Determining Truth: Bible Contradictions and Textual Criticism
(The Septuagint vs. the Massoretic Text)
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02 July 2003
Early Christians used a Bible held in disrepute and disavowed today by most of western Christendom, the so-called Septuagint (also rendered LXX, meaning in Latin, "70," allegedly after the 70 translators who created the text). Most of today's MODERN English translations derive from translations of a Hebrew Massoretic text of the Medieval era (the so-called Leningrad Text). This text DIFFERS CONSIDERABLY from the Bible that was considered "authoritative" for Early Christians. Most converts to Early Christianity were unable to read Hebrew, but they were conversant with Greek, which had become an "international language" by the first century CE. The Bible these Early Christians used was a Greek translation of a Hebrew text, made sometime in the 3rd century BCE. This Greek translation had been made for Jews, by Jews living in Alexandria, Egypt, who where more conversant with Greek than Hebrew.
When the Early Christians came to inevitably dispute with Jews various passages in the "Old Testament" a problem arose, the Greek translation in some verses FLATLY CONTRADICTED the Jewish texts ! The Jews argued that the Early Christians had a "flawed," MISTRANSLATED Bible which was giving them WRONG ideas about God and the Messiah ! One of the most CRITICAL debates was over the translation of the Hebrew word almah (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible "Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary " #5959), which the Christians understood to mean A VIRGIN (Greek: Parthenos) giving birth to Christ (Isaiah 7:14) ! Whilst the Jews said this was a WRONG translation, almah meant a YOUNG WOMAN _NOT_ A VIRGIN !
Understandably the Christians were NOT happy about their "sacred text" being ridiculed. They resorted to DENYING the authoritativeness of the Jewish texts.
With the passage of time, additional converts to the church, more conversant with Latin rather than Greek, called for a new translation of the Bible. Scholars who undertook to translate the Greek into Latin were faced with a problem, after studying the Jewish texts, they too, noted obvious Greek translational errors. They made "a compromise," some Greek verses were kept and translated into Latin, whilst other verses came from the Jewish texts. Understandably, a howl of outrage appeared from some quarters of Christendom when the new Latin text was made public. Favorite verses from the Greek text had been excised and replaced with Jewish renderings. With the passage of time, the initial resistence disappeared, and the Latin text, called the Vulgate, reigned supreme in western Europe (Catholicism) while eastern Europe (Greek Orthodox) kept the Greek text.
Besides contradictions of ages, the Septuagint also has many verses in a different order or arrangement, and the physical content varies for the various books, some having less verses, other books having more verses (even whole paragraphs) than the Jewish texts !
One has to wonder about God's spirit "being present" as these men attempted translations of Hebrew to Greek, Greek to Latin, and eventually Latin to English. It was a "bumpy ride" at each stage with battles over how to translate at each step (and the battles still rage today with each translation, King James Version, Revised Standard Version, etc.).
One often hears that "God does _not_ contradict God," and his spirit still guides the translators, yet the Septuagint bible gives, in some instances, completely different dates for the ages of the pre-flood patriarchs.
Professor Bailey noted that the Greek text (the Septuaginta, or LXX) differed from the Hebrew text (the Massoretic text) on the years elapsing bewteen Creation and Noah's Flood:
"Whereas the traditional Hebrew Text (Massoretic Text) of Genesis 5 reports a total of 1656 years from the creation of the first human being to the coming of the great flood in Noah's time, the traditional Greek text (Septuaginta) gives a total of 2242 years..." (p. 186. "Elapsed Time from Adam to the Flood According to the Greek Bible (LXX)." Lloyd R. Bailey. Genesis, Creation and Creationism. New York & Mahwah, New Jersey. Paulist Press. 1993. ISBN 0-8091-3255-9. paperback)
Professor Steibing on three different and _CONTRADICTING_ dates for God's creation of the world found in the book of Genesis calculated by Jewish, Catholic and Protestant scholars:
"Most scholars [prior to the 19th century AD] agreed that the world was only about six thousand years old, though there was considerable disagreement over the exact date of the creation. Jewish rabbinical calculations [the Seder Olam Rabbah] from the Hebrew Massoretic Text showed that the world began 3,740 years before the Christian Era. Roman Catholic tradition, based on the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible, placed the creation in 5199 B.C. And most English-speaking Protestants accepted the seventeenth-century Archbishop James Ussher's calculation of the time of creation, 4004 B.C. Ussher's dates were placed in the margins of early eighteenth-century editions of the King James version of the Bible, making them seem even more authoritive." (p. 32. "The Discovery of Prehistory." William H. Steibing Jr. Uncovering the Past. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1994 [1993 Prometheus Books])
I will let the reader decide for himself which is the "authoritative" text, truly God-inspired, and capable of saving one's immortal soul, and if the Early Christians "correctly" understood the Old Testament. What follows are the CONTRADICTIONS in the ages of the pre-flood patriarchs.
The text I am using is an 1850 English translation by Brenton. I have placed in brackets [....] the numbers appearing in the Revised Standard Version of the English Bible.
LXX: This is the genealogy of men in the day in which God made Adam; in the image of God he made him:
male and female he made them, and blessed them; and he called his name Adam, in the day in which he made them.
LXX: And Adam lived two hundred and thirty years [130 years], and begot a son after his own form and after his own image, and he called his name Seth.
LXX: And the days of Adam, which he lived after his begetting Seth, were seven hundred years [800 years]; and he begot sons and daughters.
LXX: And all the days of Adam which he lived were nine hundred and thirty years [930 years], and he died.
LXX:Now Seth lived two hundred and five years [105 years], and begot Enos.
LXX: And Seth lived after his begetting Enos, seven hundred and seven years [807 years], and he begot sons and daughters.
LXX: And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years [912 years], and he died.
LXX: And Enos lived an hundred and ninety years [90 years], and begot Cainan.
LXX: And Enos lived after his begetting Cainan, seven hundred and fifteen years [815 years] and he begot sons and daughters.
LXX: And all the days of Enos were nine hundred and five years [905 years], and he died.
LXX: And Cainan lived an hundred and seventy years [70 years], and he begot Maleleel.
LXX: And Cainan lived after his begetting Maleleel, seven hundred and forty years [840 years], and he begot son and daughters.
LXX: And all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years [910 years], and he died.
LXX: And Maleleel lived an hundred and sixty and five years [165 years], and he begot Jared.
LXX: And Maleleel lived after his begetting Jared, seven hundred and thirty years [830 years], and he begot sons and daughters.
LXX: And all the days of Maleleel were eight hundred and ninety and five years [895 years], and he died.
LXX: And Jared lived an hundred and two years [162 years], and begot Enoch: and Jared lived after his begetting Enoch, eight hundred years [800 years], and he begot sons and daughters.
LXX: And all the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty and two years [962 years], and he died.
LXX: And Enoch lived an hundred and sixty and five years [65 years], and begat Mathusala.
LXX: And Enoch was well-pleasing to God after his begetting Mathusala, two hundred years [300 years], and he begot sons and daughters.
LXX: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty and five years [365 years].
LXX: And Enoch was well-pleasing to God, and was not found, because God translated him.
LXX: And Mathusala lived an hundred and sixty and seven years [187 years]and begot Lamech.
LXX: And Mathusala lived after his begetting Lamech eight hundred and two years [782 years], and begot sons and daughters.
And all the days of Mathusala which he lived, were nine hundred and sixty and nine years [969 years], and he died.
LXX: And Lamech lived an hundred and eighty and eight years [182 years], and begot a son.
LXX: And he called his name Noe, saying, This one will cause us to cease from our works, and from the toils of our hands, and from the earth, which the Lord God has cursed.
LXX: And Lamech lived atter his begetting Noe, five hundred and sixty and five years [595 years], and begot sons and daughters.
LXX: And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred and fifty-three years [777 years], and he died.
One way out of the above "contradictions" between the LXX, which was the foundation stone of Early Christianity, and MT, is to argue that ONLY the "original text" was pure and incorrupt, and that corruptions or errors entered into consequent re-copyings and recensions, in other words the "original text" was INERRANT, and consequent texts, through human error, came to be ERRANT. The problem ? This line of reasoning implies that the Creator of the Universe is "asleep at the wheel" and does not care if his Holy Word is corrupted. It also implies that to some degree the various religious denominations built upon various understandings of the text, are built upon ERRANT texts.
For me, the "proof" that the Bible is God-inspired (of the Holy Spirit) and inerrant would be that no error would exist within its pages or in its various recensions (God is NOT impotent and unable to preserve his holy word) and _all_ the prophecies were fulfilled down to the smallest details _exactly in the manner predicted_ in the lifetimes of the audiences hearing them so that these audiences would know if a false prophet was speaking or not (God does not make mistakes). The fact that the various recensions do have errors and contradict each other in various details is "proof" for me this is not an "inerrant" text, its a creation of fallible men who do make mistakes and who do err, and the claims to the existence of a Holy Spirit, a God, a Satan and Demons are all bogus unsubstantiated "speculation."
That is to say, the "imaginary" Satan is understood by Christians to be "the father of error", it follows that _any_ composition created by Satan or written under Satanic influence, will, by necessity, be FULL OF ERRORS, as "Error is Satan's HALLMARK" in all that he does. It is then, quite "impossible" for Satan to create a composition and pass it off as God's handiwork, because Satan's works will ALWAYS POSSESS ERRORS. We should expect that God's written documents or compositions inspired by the Holy Spirit SHOULD BE DISTINGUISHABLE FROM SATAN'S by possessing NO ERRORS WHATSOEVER. The problem ? _ALL_ Bible recensions POSSESS ERRORS, _ergo_ ALL BIBLES are SATANIC CREATIONS. IF the Bible was _really_ God's or the Holy Spirit's creation it would be distinguishable from Satan's work by having NO ERRORS WHATSOEVER _FOR ALL OF ETERNITY_.
Christian Apologists of course are LOATHE "to impute error" to the Holy Spirit or God so they dismiss the errors found in all Bible recensions as man-made and of no big-deal, not compromising God's message. Error is blamed on human fallibility not the Holy Spirit. Only the original compositions, called "autographs", now univerally acknowledged to be lost, were INFALLIBLE and FREE OF ERROR. This of course is "_pure speculation_" on the Christian Apologists' part.
The Apologists think they are "absolving" God and and Holy Spirit of blame in claiming the errors in today's Bibles are man-made. The reality is that this Apologetic is a "slap-in-the-face" to God and his Holy Spirit, for it implies both were _impotent or didn't care_ and were UNABLE to preserve the holy word from Satan who led the scribes and translators down through the ages into making numerous textual errors, in defiance of the Holy Spirit.
So, in the final analysis, ALL BIBLE RECENSIONS ARE FULL OF ERRORS, revealing they are Satan's handiwork, and the Bible is not the handiwork of God or his Holy Spirit, for God's handiwork _ought to be_ distinguished from Satan's handiwork by an absence of ALL ERROR FOR ALL ETERNITY. Why ? because Christian Apologists claim the Holy Spirit is still alive today and guiding the scribes and translators of todays Bibles, and this Holy Spirit also guides the Church in correct doctrines from the Biblical texts. The errors in todays Bibles are proof the Holy Spirit does not exist and is bogus. The contradictory dogmas and beliefs embraced by thousands of Christian denominations, each in the past accusing the others of being in error and led by Satan, reveal Christianity's notion of a Holy Spirit's existence is false. For why would the Holy Spirit allow Christianity to fragment into so many contradicting denominations and give them Bibles full of man-made errors ? In past ages Christians tortured fellow Christians into confessing heresy, then they burned the heretics alive at the stake in public pageants called Auto da Fe's (Roman Catholic). Protestants returned the favor (in England Catholics wre burned alive by Protestants). The wars of the Reformation of the 1500's and 1600's witnesed the savage butchery of Protestant against Catholic, each claiming the Holy Spirit led them into victory over each other, and that torture and burnings were with the Holy Spirit's blessings ! What nonsense ! The Holy Spirit told Christians to "turn the other cheek to their enemies and to pray for them", not torture, burn alive and kill fellow Christians ! No, dear reader, there is NO Holy Spirit, NO God, NO error-free Bible. All of the foregoing Christian behaviors better fit the God of this earth, Satan.
Of course, I am being "tongue-in-cheek facetious" (playing the Devils' advocate) in the above discussion of the Bible being Satan's work, for I am a Secular Humanist who understands _all_ religions are bogus, they are the creations of men's imaginations, projecting man's loves, hates, fears and lusts onto imaginary gods.
Lloyd R. Bailey. Genesis, Creation and Creationism. New York & Mahwah, New Jersey. Paulist Press. 1993. ISBN 0-8091-3255-9.
Lancelot C. L. Brenton. The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English. Peabody, Massachusetts. Hendrickson Publishers. reprinted 1986.
Herbert G. May & Bruce M. Metzger, editors. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. [Revised Standard Version]. New York. Oxford University Press. 1977.
William H. Steibing Jr. Uncovering the Past. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1994 [1993 Prometheus Books].
A "partial" on-line version of Brenton's translation is available at the following url for those having an interest in noting further differences between the LXX and modern English Bibles.http://www.ccel.org/bible/brenton/