Puritan & Reformed view on Septuagint?

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thistle93

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi! I am just curious if any of you know what the puritans & general reformed view (Calvin) was on the Septuagint. Was it helpful or to be avoided? Especially thinking about the Deuterocanonical books contained in the Septuagint. Obliviously not viewed as canonical and therefore are non-authoratative but according to purtian/reformed tradition were they something that would benefit or harm the Christian? Any puritans or reformed theologians wrote on subject or are we forced to just speculate? Thanks!


For His Glory-
Matthew
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The Westminster Confession (1646), which may be said distills much of the Reformation's thinking, after listing (in ch.1) the truly canonical writings of OT & NT, says this:
III. The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.​


Here's what the 39 Articles (CoE, 1563) teaches:
And the other Books (as Hierome [Jerome] saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following:​
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
They'd view it as what it is - a translation of the Hebrew (nothing more or less).
The deuterocanonocals (Apocrypha) included in the LXX are not extant in Hebrew at all (if they even had a Hebrew original, SFAIK mere speculation at this point)
 

RJ Spencer

Puritan Board Freshman
I'd say if it's okay to watch or read secular novels and television that it's okay to read the non canonical books in the same spirit. I thoroughly enjoy the book of Wisdom, understanding that it is not scripture of course.
 

Mark Hettler

Puritan Board Freshman
Along the same lines, I read something a few months ago (and unfortunately I no longer remember the source), proposing that we no longer have the original Hebrew, that the LXX is translated is translated from the original Hebrew whereas the Masoretic Hebrew that we have today is a later revision, and therefore where the LXX and Masoretic differ, the LXX is more reliable. Not referring here to the non-canonical books, just where we have clear differences in meaning between the Hebrew we have and the LXX for passages in the canonical books. This would seem to be supported by the fact that NT writers quote the LXX in passages where it differs from the Hebrew, e.g. Hebrews 10:5 quoting Psalm 40:6.

Does the idea that the Septuagint is to be preferred over the Hebrew that's available to us have any credence in Reformed circles?
 

Hamalas

whippersnapper
Along the same lines, I read something a few months ago (and unfortunately I no longer remember the source), proposing that we no longer have the original Hebrew, that the LXX is translated is translated from the original Hebrew whereas the Masoretic Hebrew that we have today is a later revision, and therefore where the LXX and Masoretic differ, the LXX is more reliable. Not referring here to the non-canonical books, just where we have clear differences in meaning between the Hebrew we have and the LXX for passages in the canonical books. This would seem to be supported by the fact that NT writers quote the LXX in passages where it differs from the Hebrew, e.g. Hebrews 10:5 quoting Psalm 40:6.

Does the idea that the Septuagint is to be preferred over the Hebrew that's available to us have any credence in Reformed circles?
I think that view greatly over-simplifies a complex issue. I'll let the real scholars weigh in (paging Ian Duguid & Lane Kiester!) but I don't think we can take the NT authors use of the LXX to mean that the Apostles prioritized a Greek translation over the Hebrew original any more than we can take an American preachers use of the KJV or ESV today to mean that he gives priority to the English more than the Greek & Hebrew originals. They used the LXX because it was the most commonly and widely used version of the Old Testament at the time.

An additional challenge is that determining the actual text of the original LXX is just as complicated as determining the actual text of the original Hebrew. There were different versions of the LXX which emerged over the centuries and so we can't reconstruct the text Paul or Peter would have used from the LXX with any degree of certainty.

It's all very complicated, which is why textual criticism exists as such a valuable and necessary task. Any attempt to side-step that task by uncritically giving absolute priority to the LXX over the Masoretic (or vice verse) is misguided.
 

Mark Hettler

Puritan Board Freshman
but I don't think we can take the NT authors use of the LXX to mean that the Apostles prioritized a Greek translation over the Hebrew original
I'm not suggesting that. I'm suggesting (or rather relaying someone else's suggestion) that the Apostles used an accurate Greek translation of the Hebrew original, whereas the Hebrew we have in front of us today today differs from the original.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I'm not suggesting that. I'm suggesting (or rather relaying someone else's suggestion) that the Apostles used an accurate Greek translation of the Hebrew original, whereas the Hebrew we have in front of us today today differs from the original.
It's a false inference. Apostolic quotations are sufficiently diverse, as that they cannot be used to prove any preference.

Comparisons of NT references of the OT indicate (but cannot prove anything) that the Apostles appear to quote both from Hebrew text and from Greek translation of the Heb.OT; this is beside any quotes or allusions they may make from memory (out of one tradition or another) or deliberately reword for their own inspired purpose [i.e. take Ps.68:18 in Heb and LXX, and compare it to Eph.4:8].

The apparent use of prior translation by the NT authors demonstrates that a faithful translation should be regarded as no less the word of God than what was delivered verbatim from heaven. What those renderings in the NT cannot do is show an "originalist" preference for a certain reading.

What finds like the Dead Sea scrolls prove is a high degree of Masoretic tradition fidelity to the ancient text. We should still have trust in the reliability of the Heb. text even if we did not have those supports, because of our confidence in divine preservation. But when at a single leap knowledge of the content of the text is taken back about 1000yrs, and confirms the stability of the text, it's hard to take seriously the idea that the standard Heb. text in our hands today differs in anything substantive from that which Jesus handled in the synagogue (ala Lk.4:16ff).
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
Belgic also helpful:

ARTICLE 6 THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CANONICAL AND APOCRYPHAL BOOKS We distinguish those sacred books from the apocryphal, viz: the third and fourth books of Esdras, the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Jesus Sirach, Baruch, the Appendix to the book of Esther, the Song of the Three Children in the Furnace, the History of Susannah, of Bell and the Dragon, the Prayer of Manasseh, and the two books of the Maccabees. All of which the Church may read and take instruction from, so far as they agree with the canonical books; but they are far from having such power and efficacy that we may from their testimony confirm any point of faith or of the Christian religion; much less may they be used to detract from the authority of the other, that is, the sacred books.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I agree with Bruce in general. The Hebrew text is reliable in most cases. The LXX can be useful on occasion in text-critical matters, but the process is fraught with difficulties, not the least of which is that back-translation from Greek to Hebrew can be very subjective, and there can be lots of options. The DSS did prove that the Hebrew text is very reliable. There is also evidence, however, that (especially in the case of Jeremiah), two different Hebrew versions existed. That is, there are Hebrew manuscripts that follow the LXX reading AND there are other Hebrew manuscripts of the DSS that follow the MT. Jeremiah, of course, is a bit of a special case, having by far the widest disparity between the MT and the LXX.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
I'd say if it's okay to watch or read secular novels and television that it's okay to read the non canonical books in the same spirit. I thoroughly enjoy the book of Wisdom, understanding that it is not scripture of course.
Yes, but some of the books contain background material helpful for understanding parts of the New Testament and even referenced there (e.g., Hebrews 11).
 
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