[b-hebrew] Septuagint vs Hebrew, effect on Christianity

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Sun Sep 24 02:53:53 EDT 2006

Dear Liz,

In this case I may supply some information. There are not many fragments of
the LXX from B.C.E. and the first century C.E., but in all extant fragments
the name of God is written as YHWH in old Hebrew characters, Aramaic
characters, or as the Greek phonetic transcription
IAW; it is never written KURIOS. In the LXX manuscripts from the middle of
second century C.E. we find the socalled "nomina sacra" - QS  with a bar
above where QEOS is expected and KS wirh a bar above where the
tetragrammaton is expected (and other abbreviations as well). Thus, after 50
C.E. (the date of the youngest
LXX manuscript with YHWH) and before 150 C.E. the tetragrammaton and IAW
were removed when manuscripts were copied and KS was written instead. The
same nomina sacra are found in the oldest NT manuscripts, so a change of
that text were made as well. A study of the oldest manuscripts of the
Syro-Hexapla and their mariginal notes, suggests that the Syriac form PIPI
made when the LXX original had the tetragrammaton in Aramaic characters,
and that the Syriac form HEHE was used when the LXX original had the
tetragrammaton in old Hebrew characters. Thus, a situation similar to the
described in connection with the LXX and the NT is possible for the Peshitta
as well, i.e., the original Peshitta may have contained the tetragrammaton,
but this was later removed and substituted with MRY.

It is generally believed that the tetragramaton was substituted by )DNY a
long time before the C.E., and that it was no longer used in the first
century C.E. However, evidence for this is lacking! We know that the Qumran
community did not pronounce the name, but their
substitute was )L and not ADNY. I am not aware of any evidence for the
substitution of YHWH by )DNY in the B.C.E. or in the first century C.E. In
the Tanakh God is referred to by )DNY YHWH, as YHWH, and as )DNY. This shows
that both words are legitimate refrences to God, and to point to passages
where )DNY is used with reference to God as evidence for non-use of YHWH is
a non-starter. What we must demonstrate is SUBSTITUTION, i.e., that )DNY in
some text is used when YHWH is expected. But such evidence is lacking.
Therefore, we have the strange situation, that if the NT writers originally
substituted YHWH with KURIUS, they did so (as far as we know) without any
antecedent. In other words, when a NT writer should translate a Hebrew or
Aramaic conversation between Jesus and others into Greek, the word )DNY as a
substitute for YHWH was not used in that conversation? So why then should
the writer then use KURIOS? And similarly with qoutations: Both the Hebrew
and LXX manuscripts contained YHWH, so why should the writer substitute that
with KURIOS? Since it cannot be demonstrated that YHWH had been substituted
by )DNY in the days of Jesus, and since we know that the changes to nomina
sacra occurred between 50(75) and 150 C.E. there is no good reason to
believe that KURIOS was found in the NT autographs. It is more likely that
YHWH occurred.

As for the Mischna and rabbinic literature, there are passages indicating
that the tetragrammaton was not pronounced by some, but there are other
indicating the very opposite, that some groups used it for a long time.
Thus, there is evidence that some groups in
the second and first century B.C.E. ceased to used the name while others
(such as the Pharisees and the Morningbathers) continued to use it.

An interesting example indicating a late use of the tetragrammaton is Tamud
Shabat 13 (14:5), where the Minim (possibly
Christians) are mentioned:

"The blank spaces of the books of the Minim, we may not save them from the
fire. R. Jose said: On weekdays one must cut out the tetragrammata which
they contain, hide them, and burn the rest. R. Tarfon said: May I bury my
son if I would not burn them together with their tetragrammata if they came
to my hand."

The removal of the name of God caused, as you say, "the blurring of
identities"; in the NT there are about 100 occurrences of KURIOS in the UBS
mastertext where it is difficult to know whether the word refers to Jesus or
to his father. I would argue that the writer did not want to confuse the
two, but it was the change of the text by the introduction of the nomina
sacra caused the confusion.

Best regards,

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Lisbeth S. Fried" <lizfried at umich.edu>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Saturday, September 23, 2006 11:27 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Septuagint vs Hebrew, effect on Christianity

> Dear Karl,
> My feeling -- and this is just a feeling -- that if the LXX had written
> and not kurios,
> that there wouldn't have been a confusion between Jesus and kurios=YHWH.
> No where is there a tendency to call Jesus YHWH, but with the substitution
> of the word LORD, there is the blurring of identities.  Suddenly it is
> Jesus' name before whom every knee must bow. So originally it is before
> the
> name YHWH, then before the name LORD, and then before the name JESUS.
> I don't think that would have happened if the LXX didn't have LORD for
> What do you think?
> Best,
> Liz Fried
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
> [mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On
>> Behalf Of K Randolph
>> Sent: Friday, September 22, 2006 11:49 PM
>> To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
>> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Septuagint vs Hebrew, effect on Christianity
>> Liz:
>> The founding of Christianity was not dependent on the LXX, but had it
>> not existed, how would Christianity have spread? Probably not among
>> the Greek speaking Roman empire.
>> I wonder if there are any substantive differences, besides the many minor
> ones.
>> Karl W. Randolph.
>> On 9/21/06, Lisbeth S. Fried <lizfried at umich.edu> wrote:
>> >
>> > Dear Benjamin,
>> > These are great questions! I think that if there hadn't been an LXX
> there
>> > wouldn't have been Christianity. I'd be very interested in any books or
>> > articles on the subject that you find.
>> > Liz Fried
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