The ancient Hebrew and Greek versions of Psalms 40:6 are quite different. The Hebrew version says 'my ears you have opened' whilst the Greek LXX has 'a body you restored to me'. Furthermore in Hebrews the LXX is quoted as part of an argument that God never intended the sacrifices of animals to atone eternally for any sins but that this was predicted to be taken on by the Messiah 'who had a body prepared for him', for this final atonement.

My question is how did the LXX possibly interpret the Hebrew text in this way?

Hebrew Based Translation

6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire— but my ears you have opened— burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. 7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll. (The New International Version. (2011). (Ps 40:6–7). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.)

Greek Based Translation in the LXX

7* You did not want sacrifice and offering, but a body you restored to me. You did not ask for whole burnt offering, and an offering concerning sin. 8* Then I said, “Behold, I have arrived. In the scroll of the book it has been written concerning me. (Brannan, R., Penner, K. M., Loken, I., Aubrey, M., & Hoogendyk, I. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Septuagint (Ps 39:7–8). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.)

Note: I did do some research and found out that there is evidence to support ancient Rabbinical application of this Psalm to the Messiah. This fact might help explain the LXX version but it does not seem obvious by any means.

Gen. 4:25. The language of Eve at the birth of Seth: ‘another seed,’ is explained as meaning ‘seed which comes from another place,’ and referred to the Messiah in Ber. R. 23 (ed. Warsh. p. 45 b, lines 8, 7 from the bottom). The same explanation occurs twice in the Midrash on Ruth 4:19 (in the genealogy of David, ed Warsh. p. 46 b), the second time in connection with Ps. 40:8 (‘in the volume of the book it is written of me’—bim’gillath sepher—Ruth belonging to the class מגלת). (Edersheim, A. (1896). The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Vol. 2, p. 711). APPENDIX 9 LIST OF OLD TESTAMENT PASSAGES MESSIANICALLY APPLIED IN ANCIENT RABBINIC WRITINGS)

  • 2
    I'm not sure the messianic use of the LXX in the first century AD-onward is really relevant to understanding why the LXX differs from the Hebrew. At the very least, that should be a separate question (for Christianity.SE?).
    – user2910
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 15:51
  • 1
    @MarkEdward According to his reputation, I suspect that Mike is familiar with the type of questions here. Commented May 26, 2014 at 19:06
  • @PaulVargas I agree with Mark on this one - but answers are free to take a number of perspectives, including disagreeing with the source cited.
    – Dan
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 1:28
  • 1
    FYI: My reason for providing some partial research is not to direct the answer to a predetermined acceptable one, but to simply state an observation that may or may not be included in an answer. It is simply to pass on something I found out that might, or may not be considered relevant.
    – Mike
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 6:53

10 Answers 10


The Idea in Brief

The Hebrew verb to pierce (כָּרָה = H3738) in Psalm 40:6 is the same triliteral root for the Hebrew verb to prepare (כָּרָה = H3739). For example, this second verb (כָּרָה = H3739) appears translated in 2 Ki 6:23 as "prepared." In other words, both verbs have the exact same triliteral root, but have different meanings. The LXX translators had thus understood the verb in this verse not as H3738 ("pierced"), but as H3739 ("prepared").

Additionally the LXX translators understood the word "ears" as metonymy for obedience. Thus the proper rendering in Hebrew would be that the Lord prepared the ears of David for obedience to the Lord. In contradistinction, the ears of King Saul were unprepared:

1 Sam 15:22 (NASB)
22 Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.

In the passage of Psalm 40:6, the LXX translators did not limit the idea to the unstopping or unclogging of the ears of David, which would have been the translation of (כָּרָה = H3738), which means to pierce (or to dig into, as if unstopping of unclogging the ears). The LXX translators went farther: they understood that the Lord had prepared (כָּרָה = H3739) the ears of David in order for him to hear the voice of the Lord, and thus to obey. If and when the ears obey, then the whole person follows, and in this regard King David as a person (his whole body) was a type of living sacrifice to the Lord.


First, many modern commentaries understand the context here to refer to the piercing of the ear and/or lobe(s), and in this regard make reference to Ex 21:6 and Deut 15:17, where the ear (singular) is pierced on the doorpost. Keil and Delitzsch (1996), however, indicate that Biblical Hebrew does not support such an interpretation. Instead, Keil and Delitzsch argue that the correct understanding of this verse has to do with the obedience enabled by the Lord, which is consistent with the contrast found 1 Sam 15:22. This verse references the disobedience of King Saul, whose ears were not "listening" -

1 Sam 15:22 (NASB)
22 Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.

Second, The NETS (New English Translation) of the LXX for the Book of Psalms relies on the Greek edition of Alfred Rahlfs (1931), Psalmi cum Odis (Septuaginta: Vetus Testamentum Graecum Auctoritate Academiae Litterarum Gottingensis editum X), Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1967. According to the preface of the NETS translation, the version from Rahlfs is the most reliable text of the Psalms in Greek extant. The translation in English therefore appears as follows:

Psalm 39:7(6) (NETS)
7(6) Sacrifice and offering you did not want,
but ears you fashioned for me.
Whole burnt offering and one for sin
you did not request.

NOTE: LXX Psalm 39:7(6) = Psalm 40:6 of the Masoretic Text

According to apparatus criticus of Rahlfs' Septuaginta (upon which the NETS translation was based), the following appears:

enter image description here

According to this citation, Rahlfs relied on the text rendering of ὠτία, which (according to the apparatus criticus) had stemmed from the Psalterium Gallicanum (as noted by the abbreviation "Ga"), which is the Latin translation of the Psalms by Jerome in the Fourth Century. That is, Jerome had relied on the Greek of the Hexapla, which Origen of Alexandria had compiled in the Third Century. In this regard, the Greek of the Hexapla predated the Codex Vaticanus (c. Fourth Cent.), Codex Sinaiticus (c. Fourth Cent.), and Codex Alexandrinus (c. Fifth Cent.), upon which the variant readings of this verse are based. In other words, Rahlfs leaned more toward the earliest appearance of this verse in Greek of the Hexapla, which reflected the reading of "ears" (ὠτία) instead of "body" (σῶμα).

However, when we look at other writings of Origen who had compiled the Hexapla (which no longer exists in its complete original), we see other nuances, which warrant more attention. That is, Origen wrote his Commentary on the Epistle of Romans, which still exists, and in this commentary he mentions the context of Psalm 40:6 in terms not of "ears," but of "body." In his commentary of Romans 12:1, which speaks of the daily sacrifice of the body in devotion to the Lord, Origen writes the following (with emphases added).

Please click the image to enlarge.

enter image description here

Origen mentions neither "ears" nor "body," but appears to take Psalm 40:6 in the same way that Keil and Delitzsch understand the Psalm: that is, the "ears" would be metonymy for obedience, and thus the image of the "body" as the "prepared" sacrifice.

In summary, what we may infer from this data is that the proto-Hebrew Text had indeed mentioned the "ears" (as Origen made clear in his Hexapla), however, the key verb in the verse seems to have more to do with H3739 ("prepared") than with H3738 ("pierced"), and therefore the "ears" would be metonymy for obedience, which is what the LXX translation and Christian New Testament indicate.


The apparent difference of translation between the LXX and the Masoretic Text of Psalm 40:6 may leave doubts as to whether or not the proto-Hebrew Text had ever mentioned "ears," since the word "body" is instead mentioned by three very reliable LXX codices (Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, and Codex Alexandrinus). However, one significant key to understanding this passage comes from Origen of Alexandria. That is, on the one hand, he is the earliest witness extant who indicates in his Hexapla that the proto-Hebrew texts had used the word "ears" and not "body." On the other hand, Origen interprets the meaning of the verse to say the "body" is "prepared" (as a living sacrifice), which is the meaning found in the three principal codices of the LXX and the Christian New Testament (see Heb 10:5).

In conclusion, while Origen had a reputation for interpreting Scripture in very wide brush-strokes, in this particular instance he appears to bridge the gap between the literal Hebrew Text reading ("ears"), and the amplified translation of the LXX ("body") as found in the major codices of the LXX. (As already noted this view finds support with Keil and Delitzsch.) In other words, Origen had recognized the literal text rendering of "ears" (per the Hexapla), but he also had understood the triliteral root כָּרָה meaning not to pierce (כָּרָה = H3738), but to prepare (כָּרָה = H3739). Because of this nuance of the Hebrew verb, Origen seems to indicate (like Keil and Delitzsch) that "ears" in the Hebrew Text would be metonymy for obedience, which therefore appears as "body" in the three principal codices of the LXX and in the Christian New Testament as well.


As a newbie, I don't have sufficient reputation to comment directly on the above answers: so this response should best be considered as a partial answer to one aspect of the question. How could 'ears' come to be written as 'body?' Whilst I can understand that there are reasonable grounds for adopting a wider, more generalised, interpretation of 'ears,' I still find myself questioning whether a scribe or interpreter would deliberately alter the text in this way.

But it seems to me that there is a potentially very simple explanation as to how "ears" (ωτια), if written in uncial characters, could have been misread as "body" (cωμα): - astigmatism. For me, this problem is easily solved using specs: but for the ancient scribes it was not; and was likely to become steadily worse until they could no longer reliably continue their work.

Unlike the general blurriness caused when the eye is unable to focus due to short or long-sightedness, astigmatism has a tendency to create a blurred double image in the affected eye. The direction and distance between the two images depends upon the nature of the distortion in the eye itself, and need not be the same for both eyes. Potentially, therefore, the brain may be presented with up to 4 images of the same detail, and has the problem of achieving a binocular lock between at least one of the images from each eye when attempting to read a word, thereby reducing the apparent number of superimposed images to two or three. But the resultant image is blurred, generally made worse by poor near vision. Light and dark lines running in some directions tend to get emphasised at the expense of others, so that some letters or parts of letters become almost invisible whilst others may still appear quite distinct; and their appearance can change depending upon which specific letter you focus on and how hard you try. So one tends to recognise the general word shape rather than seeing all the detail.

But word recognition does not simply depend on shape. To an even greater extent, what we see as we scan a word can be influenced by what we expect to see. The example below is a well-known spoof: but it illustrates my point...

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.


It is not true to say that only the first and last letters matter; though it does seem that they are very important. But so is context and meaning. Most readers of the above will find the correct word coming into their minds before they have fully realised just how badly it is spelt, because a large part of the normal word recognition process is unconscious and context-dependent.

In my own case, the horizontal displacement of images is greater than the vertical; so when attempting to read without my glasses, I tend to see two blurry images of the word; one displaced sideways from the other by between half and one letter's width. This can easily lead to errors. For example, just the other day I glanced at a brochure when not wearing my glasses and misread 'courageous' as 'outrageous.' In that case, the word did not fit the context; and a closer look revealed my error. But, once I have read a word incorrectly it is much more difficult to 'see' it as anything else..

My initial thought on comparing ωτια and σωμα was that with a horizontal astigmatism such as mine the uncial form of ω might easily be read as 'cω'. However, the biggest difference when reading Uncial Greek is the lack of word spacings. I had assumed this would just make it more difficult to recognise where a word began or ended. But when I included the surrounding words I found that in this particular case the Greek text conspires to increase the risk of error; because the preceding word ends with sigma. Even a mild astigmatism makes it very easy for the reader to lose their place when attempting to decipher a line of letters, making it possible for them to think that there are two sigmas rather than one, as illustrated below:

enter image description here

To a Hebrew reader, the concept of prepared or open ears signifying a readiness to hear and obey makes instinctive sense because in Hebrew 'hear' and 'obey' share the same stem. ('He that has ears to hear, let him hear.') But to a non-Hebrew Christian reader this sounds rather odd; whereas the concept of a body prepared by God for his incarnate Son makes perfect sense. So it seems to me entirely possible that a Christian scribe (or a Greek-speaking messianic Jew) on seeing this little word – seemingly beginning with 'cω' and ending with 'α' - could, in all good faith, have misread this as 'cωμα', resulting in a textual variant of the original Septuagint.

But if this were the work of a Christian scribe, then we are looking at a pretty small window of opportunity, as the book of Hebrews is generally dated around 63-64AD and not later than the destruction of the temple in 70AD. The expansion of the church into the Gentile world did not begin till around 40AD. And, given that the church was still in its very early stages of growth at this time and living in expectation of the imminent return of Christ, how likely is it that anyone would have felt it necessary to engage in the extremely laborious task of scribing additional copies of the entire Septuagint?

Possibly, they might have reproduced extracts covering key doctrinal themes: but is there any evidence of this? Or could the author of Hebrews have been the one who misread the text? In either of these two cases it could perhaps be the wide circulation of Hebrews that ultimately persuaded others to adopt this rendering of the text.

Could such an error have occurred somewhere in the Greek-speaking world before Jesus? Possibly. Some Greek-speaking Jewish communities may have been less familiar with the Hebrew identification of hearing and obedience and more open to Messianic perspectives. As has been noted, some Jewish sources had previously acknowledged the potential messianic significance of this psalm.

Note, however that, although the above theory offers a particularly plausible explanation as to how ωτια might be misread as σωμα, it does not so readily explain how the opposite transition could occur. This is because, whereas astigmatic blurring of 'TI' can produce something akin to an uncial 'M', it is more difficult for a blurred 'M' to produce a 'T.' Misinterpretation is still possible, as the scrambled text example illustrates: but it seems less likely. So, despite my personal preference for 'body,' I would have to say that this particular hypothesis tends to favour 'ears.'


To get to the root, you need to examine the original manuscripts and compare them jot and tittle.

Do not compare translations of translations (Brenton's) - what does the LXX say, and are there textual variants there. The source I'm using here is BlueLetterBible.com

First Psalm 40:6 (LXX 39:7a)

θυσίαν καὶ προσφορὰν οὐκ ἠθέλησας ὠτία δὲ κατηρτίσω μοι

Second Hebrews 10:5b

θυσίαν καὶ προσφορὰν οὐκ ἠθέλησας σῶμα δὲ κατηρτίσω μοι

There is an immediately noticeable difference here, and I cannot find any LXX manuscripts that have "soma" instead of "otion".

Conclusion: From what I can see the LXX is not interpreting "ear" as "body" - but the presupposition of the Brenton's team did so. It's clear the author of Hebrews (unless someone has an LXX that varies, and shows me differently) changes otion to soma.


In the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT), the words "but a body" is replaced by "ears". This is a mistake in the MT, as will be explained a little later in detail.

The Hebrew word for "prepared" is literally "digged", as in "digged a well". This word can have the more abstract meaning of "prepared" or "bought" (Deu 2:6; 1 Ki 6:23; Job 41:6; Hos 3:2) as digging a well or grave is also preparing or paying the price for such through hard work. This means that it was a great effort on God's part to prepare Christ's body. God had to become a man and live in Mary's womb for 9 months. This is too wondrous to explain in words as the previous verse (Psalm 40:5) says.

5 Your works, LORD God, are so many,
which You have wrought so wondrously.
Thy thoughts to us, they cannot be
told in order back unto Thee.
If these I would speak and declare,
they are more than can be numbered.

The word "digged" also implies the crucifixion since it is used that way in Ps 22:16.

MT Hebrew text says "ears You have digged (or prepared) for Me", but Heb 10:5 quote of this verse says "but a body You have prepared for Me".

There is no other Hebrew text available for Ps 40 except MT. Ps 40 has not been preserved in DSS.

The 1st half of the LXX 1903 Greek text for Ps 40:6 agrees exactly with Heb 10:5. (The 1931 Rahlfs' critical edition of the LXX Greek text, differs from the 1903 in that it says "ears" instead of "body". The only existing LXX Greek manuscripts say "body", not "ears". The 1931 edition "corrected" the LXX text to read "ears" based on Jerome's Latin Gallican Psalter, assuming that Jerome translated from an older version of the LXX, but he likely translated directly from the Hebrew as he did the Vulgate. More detail in this B-Greek discussion.)

The correct text is Heb 10:5 and LXX. The MT is in error because:

  1. Heb 10:5, being part of the New Testament, is inerrant. This does not necessarily mean that in all differences between the NT and MT quotes, the MT is in error. The NT quotation may not be an exact translation. However in this case the meaning of "but a body you have prepared for me" is entirely different from "ears you have digged (or prepared) for me." The 1st refers to the incarnation of the Messiah, the second supposedly means that God opened David's or Christ's ears to hear. If the Hebrew text said "ears" Paul could not have written as he did to a suspicious Jewish audience saying "body", which he used to make his point in 10:10.

  2. The MT text, "Ears You digged (or prepared at high price) for me", does not make sense. If the meaning was that God had opened Christ's or David's ears, this would be a very obtuse way of saying something simple. The Hebrew verb karah, "digged", is never used to mean "opened". If the meaning was "to open" then another verb should have been used. It also should have said "my ears", not just "ears". There is no thought in this psalm of giving me ears to hear, but the message of the Messiah's incarnation is continued in the next verse, "Behold, I come".

Some Christians interpret the MT to mean that Christ's ear was figuratively bored through as in Exo 21:6 & Deu 15:17 to be a slave to God forever. This cannot be the meaning here. If that was the intended meaning then it should say "my ear", singular with possessive pronoun, not "ears". The verbs in Exo 21:6 and Deu 15:17 are not karah. If karah was used then that would mean that it was a very painful procedure, which is not at all implied by Exo 21 nor Deu 15.

  1. The error here in the MT is typical of the MT errors as seen by comparison to the DSS. Unlike modern translations, the LXX was very accurate about translating Hebrew conjunctions. In the LXX and Hebrews 10:5, the conjunction "but" is there, but in the MT there is no conjunction. It does seem that a conjunction is missing for the MT to make sense.

The Hebrew word for "ears" is aznaim ‎ אזנים which bears no resemblance to the Hebrew word for body, goof גוף or gveyah ‎ גְּוִיָּה or gevah גוה, . However, if the missing Hebrew conjunction above was az אז, (meaning "then"), then az goof אז גוף or az gveyah אז גויה could be mistakenly (accidentally or on purpose) copied as aznaim אזנים. (The Hebrew "g" gimel ג, looks much like the Hebrew "n", nun נ. The Hebrew "v", vav ו, looks much like the Hebrew "y", yod י. So az gevah אז גוה could have been read as azneih אז ניה, which is close to aznaim אזנים.) Ref. Adam Clarke's Commentary on Psalms.

The post 70 AD Jewish council would be biased against "body" because of it's referring to the Messiah's incarnation and for this reason may have chosen "ears" over "but a body" when deciding on the right text between 2 manuscripts as they did in a few other places such as Isa 7:14 and Ps 22:16, which are proven by the DSS.

The MT is amazingly accurate as seen by comparison to the DSS, which is about 1,000 years older. The texts match up word for word, the vast majority of the differences being the spellings of a few words, which can change the meaning. The type of MT errors that we see when comparing the MT to the DSS with the LXX and NT is the same kind of error we see here.


It is an old topic, but I am a native Hebrew speaker, so maybe I can shed some new light on it.

The Septuagint is actually a translation proposed only for the five books of Moses (AKA The Torah). The rest of the Hebrews Bible (including Psalms etc., excluding the NT) was translated by singles, and somehow got stuck with the same name as above - Septuagint.

The meaning of the word Karah (כרה) is "dig". Like an allegory for a clay form of human body, and God dug the ears of that clay human body.

The real meaning behind these words of the verse is "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but listening to your voice (and following your commandments)". (Complies with 1Sam 15:22) It is written as an allegory for that. The Masoretic text is very very accurate, and it is very likely that the church altered the text of the Septuagint, or simply, one from the church did the actual translation. There is no evidence for Masoretic text that include the word body (גוף גויה).

There is a great chance that the author of LXX deliberately altered this text, to match the theology presented in Hebrews. There is another example that support this claim in the translation of Hosea 14:2 (14:3 in the original LXX):

instead of translating the word "bulls" (פרים) he translated it as a fruit (פרי). ("We will pay [sacrificial] bulls with our lips", vs "We will pay the fruit of our lips")

Both speak about the way to atone a sin without using a sacrifice, which opposes the theology that Jesus was the ultimate sin offering. So there is a much greater chance that the author of LXX did some manipulations on the text, rather then the jews altered their own MT text.

  • Welcome to Bible Hermeneutics and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 14:53
  • Thank you, I will comply with that.
    – Kapandaria
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 10:02
  • @Kapandaria the Septuagint was basically finalised long before the existence of the NT writers, let alone their writings in itself. To say that the LXX was altered to fit christian theology is outright historically inaccurate. The pentateuch was finalised by 3rd century BCE yes, but then the rest of the Tanakh was translated into the Septuagint by about 2nd century BCE. That is the scholarly position. Your assumptions about deliberate mistranslation are poorly founded and based on pure speculation which, I suspect, is based on underlying theological assumptions about christians that arent true
    – ellied
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 3:44
  • @ellied No, there is a simple proof that indeed they changed things, see how they inserted Cainan to the geneology in LXX hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/78683/… . Besides there were so many translators of the Tanach to Greek in different periods. The Hexapla gets at least 3.
    – Kapandaria
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 5:04
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    @ellied please show me one manuscript before the time of Jesus or even before 70 CE, that shows these two specific verses that I mention, or that include Cainan
    – Kapandaria
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 8:05

I could be wrong but I believe you are assuming that the LXX is translated from the Masoretic and thus this would seem a poor translation of the MT, However, The 72 translators of the LXX did not use the MT to translate the LXX. There is not a surviving copy of the Hebrew that the LXX was translated from and thus your question as I understand it cannot be answered.

The LXX was translated about 270 years before Christ during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 B.C.). The MT was not translated until the 8th to 10th century and the oldest copy dates back to the 10th century, thus it would be impossible for the LXX to be translated from the Masoretic.

Here is one citation from http://ecclesia.org/truth/septuagint.html.

Our first Proponent covered is from the Introduction to The Septuagint Bible, as translated into the English language by Charles Thomson in 1808, which gives us much insight into some previously unpublicized history and facts concerning the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Septuagint texts of the Old Testament. Some of its more important points read as follows:

"By the end of the first century of the Christian era—the first of several to be filled with fierce religious controversies—the official Hebrew biblical text had already become considerably altered from what it was in the third, or for that matter in the second or first centuries preceding the Christian era,—thus furnishing grist for the controversial mill, by enabling post-Christian Jewish proponents to answer any opponents who might quote from the Septuagint Bible text, by saying that it was "not the same" as the Hebrew. Of course it was not, for the Hebrew text had changed during the first century of the Christian era, as even a cursory examination of the older and later texts will prove. To cite one of the striking instances of such alterations, "the angels of God" in the ancient Septuagint text of Deuteronomy 32:8 became "the children of Israel" in the post-christian Hebrew version. As Swete after a survey of the evidence concludes:

"At some time between the age of the LXX and that of Aquila (ca. 125A.D.) a thorough revision of the Hebrew Bible must have taken place, probably under official direction; and the evidence seems to point to the Rabbinical school which had its center in Jamnia in the years that followed the fall of Jerusalem as the source from which this revision proceeded. Among the Rabbis of Jamnia were Eleazar, Joshua, and Akiba, the reputed teachers of Aquila." H. B. Swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, op. cit., p.320

Here is the link to a site that compares the MT (OTKJV) the LXX (Brentons) and the NT (KJV): http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/comparisons.html

  • 1
    Lots of confusion here. First: the story of 70 translators is a legend, not history. Second: What do you mean with "The MT was not translated until the 8th to 10th century"? Translated from what language to what language? Third: Have you ever heard of Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls)?
    – fdb
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 17:29
  • plus 1 as you could be right, or the text that was used could have been the same as tha Masoretic, guess we can never know. i was hoping someone who was familiar with the Hebrew might have a good conjecture one way or the other
    – Mike
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 23:50
  • Any History not in the Bible could then be considered "legend" as the Bible is the only definitive truth. Tertullian has recorded the "legend" of the LXX and also stated that he saw the huts that the 72 not 70 stayed in. The point is that the LXX was translated before the MT was copied and edited so the LXX could not have been translated from the MT which answered the Q being asked. It would seem that since the NT quoted this passage from the LXX word for word and the MT says something completely different, that the LXX has the true translation of Ps40:7 and the MT of Ps40:6 is poor copy/edit
    – JMW
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 2:43
  • The text that was used to translate the LXX could not be the same as the MT. This is why the two read so differently. There are hundred of differences between the MT and the LXX. Dig deeper by looking into the link I just gave you. If you end up disagreeing with the info presented there at least you will have confronted the evidence that opposes your view and you will be able to better defend the view that you form by studying both sides of the issue. The issue being, What is the better text, the LXX or the MT, and which one harmonizes all of scripture the best. IMO it would be the LXX.
    – JMW
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 4:15
  • But surely we can agree that the text the LXX used and the MT have a common origin if we go back far enough. So we can still try and discover if there's anything in the Hebrew language that would at least make the variation understandable. Or maybe the MT was the same as what the LXX translated but they changed the wording for a reason. Arguing over when and who and legends or not seems irrelevant to what the question is really asking.
    – Joshua
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 17:31

May I offer a simple explanation to Psalms 40:6 "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened." NKJV as compared to Hebrews 10:5 "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me." NKJV

The writer to Hebrews did not know Hebrew but only Greek, and he is quoting Psalms 40:6 from the Septuagint.


Having read through a lot of the discussion and proposed explanations, it occurs to me that one possible perspective is missing (and if it's here and I overlooked it, apologies!).

Assuming for the moment that the best version of the LXX does indeed say "ears", yet Hebrews says "body", how to account for the difference while respecting the rules of hermeneutics?

It seems to me that Heb 10:5 suggests a whole different approach that could account for both. This verse suggests that this is a quote from Jesus ("...when Christ came into this world, he said....") spoken during his ministry, one that wasn't preserved in the Gospels. Jesus didn't have to obey our rules of hermeneutics and in other places clearly "targummed" references, adapting them to his use (one example would be when he "modified" both the Deut 6:5 command, and Israel's Shema, by adding a 4th part of ourselves to love God with: LXX list: καρδιάς, ψυχής, δυνάμεως vs. Jesus' list, καρδιάς, ψυχής, διάνοιας, ισχύος). Paul did similar, such as his mashup of two different Isaiah refs in Rom 9:33.

The point is, if these were Jesus' words, and since ultimately he, as God, is the writer of all Scripture, he can write what he wants and is not bound by man's rules. If this is the case, both versions are thus inspired and inerrant, by mere fact that they are HIS words

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The LXX is not an interpretation like paraphrase versions like the NET, NIV, MSG, Targum. It is a translation. I think the explanations of scholars that the LXX changing of ears to body, is because "ears" would be a metonymy for obedience, and thus the image of the "body" as the "prepared" sacrifice; or something similar apologetic stretch of imagination. I am sure even the MSG NT translation wouldn't go so far and substitute riddled metonyms, which is hardly a metonymy for obedience. These apologists fail to consider the textual error in the Hebrew writer's LXX copy, which would go against their particular dogmas of inspiration & inerrancy. The critical knowledge of Jerome can be considered worse than the recent scholar's about the Jewish theology, so appealing to those early writers is not helpful either.

Meyer's commentary notes that it was a textual error in the LXX since the spellings of (the original reading) ears ΣΩΤΙΑ and body ΣΩΜΑ are similar.

σῶμα δὲ κατηρτίσω μοι] but a body hast Thou prepared me, sc. in order to be clothed with the same, and by the giving up of the same unto death to fulfil Thy will. Comp. Hebrews 10:7. Thus, without doubt, the author found in his copy of the LXX. But that the Hebrew words: אָזְנַיִם כָּרִיתָ לִּי (the ears hast Thou digged to me, i.e. by revelation opened up religious knowledge to me), were even originally rendered by the LXX. by ΣῶΜΑ ΔῈ ΚΑΤΗΡΤΊΣΩ ΜΟΙ, as is contended by Jac. Cappellus, Wolf, Carpzov, Tholuck, Ebrard, Delitzsch, Maier, Moll, and others, is a supposition hardly to be entertained. Probably the LXX. rendered the Hebrew words by ὨΤΊΑ ΔῈ ΚΑΤΗΡΤΊΣΩ ΜΟΙ, as they are still found in some ancient MSS. of that version, and ΣῶΜΑ ΔῈ ΚΑΤΗΡΤΊΣΩ ΜΟΙ arose, not “from the translator being unable to attach any satisfactory meaning to the words ‘the ears hast thou digged to me,’ and therefore altering them with his own hand” (Kurtz); but only from an accidental corruption of the text, in that Σ, the final letter of the ἨΘΈΛΗΣΑς immediately preceding, was wrongly carried over to the following word, and instead of ΤΙ the letter Μ was erroneously read.

There are ancient manuscripts of LXX which have the correct reading, as used in the Rahlf's critical version, which suggests it was corrected by some, but the corrected version didn't reach the author of Hebrews, and he connected the erroneous text beautifully to the sacrifice of the Messiah as the sacrifice prepared by God himself. It creates further confusion among the laymen when the Bible translators refuse to translate the OT not even from the Greek scripture as used by the NT writers and the first century Church, but focus only on the Hebrew, resulting in inconsistencies and confusions. This is why Augustin was so vehemently against translating from the Hebrew. If we translate and study the NT, it is obvious that the Greek scripture should be the default priority.


Numerous arguments have been made above and I don’t think there is a clear answer, so I do not wish to repeat, but provide additional information to ponder.

There is always going to be the argument that the Septuagint is older than the Masoretic text and therefore takes precedence.

Translation from Hebrew to any language especially Greek is very challenging so there are clearly going to be variants. The Dead Sea Scrolls in general provides strong support of the ‘MT’ translation.

There has clearly been some tampering due to numerous contradictions in the OT & NT.

NT has numeracy inaccuracies and contradictions, there is no real evidence who wrote really wrote the books apart from Paul’s letters.

Everything seems to go back to ‘Irenaeus’ and his book "Against Heresies" – albeit all his writing were lost a Latin translation of his five books "Against Heresies" was found, and an Armenian translation of his book "The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching" was discovered in 1904 CE.

These two works alone, the Church has built its doctrine. The church does not know who translated the books or its accuracy.

Jeremiah 8:8 "How can you say we (the Jews) are wise and the law of the Lord is with us, when in fact the false pen of the scribes has made it into a lie?

I have to agree with the conclusion of @Kapandaria that it is likely somewhere down the line there has been some manipulation to provide evidence for a particular doctrine (attempt to show that Jesus died for our sins which is at odds with Gods commandments)

Putting the above aside as it would take a book to really discuss in detail, I make the following points on the Psalms & sacrifice;

Contradictions in Psalms:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. (Psalms 51:16)

Micah 6:7-8 7Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”* He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Isaiah 1:11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.

Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil. (Proverbs 16:6)

Contradicted by:

Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah. (Psalms 20:3)

I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O LORD; for [it is] good. (Psalms 54:6)

However, you look at Psalms 40:6 its at odds and the LXX version more at odds.

For more: Was Jesus sacrificed for our sins - https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/75324/33268

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