The truth about “the” Septuagint Part 2
The “oldest” and “best” manuscripts….
I am sure most Christians have, at some point, either heard or have themselves uttered the words the “oldest” and “best” and or “most reliable” manuscripts.
Often these words are used when a person is either attacking the KJV version of the Bible and or defending modern day Bible versions such as the NIV, ESV, NASB ect. They are also often used by non Christians when attacking the authority of the Bible as a whole and bringing into question which version is authoritative.
I have lost count of the times I have heard the phrase “That verse is not found in the “oldest” and “best” manuscripts.” or “the “oldest” and “best” manuscripts say…..”. I would also like a pound for everytime I have heard “ah but that’s the KJV, MY Bible doesn’t say that”. I would now be much much richer than I am.
The words are used so matter of fact, but, I have to wonder how many people, who, seemingly on que, regurgitate these words that are found repeatedly throughout most of these modern versions that the person is defending, have the slightest idea as to which manuscripts that they are in fact referring to when they so fervently use them. I do also wonder how many people simply take these words as a fact without ever even questioning them or studying the claims.
Let’s make this very clear, for those that may not know. The reference to the “oldest”, “best” and or most “reliable manuscripts” which is a term that many modern day biblical scholars use, are a reference to none other than codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. And also, but to a lesser extent the statement includes Codex Alexandrinus. When biblical scholars say the oldest and best manuscripts it is these manuscripts that they mean. When a person utters these words, even though they may have no idea as to which manuscripts they refer to, rest assured, it is these.
All of these manuscripts contain parts of the so called “the” Greek Septuagint, that has already been shown to be a fictitious creation in part 1.
Codex Vaticanus or (B) is generally accepted as the oldest Greek manuscript containing both the Old (“the” Septuagint) and New Testaments. It is dated to somewhere around the year 325 AD.
It however is not a complete version.
Codex Vaticanus originally contained a virtually complete copy of the Septuagint (“LXX”), lacking only 1-4 Maccabees and the Prayer of Manasseh. The original 20 leaves containing Genesis 1:1–46:28a (31 leaves) and Psalm 105:27–137:6b have been lost and were replaced by pages transcribed by a later hand in the 15th century. 2 Kings 2:5–7, 10-13 are also lost because of a tear to one of the pages. The order of the Old Testament books in the Codex is as follows: Genesis to 2 Chronicles as normal; 1 Esdras; 2 Esdras (Ezra-Nehemiah); the Psalms; Proverbs; Ecclesiastes; Song of Songs; Job; Wisdom; Ecclesiasticus; Esther; Judith; Tobit; the minor prophets from Hosea to Malachi; Isaiah; Jeremiah; Baruch; Lamentations and the Epistle of Jeremiah; Ezekiel and Daniel.
The extant New Testament of the Vaticanus contains the Gospels, Acts, the General Epistles, the Pauline Epistles, and the Epistle to the Hebrews (up to Hebrews 9:14, καθα[ριει); it is lacking 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Revelation. These missing leaves were supplemented by a 15th-century minuscule hand (folios 760–768) and are catalogued separately as the minuscule Codex 1957
Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph) dates from around the year 350 AD. It was discovered in 1844.
It is believed the codex originally contained the complete Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) although only about half of the Greek Old Testament remains.
- Genesis 23:19 – Genesis 24:46 – fragments
- Leviticus 20:27 – Leviticus 22:30
- Numbers 5:26–Numbers 7:20 – fragments
- 1 Chronicles 9:27–1 Chronicles 19:17
- Ezra-Nehemiah (from Esdr. 9:9).
- Book of Psalms–Wisdom of Sirach
- Book of Esther
- Book of Tobit
- Book of Judith
- Book of Joel–Book of Malachi
- Book of Isaiah
- Book of Jeremiah
- Book of Lamentations
- 1 Maccabees–4 Maccabees
It does however contain the complete New testament although not in the same order as is found in Bibles today.
Codex Alexandrinus (A) is dated to the early part of the 5th century.
The codex contains a nearly complete copy of the LXX, including the deuterocanonical books 3 and 4 Maccabees, Psalm 151 and the 14 Odes. The “Epistle to Marcellinus” attributed to Saint Athanasius and the Eusebian summary of the Psalms are inserted before the Book of Psalms. It also contains all of the books of the New Testament (although the pages that contained Matthew 1:1-25:5 are not extant). In addition, the codex contains 1 Clement (lacking 57:7-63) and the homily known as 2 Clement (up to 12:5a). The books of the Old Testament are thus distributed: Genesis — 2 Chronicles (first volume), Hosea — 4 Maccabees (second volume), Psalms — Sirach (third volume). The New Testament (fourth volume) books follow in order: Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, General epistles, Pauline epistles (Hebrews placed between 2 Thessalonians and 1 Timothy), Book of Revelation.
There is an appendix marked in the index, which lists the Psalms of Solomon and probably contained more apocryphal/pseudepigraphical books, but it has been torn off and the pages containing these books have also been lost.
Colophon at the end Epistle of Jude. According to this colophon Acts of the Apostles follows General epistles
Due to damage and lost folios, various passages are missing or have defects:
Lacking: 1 Sam 12:17-14:9 (1 leaf); Ps 49:20-79:11 (9 leaves); Matt 1:1-25:6 (26 leaves); John 6:50-8:52 (2 leaves); 2 Cor 4:13-12:6 (3 leaves); 1 Clement 57:7-63 (1 leaf) and 2 Clement 12:5a-fin. (2 leaves);
Damaged: Gen 14:14-17, 15:1-5, 15:16-19, 16:6-9 (lower portion of torn leaf lost);
Defects due to torn leaves: Genesis 1:20-25, 1:29-2:3, Lev 8:6,7,16; Sirach 50:21f, 51:5;
Lacunae on the edges of almost every page of the Apocalypse.
The ornamented colophon of the Epistle to Philemon has been cut out.
All 3 of these manuscripts differ in literally thousands of places. According to Herman C. Hoskier there are over 3000 differences in the gospels alone. There are many verses that are not included in Vaticanus that are included in Sinaiticus and or Alexandrinus just as there are verses included in Sinaiticus that are not included in Vaticanus and or Alexandrinus, while Alexandrinus itself includes verses that are not included in one or both of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. Often even when a verse is included in all 3 manuscripts there are major discrepancies amongst the readings. It is not unusual to see Vaticanus and Sinaiticus have a totally different reading than Alexandrinus, Vaticanus and Alexandrinus have a different reading from Sinaiticus and likewise Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus have a different reading than Vaticanus.
I wont even attempt to cite all of the differences. I will just post here a small sample.
Verses such as Matthew 24:35, Luke 10:32; 17:35; John 9:38; 16:15; 21:25; and I Corinthians 13:2 which are ALL found in Vaticanus bit is not in Sinaiticus
All these verses are included in the Nestle-Aland Text and appear in the modern versions.
Verses Matthew 12:47. Luke 23:17 Luke 23:34 which are in Sinaiticus but not in Vaticanus.
Again all these verses are included in the modern versions although some do bracket Luke 23-17
In Mark 1:1-2, both Sinaiticus and Vaticanus have the name ‘Isaiah’, and both omit the words “before thee”. Sinaiticus further omits THE SON OF GOD from verse 1, this however is found in Vaticanus.
Some modern versions make note that the words son of God do not appear in some manuscripts.
Luke 10:1 Sinaiticus has the Lord appointing 70 men while Vaticanus states 72
Many new versions such as the NIV and ESv say 72 while the NASB and ERV say 70.
Revelation 7:4 and 14:3 both verses mention the 144,000. Sinaiticus however has the number 140,000 in 7:4 and 141,000 in 14:3.
The modern versions are basically in unison with 144,000 in these 2 verses.
It must also be noted that they are in fact neither the “oldest” nor are they the “best” manuscripts that we have available today. They are most certainly the oldest, almost, complete versions of the Old testament in Greek that we have but by no means does this make them the oldest or indeed the best manuscripts. Anyone that states this is simply misinformed of their facts or simply repeating what they have heard.
It is true that when Vaticanus and Sinaiticus (1859) were discovered they did pre date the oldest known existent Hebrew texts, which dated around 1000 AD, by some 650 years. The oldest existing complete Hebrew Bible was the Aleppo codex, one of the Masoretic texts, which was written in the 10th Century A.D.
However this changed in 1947 with the first discovery of the dead sea scrolls. The dead sea scrolls were found in 11 caves between 1947-1956. In total around 850 scrolls were found. The scrolls were a mix of Biblical and non biblical works with the non biblical making up about ¾ of the total. The discovery unveiled new fragments from every Old Testament book except Ester. We now have Hebrew manuscripts that date back to 200-100 BC. Some 1100-1200 years older than the previous oldest complete Hebrew Bible and around 500 years older than Vaticanus. While these manuscripts certainly do not always align with that of the masoretic text, they do, by far, more agree with the masoretic text than that of “the” Septuagint. What they do show is that the masoretic text has been preserved well throughout history.
The Authority that Vaticanus, Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus have, is based on the belief that they contain a copy of “the” Septuagint. Therefore it is the belief that there was such a thing as “the” Greek Septuagint and that these Codices contain a copy of it, that gives them their authority. Circle reasoning prevails.
If however there was no such thing as an official translation of the Hebrew into Greek done by the Jews themselves using THEIR manuscripts in approx 285 BC as per the story, then we do not know who translated the Greek text contained in these manuscripts. We do not know when they translated it and we do not know which manuscripts they used. We do not know how well they spoke Greek or how well they spoke Hebrew. We would in fact not know much at all about the translation of the text.
The authority of these manuscripts would therefore be brought into question. We could no longer view the text of these manuscripts in the same light, with the same authority as so many give them today. They would in fact, not be copies of “the” Septuagint.
We must ask would scholars pay as much attention or give as much authority to the Greek text contained in the manuscripts if the Greek text contained within the pages of these manuscripts were the work of Apollos the Greek, Hebrew student, who had spent 2 years studying Biblical Hebrew and had managed to view some Hebrew manuscripts while on holiday in Jerusalem.
The answer to this would almost certainly be no. Therefore the authority of the text is reliant on the truthfulness of the story.
These codices do contain the Old Testament in Greek, that there is no arguing with, this is clear and demonstrable. The manuscripts themselves however do not prove a BC translation of the Hebrew into Greek. All they do prove is that by the 4th century there were Greek translations of the Hebrew into Greek. They may be Greek translations however they are not copies of “the” Septuagint seeing such a thing did not and has never existed.
However, as it was believed there was a BC translation of the Hebrew into Greek, these Greek translations of the OT that differ vastly from the then available Hebrew masoretic text, were thought to be closer in time and therefore more accurate to what the original Hebrew stated, despite the fact that the original language of the Old Testament was Hebrew, over and above the Hebrew manuscripts that were available at the time.
And so these manuscripts were given the great authority and as it was believed the Old Testament was more reliable and closer to the originals, so the New Testament Greek was also thought more reliable than the readings found in the majority text. This authority has remained and still remains today.
Some people will appeal to the fact that there are some manuscripts of the Old Testament in Greek that pre date the Christian era. They will claim that these manuscripts are evidence that there MUST have been a BC septuagint. However what these same people often seem to neglect is to actually state the details of these manuscripts. In reality there is very little in the way of Greek manuscripts prior to Christ. The Ryland’s papyrus, papyrus Fouad and 4 small fragments are all that exist. They contain small portions of the Pentateuch and nothing more. There are no prophets or Psalms. NOBODY knows who wrote them.
The oldest contains Deut.23:24-31; 25:1-3; 26:12,17, 19; and 28:31-33 and …….yep thats all.
In truth they do not support a BC septuagint at all. It has to already be believed that there was such a thing in order for these manuscripts to support the belief, yet another appeal to circle reasoning. If we remove the preconceived belief then all these manuscripts demonstrate is that someone at sometime attempted a translation into Greek before Christ. NONE of the verses were ever quoted by the apostles.
In 1881 2 scholars, named Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort published a Greek text of the New Testament. This text, although using some others, including the recently discovered Sinaiticus, which it must be stated was extensively used, was however based on giving most authority to one manuscript, Codex Vaticanus. It took the men 28 years to complete having started the project in 1853.
When the text differed from that of the majority text also known as the Textus Receptus, they chose to go with the reading of Vaticanus. Westcott and Hort also favoured the shorter is better translation style when verses did not agree. This means when there were 2 or more readings of a verse which differed in length, Westcott and Hort would favour the shorter reading.
The readings of the Greek OT found in Vaticanus were given precedence over the existing Hebrew as it was, as has already been stated, believed to be closer to the original Hebrew, based on the incorrect belief that there was such a thing as a pre BC Greek translation and Vaticanus contained a copy of it.
Much is stated about the fact that many new manuscripts have been discovered since the translation of the KJV that was completed in 1611. It is almost as common to hear about these new manuscripts that we have available that the KJV translators didn’t, as it is to hear about the “oldest” and “best” manuscripts. Again I must ask as to how much a person has actually studied this when they make this statement. It is true that there are many more manuscripts available to us today. Sinaiticus to name just 1. There are more than 5700 Greek New Testament manuscripts as of today. However of the many new manuscripts the vast, overwhelming majority agrees with the Textus receptus. There are really only around 50 manuscripts that are part of the Alexandrian line of texts , of which Vaticanus, Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus are members of. Even with the discovery of these new manuscripts no new readings have actually been found save those found in Sinaiticus. Lets not forget that the KJV translators, although not having direct access, did have the readings of Vaticanus as they had access to the latin Douay Rheims.
Many people, often those attempting to defend the KJV, do bring into question the beliefs of the two men, Westcott and Hort. I personally will not do that, I will leave that to others. Ad hominem attacks detract from the main facts of the argument not to mention the fact that Moses was a murderer, Abraham had multiple wives etc. The beliefs of the 2 men may in fact be of questionable integrity but this does not mean that they couldn’t create a correct Greek text even if I do not believe that they did. I would rather focus on showing the error in the text than the men themselves.
The Westcott and Hort text was subsequently used as a part basis of the text of Eberhard Nestle’s first edition of his Greek New Testament published in 1898
The history of the Nestle and Aland text.
Eberhard Nestle used a total of 3 Greek editions of the Greek New Testament in the formation of his Greek New Testament text, namely Tischendorf, Weymouth and of course the Westcott and Hort. The Weymouth edition however was replaced after 1901 with Bernhard Weiß’s 1894/1900 edition.)
When the texts disagreed with one another Nestle chose to include in his text the majority reading of the 3 editions. Nestle included the minority reading in the apparatus. When the texts did not have a majority reading, Nestle chose the reading he believed was the correct one.
This was how it was for 25 editions of the text. However this would change in 1979 with the release of the 26th edition. The text was no longer based on the majority reading of these 3 editions of the Greek. The following is taken from the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece website
“The 26th edition, which appeared in 1979, featured a fundamentally new approach. Until then the guiding principle had been to adopt the text supported by a majority of the critical editions referred to. Now the text was established on the basis of source material that had been assembled and evaluated in the intervening period. It included early papyri and other manuscript discoveries, so that the 26th edition represented the situation of textual criticism in the 20th century. Its text was identical with that of the 3rd edition of the UBS Greek New Testament (GNT) published in 1975, as a consequence of the parallel work done on both editions”
Kurt Aland started working for the Nestle text in the 1950’s. In 1963 the 25th Edition was published. Later printings of this edition would carry the brand name Nestle-Aland.
And so we come to the modern versions of the Bible.
Most modern versions of the Bible are translated from the Greek text of the United Bible Society(UBS) 4th edition which is the EXACT same text as the Nestle and Aland 27th edition. Now in the 5th and 28th editions respectfully although the texts used by each are still the same. However some versions that have not been updated may be still using an earlier edition. What is for sure most modern versions of the Bible are using a version of the Nestle-Aland text.
These modern versions that are translated using this text, include, but are certainly in no way limited to, NIV, ESV, NASB, ISV, ARV, ERV AND the JW NWT
The 2001 ESV very clearly states in its preface The ESV is based…on the Greek text in the 1993 editions of the Greek New Testament (4th corrected edition), published by the United Bible Societies (UBS) and Novum Testamentum Graece (27th edition), edited by Nestle and Aland.”
The NIV 2011 also states in the Preface “The Greek text used in translating the New Testament is an eclectic one, based on the latest editions of the Nestle-Aland/United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament.”
The NWT also uses the UBS text of 1975 and the Nestle-Aland text of 1977 along with the Westcott and Hort text 1881.
“The Greek Text : The Greek text that we have used as the basis for the New World Translation is the widely accepted Westcott and Hort text (1881), by reason of its acknowledge excellence. But he have also taken into consideration other texts,including those prepared by D. Eberhard Nestle, and the spanish Jesuit Scholar Jose Maria Bover, and another Jesuit Scholar, A. Merle. The UBS text of 1975 and the Nestle-Aland text of 1977 were consulted to update the critical apparatus of this edition.” (The Forward, The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, 1985, page 8.)
What is interesting is that the UBS is actually in collaboration with the VATICAN…….
“The text shared by these two editions was adopted internationally by Bible Societies, and FOLLOWING AN AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE VATICAN AND THE UNITED BIBLE SOCIETIES IT HAS SERVED AS THE BASIS FOR NEW TRANSLATIONS AND FOR REVISIONS MADE UNDER THEIR SUPERVISION. THIS MARKS A SIGNIFICANT STEP WITH REGARD TO INTERCONFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS.
Nestle and Aland 27th edition page 45
An agreement between the VATICAN and the UBS
Modern versions of the Bible are just modern Vatican endorsed Bibles. Is it really just a coincidence that BOTH the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were “discovered” in the hands of the Catholic church? Maybe, however in light of the statement found in the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland text I must at least admit to be slightly, maybe slightly is understated, sceptical.
I find it rather disturbing that most people that I have highlighted this fact to, who hold to the “oldest” and “best” manuscript assertion are extremely dismissive of the statement as found in the Nestle-Aland 27th edition. Simply passing it off as if it is irrelevant.
There we have it. The NIV, ESV, NASB, and nearly every other modern version of the Bible is translated from a text that has its basis in a fictitious story and the text of “the” Septuagint that didn’t even exist until AD. The authority passed from the majority to the minority, from the Hebrew to the Greek, from the Textus receptus to the critical text.
Even if you do not stand on the side of the KJV only advocates I rather hope that you will view the evidence presented with an open mind and will see the modern text that underlies the modern versions as as unauthoritative as myself.