The NT leans very heavily on Habakkuk 2:4 and it is clear that it is not looking at the Hebrew, which reads like this:

[Rom 1:17 NKJV] (17) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

[Gal 3:11 NKJV] (11) But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith."

[Heb 10:38 NKJV] (38) Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him."

Here is the Masoretic Hebrew based Habakkuk:

[Hab 2:4 NKJV] (4) "Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.

So it is clear to me that the NT authors were working from the Greek.

But there are also key differences between the NT Greek and the LXXs that I have. There is the matter of word order in Hebrews 10:38 but much more importantly is the fact that Habakkuk has μου after πίστεώς.

[Hab 2:4 LXX] ἐὰν ὑποστείληται οὐκ εὐδοκεῗ ἡ ψυχή μου ἐν αὐτῷ ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεώς μου ζήσεται

[Hab 2:4 Brenton] If he should draw back, my soul has no pleasure in him: but the just shall live by my faith.

If I remove ἐκ πίστεώς μου I get "...but the just shall live."

What does that clause add? Does it say that "...the just shall live by my faith"? Or is it, "...the just owing to my faith shall live"?


I also posted this here:


  • 'Live by faith' and 'live by his faith' mean the same thing, but with a slight difference of emphasis. One can only live by one's own faith, not another's. Brenton translated from the Vaticanus which may be a variant. The Hebrew original says 'his'.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 10:03
  • 1
    The Romanian translation (among others ?) seems to relate the pronoun my/mine to the noun righteous, and interpret the passage as Messianic, especially in light of the preceding verse; others seem to render it as a dative, i.e., live unto Me.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 10:12
  • @NigelJ Since we're looking at the Greek, not the Hebrew, it isn't "by" (DIA) but rather "originating from" (EX) or some other EX type.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 20:44
  • @Ruminator I don't accept your premise (that the apostolic authors were influenced by the Septuagint). It is the Hebrew that matters. And the epistle references agree with the Hebrew.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 21:19
  • @NigelJ Well then it is truly remarkable that they coincidentally/miraculously use the EX construction as well. So I guess it's a contradiction? blueletterbible.org/nkjv/rom/1/17/t_conc_1047017
    – Ruminator
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 21:49

3 Answers 3


The dispute

It's important to remember that we are talking about differences that boil down to a single yod or vav, acting as a pronomial suffix:

אמונתי (my faith)

אמונתו (his faith)

אמונת (faith)

There is no difference between "faith" and "faithfulness" in Hebrew, the same word means all these concepts as well as "trust", "reliance", so it is up to the translator to select which word to use in the target language, and this will be influenced by the translator's theology and interpretive tradition.

Now we know that the LXX was translated from Hebrew, and the question is whether those copies had a yod, vav, or no ending. And we also know that our current copies of the MT have a vav, so the question is whether our current copy of the MT is wrong, or whether the (earlier) copies of Hebrew that the LXX were translated from were wrong, or perhaps they are both wrong.

Ultimately the question is unanswerable, but we can at least cite some evidence and also dispell some myths about these textual issues.

Textual issues

The first myth is the notion that the MT is "the" Hebrew and that any translation must be a translation of the MT, rather than a translation of some pre-MT Hebrew text.

Such a view is no longer tenable after Dead Sea Scrolls were found with Hebrew copies in agreement with the Old Greek translations rather than the MT in many (but not all) cases.

The discovery of different sectarian versions of the same Biblical books in Palestine should forever put to rest the idea that the MT is "the" Hebrew or that there is a single Hebrew version of any book of the Old Testament, just as it would be ludicrous to think that there is a single Greek copy of any book in the New Testament. There are different textual traditions in both Greek and Hebrew, with scribal errors and corruptions in all textual traditions and all languages.

The second myth is that when a scripture is cited in the NT that disagrees with the MT but agrees with the LXX, that author "must have used the Greek rather than Hebrew". Indeed, there is no evidence that the MT even existed when the NT was written but there were Hebrew copies circulating in Palestine. In particular, Paul was a pharisee who spent much of his life studying the Hebrew scriptures, he was just studying much earlier versions of these scriptures than what is handed down to us in the Leningrad codex, and it is much more likely that his copies did not have the vav at the end than that he was intentionally ignoring what his Hebrew copies said and decided to quote a bad translation instead.

First evidence: Missing Vavs and Yods in Habbakuk

Onto Habbakuk, there is strong evidence that the MT introduced corruptions not present in those copies that the LXX and other witnesses attest to. See, e.g. Tracing the Pre-Masoretic Text of the Book of Habbakuk, especially the discussion of verse 2.5, where it is argued that the MT's היין ("wine") is an error and should be הון ("wealth, power, fortune") which also had the altnerate spelling הין, or in Habbakuk 1.4 where ַבגּוִֹים is a scribal error in the MT and should be replaced with בוגדים (an extra vav) to bring it in line with the LXX as well as other translation witnesses. Thus in two instances the MT added or dropped the notorious vavs and yods.

In fact, dealing with the vavs and yods during the repeated copying was so error prone that various processes of checksums were later introduced in order to try to avoid the chronic issue of dropped/added vavs and yods. However we know that these types of checksums were not being used at the time of Christ since they are not present in the Dead Sea scrolls. Thus these safeguards were only added much later to the MT, long after there was much opportunity for vav/yod mutations in the repeated process of copying for all Hebrew textual streams.

Second evidence: Other witnesses

Let's look at available other witnesses:

  • Dead Sea scrolls

the phrase is not present (only fragments of two words were (yasherah nefesh) found)

  • Vulgate (late 4th century translation from Hebrew)
 justus autem in fide sua vivet.
 but the just will life by *his faith*
 But the righteous man shall live by *faith*.
  • Targum of Minor prophets[AT] (Aramaic translation)
 But the righteous shall live by the *truth*

Textual conclusion

So it looks like there are two textual streams, the MT and Vulgate which are based on Hebrew copies that have the vav, and the LXX and Syriac Peshitta, which do not. The targum is an intepretative translation rather than a literal one, and does more to elucidate rabbinical thinking about a passage in this case -- clearly the rabbis wanted to steer the reader away from any notions of "faith" entirely.

Interpretative conclusion

Obviously it's up to the reader to decide, but in my opinion older texts should be trusted more than later texts, so without stronger evidence to the contrary, I would assume the Hebrew copies that the LXX bear witness to are more accurate than the (much later) Hebrew copy that the Leningrad Codex bears witness to, and would thus say the balance of evidence points to the vav being added in the MT. However, this has no effect on theology or meaning. What would have an effect is an interpreters choice to use faithfulness rather than faith, which is no longer a textual question, as the same Hebrew word is used for both. Rather this is an interpretive question, and it depends on whether you believe the key issue is to wait, as per verse 3:

For there is yet a vision for the appointed time; it will give witness to the end, and it will not lie. If it tarries, wait for it, for it will surely come and not delay. (LEB)

Thus if verse 4 is a reference to those who choose to wait versus those who do not, a better case is made for faithfulness, in the sense of a bride being faithful by waiting for her groom. But if the meaning of verse 4 is less dependent on verse 3, but is a general principle, then "faith" is a better translation. In both cases, the meaning is faith, in the sense that the faithful bride who waits does so because of her faith that the Promise will arrive.

[AT]: Cathcart, K. J., McNamara, M., & Maher, M. (1990). Editors’ Foreword. In K. J. Cathcart, M. Maher, & M. McNamara (Eds.), K. J. Cathcart & R. P. Gordon (Trans.), The Aramaic Bible: The Targum of the Minor Prophets (Vol. 14, Hab 2:4). Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.

  • Thank you very much Robert for this answer. We are dealing with hopelessly scrambled eggs, in my view, but you've helped a lot in how we might think about the textual issues.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 22:40
  • 1
    @Ruminator It does require being a bit of a detective. But Vad/yod problems are kinda easy to diagnose compared to some of the other issues, e.g. when translating Job and there are serious debates about what words even mean.
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 22:53
  • Does the Hebrew has "his" in the phrase "his faith" as translated?
    – Michael16
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 15:26

The main difference between the the Hebrew of Hab 2:4 and the LXX translation is the pronoun:


וְצַדִּ֖יק בֶּאֱמוּנָתֹ֥ו יִחְיֶֽה׃ = the just shall live by his faithfulness


ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεώς μου ζήσεται = the just shall live by my [= God's] faithfulness

In the three occasions when this is quoted in the NT the text is changed:

  • Rom 1:17 - Ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται. = the just shall live by faithfulness
  • Gal 3:11 - same as above
  • Heb 10:38 - ὁ δὲ δίκαιός μου ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται = but my righteous one shall live by faithfulness

We can observe several things about the way this is quoted in the NT:

  1. The NT Bible writers usually felt free to "adjust" the text of the OT to better suit their purpose. That is, we rarely find a true quote but usually a slight paraphrase.
  2. The Habakkuk text says, "his faithfulness" while the LXX says "my faithfulness". Not one of the NT versions includes this "his" or "my".

Linguistically, the difference is significant. Theologically and soteriologically, the difference is much less than it appears.

  • If we accept the literal Hebrew text ("his faithfulness"), then it says that the just shall live by trusting in the provisions of God. Such a trust is necessarily grounded in the confidence we have that God will provide.
  • If we accept the literal LXX text (my/God's faithfulness) we arrive at almost the same meaning! [This is a regular phrase in the NT, Rom 3:22, 26, Gal 2:16, 3:22, Rev 14:12, where we meet πίστεως Ἰησοῦ = faithfulness of Jesus.]

Therefore, given Paul's erudition, I cannot believe he was ignorant of these subtleties and was inspired to write what he did my omitting the pronoun entirely which retains the same meaning: "the just shall live by faithfulness".

The implication is that the just live by their faith in the faithfulness of God.

  • I understand your idea. However, I think it is a more complex matter. Please see the responses here for reference: ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=5202
    – Ruminator
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 17:17
  • None of the answers offered any explanation - they only quoted some earth church Fathers who used the text highly interpretativly. Is there something I am missing?
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 3:33
  • I think it is too early to tell...
    – Ruminator
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 3:34

Doesn't Matter

The difference (my/his) doesn't matter. If the LXX translates "shall live by my faith" we are to understand that phrase as objective genitive: faith in me. The source text never has to be identical as the quotations are not made by computers but are often paraphrase and modified. If a text says his faith, it is talking to man's own faith as in Rom 4:5, the genitive pronoun is not necessary.

The Targum paraphrase: "the righteous shall live by the truth" is also not wrong. Because the Hebrew word be·’ĕ·mū·nāh for faith can be translated as truth.

Psalm 33:4 HEB: וְכָל־ מַ֝עֲשֵׂ֗הוּ בֶּאֱמוּנָֽה׃
NAS: His work is [done] in faithfulness.
KJV: and all his works [are done] in truth

  • 2Chr 19:9 (RV) Thus shall ye do in the fear of the LORD, faithfully, and with a perfect heart.

  • LXX (Brenton) Thus shall ye do in the fear of the Lord, in truth and with a perfect heart ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ἐν πλήρει καρδίᾳ

  • AMBL lexicon G225 ἀλήθεια [in LXX chiefly for H571 אֶמֶת (on which, v. Cremer, 627 f.), H530 אֱמוּנָה;]

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