_ Once one starts serious Bible study, it isn’t long before they run across the terms “Masoretic Text” and “Septuagint.” So, what are these documents?
The Masoretic Text is the standard version of the Hebrew Old Testament as it exists today. Until the sixth century A.D. only the consonants of the Hebrew OT were written down; the language contained no vowels. The tradition of correct pronunciation of ancient Hebrew words was passed down orally. Between A.D. 500 and 1000, a group of Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes (from maser- to hand down, transmit) developed a system of adding vowels, accents, and notes that guaranteed more accurate reading and copying of the ancient text. No other text from the ancient world was as carefully safeguarded as the Masoretic Text. Its tradition came to be regarded as authoritative and can still be considered highly trustworthy. The Masoretes themselves date from the early Christian period until the Middle Ages
In existence today:
The earliest complete Masoretic manuscript, the Leningrad Codex (A.D. 1009) is used for the standard edition of the Hebrew Bible.
Another source states that the standard for Hebrew Bibles printed today is the Masoretic Text from A.D. 1088, currently housed in the Saint Petersburg Public Library.
Another ancient copy, although partially lost, is the Aleppo Codex (A.D. 925)
The founding of the Dead Sea Scrolls has shown amazing consistency between the Masoretic Text and the original scrolls, even though they are separated by 1,100 years. This gives much credence to the idea that the Masoretic Text is a reliable copy that is faithful to the original meaning intended by the writers of the OT.
The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament (both Hebrew and Aramaic), along with a number of noncanonical Greek works known by Protestant Christians as the Aprocrypha. The title “Septuagint” is Latin for “seventy.” Legend/tradition holds that 72 elders, working independently of one another, each produced an identical translation of the Hebrew Pentateuch into Greek around 285 B.C. Originally designed for Greek-speaking Jews in Egypt, the Septuagint was completed by various translators in or around Alexandria between the third and first centuries B.C.
It came to have great authority among the non-Palestinian Jews, and allowed the Greeks to read the divine revelation in their own tongue. The Bible of the early church, it is frequently quoted in the NT and by early church fathers. It is still the official text of the Greek Church. The Septuagint is organized in the following order: the Pentateuch, followed by the historical, poetic, wisdom, and prophetic books. The order is loosely followed by our English translations. Due to the fact that various translators at various times with varying capabilities and styles.
At times, when translated into English, the two versions are almost identical. Yet, in other places, they can be quite different. One example of this is in the book of Jeremiah. However, several partial Jeremiah manuscripts found in Hebrew among the Dead Sea Scrolls may help provide some answers to this complex issue. Two significant manuscripts agree with the Masoretic Text, but another text reflects the wording of the Septuagint. This evidence suggests not that one or the other of the MT or Sep. has errors, but rather that two distinct Hebrew editions of the book of Jeremiah were in circulation.
This can also cause confusion for some reading the NT. Quotations from the OT appear, and when the reader goes back to the OT to read the actual text, they might discover that it is quite different. This is due to the fact that the OT was translated from the Masoretic text, whereas the NT is citing the same passage as it appears in the Septuagint. The Septuagint was used by Hellenistic Jews and by the early church.
-Catholic Book Publishing, “St. Joseph Edition, New American Bible.” New York, NY: Catholic Book Publishing.
-Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, “New International Version: Archaeological Study Bible.” Zondervan Corporation: Grand Rapids, MI, 2005.
-Green, Kevin (compiler), “All-In-One Bible Reference Guide.” Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2008.
Jennifer Becker Landsberger
Who am I? Freelance writer (magazines, websites, & copywriting), Catholic, military wife, and Mensan. Double Bachelor's in History & Psychology.
Witnessing by charity and love are above all. Studying the Bible and beyond helps me on this quest. Feel free to join my walk into the Bible.
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~~~Prayer before Writing-
Oh creator of the universe, who has set the stars in the heavens and causes the sun to rise and set, shed the light of your wisdom into the darkness of my mind. Fill my thoughts with a loving knowledge of you, that I may bring you like to others. Just as you can make even babies speak your truth, instruct my tongue and guide my pen to convey the wonderful glory of the Gospel. Make my intellect sharp, my memory clear, and my words eloquent, so that I may faithfully interpret the mysteries what you have revealed.
To my readers & fellow writers,
1. I will pray that God's grace helps illuminate all of our interactions- both those of simple reading and more active conversations.
2. I will communicate with you respectfully and civilly. These are (rightly) issues which we feel passionate about. But even in disagreements, I will respect you fellow "seekers of truth."
3. I will not fall into negative behavior or words, such as insinuations, exaggerations, blames, or personal attacks. I respectfully ask you to do the same.
4. I will pray we will all find the truth and strive to fulfill the two greatest commandments: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:30-31)
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