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

David Kimbrough (CLWA) dkimbrough at clwa.org
Thu Mar 4 16:51:08 EST 2004

You make a number of assumptions.  You assume that there was once a single
uniform Hebrew text from which the LXX, DSS, and MT derive.  However this
may well not be the case.  The authors (or editors) of the LXX and MT had
several different Hebrew texts which each group attempted to harmonize.
Alternate readings , probably from different texts are sometimes preserved
in the qere/ketib readings of the MT.

There are also several different Greek translations of the OT which all
sometimes referred to as LXX, which may or not be associated with the city
of Alexandria such as the translations of Aquila and Theodotion.  These do
not always agree with each other but less the DSS or the MT.

The Greek translation made Judeans living in Alexandria was clearly made
over a very long period.  The translator of  "Ecclesiasticus" the grandson
of ben Sirach, reports that the "Law" was already translated when he arrived
in Alexandria in the "thirty-eighth year of the reign of Euergetes".  The
"law" most like refers to the Pentateuch. and Eugergetes to Ptolemy III who
ruled (246-221 BCE). 

David Eugene Kimbrough

-----Original Message-----
From: Philip Engmann [mailto:phil-eng at ighmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 04, 2004 1:16 PM
To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: [b-hebrew] Relative ages of LXX, DSS and proto-MT texts

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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