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Hebrews 10:5-7 contains a quotation from Psalm 40 from the Septuagint that greatly varies from Masoretic version that is present in our bibles today:

“So when he came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me. “Whole burnt offerings and sin-offerings you took no delight in. “Then I said, ‘Here I am: I have come – it is written of me in the scroll of the book – to do your will, O God.’”” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:5-7‬ ‭NET‬‬

Based on the writing in Hebrews, it is commonly asserted that the author was very skilled in Greek and highly intellectual - so why the use of the Septuagint that greatly varies from the MT? Especially since the author was writing to Jewish people and knew their Tanakh well - why not utilise the MT to a Jewish audience?

I would also like to know whether there was a finalised version of the MT accessible at this time that the Hebrew writer could have used, or was the Septuagint the only accessible translation available to the writer?

And lastly, (if possible), what implications does this varied quotation have on the reliability of the NT writers and their use of Old Testament scripture?

[Not to be confused with this question about the source of the Jesus saying.]

(Also not to be confused with this question as, whilst similar, my question more focuses on the reasoning behind the writer of Hebrews choice and the theological implications behind their selection of the LXX.)

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  • Septuagint is better than Mesoretic Text. LXX is less corrupted or more preserved.
    – Michael16
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 3:23
  • @Michael16 the question is somewhat similar and helpful, but mine is more focused on the writer of hebrews and the implications of their selection of the LXX reading over the MT. Thanks anyway though!
    – ellied
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 3:47
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    @Michael16 actually that’s not entirely true - the NT writers also used the MT 20% of the time aswell.
    – ellied
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 3:56
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    Don't forget the anachronism here - the LXX is a thousand years older than our MT texts, and so we shouldn't necessarily assume that NT authors Hebrew texts' were always closer to the MT than the LXX in terms of content, though this is usually the case. I agree with closing this question as most of it is duplication of an issue already discussed at great length on the masoretic-text tag. Happy to reopen if it can be scoped back down to just this specific text.
    – Steve can help
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 8:33
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    Found a great article on this here: "The Hebrew texts recovered from the Dead Sea collection demonstrate roughly a 60% agreement with the MT. Nevertheless, there are large number of Hebrew texts that better align with other traditions (LXX, Syriac, Samaritan). Agreement with the LXX is far less than with the MT, at roughly 5% of variants matching. In other words, the MT is represented the vast majority of instances which bolsters the Jewish claim that the MT is indeed rooted from an ancient source."
    – Steve can help
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 8:44

1 Answer 1

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This question has been asked several times before in various ways. Let me set out the problem again. When the NT writers quote the OT, their numerous quotations can be grouped under various headings:

  • verbatim quote from the Hebrew MT
  • verbatim quotation from the LXX
  • a reasonable paraphrase of one of these
  • a midrash of both the Hebrew and the LXX
  • an apparent quotation from a Hebrew source which has been lost
  • a quotation that is very difficult to trace

Thus, there is a great variety (and shades) of quotations from the OT. Therefore, we should not be surprised that the NT wording differs from the OT text we now have - there are many possible explanations for this. All we can know is whatever the NT writers wrote, it was divinely inspired material.

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  • Appreciate your acknowledgement that NT writers could write midrash on the OT, +1. I've long been puzzled why some find this idea problematic. Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 22:43

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