A debate rages between the Jews and Christians as to which version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) is more accurate: the Masoretic Text, which is the main Jewish version; or the Septuagint, which is an ancient Greek version translated in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. This might seem strange, since the vast majority of Christian Old Testaments were translated from the Masoretic Text, including the King James Bible. Surely King James and his crew were no slouches on the subject, and the King James Bible is generally thought to be the gold standard of Bibles, so it should be no contest between this Masoretic text, translated by Jews sometime between the 7th and 10th centuries, and the Septuagint, which isn’t even really read by Christians that much, except when it’s time to debate the Jews.
Jews claim that the Septuagint differs with the Masoretic because it has been tampered with by Christians to shoehorn Jesus’s Messiah-ship in there, but couldn’t the opposite also be true? Couldn’t it be that the Jews, who had been denying Jesus for 700 years already, shoehorned Jesus out of it? Was King James wrong to use the Masoretic? Should they have used the Septuagint instead? With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s, we finally have a control to compare these two texts.
…at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. – Deuteronomy 19:15
Let’s get started. I’m going to go through the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) in order, and compare the discrepant parts with the Septuagint (LXX) and the Masoretic Text found in the King James Version (KJV), which will be in these colors from now on. The discrepancies will be in bold. The online sources I use for each are linked above.
For convenience’s sake (mine), I’m going to go through this Dead Sea Scroll once, finding the discrepancies with the Masoretic, and then once finding the discrepancies with the Septuagint. That’s why the verses are in this order.
Dead Sea Scroll 4Q1 Genesis-Exodusa:
5 All the souls who came out of Jacob’s body were seventy five souls, and Joseph was in Egypt already. – Exodus 1 DSS
5 But Joseph was in Egypt. And all the souls of Jacob were seventy-five. – Exodus 1 LXX
5 And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already. – Exodus 1 KJV
The DSS and LXX both say 75, while the MT says 70. Hmmm… Paul also mentions this bit of history in the book of Acts. What does the New Testament, which was derived from the Latin Textus Receptus, say?
14 Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls. – Acts 7 KJV
3 x 20 + 15 = 75. Well, I’ll be! The King James Bible doesn’t even agree with itself! No wonder Jews have doubts about it. However, they should really have doubts about themselves, because the only one here saying 70 is their Masoretic text. The Septuagint is right on the money.
8 I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey; to the place of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Amorite, and the Hivite, the Gergashite, and the Jebusite. – Exodus 3 DSS
8 And I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them out of that land, and to bring them into a good and wide land, into a land flowing with milk and honey, into the place of the Chananites, and the Chettites, and Amorites, and Pherezites, and Gergesites, and Evites, and Jebusites. – Exodus 3 LXX
8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. – Exodus 3 KJV
The DSS and the LXX both include the Gergesites, but the KJV does not…
7 He said, “Put your hand inside his cloak again.”
He put his hand inside his cloak again, and when he took it out of his cloak, behold, it had turned again as his other flesh. – Exodus 4 DSS
7 And he said again, Put thy hand into thy bosom; and he put his hand into his bosom, and brought his hand out of his bosom, and it was again restored to the complexion of his flesh. – Exodus 4 LXX
7 And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh. – Exodus 4 KJV
Well, here it seems that the LXX and the MT agree, but not the DSS. The DSS doesn’t even make sense here. It clearly must be a typo. Perhaps the DSS is not the rock-solid codex we thought it was? We shall investigate that here as well.
13 The taskmasters were urgent saying, “Fulfill your work quota daily, as when there was straw given to you!” – Exodus 5 DSS
13 and the taskmasters hastened them, saying, Fulfil your regular daily tasks, even as when straw was given you. – Exodus 5 LXX
13 And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw. – Exodus 5 KJV
The DSS and LXX include the ‘given to you’ phrase, but it’s missing in the KJV.
8 I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, and I will give it to you for a heritage: I am Yahweh. – Exodus 6 DSS
8 And I will bring you into the land concerning which I stretched out my hand to give it to Abraam and Isaac and Jacob, and I will give it you for an inheritance: I the Lord. – Exodus 6 LXX
8 And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord. – Exodus 6 KJV
Again, the DSS differs with the other two, which agree.
Ok, now back to the top of the scroll to find the DSS-LXX discrepancies…
11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. They built storage cities for Pharaoh: Pithom and Raamses. – Exodus 1 DSS
11 And he set over them task-masters, who should afflict them in their works; and they built strong cities for Pharao, both Pitho, and Ramesses, and On, which is Heliopolis. – Exodus 1 LXX
11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. – Exodus 1 KJV
Hmm, the LXX has something the DSS and the MT don’t…
26 So he let him alone. Then she said, “You are a bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision. – Exodus 4 DSS
25 and Sepphora having taken a stone cut off the foreskin of her son, and fell at his feet and said, The blood of the circumcision of my son is staunched:
26 and he departed from him, because she said, The blood of the circumcision of my son is staunched. – Exodus 4 LXX
25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.
26 So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision. – Exodus 4 KJV
Hmm, here it seems the Septuagint was trying to hide the fact that Moses’s wife was not a fan of circumcision.
3 They said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to Yahweh, our God, lest he fall on us with pestilence, or with the sword.” – Exodus 5 DSS
3 And they say to him, The God of the Hebrews has called us to him: we will go therefore a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, lest at any time death or slaughter happen to us. – Exodus 5 LXX
3 And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword. – Exodus 5 KJV
Again, the Septuagint differs with the other two, apparently trying to downplay the violent nature of God.
16 No straw is given to your servants, and they tell us, ‘Make brick!’ and behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.” – Exodus 5 DSS
16 Straw is not given to thy servants, and they tell us to make brick; and behold thy servants have been scourged: thou wilt therefore injure thy people. – Exodus 5 LXX
16 There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people. – Exodus 5 KJV
Again, KJV and DSS agree, but the Septuagint differs.
20 Amram took Jochebed his father’s sister to himself as wife; and she bore him Aaron and Moses. The years of the life of Amram were one hundred thirty-seven years. – Exodus 6 DSS
20 And Ambram took to wife Jochabed the daughter of his father’s brother, and she bore to him both Aaron and Moses, and Mariam their sister: and the years of the life of Ambram were a hundred and thirty-two years. – Exodus 6 LXX
20 And Amram took him Jochebed his father’s sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years. – Exodus 6 KJV
Here, the Septuagint again differs with the others. I’ll refer you to the Wikipedia pages of the Amram and Jochebed controversy. The Septuagint also may have gotten Ambram’s lifespan wrong and added Miriam, although she was indeed Moses and Aaron’s sister according to all the texts.
This discrepancy may be a small thing, but I’d rather err on the side of inclusion:
19 Yahweh said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your rod, and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their ponds of water, that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’ ”
20 Moses and Aaron did so, as Yahweh commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. – Exodus 7 DSS
19 And the Lord said to Moses, Say to thy brother Aaron, Take thy rod in thy hand, and stretch forth thy hand over the waters of Egypt, and over their rivers, and over their canals, and over their ponds, and over all their standing water, and it shall become blood: and there was blood in all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and of stone.
20 and Moses and Aaron did so, as the Lord commanded them; and having lifted up with his rod, smote the water in the river before Pharao, and before his servants, and changed all the water in the river into blood.– Exodus 7 LXX
19 And the Lord spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.
20 And Moses and Aaron did so, as the Lord commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. – Exodus 7 KJV
Now, in Paleo-Hebrew, the original language of the Torah, there is no past or future tense, so I think this is perhaps a mistake in translation, because it just doesn’t make chronological sense to say there was blood in all the land of Egypt before Aaron smote the water with the staff. Was the translation error in the Greek, or the English translation? Let’s find out.
The ancient Greek for “and there was blood” in the Greek Septuagint is καὶ ἐγένετο αἷμα, which does denote the past tense, if you translate it in Strong’s. Therefore, the apparent translation error is in the Greek.
Ok, that does it for the first Dead Sea Scroll. As you can see, there is divergence all 3 ways. Let’s be methodical about it, though, shall we? Let’s give it a score. If a text differs with the other two, and the other two agree, I’ll subtract one from its score.
Well, it looks like there are discrepancies all three ways! Stay tuned as I blog about each Dead Sea Scroll individually. There are quite a few. This is going to take much longer than I thought.
Until next time,
Jason Stuermer Roberts