Monday, September 24, 2012

Textus Receptus




Imagine that a man (let's call him John) is witnessing to a Jew, and he is using the book of Hebrews to explain to him about the Messiah.  Starting from the beginning, he reads to him.  Gaining confidence as he goes along, he gets to Hebrews 8, verse 7, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then would no place have been sought for a second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, That I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers In the day that I took them by the hand to lead them forth out of the land of Egypt; For they continued not in my covenant, And I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make…" the Jew stops John there, "The Apostle didn't quote that correctly!" he says in an offended tone, "It doesn't say that God did not regard them, it says 'though I was a husband to them.'" John hurriedly flips to Jeremiah 31 glancing down the page, "which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith Jehovah"(ASV) he comments, “It doesn't change the meaning of what is being said." "I don't like it." The Jew replies, "God remained 'a husband to them' he didn't stop caring for Israel!"  John gets a bit irritated and says, "Let's just continue on, we can talk about that later."

 John continues reading for a bit and reaches Hebrews 10.  As John approaches verse 3 he starts to hurry a bit, having done a study on the passage before, "For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, But a body didst thou prepare for me"  "There he goes again!" cries the Jew.  "the Scriptures do not say anything about a body being prepared, they say 'mine ears hast Thou opened'(Psa 40:6 JPS)"  John replies uncertainly, "I read that 'ears being opened' is a possible allusion to the practice of having one's ears bored as a symbol of lifelong commitment to your master, like in Exodus 21."  He pauses uncomfortably, then remembers something  he read in a commentary on that passage by John Gill; he says rather lamely ,"He couldn't have had his ears opened if he didn't have a body…"  The Jew stares incredulously at John and says, "The author of Hebrews  is here basing his argument of Christ's offering of his body being the ultimate sacrifice on this one word, 'BODY', the word is indispensable to his argument , and it is not in the original Hebrew Scriptures."  There is another uncomfortable moment of silence until the Jew finally speaks again, "I knew this religion was a sham, its fake!  The Apostles do not reverence the Holy Scriptures," John tries to break in but the other man keeps going.  "I've looked into it before. My Rabbi showed me that the Apostles twisted the Scriptures to fit their own arguments.  He even showed me a verse where the Apostle Paul doesn't even try to hide his corruption of the text; he completely changes the meaning of a prophetic text!"  The Jew takes John's Bible turning the pages to Romans, "Right here." He says, and then reads, "For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits, that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved: even as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: And this is my covenant unto them, When I shall take away their sins. (Rom 11:25-27 ASV)  He glances up at John and says, "Now watch this…" and confidently flips the pages back to the Old Testament.  "And a Redeemer will come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith Jehovah." (Isa 59:20 ASV)  He stares triumphantly at John, "The Redeemer will save the people who have already repented. Paul makes it say that the Redeemer will be the one who makes them repent, that he will take away their sins.  But as you can see, the text obviously does not say that. It says that people who stop sinning, attaining righteousness on their own will be saved.  The Apostle Paul was a liar."  John stares speechless at him.  The Jew gets up, sets down the Bible and walks away. 

Confused thoughts jumble around in John's mind:  Why would the Apostles change the Scriptures?  Did they change all of them?  What other verse could I check?  He thinks of a verse  "And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced. "(Joh 19:37 ASV) and quickly picks up his Bible and turns to Zechariah 12:10, "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look unto me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born. "(Zec 12:10 ASV) He breaths a sigh of relief…okay not all of their quotations are changed from the original.  John's faith hasn't been shaken in the least, but he is perturbed about this revelation.   He had heard that the Manuscripts of the Old Testament that we have are very reliable, that the Scribes who copied them were so careful to preserve the text, to honor the very wording of it, that if they made one mistake, such as misspelling a word, putting in the wrong mark, or even writing a letter a bit sloppily, they would discard the offending leaf(page) and start  the page all over again until they got it perfect.  So he had the idea that the Old Testament was preserved extremely well, even better than the New Testament in regards to its individual copies. 

Cleverly Devised Fables?

Perhaps you have heard the same things, and have the same idea.  Many people come up with their own explanations of why the Apostles did not quote the Old Testament exactly.  Some say that the Apostles were interpreting it allegorically, using popular allegorical hermeneutics of the day(like Kabbalah).  I must disagree with this because, although you can exegete an allegory, you cannot allegorize a passage and be exegeting that passage. Any prophecy, whether it be prophesied in allegory or in plain language, having an alleged allegorical fulfillment, is not fulfilled, simply because it wasn't fulfilled literally.  For instance, Charles Maitland gives an example of the Jews' possible allegorical interpretations of prophecies of Christ:  "We transport ourselves to the temple during the last year of the Saviour's preaching.  We will suppose a group of rabbis to be discussing this passage of Zechariah:  'Thy king cometh unto thee:  he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and on a colt the foal of an ass.'  The prophecy throws them into confusion.  One, mystically inclined, is bent upon explaining it generally, in reference to God's spiritual guidance of man.  For man is the wild ass's colt, and the Messiah, presiding over such a one, is just, and brings with Him salvation. 
The majority of our rabbis, we may suppose, are anxious to find some meaning more specific, and yet not so literal as to seem unworthy of the prophecy.  With the help of our new methods of developing the sense all would be easy.  The ass must be magnified, in proportion, to a war horse, or even to a triumphal procession:  so that, according to the modern rule of symbolic miniature, the Messiah may be expected to enter Jerusalem with chariots and horses, that He may sit upon the throne of His father David.  By the rule of allusive contrast, the prophecy may be explained in direct opposition to its natural sense; or, it may describe allusively the coming of some false messiah, who will attempt to gain credit by assumed humility.  And, on the Praeterist principle, it may be applied to Israel's temporal saviors:  'Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment.'  Therefore, as a judge, some future king of Judah will come, just, and bringing salvation from the Roman yoke.
To these arguments one shall be made to object, that other prophecies have been fulfilled literally.  He quotes instances from Daniel and Jeremiah; but the general feeling is against him.  If we take the ass literally, they reply, what shall we do with the thirty pieces of silver?  What with the stripes of the man of sorrows? - the vinegar and the gall?  - the lots to be cast upon his vesture?  Allow the ass to be figurative, or you will be forced to apply all these degrading particulars to our glorious Messiah.
Our literalist, though not convinced, is silenced.  He is not prepared to carry out his system with the piercing of the hands and the feet.  But not long after, while walking towards the Mount of Olives, he is met by a rustic procession.  The daughter of Zion seems to be rejoicing; yea, for once, the daughter of Jerusalem is shouting.   And, as the crowd approaches, he discovers the cause of so much transport, - a man of humble condition, lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.…...When history has falsified any part of a prognostication professing to be derived from Scripture, the mistake will be found, not in the over-literalness of the interpretation, but in its not being literal enough.[1]"

Others agree with Lewis S. Chafer who says, " "Variations in rendering sometimes occur because of the different languages involved.  The superscription over the cross of Christ was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.  The Apostle Paul usually quoted the LXX translation of the Old Testament.  In every case of quotation from the Old Testament in the New Testament it should be remembered that the Holy Spirit is the author of both Testaments and that it is wholly within the province of an author, when quoting from his own writings, to change or restate anything he has written before.  This does not necessarily imply correction of the earlier writings.  It may be, as it is in the case of the Spirit, an adaption of a truth to a new situation or setting.[2]"  But if this is the case it would mean that God did not give the prophets true prophecy.  It would mean that the Prophets of the OT were not really prophets at all. They were just speaking words with no meaning.  God's actual prophecies would not be known until they came to pass and the changed prophecies applied.  In other words, the prophecies would not be prophetic.  They wouldn't be fulfillments; they would just be statements of what had already come to pass. In other words, the apostles noted that certain events had happened, and then stated what those events were and claimed that the events were the fulfillments of the statements of what they had observed. This would of course be absurd. 

Let’s go back to John in his state of confusion.  He is still sitting in his chair musing over what has passed between him and the Jew.  As he muses, he flips through his Bible and it opens it randomly to 1 Peter.  He glances down, and a verse catches his eye: "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty."(2Pe 1:16 ASV)  John stops reading and thinks, "But how could this be true if the Disciples were eisegeting Scripture rather than exegeting it?"  He pulls out his smart phone and does an internet search on the author of Hebrews' quotation of Psalm 40:6.  After finding several commentators saying that the author was referencing Exodus 21:2, he keeps searching desperate to find a more satisfactory answer. He finds Adam Clark's commentary on the passage, and takes a look at it: "A body hast thou prepared me - The quotation of this and the two following verses by the apostle, Heb_10:5, etc., is taken from the Septuagint, with scarcely any variety of reading: but, although the general meaning is the same, they are widely different in verbal expression in the Hebrew. David’s words are אזנים כרית לי  oznayim caritha lli, which we translate, My ears hast thou opened; but they might be more properly rendered, My ears hast thou bored; that is, Thou hast made me thy servant for ever, to dwell in thine own house: for the allusion is evidently to the custom mentioned Exo_21:2…[3]" John stops, sighs, and places his head in his hands, greatly discouraged. 

After a moment or two he looks up again and clicks the 'back' button on his phone determined to search more.  As he is waiting for the page to change (let's say he has a slow internet connection) remembers something Clark said at the beginning of his comments, "The quotation…is taken from the Septuagint".  The Septuagint….he has heard about it before, the Greek translation of the Scriptures that was around in the Apostles’ days.  "So...”, John thinks, "The author of Hebrews didn't change the text himself, he was quoting from the Septuagint. Why would he use an apparently corrupt version of the Bible?"  He stares absentmindedly at Clark's commentary and a sentence catches his eye:  "But how is it possible that the Septuagint and the apostle should take a meaning so totally different from the sense of the Hebrew?"  Yes!  This is what he is looking for!  John eagerly continues reading, "Dr. Kennicott has a very ingenious conjecture here…"  But the web page suddenly changes back to the search page.  Frustrated, John quickly hits the forward button.  "What ingenious conjecture????" John says out loud.  And then he looks up embarrassed as he is in a restaurant and there are a few people near him who stare at him curiously.  When the page finally loads again, John instantly starts reading again, "But how is it possible that the Septuagint and the apostle should take a meaning so totally different from the sense of the Hebrew? Dr. Kennicott has a very ingenious conjecture here: he supposes that the Septuagint and apostle express the meaning of the words as they stood in the copy from which the Greek translation was made; and that the present Hebrew text is corrupted in the word אזנים  oznayim, ears, which has been written through carelessness for אז גוה  az gevah, Then, a Body The first syllable, אז  az, Then, is the same in both; and the latter, Myn, which, joined to אז makes אזנים  oznayim, might have been easily mistaken for גוה  gevah, Body; נ  nun being very like ג  gimel; י  yod like ו  vau; and h he like final ם  mem; especially if the line on which the letters were written in the MS. happened to be blacker than ordinary, which has often been a cause of mistake, it might then have been easily taken for the under-stroke of the mem, and thus give rise to a corrupt reading; add to this, the root כרה  carah signifies as well to prepare, as to open, bore, etc. On this supposition the ancient copy translated by the Septuagint, and followed by the apostle, must have read the text thus: אז גוה כרית לי  az gevah charitha lli; Σωμα δε κατηρτισω μοι· Then a body thou hast prepared me: thus the Hebrew text, the version of the Septuagint, and the apostle, will agree in what is known to be an indisputable fact in Christianity; namely, that Christ was incarnated for the sin of the world.
The Ethiopic has nearly the same reading: the Arabic has both, 'A body hast thou prepared me, and mine ears thou hast opened.' But the Syriac, the Chaldee, and the Vulgate, agree with the present Hebrew text; and none of the MSS. collated by Kennicott and De Rossi have any various readings on the disputed words.[4]""Wait...” John thinks to himself, "The Hebrew text is corrupt?  How could that be!!  It's OLDER than the Septuagint, HEBREW IS THE LANGUAGE PSALM 40 WAS WRITTEN IN, NOT GREEK!"  "But it does seem like a possible answer", he thinks after a bit.  Then he sits up straighter, with that rather alarming thought hitting him again, "But then what about our Hebrew text? What if the answer is that our Hebrew manuscripts are not as perfect as we thought?”

The Masoretic Text

Let's take a look at the history of the preservation of the Hebrew Scriptures. You're going to get this information before John does,  so to make this more interesting, let's pretend you've gone to hear a Christian lecture(as if a lecture would be more interesting…just bear with me!) entitled ' The Masoretic Text vs. the New Testament '.  Let's say your teacher's name is…oh, let's just call him 'Mr. Jones'.  You're sitting in a crowded (I'm merely being generous!) lecture room.  Suddenly the lights over the audience dim, and the murmur of peoples' voices all around you dies down.  A man walks out on the stage carrying a stack of books and a laptop which he sets on the lectern.  Now I need to warn you that Mr. Jones is not  going to be very original, he will be plagiarizing a lot(this will help me keep the flow better),so just look out for  italic text(which will indicate a quotation) with a reference number following.

There is silence for a moment, then Mr. Jones speaks, "How many of you have heard that the Apostles used a corrupt translation of what we call the 'Old Testament?"  You and several other people raise their hand.  Mr. Jones stares out at you all for a moment, and then says, "I'm sure you are all wondering about the differences between the quotations the Apostles make from the Old Testament with our Hebrew text."  He pauses again, and then asks, "How many of you are here to validate the Greek translation the Apostles were using?"  No one raises their hand, and Mr. Jones smiles.  "Alright, how many of you are here to validate the textual perfection of our Hebrew Bible"?  Most everyone raises their hand.  Mr. Jones smiles ironically, and as he turns on a projector says, "Well, let me warn you from the start, I'm not going to help you with that. I'm actually going to disprove that theory."  He lets it sink in for moment.  "I'm going to be coming from the standpoint that the Apostles quoted the Old Testament correctly, and even... exactly."  Before any objection from the audience can be made he continues, "Now, let me begin…"  Mr. Jones clears his throat, "Standard Biblical Hebrew script is made up of consonants and little markings above and below those consonants which represent the vowels, known as 'nikkud', which means 'dotting or pointing[5]'.  The projector screen displays a manuscript showing a Hebrew manuscript with 'nikkud'. "Vowel points were important because biblical Hebrew writing was in effect a system of consonants, with only a few ways of indicating vowel sounds.  Words with the same consonants but different vowels would look the same, as would the English words 'untrained' and 'interned' if they were both spelled 'ntrnd'[6] . The vowel points, and accent marks as well, essentially translated the text for the reader. "

"Now, in Reformation times there was a Jew named Elias Levita who wrote a controversial book called Massoreth Ha-Massoreth. " Mr. Jones holds up an old, time-worn book in front of the audience and continues,  "The storm which the original publication of this work raised was truly marvelous, and, after raging for more than three centuries, cannot be said to have as yet fully subsided.  The cause of this storm was the array of most powerful arguments which Levita made in the third introduction, to prove that the vowel-points now to be found in the Hebrew Bibles are not of the same antiquity with the text, but that they were invented and put there by the Massorites about five hundred years after Christ[7].  In other words, ancient Hebrew had no vowels, only consonants.  This view was quite novel, as it was generally believed that the vowels were a part of the original text, put there by Moses, or at the latest, placed there by Ezra.  People like John Gill, and John Owen held to that opinion[8], and wrote against the views of Levita and others who made similar deductions. 
"Let me explain some important things about the so called 'Masoretic text', the Hebrew text on which we base our English Old Testaments.  Before 1947, the oldest Biblical Hebrew manuscripts we had, not counting the four fragment Nash Papyrus[9], were not older than 850 C.E.[10]  Compare that with our manuscripts of the New Testament, which date from approximately 200 C.E.[11] and even earlier[12] [13].  Think about that for a moment.  Some people say that say that Paul's quotation from Palm 40:6 is not an exact quotation of the original verse simply because it differs from our presently accepted Old Testament.  Many of us assume that any given verse quoted by an Apostle in the New Testament differing from the same verse in our present Hebrew manuscripts is automatically not the original wording of the verse.  But what are we saying by this? We are saying that a thousand year old manuscript carries more weight than a 2000 year old Manuscript, version or not.  We are saying..."  Mr. Jones stops and smiles while looking down at his notes, "We are saying that our Bible is more original than the Bible the Apostles used."

Part of Isaiah amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls
" Elias Levita, though holding to the perfection of the content of the Hebrew Bible(REF), disputed the antiquity of the vowel points passed down to us.   As I mentioned, John Owen opposed this theory.  Let me read you an excerpt from his objections:  "Waiving the consideration of our refuge in these cases, namely, the good providence and care of God in the preservation of his word, let the authors of this insinuation prove the assertion, namely, that there was ever in the world any other copy of the Bible, differing in any one word from those that we now enjoy.  Let them  produce one testimony, one author of credit, Jew or Christian, that can, or doth, or ever did, speak one word to this purpose; let them direct us to any relic, any monument, any kind of remembrancer of them, - and not put us off with weak conjectures upon the signification of one or two words, and it shall be of weight with us……Seeing, then, that neither the care of God over his truth, nor the fidelity of the Judicial church whilst the oracles of God were committed thereunto, will permit us to entertain the least suspicion that there was ever the world any copy of the Bible differing in the least from that which we enjoy, or that those we have are corrupted, as is pretended…[14]' " Mr. Jones pauses, then says, "We have more than one or two words as proof.  After a controversy raging vehemently for more than four centuries, and notwithstanding that the antiquity of the points had been raised to the sanctity of dogma, modern research and criticism has confirmed the arguments urged by Levita against the antiquity of the present vowel-signs[15].  Dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves on the northwestern shores of the Dead Sea[16].   Among these scrolls, we have found Hebrew copies of every book of the OT except Esther.   Mr. Jones bends over his laptop, and the projection on the wall changes to another old Hebrew manuscript.  "You are looking at what is known as the 'Great Isaiah Scroll' , dating from about 125 BCE."(You may see the scroll for yourself at http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/isaiah)
Close up of Isaiah Scroll

Mr. Jones turns and looks at the screen for a moment, then says, "Notice that there are no vowel points.  As Elias Levita demonstrated, ancient Hebrew had no vowel points.  Understand what this means, it means that the reader needed some knowledge of the contents before reading it. For instance, the first half of Psalm 23 from the King James Version(written from left to right) would look like this…[17]  The picture on the projection screen changes again, and here is what you see: 

THLDSMSHPHRDSHLLNTWNT
HMKTHMTLDWNNGRNPSTRSHLDTHMBSDTHSTLLWTRS
HRSTRTHMSLHLDTHMNTHPTHSFRGHTSNSSFRHSNMSSK[18]

"If you know Psalm 23, you will be reminded of it.  But if you do not know it, you will have some difficulty figuring out the meaning[19].  Incidentally, modern Israelis for the most part, have gone back to no vowel points in their Hebrew writings, except in specialized texts such as dictionaries, poetry, or texts for children or for new immigrants[20] .Their language is not unspoken anymore, therefore they are able to more easily infer most of the  vowels.

"Now,” Says Mr. Jones, looking around at the audience, "You are wondering how the vowel points got into the text."  He shuffles through his notes as he says, "I know, that that is not the major thing you're wondering about, but just bear with me for a bit.  The vowel points come from Jewish scribes whom we call 'the Masoretes', thus we term our Hebrew manuscripts of today the Masoretic text.  Jews were scattered from Israel during and after 70 C.E.; years went on, and the Jews dispersed more and more. The knowledge of Hebrew decreased.  The Jews needed a system which would  give them the correct pronunciation of the Hebrew, a Hebrew text which included an interpretation within itself, as the Jews would not as readily recognize what any given word was supposed to be without vowels.  But they also needed to make sure that the sacred Hebrew text itself was not emended.  So they invented the vowel-points which made no material change to the text itself.  The evidence points to a period of 200 years within which vocalization and accentuation signs were initiated: not before the sixth century nor later than the seventh. (C.E.)[21]  Mr. Jones clears his throat, "Now, the name itself...excuse me, the name 'Masorah' occurs in many forms, the etymology, pronunciation, and genetic connection of which are much-mooted points. The term is taken from Ezek. xx. 37 and means originally "fetter." The fixation of the text was correctly considered to be in the nature of a fetter upon its exposition. When, in course of time, the Masorah had become a traditional discipline, the term became connected with a Hebrew verb which meant 'to hand down', and was given the meaning of 'tradition.’ [22]  You must understand that there was not merely one attempt to 'point', or add vowels as well as accents to, the Hebrew consonants.  There were at least two 'pointing' systems, the Babylonian system and the Palestinian, or Tiberian, system.  In the first half of the tenth century Aaron b. Moses ben Asher of Tiberias and Ben Naphtali, heads of two rival Masoretical schools, each wrote a standard codex of the Bible embodying the traditions of their respective schools. Ben Asher was the last of a distinguished family of Masorites extending back to the latter half of the eighth century. In spite of the rivalry of Ben Naphtali and the opposition of Saadia Gaon, the most eminent representative of the Babylonian school of criticism, Ben Asher's codex became recognized as the standard text of the Bible[23].

Close-up of the Aleppo Codex
"The codex, or book that many believe to be the perfect ,or near perfect, work of the Masoretes, is the Aleppo Codex, a Codex Ben Asher himself worked on. "  Mr. Jones bends over his laptop again, and the screen changes to a web page with a title of “The Aleppo Codex”.   "The Ben Zvi Institute in Jerusalem Israel has digitized the codex, anyone may view it for free at www.aleppocodex.org .  Here is part of their summary of this work, ‘The manuscript known as the Keter or "crown" of Aleppo is the oldest existent manuscript known to us of the most complete Hebrew Bible.  It also seems to be the most authoritative, precise and holy source of the biblical text and also of the system of vocalization, the cantillation marks (which serve as punctuation), and the tradition of alternate readings, making it the most highly prized Hebrew manuscript, exceeding all other manuscripts of the Bible in religious, scientific, and even financial value.  The 'keter' was written by a scribe named Salomon, the son of Wia's, more than a thousand years ago, and it was proofread, vocalized, and edited by Aaron Ben Asher, an expert in the textual of the Ben Asher line, which preserved and handed down the commonly accepted version of the Hebrew Bible from generation to generation.’”   On the screen, Mr. Jones moves the curser to “View the Aleppo codex” the screen changes, and after choosing other options, an old manuscript appears.  "This codex is about 1000 years old."

 "Now, does this mean that the Masoretic text is not perfect simply because vowels were added to it?" Mr. Jones looks around.  "No.  But it has some interesting implications.  Our knowledge of the early history of the transmission of the Bible was greatly expanded with the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls which were made up of Bible manuscripts ranging from the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE (and beyond)…These discoveries caused a reexamination and reevaluation of other earlier witnesses to the Biblical text, such as the text of the Septuagint…Hebrew variants which had been surmised on the basis of the Greek in the Septuagint were now shown to have actually existed….[24]The Dead Sea Scrolls are Hebrew scrolls that support various readings of the Septuagint over the phrasing of our Masoretic Text.[25] The Qumran era reflects a multiplicity of texts (i.e., of variants), with witnesses for all three of the previously known text-types, the Masoretic Text type, the Septuagint and the Samaritan Penteteuch., as well as other previously unknown variants….Notwithstanding the multiplicity of texts, it seems that within the JerusalemTemple circles there was a clear preference for the one textual tradition that we call the proto-Masoretic text-type (because of its close affinities to the later Masoretic Bibles….Once we enter the era of the Sages, the quality and quantity of variants of the Bible, as known from the prior period, disappear almost entirely.  This is due to the fact that the Sages rejected both the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentetuch (accepted by the Christians and the Samaritans, respectively), and accepted the proto-Masoretic text-type as their Bible text.  So, in effect, we are now left with only one text-type for the Bible.  Although within this text-type there still remains a range of variants, they are minor; they are almost never of the substantial type known from the earlier era.[26] The Masoretes worked to determine the text of the Bible. They stated the proper way of writing and reading the Bible, and in passages where they found differences between texts and ways of reading, they issued a decision and ruled as to which opinion was correct. These decisions related not only to verses and words, but to every single letter[27]. “

“The Masoretic text accomplished two main things.  It settled upon a consonantal text, that is, it established specific choices for the letters of the Hebrew words in the text; and it pointed those consonants with a system of markings that indicated which vowels should be read with the Hebrew consonants.  It also offered cantillation and accentual marks, showing how words were to be sung or chanted and grouped together into phrases and it included a set of marginal notes to assure that the text would be copied properly[28].  You see, when vowels were added, they fixed the way the text would be read.  Adam Clark, a theologian who lived in the late 17 through 1800s, makes an interesting point, 'THE MASORETES were the most extensive Jewish commentators which that nation could ever boast.  The system of punctuation, probably invented by them, is a continual gloss on the law and prophets:  their vowel points, and prosaic and metrical accents, give every word, to which they are affixed, a peculiar kind of meaning, which, in their simple state, multitudes of them can by no means bear.  The vowel points alone, add whole conjugations to the language.  This system is one of the most artificial, particular, and extensive comments ever written on the Word of God; for there is not one word in the Bible that is not the subject of  a particular gloss, through its influence.’'[29].  So when you see an Old Testament passage quoted by the Apostles that does not match up with our Old Testaments, and you assume that the Apostle's quotation was not correct, do you know what you are doing?  You are taking the word of non-Christian Jews who lived over 800 years after Christ, and discounting the Apostles'.”

"Now."  Says Mr. Jones looking at you all in a serious manner, " I know what you're thinking, what you've been thinking all along, because I've thought it myself. You're thinking, 'If we accept what you're saying Mr. Jones, we will be conceding that God's Word, the Word that was written before the New Testament, the Word on which the New Testament is based, is corrupt!’"  Mr. Jones walks back and forth on the platform in an excited way.  "Listen, we have to accept that our received Old Testament is corrupted.  The only other option is to say that the Apostles corrupted the text, either by rewording it allegorically or by deliberate mistranslation.  I am going to read you some comments by an atheist from the 1700s.  The manner, which Mr. Collins thought the most advantageous for his attack upon Christianity, was (in part) to lay hold of that strong prejudice... in favor of the Integrity of the printed Hebrew Text...he flattered himself with the notion of an easy triumph, in consequence of this common concession; the reasoning of his book is this[30], quote:'The truth of Christianity depends entirely on proofs from the Old Testament. But the proofs of the Old Testament are invalid, and not the same as in the Testament.  THEREFORE, Christianity has no proper proofs at all.[31]'

“Mr. Collins pretends; that the Old Testament, literally understood, nowhere serves the purposes of Christianity …but if it is to be of use to Christianity, it must be understood allegorically.  He therefore first recommends allegory, as the only reasoning proper to bring all men to the faith of Christ and then ridicules this allegorical interpretation as absurd.  His argumentation, as to passages in the new Testament quoted from the old, stands thus:  'The passages in the new Testament from the old are not the same as in the old Testament.  But those passages have not been corrupted, in the old Testament.  THEREFORE, those passages were forged, or have been corrupted, in the new Testament.[32]'”

“Dangerous positions these, if true!  And they should awaken the most serious attention of Christians to the consequence of such notions, as are thus made use of to fix crimes upon the authors of the new Testament, by denying Mistakes introduced by the transcribers of the old Testament[33]”.

To countenance this inverted way of reasoning... Mr. Collins has quoted Surenhusius, as saying ----that he was filled with grief at the passages of the old Testament quoted in the new ---that he conversed with many Jews, who insolently reflected on the new Testament; affirming it to be plainly corrupted, because it seldom or never agreed with the old Testament; some of whom said, they would profess the Christian Religion, if anyone could reconcile the new Testament with the old; he was the more grieved, because he knew not how to apply a remedy to this evil ---at last he met with a Rabbin, who recommended to him some allegorical Jewish writings, and gave him ten rules, to show how the Apostles quoted, and why they alleged passages of the old Testament OTHERWISE than they are expressed in the original.[34]

“As to the Intergrity of the present Heb. Text; Mr. Collins pretends that this will be allowed him by men of all denominations --- by Jew, Infidels and Christians.  He asks, 'do not the JEWS take it for granted, that they have a true copy of the books of the  old Testament?'" Mr. Jones stops looks at the audience and comments, "Perhaps not, universally:  yet, If they do, may not Jews be mistaken?"  Then Mr. Jones looks back down at his notes, "But he demands farther:  'Do not all INFIDELS take it for granted? '"  Mr. Jones looks around at the audience quizzically and then continues, "Yes: they either believe, or pretend to believe it; and, as this Gentleman well expresses it, THEY TAKE IT FOR GRANTED.  They do, indeed, take this great point for granted; and they choose to do so, as being sensible that, if the old Testament should be proved corrupted, it would probably appear corrupted in those places, which furnish them with the chief topics of buffoonry and profane insult.  'But then,' adds this Mr. Collins, 'It has been thought by DIVINES, to be of very ill consequence to Religion, to suppose any alterations have been made in the old Testament.'  This also is true.  It has, indeed, been thought by Divines., or rather, by Theologians,  But it is hoped, that the days of so dangerous a prejudice are hastening to a conclusion; and it is hoped farther, that the warm zeal of this eminent unbeliever will contribute not a little to rectify this mistake of Christians.[35]

“And now, as to this author's attack upon the writers of the new Testament,  for quoting differently from the old; he concludes (strangely defective in Literature and Logic) that what differs from the old Testament as now printed must equally differ from the original Hebrew Manuscripts[36].   Again there is silence.
Mr. Jones places both hands on the lectern.  "Listen carefully; the perfect preservation of God's Word is not a necessary corollary of the inspiration of God's Word[37].  God nowhere in Scripture assures us that the Jewish scholars of the first century A. D.  Produced a corpus of Scripture that perfectly mirrored the originals.  Thus, the Masoretic text should not be considered a flawless reproduction of the autographs.  Rather, the Masoretic text evolved from a late, standardized recension of variant, imperfect, and updated copies made by imperfect men.[38]

“Think with me for a moment.  Is it biblical ‘faith’ to believe a priori that some particular edition of the Masoretic text perfectly reproduced all of the original words of the OT or that some particular English version perfectly translates the autographs?  Biblical faith is absolute belief in the explicit revelation of God.  It is not biblical faith to trust in human assumptions that are only peripherally associated with God's explicit revelation.  For example, it is biblical faith to believe that Noah built an ark that safely housed his family and numerous animals during a universal deluge.  The Scriptures explicitly say that it was so.  However, it is not biblical faith to believe that Noah's ark has been perfectly preserved in the ice on top of Mount Ararat.  One may believe in the perfect preservation of Noah's ark, but that belief is not biblical faith, for the Bible does not teach it. 
People should believe, by biblical faith, that God has spoken inerrantly and authoritatively through the apostles and prophets, for the Bible explicitly teaches that truth.  It is incorrect, however, to assert "by faith" that God has inerrantly and authoritatively spoken through later human figures such as the Pope or other religious leaders, textual editors, or Bible translators, for the Bible teaches no such thing.  It is biblical faith to believe that God, through the process of inspiration, produced an inerrant corpus of revelation by the hand of the original authors.  The Bible explicitly teaches this truth.   However, it is not biblical faith to believe that God, through providence or direct superintendence, oversaw the production of one particular copy, edition, or translation of Scripture to replicate the autographs perfectly.  The Bible nowhere teaches such a notion.  Extending the concept of faith to include secondary, nonbiblical assertions is both cultic and unscriptural.
It is one thing to believe that God could providentially or supernaturally propogate His Word;  it is another thing to believe that God did providentially or supernaturally preserve His word in a particular edition or translation……..For a person to assert that he or she believes, "by biblical faith," such specific preservation of the autographs of Scripture in one particular copy or version is itself grossly unbibilical, for the bible does not teach any such thing.  God may just as well have chosen to propagate His Word providentially through multiple copies and versions as through any one particular copy or version.  The Bible nowhere promises perfection in relation to any specific edition or translation of Scripture[39].”

“So, now we come back to what I mentioned at the beginning.  Did the Apostles misquote the Old Testament by using the Septuagint?  I say, no.  Whose Old Testament do I think is more authentic?  I believe that the Apostles' was more 'authentic', so to speak than our present accepted Hebrew text.  I believe that when you read the book of Hebrews, you can read the Old Testament quotations with confidence in their 'accurateness'.  I believe that if a Jew in Paul's day opened, or perhaps, 'unrolled',  an Old Testament  Hebrew Scroll to what we call Psalm 40 verse 6, it would read 'a BODY you have prepared for me'".  There is silence in the room as Mr. Jones stacks his papers.  He lays them down.  "Little Controversy exists over which Old Testament text translators should use…Most simply put, the Masoretic Text is, by far, the text of choice in translating the OT.  With regard to the New Testament, however, wide divergence of opinion exists in evangelical and fundamental circles over the appropriate Greek text that should form the basis of modern Bible translations.[40]  I believe that we need to change this and look outside the Hebrew text in our search for the complete original wording of the Old Testament.  That we need to use multiple texts for our textual criticism of the OT rather than simply one Hebrew recension.  The most important version I believe we should look into is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Bible the Apostles used, namely, the Septuagint.  And I will deal with it in my next lecture tomorrow night, giving you its history, usage and subsequent decline amongst Christians, showing you their gradual preferential, not to mention prejudicial, inclination towards the Masoretic text.  Basically, I will show you how we got to where we are today with only one accepted Hebrew text type."

The Masoretic Text the Perfect Text?


And so we see that the Masoretic text type is a very shaky candidate for the term 'perfection'.  It may have been copied meticulously at some point in time, but how do we know the text that what Masoretes were attempting to copy exactly was the perfect edition of the Old Testament?  Is it truly a perfect copy if it is a perfect copy of an imperfect text? And what about the vowel points?  Are we about to completely trust non-Christians, anti-Christians for that matter, more with preserving the text than Christians?  Keep in mind that it was the Jews for the most part, not the Christians, who preserved the Hebrew Old Testament after the time of Christ and professing Christians who preserved the Greek translation of that Old Testament.  Do we want to base our Old Testaments solely on 'perfectly preserved' imperfection?  Though of course it was not perfectly preserved anyway as there are variants even amongst the Masoretic manuscripts. 

In the next chapter, I will attempt to vindicate the Septuagint as a source for textual criticism.  As a prelude, let us go back to John who just so happens to be still sitting in that restaurant.  John is looking at Albert Barnes commentary on Hebrews 10:5:  "Those who are disposed to examine the various opinions which have been entertained of this passage may find them in Kuinoel, in loc., Rosenmuller, Stuart on the Hebrews, Excursus xx., and Kennicott on Psa_40:6. Kennicott supposes that there has been a change in the Hebrew text, and that instead of the present reading - אזנים  aaznaayim - “ears,” the reading was אז גוף  aaz guwph - then a body;” and that these words became united by the error of transcribers, and by a slight change then became as the present copies of the Hebrew text stands. This conjecture is ingenious, and if it were ever allowable to follow a “mere” conjecture, I should be disposed to do it here. But there is no authority from mss. for any change, nor do any of the old versions justify it, or agree with this except the Arabic."[41]  "But what about this Septuagint?"  John thinks. “As the writer of Hebrews used it, doesn't it deserve a closer look? "  As John is musing over this, a group of people come in and sit down at the table next to his, eagerly talking about something.  John isn't paying attention, but then the word "Septuagint" catches his ear and John eagerly turns towards the man who said it, and in a break in the conversation says, "Excuse me, but I couldn't help but overhear you, did you say something about the Septuagint? "  And thence ensues a dialogue whereby these people tell John about a lecture on the Masoretic text they have just come from, and they explain to him about the upcoming lecture on the Septuagint. John of course, eagerly wants to go, and gets the address and time of the lecture.  We shall follow him there in the next chapter.



[1] Charles Maitland, The Apostles' School of Prophetic Interpretation: With ITS HISTORY DOWN TO THE PRESENT TIME(London, England; Paternoster-Row 1849), pgs 20-21, 22.
[2] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology V.1(Grand Rapids, MI; Kregel Publications 1993), pg 86.
[3] Adam Clark, The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments, the text printed from the most correct copies of the present authorized translation, including the marginal readings and parallel texts, with a commentary and critical notes designed as a help to a better understanding of the sacred writings, Volume 3 (New York, B. WAUGH AND T. MASON 1833)Pg 140.
[4] Ibid.
[6] Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, Essay BACKGROUNDS FOR READING THE BIBLE, The Jewish Study Bible Jewish Study Bible(Oxford, New York; Oxford University Press 2004.) pg 2070.
[7] Christian D. Ginsburg[Translator; also added critical and explanatory notes], The Massoreth Ha-Massoreth of Elias Levita (London; Longmans, Green, Reader & Dyer, 1867) pg 44.

[8] Ibid. Pgs 58-59.
[9] Larry Stone, The Story of the Bible (Nashville, Tennessee; Thomas Nelson 2010) pg. 23.
[10] Ibid.
[11] James White, The King James Only Controversy (Bloomington, Minnesota; Bethany House Publishers 1995)pg 30.
[12] Larry Stone, The Story of the Bible (Nashville, Tennessee; Thomas Nelson 2010) pg. 33
[13] http://danielbwallace.com/2012/03/22/first-century-fragment-of-marks-gospel-found/
[14] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 16 (London and Edinburgh; Johnstone and Hunter 1853) pg 409.
[15] Christian D. Ginsburg[Translator; also added critical and explanatory notes], The Massoreth Ha-Massoreth of Elias Levita (London; Longmans, Green, Reader & Dyer, 1867) pg 61.
[17] Larry Stone, The Story of the Bible (Nashville, Tennessee; Thomas Nelson 2010) pg. 15.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[22] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10465-masorah
[24] Jordan S. Penkower, Essay THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MASORETIC BIBLE, The Jewish Study Bible Jewish Study Bible(Oxford, New York; Oxford University Press 2004.) pg 2077.
[25] For documentation of many of these variants, see The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, Translated and with Commentary by Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint & Eugene Ulrich (New York?; Harper One 1999)
[26] Jordan S. Penkower, Essay THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MASORETIC BIBLE, The Jewish Study Bible Jewish Study Bible(Oxford, New York; Oxford University Press 2004.) pg 2077-2078.
[27] http://www.aleppocodex.org/links/8.html
[28] Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, Essay BACKGROUNDS FOR READING THE BIBLE, The Jewish Study Bible Jewish Study Bible(Oxford, New York; Oxford University Press 2004.) pg 2070.
[29] Adam Clark, The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments, the text printed from the most correct copies of the present authorized translation, including the marginal readings and parallel texts, with a commentary and critical notes designed as a help to a better understanding of the sacred writings, Volume 1(New York; B. Waugh and T. Mason, 1833) pg. ii.
[30] Benjamin Kennicot, The state of the printed Hebrew text of the Old Testament considered (Oxford, London; Printed at the THEATRE: AND SOLD BY Messrs Fletcher and Prince, in Oxford; John Rivington, Dodfley, Rivington and Fletcher, and Griffiths, in LONDON 1759)pgs. 103-106.

[31] Ibid.
[32] Ibid.
[33] Ibid.
[34] Ibid.
[35] Ibid.
[36] Ibid.
[37] Roy E. Beacham & Kevin T. Bauder, General Editors, One Bible Only?: Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible (Grand Rapids, MI; Kregel Publications 2001), pg. 15.
[38] Ibid. pg. 63.
[39] Ibid, pgs. 68-69.
[40] Roy E. Beacham & Kevin T. Bauder, General Editors, One Bible Only?: Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible (Grand Rapids, MI; Kregel Publications 2001), Chapter 5, by Robert W. Milliman, pg. 135.
[41] Albert Barnes, Notes, explanatory and practical, on the Epistle to the Hebrews (New York; Harper & Bros., 1850) pg 229.

No comments:

Post a Comment