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

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Thu Mar 4 17:29:57 EST 2004

On 04/03/2004 13:16, Philip Engmann wrote:

>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.
You are comparing two different things, the date of production of LXX 
against the date of the oldest surviving MSS of the Hebrew text. To make 
a fair comparison, you need to compare date of production of both or 
date of oldest MSS of both.

Date of production: As an original text must always be older than its 
translation, the Hebrew text must be older than the LXX - unless you try 
to argue that the Hebrew is a translation from the Greek.

Date of oldest MSS: Large parts of the Hebrew Bible are preserved in the 
DSS. Only a few scraps of the LXX are preserved; the earliest MSS of 
substantial parts of the LXX are 4th-5th centuries CE if I remember rightly.

So the Hebrew text clearly wins on both comparisons of age, for what 
it's worth.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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