[b-hebrew] OT Translations

Philip Engmann phil-eng at ighmail.com
Tue Jun 15 05:04:45 EDT 2004

A table in J. VanderKam & P. Flint, "The Meaning of the DSS" (p. 143),
summarizing the research of Tov, gives these figures:

47% of biblical DSS texts reflect the MT.
47% are "non-aligned".
3, 3 % reflect the LXX.
2, 5 % reflect the Samaritan Pentateuch.

I may be inclined to agree that in the majority of cases, the MT may be
seen to be more 'accurate' than the LXX; particularly since majority of
the DSS support the MT rather than the LXX.

However, the point that I am making is that where some DSS support the
LXX rather than the MT (where there are differences between the LXX and
the MT), then in such cases, it is more likely that the LXX+DSS
rendering is more accurate than the MT rendering. 

In the example that I gave previously, in Deuteronomy 32:43, LXX
Deuteronomy 32:43 is longer than MT Deuteronomy 32:43, and so LXX
Deuteronomy 32:43 contains certain phrases that MT Deuteronomy 32:43
does not contain, strongly suggesting that the parent texts of the LXX
and MT were different texts. The DSS Qumran manuscript 4QDeutq matches
the LXX text here, indicating that the LXX was derived from an ancient
Hebrew source which differed from the MT Hebrew source. So in this case,
I would think that the LXX+DSS rendering may be more accurate than the
MT rendering.
(Also, the difference between the LXX and MT quotations of Psalm 40:7[6]
is that the phrase 'but you have given me an open ear', in MT Psalm
40:7[6] is radically and irreconcilably different from the corresponding
LXX phrase 'a body you have prepared for me' in LXX Psalm 40:7[6];
leading to the conclusion that the LXX Vorlage differed from the
Proto-MT for this text. The LXX rendering here seems to make more sense
than the MT rendering).

Simply taking the MT to be the most accurate text all the time and
consulting other sources only when the MT is obscure or difficult may
not always be the best approach.

Philip Engmann

-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Bill Rea
Sent: 10 June 2004 22:15
To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] OT Translations

Philip asked:-

>But what if the "tradition" is wrong?

Sadly, you are probably really stuck. With texts that have come
down to us through a period of maybe as long as 3,000+ years, for
which many quoted source documents are competely missing, and in a
dead language, the most reliable source is the unbroken tradition or
traditions (i.e. Jews, Samaritans and Christians) which have regarded
these works as sacred.

If you've been around this list for long you'll see that a number of
arguments are no more than one person pitting their assumptions against
another's. About the best you can hope for is for something that is
plausible or reasonable.

Trying to make a case that the LXX should be preferred over the MT
runs up against the obstacle that the LXX is a collection of
of variable quality.  Attempting to reconstruct a lost Hebrew text when
aren't sure the translation is accurate is likely to be a hopeless task.

To draw a parallel closer to our time, if my memory serves me correctly,
when Erasmus went to assemble a Greek NT he had to translate a few
from Latin back into Greek because there were no texts available. As
texts have become available it should be possible to check his accuracy.
That should give us some indication of whether it is feasible to recover
a lost Hebrew text on the basis of the LXX.

Bill Rea, Information Technology Dept., Canterbury  University  \_
E-Mail bill.rea at canterbury.ac.nz                                </   New
Phone   64-3-364-2331, Fax     64-3-364-2332                   /)
Unix Systems Administrator                                    (/'

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