it is still widely used by Biblical scholars. It, the MT, and several other very old texts, are often compared to one another in order to make a hybrid "most accurate" (i.e. closest to the original) Old Testament that is found in most English translations nowadays. Still, this article makes me want to start working on my koine greek again. Comparing the Septuagint with my Biblia Hebraica would be a very interesting exercise. (And headache inducing... I'm not great in either of those languages!)

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Thank you, and for my part I find that, however difficult it is parsing Greek, once you get into it it's actually pretty fun. It's just like working out; that drive to the gym is drudgery, but halfway through a set you're in the zone.

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Fantastic and fascinating, thank you.

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Apr 18Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

More on LXX to come, yes?

Great stuff.

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author

Thank you, and I hope to revisit the topic again.

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Apr 18Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

Any thoughts on Jordan Peterson’s (I hope I get this right) Darwinian theory that the evolution of the “Bible” cut out anything that was extraneous.

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Apr 18·edited Apr 18Author

I have not read his theories directly, but if anything I'd say the books of the Bible tended to accumulate material over time. One thing the original theorists of the Documentary Hypothesis noticed were the duplications- two slightly different versions of the same story told in close proximity in the narrative. This is probably due to the combining of two different sources into one, with added in later.

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Apr 18·edited Apr 18Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

Have someone quoted Russel Gmirkin yet?

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author

I’m surprised it hasn’t come up yet.

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Apr 18Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

What are your thoughts on the Tetragrammaton being absent from the Septuagint?

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Neither I nor anyone else has any way of knowing for sure, but if I were forced to theorize I would say it’s a simple matter of phonology. Greek has no exact ‘Y’ sound (like the first letter of ‘you’ and no ‘W’ sound (like the initial consonant in ‘water.’ Therefor trying to approximate the word with Greek characters would have left something to be desired. Thus, the translators went with κύριος (Lord) or θεός (God) or sometimes ο κύριος Θεός (the Lord God).

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That's interesting. YHWH says over and over to treasure His name. If you can't spell it in your language, what are you going to do?

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Apr 18Liked by Librarian of Celaeno

Thank you, really appreciate your insights!

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Fascinating article., will be sharing it with friends when I get back on to substack.

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deletedApr 17Liked by Librarian of Celaeno
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Thank you for the kind praise. I’m always happy when people one of my more scholarly works useful.

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