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Bad arguments for the Masoretic Text

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Published: 11 February 2020 (GMT+10)
Great-Isaiah-Scroll
Great Isaiah Scroll

We began studying the chronology of the Old Testament by comparing the numbers contained in the different text families several years ago. This was in response to a trend among some creationist researchers toward using the inflated chronology of the Septuagint (LXX), which allows them to add several hundred post-Flood years to Earth’s history. There are three major text families that must be analyzed, the Greek Septuagint (LXX), the Hebrew Masoretic (MT), and Samaritan Pentateuch (SP). Our previous articles detail the reasons why we believe the textual and historical evidence indicate that the Masoretic chronology reflects the original form of the Genesis text, and we did not draw this conclusion until after we did our best to assess all relevant facts. As we developed our arguments, we attempted to apply a sober, scholarly analysis to demonstrate our argument without resort to personal attacks or sensationalism, and we exhorted our opponents to do likewise.

It seems now we must do the same with those who would purport to agree with us.

The Creation Research Society Quarterly recently published an article on the MT-LXX debate that strongly supports the MT.1 But the authors make multiple basic errors of logic and fact and fail to address this serious topic with appropriate academic rigor.

For something that supports our position, we do not support the way the article is structured, the way the points are argued, or the way the authors draw their conclusions. They assume the conclusions they need to prove (question begging) and use unfair accusatory language toward their opponents. They use at least one suspect publication as an authoritative source, and extensively cite it as if that proves their points without providing real supporting evidences. They fundamentally misunderstand the historical questions and evidence surrounding this topic. Finally, they fail to cite prior work, including a paper we co-wrote that demonstrably answers one of their main criticisms of the LXX. This is one of the most unhelpful things we have ever read. The LXX-MT debate is straining the creation movement, but this one article sets us back by years. There is not a single paragraph that does not demonstrate a significant flaw.

We regret very much having to write such a negative review of their paper, but it simply does not hold academic water. We have striven to remain civil as we interacted with our LXX-supporting peers, holding them to a high standard while attempting to be fair in our reviews, which were often harsh. This paper, poorly argued as it is, can now be used by them as an example of lame scholarship within the MT-supporting camp as well as an example of deliberately spiteful language.

In the very first sentence of the abstract they call the Septuagint, “…a controversial Greek translation of the Old Testament that also includes the noncanonical Apocrypha.” This is incorrect. The Septuagint, narrowly considered, is actually the Greek translation of the first 5 books of the Bible. Most scholars recognize that the other OT books were translated into Greek later, in a separate process, and the quality of these later books is uneven. The OT books are further differentiated from the apocryphal books, which were not originally written in Hebrew. In other words, even though they were included in the body of literature, they are not part of the ‘translation’. Also, the fact that extant early copies of the Greek Old Testament carry some apocryphal books, and therefore the entire corpus is invalidated, is not in itself a valid argument. The first edition of the King James Bible also included the Apocrypha, yet the authors certainly are not arguing against the KJV. One of the authors has also published with Jack Chick publications, who for decades have been purveyors of theologically controversial tracts with rabidly anti-Catholic leanings and an outspoken King-James-only-ism. One does not expect sound scholarship from such an organization, no matter how noble their intentions or how many have come to saving faith through their efforts over the years, and our expectations were not subverted.

They also claim that no LXX scholar has offered a “forensically reliable remedy” to the claim that the numbers in the LXX require Methuselah to live past the Flood by 14 years. This is also incorrect. They are aware of, yet do not interact with, Henry Smith’s work (which we have responded to in detail). In fact, had they consulted the prior material written on this subject, they would have seen that Smith did indeed offer a historically defensible reason why Methuselah did not live past the Flood in the original translation. Also, they would have seen that we published our agreement with Smith’s conclusions. The first thing anyone does when researching a subject is to familiarize themselves with what has already been written on it. Yet, they did not even include the recent material published by their circle of creationist scholars. Finally, they use the term “forensically” throughout the paper, but with no discernible connection to its commonly understood meaning.

They claim that key messianic prophecies were corrupted in the LXX. They do not demonstrate that this is the case (we will let the reader decide for themselves), but even if that were true, they do not demonstrate that the corruption of one part of the text would indicate corruption of a completely separate part of the text (e.g. the chronogenealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 vs. prophetic books that were translated by different people at a later time). And even if it would lead us to suspect corruption in the genealogies, one would have to demonstrate that such corruption exists.

Each of the examples they cite (Genesis 3:15, Numbers 24:17, Isaiah 9:5, Hosea 11:1, and Zechariah 12:10) can easily be explained by normal phenomena known to text critics, which includes occasional scribal errors. There is no need to appeal to any conspiracy. And we can’t ignore the fact that the earliest surviving LXX manuscripts are Christian documents. They are, after all, attached to our earliest complete copies of the Greek NT. Early Christians would not have been circulating documents that questioned the deity of Jesus.

Yet even if someone demonstrates that corruption exists and was introduced purposely, that does not prove the motive, which the authors argue was “to remove their otherwise clear prophetic connection to the New Testament mission and divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ … most likely by Messiah-rejecting Jews and/or Scripture-altering pseudo-Christian Alexandrian scribes” (p. 40). We know that Messiah-rejecting Jews dealt with Christian use of the OT by emphasizing and writing down their oral tradition. This is the origin of the Talmud, including detailed descriptions of how they answer the scriptural claims that Jesus was the Messiah. However, the authors have not produced evidence that the Jews tampered with what they considered holy scripture. There is no reason to single out Alexandrian pseudo-Christians, unless one wants to go down the route of KJVO conspiracy theories. Shall we forget about Marcion, who was born in Sinope (Turkey) and died in Rome, or Arius, who was born in Libya and died in Constantinople? Furthermore Athanasius of Alexandria was the single greatest apologist against Arianism in his day. Alexander of Alexandria, his predecessor, also was a leader against Arianism, and Cyril of Alexandria was notable for his opposition to Nestorianism (Nestorius, by the way, was from Constantinople. Shall we then cast aspersions on the Byzantine manuscripts?). Their appeal to the supposed power of Origen to corrupt Christian texts is lamentable. By the time of Origen, the text had already been so widely spread that no one individual could have corrupted it.

The entire paper uses conspiratorial language, invoking the Roman Catholic church, “ecumenical evangelicals”, corrupt translation by “gnostic pseudo-Christians”, and the like. This is not the way a well-constructed argument reads, and such verbiage does nothing to advance one’s views among those who can tell a valid from an invalid argument (e.g. among any group composed of academically trained individuals). This is a debacle of epic proportions.

The LXX was not written after the New Testament

The authors argue for the novel view that the LXX was translated after the NT was written. They say that in places where the NT seems to quote the LXX, the LXX actually copied the NT. However, the case for the LXX pre-dating the NT is so certain that if we can’t know that, we cannot know anything about the history of the text.

First, how do we know that the LXX was translated before Jesus? Our earliest copies of the LXX are attached to Alexandrian manuscripts. If you have an unreasonable hatred of all things Alexandrian, you might be put off by that. But the manuscripts themselves (which are from the 300s AD) are not the earliest nor the only evidence for the LXX text. Eusebius wrote Preparation for the Gospel at the beginning of the fourth century AD. In it, he quoted Alexander Polyhistor, who wrote in the 1st century BC, quoting Demetrius the Chronographer, who wrote around 200 BC. Demetrius clearly uses the LXX chronology, giving us the earliest evidence of any of the three major text types.

In another article, we criticized Smith for hypothesizing that Rabbi Akiba changed the MT to shorten the timeline. It would have been logistically impossible, and this contradicts everything we know about what Akiba historically did. But to argue that the LXX postdates the NT is an even more radical theory that flies in the face of all scholarly work on the subject. If they want to make such claims, they should have made an attempt to clearly demonstrate their validity. Instead, reference is made to a book published by Daniels through Chick Publications. No effort is made in the actual article to substantiate these over-the-top claims.

Equally fanciful is the idea they support that NT fragments are contained among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The claim is based on a single fragment, smaller than a thumbnail, which has only one uncontested full word, the Greek word kai, which means “and”. It is so small that any identification would be difficult to prove. And none of the rest of the body of literature found at Qumran gives us any reason to expect a NT document to be preserved among them. Even if the contents from this cave come from the latest possible time of deposition, it would require that the decidedly non-Christian residents of Qumran somehow got hold of a copy of Mark’s gospel at a very early date (so early that we would not be able to differentiate the copy from the original!) and stored it among other Greek-language documents, none of which are clearly identifiable as Christian writing. This is yet another alternate-universe scenario.

Fragment-7Q5
Fragment 7Q5, from one of the caves at Qumran, is purported to be a fragment of the New Testament (Mark 6:52–53). However, this is highly disputed by the vast majority of scholars and is no basis for making the claim that the Dead Sea Scrolls post-date the completion of the New Testament canon. [Wikimedia commons]

Bad arguments for the correct conclusion

Some might expect us to go easy on the authors of this paper simply because they come to the same conclusion as us, that the MT chronology, not the LXX, is what God originally inspired. But as Christian scholars, we have to maintain high standards among ourselves, both for our friends and our ‘opponents’.

The authors show no awareness of how one would argue for one chronology over another. By casting aspersions on the LXX in general, they hope to undermine the chronology in general. However, most of their statements are tangential to this debate (including a long excursus about legged whales) and multiple statements that should be pertinent to the discussion are factually incorrect.

The editor informed us that several outside reviewers approved the article. However, they somehow missed the conspiratorial material, logical fallacies, and other errors of fact and logic. This constitutes a lapse in the peer review process. While we recognize that everyone is fallible, there is a certain standard for academic writing, and this paper falls far short of those expectations.

While we disagree with the LXX advocates within biblical creationist circles, we feel that they and their views deserve the respect of a fair, scholarly discussion. Let us all seek higher levels of scholarship, and friendly interactions among all parties, as we tease apart these critical yet difficult subjects. This paper should never have been published.

References and notes

  1. Tomkins, J.P., Daniels, D.W., and Johnson, J.J.S., Extensive messianic prophecy corruptions and Flood-related chronology errors disqualify the Septuagint (LXX) as a reliable source for creationist research, CRSQ 56:40–47, 2019. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

How Did We Get Our Bible?
by Lita Cosner, Gary Bates
US $3.50
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From Creation to Salvation
by Lita Cosner
US $14.00
Soft Cover
Evolution's Achilles' Heels
by Nine Ph.D. scientists
US $17.00
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Readers’ comments

Matthew B.
In response to Anne H., it seems you’re saying that the NT never quotes the MT because the NT often agrees with the Septuagint against the Masoretic Text. It is true that the NT is often more similar to the LXX, but there are numerous places in the NT where the OT quote is closer to the MT than the LXX, including Mat. 2:15, 12:18-21, *John 19:37*, and *Rev. 1:7*. Indeed, Jesus’ words are closer to the MT than the LXX in Mat. 26:31 and Mark 14:27.
As Ms. Cosner said, quoting a translation is essentially the same as quoting the author in the original language, whether Moses or Luther. Jesus and the apostles quoted a translation of the Hebrew Bible and both said basically the same thing. The reply to this might be that, where there are differences today between the Greek and Hebrew, the numbers of the LXX are the original and the numbers in the MT are changed. But the authors have done their part in showing how the LXX and Samaritan chronogenealogies (CGs) could have arisen from the proto-Masoretic text; I would be very interested in seeing a detailed response that objectively shows that the LXX CGs can produce the MT and SP numbers with no more conjecture. Further, if the pre-Flood CGs were redacted in the LXX (as Augustine, a pro-LXX Christian, declares in City of God, book 15, chapters 10-14), then isn’t it more likely that the same translation has numbers changed post-Flood, and less likely that a different line of transmission was also redacted?
Also, the book of Jubilees was written around 250 BC and it is evidence for the MT’s CG (because the MT chronology was modified just a little to make the Jubilee cycles fit the author’s purpose; the LXX CG is far too different to have been the starting point of the Jubilees writer).
Are you sure that *all* MT arguments flawed?
Mark D.
Dr. Josep O'Callaghan Martíne, who is a papyrologist, identified 9 fragments from Cave 7 that have a very high probability of matching the following passages in the New Testament: four verses from the Gospel of Mark: 7Q61, 7Q15, 7Q5, 7Q7, Acts 27:38: 7Q62, Romans 5:11,12: 7Q9, 1Timothy 3:16, 4:1-3: 7Q4, 2Peter 1:15: 7Q10, James 1:23,24: 7Q8.
I own a book titled "The First New Testament" that was coauthor by two scholars who believed that the evidence is very strong that these fragments do indeed match the above Biblical pericopes. On page 131 of the above mentioned book, the Authors give the odds of these fragments matching Mark's Gospel at 2.25 times ten to the 65th power.
The reason why this is not accepted is because it destroys or alters the biased narrative of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the presumed date of the New Testament.
"The most that can be said with any degree of confidence, it seems to me, is that these fragments appear to be from very ancient copies of Mark and James." Bruce M. Metzger Ibid p.25 (taken from an article in Eternity magazine, June 1972).
Lita Cosner
Mark, the problem is that those fragments are so tiny that any identification is difficult. The largest fragment is smaller than a person's thumbnail. O'Callaghan has largely failed to convince other scholars, other than a few others that follow him with regard to 7Q5.
Mark H.
Maybe I missed it somewhere, but why has no one spoken of the texts of the Greek translation which actually predate the birth of Christ? I quote from Emanuel Tov's excellent volume entitled Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2012, p. 131): "According to the generally accepted explanation of the testimony of the Epistle of Aristeas, the Torah translation was carried out in Egypt in the beginning of the third century BCE. This assumption is compatible with the early date of several Greek papyrus and leather fragments of the Torah from Qumran and Egypt, some of which date from the middle of the 2nd century until the 1st century BCE." The book has much more to say, but this quote ought to suffice. I have counted at least 11 such early Greek texts in the references which I own. Is that not proof enough that the Septuagint predates the NT?
Lita Cosner
The Letter of Aristeas is correct about the time and place of the translation, but there is so much legendary material there (the fantastical description of Jerusalem makes it clear that whoever wrote it never went to Jerusalem, for instance) that we can't put much stock in anything it says.
Anne H.
As an LXX believer, I consider all Masoretic arguments to be flawed. The New Testament quotes the LXX, not the MT. Also, It makes no sense that the additional length of time to maturity in the genealogies of the LXX would have been added in an era when people lived much the same length of time as we do; it makes more sense that the LXX original long genealogies were shortened in later times. There are implications for the LXX in the Ice Age (there isn't enough time in the MT for it, because the Ice Age provably ended well before Abraham). My belief in the LXX is based on solid facts from various fields of knowledge.
Lita Cosner
The New Testament quotes the LXX for much the same reason that we tend to quote English translations, as we explained in the article. The inflation of the genealogies would have made a lot of sense in the intellectual climate of 3rd century BC Alexandria. I'm not sure how the Ice Age provably ended before Abraham. And how do you know how long the Ice Age was? Facts can be interpreted in a number of different ways. Robert Carter and I have been waiting for an LXX believer to seriously respond to our study in Textual Traditions and Biblical Chronology and show how the three texts we have today could plausibly come from an LXX like original. Such a response is necessary for a serious conversion to even take place.
Wayne P.
I appreciate your work on the LXX vs. MT question. It has been both thorough and fair. You are right to hold fellow creationists' work to a high standard. May I suggest that your disagreement with the paper's authors is more theological than methodological? While I agree with you that this paper is poor work and built almost entirely on conspiracy theories, I believe the authors were lead to their position by the belief that a single text must be the preserved Word of God. I believe this is the reason they believed that disparaging the LXX in general is the best method for discrediting its chronology. I believe that their views are reasonably common in the creation community. May I suggest that the creation community needs to have a discussion about the preservation of Scripture before we can resolve the chronological debate?
Dennis P.
This is a fascinating subject. As a layman, I read one side's arguments and from what I understand, I agree.... until I read the other side's arguments! Now I know what a tennis ball feels like. The arguments that impress me the most in favor of LXX, is that it makes no sense that 1) Shem (and even Noah, per Jasher, chapter 9) should live long enough to know Abraham, and 2) that the New Testament writers quoted the LXX (and therefore - presumably, accepted it as the Word, including the time frames given in Genesis). However, I can also accept the possibility that Shem (and Noah, assuming that cirrhosis of the liver wasn't a thing back then...) did know Abraham because somehow, Abraham received the written DETAILED creation and flood accounts in order to pass them down to his sons and have Moses record them in the book of Genesis. Regarding the New Testament writers quoting the LXX is true, BUT... not all the quotes match the LXX so there must have been other sources that they were quoting...like the MT. I truly hope that you scholarly types can figure this out to everyone's satisfaction (like that will ever happen!). I do believe that the Genesis timeline is of extreme importance to the creation science advocates so that we can have a better foundation for the dates in Biblical archaeology, and can scientifically support Biblical history in full confidence.
Jeffrey C.
The approach you are aiming at and advocate remind me of some paramount truths concerning the Way. "The love of which I speak is slow to lose patience--it looks for a way of being constructive" (1 Corinthians 13:4a, Phillips paraphrase). The Creator, not too surprising, always of a constructive bent--even if He must destroy. Or as Paul teaches about what to do instead of being tossed about by every wind of doctrine: "No, here is what we must do. Holding on to the truth, as love would bid us, we must in every way grow up into union with him who is set as head over us, into union with Christ, through whom the whole body, being fitted together and held together by every joint serving for its support, in virtue of a power proportionate to each individual part, is supplied with the means of having its natural growth, the purpose of it all being that it should build itself up, love leading the way" (Cassirer, Ephesians 15-16). It is all about being "one" with Him in thought, word, and deed. Further godly counsel, my favorite verse: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21)! May God give us, each and all, more grace to "be" like Him--holy--to His everlasting glory!
David J.
Lita, good healthy scrutiny and dialogue...Given that Jesus is... the ------- the TRUTH ..and the ----- ; Christian apologetics, I agree, have to be robust. Should another Christian ministry or person receive such scholarly feedback, I think, upon reflection, they will appreciate both CMI's approach taken and the suggested required correction(s).
For "lay" people like me, I have consistently handed out (still do) the CMI booklet " How did we get our Bible" by CMI luminaries Lita Costner & Gary Bates. I purchase a supply of 10 books to ensure I have a copy ready if a hand-out is merited. I have never had anyone turn me down, many have confirmed reading the booklet (great that it is a short read). Any chance the booklet could be shortened into a 4or 2-leaf "flyer" form? .. not to replace the booklet but to compliment & encourage readers to purchase the 35 page booklet noted above (How did we get our Bible)
William M.
Another good reason to trust creation.com and answersingenesis.org over many less-qualified and less-careful (albeit no less zealous and sincere) Creationist orgs. There are, of course, many other solid Creationist ministries and science orgs., but it has been those two that have always proven outstanding in scholarship, integrity, and meticulousness in my decades of study.
Robert Carter
I happen to be on the board of directors of the Creation Research Society and can vouch for their scientific integrity and meticulous attention to detail. Please do not let one bad paper spoil the barrel.
Nathanael L.
Thank you for this. On the matter of the alleged NT fragments at Qumran, I first came across it from the late Carsten Thiede, and found his arguments fairly convincing at the time.

As to why on earth NT or Christian documents should be found at Qumran, there is an interesting argument, I think from Thiede, that goes something like this (I am going from memory here). Greek fragments were mostly found only in one cave, and access to this cave was different to the others. The path to it led right by a major Qumran building, which might be considered as guarding it. The proposal was that cave 7 was a library of documents of outsiders that the group deemed heretical. As such, access was carefully restricted to the leadership as a kind of private library of material for study and refutation. If this is correct, it would give a rationale as to why NT documents could be found in Qumran, Lita.

Thanks again.
Lita Cosner
Where else in the ancient world did a religious order preserve the work of people considered heretics? Even if such a heresy library existed, why should we expect precious copies of the Gospel of Mark to go practically from the hand of Mark himself to an exclusionary Jewish sect? Mark was written in the 40s, the latest documents at Qumran are from the 60s. Such an early copy would be indistinguishable from the original.
Alf F.
How is it that Josephus knew about the LXX before it was written? Obviously it was already in existence in his time and had been around for a while, or he would have been publicly ridiculed for his account of it.. I am not getting into the letter of Aristeas.; that is besides the point. Does any Jewish leader debate the dating of the LXX? A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Ricardo M.
In response to Lita Cosner´s answer to my post I´ll just add two things: 1) I agree with CMI position regarding the MT and I think that every legitimate translation of the OT must be based on that text. 2) Concerning Aristeas's letter it´s every bit as mythological as the pre-Christian LXX, many so-called "witnesses" claimed having read it but that piece of paper has never been found, if it ever sees the light of day then we can talk again about its content with a rational base not just hearsay from the past. God bless you.
Lita Cosner
Surely you are not confusing Aristeas the Exegete with the Aristeas of the Letter of Aristeas? The two are completely separate. The letter claimed to be roughly contemporaneous with the translation, and Aristeas the Exegete was in the first century B.C. In any case, there is no contesting Philo of Alexandria.
Steve W.
I think it is quite reasonable for you to correct fellow creationists that are using faulty arguments. Having said that, there are a number of faulty arguments in your paper. In support of a pre-NT LXX you provide evidence for the "LXX chronology" existing before the NT by quoting Eusebius, but that does not follow. The "LXX chronolgy" could well have existed before the LXX itself, with the chronology created pre-NT, with a post NT LXX simply referencing the pre-NT chronology. You also assert that the LXX cannot be quoting from the NT (because it pre dates it) but Psalm 14:3 is a stunning rebuttal of this i.e. Roman 3:10-18 is clearly stitching together a number of scriptures (Ps 5:9, Ps 140:3, Is 59:7, etc) and yet the LXX quotes this lock stock and barrel in Psalm 14:3. This is irrefutable evidence that the LXX is quoting from the NT. God Bless.
Lita Cosner
It makes absolutely no sense to argue that the LXX chronology arose independently from the LXX itself. I'm not going to argue about your proposed scenario because even if true it would have no bearing on the matter at hand. But I can think of two more likely scenarios: 1) Paul was quoting from the LXX. 2) A Christian scribe emended his manuscript.

You may be able to make an argument against using Eusebius as support for a pre-Christian LXX, but there is no argument against Philo of Alexandria. Also, and this cannot be stated strongly enough, the NT itself is evidence for the first-century existence of the LXX as an established translation (i.e. not brand-new even at that point) and its acceptance by Christians.
Chuck R.
I've read the Q article on the LXX controversy and thought they too presented a reasonable argument for being warry of the LXX, but I've also noticed that if something isn't done quite up to your standards, even when the outcome agrees, your quickness to become very critical is not uncommon, specifically; if you had a better understanding of current Catholic teaching and doctrine, you wouldn't be so quick to discard criticism of it by summarizing it a 'sensationalized propaganda.'
Lita Cosner
The precise reason for our response was to show that the article did not present reasonable arguments. We too think the Masoretic text contains the correct chronology and as stated above CMI is an evangelical Protestant ministry. However, there are bad arguments against bad ideas, and we should be against the bad arguments because we're for the good arguments. We want to persuade our opponents with truth and sound logic, and most people only entrench themselves further in their error when the see themselves being misrepresented.
Lowell G.
Thanks for your faithfulness and integrity on this.

Readers may find helpful the book by Karen Jobes and Moises Silva entitled "Introduction to the Septuagint." (Second ed. 2015) It is an excellent, scholarly but readable treatment of, among other things, the history of the LXX text.
Edmond C.
I grew up in a fundamental KJV only Baptist environment. Questioning the KJV only dogma was honestly on the same level as blasphemy. It was drilled into us that every other translation of the Bible was indeed a perversion of the text. It was only in my thirties that I started to question the arguments for KJV only. The majority of the arguments that I heard were based on the removal of text, changing of Christ deity, or removing the gender of verses. These of course are very scary things if you don't know anything about textural criticism or translation, which was never discussed at all. No attempt to accurately represent modern translation was ever given. Only list of words or verses that may have been removed from one version or another, or words that were changed.
When I really started looking at it I found that the arguments were indeed extremely flimsy, presumptuous, and a misrepresentation of most of the attempts of good Bible scholars to give us the most accurate versions updated to modern English. Attacks were often leveled against biblical scholars as a whole as liberals being used of Satan to dilute the Word of God (which of course was only preserved in the Authorized KJV). Thank you for articles like this, while I know that article is dealing indirectly with the KJV only arguments, the poor scholarship and attacks we find in this work appear to be the same thing I had experienced. To be honest, after giving up arguing KJV only, which I did long before I actually looked deeper, made me a nicer person to my fellow Christians. It freed me from a shackle of feeling like every Christian I knew outside my little group was deceived. And it gave me a much better understanding of how to approach scripture.
Jane V.
Hi Lita Cosner and Robert Carter,
In relation to this article would you please comment on the books by Bill Cooper titled The Authenticity of the New Testament Part 1 and New Testament Fragments amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls. Cooper claims that these fragments are being disparaged falsely and that obviously the New Testament was all written before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD (after all why is this major event, the end of an 'age', never described or commented on in the N.T.). He claims there were 4 copies of Mark represented in the fragments written by 4 different scribes all possibly from a scriptorium located in Rome.
Truth in Bible translation, just like in science, is not based on consensus, but on facts, would you not agree? Is Dr. Jose O'Callaghan's identification of these fragments as N.T. fact or not?
I am so grateful for all work you do strengthening the faith of Christians in the Word, Jesus Christ.
Lita Cosner
There is only one proposed fragment of Mark among the DSS that I know of, but it is so small that it can't be positively linked to everything. It is certainly possible that the NT was completed before 70 (personally I place John's writings closer to the end of his life as does early Church tradition), however, Mark was certainly one of the earlier NT books. Why it should find its way to the library of a secluded Jewish sect is something that has yet to be explained to my satisfaction. I don't worry about no NT documents in the DSS because there is no reason to expect them there.
David S.
I also agree the Masoretic text is the authenticated text, but it is God that authenticates His Word (or you could say the Word authenticates itself) through His providence. I will not be held captive to the critical text scholars to hopefully one day reveal to us all, what is and isn’t God’s Word. Isn’t this one of the reasons Protestants broke from the Catholic Church and it’s “authoritative” councils and scholars? We have set up a new authority over God’s providence as we wait breathlessly for the intellectuals among us to finally tell us what God has said. In the mean time, our forerunners believed that God had already through His providence delivered to His people the authentic texts of the Old and New Testaments. That is clearly seen in the confessions and writings from the time of the reformation. I’ll stick with them while you wonder amongst yourselves “did God really say?”
Lita Cosner
It's not a matter of some authoritative magisterium, but a line of scholars stretching back almost as far as the texts themselves discussing these differences and how we can know what's the most authentic. The papyri dug up in the desert were preserved by the same providence as the manuscripts copied by monks. The work of text critics isn't revealing a new text, but affirming the one God has preserved all along.
Michael B.
Thank you all for your willingness to press for the highest of standards as we argue for the Truth of the Scriptures and how these Truths give the best explanations for the world we experience around us.
Articles like this one along with CMI's "Arguments we think creationists should NOT use" all help us to give the strongest of defenses of the Faith.
We most certainly do not want to give validity to the arguments of scoffers of the world; let us not be found sitting among them. (Palm 1)
Your Brother in Christ,
Michael
Nathan Beck B.
Creation Ministries International has made a terrible error to attack Chick Publications and disparage those who trust the King James Bible. Chick Publications has led more souls to Christ than CMI ever has or probably ever will and CMI's defense of the LXX is built on unreliable Roman Catholic sources which tells me that CMI are Roman Catholic sympathizers. Way to defend the largest cult in the world which has persecuted true Christians for centuries. I am withdrawing all support from CMI.

Sincerely in Christ,

Nate W. Beck
Robert Carter
Nate,

First, we have no record that you ever were a supporter. While we hate to lose a 'fan', if it's going to happen let's make sure it is for the right reason.

Second, I cannot see how you could possibly claim that we support the LXX unless you have never read anything we have written on the subject. See the links provided in the article. And it does not appear that you read this article carefully, for we clearly say here that we have come down on the side of the MT. How did you miss that?

Third, we want people to think clearly and we want them to use good arguments. Hence Loving God with all your mind: logic and creation and How to Think, Not What to Think. When someone like Hugh Ross or John Walton uses a bad argument, we are free to call them out. This is also true when someone on our side uses a bad argument, as is clear from our list of Arguments We Think a Creationist Should Not Use. The point is not to tell people they are wrong. The point is to bring people to a better position that more closely aligns with the word of God, to the best of our abilities.

Fourth, we did not disparage those who trust the KJV. We did, however point out that some who support the KJV use fallacious arguments. Most KJV supporters, event KJVO advocates, would not support the idea that the MT came after the LXX, for the reasons we specified in the article. See also an earlier response from Lita Cosner to Ricardo. The idea is simply untenable.

Lastly, I distinctly remember reading a Chick tract in the 1970s. I was in first or second grade. This one tract gave me a false view of theology and it took me decades to realize how false it was. In the cartoon, a man went to heaven and watched his life all over again as his many sins were pointed out. There is nothing at all like this in the Bible. Instead, we are either in the presence of the Lord or not. And on Judgment Day everyone will stand before Christ and the sheep will be separated from the goats. There is no individual recording of our deeds. In Jesus, there is no rehashing of everything we have ever done. Instead, it is all wiped clean, in an instant. Yes, we will know what happened, and we will be praising God for it for eternity. But, no, getting into Heaven or being sent into Hell is not a one-on-one thing. If you are covered by the blood of Christ, you are with the Lord after you die, because God sees the blood not the sin. It is that simple.
Norman P.
Wow, that's a pretty unequivocal rebuttal, and I agree with your conclusions, as fair-mindedly expressed. That's not to take sides, as I'm not a scholar, but am certainly grateful to be alerted to flawed arguments that could back-fire. I'm glad at least that you agree the conclusion, especially concerning Zechariah 12:10, which I believe to be yet future (though soon to come). It is vital to contend for the faith once delivered in these tumultuous days with godly integrity, and appreciate your scholarship to that end. Meanwhile, all believers should derive peace from the spiritual discernment promised in 1 John 2:20.
Paul C.
I have read several authors that say when the New Testament quotes the Old, it normally agrees with the Septuagint or the Dead Sea Scrolls and not the Masoretic text. It seems that the Masoretic is not useful in confirming the messianic prophecies while the other two are; I've heard Jewish anti-missionaries argue against Christianity using this feature of the Masoretic. Seems to me that the Masoretic, which is not nearly as old and came after Christ, must be wrong and has been tampered with by the Jews to deny that Jesus is the Christ. This could explain reasons for the differences in their respective genealogies. In Gen 5 the shorter genealogy places Noah alive at the same time as Adam and this link between them would justify Noah as the second Adam (instead of Christ as 1 Corinthians teaches) In the Jewish mind. And Shem alive with Abraham- combined with their teaching that Shem was Melchizedek-would contradict the teaching in Hebrews that Melchizedek was without genealogy. This tampering could have been done shortly after the destruction of the temple when things were chaotic and the remaining Jewish leadership was trying to cope with so many of their own turning to Christ. Similar things have happened in other religions. For instance all copies of the Koran were gathered up and destroyed in the 700's and a new standard version was issued. So it seems to me that this sort of thing could have plausibly happened and gone under the radar, particularly since the Jewish custom was to bury old copies of the scriptures when they became worn, instead of trying to preserve them. Tell me, are any of the material facts I stated in error?
Lita Cosner
There's a lot to unpack here. The NT mainly quotes the LXX because when the Apostles were writing to Greek-speaking people, that's what they would have been reading. It's the same reason I quote the ESV and not the Vulgate when I'm writing in English. The Masoretic has plenty of Messianic prophecies, and the clearest Messianic prophecies like Isaiah 53 are untouched. Are we saying Jews are so clever that they could change the prophecies and pro-MT Christians throughout the years like Jerome and Bede couldn't tell, or so stupid that they couldn't change it properly enough?
Noah was a second Adam. He was the ancestor of everyone who came after him, he exercised authority regarding animals, he was blessed and commanded to multiply, and he sinned regarding fruit. The parallels are obvious. Jesus is the Last Adam.
We have demonstrated that all the major OT text variants existed before Christ. So none of them could arise in an anti-Christian response to Him. Also, Christians used and promoted both the MT and LXX. Look at the varying views of Jerome, Eusebius, etc.
The circumstances around Uthman's recension of the Quran is so different from the circumstances around the Temple's destruction that no useful parallel can be drawn. The Hebrew Scriptures were much more ancient and copies spread out much further than the Quran was at the time of Uthman. Also, there was no one Jew who had sufficient authority among Jews like Uthman could claim among Muslims. And the Jew who had the most authority at the time had a completely different response to Jewish conversion to Christianity--Akiba codified the oral tradition as an extra layer over Scripture to hide the text. He didn't bother to change it.
Landon H.
I personally support the lxx view but am willing to be convinced otherwise, but I was wondering if you were saying anti Catholicism was a bad thing because I believes their veiws on tradition,sacraments,prayer to the saints and purgatory as well as their veiws on the apocrypha present reason for concern.
Lita Cosner
CMI is an evangelical Protestant ministry, and we are unashamedly distinctively Protestant. However, our arguments against other doctrines must be based in truth and not sensationalized propaganda.
Murray A.
The work under review is clearly written by a "King James Only" advocate. I say this because I have in the past read their literature and debated extensively with their advocates through the Sermon Audio website (this is not to denigrate that site per se, but KJVO partisans used it as a platform for their views until the hosts closed down the debate forum). The arguments and positions tackled above are precisely those maintained by KJVO partisans, e.g. "the evils of Alexandrian texts", the LXX is post-NT, Messianic prophecies corrupted in the LXX, etc. You quite rightly distance yourselves from these aberrant positions.
However, a couple of corrections:
1. It is not quite true that none the Apocryphal books was written in Hebrew. At least one was, namely the Wisdom of Ben Sira, otherwise known as Ecclesiaisticus. Fragments of a Hebrew copy of Ben Sira were found at Masada during Yadin's excavations there in the 1960s, dated to mid-C1st BC, which in turn confirmed that the portions of the Hebrew manuscript of Ben Sira found in 1896 in the Cairo Genizah indeed represented the original Hebrew version of the work rather than being a Hebrew translation of an original Greek work, as many scholars had believed up until that time. See Y. Yadin, "Masada", Steimatzky, 1966, pp.175-78.
2. Regarding the Qumran fragment 7Q5: see the booklet by S.R. Pickering and R.R.E. Cook, "Has a Fragment of the Gospel of Mark been found at Qumran?", Macquarie University, Sydney, 1989. The authors conclude decisively that the arguments for a Markan identification are untenable. I remember discussing this matter with Edwin Judge, who proposed that the fragment possibly comes from Thucydides' History, but certainly not from Mark's Gospel. (I can supply a scanned copy for anyone interested)
Ricardo M.
Your defense of a pre-Christian LXX is weak indeed, you quote Eusebius who quoted a greek guy Alexander who quoted another greek Demetrius, that is a third hand witness that would be dismissed in no time in any court of law, the alexandrian manuscript is the earliest testimony to a mythological LXX existing before the birth of Christ and it came at least two centuries too late to fit the bill.
Lita Cosner
Ricardo, a second-century AD LXX is as close to impossible as anything I can think of. The line of attestation from Demetrius to Polyhistor to Eusebius is regarded as trustworthy by most in the scholarly community (see the intro in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha vol. 2, for example). The terminus ad quem for Eusebius's source is the fourth-century AD, because that's when he's writing, a little before our first Christian manuscripts with the LXX. He was getting his information from what he believed to be Polyhistor writing in the first century BC. Eusebius would know if Polyhistor was his contemporary or a recent writer. Furthermore, Josephus used Demetrius in the 1st century AD in Antiquities of the Jews, meaning we have a cite of a source using the LXX before you say the LXX was translated!

If that's not enough, Aristeas the Exegete wrote in the first century BC and used the LXX. That also comes to us from Eusebius via Polyhistor. Philo of Alexandria (who wrote in the first century AD) used the LXX extensively. And the NT itself constitutes evidence of the existence of the existence of the LXX in the first century AD.

That is just off the top of my head, but it suffices to show that the evidence for the LXX is early and good, especially compared to a lot of ancient documents.

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