[b-hebrew] Relative ages of LXX, DSS and proto-MT texts

Philip Engmann phil-eng at ighmail.com
Thu Mar 4 16:16:14 EST 2004

The DSS have long been trumpeted as being the oldest known biblical
Hebrew manuscripts; manuscripts which outdate the MT by about 1000
years. However DSS dating does not seem to be compared much to LXX
dating? Some authors even cite the DSS as independent witnesses where
LXX and MT[1] texts differ, as though the witness of the DSS would
finally settle the discrepancies between LXX and MT. 
It would appear that the LXX could be older than DSS. Using the criteria
that the oldest text is usually more authentic, DSS fails as an
independent witness authenticating either MT or LXX.
1.      The Septuagint has its origin in Alexandria, Egypt and was
translated between 300-200 BC.[2]
2.      The seventy-two (altered in a few later versions to seventy or
seventy-five) translators arrived in Egypt to the Ptolemy's gracious
hospitality, and translated the Torah (or Pentateuch: the first five
books of the Hebrew Scriptures) in seventy-two days. Although opinions
as to when this occurred differ, scholars find 282 BC an attractive
3.      The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) are discovered manuscripts from
Qumran, which date from around 168 BC to about 68 AD.[4]
4.      So LXX is older than the DSS by about 100 years.
However, it is interesting to note the comment made by Ralph Klein in
his book, Textual Criticism of the Old Testament: The Septuagint after
Qumran. In discussing the differences found in the Qumran manuscripts,
and their relation to both the Septuagint and the Masoretic Text of
Exodus 1:1-6, he asks, "Which reading is original, the proto-MT or the
Hebrew used by the LXX translators (i.e. LXX Vorlage) or DSS? No final
answer is possible." (p. 15). The statement is true only if we concede
that the original text can only be ascertained through the process of
textual criticism and not maintained by the Author of Holy Writ through
Biblical preservation. It is because of this truth, Biblical
preservation, that we can see additional resolutions to textual problems
which seem to elude the majority of modern scholarship.[5] 
Philip Engmann


[1] There seems to be very little known about the dating of the LXX and
MT parent texts. i.e. the LXX Vorlage and the proto-MT.
[2] http://www.septuagint.net/ 
[3] http://students.cua.edu/16kalvesmaki/lxx/ 
[4] http://byubroadcasting.org/deadsea/book/chapter2/intro.html
[5] paraphrased. Lesson Nine: THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS

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