[b-hebrew] MT as source text?

Philip Engmann phil-eng at ighmail.com
Sat Jun 5 12:42:14 EDT 2004


1.      Majority of bible translations use the MT as source text and
other sources (i.e. LXX, DSS, etc) where the MT seems doubtful e.g.
NIV.[1]
2.      This practice is wrong because it assumes that the MT is more
accurate than the LXX (and other sources). [2] Furthermore, this
practice also assumes that the parent text of the MT, i.e. the Proto-MT
is more accurate or correct than the parent text of the LXX, i.e. the
LXX Vorlage. But this assumption is false because where the LXX Vorlage
and the Proto-MT differ, there is no known way to tell which of the 2
ancient texts is correct.[3] 
3.      The best way to approach translation in these circumstances, I
think, is to treat the LXX and MT as equal texts as much as possible.
 
Where the LXX and the MT (and other sources) agree, there is no problem.
 
But where the LXX and the MT (and other sources) disagree, a thorough
textual critical investigation must be made into these differences
before selecting the best text.
 
But certainly there seems to be very little justification for assuming
that the MT is the most accurate or correct OT text.[4]
 
Philip Engmann
 
 
 
 
 

  _____  

[1] Preface to the New International Version (NIV), page 34, paragraph
3, which is self-explanatory.  It states:
"For the Old Testament, the standard Hebrew text, the Masoretic Text as
published in the latest editions of Biblia Hebraica, was used
throughout.  The Dead Sea Scrolls contain material bearing on an earlier
stage of the Hebrew text.  They were consulted, as were the Samaritan
Pentateuch and the ancient scribal traditions relating to textual
changes. Sometimes a variant Hebrew reading in the margin of the
Masoretic Text was followed instead of the text itself.  Such instances,
being variants within the Masoretic tradition, are not specified by the
footnotes. In rare cases, words in the consonantal text were divided
differently from the way they appear in the Masoretic Text. Footnotes
indicate this. The translators also consulted the more important early
versions, i.e. the Septuagint; Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion; the
Vulgate; the Syriac Peshitta; the Targums; and for the Psalms the Juxta
Hebraica of Jerome. Readings from these versions were occasionally
(emphasis mine) followed where the Masoretic Text seemed doubtful and
where accepted principles of textual criticism showed that one or more
of these textual witnesses appeared to provide the correct reading. Such
instances are footnoted.  Sometimes vowel letters and vowel signs did
not, in the judgement of the translators, represent the correct vowels
for the original consonantal text.  Accordingly, some words were read
with a different set of vowels. These instances are usually not
indicated by footnotes." 
 
It is clear from the above quote that the LXX, and indeed the more
important early versions, was used "occasionally only where the
Masoretic Text seemed doubtful and where accepted principles of textual
criticism showed that one or more of these textual witnesses appeared to
provide the correct reading."
 
[2] This practice also assumes that the pointing done by the Masoretes
was correct-an assumption which is not necessarily true.
[3] Complicating the issue is the fact that there were several LXX
texts, Hebrew texts etc, each with their own set of variants.
[4] It goes without saying that the discoveries of the DSS have
demonstrated that the MT may not conclusively be the most accurate OT
text as was originally thought, but that the LXX, in view of the fact
that it is likely to have had a different Vorlage, is also a very
significant factor in OT textual criticism.



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