I've been reading through Romans and noticed Paul does the following:

Romans 11:8 quotes Isaiah 29:10 and Deuteronomy 29:4. The same sentiment is found also in Isaiah 6:9-10. But this is not a word for word quote. How is it that Paul not quoting word-for-word is acceptable? We wouldn't be okay with any modern preacher misquoting scripture when making a new point.

Romans 10:6-8 also quotes Deuteronomy 30:13 but does not quote verbatim and he uses descending into the abyss not over the sea.

Paul's main points I agree with, but the way he exegetically arrives at them often confuse and concern me, as I would be uncomfortable with any modern theologian doing the same with the Bible. I'm guessing I'm missing something here as to why NT writers could do hermaneutics different than how we do them today?

  • Deut. 29:4 Paul must of quoted from the Septuagint which was in existance at the time and which read; "The Lord God has given". Paul may have appreviated using only "God" which is found in Greek manuscripts of Roman 11:8. The Hebrew scriptures do not use the word God. Hope that somebody with knowledge of the various translations can help you. Apr 20, 2019 at 8:04
  • Such is extremely common - many "quotes" are paraphrases, or quotes from the LXX which ensures that we do not get an exact quote.
    – user25930
    Apr 20, 2019 at 11:49
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    Are you aware that the Old Testament is written in the Hebrew language, and the New Testament is written in Greek, so of course he can't quote it perfectly?
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 20, 2019 at 12:18
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    And moreover, that Jesus likely spoke Aramaic, but the Gospels are in Greek with just a few phrases given in the original language -- so the NT authors are generally more concerned with making the ideas accessible than knowing the very words? Unlike traditions where e.g. translating out of the Arabic means an illegitimate revelation, we're not a faith that gets hung up on being word-for-word, as long as we have Word for Word :) Apr 20, 2019 at 15:20
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    Why does Paul misquote the OT ? Because he lived in the Orient (as opposed to the Occident) centuries before (as opposed to centuries after) Jerome's Vulgate and his obsession with Hebraica veritas. A much better question would be why you think he misquotes the OT, to which the obvious response would be that you live in the Occident (rather than the Orient) centuries after (rather than centuries before) Jerome's Vulgate and his obsession with the Masoretic.
    – Lucian
    Apr 23, 2019 at 15:51

1 Answer 1


Lucian responded in a comment on your question with this:

Why does Paul misquote the OT? Because he lived in the Orient (as opposed to the Occident) centuries before (as opposed to centuries after) Jerome's Vulgate and his obsession with Hebraica veritas.

To expand on that:

Modern English Bibles tend to agree with Jerome's Hebraica veritas argument, and primarily use the Masoretic Text (supplementing it with the Septuagint). Where the two textual traditions disagree, modern English Bibles generally follow the Masoretic Text's reading.

Paul, the inspired New Testament authors, and Jesus himself chose instead to often follow the Septuagint's reading when it diverges from the Masoretic Text:

  • In Matthew 21:16, Jesus quotes Psalm 8:2 saying "Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have ordained praise". In the Septuagint, Psalm 8:2 also says "ordained praise". However the Masoretic Text says "ordained strength".
  • 1 Peter 4:18 quotes the Septuagint Proverbs 11:31 as "If the truly righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?". The Masoretic Text says, "If the righteous is repaid on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!"
  • Hebrews 11:21 quotes the Septuagint Genesis 47:31 with Jacob bowing in worship over the head of his staff, while the Masoretic Text has Jacob bowing over the head of his bed.
  • Hebrews 10:5-7 quotes the Septuagint Psalm 40:6-8 as "a body have you prepared for me", while the Masoretic Text reads as "you have given me an open ear".
  • Acts 13:41 quotes the Septuagint Habakkuk 1:5 starting with "Look, you scoffers", while the Masoretic Text starts with "Look among the nations".
  • Acts 7:42-43 quotes the Septuagint Amos 5:25-27 as "You took up the tent of Moloch and the star of your god Rephan", while the Masoretic Text reads as "You shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kiyyun your star-god".
  • Acts 8:32-33 quotes the Septuagint Isaiah 53:7-8 as "In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.", while the Masoretic Text reads as "By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living".
  • James 4:6 quotes the Septuagint Proverbs 3:34 as "opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble", while the Masoretic Text reads similarly but with different underlying word-concepts as "scorns the scornful but he gives grace to the lowly".

It is noteworthy that Jerome's confidence in the "Hebraica veritas" caused him to issue a challenge in Apology Against Rufinus, Book II, Section 34:

"And further, I give a challenge to my accuser. I have shown that many things are set down in the New Testament as coming from the older books, which are not to be found in the Septuagint; and I have pointed out that these exist in the Hebrew. Now let him show that there is anything in the New Testament which comes from the Septuagint but which is not found in the Hebrew, and our controversy is at an end."

As noted earlier with numerous examples, that challenge has been met - and yet the controversy is still not at an end, and the Masoretic Text is still held above the Septuagint in the West.

Further information and references available here.

  • Thinking on this later, how then can Jesus use the tense of the word "am" (Matthew 22:32) to rebuke the Saducees and at the same time be so open to the changing of meaning in quoting other texts?
    – YYCJB
    Jul 9, 2021 at 5:20
  • @emeth Wouldn’t the LXX which predates the Masoretic Text be more reliable? The Masoretic Text is about the end of the 5th century in terms of production and ended in the 10 century A.D. - the LXX goes back to 3rd century B.C.
    – Cork88
    Jun 5 at 1:31
  • @Cork88 Indeed - but such is a dangerous question, as which text is more reliable is a proxy argument for which canon is correct, Catholic or Protestant. If LXX is the more reliable text, then perhaps it is also more reliable on its table of contents (canon). And if LXX is correct on canon, then as John Calvin says in Antidote to Trent: Purgatory, prayers to Saints, and exorcisms become biblical. If one has decided beforehand that Purgatory, prayers to Saints, and exorcisms are not biblical, then one is pre-disposed to believe the LXX errs (on canon & reliability).
    – emeth
    Jun 5 at 15:53

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