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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?

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  • 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
  • 4
    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
  • 4
    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

3 Answers 3

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I am not an expert in textual criticism, so this response should be taken with a grain of salt.

People have been arguing over the issue of which is better: the LXX or the Masoretic. Lucian gave a good response by showing NT verses that closely align with the LXX. Not long ago I posted a response to a video by Creation Ministries International with Dr. Robert Carter in which he stated that the Masoretic text was superior to the LXX and referred to several articles on their website which showed this to be true. I saw the video through a link on the Facebook page Bible Digs Archeology & Biblical History. I made a few remarks favoring the LXX, which I've pasted below. What was surprising is that some of the Facebook members objected to my posts, saying they were off-topic. Nevertheless, Dr. Carter clearly denounced the LXX in the video and that had to be challenged. Here are the posts I made.

Here's an example of the Septuagint vs Masoretic Text

Matthew 21:16

and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF’?”

Psalm 8:2 Masoretic rendering

From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

8:2 Septuagint rendering

From out of the mouths of infants and ones nursing you ready praise; because of your enemies, to depose the enemy and the avenger.

The KJV translators
They believed the Septuagint was used exclusively by the early church and many of the church fathers. In essence, they said that if it was good enough for the early church and scholars, then it’s good enough for us. They identified the Septuagint as the “Translation of the Seventy.” The Hebrew text from which the Septuagint was translated is referred to as “the Original” or as “the Hebrew Original” by the KJV translators. You can read the excerpt from the translators’ introduction at www.Septuagint-LXX.com. It is enlightening.

Robert Carter refers to the many articles at www.creation.com that diminish the integrity/reliability of the LXX concerning the lifespan of individuals it records vs. the Masoretic text.

The LXX was the accepted text of the early church and many Jews. The Masoretic text is based upon an earlier Hebrew variant text, just as was the LXX upon another variant text. The Dead Sea Scrolls tend to align with the Masoretic text because the community that produced those scrolls was following a variant or variants of the original autograph, so citing the Dead Sea Scrolls as evidence that the Masoretic text is more faithful to the original than the LXX is a circular argument.

The LXX was relied upon by more than a million Alexandrian Jews, along with many Greek-speaking Jews throughout the Roman Empire. Likewise, New Testament writers, especially the authors of Hebrews, quoted directly from the LXX rather than the existing Hebrew variants. This shows that they trusted the LXX more than the Hebrew variants. It's clear that the author of Hebrews was exceptionally skilled in Greek (better than Paul) and that might be why he (and possibly co-authors) preferred the LXX. Nevertheless, the LXX was dominant among early Christians, both Jews and Gentiles. God knew this is the way it was going to be for several centuries.

If one reads the original introduction by the translators of the KJV, one will see that they referred to the LXX in producing the KJV. They did not ignore the significance that the early church depended on the LXX for centuries, at least until Jerome produced the Latin translation.

Jim Johnson responded to my post:

If the translators of the KJV referred to the LXX why do the ages of the fathers in Gen 11 match the Masoretic text?

I suggested that he read the original introduction to the KJV by the translators.

Here is a copy of the KJV translators' 1611 introductory remarks. They wrote and spelled in King James English, making it a bit difficult for the modern English reader to understand.

A photocopy is followed by a transcript of the KJV 1611 intro. They referred to the LXX as "Translation of the Seventie."

The translation of the Seventie dissenteth from the Originall in many places, neither doeth it come neere it, for perspicuitie, gratvitie, majestie; yet which of the Apostles did condemne it? Condemne it? Nay, they used it, (as it is apparent, and as Saint Jerome and most learned men doe confesse) which they would not have done, nor by their example of using it, so grace and commend it to the Church, if it had bene unworthy the appellation and name of the word of God. And whereas they urge for their second defence of their vilifying and abusing of the English Bibles, or some pieces thereof, which they meete with, for that heretikes (forsooth) were the Authours of the translations, (heretikes they call us by the same right that they call themselves Catholikes, both being wrong) wee marveile what divinitie taught them so. Wee are sure Tertullian was of another minde: Ex personis probamus fidem, an ex fide personas? Doe we trie mens faith by their persons? we should trie their persons by their faith. Also S. Augustine was of an other minde: for he lighting upon certaine rules made by Tychonius a Donatist, for the better understanding of the word, was not ashamed to make use of them, yea, to insert them into his owne booke, with giving commendation to them so farre foorth as they were worthy to be commended, as is to be seene in S. Augustines third booke De doctrinâ Christianâ. To be short, Origen, and the whole Church of God for certain hundred yeeres, were of an other minde: for they were so farre from treading under foote, (much more from burning) the Translation of Aquila a Proselite, that is, one that had turned Jew; of Symmachus, and Theodotion, both Ebionites, that is, most vile heretikes, that they joyned them together with the Hebrew Originall, and the Translation of the Seventie (as hath bene before signified out of Epiphanius) and set them forth openly to be considered of and perused by all. But we weary the unlearned, who need not know so much, and trouble the learned, who know it already."

It was because of the LXX's divergences from the "Hebrew Originall" that they decided to follow the Masoretic MS. Maybe someone can explain why the KJV translators decided they preferred the "Hebrew Originall" rather than the LXX, which they admit was used by the apostles and the apostolike[sic], including most of the early church fathers. The translators even admit that the "holy Ghost" allowed the LXX to be published within the church:

It is certaine, that the Translation was not so sound and so perfect, but that it needed in many places correction; and who had bene so sufficient for this worke as the Apostles or Apostolike men? Yet it seemed good to the holy Ghost and to them, to take that which they found, (the same being for the greatest part true and sufficient) rather then by making a new, in that new world and greene age of the Church, to expose themselves to many exceptions and cavillations, as though they made a Translation to serve their owne turne, and therefore bearing witnesse to themselves, their witnesse not to be regarded. This may be supposed to bee some cause, why the Translation of the Seventie was allowed to passe for currant. Notwithstanding, though it was commended generally, yet it did not fully content the learned, no not of the Jewes. For not long after Christ, Aquila fell in hand with a new Translation, and after him Theodotion, and after him Symmachus: yea, there was a fift and a sixt edition the Authours wherof were not knowen. These with the Seventie made up the Hexapla, and were worthily and to great purpose compiled together by Origen.

There are textual critics for and against the LXX throughout the later centuries up to and after the KJV was published. The most important witness for the LXX is the Book of the Hebrews. However, even within the gospels, there are points that show it was well-used by Jews, Judaic and Christian.

For instance, consider the following comparison of the Septuagint vs Masoretic Text:

Matthew 21:16

and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF’?”

Psalm 8:2 Masoretic

From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

Psalm 8:2 Septuagint

From out of the mouths of infants and ones nursing you ready praise; because of your enemies, to depose the enemy and the avenger.
Clearly, even Matthew sometimes preferred the LXX rendering.

The Eastern Churches still use the Septuagint, a body of believers that bears the brunt of persecution by Muslim extremists today.

It is clear that even Paul quoted from the LXX. By reading his quotes and comparing them to the LXX vs the Masoretic MS, one can determine that Paul was confident that the LXX embodied the authority of scripture.

The KJV translators refer to the many places in which the LXX needed correction. They do not detail the “many places,” but some of the corrections were orthographic, that is spelling variations, while others didn’t follow the Masoretic text, and in this case, it was circular reasoning, which goes something like this: “The LXX disagrees with the Masoretic text in many places, therefore the LXX is in error.” That could easily be turned around: “The Masoretic text disagrees with the LXX (and the Samaritan Torah) in many places; therefore the Masoretic text is in error. Of course, the Samaritan Torah covers the ages of each patriarch and their offspring.

Michael Rydelnik wrote of this controversy in his books and commented on it in his sermons. He has shown that the LXX and the Samaritan Torah are in better agreement with each other than with the Masoretic. He pointed out that the Masoretic sometimes watered-down Messianic prophecies so they were no longer recognizable as Messianic because Maimonides and other Judaic compilers of the Masoretic MS from the second to ninth centuries CE prejudicially favored readings that diminished the messianic character of certain scriptures, possibly rewriting some of them apart from any ancient manuscript.

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  • Very wonderful Post. Can I have Sources to read more on them ? Nov 25, 2022 at 12:42
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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.

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  • 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, 2022 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, 2022 at 15:53
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As has often been said by others, the NT authors do not quote verses. They quote a context—expanding the understanding out to surrounding paragraphs, chapters, or even the entire book itself. The NT edition that does the best job of showing this is the UBS text. The UBS text shows where there are quotations from the LXX. But it goes a step further. It gives bold weight to the words that mirror the LXX text. And, as you read through, you begin to realize that the NT authors are pretty flexible in their citation of the OT. Sometimes they cite fairly close to the LXX. Other times they cite very flexibly.

The fact that the NT authors cite contexts rather than words is difficult for us today since we're used to chapters (which didn't exist till the 1200s) and verses (which didn't exist until the 1500s). So, when we approach citations from the OT, it takes some humility to recognize that the problem is not as much with the NT author citing, as us, who are not used to his method of citation.

There are times that Paul (for example) will cite the LXX, almost seeming to give preference to it over the MT. But the question we need to ask is why. Why do the NT authors cite the LXX? It is going beyond the evidence we have to conclude that the LXX is superior to the Hebrew text. For many groups of Jewish peoples, the greek was the only bible they had access to. So, Paul cites from the LXX. But, most likely, he does so not because the LXX is better than the Hebrew. He does so because it was the only bible they had.

Others (above) have given examples of Paul's (supposedly preferential) citation of the LXX. Let's look at an example of the opposite. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes:

τότε γενήσεται ὁ λόγος ὁ γεγραμμένος, Κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος. (1 Cor. 15:54 UBS5-T)

Then the statement that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory.

It's a well-known verse. But it has very little correspondence with the LXX. Here's the verse in the LXX:

κατέπιεν ὁ θάνατος ἰσχύσας (Is. 25:8 LXXS-T)

After death conquered, it consumed.

The LXX here is completely unintelligible here. It has almost no correspondence to the source. In Hebrew, we read:

בִּלַּ֤ע הַמָּ֙וֶת֙ לָנֶ֔צַח (Is. 25:8 HMT-W4)

he swallowed up death forever.

The LXX here, in the standard text, is nonsensical, making death the subject instead of “he.” It is possible that Paul is quoting בלע as a Pual (like the Syriac, ܘܢܬܒܠܥ݂). But it’s more likely that he’s quoting the Hebrew more loosely to fit his audience. He’s definitely not quoting the LXX here. However, it may be the case that he’s quoting the Aramaic/Syriac, since he both uses a passive (ܘܢܬܒܠܥ݂), and he translates נֵצַח as ⲛⲓⲕⲟⲥ.

Summary to the first question: NT authors (esp. Paul) cite smaller statements not as verses, but instead as windows to the greater context in which they were originally written.

(all translations above are my own)


You do, however, introduce another question that is worthy of chewing on. How should we today cite the bible? We have the tradition (be it a blessing or curse) of verses and chapters. You'll find a lot of flexibility out there in how, especially, preachers address a text. If you're writing, you have the luxury of pouring out all the exegetical, hermeneutical, and text-critical details you want. When you're preaching you have the constraints both of time and listener attention. For my own part, I quote several verses. Then I give the context. Then I apply the text to my own people.

The key, as you mention, though is to not misrepresent the biblical authors (Paul, in this example.)

The final difficulty/challenge in all this context is the fact that we modern preachers are not apostles. I can only make connections that are already written. The NT authors can fill in gaps and connect dots that I am not able to. For example, what preacher today, would have been able to conclude that "Out of Egypt I called my son" (Matt 2:13-15) was speaking about Jesus? But the NT authors make these connections quite often. For that is what it looks like to be an Apostle guided by the Holy Spirit.

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