[b-hebrew] Septuagint vs. Masoretes/75 vs. 70: How Many Hebrews DidJacob Lead into Egypt?

Bryant J. Williams III bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Thu Jan 17 15:34:23 EST 2008

Dear Jim,

Regarding the use of the LXX in Acts 7, it makes perfect sense. Stephen, a
Greek-speaking Jew, chosen as deacon by the early church in Acts 6 to take care
of the Hellenistic Jewish widows, would have quoted from the LXX which was by
Greek-speaking Jews in the Diaspora. In fact, the book of Hebrews uses all its
quotes from the LXX. So there are no surprises here.

Regarding the 70 verse 75. It is apparent if one looks at the texts that Joseph
and his family (wife and children) are also included to give the number of 75;
otherwise it is 70 as per MT.

Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
----- Original Message ----- 
From: <JimStinehart at aol.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2008 6:58 AM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Septuagint vs. Masoretes/75 vs. 70: How Many Hebrews
DidJacob Lead into Egypt?

> Septuagint vs. Masoretes/75 vs. 70:  How Many Hebrews Did Jacob Lead into
> Egypt?
> For the most part, the Masoretic text and the Septuagint have similar
> readings of the Patriarchal narratives.  But there is one glaring exception to
> general rule.  In chapter 46 of Genesis, the Septuagint lists 74 names
> (including the name “Jacob”), and states that Jacob led 75 Hebrews into Egypt
> (including two unnamed younger sons of Joseph, as we shall see, but excluding
> himself).  By stark contrast, the Masoretic text lists only 70 names
> “Jacob”), and states that Jacob led 70 Hebrews into Egypt (including Jacob
> himself).
> Importantly, this same dichotomy between the numbers 75 vs. 70 appears in
> Exodus 1: 5, which repeats how many people Jacob led into Egypt.  Very
> interestingly, the Dead Sea Scrolls follow the Septuagint here as to Exodus 1:
> reading 75 people (not 70 people) that Jacob led into Egypt.  (Unfortunately,
> is no legible Dead Sea Scrolls version of chapter 46 of Genesis.)  That means
> that the number 75 in Exodus and in chapter 46 of Genesis is a very old
> tradition.  Accordingly, we should not dismiss this number 75 lightly, even
> English translators have consistently opted for the number 70 used in the
> Masoretic text.
> The reason why this phenomenon is quite well known is that in the New
> Testament, Acts says at 7: 14 that Jacob led 75 people into Egypt.  The KJV
uses the
> number 70 both in chapter 46 of Genesis and at Exodus 1: 5 (from the Masoretic
> text, not using the Septuagint), but then, like all other versions of the New
> Testament, the KJV uses the number 75 at Acts 7: 14.
> The main drawback of the Septuagint is that it is a Greek translation of the
> Hebrew, rather than setting forth the original Hebrew.  But other than the
> inevitable (and important) manifold translation issues, the Septuagint is
> otherwise a fine text, and is very old.  The fact is that the Septuagint is
not known
> to add an entire sentence into a Biblical text on its own motion, especially
> where the sentence lists 5 specific names.  (The Septuagint is a series of
> Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible, done over a period of 200 years or so
> educated Jews for educated Jews, prior to the common era.  The Dead Sea
> Scrolls have shown that both the Septuagint and the Masoretic text are very
> accurate, with the Masoretic text on balance being slightly more accurate
overall than
> the Septuagint, but only slightly.  The Septuagint is thus a valuable
> resource, even though it is a Greek translation, rather than being in the
> Hebrew.)  For certain books of the Bible, especially Jeremiah, the Septuagint
> and the Masoretic text must have been working off of different original texts,
> hence there are many differences in Jeremiah as between the Masoretic text and
> the Septuagint.  But in the case of the Patriarchal narratives, it would
> appear that the Septuagint and the Masoretic text are based on the same, or at
> least a very similar, original source, since only chapter 46 of Genesis
reflects a
> prolonged substantive difference in the text.  On translation issues, the
> Masoretic text is normally preferred, because the Masoretic text is in Hebrew,
> and hence is not a translation, whereas the Septuagint is in Greek.  (However,
> the equivalent of “translating” is, in some ways, how the Masoretic text added
> pointing.  Scholars now recognize that the pointing done in the Masoretic
> text sometimes does not accord with how the oldest Hebrew texts were
> read.)  But here in chapter 46 of Genesis, we are not dealing with either a
> translation or a pointing issue.  Rather, the Septuagint has an entire
> at Genesis 46: 20, listing 5 named descendants of Joseph’s sons Manasseh and
> Ephraim, that is completely missing in the Masoretic text.  Why?
> On this thread, I will propose a new solution to this age-old problem.  (If I
> am right, it will be the first time in 2,500 years that people will know
> exactly how many people Jacob is portrayed as leading into Egypt.)  For
reasons I
> will discuss later, it is my view that the original Hebrew text differed from
> both the Septuagint and the Masoretic text.  In my view, (i) the original text
> listed 75 names, basically following the Septuagint (which has 74 names), but
> also having the name “Huppim” that is in the Masoretic text, but is missing
> in the Septuagint, as one of Benjamin’s descendants, (ii) the original text
> referred to 9 descendants of Joseph (including Joseph’s 2 unnamed younger
> per the Septuagint, but (iii) nevertheless the original text stated, and not
> by a “mistake”, that Jacob led 70 people into Egypt, per the Masoretic text
> (not the 75 people reported in the Septuagint).  Though at first glance that
> may seem like an outright numerical contradiction, we will see why the author
> the truly ancient Patriarchal narratives said precisely that:  75 names are
> listed, but only 70 people are said to come with Jacob to Egypt.
> In my view, when the Bible was compiled in the mid-1st millennium BCE, the
> later Hebrews (perhaps J, E, P or D, none of whom understood the truly ancient
> Patriarchal narratives very well) mistakenly thought that the original author
> of the Patriarchal narratives had made an obvious numerical “mistake” as to 75
> vs. 70.  The Septuagint changed/“corrected” the number 70 to 75, since the
> original text referred first to 66 people, and then referred to 9 additional
> people, and the Septuagint editor reasoned that 66 + 9 = 75 (though the text
> itself did not say to add 66 + 9).  The Septuagint editor then reduced the 75
> names listed in the original text by one to 74 (dropping Huppim), with there
> being (as in the original text) 2 unnamed younger sons of Joseph.  Jacob
> could then be subtracted from the count, to get to 75:  74 + 2 –1 = 75.  The
> Masoretic text is worse, however, in that (in my view) it dropped an entire
> sentence, which gives us 5 more names.  The Masoretic text also deletes any
> reference to any younger sons of Joseph, which in my view is also a major
> (since Genesis 48: 6 strongly implies that Joseph sired younger sons, albeit
> after Jacob got to Egypt;  I view chapter 46 of Genesis as listing all of
> grandsons, including grandsons born after Jacob got to Egypt, though that may
> not have been clear to the mid-1st millennium BCE people who were pulling the
> Bible together).  The Masoretic text lists only 70 names in the text, so that
> the number of listed names exactly corresponds to the statement in the
> original text (in my view) that Jacob led 70 (not 75) Hebrews into Egypt.  The
> in the Masoretic text is very straightforward, but at the cost of dropping
> many descendants of Joseph, both named and unnamed, that are referenced in the
> Septuagint.  (It seems doubtful to me that the Septuagint editor just made up
> new descendants of Joseph on his own accord, as the Septuagint is not known
> such gratuitous freelancing.)
> In my next post, I will set forth the portions of the Septuagint that differ
> substantially from the Masoretic text as to chapter 46 of Genesis.  After
> that, we can compare how the Septuagint and the Masoretic text count the
number of
> people whom Jacob is portrayed as leading into Egypt.  And then after that, I
> will set forth my own view as to what the original text of what became
> chapter 46 of Genesis originally said, and why I see it that way.  We will
> that both the editor of the Septuagint, and the editor of the Masoretic text,
> in the mid-1st millennium BCE “corrected” in different ways the math that was
> in the original text.  But we can recover that original math, and see that
> that original math in fact made perfect sense, if one knows how to understand
> in terms of the mindset of the truly ancient Patriarchal narratives,
> including the specific types of numerical symbolism used throughout the
> narratives.
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
> **************Start the year off right.  Easy ways to stay in shape.
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