Quickly Dismissing the Septuagint(s)

Introduction

One of the most common places of confusion when it comes to The Textual Discussion as it pertains to the Old Testament is how the Septuagint (LXX) should be viewed. I wrote a lengthy article back in 2019 on the topic, but I thought it would be profitable to scale it down and transform it into a more digestible article. There are really three major categories that need to be addressed when discussing the Septuagint: Theology, Text, and Translation.

Theology

The first topic that needs to be addressed as it pertains to the LXX is how it is to be viewed theologically. At the object level, the Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew. So the theological implication of using the LXX as an authoritative text is that utilizing translations as authoritative is acceptable. Practically speaking, this means that the Ruckmanite doctrine shouldn’t be particularly offensive to those that believe the Septuagint is authoritative. If the LXX, a translation, can be considered authoritative, then so too can the KJV. Theologically, using the KJV as an authoritative text and using the Septuagint as an authoritative text are categorically the same.

Additionally, in order for the LXX to be viewed as authoritative, one must believe that it is more authoritative than the Hebrew original. The common argument for using the LXX as authoritative is that the New Testament quotes “the LXX”. This is a poor argument, however, because the New Testament is written in Greek, and therefore any quotations of the Hebrew Old Testament would be “the Septuagint”. The basic argument is that since the Apostles quoted it, the text they quoted must be inspired. If that is the case, there are some pagan authors Paul quotes that we should probably sew into our Bibles. The Apostolic use of a text does not make a text inspired, the text is inspired by God. So then the logical conclusion of both of these arguments is that Ruckmanite KJV Onlyism is perfectly acceptable by the Modern Critical Text position and that texts are inspired by virtue of Apostolic use. Both are unorthodox and absurd. The Scriptures were immediately inspired by God in Greek and Hebrew and translations are mediately inspired insofar as they accurately reflect those original, immediately inspired texts.

Text

If we can establish that the theological premise for using the LXX as more authoritative than the Hebrew is unorthodox and inconsistent, then the rest of the discussion is easy. In terms of the text, the LXX is to be viewed as any other translation. Where it translates accurately from the Hebrew original, it is perfectly acceptable to use, just like any other translation. In the places that it departs, the LXX should not be used. One might say that this is an issue, since the Apostles used a text that is seemingly different than the original Hebrew, but when evaluated these differences can be explained by way of translational nuance and loose quotation practices common in the early church.

Ultimately, translations should be used consistently across the board. We must apply the same standard that every Christian uses for evaluating a translation to the LXX, a Greek translation of the Hebrew. I know “consistency” is a fruit of the spirit in some corners of the Reformed world, so this should be especially acceptable to all. One final note on the text of the LXX is that it contains apocryphal books and additional text. If the text is authoritative, should not also be the apocryphal books? Should we take “Bel and the Dragon” into our modern texts at the end of Daniel? If the LXX is authoritative, than I don’t see why not. What argument that states the LXX is authoritative can then reject that all of the LXX must be authoritative? It cannot be done consistently, only arbitrarily. The only way that this conclusion could be avoided would be if there was a master copy of the LXX that could be identified as “The LXX” in addition to the Hebrew text it was translated from. We do not have either.

Translation

The idea that a translation should not be used as authoritative over the original text is extremely uncontroversial, except for in Ruckmanite and Modern Critical Text circles. The easiest appeal to people who think it acceptable to use a translation to override the authority of the original is simply to appeal to the fact that by doing so, they are actually just committing the same error as the people they demonize. What problem does the person who thinks the LXX is more authoritative than the original have with the person that thinks the KJV is more authoritative than the original? At least the Ruckmanite can say he can consistently reject “Bel and the Dragon” as Scripture. The conversation over textual data actually does not matter, because the form of the argument is a Pandora’s box of absurdity and theological error.

So the LXX should be used in the same way that other translations are used – as a way to consult other interpretations of how a text should be translated. Bible translators use other translations all the time in translation, and so too can the LXX be used for such a purpose.

Conclusion

The discussion of the Septuagint is quite simple. It is a translation and should be used in the same way all other translations are used. If somebody wishes to use it as authoritative, then they have no reason to critique the Ruckmanite. There is nothing complex about how we are to understand the Septuagint when we create correct category distinctions and compare those distinctions against our Bibliology. Translations are only authoritative insofar as they agree with the original. If we untether our translations from the original, there isn’t a tether to any objective reality that defines Scripture, only speculation. That is the same view set forth in Westminster as well as the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. So unless the LXX enthusiasts wish to allow for the Ruckmanite category of Bibliology into the fold of orthodoxy, the conversation over the LXX is moot. The controversy over the LXX is actually not a controversy at all, when we apply categories and theology consistently.

4 thoughts on “Quickly Dismissing the Septuagint(s)

  1. Good article. The way the LXX is treated by modern text critics highlights a huge inconsistency on their part, which you correctly point out. The trend in many modern versions (including the NKJV!) is to allow the LXX to correct the Hebrew Masoretic text, since our extant LXX manuscripts are alleged to be much older than the Hebrew ones. If this is acceptable to modern text critics, then there should be no issue with allowing old Latin manuscripts of the NT to correct later Greek ones—and 90% of old Latin manuscripts contain 1 John 5:7! Of course, they would not agree to this, which only exposes their hypocrisy.

    The bigger problem I have with the LXX is its source. While alleged to be a translation from as early as the third century BC, the text of the LXX we actually have today comes from Codices Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus, Greek codices having NTs we know to be seriously corrupted; why should we consider their OTs to be any different?

    Liked by 3 people

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