[b-hebrew] Isaiah 53

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Wed May 19 08:01:02 EDT 2004

Dear Peter,

>    Can we quit this Isaiah 53 interpretation thing? I sense that 
>there are some people in the group who do not respect how ancient 
>translators interpreted the passage (e.g. LXX), and how modern 
>translators interpret the passage as well. A private interpretation 
>that does not really consider these two aspects of scholarship needs 
>to be kept private. Wow! I am not too sure that such statements will 
>end this discussion, but I feel it has gone too far.

HH: I honor the fact that you want respect for the LXX to be 
maintained, but the fact is that the LXX does not agree with the 
Hebrew at many points. The LXX is a translation of the Hebrew. The 
LXX was used by the Jews as their Scriptures when they spoke Greek. 
So we should respect it. It is quoted a great deal in the New 
Testament. Yet the NT often goes back to the Hebrew instead of using 
the Greek. They felt that a translation more closely reflecting the 
Hebrew wording would better represent what God originally gave. The 
original writers of Scripture wrote in Hebrew and Aramaic. That is 
the language in which God gave the Scriptures. The Jewish tradition 
that the LXX was inspired by God is late, artificial, and contains 
mythical elements. There is widespread agreement about this among 

HH: The main point is that the Hebrew and Greek do not agree in 
places. One can hide one's head in the sand and pretend that they do 
agree, or one can admit that they don't. If the LXX is a translation, 
then it should match the Hebrew. If it does not, then it is proper to 
ask why it doesn't. It is well accepted among scholars that sometimes 
the LXX translators did not know the meaning of the Hebrew. At the 
verse we are discussing, Isaiah 53:9, the LXX does not match the 
Hebrew. Yet it is easy to see the thinking that the translators used. 
If you think it is wrong to say that the LXX does not translate a 
verse of the Hebrew well, then perhaps you believe that the LXX is 
independently inspired by God and so cannot fail to say well whatever 
it says. But when judging it as a translation, which is what it 
always was, then it either translates the Hebrew well or it does not.

Today scholars say that at places the King James Version either does 
not represent the original manuscripts well or does not translate 
them well. This raises the ire of people who consider the KJV to be 
inspired of God. Yet knowledge of the original biblical languages has 
progressed beyond what was available to the 1611 translators because 
of archeological discoveries. These have also multiplied the number 
of manuscripts. While we honor the KJV translation, scholars widely 
agree that it has imperfections. We would hide our heads in the sand 
if we did not. The same is true with the LXX. We have to hide our 
heads in the sand not to see that it fails to match the Hebrew at 
numerous points. Thus most scholarly treatments of the LXX speak of 
the varying quality of its translation. It is praised as being very 
close to the Hebrew in the Pentateuch. But the quality of its 
translation of the Prophets is admitted to be lower at times.

One cannot really have an intelligent discussion of the LXX as it 
compares with the Hebrew if one cannot admit that differences exist 
and that these differences can show the LXX to be a poor translation 
at times. This is simply a fact.

					Harold Holmyard

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