[B-Greek] Looking for a quote
Bryant J. Williams III
bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Thu Mar 30 00:31:10 EST 2006
You should read Albert Pietersma's articles on the LXX regarding the exegetical
usages made of it (http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~pietersm/). It appears that the
authors of the NT viewed that LXX as an authoritative text on the same level
that we would say the KJV, NASB, NIV, RSV, NRSV, etc. That does not mean that
they viewed it as inspired by God.
Just because something is authoritative does not mean it is inspired by the
God/HS, but if it is inspired by the God/HS, it is authoritative. It must be
remembered that the various quotes from the OT are from the Hebrew, LXX, and
anywhere in between. It appears that the authors used what the God/HS wanted
them to write (II Peter 1:20-21; John 14:28) in such a way that the
personalities were NOT turned off. All one has to do is look at the quotes found
in Hebrews which all come from the LXX.
Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
----- Original Message -----
From: "Albert & Julia Haig" <albert_and_julia at yahoo.com.au>
To: <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Wednesday, March 29, 2006 05:35 PM
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Looking for a quote
> ...and those in 1st century Palestine were commonly bilingual or trilingual,
> cf. heaps of research from the 1980s.
> Ann Nyland
> The apostles all knew Hebrew quite well if not
> Randall Buth
Whether the apostles (assuming they all existed as in the Gospel accounts) spoke
Hebrew (and Aramaic) I will leave to others to decide. What seems reasonably
clear, however, is that whoever wrote certain sections at least of the Gospels
did not know Hebrew or Aramaic. This is shown by their dependence on the Greek
LXX for OT prophetic fulfilment examples even when it is at odds with the
Hebrew. I will give three examples.
(1) All four Gospels apply Isaiah 40:3 to John the Baptist; but the problem is
most acute in John 1:23, because the author here records John the Baptist as
applying it to himself. The problem is that all four Gospels cite the LXX, which
differs from the Hebrew in a significant manner that affects the meaning. All
four gospels follow the LXX, "a voice crying in the wilderness, make straight
the way of the Lord". But in the Hebrew, it is clear that this should read "a
voice crying, in the wilderness make straight the way of the Lord" (e.g. modern
translations such as the NASB, NIV, NRSV). That it should read this way is
unambiguous because of the parallelism with the next phrase, "make smooth in the
desert a highway for our God". Note that "in the desert" (ba`aravah) in the
second phrase parallels "in the wilderness" (bammidbar) in the first. However,
for some reason, the crucial word ba`aravah was omitted from the LXX
translation, which destroys the parallelism, and leads to the
reading apparently exploited as "fulfilment" in the Gospels.
John the Baptist, and those he was speaking to, would have been native
Aramaic/Hebrew speakers, and hence had he quoted this verse he would have done
so from an Aramaic Targum or the Hebrew original, not from the Greek. However,
there are no Hebrew or Targumim manuscripts that omit the word ba`aravah. So the
obvious explanation seems to be that the Gospel writers drew on the LXX, without
knowing the Hebrew. Or perhaps this verse was already so established as a
"fulfilment" example amongst Greek-speaking Christians that they chose to
include it despite misgivings about the Hebrew.
One final note: The original Greek text of the NT, of course, did not have
punctuation. Hence, it would be possible to argue that the gospel writers
intended their Greek quotations to be read as in the Hebrew, "a voice crying, in
the wilderness make straight ...". I doubt this, but others may make their own
assessment. Historically, Christian interpreters have read the gospels as
saying, "a voice crying in the wilderness, make straight ...".
(2) Matthew 21:16: The problem with this text is that Jesus' quotation of the
Psalm follows the LXX, whereas the Hebrew reads "strength" (`oz), not "praise"
(tehillah) - Psalm 8:2, 8:3 MT & LXX. In context, the Psalm is talking about
having strength to defeat God's enemies. But the gospel of Matthew follows the
LXX, reading AINON. Jesus, and those he was speaking to, however, would have
been native speakers of Aramaic and Hebrew, and hence he would have quoted
either an Aramaic Targum or the original Hebrew. This "fulfilment" was only
possible because the source was relying on the LXX and did not know the Hebrew.
(3) Matthew 1:23: This is the most infamous, and hotly contested, example. The
problem is that "Matthew" here relies on the LXX (PARQENOS), whereas the Hebrew
of Isaiah 7:14 reads `almah (young woman), not virgin (betulah). In context, the
sign is that not just that a child would be born, but that before this child
grew old enough to discern good from evil, Israel and Syria would be destroyed
by the Assyrians. That `almah does not mean specifically a virgin, but that
betulah does (indeed the cognate masculine plural noun betulim means "virginity"
in the abstract), is not merely the opinion of the majority of modern scholars.
It has been pointed out by Jews since at least the second century (see Justin
Martyr's "Dialogue with Trypho"). Indeed, Jerome wrote:
"Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name
Emmanuel." I know that the Jews are accustomed to meet us with the objection
that in Hebrew the word Almah does not mean a virgin, but a young woman. And, to
speak truth, a virgin is properly called Bethulah..."
Again, this fulfilment example seems to have come about by reliance on the Greek
in ignorance of the Hebrew.
I think these examples make a cumulative case that the authors of the Gospels,
or at least parts of the Gospels, or the sources from which they drew their
material, knew only Greek and not Hebrew or Aramaic.
All the best,
Albert Haig, PhD, MDiv
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