[b-hebrew] OT Translations

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sun Jun 6 18:48:41 EDT 2004

Dear Philip,

You seem to forget that most Bible translations are commisioned by religious
denominations or groups (including "interdenominational Christians and the
like), following a tradition. For Jewish translations, including "scholarly"
ones such a JPS, the purpose of a translation is to supply the reader who is
not capable of reading the Hebrew text with a means of understanding that
text. For Christians, at least Western Christians, the tradition, since
Jerome, has been that the MT is the "real" Bible. Using LXX, DDS etc. is
fine in commentaries for clarifying or suggesting alternate texts. And if
you want, there are English translations of both.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Philip Engmann" <phil-eng at ighmail.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Saturday, June 05, 2004 6:39 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] OT Translations

> 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
> demonstated 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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