[b-hebrew] Septuagintal influence on Masoretic Hebrew text

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman joel at exc.com
Mon Aug 14 13:50:44 EDT 2006

>"The Hebrew version in circulation today, the so-called Massoretic (sic) 
>Text, is chiefly a re-translation of the Septuagint into Medieval Hebrew 

It is not difficult to demonstrate the inaccuracy of this claim.

It is true that it's easier to date the LXX (Septuagint), particularly
the Torah part thereof, to slighter before the oldest attested Hebrew
copies of the Bible, but:

1.  Parts of the Bible contain acrostic poems in Hebrew, but only in
    Hebrew, not in Greek.  It is patently absurd to think that the
    Greeks wrote the LXX precisely in such a way that 1,000 years
    later the Greek could be translated into a Hebrew acrostic.

2.  Much of Genesis consists of word plays that only work in Hebrew.
    For example, Isaac is called (in Hebrew) YITZCHAK because that
    name shares a root with "laugh," and according to the text itself
    Isaac's birth involves laughter (on Sarah's part).  Abram's name
    means "exalted father" (something like "tribal elder"), but,
    again, only in Hebrew, not in Greek.  Other examples abound.  And
    again, it is absurd to think that nonsensical Greek was composed
    just to make the Hebrew translation clever.

3.  A minor matter, but the Hebrew in the Bible is not medieval Hebrew
    at all.

4.  The DSS (Dead Sea Scrolls) confirm the authenticity of much of the
    Hebrew text of the Bible.  These date to just after the LXX, and
    long before the Masoretes.

I go through a lot of these issues in detail in my NYUP book ("In the
Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language" - NYU Press).


Joel M. Hoffman, PhD

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